I Once Had a Christian Professor

I really think so. On the last day of class, he gave us an inspirational speech on how we shouldn’t be afraid to enter the real world and pursue a career in accounting. It truly was stirring. In the midst of the applause, he showed us the last slide on his slideshow, this verse, or one very similar:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind”
2 Timothy 1:7

I stared at this slide for a moment as everyone else shuffled out. What bravery, what feeling from my dry professor! I looked at it with that serene, but somehow guarded approval that Christians occasionally bestow upon one another.

Later that night, I was reflecting on these words on the long drive home in the dark. Suddenly, there seemed like so much to fear, but I couldn’t put my finger on any of it. I needed the remembrance of those words to prevent myself from having a panic attack.

These words have special significance to me as a person with anxiety. Fear seems to be the driver of my existence. Power? Love? Soundness of mind? Those all seem like strangers, and I confess that at times I feel so overtaken by darkness that those words seem to have no real meaning.

Why all this despair? You may ask. That is a question that I can’t easily answer. But what I can say is that it springs from a lack of faith. A lack of faith in absolutely everything. Lack of faith in God, lack of faith in good, lack of faith in people. My mind, which hates to take things at face value, questions everything, including the merit of goodness itself. Isn’t that awful?

It seems that the day will come when I’ll run out of energy to fight this. And indeed, I already have. So I crawl at the Lord’s feet and beg for the will to go on, to live, and help others live. And then, feeling just a little recharged, I go out and try to fight Satan’s whole army once again, only to be taken as a prisoner of war, at this point sympathetic to his cause. And then the Lord has to ransom me back all over again.

“Stop going out there by yourself so glaringly unarmed,” he tells me. But do I listen? Do I obey like the good sheep?

No!

I keep waiting for the day that he runs out of patience, love, and forgiveness. I suspect he already has. But how can He? He is God.

What Is There To Fear?

I wouldn’t say that my baptism today was like my fairytale wedding to Jesus, but it was special. I did get cold feet in the bathroom of the Cheesecake factory, where I asked myself, is there really a God? But I sorted that out in the car and was happy to get dunked into the holy waters of a jacuzzi.

A lot of people came, which made me happy even though I didn’t talk to all of them. Honestly, I was nervous, because I am usually nervous around people, especially when I am the center of attention.

Now I must once again ask myself this question: why am I afraid of people? I ask myself this every day. I have come up with answers, but not really solutions.

I wish the reason was wholly innocent, but I don’t think it is. I must be afraid of people because I secretly mistrust them. I must subconsciously worry that they will hurt me. But I don’t want them to hurt me. So I naively seek out love and acceptance.

Sometimes I feel like no one really loves me in the same way that they love other people. My family- they love me because they have to. My brothers and sisters- they try love me because God compels them to. My acquaintances- well, they don’t hate me but they’ll soon drift out of my life. God? Well, I guess he loves me.

Clearly, this is the wrong attitude, I am sure you are thinking that, and it’s true, I am ashamed to admit this. Who do I think I am that people need to love me for special reasons? My goodness, no one said that life was going to be a Hallmark movie or a fairytale. And do I always love people for special reasons? No! Do I completely accept people and gloss over their faults? Of course not! There’s a lot more wrong with this way of thinking, I don’t even think I can cover it all. It’s self indulgent and misguided for one thing. There is only so much love and sympathy circulating in the world right now. I don’t really see why I should have it all. Not everyone has a loving family and a million friends, so I don’t know why I seem to think that.

And why isn’t God’s love for me enough? Why, why, why, I find myself crying out. Why don’t I believe that He loves me? Why do I believe that I am so vastly different from everyone else? Why do I believe that I will be a reject for eternity?

And even if I will be a reject for all eternity, even if I will be the one washing God’s feet while everyone else is wearing white robes and singing hymns, my question is “Who cares?”

When did I become the center of the universe? Why does everybody need to love me? No!!! Love God. Love God. Love God. He is enough. It is enough that He is. It is more than enough that I was created to glorify Him.

So I don’t know what will happen to me. I don’t know how psychological and how physiological my problem is. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being nervous and socially awkward. But maybe I can stop being so afraid. I think there is enough fear and doubt in this world already. Maybe I should also stop it with the introspection, my worst enemy is probably my own mind.

In Defense of Contemporary Christian Music

I know that I have probably used this blog in the past to rant about how Christian art is dry as a desert and blah blah blah, but Iately I have felt blessed by the Christian pop on the satellite radio station The Message. Call it cheesy, but if you asked me, it’s kind of sweet (and not all of the songs can be called cheesy). You could say that the melodies aren’t as good, but really, it’s the same style as all the other music out there. Just saying. Maybe I’m a little out of the loop because I don’t listen to most current music anyway, being a 60’s fan.

The songs get stuck in my head, and believe it or not, the lyrics spiritually convict me. That’s right, the Lord works in mysterious as well as obvious ways. The songs encourage me to give it all up to God.

But like many before me I suppose, I wonder what it really means to “give it all up to God.” I think it’s safe to conclude that we should be willing to give up our very lives to God, and of course, everything that we have. But the fact is that one does not simply give their life away… that is usually suicide. So then what do we give away? Is there a percentage? 

In Luke 19, Zacchaeus gives away half his possessions. That is a fraction. But the confusion doesn’t stop for me, unfortunately. 

Sometimes I feel that it is my calling to give everything away and live in the most simple way possible, eating only the simplest and most wholesome foods. And, ironically, I worry about this decision. I worry about what people will think, what I would do, etc. I wonder if it would be right to leave my family behind in pursuit of the life that I have planned, whatever it will look like precisely. 

In many ways, I am misguided. I think that I will attain spiritual growth through self control, but self-control is only part of it. To get anywhere, we must abide in God, the vine (see John 15). Ultimately we won’t be able to change our behavior if we don’t change our hearts. And only the love of God can truly change a person’s heart, this I believe. I am also misguided because I don’t truly want to give everything up. I still love the world when I should be loving God and using the world for God. 

God, I know I can’t let my life pass me by while I stand around, but I can’t make a 180 now either. I’m stuck physically. Help me to take it one day, one hour, one precious moment at a time. Let me share in your gift of peace (John 14:27). Do not let me agonize over fractions and doctrines. Let me know that what is done out of love is not done in vain. 

 

 

 

The Parable of the Ten Pounds

Since I have started to feel a little sick, I have been worrying about the future. How will I take my tests? What will people think if I get salmonella again? I have been fighting, eating healthier foods and herbs, etc. But what is more important than the health of the body is the health of the soul.

What I should have instead been thinking of, all along, is how to share the Good News in whatever small way possible. I have been given the truth by the grace of God. Why not share it?

There is a parable that I think is relevant to this, unless I have been misinterpreting it. You should read it, it’s in Luke 19. Anyway, a nobleman gives ten slaves a pound each. The master commends the one who turned the pound into five pounds and the one who turned a pound into ten pounds. But one slave wraps his pound in cloth. He says, “For I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow” (Luke 19:21). This slave gets his pound taken from him.

You may think that is unjust. After all, the slave kept his money safe, didn’t he? Sure, he didn’t earn any interest, but look, he kept it safe and sound. What’s wrong with his master anyway? That is the same objection that the slave had against the master. As you can see in the part quoted above, the slave thought the master was somewhat unscrupulous, accusing him of reaping what he did not sow. In the same way that we may think, secretly, that God is unjust. Maybe that is what stops us from sharing His word sometimes. We are afraid of offending others. We are reluctant to defend a God who judges people based on the way they live (although he also loves).

Enough of this! Let’s take the apology out of apologetics! Why should we apologize for the fact that God is sovereign? Why must we dance around the truth? What will they think of me? Won’t they think I’m overbearing or weird or a hypocrite?

I know that’s my thought process.

Not right now, though! Not today. In real life, I may hide in my corner of cowardice, but not here! Jesus is Lord! I dedicate my whole being to Him! Who’s going to stop me anyway?

Lilies of the Field

I was inspired this morning to blog about something, which, at the time, seemed very stimulating and theologically involved. But, unfortunately, life has gotten in the way. I don’t even feel that I am worthy of the noble thoughts that I planned on posting for today. So instead, I will talk about something that’s been on my mind, plaguing me and robbing me of my joy. Hopefully if I splash it out onto virtual paper it will help, or not, I suppose.

I try not to bore anyone who reads this blog with the annoying details of my life, but it may be inevitable as I am explaining myself. I apologize in advance.

I feel that my career has already gotten off to a rocky start, even though it has not even started. If I were to phrase it a little more melodramatically, I would say, “My life is ruined!” That’s kind of how I feel right now.

Let me go back in time so you can understand. This will be brief. The first midterm for my financial accounting class (which “assumes no prior knowledge of accounting”), I… Well, I’ll say what I didn’t do instead. I didn’t write all the answers on my hand or my water bottle. It was an open-book partnered test after all. Sounds easy right? It actually wasn’t. I have never been a believer in cheating, but let’s put it this way, I didn’t follow the directions of the test to the tee. It just sort of happened, but I felt really bad about it afterward. The funny thing is, I would consider myself an honest person. By nature, not by choice necessarily. I couldn’t lie straight to save my life.

But apparently, during accounting tests, I lose my mind a little. Especially the final, which was so hard and stressful that I wanted to cry. And I usually don’t get test anxiety.You’ll have to take my word for it.

It was in this frenzy that I may have bent the test rules again. Let the judgment begin.

This accounting class has been the weirdest academic experience of my life. Here’s another interesting thing. The TA’s didn’t even give me a score for one of my midterms. The other midterm, not the questionable one. So I emailed the professor. Long story short, this has become a real headache. An annoying misunderstanding, but I wonder if it was meant to be. Is this my just desserts for technically cheating? I am afraid so. WIth the D on my transcript and some weirdness between me and this professor, who I highly doubt is ever going to help me get internships now, some questions come up. Do I deserve the D? Should I insist upon the D? Should I try to explain myself to the professor and fess up to my seemingly inconsequential missteps? Should I be an accountant at all? Surely this is a sign from God that it was not meant to be. Though I may have thought my intentions were pure going into those tests, well, maybe they weren’t. Perhaps I was doing it for the financial security in uncertain times, or the legendary accounting party/conferences where scotch and Coca Cola flow like water.
I’m in kind of a rough spot. If they raise my grade, I’ll feel like I don’t deserve it. If they don’t raise my grade, I imagine that I can pretty much say goodbye to any internship possibilities that may have existed. And do I really deserve a D?

I prayed that the fair thing would happen. But I still have an uneasy feeling inside. I’m kind of hoping at this point that they won’t raise my grade.

I thought I knew myself. I thought that I was smart. I thought that I was honest. I thought I had a bright future ahead. And now, thinking ahead makes me cringe. It’s all so muddled out there. Maybe it’s better that way.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. But I think I’ll take it one step at a time. Maybe I will try to explain myself to my professor. What’s the worst that can happen? He already thinks I’m incompetent, and I already have a D. Though I suppose I could get an F, or an expulsion. But isn’t it better to burn earthly bridges than spiritual ones? In fact, I just emailed the professor. Thank you blogging for leading me to a decision. Lord, please bring peace to my heart.

To close, here is a very relevant Bible verse:
Matthew 6:28-30
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Fear is Flammable

Writers try to find meaning in every mundane, insignificant thing that happens in life. 

As I’ve been reminded lately, I am a writer. I didn’t say I was a good one. 

Last week, I wrote about my adventures at the gas station. I went again today. I could bore you with an account of how I did some gymnastics to maneuver into the one diesel pump (I think) at the whole stupid place. I could bore you with that stuff, but I won’t. But let me tell you a story that maybe you won’t find quite so boring and long and un-meaningful.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who wondered, while sitting in the backseat of her Dad’s car, how on earth it was that people could touch those greasy-looking gas pumps without getting the gas on their hands. Then I eventually thought, “Nah, I’m sure technology is so advanced that not a drop escapes unless it’s into your tank.”

Then, the girl got older and started going to the magical petroleum palace. And that gas got on her hands every stinking time.

Look, I know you don’t care about my gas story. It really doesn’t seem like a big deal at all. So I’ll tell you another story. Maybe you’ll relate to this one.

Once upon a time, an irrational fear came alive. 

I know this gas business means something. It means something because it means something to me. But even though I rationalize and spiritualize, the fear lingers. The fear is, on a obvious level, of the carcinogenic fluid. But the REAL fear I have is being alone. I’ve just never heard of anyone else who had this problem. Well, until I did some Google searches. Now I don’t feel quite as singled out.

The point is that irrational fears often have a rational basis, but that doesn’t mean we should let them rule our lives. The point is that annoying things happen, and weird things, and terrible things, and maybe they’re not a punishment or a consequence of something we did. 

There’s a lot to fear in this world. There are the things that can hurt us, things that can kill us, but worst of all, there are things that can turn us away from God. But if we have God by our side, we can be confident that our souls will never perish, even if our bodies, our riches, and our memories turn to dust. 

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

 

 

 

Adventures Outside of My Shell

I’ve been afraid of life itself for years now. Things that most people find mundane, to me, are like a Six Flags Roller coaster with no safety rails.

Today was different. Today was scary. I’m glad I had today.

I started off the day by parking in a different parking structure. And then I carried a bag of muffins to a Bible study that I led. I know, I can’t believe I tried to lead something either. It didn’t go like I planned. I wasn’t all smooth and eloquent like I thought I would be. I think I could have relief on God much more. Yet I would still consider it a success to some degree. For logistical reasons, I don’t know about the future of the group, but the future isn’t important, is it?

And then, after school, I got gas for the first time by myself, believe it or not. It really is kind of amazing. I drive over 200 miles a week… You would think I would find myself at a gas station from time to time. But anyway, I was very anxious about doing this. Let me explain why this is a big deal.

I hate gasoline. I fear gasoline. There, I said it. I don’t consider myself much of an environmentalist, but let me tell you, I dream of the day that cars will run on love and peace rather than fossil fuels. Why do I hate gasoline? Because it is what I consider a “chemical.” I hate chemicals. I avoid Windex like the plague. And don’t get me started on the photography class I took in high school. The dark room was a very dark room for me indeed.

I have other highly embarrassing stories about this, but I won’t go into them. I think we have established that I am a lunatic. And if this isn’t enough, now I have a somewhat rational reason to fear the gas station. All the three times I’ve gone, somehow, I’ve gotten either straight-up gasoline, miscellaneous gassy grease, or a dirt-bio-gas-bacteria mixture on my hands. Today was the dirt-bio-gas-mixture. It made me yearn for the pure gasoline. At least that came off with soap; this junk clung to my fingernails and wouldn’t come out until I stuck my finer in a lemon and wiggled it around violently. Has anyone else ever gotten this stuff on their hands? Everyone else seems to fill up their tank with such ease and style. Me? I still don’t know how to do it without pulling on the trigger. Seriously, I can’t figure out that tab locking thing on it. Maybe my hands get dirty because I just fumble gracelessly with the thing too much. Sometimes I seriously question my ability to survive in the real world. Well, at least I used diesel. Apparently, if my car doesn’t get diesel #2, it will burst into flames, and the world will just end. Or something like that.

I came reasonably close to rear-ending someone today. I also came close to hitting someone with my rear. And then, of course, I got flipped off (I think) when I actually wasn’t doing anything wrong. Go figure. But look, here I am, alive. I’m so glad I broke my routine. The routine was starting to hurt my soul.

I’m alive now, that’s what’s important. It’s not the fact that I fail at driving and performing simple tasks, or that I won’t be winning any best-Bible-study- leader awards. I may have almost died at least once, but what’s more important is that today I feel that I almost lived. Sometimes, we have to face our fears. And maybe eventually we’ll realize that nothing is so scary after all as long as we have God by our side.