My spiritual walk: from flipflops to tennishoes

broken_flip_flops

These are the shoes of a girl who is afraid to have the wrong opinions.

These are the shoes of a girl who lives a double life.

These are the shoes of a girl who is secretly terrified of success.

These are the shoes of a girl who cries out for reassurance and validation.

These are the shoes of a girl who looks in the mirror, becomes discouraged, and looses her lunch.

These shoes were made for an aimless walk. They were made to break at the slightest pressure.

Running-Feet1

These are the shoes of a woman who can finally share her story.

These are the shoes of a woman who is now taking ownership.

These are the shoes of a woman who can enjoy food in the company of strangers.

These are the shoes of a woman who is learning what it is to love herself.

These are the shoes of a woman who is running after Jesus and will keep running until the ends of the earth.

The shoes where made for chasing after an amazing God who will lead me to Himself.

What shoes are you wearing on your walk with Christ? Will they hold out? Will they break? How will they help you on your journey?

“I hate the world!”

How many of you are like Linus over there and totally hate someone? Okay, maybe not hate, but how many of you “severely dislike” someone in your life? It could be a co-worker, a classmate, your boss…a member of your family…

Chances are, there will be some people in your life that you won’t really like. It’s natural right? We’re all so different and sometimes those differences just get in the way….

Okay, another question: How many of you hate all people as a whole?

… Unless you’re a moody teenager or an endangered species, you probably answered “no” to this question. I mean, how can we make a generalization like that?

All people? Well, I’m a person, so no way!”

People often times love humanity and are despicable towards individual human beings. It’s easy to love everyone as a whole because it’s a generalized notion of who people are as a species or a community. It’s a whole lot harder to love our neighbors as individuals, especially if we know them really well.

But the Bible tells us that we must hate the world and love our neighbor. We are supposed to have  great contempt for humanity as a whole, but great love for the individuals who enter into our lives.

Some may object, saying “But God loved the world didn’t he? He sent it only son here!”.

Well, that’s true… which it why it’s difficult to understand why we are called to hate the world that God loves so dearly.

A look at two passages of the Apostle John reveals this intrinsic tension.  On the one hand, as the former argument references, John writes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).  On the other hand, he tells us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him” (1 John 2:15).

The issue is clear. We are in the world, a world that God loves, and a world in which we have a purpose.  And yet we are not of this world (we were created by something divine, not the the mundane earth), and we should guard against falling in love with this world.

The New Testament often uses the word “world” (“kosmon” in Greek) to refer to culture, or the results of human activity and creativity.  Obviously these different uses also have different connotations:

1.) The first is neutral or maybe even a positive one:  World is seen as the created order, including the actual physical earth (Matthew 24:21), the people living on it (Matthew 4:8; John 12:19), human life (1 Timothy 6:7), and the target of the disciples’ mission (Matthew 5:14).  Though sin entered into this world by the Fall, it and its inhabitants are seen as God’s beautiful creation.

2.) The second usage has a negative connotation.  World consists of human things controlled by Satan, in open rebellion against God.  The earth and its inhabitants are seen as involved in a cosmic struggle between spiritual forces due to sin (Ephesians 6:12).  In this battle, the sinful world didn’t recognize Jesus as God when He came to this earth (John 1:10), so it, as a whole, is an evil place due to its imperfections.

Are things clearing up a little?

Now there are a few typical responses that occur when Christians read passages like those that I just referenced.

First response: opposition and separation.  

The history of Christianity is filled with examples of this response.  Early Christians rejected Greco-Roman culture, declaring it idolatrous and corrupt.  The monastic movement of the Middle Ages pushed for complete withdrawal from the world.  Many Protestant sectarian movements–the Brethren, Mennonites, Anabaptists, Quakers, and also the Millerites –also embraced this approach.

Those who choose this route, I am confident, do so with a sincere belief that they are living out the Word of God.  Their sincerity should be respected.

However, the Bible does not mandate a complete withdrawal and isolation from the world. We are created to be social beings, and it is within a society or a culture that we live, work, worship, and witness.  At most those who break away from the world simply develop a different culture or subculture.  More importantly, this response implies that sin is caused by the world, whereas the Bible teaches that sin begins within the mind.

Second response: assimilation.  

This position assumes that culture is basically good.

Stressing peace and love, cooperation and communication, this approach allows the gospel to be interpreted, understood, and embraced in a multitude of ways.  In the process, the essence of the gospel becomes compromised and suddenly we get Christ as the “great moral teacher” rather than the Lord of life and sole Savior of the world.  Thus, Christianity becomes an all-embracing humanitarianism;  there is blurred distinction between the realms of God and Satan, propped by a moralistic humanism which poses a case for universal salvation…. and we all should know that is NOT what the Bible teaches.

But how do we understand culture, community, and our commitment of faith? Where do we draw the line between the demands of society and the kingdom of God?

In order to engage critically with our surrounding world, we must balance four biblical approaches to it:

1. Separation from anything openly contrary to God’s revealed will.

2. Affirmation of everything that is compatible with God’s revelation and original plan for humanity.

3. Transformation of individual human beings to become unified with God’s principles.

4. Contribution to the surrounding culture through elements that benefit humanity and enhance life.

And in order to see the world this way, we must seek our wisdom from the Holy Spirit and God’s Word so we may allow God to guide us in our choices rather than let our own selfishness lead our worldly conquests.

Doing God’s will where we are

In Mark 5:1-20, Jesus frees a man from an evil spirit. Afterwards, the man wanted to follow him,  but Jesus told his new follower to return home–to his own culture–and share the good news with his family and friends.

Here is the key to a Christian understanding of culture: Be a follower of Jesus where you are. No matter the situation, no matter the people you are surrounded with (who you might dislike). We are called to love those individuals, even if we hate the torn-apart world that surrounds us and effects us.

As Reinhold Niebuhran American theologian and commentator on public affairs, noted: As Christians we “… are forever being challenged to abandon all things for the sake of God; and forever being sent back into the world to teach and practice all the things that have been commanded (us).”

 

How do you, as a follower of Christ, live in this world and survive in today’s sinful culture? Or am I way off? Is our culture not evil at all?  

Well, I’m back…

Well, I’m back to the blogging world. After taking a long break (that I truly did not intend to be so long), I am back to writing to you all again (although I doubt this number is as high as it once was, as I’ve been dormant for some time) but anywho, here I am again.

I shall spare you a general update, as those are never any fun, and just simply dive into it.

Today was the PDS end of the year dinner. I did not expect it to be as…. sad as it was. I thought we would all just eat and hang out and then go home and do our KUDs and everyone would kind of move on. I guess I’m not usually a sentimental one at these kinds of things… But today I found myself feeling a little sad. I had this odd sensation similar to that of a little kid at the end of Christmas: happy and satisfied, but oddly disappointed that holidays end so suddenly. Not that student teaching has been a holiday, mind you. But I found myself speeding down 74 thinking: “I’m lonely.”

And it’s not because my husband is gone for the week or that I miss my family back in the burbs or because I didn’t connect with anyone at the dinner. I couldn’t really place it.

Then it hit me.

I have not been present this year. I have not truly enjoyed the time I have in the moment, or been focused on breathing through the struggles. I have been always looking forward and ahead, planning in advance for things that I truly have no control over in an attempt to falsely feel as if I do have control (typical Claire move right there). I know it has been hard: applying for future jobs and getting ready to graduate while still student teaching and directing the play. My focus has been utterly split there past few months. But it has caused me to really miss out on living this out.

I realize that I am a total hypocrite.

See, I teach yoga right? And I guide my participants into mindful meditation where I tell them the importance for breathing and letting go of all stress and thoughts to simply be in the present moment and appreciate our bodies and minds and hearts. I get people who come up to me and tell me that I’m so healthy and I’m a role model of what an active, fit young person should be.

And yet….

I am still struggling daily with bulimia and anorexia. I am not taking my own advice and “breathing through each moment”. I get stressed and take out my anger on my husband or my students or my health. I go on exercise binges that are not healthy and I have wasted so much time worrying and not enough time actually LIVING.

It would be really easy right now for me to go off on myself. What would my students say? That I’m treatin myself? Yeah, it would be easy to treat me (and not as in a brownie or cookie kind of treat). But I’m not about to do that.

So basically, I asked Dennis to pray for me today because I’ve been freaking out about jobs and money and the future. I’ve not been trusting God with my entire life like I know He has called me to do. Today I was calm and quiet and prayerful, praying for God to help me let go of my need to control and simply give my future over to his hands.

Today I found out I didn’t get the job in Marengo.

Today I scheduled an interview with Mr. Elliott at Peoria.

Today I drove down 74 feeling lonely and thinking about all of this and how much time I’ve wasted being stressed and upset when really, I’m surrounded by so many wonderful people who can be incredibly inspiring if I choose to see it.

I was a mess with directing because I couldn’t see that 11 out of 13 kids in the cast were sweethearts.

I was a mess with teaching because I couldn’t see that this was my time to experiment and be flexible and IMperfect.

I was a mess with my temper because I couldn’t let anything roll off of me or take criticism with a grain of salt.

I was a mess this semester because I didn’t give God the time He needed to chill me out.

So I’m speeding down 74 feeling lonely, after being around some incredible and inspiring people, going home to an empty apartment and needing to finish KUDs and take a bath, and I’m wondering: “What the heck am I lonely for?”

I thought about calling someone. Mom? Dennis? Liz? Aunt Suz? But what do I have to talk about? What would I say? “Hey, I’m lonely and I don’t know why, but I think I might be speeding in a construction zone while talking on the cell phone, so actually, I have to hang up.” ?? … I didn’t want to call anyone, and I had just spoken with a bunch of people for two hours.

What the heck am I lonely for?

The answer is Christ.

So I guess that’s the moral of my story. Christ is the answer and He is always the answer, but I have been looking in all the wrong places for Him and it’s time to change things again.

So I’m back. Back with a new plan…. and yet it’s not my plan.

It’s God’s.

Namaste Yo!

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