The Cost of Disobedience [Updated]

I am not sure if I’ve shared this story from my life with people before. As with most memories, especially ones from long ago, which fade into the back of our consciousness and are prone to loss or misidentified details. These memories lay dormant in our minds until something rips them back to the surface and brings back the great deal of sights, sounds, and smells that were experienced all those years ago… Within the last week or so, I had a memory ripped from the depths of my mind and I was filled with remembrance of an event which began like most…

I was four years old when my parents decided to move across the state. Texas, for all three of you who do not know, is huge! Given it’s immense size, you could travel through at least four European countries in the time it takes you to drive from Texas’ northern boarder to the Gulf of Mexico. Everything seems bigger when you’re four years old! Your school was huge, your imagination was vivid, and your energy was limitless! If you were to walk down the hallways of your elementary or primary school now, as an adult, you’ll almost be guaranteed to have an overwhelming sense that it somehow shrunk over the years. Our outlook toward life and existence shrinks as we grow older; more jaded or cynical (but that’s a topic for another day).

Sometime later, after settling into the house that we were renting at that time, my mother took myself and my siblings to go swimming at a friend’s house. I don’t remember exactly what time of year it was, I believe closer to Spring than to Summer… but what do I know? I also remember being an overcast day, like so many of my memories are, though it was just as likely to have been sunny. I’m sure a mathematician could work out the probability of the number of sunny days we experience versus the number of cloudy days and come up with something close to fifty/fifty (I assume). All things considered it was just a day to swim!

When we arrived, I’m sure my mother made us all put sunscreen on and I’m absolutely positive that I had ‘floaties’ on my arms to help me swim, though I remember being a fairly decent swimmer at four years old (I’m sure my parents could dispute the details of this event as I’m looking back through two decades of time which has since come to pass…). The pool was huge! Blue water against a white stone boarder which backed up to a wooded creek! Talk about scenic and tucked away! After getting lathered up with sunscreen and putting goggles on, I dove in! Soon everybody was in the pool and we had a lovely afternoon swimming! The end… Not really.

During our time I discovered some sinking pool toys which you throw into the deep end of the pool and swim to retrieve them from the bottom [Editors note: I have been informed by my mother that I was, in fact, not as good at swimming as I remember]. I don’t remember if they were rings or sticks or both, but I remember standing on the steps of the shallow end of the pool and throwing them to the deep. I recall swimming from one end to the other, taking the deepest breath my little lungs could, diving to the deepest part of the pool, gathering the toys, and racing back to the surface for air! With a large gasp and splash, I returned to the steps of the shallow end and started this process all over again.

This process repeated several times and for what I remember to be several hours. Remember how I described everything as being bigger when you’re a tiny adolescent child? Yeah, there’s also things children don’t realize either… like how much your parents do for you, why things are not fair, or your own strength. I would throw the pool toys as far as I could because to me the pool was way bigger than it really was. Expectation and reality were not matched up at all. The best way in which I could describe would be that I thought this backyard pool was about the size of an Olympic swimming pool. So… absolutely massive! What ended up happening was that I would over shoot the pool and the toys would bounce off of the hard concrete deck. This happened over and over and over and over again.

My mother warned me to not throw the toys out of the pool, which I would not miss for another few minutes. Over time, however, my accuracy diminished and I’d receive another warning from my mother. I do not remember that I was being willful or outright disobedient (she may disagree, but I’m not inherently the best witness to my own actions) but I eventually annoyed her or upset her enough that I was placed into ‘timeout’ and had to go sit on a bench next to the house. My punishment didn’t last too much longer after that, but long enough to get me in a huff and puff [Editor’s Note: I’ve been informed that I was being willful, and was jealous that nobody was paying attention to me at the time]. Timeouts also seem to take forever when you’re young… however, at long last I was let out of timeout to resume swimming with another strong warning to not throw the toys out of the pool. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson.

I got back in the pool, gathered the toys once more, and… immediately proceeded to throw one beyond the boundary of the pool and into a flowerbed… Oops… I was sternly ordered to go fetch said toy and so with the splashing, sloshing pitter patter of my wet feet running across the deck I took one step into the flower bed and pain shot through my body straight from my foot to my head. A sharp, electric pain that instantaneously registered in my head as bad! I jumped back and yelled out to my mother ‘SNAKE!’

I ran over to my mother, my face red as tears flooded down my face. She didn’t believe me, why would she? Why would a four year old know that it was a snake that had bitten him? She examined my foot. Lo and behold, three tiny droplets of blood revealed where I had been bitten by something. So rushes to the phone and (I assume) calls my dad first. I’m sitting on the edge the pool, foot above the water, crying. Next thing I remember is her being on the phone with the Center for Disease Control asking what she needed to do. Mind you, this was a time before cell phones were as pervasive and prominent as they are today. My mother gets some basic information and the next thing I know, I’m in the backseat of our car and she’s rushing home to back her bags. I guess she was advised that she could stop long enough to get clothes for herself and I because I sat in the back of the car while she ran into our rental house.

I guess my dad had met us at the house or had been at home because I recall him driving me to the hospital with my mom in the passenger seat. I’m still bawling my eyes out, mind you, as the evening sun beamed in my face as we sped down the freeway. Now, we all know and have seen those people who go way too fast on the highways. Speeding closer to 100 mph than the legal speed limit, zipping in and out and around traffic, being a tad reckless. This was my dad that day. He had his emergency lights on, sped around traffic, and (I may be mistaken here) eventually got pulled over for the reckless driving… which I think (again, I could be entirely off base here) then got us a police escort to the medical center in downtown [Editor’s Note: This part did not happen… I was four… forgive me].

Eventually, I don’t recall how quickly or if I even had to wait, I was in the hospital, meeting with doctors and nurses, and describing exactly what it was I experienced and witnessed. So a few things here: First, I saw the snake that bit me. I was able to describe what it looked like, where it was, and etc. I had even told my mother where it was when we were at the swimming pool, but she was unable to locate it herself. All things considered, I was a fairly smart four year old. I think that I’ve mentioned here on this blog before, but I have always been am inquisitive child, now adult. I was always asking my parents why? Why things work, how things work, what makes things things? Secondly, being that I live and am from Texas, you would think that snake bites are fairly common. You’d be wrong! Snake bites are very uncommon! It was determined that I was bitten by either a copperhead or a water moccasin snake and that it was likely to have been a juvenile snake at that. See, I wasn’t bitten once, but twice!

Adult snakes have the ability to control their venom sacks and how they dispense it to their prey. They use their venom judiciously for attacking and self preservation. Juvenile snakes, however, will, upon biting, completely empty their venom sacks which makes them somewhat more dangerous than their adult counterparts. Juvenile snakes usually have what is known as a dry bite first. They bite but don’t inject their venom into their prey, which is when the second bite occurs. I was, if my memory serves, bitten twice in the span a few milliseconds! In the time my neurological system registered the electrical data which travelled from my foot to my head, I had been bitten twice!

By the time that I would get out of the hospital, I spent four sleepless, painful night and three days of exhaustion. I was put on anti-venom which is, as I was told, more painful than the venom I received from the snake. I remember my mother staying with me the entire time I was in the hospital, refusing to leave my side. Being that snake bites are so uncommon, I was one of the most popular patients in the hospital because every nurse [Editor’s Note: I learned from my mother today that my main nurse had a phobia of snakes and could hardly work with me… She apparently had to conquer her fear of snakes with me] and doctor would come by to see, learn, and examine my injury. This was also the only time in my life that I could honestly describe myself as being popular. Yeah, it wasn’t worth it. One more anecdote about my time in the hospital, my nurses were told to measure, hourly I believe, how far the venom was creeping up my leg. I guess something was lost in translation because the doctor meant in the records, but here I was, every hour on the hour, with a nurse taking a Sharpie to my leg and thigh drawing lines, numbers, initials, and so on. I wish I had pictures to show you, because it was very comical now that I look back on it. It’s also the closest I will ever come to having a tattoo!

Growing up, as I would tell my peers about this story they would not believe me. They doubted that I had really been bitten by a venomous snake, but I had. I have medical bills to prove it! However, more so than telling a story, I believe that there is a lesson to be learned in everything. We are the products of our experiences, the things that have shaped us into who we are today. Obviously, I am writing this post and I obviously survived and went on to live another healthy twenty years. Spoiler alert for anyone who did not get that by this point. Hi, I’m alive and writing this to you! *waves*

I never set out on that day to get bitten by a snake. I never set out to be disobedient to my mother or to cause anyone harm. In fact, my actions were very innocuous! My throwing of the pool toys never harmed anyone in and of itself (mother you may correct me if I am remember this differently than it occurred). Yes, I may have annoyed my mother but I was not hurting anyone. Why, then, did it matter whether or not I was stronger than I knew and was missing the pool? Well, because I was told to stop missing the mark. Because I kept missing the pool, I eventually got myself in a whole lot more trouble due to my actions. If I hadn’t thrown the toy out of the pool, then it is very likely that I would have never been bitten by a snake. As the old idiom goes, if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.

Unfortunately, for many of us, that is exactly how we treat the sins in our lives. We think that they are innocuous, trivial, insubstantial because they are so tiny or seemingly limited to ourselves. We jump back into those sins over and over again because we don’t get caught or they feel comfortable. We justify our sins because they do not affect others directly, and yet they eventually consume us because they grow in secret. Another idiom which seems to line up with my story is don’t bit the hand that feeds you, but thats exactly what sin does.

Sin resides within the depths of our heart, often in secret, where we feed them and give them a safe place to grow and take root. Eventually, those innocuous sins bite back and our lives take a hard turn because they are either exposed or we are caught in a compromising position. My compromising position was the moment when I disobeyed my mother again, took one step into the flowerbed with my hand reaching for the toy. In one instantaneous moment, everything that day changed! Little things matter and they can have monumental effects upon our lives. When we belittle sin and treat it like a puppy instead of the wild beast that it is, we are quickly blindsided by something that we never honestly expected.

My sin was not that I threw the pool toy and God was not punishing me for that. My sin was that I did not obey my mother’s words. I threw the pool toy too far/hard again, and that time, after many, many times before that, resulted in me coming face to face with a snake. Jonah’s actions, initially, did not harm anyone other than himself. Jonah ran from God’s call on his life out of fear. Jonah fled from God and drug other into his mess with him. When the storm came, the people Jonah brought into his sins tossed him overboard in an attempt to save themselves. We all know how the Bible story goes, though much less Disney-like than what you and I learned in our childhoods, and Jonah continued to be disobedient to God. Jonah was contemptuous to the people God called him to speak to, and Jonah eventually had to face God over his anger and disobedience.

Now, my story is not exactly the same as what we find in scripture. Nor should it be. Mine is not inspired by the Holy Spirit or maintained by God. My story is my experience which I think has something teachable contained within it. Each of us has areas in our lives where sin resides. Areas where we cover to keep God and others from touching. We fear that people will reject us, mock us, and think less of us because of our sins. As Matt Chandler so bluntly put it at Passion 2019, to be 99% known is to be unknown. Either we are known by God or we are not. And guess what, God wants to come into that 1% that you are holding on to. To take away that sin and shame, so that you may be free. God knows exactly what is going to happen to that sin if it’s not addressed. It will escalate, grow, and multiply until you are consumed by it. Not with it, but by it! When we give sin a stronghold in which to reside, it has a place from which to attack us at all times.

There have been so many examples of Godly people falling to sin because they kept it secret. They let what they thought was innocent, little, and harmless have a place to stay and it would eventually be their downfall. Their undoing. There are an infinite number of what ifs we could trace if we wanted to. What if I had obeyed? Would I have been bitten by a snake then? What if I didn’t have any pool toys to begin with? What if? I have for so long be stuck on the what ifs, and I have learned that they do not matter. I can dwell on them all day and night and still get no where! What matters is not what may happen but what is happening. You and I are aware of the sins in our lives and what we need to do with them. We need a savior! We need someone who is appropriately qualified to deal with sin. We need Jesus!

When Jesus first began his ministry, he ate with the lowest of the low. The people that other despised and rejected. The Pharisees, the religious elite, complained and questioned Christ on why he would spend so much time with those they had deemed as unworthy and unclean. Luke 5 gives us a clear resounding answer, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” The only person qualified to meet the need in your life is Jesus! He came not for those who were healthy, for who truly is healthy? Christ came for sinner because they knew of nothing else! Christ offers freedom from sin so that we may be made whole once again! Christ asks that we step from being 99% known to 100% known by standing in the light where darkness cannot reside! There is no such thing as a harmless sin, and we would be fools to believe so! But we have a great savior who came to liberate us from the wages of sin!

Not My Way, but Your Way

I’m done. I tired of seeking my own end. Tired of trying to force my will upon Him. I’ve had enough! Who am I to put God in a box? Who am I to limit what God is capable of accomplishing? I am but a speck of dust, small and inconsequential compared to majesty and might of God! He is so much bigger than myself that I cannot even begin to comprehend the infinite vastness of His work! He is far better than I could ever be and He is working all things together for His good!

Last year while having a conversation with a friend about what God was doing in their life, they phrased something that has stuck with me ever since. They, in speaking of God, we’re feeling God drawing them out asking them to “doubt their doubts.” To let go of their hesitations and to run fully, freely into the calling God has placed upon their lives! The last year was just that, me slowly responding to God as he beckoned me out beyond my expectations and put into place things behind my wildest imagination!

I’ve been to three Passion Conferences, and each has been mightily impactful in nudging me into deeper faith and at chipping away at my heart. This year I did not sense that much was of what was shared was directed at me, but as I sit here now, I know that I’m wrong. Passion highlighted just how little I really do know… all the seminary classes, bible studies, and research I’ve done is moot… because God is better than I thought. Bigger than my intellect. Bigger than my understanding. Bigger than my doubt. I’ve been the skeptic. I’ve been the cynic. I’m done with trying to make sense of everything. I’m tired of trying to have everything boil down to something logical. I’m tired of the up and down.

God has made it quite apparent that His way is far better and stable than my own. I am going to cling to Him with all that I am! I’m committing myself to the path that He has laid and I’m going to be faithful to follow Him! Not my way, God, but your way! Not my will, but your will!


Y’all, I really don’t know what to say. For once in my life I am grasping at the words to express this feeling, this stirring in my heart and soul. Alas, I have not… any term or phrase which adequately describes where I am at in this moment.

I feel like a waterfall of emotions is cascading down around me; joy, peace, fear, doubt, love, praise, want, and so much more. This is not turmoil… but rather something stirring deep within my soul. If my suspicions are correct, this is God shaking me up and preparing me for something different. Revealing where I’ve resisted change, where I’ve let son take root, where I need to change. God is preparing me for something, and for the first time in a long time I feel something that only really appeared when I first took steps in faith.

I am not entirely sure where this started or how I got here. A sudden crash of emotions and overflowing of my heart, perhaps… I’m not even sure what I’m trying to communicate. I just know that God has been too good to me… and I have been so underserving… so unfaithful…

Dress Your Heart

There are many occasions in which we are free to dress down to the studs. From first dates to business proposals, from interviews to weddings, we often dress to match the circumstances or the social expectations. Rightfully so, as some occasions we ought to put more thought and effort into how we look or conduct ourselves. How off-putting would it be if you showed up to a first date without showering, hair unkempt, teeth unbrushed, no deodorant, and in the most tattered, nasty clothes you owned? Obviously, I shouldn’t have to explain this to most anybody… well, maybe junior high students… but I digress. Yet, this is precisely how we approach God when we come to worship him! We dress up to attend service in our Sunday finest, but fail to dress our hearts before lifting our nasty, sin riddled hands to him in worship!

Our God is king of kings, lord of lords, Yahweh, Jahova, Elohim; he is our creator, our keeper, and the one worthy of our upmost! As we are welcomed into the court of God, before the glorious, heavenly throne of God we must assume a proper posture, one of reverence and humility. Should we approach God out of pride and selfishness, we have already presented ourselves as foolish. Our attention is not on God or His work, but rather on ourselves. We come before God with a list of grievances, complaints, and requests before giving a second thought to what God has done, what he has provided, or for life in general. Who are we to approach God in this manner? Who are we to complain about what God has given to us and about what he has not given? Yet, do not do just that?


“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


We cannot hide anything from God, no matter how nicely we dress ourselves God still knows our hearts. Thus, as we come before His throne kicking and screaming, He welcomes us with open arms just as we are. We may try our best to dress in our bests, to put up a facade, but God sees through our efforts to mask our brokenness. God is not impressed by fancy clothes, designer brands, or our attempts to pass ourselves off as something that we’re not. However, God calls us to approach Him confidently, to dwell before Him, and to seek refuge in Him! God, also, is there to care for us as we act like children.

In the midst of our selfish tantrums before God, He lovingly whispers to us ‘check your heart.’ A gentle reminder that we may be acting our of selfish intent or a reminder that He has something better in store. God nudges us and prods up to take up a proper posture as we move through the various stages of faith. God teaches us what it means to be humble, what it means to live a life of fulfillment, and what it means to be content. As we come to learn and build a relationship with God, the way in which we come to God changes. We begin to look up at what is before us through the lens of a Heaven and look beyond the circumstances around us.

Through this process, we begin to stop at the stoop of God’s domain and reflect upon our life for a moment to prepare ourselves. We check our hearts before going before God. We make sure that we are prepared to listen to God, to seek forgiveness, and to be taught! We have to prepare ourselves because we can be easily distracted, we can have selfish desires, or questionable wants. Thus, as we come to God through tears, in fear, with doubt, or in anger we have made it a practice to pause for a moment to prepare ourselves to listen! God is going to speak. God is going to comfort. God is going to teach. He’s going forgive. God is prepared to meet our needs, as He knows them before we do. He’s working and moving for our good, He’s set us on a path that is far better than our wildest dreams. God wishes for us to rely on Him at all time and for all our needs. God seeks a relationship with us the likes of which we’ve never experienced in life! God welcomes us as we are, but He does not expect us to stay the way we are. Hence the need for us to dress our hearts! Our relationship with God isn’t a first date where we dress our best and hide our insecurities. Our relationship with God is one of constant growth, one of intimacy! A bond unlike any other! So we ought not dress for the first date or the interview, but for the wedding!

Choosing Joy, Peace, and Love

I have a strong distaste for pointless or meaningless small talk particularly with people whom I have a relatively founded relationship with. The dutiful exchange of ‘how are you?’ and ‘I’m good/fine/ok’ is done in such a way that it is apparent that nobody really cares and that they are performing their social obligation. The dull pleasantries that are exchanged in this manner do not yield fruit nor do they provide opportunity to further grow and develop the relationship. It is simply small talk that fades into the aether as soon as the moment passes. Thus I despise small talk. However, the question of ‘how are you’ does not have to be a pointless introductory question and there are some who are genuinely interested and concerned about how we are doing in life and are hoping for an honest answer.

I constantly ask the students in our youth group how their week has been, followed with how they are doing. Most of the time, you’ll get nearly identical answers from them (almost verbatim) which I find humorous because I already expect the ‘I’m fine’ answer. Using ‘I’m fine’ is typically the phrased used to save face or to hide what is actually going on. I do not pry, but you can tell that it’s not a honest response. However, I follow up with some variation of ‘What is one good thing God has provided you with this week’ or ‘Where has God given you joy this week.’ I am tickled because the question stumps them for a moment as they search through their recollection to find anything that matches the posed question. No matter what they had previously said or how their carried themselves, a smile breaks across their face as they remember something that brought them joy, happiness, or peace during the week. Some answers include but are not limited to ‘I took a nap’ or ‘I have Taco Bell’ or ‘my dog did this really funny thing.’ What I have observed is that we, myself included, are very much focused on what goes wrong during the week or what what did not go our way that we forget what good happened. Which what a testament is that to our fallen nature!

When God has done something incredible, miraculous scripture shows how easily mankind turns away forgetting what has just happened minutes, days, weeks before. For example, God empowered Moses to split the sea as the Israelites fled from Egypt and just days laters as Moses ascended Mount Sinai the Israelites decide to build a golden calf to worship as their god! After Christ performed many miracles and displayed his divinity to the Jewish people, they were given the choice of taking back Jesus or the murderer Barabbas and they choose Barabbas! The point being is that we are so prone to wander even when we’ve seen God move and do incredible things! For followers of Christ, we’ve seen firsthand how God has transformed our lives and we have experienced the peace and joy that is only found in God. So why do we still have such difficulty finding joy? Finding peace? Finding love? Why is our first instinct to hone in on negative things?

Choice. Who made the first decision in history? Who set all of life into motion? Who decide what would be and what would come? God did. Before time, matter, everything it was just God. God always was, always is, and always will be. God decided to create all thing. God chose to create the heavens and the earth. To populate the world with animals and the sky with stars. To separate the land with water. To create Mankind and to create women from the man. God decided. Thus God put into motion everything that we now know. God gave Adam the choice to name each of the animals, plants, and things. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and let them live as they were designed. They were capable of making their own decisions, able to move about freely, to do as they wished. However God gave them one warning, one command. Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for they would surely die. Adam and Eve had one simple command to follow and even they chose… poorly.


tenor


Sure, the serpent tempted them but why would God give them the ability to choose whether or not disobey him? Because we’re not mindless, personality-less creatures. We were made with expression, with uniqueness, with purpose to worship God! Thus we had to be able to choose to worship God and we have the capability to disobey God. So this is where we ended up. Broken. Sinful. Separated from God. Yet God was not done working. God chose to make a way where there was no way. God chose to come to be a living sacrifice for the redemption of His creation. In doing so, God gave us even greater ability to choose. When Christ died on the cross for the sins of all of humanity He made a way where there was no possible way for man to choose between life and death. Just as God chose to be the ultimate example of selfless love, we can choose to die to ourselves and find joy, peace, and salvation in Christ!

We can choose to be joyful. We can choose to seek out the things that bring the heart of God joy in the midst of trials. We can find peace in the chaos. We can trust when we can so no possibility before us. We can choose to follow God when there’s temptation in front of us. There is freedom in Christ! There is freedom in the Cross! There is freedom in God! When we take on the heart of Christ, when we look through the lens of Heaven, then our outlook on Earth is completely different! Life is worth living! No matter how dark life may be, the light pierces through it! There is no power on Earth that can defeat God! So we can seek out positivity in our day to day lives. We can find things that God has put before us and celebrate that God is faithful, that God is good!

We are, of course, capable of conducting ourselves through life with a great deal of unwillingness. What I mean is that we can be grumpy and agitated by life as we walk through it. We can choose to be bothered by what God has done or by what God has withheld all while conducting ourselves in a begrudging manner. This is what I mean by an unwilling willingness. Frankly, I believe that a great many of us who call ourselves Christians (followers of Christ), have or are conducting ourselves in this manner. We have chosen to be resentful rather than joyful toward the life that God has placed us in. Thus we have the difficult choice of being intentional on what we set our focus on. All in all, we can choose to be of a despite myself mindset. We can chose to die to ourselves and rejoice in God’s plans. Let us not forget that we have hope because God created a way where there was not one. We can hope because we had no hope at one time. Choose joy, my friends as you go about your daily lives.


 

It is my sincerest hope that this website of benefit to you and that you might find hope, peace, and encouragement through these words. God is doing a great work in this world and He is moving ceaselessly! Take heart that God is faithful to love, faithful to provide for your every need! Rest in Him and be a source of life to those around you! Thank you for reading my blog!

-Terren-It-Up

Why Me?

Little more than a month has passed since that last time I sat down to write something here. Well, that’s not entirely true… I’ve attempted to write on four or five topics but have been stumped by writers block at every turn. I’ve been able to get words onto the page but they failed to communicate what I was attempting to say and were not up to par with my own standards. I trip over my own words as I often trip over my own tongue and awkwardly fumble from one interaction to another. I’m sort of a mess… So I’m not going to write anything today. At least, I’m setting aside the Bible scholar hat and writing something personal and likely as informal as they come. Here goes something.


 

Why me, God? Why have you made me like I am? Why do I feel the way that I do? Why do I yearn for that which I do not have? Why do you continue to bless me while I am entirely underserving? I feel as if I am stumbling forward in life. None of it makes sense to me, God! I am abrasive. Rough around the edges. I do not deserve all that You have blessed me with! Why do You love me like You do? I do not understand…

I am not equipped for what You have presented to me. I am not worthy of what You gifted me. I amount to nothing yet You say that I am beyond measure. Why? I have not done anything to be worthy of Your gaze. I lack in qualifications, but You have presented me with opportunity. I do not deserve love, but You pour yourself out for me. I am irredeemable and still You redeemed me.

I overthink. My heart wanders. I am awkward. I have trouble speaking clearly. I am a mess. How could You ever deem me worthy of Your mercy? How could I ever be worthy of being adopted by You? I doubt You. I run from You. I hurt You. Yet You are always there waiting for me. You always forgive me. You always encourage me. You point me in the right direction. Why? Why are You for me when You should be against me? I should be Your enemy but You call me friend.

Teach me to doubt my doubts. Teach me how to love You more. Lead me to where I belong. Show me my place in this world. I ask You to give me heart for the things of You. To break me down and build me up. I beg that You wear down my edges and mold me into the man that I should be. Let me see the things of You and teach my heart to sing Your praises! Build my life according to Your will. Keep me. Bless me as only You do! Show me how to love like You and to forgive like You. I need You! I am lost without You! God, You are so infinitely good to me and I do not understand. I cannot wrap my mind around it. Why? Why me? Why are you so good to me?

Insecurities, Uncertainties, and the Nature of Doubt

The week before last, I house sat for my parents while they took a trip to Amish country. The course of the week went as normal between work, rehearsal, and church all while battling a sinus infection. However, on a fateful Thursday, thing unravelled quickly. Earlier that day I had left work early because I was not well and came home to find the hallway covered in a shallow puddle of water emanating from under the bathroom wall. Yikes! In the process of going up to the attic to examine the air conditioning unit and water lines, I slipped off the wooden 2x4s that allow passage throughout the attic and my foot went through the ceiling of a closet. Ouch. I called my mother regarding this additional issue and got into a spat with my father. To say that I was furious is an understatement. To say I was livid does not begin to cover the breadth of my anger and disdain. Throughout the course of the next few hours, I had exchanged messages with my mother expressing both my anger and my hurt. I was wrong and I went too far. I crossed a line. In this happenstance, however, I knew immediately what had triggered my anger.

My dad, through this occurrence and unbeknownst to him, had stuck into some insecurities that I have regarding my life. This year, I will be far closer to thirty than I am to twenty. I have not completed my undergraduate degree, I still work in fast food, I still live at home, and have not had much luck getting a leg up in life. I’m, seemingly, still living the same life that I was just after high school. The majority of my peers average in between 19-22 which is not that far from my own age, but does place them in a different stage of life than my own. Not necessarily suggesting that they are immature or incapable of sharing some of the same intrinsic properties that are universal to our way of living here in America, but where I was at 18, 19, 20, and so on were vastly different from each other. Despite growing and taking on more responsibilities, more opportunities, I have not been able to overcome the plateau to be able to fully take care of myself free from the ties to my parents. I’m independent, yes, but I’m dependent on my parents none the less. Couple this with people my age who are getting married, starting families, buying homes, and so forth, where does that suggest about myself? What do they know that I don’t? Obviously, nothing. Their lives are not mine nor is their path my own. Being of both a retrospective and philosophic mind, I understand the principal differences in my path and the paths of others. Yet, I still seem to be contained to the contrived timeline of millennials as suggested by media.

I have a love hate relationship with social media and I constantly find myself at odds with it. In many ways, it is a great communication tool and I have legitimate needs for it. However, social media is a lie. A curated, mathematical, algerithmic display of what a company thinks I want to see. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc all use algorithms to experiment and tweak our emotions. Movies, books, music all have this same issue. They are not true representations of life. They are stylized, romanticized, idealized representations of life. One of my favorite movies of recent is La La Land which the entire premise steams from setting up traditional expectations before subverting them. The tag for the movie, “Here’s to the fools who dream” reveals the subversion to the romanticized Hollywood representation of reality. Yet, even in its attempt of subverting our expectation, the movie is still dramatized, romanticized, and fictional. Yet, like La La Land, we are influenced by our entertainment. Having worked in a book store, I am not surprised by the sheer volume of trashy, poorly written romance novels targeted to women. They are in their essence entirely romanticized, sometimes erotic, works meant to sate our internal, often unexpressed desires. Thus I find myself at odds with myself. I have desires that extend beyond my current circumstances.

I am insecure about my future, about my prospects. These insecurities are fed by comparison, often conscious but regularly unconscious, to societies expectations. Do I meet up with the societal expectation that I should be established by this point? No. Am I living freely, selfishly with no regard to the status quo? No. Am I disinterested and disengaged? No. Yet, if we’re going by arbitrary status marks of success, then I do not match the norm. Have I completed a degree? No. Do I have a house/apartment? No. Do I have a sustainable job? No, not really. My point being that I’ve progressed personally, spiritually but I have not progressed in life. If that makes any sense. For example, there was a headline going around about a 30 year old who was evicted by his parents in upstate New York, while comical, it is a situation far too close to home for me. While I am not free loading and unproductive, I am still living at home. This person from the headline has been the butt of a good many jokes, but is a situation far from my own. The circumstances are very different and as such I do not compare myself to it. The reason I bring this up is to address that fact that I am, indeed, insecure about the future.

Insecurity in men is hardly addressed as compared to women. Going back to entertainment media, women’s insecurities are often played for jokes or for laughs. One example that comes to mind is the movie Mean Girls which features of myriad of jokes at the expense of women. Just as there a cultural expectations, societal expectations placed upon women, so too are expectations placed upon men. While I am no expert, looking at how men are portrayed in media over the last few decades reveal what society values in men. The 80’s were heavily set on macho men of action movies with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and so forth. The 00’s swung the other way with men who embraced their more sensual side taking the forefront. Currently, men are represented in a war between both sides of the spectrum as culture seemingly debates what role men are too take. Setting aside conservative and liberal political agenda and perspectives, what am I to do? Who am I?

In this spat with my father, I broke down in tears that afternoon. Why? I cannot really explain. I do not believe that my tears were from anger, nor do I believe that them stemmed from sadness. I believe that they stemmed from defeat at the hands of insecurity. I sent my mother a text that conveyed, albeit in a much more hostile and explosive manner, some of the sentiments expressed here. These sentiments reveal some of my heart and my depravity and doubt in God. I also believe that the enemy, Satan, capitalized on my foot going through the ceiling and my father’s response to take my attention, my focus away from God. One statement that I made, which I will not repeat here because of my failings as a follower of Christ, expressed my displeasure for the life that I had been dealt. To paraphrase, I did not ask for this life. I did not ask for the things that life has dealt me, the trails and tribulations God has allowed so that I may rely on Him more. This statement, I believe, reveals my sinfulness because I, in that moment, rejected God and His sovereignty. I rejected God’s plan for my life because I thought that I knew better and deserved better. What I fool am I! Woe to me for my foolishness! Honestly, I doubted God and what for? He has provided plentifully and abundantly. By any approximation, my life has been good and is going great! Yet, in my broken heart, insecurity of the future has been harbored.

Therefore I find myself sitting here wrestling with my doubts of my doubts. Sometimes, I believe myself not good enough, handsome enough, kind enough. I doubt that I am worthy being loved. I doubt being able to finish school. To move out. To have an ‘adult’ job. To get married. To have a ministry. I doubt God. Honestly… and my heart and eyes are heavy writing this, I question how much faith I really have in God’s plan for my life. Why? Because I cannot see it. I am uncertain. Granted, I am not suggesting that I do not have faith in God or salvation through faith, but that if I had total control of every circumstance in my life that I would have done things very differently. I would choose the ideal path and not the necessary path. What does that say about me? What does that say about God? I really do trust God, in complete genuine faith, but at the very same time have doubts. How can this be?! How can I with one hand be fully vested in God’s will but with the other pick out specifics of where God is not meeting my expectations? Baffling does not begin to address this thought of comprehension. Who am I to tell God what is best for me? Who am I to be unsatisfied with what has been given?

I do not write this article, as difficult as it has been to express, for your sympathy or pity. Those I needn’t want or have. Yet, I am wise enough to realize that in my moment of brokenness that my anger and lashing out originated from my doubts, uncertainty, and insecurity. We all have doubts, insecurities about ourselves, our lives, and our futures. They are infinitely numerous among us all and they do, despite how much we might surprise them, affect the way in which we view our lives and how we seek to navigate them. Our insecurities, our fears cripple us if not kept in check. They seize us up and keep us from taking necessary risks, from putting ourselves out there, and are made of compromise.

I recognize that this post is vastly different from my many others and focuses in more on what may be seen as negatives. I write this because the Christian life is one of both positive and negatives. Of successes and of failures. The Christian walk is not easy and it is full of trials that we will navigate. Do know that all is well with me and that my life is one of good things on a good path. I have wonderful friends whom I consider family who keep me on the right path. I have mentors who challenge me to improve. I have challenges to overcome and brokenness that I need to address. While I do not have a solution to the matter addressed here, I write this because it is vitally important for believers to not mask or hide the struggles we face in our day to day lives. Sanctification is a process just as life is. The pursuit of righteousness, of holiness requires addressing the brokenness within us and understanding our total need for a savior who is Jesus Christ.

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

Fleeing Discouragement

This evening has been a struggle, a battle really. The enemy has tried his best to drum up every bit of doubt and discouragement that he can muster within me. While I am not unaccustomed to going through periods of sadness or depression, this is something different. The last couple of months have been the precursor to change. This past weekend, my mother graduated with her Master’s degree in Theological Studies, we celebrated the Dean of my school’s resignation, and I’ve gone through the process of transferring schools. Seasons of change are inherently prone to uncertainty. I am not surprised that the enemy has taken this opportunity to attack me. God has been affirming me and working on my behalf to put things in order.

God has done a great deal of work in my life over the last year in order to further my growth and devotion to Him. I very recently became a co-leader of my college small group, I made preparations to finish my undergraduate degree, and have begun setting better habits in my spiritual walk. Through all of this, God has been providing and encouraging me. I just registered for a couple summer classes at Liberty so I may continue making progress. I still have no idea how I am going to pay for my education. While not much more expensive than my previous school, I am having to cover much, much more of it. Enter the enemy, who has spent much of this afternoon trying to stir up discouragement, uncertainty. Doubt.

He’s whispering every lie possible to turn my gaze away from God. You’re never going to finish school, Terren. You can’t afford it. Nobody is going to help cover the cost of your education. You’ll never get out of your parents house. You’ll never have a fulfilling life. You’ll never meet someone, have love, or whatnot. Lies that are entirely bogus, but not out of the realm of impossibility. The enemy is speaking through my insecurity, the areas where I have some second thoughts. Speaking through things that I am not entirely certain about. For what purpose? To distract me from the truth that God provides abundantly.

I bought a hammock last week with the purpose of using it to relax, but also to retreat into God’s creation and spend time with Him. While I spend a marginal amount of time at my house during the week when I’m not sleeping, the enemy likes to attack when I’m away from people. I have begun to take full advantage of being amongst God’s creation as creation speaks of the God who created it all. Away from my television, my computer, my phone, my gaming consoles, I am among the structured universe and the God who created it. This has been greatly beneficial for me, because I have to be purposeful in setting my tent up between the trees and then clearing my mind of every thought and idea that shoot endlessly between neurons. I am quite the over-thinker, and I have to discipline myself not to think. This has resulted in having conversations with God in a very different means than I am accustomed.

Instead of presenting a petition, I’ve just told God, “Hey, I’m going to just sit here and if You’d like to speak, then I’ll listen. But for now, I’m just going to sit here with you.” I can’t begin to explain to y’all the wave of peace that crashed over me. After some time, I’ll then begin to converse with God about some of the things that are in my mind. I don’t want to say that it is a casual conversation, but rather spoken like you would with a friend with whom you speak slowly and intimately and fully listen before response is had. As I’ve made purposeful, intentional efforts to deepen my relationship with the Father, I am not surprised that the enemy is attempting to disrupt that.

This evening I went and set up my hammock and shortly thereafter my mother came out to check on me, as it was apparent that something was amiss. Instead of stewing in the lies the enemy was spewing, I fled to where I would not be able to sit in it. I went and prayed. I went out and went to God to thank Him for all the He has provided. My heart poured out in overwhelming thanksgiving because God’s hand has been on my life for so so long and I have not always appreciated it. I have not been overtaken and the Father has set my life on a path of which He will use to bring glory back to Himself. I know that this path is far, far better than any one that I have imagined.

So if there is a lesson to be taken away from this, flee from sin. Flee from the enemy. Enter into the presence of God, sit and bask in His might and glory! Trust in His provision and know that He is for you, not against you.

Grace and peace,

Terren-It-Up