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DeathBroughtLife

He willingly bore affliction in order to kill my addiction to sin. It's for Him I take up this pen.

Generational Condemnation

I’m not under some delusion that the individuals of the previous generations were all hardened, responsible, and hardworking adults. I’m sure there were foolish, entitled, weak men and women amongst the older generations as well. Despite this, millennials in particular have received a lot of condemnation and disapproval. Do not misunderstand me, I do see tears and stains in the fabric of our younger people but those stains and rips were not just self-inflicted. You can’t fully blame someone for not being able to sew if they’ve never been shown how, nor given the proper resources.

You hate my generation? You despise us because we’re lazy, godless, and of weak constitution? If so, you might want to look in the mirror because you are progenitors. You are the fathers and mothers. You are the coaches; we came halfway into a losing football game. You handed us a baton and told us to run. And we ran, we ran ourselves in circles to genderless bathrooms, a disbelief in truth, and an affinity for childlike adults. You handed us a baton when we were already off the track. So you are mad at me? You’re frustrated that pornography has become normalized, that definite genders are near extinct, that children don’t have two parents, that honor and morality are despised by society? Well I’m frustrated too but we didn’t achieve this in two or three decades. You helped us get here with bad ideology, weak churches, lack of discipleship, no engagement of culture, bad philosophy and the erosion of the family.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ll complain to my children one day about their generation because I already hate my generation (the way we can’t converse because we’re stuck in our tech, the way we’re selfish, and the way we stand for nothing but fall for everything) but I’ll also know it’s my fault. It’s already my fault. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Maybe we should all acknowledge we’re to blame for this, then maybe we can all acknowledge our responsibility in moving forward. May the Lord help us move forward because we’re in a downward spiral. As G.K. Chesterton said, “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth. This has been exactly reversed. . . The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. . . We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced.”

In this area G.K. Chesterton was quite prophetic. He wrote this many, many years ago but these words ring powerfully true. Our professors, philosophers, politicians and college students doubt the existence of truth, absolute morals and gender. This tree has been growing a long time, how long do you think the roots have been grounded beneath? Longer than my life, and the life of my friends. That tree has been planted for a long time, our fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers watered it and then blamed its growth on us. This isn’t new. I’m pretty sure all generations think the following generation is the worst. I really think we have some issues but so did those who came before us. Now let’s get over that and work to make it better. We have some serious replanting and gardening to do. As I have shifted some of the blame off myself you might be thinking, “what a millennial thing to do!” and even if your generalization is correct, did I get here alone?

The solution is not complaining about or hating the millennials. Instead of ranting about how much better things were back in the day (I know you walked to school uphill in the snow, my dad told me), do something. What can be done? Get involved with millennials or even younger people. Teach a Sunday school class, meet with some young men for prayer. Invite some guys over to watch football. Help someone build a resume and find a job. Just do something, love and invest in someone. On the other side of the spectrum, if you are someone who has rightly been told to grow up and be an adult, take that advice. Grow up because this world doesn’t owe you and when you fall you have to be able to get back up.

I remember there were Saturday nights where my dad would drag me outside and try to teach me how to change the oil in the car. Sadly, my eyes were glued to the television, worse, my mind was closed to learning anything mechanical. But he tried and he kept trying and because of that persistence sometimes there was success.

I have a father, more than that I have a good father. He taught me things like discipline but he also encouraged me. I remember we would be raking leafs outside and I’d ask if we could quit because the sun had already gone down. He would firmly answer, “no” and push us to keep working by streetlight. He taught me to be honest, to work hard, and to have integrity.

If you think my generation is full of spoiled, lazy brats then you did something wrong. Perhaps you were a good father like mine, maybe you taught your sons and daughters the meaning of a good day’s work. Maybe you taught your children about truth and morality. Maybe you didn’t do any of that. Maybe you inadvertently taught your children to be self-entitled over-sensitive babies. That’s partly your fault; some blame rest on your shoulders. So if you hate my generation you cannot escape the fact that you were our teachers, parents, coaches and grandparents. Yes, we’re ultimately responsible for ourselves but you might have done something wrong. If I haven’t invested in my fellow millennials or in those younger than myself, I’ve done something wrong. It’s time to do something right, stop complaining, start investing.

Photograph by Matheus Olivera

Tell Me I’m Wrong

If I were to tell you that I reside on a college campus in Fort Worth but also at a flat in London, you would probably assume that I’m rich. Why? Because surely I wouldn’t be suggesting that I literally reside in two places simultaneously. You would assume I live in London during the Summer and perhaps in Fort Worth during the school year. If not that scenario, you would guess something of that nature because to say that I exist at both places at the exact same time would be absurd. Absurdities are usually easily apparent, that is precisely why they are absurd. The idea of an elephant being both big and small at the same time is naturally strange and irreconcilable. If I said that I had cereal for four meals in a row, the statement may seem odd or just silly, but it isn’t absurd. Beliefs and statements are viewed as ridiculous in primarily two ways. First, things are often called absurd simply because they appear stupid from our point of view. More seriously, things are called absurd when they do not correspond with reality. When something harshly clashes against everything we know to be true, it falls into the category of absurdity. If you think Christians are unwarranted in their beliefs, if you think the religion is historically inaccurate, tell me I’m wrong. Tell me I’m stupid, try to convince me of your view, just please, don’t tell me we are all right. Please don’t tell me that my truth is my truth, and your truth is your truth. That’s not truth, I mean that’s literally not the definition. The dictionary says truth is, “the actual state of a matter”. This means that there is right and wrong and there is wrong. Truth explicitly says that there is falsehood but truth is the actual (correct) state of a thing.

You don’t have to choose Christianity (though that is my honest desire for you). You don’t have to believe that God exists but what you absolutely must do, with any honesty is realize that someone is wrong. It could be you. Either heaven exist or it doesn’t. Don’t pretend that mutually exclusive ideas are both correct. If you’re an atheist, don’t suggest that my belief in God is good for me but atheism is good for you. Either I’m wasting my life believing a lie or you’re going to face awful consequences after this life. Both of us will not be “ok”. If one of our beliefs is correct and the other one is false, that is pretty detrimental for one of us.

Please don’t insult my intelligence by telling me we’re both right. Just tell me I’m wrong. If I assert something that directly and logically contradicts what you believe, disagree. Don’t shrug it off and tell me its relative. If I tell you that I am both sitting down typing this in a booth at a pancake house and standing up in a forest writing with a pen, both aren’t true. We know this to be the case, although perhaps on an experiential basis. We’ve come to this understanding of life. We’ve learned this from years and years of experience. Either your computer is an apple product or it’s not. The white-ish liquid in your fridge is either milk or not. You are not able to determine its content by will or relativistic belief. Life doesn’t work that way. In regard to truth, you might cry out, “some things aren’t true or false, they are just preference!” Of course there is such a thing as preference. There are foods that are more appealing to certain people, but these items of consumption are either food or they aren’t. Would it be permissible for me to think that a book is food and therefore hope to gain sustenance from it? There is no preference between truth and falsehood. Relativity or preference takes place within a true assessment. I can prefer oranges over apples once I know both are edible, but I can’t decide that books are fit to be eaten and therefore make them my preference of food. There are things of preference and things that are observably true or false (you could ask about the difference, and I’d probably have to write a 25 page paper on it).

In what other areas of life do we accept subjectivity and relativity? What other area of life do we live this way? I can’t be 27 years old and 17 years old. Those assertions directly conflict. They both cannot logically be the case. That is completely impossible.

You’re either allergic to bee stings or you’re not. These cases are exclusive and I doubt I would have to convince you otherwise. So why have we accepted relativity in religion, basic beliefs concerning the universe, and the nature of man when we will not dare accept absurdity in the matters of minimum consequence? By maintaining exclusivity, truth, and objectivity in the minor areas of everyday life, we survive daily, but the grand narrative reveals us to be fools. We couldn’t go through a day if we fully embraced this relativistic ideology in its full implication. Imagine if the red light for me was green for you. Imagine if I thought I was an ape instead of a man. I would wander around eating bugs, beating my chest and possibly (but hopefully not) throwing feces. If relativity was followed through on its claims, then this couldn’t be deemed a mental illness. Instead of receiving treatment or being forced back into facing my humanity, I would be patted on the back and told, “enjoy your ants and termites”. That’s absurd, but we live in an absurd time. But mankind has always had a propensity to believe in absurd things, like ourselves. Why do we love absurdity? Because subjective truth doesn’t confront us, it doesn’t tell us we can’t be murders, it doesn’t tell us we can’t be both male and female. Objectivity causes us to submit to something deeper, the bedrock of the world, truth. We’ve begun to bury it. Dig it back up! We desperately need it. You already have the tools you need, a God-given mind, a moral sense, and the scriptures. You have your shovel. Start digging.

-Michael Davidson

 

Psalm 106 (Dawn is coming: part two)

Sometimes I find hope and peace in strange places. I absolutely love a good depressing song or poem. Add a rainy day into the mix and you just can’t beat it (no I wasn’t an emo kid in high school). In those moments of shadow and cloudiness, the need for light is ever obvious. In a strange way that I don’t fully understand myself, those sad songs and poems inspire me. They remind me that there are bad days and dark weeks, but hope is real. Hope is the possibility, the confidence that things can or will get better. Life can definitely be better; life will get better.

There is a beautiful song that says, “the shadow proves the sunshine”. Pretty brilliant, right? If we see a shadow, that points us to something. If there is a shadow, there must be light! There are a lot of shadows these days and I’m glad I can still find hope in odd places. If I can be honest, even up until last year I didn’t care for the Psalms (I know, it’s in the Bible, I’m a terrible person). However, this last semester I took a class on the Psalms and it completely changed the way I read this wonderful book. This particular Psalm is filled with a lot of shadows. It’s dark and the majority of it is anything but hopeful but it points us to the sun Son.

It might seem strange that I find such hope, light, and beauty in a Psalm that spends so much time recounting Israel’s every failed step. We don’t exactly think to ourselves, “hmm, I really need some encouragement, I think I’ll read about Israel’s rebellion”. Despite that, Psalm 106 has so much to teach us. Yes, it does point us to our own rebellion, sin, and pride but it also points us to God’s goodness, patience, and faithfulness.

You really just need to read the Psalm but if you’re still here, this is what is going on. The Psalmist says, “We have sinned, like our fathers”. As you know, Israel had a history, a past of disobedience and of forgetfulness. They did not just mess up, remember the Lord and get it together. They had a history of repeating that cycle over and over again. Further down the Psalm, it says that the Lord saved them. . . Redeemed them. . . Then they believed His words and sang His praise. Then like an unsurprising plot to a movie, it says, “They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel”. So they disobey, God saves them, they forget His rescue and then they fall into the same traps. They forgot God their savior. They went so far as to intermingle with nations that participated in child sacrifice. Now that’s a radical and extreme fall. It’s difficult to imagine reaching such a level of depravity.

We would never say it but that could be us. Without God we could literally reach that depth of wickedness. Keep that in mind.

Because of their idol worship and child sacrifice, the anger of the Lord was kindled against them. Yet it says, “Many times He would deliver them. They, however, were rebellious in their counsel. And so sank down in their iniquity.” The Israelites were drowning in their sin, and they would only continue to sink.

Here’s my favorite part of this Psalm. This line is incredible and it should astound you, “Nevertheless, He looked upon their distress”. Wait. Hold on, “Nevertheless”? Is the Psalmist really saying that even when Israel worshiped idols, ditched God, and sacrificed children that there is a “but”? Despite everything they had done, God saw them as sinful people in need. They had consistently revolted in heart and deed yet He “nevertheless” looked upon their distress with mercy. It’s an understatement to say that’s underserved and shocking.

Know this, no matter how far you fall, how hopeless your nation looks, there is a God. And here’s the beauty, in our sinful state, it can be said of Him, “Nevertheless”. We rebel, mock, struggle, cave in, nevertheless, He looks down at our distress. He looked upon the distress of Israel, and He looks upon ours. He sees you in your depression and He sees you captive to pornography. He doesn’t just see, the Lord cares, He loves. Remember I said that we could be the ones committing the wicked act of child sacrifice? Praise the Lord in His mercy that we are not in such a place, but His goodness extends even into our extreme depravity and disobedience.

This Psalm reminds me of one of my favorite verses in Scripture, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”-Matthew 9:36. These passages are near to my heart. He sees our distress, and He hears our cries. As the Psalm begins to conclude, it says this, “When He heard their cry, and He remembered His covenant for their sake. And relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness. He also made them objects of compassion in the presence of their enemies”. The Israelites were caught up in darkness but God in all of His light was ready to snatch them out. We too are in darkness but the Lord in His lovingkindness will see us through.

They faced consequences for their actions, God gave them over to their enemies. His judgement was upon them, yet He saw their distress and relented, all because of His great lovingkindness. Because of that, the Psalmist is able to cry out, “Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name. And glory in your praise. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel.” His patience should lead us to repentance, and His lovingkindness should lead us to praise.

Not only can we cry out to God for salvation, in our captivity to sin we can still cry out, “save me”. As a result, the writer says, “Let all the people say, Amen, Praise the Lord!”

As Matthew recounts for us, God has already looked upon our distress and He acted. God sent His Son because He saw where we were and we could never get where we needed to be.

There may be shadows but dawn is coming.

 

Dawn is coming

d0ef543052a8b070129eeb8991a02a45“So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” In Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, King Théoden poses this question right before his final garrison is about to be overrun. He faces impossible odds and death is at his doorstep. His kingdom is crumbling in around him, and right now I think that’s something we can all relate to.

As he considers everything that has taken place, Théoden briefly loses heart. He can’t help but be confident of his impending loss. However, after reality has wrecked his hope and strength, Aragorn calls him to one last stand. You know the story, they ride out to face impossible odds, and in the end, when their survival looks grim, Gandalf shows up, and it is his presence alone that sways the battle. With his help, the battle is easily won, and yet, if he had not come, the brave men who rode out would have surely died.

Death is always around us, but certain atrocities shake us out of our lethargic state. There is so much death, and I have the same question that Théoden asked in the midst of impossible odds. “What can men do against such reckless hate?” The answer seems to be, ride out and meet the enemy head on, which requires putting ourselves in a position to be defeated, and not just defeated, but (without help) miserably defeated. If we press on, if we go out of the garrison to face the enemy, it seems we will die. However, there may yet be a savior that will come in light and save us; we can only go out in obedience.

We face so much reckless hate. What can men do against it? Alone, nothing. It’s cliché, it’s been said, but it remains true. It needs to keep being preached, said, written, and discussed until it sinks down deep into the hearts of men producing action. So yes, this is another blog saying we need love, but it’s even more cliché than you think. This is a blog saying we need the love of Jesus.

We too face an impending loss. We’re outnumbered by those who are driven and characterized by hate but it’s worse than that. We too have natures that are bent toward this hatred of our fellow man. Spiritual death isn’t a plague, it’s an inherent condition. We’re dead on arrival, and that death only leads us to physical death.

Before the battle of Helm’s Deep went downhill, Gandalf had said “Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.” Aragorn rode out with this in mind, with the hope that Gandalf would show up on the fifth day. Gandalf had given his word, and that was enough.

I try not to make a habit of Jesus juking literature but this story causes me to reflect on our temporary but great struggle, the odds, and also on our assured ultimate success. So whether it was intentional or not, this particular story reminds me that we have a savior who will ride in at dawn to defeat the enemy. Yet, for now we must face the enemy, our own wicked hearts.

While He is coming at dawn, He already came once, and He rose on the third day. That is where our ultimate hope lies. Because of this, the harsh reality we face doesn’t have to confine us to a garrison in cowardice, but rather it empowers us to go out and fight the enemy. In our context, the weapons won’t be flashy swords but rather, love. The enemy will not be as obvious as ugly orcs, but rather the natural disposition of human hearts. Unfortunately, you and I are too often the enemy, but there is a savior who fights and lights up darkness. Dawn is coming whether we get to see it or not. We have the promise of hope.

Dawn is coming.

God and my Unbelief

I have a heart that naturally questions, and I overthink just about everything. I’m an expert at doubting God; disbelief comes so easily to me. It seems I’m not alone but maybe the Lord in His kindness has seen into our weakness and responded lovingly. Our gracious and good God saw it fit to provide the prophets, the coherent testimony of the Scripture, and His Son.

Despite our tendency to question, we’re called to believe. God has given us reasons to believe, He did not leave us blind, deaf, and unaware of Himself. When you and I were wandering this earth blind, deaf, clutching in the darkness of this world, He reached out for us. Not only did we stumble through this world because our senses are corrupted, we walked with chains on our feet, all while thinking we had everything under control. Christ walked among us, stooping down in humility, getting dirt on his feet, and sweat on his brow. We’ve been given the natural revelation of creation, what else could I ask for?

I guess like the rich man in Luke 16 I’m tempted to ask for further persuading evidence. When the rich man found himself in agony, he actually wanted his brothers to receive a warning so they could be spared the same fate. However, Abraham simply responds, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:30-31

It seems Abraham was right, even if someone would rise from the dead, there are people who will not listen. That should sound familiar. Aside from the fact that there are people who will ignore both the testimony of creation and the special revelation of the Son, my own heart wrestles with doubt. Someone rose from the dead and at moments I’m not persuaded. As much as I hate that, it’s just the truth. God is there but sometimes my flesh blinds me to divinity. God is good but sometimes my heart doubts that.

I’m so thankful that I have a God that allows me to cry out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The fact is, I have a history of doubt but the Lord has a history of helping me believe. I don’t want to be someone of little faith, because I know it’s impossible to please God without it but I’m thankful for a God who sees my weak faith and He helps me walk after Him. The story in Mark 9 ends with Jesus healing the man’s son. Even when the man struggled to believe, Jesus in His love and grace healed the man’s son. That’s a good God.

This doesn’t mean we can simply give ourselves over to doubt and unbelief, quite the opposite. God’s patience and kindness should help us to believe on Him. Certainly He calls us to believe on Him, even without sight. “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

We’re asked to believe in what we cannot see. We’re asked to follow Him faithfully without receiving physical evidence every step of the way. The good news is that when you and I wrestle with belief, in our tears we can cry out, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

You doubt God? Doubt your doubts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeY8lndPsdE

Don’t tell me

They told me going to church was for scared folk
That’s ironic because I’m not fearful of the world
Just the world inside this heart of mine
Because my worldview is skewed
I view from tainted windows
And what I see is that this existence is meaningless
It means less than a game
The goal is to make a name
At least I can win risk
But here, I catch my fist
In the air, crying out about God’s cruelty
Telling Him where the door is

The outside isn’t worrisome
It’s the inner man
So if that’s fear, title me a coward
And you should join me in my fear
We didn’t just adapt to the darkness, we were born in it
That’s the bane of our existence

Yes I’m scared, I’m terrified actually
Because practically, I’m an awful man
I find myself rebelling against the one who truly loves me
I’ve looked into my heart
I can’t even see where the sin starts
It’s on replay
Looping around and around
Confounded by my vileness
It’s confining, I need refining

There are lots of things in this world I find perplexing
I don’t know why people think dubstep is good music
And I can’t fathom why Picasa is considered to be a profound painter
I don’t understand how people can be proud that they’re from Oklahoma
But most of all, I don’t understand why I have to convince you that we’re vile
Why do I have to labor to convince you of the atrocities of humanity?
Have you ever looked in the eyes of our depravity?
Don’t stare too long because you may drown in those pools of darkness.
I can’t watch the news and deny we have issues

Do you realize that people actually still purchase human beings?
Don’t let that grace your ears so easily
Teenage girls are being bought like a pair of shoes
Just so someone can have sex, and someone else can make money

ISIS is beheading people
We still have nuclear bombs ready to kill hundreds of thousands
Parents are so addicted to drugs that they don’t put food on the table
There are men who beat their children
Husbands that cheat on their wives

Don’t tell me to look within
I can’t hear that one more time
Don’t tell me if I meditate enough, improve education enough, or legislate a few more laws things will change
You’re lying

It’s when I look within, I’m the most frightened of all.
Because I know my heart
And. . . don’t you see, the heart was the start to this whole mess.
If we’re the problem, do you think we’re the solution?
Does the machine repair itself?
Does man reject the doctor and look for healing from within?
Do you think we can just conjure up willpower to do better?
Can we just try a little harder to love one another?
Because it seems like we all just love to hate each other

Don’t tell me your solutions
Because I can’t hear them anymore
I just can’t hear it anymore

Perhaps you were right
Perhaps going to church is for scared folk

Truth & Widows

Sometimes you find death in the strangest places
Nothing can strengthen hate more than narrow eyes that wander down alleys
One wall allied with another with darkness in-between
Lingering here will give you tunnel vision
But those aren’t the eyes you need, they don’t help you see
Sometimes pupils follow blindly
So I need a better teacher to lead me through the shadows
These shadows are full of widows, whittling away at truth
Where their marriages died and they buried absolutes

They’ve carved ships, boats and rafts
Great at crafting, better at trapping
Not all traps are snares
Freedom is a noose of a different rope

And I’ve never seen such skill with a knife
Able to cut away the anchor chains that tied us to floor
Their ability to murder and self-widow
Has left us slumbering in the sea
Would have been a great divorce but we don’t like to read
We’ll have to wait for the movie

If only Anti-Aircraft guns could shoot down lies
Maybe we could be spared from war
But truth is always a target at the year around fair
Because people have never ruled the world
Ideas are princes that prop up kings
Like pop up springs that water the living
There are always ideas behind men
Thoughts and thinking that manifest in greed, power, and hatred

So next time someone tells you that philosophy is a waste of time
You remind them that we’ve drifted from reality
And next time you let your philosophy overcome your theology
Remind yourself there’s a doctor who can mend hearts and minds

They say he who controls the skies wins the war
But he who shapes minds changes the world
Hatred prospers when eyes don’t see
So stop breaking up with truth and divorcing reality

Let those widows linger
Because they spilt from conviction

They traded their relationship with goodness and murdered their husbands
Had an affair with postmodernism
And fed their addiction to falsehood

We’re a society of self-made widows
Once upon a time we vowed
But now we’re experts at killing our spouse

Perhaps love is lost and anger sprouts when we neglect the promises we made
May we adhere to goodness and live in principle
Lest we lust and lose ourselves in the hate we’ve made and wander from the truth
Ironically it is anchored reality that leads to love
And it’s love we need to sail
Let us marry truth to life again
So widowing will not prevail

Those widows are windows into in our souls
Ideas have consequences
Practice makes us realize our belief
Breathed into reality
Practically, we’re living what we think
Truth is like the roots of a tree
While the branches of actuality bear fruit

Division of delusions and certainty
Certainly existence displays the heart’s anchor
Maybe Christianity needs a few less martyrs
And a few more Christ-followers
Because everyone says they’ll go to the grave
But few will live for His name

Motivated by the dreams dreamt
People thrive off inspiration
Fueling wings with hope
Because once, we hoped
Need a few more dreamers
But still, less sleepers.

Stop sitting and settling
Wake the drowsy

People thrive off of life
Because once, we were loved
Are loved
Need a few more lovers
But still, less killers

Breathing lungs are preaching something
Are the words aligning
Practically following means I’m dying
Ideas have consequences,
Consequently that’s the dream
Less of me

Sometimes I look for life in sinful places
Seems I’ve been devoted to self-deception
Quite the perverted loyalty
But there’s someone more loyal to me, than I
If He didn’t go to the grave, I would have taken myself there
Because without intentionality, we all drift somewhere

He took what I could not bear
He was buried so I could be raised
So risen He reigns
Life was given through someone’s death
So we look to the resurrection for breathe
Sometimes you’ll find life in the strangest places

Life is Vain

I’m disenchanted with how this life works. I’m tired. I’m tired of the grind.

The opening of Ecclesiastes, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”what do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?”

We work to survive. Some people work 40-60+ hours a week just to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table. At the end of the day some fathers and mothers are almost too tired to spend time with the little ones they love so dearly. That’s a heavy price to pay.

My job is divided between office hours and physical labor but sometimes at the end of the day I’m just ready to go to sleep. By Friday, I’ve had it, I don’t want to do anything. I just want to crawl into bed. And I only work 40 hours (I can only imagine how tired you are if you’re a parent or work 60+ hours). Life is hard, and sometimes it seems downright futile.

I can’t be tired of the system, not yet, it’s too early. I’m only twenty-seven; God willing I’ve got a solid 50 years left. I may have to participate in this grind many, many more years. Some would offer business advice, or financial solutions to this discontentment, “make more money” or “get a better job”. However, these sentiments of wisdom will also ultimately lead to futility. Even if you move pieces around and win at chess, the game ends. Even the winner has to walk away from the game. This life is fleeting away before your very eyes. It will end, and the conclusion is drawing near faster than you think.

I always thought I understood Solomon’s insights into this life but I was wrong. Now I feel his pain, I’ve seen the fleeting work of my hands. Tomorrow I could step on my glasses and have to spend my hard earned money on a new pair. I can work hard, build things, get rich next week and then die to simply be forgotten. Most of all, I can strive to the best of my ability but nothing I do is lasting. The grass I mow will need to be mowed again. The task I complete at work will have to be accomplished again by the man who comes after me.

I feel like I’m juggling but I’m dropping the ball every other toss. I just can’t juggle. And when I do get the hang of it every now and again, I grow weary from the juggling.

There just doesn’t seem to be enough time. Efforts seem to be wasted. I can work and work just to buy groceries and have a few hours a day to spend with friends. The feeling of vanity is ever pressed against me. Life is tough, certainly it has been tougher on others more than it has on me. But that doesn’t seem to ease the feeling that life is vain. Sometimes it is so very hard for me to see the value in what I’m doing. It’s hard to see past the oil changes, spending two hours in traffic and running errands.

Without God this life is meaningless, apart from Him, this life is not just meaningless, it is miserable.

The purposefulness of mankind is rooted in God’s intended plan for His creation. A fish cannot suddenly decide it wants to live on land. It is restricted to its nature and it has the ability to thrive when in its proper context. In a similar way, mankind can decide to seek happiness outside of God, yet, horrific consequences await. The Lord has primarily made people to serve Him, to be in fellowship, to share the gospel, and to glorify His name, among other earthly task He has given. In his work, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. . . God cannot give us a happiness and a peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”[1] The fish cannot live outside of the sea, nor, can men live healthily outside of God’s plan and presence. This is seen in man’s constant striving for busyness and distraction. Pascal said, “If our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it”.[2] When people understand their condition of wretchedness they hope to escape the condemning mirror of the soul. Solitude is the mirror we hate so passionately. Peter Kreeft points out that the greatest form of punishment that has been developed for criminals is solitude.[3] People have an aversion to solitude because it is then in peace and stillness that a person has the chance to truly reflect on their sinfulness. When boredom and stillness are what forcefully lead a person to acknowledge their wretchedness, busyness quickly becomes the attempted solution.

That busyness, is misguided at best. This is perfectly illustrated in the obvious negative desires that people indulge in, deadly drugs, pedophilia, and murder. Even if people get some type of deranged pleasure out of these desires, could it really be said that they were good desires? No, humanity has no sense of what it needs, it cannot trust itself to choose what is good and satisfying. People without God are either like children settling for chicken-nuggets when they could have a superb meal or like children playing with guns because it is believed to be fun. Neither are good, one is deadly. This is the absurdity of life without God.

People seek adventure, excitement, and struggle but ultimately exhaust whatever diversion they participated in.[4] “And at once there wells up from the depths of his soul boredom, gloom, depression, chagrin, resentment, despair.”[5] Here is where we come full circle. When we exhaust these fleeting moments of excitement, when we look back on all the sand castles we’ve built, the paper money we’ve accumulated, we feel the weight of vanity so heavily pressing against us.

Because of the unpleasant consequences that follow the acknowledgement of sin, people choose blindness. Diversion is the placebo of choice for those who wish to deny their sinful condition before a holy God. Diversion does not cure the disease, it serves as a self-deceiving temporal veil. Sadly, “The only thing that consoles us for our miseries is diversion. And yet it is the greatest of our miseries.”[6] Diversion is the greatest misery because people need to stare face to face with their need for God. They need to see their need for a savior but diversion sets a distraction before a person’s eyes, blinding them until it is too late. For you and I, it is not too late. If we see the vain attempts of this life, instead of diverting our eyes to other fleeting pleasures, we must turn to our created purpose. Therein lies our hope; a life pursuing God is never a wasted life.

“The final message of Ecclesiastes is not that nothing matters but that everything does”.[7] Solomon ended his piece of literature by encouraging people to fear God, precisely because life does matter, in fact, a life where God exist is the only life that matters. A life without God is absurd because He is the only one who can satisfy and save men from their wretchedness. A life of pursing diversion is utterly absurd because it leads us into a wasted life. Perhaps we’ve been guilty of diverting our attention away from our need. Perhaps we’ve slipped into vanity. Diversion distracts people from the fire by deafening the calls of the rescuer and blinding the endangered by directing their attention away from the smoke and flames. Praise God, for His calls to safety are ever present. Praise God, for we have a rescuer who seeks us when we wander through the burning house clutching at our gold, computers, and books when ultimately, we just need saving. He saves. He saves me from myself, because when I strive after the wind, on the rocky seas, I am the one who needs saving.

The end of Ecclesiastes, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Harper Collins Publishing, 1952), 50.

[2] Blaise, Pascal. Pensees. 169.

[3] Peter, Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans. 173.

[4] Blaise, Pascal. Pensees. 174.

[5] Ibid. 184.

[6] Ibid.186.

[7] Mark Ray, Schmidt, Constructing a Life Philosophy (California: Greenhaven Press, 2002), 43.

Recording is the Art of Forgetting

I don’t know if I’ll ever forget what Jon Foreman said, “recording is the art of forgetting.” There is something about experiencing life in the moment, taking in the laughter, the crying and the beautiful sights. Despite this, we go through these treasured moments with our hands clutching that little device. Because we think, “if only I can capture this, I can remember forever” but that’s not true. To record, is to not fully live in the moment, to not soak up every bit of detail. We seek to capture so we can enjoy later but we don’t enjoy the genuine moment. Life is meant to be enjoyed instead of being captured and regurgitated later. Sometimes something is so beautiful you can’t capture it, and attempting to do so only does it an injustice. In addition, motive is interesting, and maybe we should ask ourselves why a little more often. Why are we completely obsessed with recording everything?

Interestingly, I think a lot of social media is used to massage our ego. Why do people share stories, adventures, and lessons? Sometimes we really want to encourage people or help others learn the lessons we’ve learned. Other times, we want to show off. We want to convince other people we’re happy and successful. Almost like if we can convince others, we just might convince ourselves. However, happiness isn’t found in others thinking you have a good life. That’s not joy. You are not content if you need other people to see you having a good time. Contentment develops from the roots of the gospel. Enjoy goodness for itself. The pleasures of life are not there to parade around and wave in front of others. We have a good God who has given us good gifts. May we enjoy them without feeling the need to convince others of our perfect life. Because we all know life isn’t perfect, so let’s stop lying to each other. You want to Instagram your bible reading time? Cool, but I hope you’re not dependent on how much attention it gets.

Sometimes I’m holding up my phone filming something,

I ask myself why, then I realize, this isn’t for me

Because when I post on social media, it’s for you right?

But in a roundabout way, maybe it is for me

Because convincing you my life is picture perfect

Is more about convincing myself

Otherwise I’d have to examine my ways, and number my days

I’m not against using social media or videoing funny moments but sometimes I think we get too caught up in saving the moment that we ultimately lose it. Do you ever see people at concerts holding up their phones to literally record the entire concert? Are they actually going to go back and watch that video? Probably not, even if they do, will they get the same experience? No, not even close. Don’t cheapen beauty. Don’t cage it. Most of all, don’t cage beauty just so you can try to convince yourself life is beautiful, because it already is. Whether or not people see it on instagram, life is worth the living. Sometimes life is better when we stop recording and start enjoying.

It’s great to be able to enjoy a lion at the zoo, the majestic creature is framed by bars and fences for my sake. It is confined so that I can appreciate its power and elegance. I’ve never been to Africa, so I guess I can’t say which is greater to behold, a lion fenced in or wandering its home. But someday I hope to compare my photograph from the zoo and the lion in its natural habitat. I’ll let you know which is more beautiful, but I have my hunch.

 

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