That Thing Called Life
Life is very rarely straightforward. This is especially true in those moments where my mind thinks I have it all figured out. Here is a handy hint, the second you think you have everything figured out, usually is when you are the furthest from it. I used three “you’s” to make one point. This may seem redundant, but it further illustrates the idea of how self-centered, we, and especially I, can be.
When Life Is Not Pretty Use A Not So Pretty Illustration
Recently, a lot has happened, and crap has hit the fan in about a billion directions. It is as if someone has brought in an industrial size fan, turned it on high, and blown crap in every possible place imaginable. If I am being completely honest, and cutting through the crap, if you will, that someone was myself. Often when it comes to crapping into fans, it is not other people doing the crapping on us, we are doing it to ourselves. This is called taking responsibility for our actions, something I am not great at doing, but continue to learn what exactly it means to do so. My illustration, it is not pretty, then again our flesh and the issues caused by it never is.
Back to the idea I was beginning to unpack at the start of this post, life is not easy, and in all honesty, nine times out of ten we make it harder on ourselves by allowing our flesh to have its way. This is the theme for much of what has happened to me lately.
When Ministry Becomes Your Identity
Over the past three months I was given, not just the opportunity, but the privilege, to teach at a Bible school that was the catalyst for me finding a passion for theology. This job was one I fought to obtain for over a year. Everything I wanted to do in ministry had finally been given to me. My time within the institution involved teaching, preaching, and discipling, fully using all the abilities God has developed in me. While this was going well, something had happened to me within, something I could not see, it was no longer Christ, but the ministry that became my identity. As walking in the flesh does, things began to go downhill in certain areas. Like an old man driving who should have had his license taken away years ago, blind spots developed due to my skewed focus, and eventually, the inevitable happened, I crashed. Sure, my time in the classroom was fantastic, the messages I spoke above average, and relationships with students on a deeper level kept happening, but all this became what motivated me, not knowing God or growing in my heavenly identity. No matter how pure or positive a thing may be, anything put in the place of Christ as our identity can end in only one way, terribly. This is not to say I did not try, my effort was one hundred and ten percent, nor can it not be said lots of good happen while there, but my motive in doing so was not what it should have been.
I was finding my identity in teaching and speaking, leading me to live inconsistently. Outside of the classroom I lacked discernment, saying things and acting in ways that were immature, that were not like a teacher, but a student. Never being in a position like this before or having authority in this capacity it got to my head, the ministry had become my motivation, my identity. Exhorting students in class each day to see themselves as nothing other than in Christ and making knowing God the motivation for their lives, I was not taking my own advice. How I saw myself was completely dependent on ministry.
The day before my demise I said in one of my classes that at any moment we can lose our ministry, not realizing the next day my ministry would be taken away from me. That is the thing about making something other than Christ your identity, one day whatever you replaced Him with will be taken away leaving emptiness. While other elements and people were involved with the circumstances, all I can do is take responsibility for my actions. There were things I did wrong and a lot that can be learned from the events, so now it is time to own it, and for what was messed up on my part repent. It is easy to blame others when we make mistakes, and even if I was not fully at fault there are still lessons can be learned in order to in the future not make them. Yes, I will make all sorts of new and exciting mistakes in the days to come, that fact is an unavoidable one, but with every blunder comes more opportunities for God’s grace to teach us.
Pony Rides In October Rain Fall
Right now I am homeless, jobless, and with really no idea of what to do next. I have been at the bottom before, and may one day be again. Every time God has allowed me to be torn down in myself, I have always been built back up again in Him, and that makes it all worth it. Even if I have nothing on this Earth, I still have everything in Christ. Nothing, apart from Him, as our identity will bring fulfillment, trust me, I continue to learn this the hard way. Truthfully though, I know these truths, but do not always feel them. I guess that this where faith comes in to play, knowing something, and even if you are not feeling it, moving forward anyway. To some extent I have handled things about as gracefully as an elephant ice skating, but He teaches me even when my response is executed poorly. So what, I lost one opportunity for ministry, that does know mean God is through using me.
Life is an adventure. One of my axioms is that the best stories often come from the worst adventures. This will one day be another page in the book of my life. In The Hobbit, a book I quote a lot, at one point during the story rain continues to pour down soaking the main characters. Bilbo, who is the stories protagonist, says in the midst of this, “Adventures are not always pony rides in May sunshine.” His journey was hard, but it changed him for the better, just as our journeys do for us if we let them. What is hard and what is worth it often are the same thing. If you are going to try authentically walking with the Lord, the rains, hardships, and dragons are going to come, whether from outside or within. God will not withhold problems, we have to choice to either let them be a catalyst for growth or to stop us. We have problems, but God has given us a cure.
In Second Corinthians four and five there are a lot of wonderful truths, truths that have been encouraging me during these hardships. These claims held to by Paul through understanding of his position are just as true for me as they are of you. This is not an exposition or exegesis of these verses, just some reminders from God, through Paul, in Christ, for us. I am afflicted in every way, but not crushed. I am perplexed, but not driven to despair. I am persecuted, but not forsaken. I am struck down, but not destroyed. I am no longer regarded by the flesh, I am in Christ a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come. My identity is in Christ, not a ministry, nor abilities, or relationships, but in Him, walking in this position is the only way to find true fulfillment.
I hope what I am learning can be an encouragement to all you readers as your continue on your journeys