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.

Why You Shouldn’t Hate Yourself

When I was in seventh grade, I had a teacher who would tell me “Stop ragging on yourself.” 

It has only been recently that I have begun to understand why he was right.

“But it’s better to rag on yourself than other people.”

Okay, instead of trying to dissect that logic, let’s just discuss why you shouldn’t hate yourself, regardless of how bad it is relative to other things, because that is just not relevant.

Why not hate yourself? Because hating yourself is an exercise of the ego. Don’t believe me? Let’s think about it.

Why do we hate ourselves? From my understanding, we hate ourselves because we think that we are extraordinarily deficient in one or more areas. That’s the root of the thing, right? We may think that we’re the meanest, the stupidest, or the awkwardest person who has ever walked the earth. Of course, that’s a very simplistic way of putting it. It sounds so silly when you put it that way. I’m glad I put it that way.

To imagine that you’ve reached a new level of humiliation or immorality is, in a way, arrogant. Don’t we know that there is virtually nothing that we can do that hasn’t been done before, in one form or another? 

Hating yourself is just a hair away from being in love with yourself. This too is contradictory, but true, I believe. The simple fact is, it is really hard to hate yourself all the time. At a certain point, we would lose the will to live. Or maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can be in such a dark place that you are able to despise every fibre of your being at virtually all hours of the day. If you are in that dark place, I’m not sure if I could say anything to make it better. I would leave that to God and His rich love. 

From my experience, after a long day of hating myself, I may be inclined to fall in love with myself a little too much just to balance things out. If hating yourself is caused by an exaggeration of your faults, then wouldn’t you think that a person who hates himself/herself could find it easy to also exaggerate their virtues or “redeeming qualities.” If you think you’re a weirdo, don’t you also think that you’re going to make up for it, one fine day, by being recognized for whatever awesome thing it is that you do? Tell me I’m wrong!

Don’t we see? Self-loathing isn’t just self-loathing, it is self-importance. It is the belief that we are capable of BIG things, whether bad (self-loathing) or good (self-loving). But don’t be depressed! I’m not telling you that you are not capable of big things. I do think that we are all extraordinary. I’m just saying that we must be very careful not to fall into pride. 

You are not nothing, contrary to what you may have been told or what you may tell yourself in your heart. You may even make the world a better place, but I wouldn’t expect to get any credit for it. 

Maybe in some ways we aren’t as extraordinary as we believe we are, while at the same time, we simply have no concept of the extent of our uniqueness.

A closing exhortation: “Stop ragging on yourself!”

 

 

 

 

Having Nothing

People open their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me. God has turned me over to the ungodly and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked. All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target; his archers surround me. Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground. Again and again he bursts upon me; he rushes at me like a warrior. (Job 16:10-14 NIV)

Usually, it seems that there is a kind.of justice in the world. People get certain gifts, certain blessings, certain things, even if those things are not part of their ideal vision for a “better life.” Some people may think of this as the “Invisible hand” in literal, capitalistic terms. Others may think of it as fate, or perhaps liken it to a game of cards (eg. We all get dealt a hand, good or bad or both). But Christians generally think of it as God’s will or God’s plan. Something that is not entirely dependent on actions, merit, luck, or coincidence, but something that has great meaning.

So it seems like most of us get something. We may be severely lacking in one department, but maybe we also have consolations, pleasures, and joys in our everyday lives. Maybe we have certain things that other people don’t have, while lacking things that other people do possess so effortlessly. So it’s kind of a tradeoff.

And then, it seems like some people have absolutely nothing. Look at Job- his family died, his health is in shambles, he has no possessions, everyone hates him… The only thing he has left is God, but he wonders if even God has abandoned him. There are probably a lot more people like this than we may think… people living on the margins of society, who seem to have neither material possessions, a reliable food source, family, reputation, friends, or purpose.

It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t make much sense. Let’s all say a prayer for those people out there, and maybe we can do something about it too.