January 22, 2015

Tired, but Pressing On...

Yeah, this was me last night. I was up late working on a paper for my COM 705 Advanced Theory class. It was one of those difficult "short" papers that doctoral professors like to give to their students. The parameters were stiff with the page length mandated at "no more than three pages." The task was brutal, but the purpose was clear - be concise and to the point. I was confident that I would finish up with plenty of time to hit the hay, and still get my required 8-9 hours of sleep. Or so I thought...

I thought I was good to go -- that is -- until I dreamed about theory all bloody night long! At one point, I had a dream about eating in a restaurant, ordering pancakes, and after breakfast, finding my way to the bathroom (OK, so not the most lovely of dreams). I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity only to learn that the people in front of me were not finishing up their business and the people behind me were cutting in line (oh, how rude!) I left the restaurant in a huff, but not before giving the manager a piece of my mind, and demanding that they "fix the bathroom situation pronto" or else they would be losing my business (literally and figuratively). I left the place without paying the bill (something I would never do).

I am not sure what that dream has to do with theory, but interspersed between the images and dialogue were thoughts of theory and theoretical application. Needless to say, my brain is so "dog gone" tired today. The good news is that I did finish my paper. It needs a little polishing before I turn it in tonight, but overall, I think it is a good first paper for this course. I am praying my professor thinks so. At this point, I don't really care (well, I do, but not as much as I normally care) because this professor is a bit stringent on the little things, and frankly, with my work load for teaching and studies, something has got to go, and I am in favor of letting those annoying "little things" be "it!" I digress...

It is funny how easy it becomes to prioritize when you are slammed and up against the wall. I mean, when you have freedom and time to dilly-dally, it seems that procrastination rules. When you are hit with a tough workload, deadlines, and a limited amount of time to complete tasks, you find yourself able "to delegate and to delete" unnecessary items fairly quickly. For me, the first thing to go is my perfectionist tendencies. I cannot be a perfectionist when time is limited. I don't have the luxury of reviewing papers, critically analyzing them over and over to ensure that every period or comma is correct. I have to submit them for grading, and that means at times, I submit them with errors. Oh errors! How I hate errors on papers! It is one of those "little things" that I cannot manage when I have other, more pressing, things in the fire. It is a matter of picking and choosing your battles, so to speak. You have to attack the enemy before he attacks you, and that means that sometimes, you let the little skirmishes go in favor of the major battles.

I don't like any battle, and I would prefer to remain safely on the sideline. However, in this life, the Word clearly reminds us that we will face battles of all shapes and sizes. John 16:33 says,

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

Yes, our Lord was good to remind us that life is hard, and that our path, the path we take as born-again believers is not always going to be easy. The road is marked with many trials and sorrows. We are encouraged not to lose heart, but we must not fail to recognize that hardship, difficulty, and tribulation are part of the Christian's daily walk.

I don't like hardship. I don't like trial. I don't like sorrow.

No, I want peace, joy and love. I want my life to be filled with balloons, puppy dogs, and cotton candy. Yes, I want the child's life of play, rest, and relaxation. The Lord, however, may have called me like a little child, but He is not content to leave me in that condition. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 13:11,

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

and in verse 12, he states,

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

While I don't agree with Thomas Hobbes assessment on life, that it is "nasty, brutish, and short" (from The Leviathan), I do feel that at times, life in general, is trying my patience. Let me explain...

There are those in certain strains of Christianity that preach that life is always blessed, always good, always filled with optimism and with opportunity. I actually believe in the goodness of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the potential of wisdom, of knowledge, and of maturity to foster a good, a Godly, and a goal-oriented life. Yet, notwithstanding, there are too many instances in life where the former is not always possible. I know too many people who live miserable lives -- through no fault of their own. Yes, there are times when we "muss up the works," when we make bad choices and we then suffer the consequences of those bad choices. Still, there are times when life sucks the joy, the peace, and the love right out of you.

I believe the Word reminds us of the hardships of life simply to help us understand that the Lord desire is for us to not avoid hardship, trials and suffering, but rather to learn to bear up under it. In James 1:2-3 we read,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

And again in 1 Peter 1:12-13 we read,

Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad--for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

So while I really would like to take a break, to have more rest, and to find my plate less full right now, I know that the present trial, the present hardship, and the present sorrow is only a light and momentary affliction. The result of my steadiness, my bearing up, will be to bring me to the fullness of stature, the completeness of maturity that is desired by God through Christ Jesus. In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes,

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28-30 that we have been chosen (called by God) for this specific work,

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

The purposes of God are clear - we are to be brought to maturity so that we can withstand the onslaught, the battle between two warring factions, between the Children of Light and the children of darkness. This present darkness, these troubling times, are all within the plans and purposes of God, the Father.

In Psalm 57:2, David writes,

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”

Today, I struggle with fatigue, with feelings of being tasked too harshly, yet when I think of my brothers and sisters in Christ who live under incredible pressure, pain, and persecution, I thank God for His merciful hand of deliverance. I may be tired, but I am whole. I may be overworked, but the work I do is for the Lord. I may feel overwhelmed at the tasks assigned to me to complete, but I know that these tasks are part-and-parcel to the calling I fulfill within the Body of Christ. Therefore, while I am tired, I press on...I press on toward the upward way!

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till rest I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.

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