“These things I regret about my life”
“These experiences I have cherished”
Poetry got me married. My sophomore year of college I was in a social club, which was essentially a fraternity without the beer, and even some of them disregarded even that stipulation. I was a member of the group called Novus Dux, and our greek letters were Alpha Upsilon Omega. We were a group of guys dedicated to service and various other things. We had a sister group entitled L’Amifidel. Their letters were Alpha Pi Epsilon.
There were a lot of things we did together with L’Ami (as they were affectionately called). The connection between Novus Dux and L’Amifidel was pretty strong. As a result, we would periodically have days set aside in Novus Dux that would be dedicated to serving the L’Ami girls. We’d ask that all of the girls would wear their T-shirts as there were more than 50 of them, and we didn’t know ALL of them.
The goal throughout the day, whenever you saw a L’Ami girl, was that you would do something to serve them in that moment. Most of the guys would resort to the easy way out by doing things like opening the door for them or taking up their bright orange lunch tray. I chose a more interesting path…more creative…more….???...tenacious.
I went to the library and checked out a few books of sonnets and various other poetry and went out to The Valley. The Valley was an area about the size of a football field with rolling hills and green green grass and converging sidewalk pathways that generally got you to anywhere on campus. I would sit in a patch grass with my books at hand, and whenever at first glance of a L’Amifidel T-shirt, even if it were the length of the valley, I would recite poetry from the books in my most dramatic fashion.
At one point, I looked up and saw a stunning blond girl walking toward me in a blue T-shirt with the yellow greek letters Alpha Pi Epsilon on it. I saw her from a distance, and I flipped quickly to “a good one”, and knelt down and screamed as loudly and dramatically as I could. I didn’t even know her name. She gave a wry smile and eventually a hearty laugh at my idiocy that was both ridiculous AND charming.
Years later, that stunning blond would be my best friend until my 5th year of college where we started a dating relationship for a year before getting engaged to be married. Our friendship and relationship in college was included candlelit taco bell dinners and driving until we were purposefully lost. After I was married to her, we would be asked frequently the common question, “Where did you meet?” It wasn’t on a road trip with friends. She would be sure to let you know it was on a day when he read me poetry loudly and inanely in The Valley at Anderson University. Poetry got me married!
Another memory is sitting over coffee with my hero, Brennan Manning, and sitting over hotdogs a few years later. We can say we know someone by reading all their words, but there is something different that sets more concretely when you sit across a table from one another. Brennan would not have remembered our conversations, or me but those are two experiences I will not soon release. I can remember asking him what books he recommends, as I was accustomed to recommending his books to everyone. It was before I had a phone in my pocket to write down all the recommendations, which meant it was left to shitty memory, which means I’ll never know what he told me that day.
The most cherished moments in life are the ones, which set a person (or group of people) in your heart forever like drying concrete. My entire life has been so full of hard-drying moments like this I cannot help but leave very important moments and highly cherished people out of the list.
I became a self-reliant leader over time, and in so doing, I was dependent upon limited resources. I had not really learned to rely on God and others.
The self-reliant leader is, first, not dependent upon the Holy Spirit. In his book Lion and Lamb, Brennan Manning wrote, "How vast are the resources of His power open to us who believe in Him!" This self-reliant leader is not resembling the gospel of Jesus Christ which has said all of this vast power of God has been available to you to depend upon.
Secondly, the self-reliant leader relies on limited resources in his lack of dependence upon others. Self-reliant leaders lead in isolation from others, and pride is the reason for all our isolation. Often those who lead alone find an interesting resistance in their heart and lfie. Perhaps they blame it on Satan, but that resistance is not Satan; it is God. For "God resists the proud, and he lifts up the humble." (James 4:6)
Great leaders are not self-reliant. They learn to rely wholly on God and also on others for strength.
We are made in the imago dei. Every human being is made in the image of God. This means a great many things. Specifically, it does mean we are all connected. As God is 3 in 1, we are all connected in a great way. There is a solidarity to the image of God we are all connected within.
Think of this!
This means every interaction, no matter how passing or intentional, has an impact. Every smile, hug, and conversation has an impact. Every relationship, no matter how intimate or shallow, has an impact. You may never see a person again, but in that second your smile could impact the rest of their hour or day. It means even your small acquaintance has an impact.
Think of how crazy it is that you, a human being, have the capacity to impact another human being.
What impact will you have?
It was so easy to be angry at the legalistic Christians who have no idea what it means to love others as we are called to. I pretty much quit being angry and bitter when I made a guess at WHY they had been so poor at loving. God had called us to love others as we love ourselves.
It appeared to me perhaps we as Christians struggle to love others because we do not actually know how to love ourselves. For so many of us, or I know for me at least, I would not wish on anyone the kind of love I dish out on myself much of the time. So I see Christians in a different light. We suck so much at loving others because we do not know how to love ourselves as Christ sees and loves us.[Tweet That] So the cycle begins.
Now I have been noticing another point in that cycle. That point answers the question, "Why do we struggle to love ourselves?" "Why do Christians have such a horrible time loving themselves and thus loving and accepting others?" Essentially, why ARE we legalistic?
The answer comes from within the question. We are legalistic because we have been hurt by legalism.
I have a hard time loving and accepting others because I have a hard time loving myself, and I have a hard time loving and accepting myself because I do not feel loved and accepted by Christians, and Christians have a hard time loving and accepting me because they have a hard time loving and accepting themselves, and they have a hard time loving and accepting themselves because I, a Christian, have a hard time loving and accepting them. And the cycle of legalism thickens, and I am more a part of it than I ever realized.
Can the cycle be broken? Yes! How?
By loving and accepting myself AND others! By not withholding love and acceptance! The easiest cycle breaker (and hardest personal choice) is to break the cycle at the point of reality and brokeness. I take away the pretense of perfection...of myself. Then I allow the Christians to realize I have no perfection pretense of myself and I am able to have no perfection pretense of them. This will happen when I become more concerned with being honest and acquiring healing instead of appearing fine, okay, good, or dare I say, perfect. It is in my brokenness that legalism cycles are broken. Because then I am able to love others as I love myself, which is loving acceptance of myself despite my failures and mistakes. So when I love and accept others as I do myself, they can love and accept themselves as they are, and then love me and others as they love themselves.
But right now, we DO love others as we love ourselves...legalistically.
College relationships can be very ridiculous. One of my favorites is when you see a couple get really close without actually dating. Then one or both of these people involved will drop the dumbest crap I have ever heard, and it happens a lot. "I just need to wait on this relationship for a while. I need to figure some stuff out right now. I need to work on my stuff and get my stuff right before I can get into a relationship right now." Absolutely ridiculous!
I love that someone wants to put off a good relationship because they do not want to bring their crap into a relationship. Newsflash! You are going to bring your crap into a relationship no matter what you do. I do not care if you work your crap out and then get into a relationship. There will always be crap in your life, and it will always follow you into your relationship. You cannot allow your crap to affect or taint your view of your relationship.
I may be married, but Tonya and I both have crap we bring into our relationship. Does that mean our marriage is horrible? Of course not! We have a beautiful marriage that continues to show me more and more of my crap I never knew about, and yet our love grows as I trust her in the revelation and healing process of mine and her crap.
A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE MORE AFRAID OF TRUSTING THE OTHER PERSON THAN THEY ARE OF BRINGING CRAP INTO A RELATIONSHIP!
How great an analogy is human relationships to the connection we have with God! How familiar are those situations to the relationship I have with Christ! I am still learning not to approach God like a college relationship. I will too often look at my relationship with God and get frustrated. I often look at my lacking quiet time. I look at how uncompassionate I am to the broken among me, and then I assume my relationship with Christ must be failing because of all this crap.
I cannot keep connecting all these factors to the "success or failure" of my relationship with Christ. I cannot look at my lacking church attendance or missing a week's tithe and saying, "My relationship with God sucks!" My relationship with Christ is still in pursuit, and all those things are not indicators of a failing relationship. I will always have crap. I will always have walls. I will always mess up on my disciplines. I will always have things I am not that great at doing, but I cannot assume that all these things make my relationship with Christ horrible.
It shows that I do not really trust God's grace and love. I bring all my crap, all my inconsistencies, all my past into relationship with God and trust in his grace and his love. Yes I do have crap! Yes I am inconsistent in my discipline. Yes I need to be more compassionate, but my relationship with God is enriched by my need and desire for Him.
One of my top 5 favorite movies is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. There are elements of realizing the memories we wish we could eliminate, and how important even those memories are. It shows the parts of our hearts we often overlook as either expected or painful and thus necessary to cover up or forget. The movie really is wonderful, full of great quotes and scenes; like the very first spoken line, “Valentines Day is a day created by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.” But the very last scene is my favorite. The scene goes like this:
Joel: I can’t see anything that I don’t like about you. Clementine: But you will Joel: Right now I can’t Clementine: But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped, because that’s what happens with me. [Joel shrugs] Joel: Okay [Clementine nods…Joel smiles] Clementine: Okay [Clementine cries, but laughs] Clementine: okay Joel: Okay [They both laugh]
I love this scene and what it has to offer to us. It is a great reminder for those of us who are in relationships. We spend so much of our lives trying to run away from people because we are afraid of not liking something about them. We are afraid of getting bored with something they do. We get afraid that they will run away from us. We’re afraid that something will come up that we don’t like, and “then it will be too late.” I love Joel’s response, “Okay.” It signifies the realization that Clementine will probably find something boring about him. He probably will find something he doesn’t like about her later. But okay! If we thought we could wait until a relationship that would be absolutely perfect, without arguments, annoyances, pain, temptations, we will be waiting forever. By saying, “Okay,” Joel opens himself to trust Clementine. Real trust! A trust that says, “Okay! Fine! You will likely do something I don’t like, but I love you and I trust you. Let’s do this.” As if to say, “That’s a risk we gotta take.” Its not even that it was a risk. It was simply an expectation we have to be willing to take. We have to be willing to understand that things like that will happen. We will find something we don’t like, but are we willing to love them and trust that they love us anyway? Okay.
My heart breaks to know many Christians and I have disregarded certain people because they'll buy booze with my change, they got themselves into this lifestyle, or their parents were piss-poor. It breaks my heart the most to realize I focus more on HOW they got there than the fact they ARE there. I am broken at reading the story of the prodigal son and knowing the father did not withhold compassion because the prodigal chose this life. I am hurt not to find the prodigal's father within me and my friends; this father who realized only one thing in the moment. He realized his son needed compassion and love. YES, his son DID choose this life. His son DID use the father's money for booze, sex and other disgusting things. These are all realities, but the father chose to realize only one thing: his son needed compassion, love and relationship.
I am broken to my lack of compassion, love and relationship with the least of these.
Are these things excuses for these people's current life choices? No, but I cannot overlook the fact it just may be part of the reason. Never mind how they got where they are; the fact remains, these people need compassion, love, relationship, and Jesus, and I have all of these to offer.
When I discuss TRUST with a group of people, I commonly break down my definition of trust and how it requires a risk and fear. Otherwise it is not really trust. Commonly, the question then comes, "What if you choose to trust and then you are taken advantage of? What then?" The question brings up a decent point, but we can often allow this to really get in the way of our trusting someone. We have, in asking that question, defied our ability to trust. Trust cannot be dependant on its outcome. If your trust (or lack) is based on the proposed outcome, then you have not trusted at all.
Yes, it is possible to risk and trust someone, and it is possible that it will bring hurt in some cases, but IF you make your decision based on a proposed fear or outcome not to 'go', then you have not trusted.
This applies both to our human relationships as well as our relationship with God the Father. If my trust in God is based on whether or not he gives me tangible affirmation, then I have not trusted God at all. If my trust in my Father is whether or not he moves me to FEEL his presence, I do not really trust God.
TRUST BASED ON THE OUTCOME IS NOT REALLY TRUST!
If I spend the majority of my life demanding that God prove himself to me and assure me that he exists and works in my life, then I have not yet learned what it really means to trust God...to have faith.
We all want to be trusted. "Just trust me will ya!" God is no different here. He desires to be trusted. What sort of demands have we put on that trust? We have so many ways in which we demand a certain outcome in order for us to trust in God, but that is no trust in God at all. We have to learn how to trust God even when the outcome is uncertain...otherwise, we will not have trusted at all.