disintegration [a journal entry.]

I’m going to try something new today. 

I’m going to try and believe that it’s okay not to be the best at things. 

It’s ironic that I am dealing with that – I’ve rarely if ever been the best at anything. I never took advanced courses in high school or college, I never took classes to learn music, and information sticks to my brain like wet tape sticks to paper (not very well.) 

But there is one thing I’ve ever felt like I’m really good at – my job. Just this one in particular. Everywhere else I felt like I’m pretty darn good, but never the best. I’ve felt like the best here. It’s not been healthy. It’s made me jealous (when others got plaudits,) frustrated (when I felt I wasn’t listened to,) proud (when I won an award,) stressed (when I was having an off day,) and angry (when others just don’t “get it.”) After all, if I think I’m the best, then why should I struggle? Why should anyone listen to anyone but me? Why don’t I have more input? Why don’t I win the awards every year? Why don’t I get more attention?

 

That’s it, isn’t it? The desire to be noticed? The desire to be seen as good, as fast, as thorough, as memorable. And outside of work, I have battled this desire to be seen as engaged, informed, smart, like I have my act together. But how many times have I had to learn this lesson (and how many times will I surely learn it again?) Being the best isn’t even good if your heart isn’t in the right place? 

 

Why be the best at a customer service job if you’re not in it for the selfless service?

Why read a lot if you’re not genuinely curious?

Why be informed with the flow of news and politics if your primary goal is appearance, not making a difference? 

Why have a good looking body if you’re more concerned about looking good than being healthy?

 

I think i’ll call this entry “disintegrate,” and that’s an intentional word. I considered “decimate” or “obliterate” or other harsher, murderous terms. But that’s not the goal here – I’m not trying to destroy my ego altogether, but remove it from certain things. I’m trying to dis-integrate – to reduce, to break up, to un-unify my ego from my actions. 

 

 

respond.

It’s been said that you can’t necessarily control how you feel about something – but you can control how you respond to it. That’s true, but as I go on it becomes more and more apparent that – as a follower of Jesus – I have a choice not only how I respond to things, but what things I respond to.

Jesus talks in Matthew 5 about how we respond to people who hurt us – if they slap the right cheek, turn the left to them too. If they take your tunic, let them take your cloak, too. If someone forces you to go a mile with them, go ahead and make it two. (vs. 38-42)

It makes me wonder: what is it about a Christian that makes them uniquely equipped to do that sort of thing? What is it about us that makes us unafraid of being hurt, of being taken advantage of, of giving more of ourselves?

The answer must be that we have something greater than our physical comfort, our stuff, and our energy – we have something that replenishes us even when the things that most of us would consider needs (I need to heal, I need to save money, I need to rest, etc.)

We have the Father.

We have access to the presence of God the Father – creator, sovereign leader, Lord.

We have access to Jesus the Son – all-encompassing sacrifice, Prince of Peace, King, God with us.

We have access to the Holy Spirit – all-consuming fire, comforter, testifier of Christ to us.

Back to an earlier thought: we have a choice as to what we respond to – we can respond to our circumstances, or to God. I’ve been dealing with this a lot lately. We have a choice – we can very easily give in to disappointment, when a situation doesn’t work out the way we want. Maybe that investment didn’t pan out. Maybe that crush turned you down. Maybe that event you tried to plan didn’t come together. Maybe work was long this week, maybe it ate up all of your time and energy, maybe it’s not letting up anytime soon. Maybe you didn’t get the call back from that job interview you took.

 

There seems to be this way that we’re trained to think about disappointment – we treat it with release of some sort. We treat it with a tub of ice cream and romantic comedies; we treat it with a few friends and a few more glasses of bourbon; we treat it by taking something into our own hands, going out and buying a pack of cigarettes; we treat it by hooking up with a stranger or a lesser-known acquaintance at a bar; we treat it with a lot of different things.

I can say from experience, however, that these sort of things never quite lift my thinking out from the situation I’ve found myself in. Having a forgotten night at my local watering hole has never made situations better, turning in to myself and stewing on the way I feel has never made it better. Whatever self-medications we give (and I would define a self-medication as an intentional effort to deal with pain in an indirect fashion) will find us wanting.

This is where the Otherness of God comes in. God has a way of meeting our psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs – by giving us something to think about, to meditate upon, to consider that is altogether different and altogether transcendent and altogether more glorious than our circumstance – Himself.

He consumes our cares in an overwhelming flurry of love, grace, and acceptance – the God whose words brought us into existence and who knows our every flaw took every measure to ensure we had a way into His fold, and promised never to leave or forsake us. The God who gave us dreams and desires and cravings gave us those very things for Himself – we dream, desire, and crave everything He is: Love, acceptance, friendship, creativity, loyalty, Comfort, fierce passion. All of our desires find their end in Him.

amen (isn’t goodbye.)

Jesus is a good teacher.

I’m not always a good learner.

Often times, I have to repeat the thing that I’ve learned over and over in my head until it becomes either routine to say it, or until I get so used to that reality that I live it out. Even more often, however, I don’t even repeat what it is I’m learning, and I forget it until He graciously teaches it to me again later.

My Bible is littered with notes – things that the Holy Spirit says when I’m reading or says via a preacher that I write down so I don’t forget it, and/or in hopes that when I read that passage again, it’ll light up and that truth will sink a little deeper into my heart.

You could say that I’m not the most proficient in hiding His word in my heart, that I might not sin against Him (see: Psalm 119:11; and see all of Psalm 119 if you’d like reinforcement of the importance of the Word of God.)

But here is a truth I’m finding – something I’m not moving on from until I get it, something so profound that it has changed my very constitution and the way I respond to things:

God doesn’t part with us.

I know, I know – “I shall never leave you nor forsake you; I’ll be with you until the end of the age; there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother,” etc. etc. I should know that by now. I should know, after ten years as a Christian, that God doesn’t say, “bye!” to us.

But when I got to thinking about my prayer habits, my reading habits, and my habitual habits, I came to realize that I didn’t know that at all. You act upon the things you know, right?

I prayed like God was a friend I met for coffee or for a meal once in a while. I prayed like God was the spouse I would argue with in the car, and not speak with for a while. I prayed like God was a celebrity (or like I was one.) I prayed like God was a guest Who was coming into town for a few days before returning home. In short, I prayed like “amen” meant “goodbye.”

But “amen” ≠ “goodbye.”

Amen doesn’t mean you and God get in your respective cars and each go home, regardless of whether it was a good prayer or a bad prayer.

Amen doesn’t mean that God leaves your side until you call Him up again and say, “let’s hang out,” or, “I need to talk.”

Don’t get me wrong – we often don’t pray. I often don’t pray. It’s a practice I hope to do more. And God, in His patience and forbearance, will wait for us to approach Him again, He’ll answer when we call, and He’ll wait when we think we’ve got it all under control.

But God doesn’t leave.

Think about that.

Prayer, while it is an incredible gift and a remarkable practice, isn’t the only time when we access (or can access) the presence of God. God is always around. That changes everything. That means the comfort you feel in prayer can be carried with you outside of prayer, because the Comforter walks with you, He lives in you. The radical holiness we encounter comes with us after “amen,” because the Holy One sticks with us always. The wisdom we discover; the conviction we feel; the love that embraces us; all of that comes with you after prayer. At least, it can. And long may it!

 

Where shall I go from Your spirit? or where shall I flee from Your presence? 

if I ascend to heaven, You are there! if i make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

(Psalm 139:7-8)