January 3, 2017
Time to Go
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this fact, but I think I can finally say it out loud and not feel guilty about it. I need to be alone. I need to live alone. I need to be able to rest, and while I don’t necessarily want to be lonely, I really do want to be alone. Let me explain…
Life Lesson #Infinity
The past few weeks this idea of being alone has really presented itself to me strongly. I have been thinking about it a lot, how I miss being in my own place and having my own things. At first, I thought it was desire to decorate so I threw myself into Pinterest and began collecting pins for ideas and design tips. I thought I would enjoy the process as I put together rooms, decided on colors, and dreamed about my future home. But, after a time, and some 3,000 pins, I realized that looking at pins, while enjoyable and sort of mind numbing, really didn’t satisfy the need I felt building inside of me.
As I became more frustrated with my work, with my studies, and with my schedule, I realized as well that my home is really my sanctuary. It is where I LIVE and do WORK, and as such, my home is of vital importance to me. My home soothes me, calms me, and brings me peace. I need my space — not just to have my own things — but to give to me the peace and comfort I need in order to decompress, to de-stress, and to relax to such a point so I can enjoy my downtime. I cannot live and work in a stressed environment, and for the past three years, my life has been stressful. Yes, the majority of that stress came from my studies, which have been very, very difficult; but more so, the stress also came from having to live with other people, and having to give way to other people’s needs, wants and desires. Granted, it is not like I always had to give way, but I would not be fair or accurate to say that I didn’t give way most of the time. In truth, I most often compromised simply to avoid more stress and more upset.
My life has become unimaginable of late. I was talking with my good friend the other night and it was obvious that I was ready to go. I mean, I was thinking to myself that the time has come for me to find full-time work and to begin my professional career. Furthermore, the time has come for me to accept my future, to realize that the plans the Lord has for my life, while they may not seem significant or important to other people, these plans are significant and important to me. Why? Because I believe the Lord has asked me to do certain things, and that His work, His calling is everything to me. It is more important than life itself, and in this way, while I am not saying I don’t need any friends or want family near by (because this is far from the truth), it simply affirms the fact that when you are called to go by the Lord, sometimes you have to leave friends and family behind to do it.
I have known for a long time that I was being called to walk a very difficult path, a solitary one, whereby I would suffer great hardship and undergo great trial. Yes, I also believe that my life will be blessed, and that His favor does rest upon me. But, I realized that what God was asking me to do was difficult for other people to understand. Even when I tried to explain it, most of the time, my family and my friends simply didn’t get what I was saying, they didn’t understand the connection or how or why I felt so compelled to do what I was doing. Often they would contradict me or they would say that I was being too reactive, too emotional, too passionate about my work, about my calling. They would try to temper me, saying that I needed to “chill out,” and that it wasn’t good for me to be so zealous. The problem, however, was the fact that over the course of my life, my zealousness has always been a part of my personality. I have always worked very hard, without stopping, simply in pursuit of whatever the “thing” was that I was pursuing. Mostly, it was God. Mostly, it was His Name. Mostly, it was to know Him more, to be more intimate with Him, and to come to a place whereby I was completely, thoroughly, and abundantly fulfilled by Him. My family never understood the value in this pursuit. My friends often scoffed at me, laughed at me, or ridiculed me. But deep inside of me, I had (still have) this driving desire to know God, and everything in my life turns on that desire.
My work at Regent, my scholarly studies are part and parcel to this deep driving desire. In my research, and in my academic courses, I sought to do my best, to work hard, to receive “As” simply as a way of showing the Lord my intention and my dedication. I believed, after all, that my PhD was more about His work and less about my achieving the degree. The degree would always be a benefit, a real achievement, and it would secure me a teaching position. It was just that the degree itself wasn’t the pursuit. It was the calling by God to use the degree for His work that motivated me, that made me sacrifice everything, and fueled my passion and my intensity to let go of all distraction in order to accomplish this high calling.
My teaching duties, my daily work, was simply a means to an end. I always have viewed my daily work this way. It was a blessed position, a favored path, but in the end, it was “good practical work,” and as such, I worked heartily unto the Lord, so to speak, yet I never focused on the work as anything more than His provision for my life. Until now, that is. I began to shift my focus a couple weeks ago as I started to worry about provision and making ends meet this spring. I am in good stead with the work I have on my plate, and I should be earning enough money to pay my bills and even put some aside. However, my focus became intensified when I started to wonder about my next steps, my next adventure. Would I find that elusive full-time faculty role? If I did find it, where would it be located?
The more I began to think about next steps, the more panicked I became over the process. I mean, how would I leave Phoenix now? Still, I believed that the Lord was calling me to leave Phoenix, to leave my home and my family, and to move to a new place of His choosing. I had already reconciled myself to the fact that the Lord may ask me to go someplace I didn’t want to go, and that He might call me to work in a job that I didn’t necessarily enjoy. I was agreeable. I was willing. Now, though, I realized that He very well MIGHT do both. It is easy to say,“Yes, Lord, I will go” until you find out where the Lord intends to send you. Then, it is a matter of keeping your word to Him. If you say, “Yes, Lord, I will go wherever you send me,” then you had better be willing and agreeable to doing just that — going where He sends you. I felt that for many, many months now, I have been not honest with the Lord. He has asked me to go, and I have only paid Him lip service. I have said I would go, but in my heart, I didn’t want to go. In short, I had a heart-head problem and the Lord was calling me to account.
All of this is to say that within the past 24-hours many things have become clear to me. I have had to face some truth, and in doing so, I have had to acknowledge my own inability to be completely honest with the Lord. I have had to come to the point where I answered honestly, truthfully, and with full faith, and in doing so, I have had to face the Lord in the same was as the Israelites faced Moses, right as they were to enter the promised land. I had to listen to and agree to the Word, the whole law, and then choose to obey. In choosing obedience, there would be blessing. In choosing disobedience, there would be cursing. The choice was up to me — failure was not an option — rather it was the result of a heart action. Granted, as a blood-bought born again Christian, I am under grace and not the law (praise be to God), but the words in Deuteronomy clearly are for both Jew and Gentile alike (read chapters 29-34 where the Lord says that His covenant is forever and that it is for everyone). Obedience is not to be taken lightly. You either obey the Lord or you don’t. There is no gray area involved.
I read through these chapters last night, and as I did, I couldn’t help but see my life come into full view and focus. I am not a Jew. I am a Gentile. The Lord’s covenant given to the Israelites, while not meant to be kept after the cross, still is valid. It is His law, and in His law, there are provisions, benefits, and yes, blessings to be received for adherence to it. In many ways, walking in obedience after the cross is easier than it was before the cross. There are no sacrificial lambs, no bulls and goats, no pigeons to be split in two and roasted on the altar. But there are sacrifices. There are offerings. There are rituals and worship that the Lord desires and deserves. As I processed these chapters, really thought more deeply about them, I became utterly convinced that it is far too easy to treat God as a friend rather than as a foe. I mean, yes, in Jesus, we are friends with God, the Father. In this new heart relationship, we have been reconciled to our Heavenly Father. Yet, our God is a jealous God. The bible describes Him as an “all consuming fire,” and throughout the Old Testament, in particular, we see the fierceness of God, the amazing power and authority of God, and we see the people tremble in fear and in awe of God.
In the New Testament, our view and vision of God changes. We don’t see Him with the same measure of distance, rather we embrace the physical Jesus, the One who came to die in order to restore God’s original plan. We see Him. We hear Him. We touch Him. We live with Him. He is fearful, yes; but not in the same way. He is the gentle lamb. He is the Good Shepherd. Still, He is God, and as such, His power and His authority are not to be undermined. The New Testament writers clearly respected Jesus as both God and man. They understood that He was not to be trifled with despite His genuine love and affection, His goodwill and His grace. He was God, and as such, He was worthy of their praise, their honor, and their adoration.
In my small and insignificant life, I have come to see that often I mix the two up. I often treat God as my friend, which He clearly is, but I forget to remember His wrathful nature. I forget to remember that Moses had to hide within the cleft of the rock so as not to be destroyed. I forget that the men who touched the holy mountain were incinerated just as those who stretched out their hand to steady the ark were immediately consumed. Our God is a jealous and wrathful God. He is just in all ways. He is righteous and He is good. But — He is an all-consuming fire that burns without stop — and as a result, those who worship Him must do so with fear, with trembling, and with awe.
This realization, not new by any shape of the imagination, has come to the forefront in these last difficult days. I have come to see my own appreciation of God change, especially as He has delivered me time and time again from my enemies, from those who camp around me and desire my demise. He has been my strong tower, my shield, and my buckler. He has been the One who has graciously committed to see me through each trial, has empowered me to overcome each temptation, and has encouraged and uplifted me in order to experience such blessing and favor. I am nothing in comparison to His attributes. I am flawed human flesh, and I am inept and unable to do any good work, any good work that pleases Him. Yet, despite my failings, He has condescended to work with me. Despite my utter abject fear, He has chosen to walk along side of me and to help me recover, to restore, and to receive His provision. I do not deserve His goodness in my life. I do not deserve to walk beside of Him at all. It is only through His grace, His marvelous grace that I dare walk. It is His grace that has saved me. It is His grace that daily covers me, and makes it possible for me to move on.
In truth, I am where I am today simply because He has chosen for me to be here. I am sitting at this crossroad, dealing with the trials and difficulties because He has determined that it is best for me to do so. I want to go, and I am ready to go, and yes, I do believe it is time to go, but I cannot go without His provision, and that means I must patiently wait until He releases me. I must wait here until He says, “Go, my child, go.”
Although this blog post is shorter than normal, I realize today that this good Tuesday is a new day for me. It is a day to recommit myself to the Lord, to following after His plans, to reaching for His goals, and to remaining steady in and through it all. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but I also remember that it is Christ who is at work in me to bring about the Father’s good pleasure. He is the One who is at work to bring about the Father’s plans for my life. I can do no good thing without His grace, without His favor, and without His blessing. I can do no good thing — so long as I desire that the good — is good enough to please Him. I desire to hear Him say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Well done!”
In closing, I am reminded of what Oswald Chamber’s once said:
“Not often, but every once in a while, God brings us to a major turning point— a great crossroads in our life. From that point we either go toward a more and more slow, lazy, and useless Christian life, or we become more and more on fire, giving our utmost for His highest—our best for His glory.”
I am at this crossroads, and I have chosen to take the hard way, the difficult way, the way that moves me closer and closer to Him. I want to live my life the “on fire way,” the way in which I give my utmost for His highest, and yes, my best for His glory.