Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dying

I thought God was a liar.

I didn't know how else to make sense of it -- God says to Adam, making sure that he knows not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, "in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (See Genesis 2:15-17)

But as the story goes on, we see that Adam and Eve do eat from this fruit and they live long lives and have many kids. So what's with that? I thought God was using hyperbole, overemphasizing the point to warn them. Maybe it would have just taken too long for God to say, "In the day that you eat of it you shall set forces in motion that shall cause the physical cessation of your body's functions someday years down the line ..." but that has to be what he meant.

Doesn't it?

This winter I have been struggling on and off with a nasty funk. Colds come and go, but a good funk is the gift that keeps on giving. I have been waking up crabby, snapping at people, resenting everything from my dog on up. Even I haven't wanted to live or work with me, and I can't imagine what it's been like for people who are stuck with me. Of course, being a Good Lutheran Boy I don't let my funk show in public if I can help it, and I still take out the garbage when I remember. But it seems I forget more and more often when my mind is in the hamster wheel of this funk.

The other day I was praying about some of this funk, trying to figure out why I've been strangling in its grip for so many months. I am not prone to seasonal affective disorder, so that's not it. Physically I have been pretty healthy, overall. But emotionally and spiritually I have felt like a little brown lump of infected beetle dung most of the winter. So when I got tired enough of all this, I started praying about this in more than the short, frustrated prayers ("throwing darts at God") that have become my practice. I started spending time reading my Bible rather than reading a verse here and a verse there and putting it off as long as possible. I picked up a book about growing in your relationship with God.

And almost immediately (say within four or five days, which after a three month funk is pretty immediate) I was diagnosed. I had turned my eyes from the truth of who God is and what God says about me to my own ideas. Simple as that. I had believed the lies of my own desires.

I was dying.

In my journal a couple days ago I recorded the quote that finally diagnosed me. It is from a book called Conformed to His Image by Kenneth Boa. Here's the quote:

It is only natural to shape our self-image by the attitudes and opinions of our parents, our peer groups, and our society. None of us are immune to the distorting effects of performance-based acceptance, and we can falsely conclude that we are worthless or that we must try to earn God’s acceptance. Only when we define ourselves by the truths of the Word rather than the thinking and experiences of the world can we discover our deepest identity … Loving ourselves correctly means seeing ourselves as God sees us. This will never happen automatically, because the scriptural vision of human depravity and dignity is countercultural. To genuinely believe and embrace the reality of who we have become as a result of our faith in Christ requires consistent discipline and exposure to the Word of God. It also requires a context of fellowship and encouragement in a community of like-minded believers. Without these, the visible will overcome the invisible, and our understanding of the truth will gradually slip through our fingers” (page 35).


When I set out to define myself, to create a truth about myself apart from the will of God, I am cut off from the source of my life. It may take me three months to figure out what's wrong, but immediately I am dying.

This should come as no surprise; we've spent a great deal of time already in Genesis realizing that being connected to God is life. So, to pursue my own knowledge of my identity, of my "good" or my "evil" is unlife, is death. So in the day that Adam and Eve ate from the tree -- in the day I eat from the tree -- the consequences are immediate. God has not lied; I have simply failed to understand and believe the truth.

So what about my funk? I'm retraining my mind these days (see Romans 12:1-2) to remember that it is what God says about me that counts. If I make plans or set priorities that are not based on who God says I am, I crumple them up and throw them away as soon as I can. When I find myself thinking about myself or about others in a way that buys into a lie, I consciously turn my mind away from the lie and remember what God has said.

The crux of my problem this winter has been ambition. I have wanted to be more, do more, achieve more, than what I have been doing. Ambition is fine; but along with the desire to grow I have swallowed the lie that if I achieve more, if my plans succeed, I will be more significant, my life will be worth more, I will make a bigger splash in the world and somehow I will be greater. I have forgotten who God says I am and bought into the lie that I can market myself. I have chosen to focus on my own vision of what I might become and I have set aside Jesus words, "I no longer call you a servant, but my friend." What greater status, what greater achievement, could I desire?

1 comment:

  1. Justin StringfellowFebruary 18, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    Well, Jeff
    awesome, You are as human as I am what a releif !! Great distruction acurs when we Take are eyes off, Jesus ( the perfect gift ) I try ! and beileve me when I say Try cause I do fall short every time !!! I have to constantly check my foot work when I am attempting this , (Walking in the spirit).I attemped a twentyfour seven, relationship, And I still fall short, But much better than the misery, And meaningless Life I used to live Via alcohol, realistically my good freind, I was also, Dying, Even proabably Dead, But are KING, OUR LORD, Can Raise people from the dead and out of the evil ones grasp, As he had mercy with me, and unworthy am I, yes I am,I was also so blind and , And my sight was restored, Better than ever, I have in sense declared war on the world, and everything that is not godly, Via money, status, material, Pride, Fear, etc,etc, and worldly possesions, I still am fighting this war and in sense it has just begun, But I beileve in the spirit of gifts, The gift of Evangelism, and The gift of an excelarated, walk with the lord, Still praying for a more understanding and decernment, Descernment is important to me,God has been calling me to something much much greater,Father has not yet told me his whole plan, Yet, He gives me enough to chew and swallow, if he did not I would surely choke, on too much of a mouthfull , He is perfect and so is his timing and trust and faith and obeidience I have in and with father, The only thing I am sure of is that, Fellowship is awesome and it surounds and is very much in my life, He has put on my heart, That I was not created to sit in pew after pew, and chair after chair, I am an Evangelist this I am sure of, Can go more int o detail on that in some other time, It is like the aprentice carpenter who, works his way up to Journeyman, with the knowledge and tools and skills he gains, He is surely not gonna stay aprentice forever, and this is what father has placed on my heart, Thus far, more to come I am certain, As his timming is perfect, But my good freind I have never been more excited, alive, Loved, and Happy, Than EVER in my life, and from a worldly perspective, I am poor,But never ! NEVER ! have I been so RICH ! and blessed And this is one of many things on Fathers heart, He wants the ALL" of the blind to see ! as he has done for me ,,, And if it is on Fathers heart it is also on mine, I take dealight, in being able to share, with you my good freind,


    P. S. By the way The internet is my number one outreach tool for Evangelism, Love ya my Brother,

    sincerely, Jusin

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