3 More Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

If you’re like me, you like to reflect.

So much to say, so much to do…how can either happen when there’s so much to think.

Yet, as we journey another January, the heart behind this series, as made known last year, is still the same:

If we want to think right, then we must get right, if we want to get right, then we must get real…and if we want to get real, we must value cleanse before change.

Not to suggest such internal inventory is easy. Certainly putting all things on the table for examination requires courage, humility, vulnerability…among other things; however, since my goal with these posts is to help us embrace God’s ‘next’, it only makes sense to pray into the substitutions¹ God has for us.

That said, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the page to 2019…

1) Making sense of my surroundings

It’s remarkable the ways we justify our surroundings. I know for me, whenever I find myself in what I can’t explain, living in the moment can almost seem secondary to knowing why it has to exist. ‘If only I can solve the mystery, perhaps then I can find the satisfaction and peace I crave,’ I sometimes think.

But as we know, the journey of life is far from cut and dry. As much as we want to reconcile all our relationships and circumstances, we’ll never be able to given sin and free will’s response to it among other things.

Granted, God’s sovereignty isn’t confined by man’s weakness. But it’s also not restricted by our ability to ‘sherlock’ the past. And it’s this temptation I believe trips many of us up. We long to feel affirmed when we’re down. We yearn to feel validated when we smell injustice. We burn to make sense of our surroundings when they don’t make sense. Yet, in our quest to solve our voids, little do we realize the size of our ego and the numbing effect it has on our attitudes and heart postures.

It’s not always fun to accept, but the way I see it: Often the reason we are where we are is because God wants to help us find our kneel…to show us where our independencies have become idolatries…and to learn reliance within the unforced rhythms of grace. Perhaps you’ve struggled to grasp this feeling in seasons of idleness or stress…in settings where you felt more like a fish in an aquatic Pandora’s box.

If so, take a bite of my 2018 testimony. Our free will exists so we can choose Jesus to find freedom. No 12-step program full of striving. Just a simple decision to resist the fear of man and the impulse to make sense of our surroundings.

Accordingly, if you sense the temptation but not the exit, yield to surrender, voice the heartcry, and receive the serenity of stilled waters. God has not abandoned you, so don’t you abandon ship.

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2) The Nazareth complex

I suppose this could be a subset of point #1, but the nature of this conviction alone is worth emphasizing.

As alluded to in my 2018 Year in Review post, when last year started, going back to The Gate was far from an option. Having phased out of LEGACYouth weeks prior, my hope had clung to a sunset narrative where my last days of youth ministry would coincide with where it took place. While there were many reasons I emotionally did not want to return, the core of my withdrawal² centered on what I call the Nazareth complex.

The Nazareth complex is based out of Luke 4:14-30 when Jesus is driven out of his hometown (i.e. Nazareth) after revealing his true identity at the synagogue. While obviously I’m no Jesus, the personal correlation was this: Among whom whose eyes I had been under for years, there was no way for me to be known as God knew me. As such, what Nazareth was to Jesus, The Gate/local church was to me. To move on with my life, I had to leave the church to find anyone who not only would listen, but see me sans past and last name.

Of course, it’s safe to say Jesus never employed such a self-absorbed attitude. Still, it’s not hard to see why my deception took months to dissipate with resentment rooted in deception and victimization fixed in misapplied Scripture. To justify my isolated ego, I had to constantly cite the past, church gossip, unsurrendered soul/spirit hurts…even assumed vain assumptions (sounds confusing, but that’s unholy fear for you).

Yet, as the story goes, I eventually woke up, realizing if I truly wanted to move on and take hold of the new, I couldn’t keep holding on the way I had been. Six months later, the exchange is still ongoing…however, the door to freedom is much wider, in large part, to having repented of this complex.

tumblr_nikl8pxddz1tq4of6o1_5003) Financial fitness

For many couples, one spouse is the buyer, the other is the saver. In my relationship with Lyssah, the contrast is evident. While I’m a buyer who lives well within his means, Lys is much better at budgeting and sticking to it.

Ironically, you would never know by where our financial anxieties lie. As co-bread winners, to make ends meet, we both must work…whatever the cost with whatever time we can give. Unfortunately, the drive for excellence doesn’t always extinguish the entitlements and justifiers we use to buy (or even save for) momentary contentment/peace.

I know for me, I can only afford to invest so much as I near the end of paying off student loans. The white lie, then, is if I can’t currently invest as much as I want for my family, I should be frugal in my giving and employ generosity through alternative means. Yet, as I’ve been convicted, often my lack of giving ties to a lack of trust manifest as leverage against God for not opening certain doors. And I think for some of us, we forget withdrawing doesn’t just apply to our presence and/or banking transactions. It’s applies to trusting God with our finances…our energy…our time…not just what to sow, but where to sow and how much.

All that said, if you feel financial weak starting 2019, you’re not alone. Yeah, I’m an ex-Ramsey spouse. I have content, lessons, and principles I can pass down to future generations. But I also know…

  • If I’m not maturing my stewardship, those values can only go so far.

  • If’ I’m not maturing my stewardship, my intentionality in inviting God into my budget will be compromised.

As for 2019, no longer will I reduce God to an on-call financial counselor and over-rely on my wife’s strengths to make up the difference. Rather, I’m going to pursue financial fitness, embrace frugality under the context of stewardship, and flex into shape accordingly.

Think of it this way: Even though money isn’t the end-all, be-all of extending God’s providence, in no way should we want God’s faithfulness to be restricted by what we’re not trusting Him in.

Besides if you’re reading this, chances are you have enough and know God as more than enough. Not do you have what it takes…but you can do this. Why not do it together?

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Where I’m letting go of a stronghold, sin, negative thought pattern, etc. to replace it with something better
  2. Albeit an indefinite sabbatical was necessary
Photo creds: https://buzzerg.com

3 Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

For many, it’s the same thing every January…

                   …we forget all acquaintance, inflate our morale…

…only to tease ourselves with premature quests founded on prayer-less resolution.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you prefer cleanse before change…in getting real before getting right.

If so, trust me when I say these days in early January can seem just as blue as they are buoyant.

Still, while taking internal inventory may seem less ‘fun’ compared to making resolutions, when we fearlessly explore what we need to be free from, we ultimately position ourselves to embrace the ‘next’ God has for us.

Thus, in the spirit of going under the knife, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the clock to 2018…

1) Making culture the enemy

I’ve learned many lessons as a state employee from persevering when treated like a number to managing challenging subordinates, but arguably none has gripped me so intensely as knowing your enemy in the face of conflict.

Growing up, like many, I learned Ephesians 6:12: “…we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities…and spiritual forces of evil”; however, while I understood this truth conceptually, I lacked awareness contextually. For instance, at work whenever I felt belittled or neglected, I used to justify resentment by redirecting my disappointment from colleague to culture. I’d think to myself, ‘As long as what I hate isn’t breathing, I’m good.’

The problem was: my offense wasn’t going anywhere. If anything, I had taken cynicism with respect to ‘person’ and extrapolated it over ‘many persons’ all the while exchanging discouragement for a false comfort I could easily hide behind.

Yet, as I’ve now learned, when it comes to not making culture the enemy, we must be willing to assign our offenses and align our defenses in the heat of battle. Far too often, we want to make sense of our surroundings; we want to feel secure about who is for us, who isn’t for us, who is pouring into us, who isn’t, etc.

However, if our filing system defaults culture to enemy while compartmentalizing those we assume aren’t for us as products of that culture…are we not recasting the same judgment we fear?

And yeah, I know it’s easy to appoint anger and bitterness onto what we think can’t be seen; however, I encourage you…

…if your idea of enemy is the deceived, not the deceiver, then not only are you misappropriating identity, but you’re removing yourself from an opportunity to love and judge righteously.

Think of it this way: if you’re struggling to see the finger-pointing, never wrong colleagues as anything but enemies, try focusing on encouraging them (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-36, Ephesians 4:32) and watch as God transforms how you see them. That way you’re at least in position to shift the enemy from instigated to instigator.

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2) Hiding behind proximity

As an introvert, I love my solitude…that still calm in the middle of productivity and a dwindling ‘to do’ list.

But lately I’ve been thinking: Why is privacy perceived as such a luxury when we were created for proximity (i.e. engaged connection with those around us…not just closeness in space)?

I mean…if you’re reading this, odds are you’re close1 to someone, right? From neighbors to co-workers to immediate family and friends, it’s no question proximity is both prominent and prevalent. Why is it then if we were to describe our ideal escape, it’d often involve seclusion or separation?

Is it because we think harmony and proximity are mutually exclusive…that rest can only happen in a vacuum?

If so, I submit we get back to valuing those in our midst regardless if they treat us like strangers or outcasts.

‘Cause truth is: if how we engage people is conditioned on what we can’t control, it’s going to compromise our conviction in acting on what we can.

That said, it’s worth noting the false security in minimizing proximity.

Case and point: for years at my job I used to think to myself, ‘Just because so-and-so lives two cubicles down doesn’t mean I’m entitled to be close…’ or ‘I’ve tried talking with so-and-so, but after all these years, they’ve never tried to talking to me. Might as well as be strangers.’

However, once I realized these thoughts were only de-salting my witness, I knew my approach had to change. Like my heart towards culture, I had to stop  compartmentalizing people to make sense of my surroundings. Somehow, someway…I had to open myself back up so anyone and everyone could be a potential target for love, kindness, compassion, and encouragement.2

‘Cause like many, I can love on certain people well…plugging into their life…even giving gifts (which for me, is far down the love language list), but when I consider how Jesus broached proximity, no one was outside his periphery to love or his reach to heal.

Thus, I think it’s important we all examine ourselves and explore where good intentions may be linked to our own terms. Perhaps then we can find those secret places we may be hiding behind.

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3) Marginalizingmy bandwidth

Left unguarded, my mind can easily drift into personal narrative. How will what’s left untold…unfold based on the good, bad, and ugly of yesterday?

Yet, as mentioned in prior posts, it’s hard to invest external margin (i.e. loving one another) in the present when you’re overly vesting it in the past. Therefore, if we’re wanting to be more selfless in venturing our margin John 3:30 style, then clearly we must be willing to examine our perception of relationship before transferring it.

Granted, easier said than done; however, as long as we’re intentional in asking God to breathe width into our bandwidth (i.e. capacity/strength to love on purpose), who’s to say we can’t change?

And hear me: I get how tempting it can be to assume other people’s perception of you is less than what it should; however, I also know if you cement your mind in thinking people won’t believe the best, you will do the same as well. Why not then trust God to move, convict, and transform others the same way He’s moving, convicting, and transforming you?

If it helps, if you want to de-marginalize your bandwidth, go back to your narrative…but this time, consider what you learn at 35 or 45 may be what someone else learns at 25 or 55. After all, who are we to judge when truth clicks for someone else? I mean…if we truly want to be heaven on earth, then we should want to root each other on regardless if our maturity curves line up (see Matthew 7:5).

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Literally and figuratively
  2. A key distinction between world and ‘like Jesus’
  3. To treat as insignificant

Cover photo creds: Newhdwallpaper