The day I took back the day.
Some ideas are like housecats. They walk slowly into your head and feel comfortable and soft and familiar. They don’t cause trouble, but instead just seem to fade into the background, curling up in the corner of your mind for a long winter’s nap.
Other ideas are like porcupines. They tend to change an environment. They are not easy to ignore and refuse to fade into the background. When you bump against them they are sharp. When they brush against other ideas they tend to change them, poking holes in things you use to think were true or drawing blood from concepts you’ve secretly always known were false.
A few nights ago I had a porcupine idea.
I was preparing for a speaking engagement at a church in Atlanta. While going over my notes, something popped up that I just couldn’t shake:
Hurt is naturally pervasive, but healing rarely is.
That is, sin has the ability to easily and quickly poison the four quadrants of our lives – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental. When I’m in a bad place spiritually, I gain weight. I medicate with food and make bad physical decisions. I read less and my mental capacity is impacted. And I’m an emotional mess, constantly succumbing to worry. Sin, is like a snowball rolling down a hill that gathers everything it comes in contact with, getting bigger and bigger.
But healing or holiness rarely works that same way. When I come to God with an issue, I tend to make it primarily a spiritual issue. I think it’s only one quadrant of my life, the spiritual one, so that’s usually the only one I focus on. And I don’t think I’m the only one that does this. How often do you hear someone say, “Well I gave my life to Christ so I had to lose some weight because my body’s a temple.” Or, “I started going to church more so I subscribed to National Geographic because I know God wants me to really grow and challenge the mental part of my life with new information.” It doesn’t happen because we compartmentalize holiness. We assume God issues are spiritual issues and rarely invite him to come shake up our emotional, physical and mental ideas.
But I don’t want to live that way. I fear that if I do, I will end up like the man Gordon MacDonald describes in the following passage from "Ordering Your Private World":
For the past two to three years I had been aware of my fast start, in the ministry. I had also been aware that most—not all—all of the men (in those days it was all men) who had graduated with me had gone on to assignments that were not as attractive as mine. In some sense many of them had not enjoyed the advantages that had come to me: a teaching father, natural giftedness, good connections. The result: They had to work harder, discipline themselves more carefully, and develop an inner depth that I had not found necessary to worry about.
But—and here was the kicker—it became alarmingly clear to me that day that it might not always be this way. Rather, I began to intuit that there would be a change in the years to come.
Those who brought their lives into discipline or (and this is a favorite word of mine) intentionality would, more than likely, go on to long-term lives of fruitfulness, and their best years would be in the last half of their lives when discipline paid off. And those like me, who relied heavily upon our natural giftedness, would reach some high point early in our lives and, more than likely, trail off into averageness for the last half of our days on earth. Of the former it would be said, “He is a person of rich spiritual quality.” Of me, given where I was, it would be more than likely be said, “Well he certainly was a flash in the pan.”
What an innocuous way to live out one’s days—a displeasure to God and certainly a regrettable muddle for oneself. The thought that this might become my life scenario was intolerable.
So what can I do? If sin is like a snowball rolling down hill naturally picking up the other parts of my life and holiness is like deliberately pushing a snowball uphill, what are my next steps? How, like Paul in 1 Corinthians, can I beat my body and make it my slave?
That was the question I addressed the other night when I spoke at that church. And it’s the question I am going to unfold in the days ahead on my blog.
I have an idea, a 10-story tall porcupine that just won’t let me loose. And expressing it, acting on it, will not be easy, sometimes it will not be fun, but I believe what scientist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says about situations like this:
“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effect to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
The key word in that sentence is “voluntary.” That’s what I am asking you to do with me, to go on a voluntary journey. To stretch what you know about yourself and your life.
Are you ready?
Next post: The day of the sword.