Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The robot named "me" was beautiful. At first.

The robot named "me" was beautiful. At first.

Have you ever tried to be someone else? Have you ever tried to change who you are? To make yourself better, or smarter or just different? I have and for a whole semester it worked.

I built a robotic version of myself during the Christmas break of my freshman year of college. I didn’t want to, but I found myself on social suspension for a disastrous Halloween prank, without any real friends and about to academically lose all my scholarships.

So while everyone else was being festive, I mentally constructed an entirely new version of me. I didn’t have any plans and certainly didn’t crack the Bible for guidance in this transformation. I decided instead to rely on what had always worked for me in the past. I built an opposite machine.

Pure and simple, I determined to be the exact opposite of who I had been the first semester. If I was a jerk to everyone in the fall, I would be nice to everyone in the spring. If had pursued questionable ladies at nightclubs, I would pursue wholesome girls at church. Never studying became relentless studying. Constant time with bad influences became no time spent with bad influences And so forth.

I just did the reverse of everything I had ever done first semester. The results? My grades went from 2.4 in the first semester to 4.0 in the second. I got straight A’s and kept my scholarships. Everyone liked me, a girl captured it best one day in the library, “You were such an A*&(&%$ first semester, but I really like you now.” It was amazing. It worked so well, and I secretly thought inside, “Forget God, when I’m in a jam, I’ll just whip out the opposite approach.”

The opposite approach served me well for a while, but in the summer of 2005 I ran into problems that were just too big for that small coping mechanism. I had done serious damage to my marriage. As the consequences of my actions approached, I realized I couldn’t just do the opposite of what got me there. I couldn’t disconnect and build a new robot. I couldn’t run in the opposite direction of all the messy parts of my life. If anything, I had to engage myself in them.

Every trick I relied on to solve problems failed. And when I cried out to God about why he wasn’t fixing the situation, he said it was because I kept expecting the fix to come from my menu of options. I kept, qualifying my cry of “help me.” What I was actually saying to him was, “help me in one of the following ways that I’m used to and have tried before.”

But God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t take the recipes for success I’ve always tried and then just add some God flavoring. That’s frustrating, because that makes it really hard to manage him or life for that matter. Isaiah 55:8-9 speaks to this point: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I used to rage against that idea, because I wanted God to be like me. To fix things like I would. To handle things like I would.

But the truth is, his way is always more patient and loving than mine would be. If it were up to me, punishment and penance would be the first thing I received if I ever ran away from home. Guilt and anger are the first things that jump into my mouth when I mess up. But not God, because he’s different than us. He’s not restricted to the norms of cause and effect, action and consequence. His way is better. His solutions longer lasting. His fixes permanent.

Ultimately, God doesn’t just replace our solutions with new solutions from him. He replaces them with him. He knows that if he gave us a new list of action items, we’d worship that instead. When pushed into a corner, when darkened by stress and turmoil, we would seek comfort in our printed out list of instructions, instead of the instructor.

So instead he offers us a relationship. Full of mystery, full of creativity, and yes, sometimes full of frustration.

Today, I’m curious, what’s on your menu of fixes? When you find yourself in a hole, what’s the shovel you use to dig yourself out? Is it just trying harder? Is it a “just do it” kind of mantra? Leave a comment and share what’s on your mind.


Rick said...

For me, it's a "just do it" with a no-guilt caveat. When I find something out of line, I have to realize that I've tried to live my best and have still made it to this point, so it won't be easy to get out but I'll need to pursue whatever new direction anyway. It's not always a good solution, but at least it gets me thinking and living towards a better direction, I think.

Tommy said...

to be honest, i push it deep inside me and try to just avoid it or act like it isn't as bad as it seems. of course it always comes back.
so.. wearing a mask actually works well.. for awhile.
hmmm.. i guess i still haven't figured it out. i should use the advice i give to everyone else..
love. even if they smell.. love.

Becca said...

He's not restricted to the norms of cause and effect...Very good.


Anonymous said...

I'm a runner. My coping mechanism is a little nomad that rests comfortably, head on horse saddle, until the hurt blows in. I associate hurts with the places that I've been and somehow, it seems easier to run and relocate than weather the storms. I am still learning that despite my efforts, God is the Prefontaine to my hare.

Jason said...

Up until about 3 or 4 months ago, my solution was always to try harder. I might try reading more of the Bible each morning. I might try extending my prayer time. I would memorize more scripture, read more godly resources, etc.

What changed recently is that I realize that I need to ask Him to give me a heart that is more devoted to Him. I can't change my own heart. I've preached this to countless people, but I wasn't living it.

What do you know? He's true to His Word and it does work.