Can the Gospel lose its wonder?

Yes. 

If and when I ever forget where I came from, who I was, what I was like, etc before Jesus intervened in an unspeakable act of grace, then yes, the gospel can lose its wonder.

When I forget that I was aimless and wandering, the gospel loses its wonder.

When I think that I am good in and of myself, the gospel loses its wonder.

When I think I’ve earned everything I have (my job, my car, living situation, relationships, education opportunity, etc) then I make myself a god, de-emphasize the grace God has afforded to me, and the gospel loses its wonder.

When I forget I was rebellious and, as my siblings would tell you, a bit of a devil-child, and think I’ve always been serene and the “kind” person I am today (which is pretty spotty) the gospel loses its wonder because I neglect the fact that God had to give me a brand new nature to be like Him. 

 

So yes, the Gospel can lose its wonder, but never rightfully so. It comes when I forgetand that’s why the Bible tells us to remember, to look to Jesus, to meditate on Him. It’s why Jesus is called the author and finisher of our faith. To leave any part of our salvation in our own hands (other than the part where we believe,) is a dangerous thing.

“Embracing singleness” and other cliches…

Please—Oh, dear God, PLEASE—don’t be frightened by the title. Don’t run away yet. If you’re like me, when you hear “embrace your singleness” you think of all the single girls you know complaining about Valentine’s Day in one of several ways:

  1. Why can’t you celebrate love the other 364 days of the year? Note: the same could be said of Christmas, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.
  2. Valentine’s Day is stupid. Note: You’d love it if you were celebrating it.
  3. I don’t need no man. Translation: you’ve been hurt by some douche who has/had no idea what he’s doing. On behalf of men, I’m sorry, but don’t go all lone ranger and alienate all men. There are good men in the world.
  4. I’m going to celebrate Galentine’s Day instead! …no comment.

Another side note: if you’re one of those people, I’m not saying any of this to discourage you or put you down. In fact, this blog is actually, more or less, for you.

This thought came to me on Valentine’s Day last week, because I was reflecting on the fact that I went 20 years before I celebrated it, and then celebrated it one year, and my then-girlfriend and I broke up two months later (on mutual grounds.) So, yes—I understand the disappointment at a broken relationship, I understand the work that goes into them, and I understand that it can be hard to care if you’ve had a relationship end, whether well or poorly. It stinks, I’ll admit. But as a guy, I really wanted to celebrate it again. I’ll never forget leaving cupcakes and a card at my girlfriend’s apartment the day before Valentine’s Day, and then giving her the main gift I got her on Valentine’s Day itself. (I also remember when those purple chucks I was so lucky to find didn’t fit.) I remember the feeling I got doing something for her, seeing her smile, and knowing I’d done well. There’s nothing like it.

So this year, even though I wanted to spend it with someone (I even [perhaps foolishly] asked if anyone wanted to be my temporary valentine and get a cup of coffee) I was, indeed, alone. I had nobody to spend money on (which was probably good, since I don’t really have money.) But out of this day, I did a lot of introspection and God spoke pretty specifically…

As a single guy approaching graduation, I begin to think of the future. I start to think of the travelling I’ve told myself I want to do (I want to see Ajax, Ontario, where I was born, and Toronto while I’m at it; London, Seattle, other west coast destinations…) and the activities I want to do. I have a book collection of almost 200, and I’ve read under 50 of them. All through the semester I stare at my bookshelf and almost cry because I want to read them so badly. I have a weekly tradition of going to the soccer pitches at Lake Reba every Friday when I get off work (After playing chess with a friend) and working out while listening to my podcasts and learning to be a better soccer player. Every Saturday I go to a movie. I co-write at a blog (poptheclutch.wordpress.com) and I would like nothing more than to have that take off. Not only does that require writing, but it also requires a lot of watching sports, research, analyzing, and putting thoughts together. I want to lead life groups at my church. I want to write songs. I want to practice my musicianship and become a master of my instrument.

As I look at all of this, here’s what God said:

You’ve constructed a future that involves you and only you.

That’s not a word of condemnation, or even rebuke. It’s not God saying, “you’re selfish! Stop making plans!” It’s God saying: “You’ve made these plans. Which do you want more—them, or a partner? Choose, because you can’t have both.”

That, my friends, has entirely changed my perspective on singleness. Instead of having to split my time between my partner/girlfriend/fiancée/ wife, my time is my own. All of these things I want to do, I can do!

That being said, I think I/you/we must be careful not to view this as a rule. If you’re with someone, and you’re reading this, don’t break up with them just to chase your own thing. That’s not what I’m saying. That’s selfish, and I’d argue you’ve already made your choice. What I’m saying is that us single people shouldn’t just sit here wishing the time away until we have a partner. I know it’s a cliché, but if you don’t want to date because you have other stuff you’re wanting to do, then don’t date! If you’re waiting on someone to come along, do something with your life! I can’t tell you how many people have advised me to do things such as travel while I’m still single, because I don’t want to regret not taking advantage of my time once my kids come along. I’m also not saying to throw relationships to the wind. High up on my list of life goals is to have a family. But I think about my life right now: I’m 22, about to graduate from college, have no money which I could spend on a girlfriend anyway, and a list of things I want to do. Even if I take five years to do all of this, I’ll only be 27, and that’s prime marrying age. Also, another gift of waiting: the longer you take to form your own life and realize your goals, aspirations, habits, etc. the better your partner can be tailored to you, because you know what you want. Better to cycle through jobs from ages 22-28 while you’re still single than to marry at 23, and realize at 30 you hate your job, go through a mid-life crisis, and drag your spouse through that (at least I think so.) I need to land this plane, so let me say this:

Use your time well. Take advantage of your circumstance. If you’re with someone, enjoy them. If you’re single, take advantage of that. Do things you’ve always wanted to try (because, and here’s another side note: it’s weird when you announce to your girlfriend/boyfriend something you’ve always wanted to do that seems out of left field. Just do it. Establish your personality NOW.) Get good at something you’ve always wanted to. Instead of moping around on weeknights wishing you were on a date, go try things. Read books. Take classes. Learn a trade. Play a sport. Try a new food. Watch a new movie. Write. Just do something with your life!

Lord, I…

need help. am such a mess today. can’t believe what I just did. can’t get over this. don’t understand. wish I wasn’t like this. wish You’d do something about this person.

 

I get to these points–sometimes after work, sometimes DURING work, sometimes after class, sometimes between class, sometimes after I’ve been around certain people, even after I do something like teach or lead worship at church–where I just have to stop, and the last thing I know to do is pray. I’m so exhausted, exasperated, frustrated, confused, insert emotion here, that I literally can’t go forward until I stop, and I pray. I always begin with these two words: “Lord, I…”

Today, I noticed this. I’m starting to think that “Lord, I…” are arguably the worst two words I can start with. The thing is, my prayer life tends to be about me. I pray when I need to. I know it’s cliche, but in my case, it’s true. I pray when something’s wrong with me. 

My thought as I was driving in the car today is this: I want my prayers to not be about me, both in their frequency as well as content. I want to pray for my church, for people I know, for people God puts on my heart, etc. But this gives way to a question: does others-focused prayer come once all of my “stuff” is out of the way, or does others-focused prayer get my mind off my “stuff?” 

I think both are the wrong question. The Gospel deals with both issues. First, the Gospel deals with my “stuff,” because it takes away my neediness. Jesus died for my “stuff:” my tiredness, my jealousy, my anxiety, my fear, etc. Resting in God’s perfect love displayed in Jesus’ perfect work does away with all of that.

Second, by the same token, the Gospel births a love for others. Seeing the way Jesus dealt with people, seeing His love for humanity and how the cross was not exclusively for me helps me see that God cares about others, and being adopted in the family of God births in me the interests of God, which include the well-being of others. Love begets love, mercy begets mercy, and compassion begets compassion.