Thursday, November 29, 2012

Surviving Seminary with a Heart of Flesh

“The Lord doesn’t want you to come to Him as a brainiac who knows her Greek and Jewish language-her Hebrew. He wants us to come to Him as His children. He wants to shower us with His love. So don’t spend time flogging yourself. That’s not what the Lord is asking.” I needed to be reminded of this by Mom today.

It’s so easy to forget that the Lord has us here namely to be loved by Him and to allow us to love Him, and then others, in return. In doing so, we bring glory to God. Seminary, sometimes pronounced by Freudian slip, “cemetery,” has an ironic way of drawing me dangerously close to forgetting this simply profound truth.

I can be WAY too hard on myself, which then in turn leads me to feel apathetic and numb as a way to cope.  It’s not that I don’t  care; it’s that I care SO much that when I fail, I feel that I’ve failed the Kingdom of God and HIS righteousness. And so why continue on? I’m already a royal screw-up. That’s the “logic” I battle with.

But who am I to uphold and maintain HIS righteousness?

I have a need—a deep desire to please my heavenly Father, to love Him through obedience. I can’t let that go. And I know that my choices have real, serious consequences. But I need to remember that it is He who is the justifier, the one who reckons His righteousness to me by faith through Jesus Christ, alone (Rom 3:26; 4-5).  

I also need, as Mom, Dad, Danny, Tiina, Jenny, Chelsea and many others have reminded me, to have a social life! I don’t have one. I’m even more open to Satan’s shame-bombardment in isolation because of it!!! Lord, give me a packaged social life for Christmas this year! Throw all the good people together in a bundle and put a purple bow on it with gold trimming. Oh and I need a JOB that doesn’t relate so heavily to theology in order to stay mentally balanced. Ohhhh how I long like never before to suction the water and spit from dental patients’ mouths!  Or to serve over-priced coffee at Starbucks! I said that I would never take a job at Starbucks, because I can do much better than that. I recant! Starbucks could just be my ticket to staying sane.

I have failed the Lord, and I will again and again, not because I want to, but because I’m still battling a sin nature, which I hate. My only hope is to feed from the Love of God which is infinitely larger and more powerful than my sin, than my grievous failures. My only hope is to drink from His never-ending faithfulness and lovingkindness, and to love Him in response, with everything that I am. What I have to offer is trivial. But I offer it to a God who can make anything He wills from it. I offer it to a God who raises me—yes present active tense—from death to life. From depression to passion.  He alone sees to it that I’m raised up every morning. My hope of life and shalom—the way my child-like soul knows things ought to be—rests solely in Him.

To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen. [And Amen.]

Rise Up Again

Though sin has beset you and taken control,
Though Satan’s great strongholds stand fast in your soul,
Whatever your failure, though great be your fall,
God’s mercy and pardon are offered to all.

Rise up again, take back the ground.
Turn from your sin and let grace abound.
Press toward the prize; the victory you”ll will.
Forget things behind you and rise up again.

Let’s seek those who’ve fallen from grace to restore
and show them God’s mercies forever endure.
In spite of our past our Lord uses us still,
and works it for good in the course of His will.

Rise up again, take back the ground.
Turn from your sin and let grace abound.
Press toward the prize; the victory you”ll will.
Forget things behind you and rise up again.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Remembering the Importance of the Journey

Today, I bombed my Hebrew Test that I spent 3 days studying for. I might not have failed it but I definitely consider what happened today to be bombing a test. I knew the material but there was just so much to recall in a second and I psyched myself up to the point that I made dumb mistakes. Honestly, I would have done worse if several of my lovely classmates hadn’t calmed me down as I was being ridiculous. I truly wasn’t at my best today and that left me flustered, sad, and a little adrift. As a recovering perfectionist, days like this are hard for me. Being a perfectionist at things you are good at is exhausting and fairly futile, but perfectionism is even more devastating when you aren’t successful.

While contemplating the reality of doing poorly regardless of how much I prepared, I remembered a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that says, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I contemplated about the way that I have been approaching life in general and school in particular lately. While it is so important for me to do well in school because of my plans to continue into doctoral studies, I also need to remember the bigger picture, the bigger reason for studying so hard is to come to know more about God and to be able to share that knowledge with others. Today, I didn’t do well on a test but I have learned so much in Hebrew in these last 13 weeks, things that have changed me and will continue to do so as I continue to learn more. As soon as I begin to study just for the sake of studying, just for the sake of having an A on a grade report then I have lost sight of that big picture. I will have been living for the destination, instead of experiencing the journey.

The destination is certainly important; without it we would have nothing to journey towards. Yet, when it becomes the singular focus of our lives we miss out on the small things. We don’t notice those small things that force us to contemplate and evaluate our lives, emotions, and actions. We miss out on learning from mistakes and the joy of overcoming obstacles because our focus is elsewhere.

I wrote some weeks ago about finding balance in my life. The reality of the matter is that I am an A-student and do A-level work. In order to be a good steward of my talents and obedient to the call on my life, I do need to walk in excellence in this area. Yet, once again, it shouldn’t just be for the sake of getting that A or getting into a PhD program, it should be because I want to learn and honor God in all areas of my life, to the best of my abilities. It should be because I am entirely engaged in my life and the things both big and small that comprise it.

Today, I failed at finding that balance, but I also learned a valuable lesson and was blessed by the many people who spoke kindly to me in my crazy stressed mental breakdown. I was once again reminded of the Lord’s loving correction, pulling my focus away from my own achievements and putting it once again where it should be; solely on Him.

And because, one Ralph Waldo Emerson quote isn’t enough:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”