Comfort From Discomfort
Often to bring myself comfort, not just regarding where I am, but also where I am going, I reminisce about where I have been. There is a certain kind of encouragement in looking back on days past; whether that encouragement comes from joy over the brightest of bright days, or the notion that “this too will pass” given from the darkest of the dark, our personal history comforts us through security from what once was, and hope in what will one day be. On a larger scale, for believers, not only can the tried and true be seen in our own lives, but in the lives of every believing person who had faith from the time of Adam to today. It has been tested, following God works, and while it is not always easy, just because something is hard, does not make it any less worth it! It is in moments of discouragement or apathy that it particularly helps me to dwell on these thoughts.
No Way Out
After leaving New Tribes Bible Institute, upon completing my second semester, I found myself faced with the struggle of day to day life. I had no job, the one prospect for a school I had, I turned down (thankfully), and every single day I had to watch the Lord provide the basic necessities of life, things like food, quarters for laundry, and just stuff people “need”. Luckily I had an awesome roommate who looked after rent, and had a discount from working at McDonald’s, so some of the pressure was taken off, but overall I was in a place where I had to be completely dependent upon the Lord. All I could live for was in the here and now, not tomorrow, not next week, all I had that was certain, all I still have that is certain, is this moment. As a result I am still here, fighting the fight, going to school, learning, growing, loving, and all around living the hell out of life, as much as I possibly can.
Day to Day
Monday through Friday, not being able to find a job and with nothing else to do, it helped me in keeping my sanity by going to the Waukesha library. Waukesha, Wisconsin was the town I lived in at the time. I would wake up in the afternoon, make myself look presentable and nothing like the person I was who had no idea how they would get that day’s meal, and through every element, rain, heat, snow, or cold, I would go to the library. The library was my sanctuary for the greater portion of that year. A sense of grandeur would overtake me each time I entered, grabbing piles of books with everything from Calvin and Hobbes to Nick Hornby, C.S. Lewis to Tolstoy, How to Attract Women to Where’s Waldo?, Hunter S. Thompson to Francis Schaeffer. Whatever I wanted to read or study, I read or studied it. I had a gigantic library at my service, and golly did I let it serve me. While I did not have much, or anything even, I had my mind and I had books, so for as long as God had me in the position He had me in, I was going to make the most of it. I remember being placed in alternative school for two weeks during my senior year of high school. Alternative school was where you placed students the system would rather forget, rather than actually understand. Backwoods Tennessee sure values their education system, and I say this with complete and total sarcasm in case you missed it. As it turned out though the joke was on them, because within the first half of the first day I would finish all of my homework for the week. Why was the joke on them? Whenever a student finished their homework in alternative school you had to read for the rest of the day, not only that, but you could read a book of your choosing; what was given to me as a punishment, turned out to actually be more like a break really. My point is even the grimmest of circumstances are made less grim by the pleasure of books.
(The top left chair is where I would sit almost daily, to read anything and everything I wanted.)
Each day at nine o’clock in the evening, when the Library would close (I was not able to check out books as I had accidentally kept a book out to the point where I had to pay the list price of that book, which was obscene, so I refused) I would put my books back in their place and make my way to a local waterfall in downtown Waukesha. The town truly was a nice area, very kind to those who chose to travel by foot. In the past year as I have made visits to Waukesha I have brought friends to this waterfall and shared the same thought I am about to share with you. I guess as I think about it, whether I know it or not, you readers are kind of my friends too, in a sense. Anyway, it was almost every night that I would stand leaning on the side rail bordering the river, with the very view in the photo below, that eyes open and heart ready, I would let my mind speak and my mouth speak. Sometimes in silence, others in voice, I would talk to God about life and would always end with the same two questions “is this all you have for me God, and if it is will I be okay with it?” Each day I would come back to this question just as I would come to this place, never knowing if it truly was all that God had for me.
(My view night after night of Fox River, where I would have conversations with God about life and my direction.)
The Present of the Past
Going back there today, especially with friends in my new life sharing an experience from my old, thinking about that place today, those things, encourages me greatly, knowing where God had me then, and seeing where He has me now. I mean some day’s life was hard, when you have nothing, when the extent of your Christian life is waking up, going to the library, having a meal, taking walks, and going home, it becomes difficult to think you have any purpose in your existence. All the while God was doing some really cool things. Today I still ask myself that same question, “God is this all you have for me and if it is will I be okay with it?” What about you, if today is all that God had for you the rest of your life would you be okay with it? Is what God does or does not have for us, what our dependency to follow Him daily rests upon?
One of the major themes of my Christian life is God’s provision. In that year of not having a job or money, there was not a single day in which I did not have a meal, and often good meal at that, provided for me. On top of this I was also able to continue developing as a thinker, devoting my days to studying whatever I wanted to study, reading books on anything and everything, and most importantly what it meant to not only study the Word of God live it. My theology was not simply orthodox, but it was orthopraxy. If all I did was think about theology, not live it, I cannot imagine I would have stuck with Christianity in those times, and if I did I would be weak in my faith at that. The rubber of my theology had to hit the road of life. It was also in that year, my wilderness period as I sometimes think about it as, that I started this blog. While I had few readers apart from a few friends, being able to write, to blog, sharing my insights on life, helped in giving me purpose, as I lived day after day. Out of all that, what really strikes a chord with me, whenever I have moments of discontentment, is how much even now I take for granted. As I sit here today I have food, a good job, I am in school pursuing what interests me, the blessing of a loving family of friends, ministry, a blog with quite a few readers, six pairs of shoes, four sport coats, and an infinitely stronger faith now than what I did then. What more could a guy ask for?! Did I have stuff then? Certainly I did! The blessings I have now however, while different, are still blessings all the same. God’s blessing did not change even though what He blesses me with has. Many of the blessings I have today, that I do often take for granted, remind me of what I have in contrast to what I once did not, making me thankful for where He has brought me from, content with where He has me, and excited for where He is taking me. What I am dependent on Him for may be different, but why I am dependent on Him is the same.
Where Do You Go to My Lovely?
Where have you come from? Think about what God has brought you through in order to bring you to where you are. As I sit here, my roommate chattering away at me, listening to good music, thinking about my full schedule, and the purpose He has brought into my life, it helps to remind myself of what God has done to fully appreciate what He is doing. All I am responsible for, just as I was then, is to follow God in the here and now, knowing He will handle what is to come.