Friday, December 4, 2009

Number My Days.


Hard to believe it's December already.  I had high hopes for this year -- I really did.  I wanted to start running consistently.  (I've been out here and there, but mostly in the warm weather.)  I wanted to go without sugar, wheat, red meats, and dairy for an entire year.  (I only made it for three months.)  I wanted to finish writing another book.  (I barely scraped together a few chapters.)  I wanted to study my Bible for at least an hour every morning.  (There are still some days I don't study at all.)

The worst of all these things?  I could have succeeded in doing those things.  I wasted a lot of time on fruitless pursuits this year.  I had no eternal perspective, whatsoever.  And I made a lot of excuses.

Running:  I had a million reasons to stop -- and happily accepted them all.  Shin splints, foot problems, bad running shoes, no decent track to run on.  Basically, it was hard.  And I wanted out.  Quickly.

The diet excuses weren't as obvious -- or as plentiful.  But do you know how boring it is to eat only steamed vegetables and brown rice and oatmeal day after day after day?  When my starved taste buds begged for the once-yucky taste of liquid chlorophyll, I knew things had gone too far.

Oh -- and I had another really good reason to end the diet: weekend company around the 3-month mark.  I didn't want to make them feel uncomfortable at mealtime.  (How thoughtful and self-sacrificing of me.  I mean, really.  Wouldn't you feel bad to be eating lasagna when your table-mate is eating almonds and spinach?)  So, for their sake (naturally) I ate "people food" for four days and promised myself that when the visit ended, I'd get back on track.

Trust me when I say that after eating pepperoni pizza -- and salad with feta cheese and dried cranberries -- you don't want to eat plain brown rice with broccoli anymore.  So, I didn't.

The writing problem.  For some reason, it's been a struggle to even update my blog this year -- let alone work on another book.  I realized the other day that I spend way more time reading about writing and studying the art of writing than actually writing.  No, really.  You know those writers who get in sloughs of unproductivity?  The ones who read and read and read and then get discouraged because someone else already said it better (first)?  Me.  I'm one of them.  Somehow morphed overnight (or so I'd like to think).

I want next year to be different.  I want to stop being blown about by whims and excuses.  I want to wake up every morning and ask the Lord to teach me to number my days so I can gain a heart of wisdom.

Do you know what that verse really means?  (I think it just hit me in one of those vulnerable "Ah-ha, I-might-have-known-this-all-along-but-didn't-think-it-applied-to-me-yet-for-some-reason" moments.)  "To number your days" means realizing the brevity of life -- the purpose of life -- and living like you believe it.  Living because you believe it.  When you apply your knowledge and abilities for God's ultimate glory, you gain a heart of wisdom.

It's that not-simple.  Because, for one thing, it means no more excuses.

But, sitting here at the end of 2009, I realized how very much I need to pray those words every day of 2010.  And maybe, if I can wrap my heart and head around it, with the Spirit's help, I won't chase after so many vain (and time-consuming) pursuits.  I won't make excuses to avoid self-discipline.  And I'll focus more on bringing glory to God and less on what I want or what I feel.

Being disciplined is rough.  It's discouraging.  Sometimes boring.  Often painful.   But we're called to run as if for the prize -- not run as if we'd take the first excuse to cower back into the sidelines.  Our reward is in Heaven -- not on earth.  So run like you believe it.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is encouraging and convicting at the same time.

We only have a short span of history that we get to affect. The question is, how much can we glorify God with the time we're given?

Erma Bombeck said, "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything You gave me'." I think the better thing would be to say, "I used every minute You gave me to glorify You."

But it wouldn't be true - we fail and we get lazy and we ignore our responsibilities and we sin. Yet somehow, I don't think that that moment will be completely filled with regret. I don't think that some Christians will hear "well done, good and faithful servant" and others will hear "you got here, acceptable but unimpressive servant".

God doesn't make mediocre saints - He makes trophies of His glory and His grace. Anything really worth doing, before God, is beautiful in its time...and we know that "...He will make everything beautiful in its time."

Also, "...He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." In the end, our lives will glorify God exactly as much as we seek Him with our whole heart.

And so, on that day, I hope we'll say, "Thank you, Lord, for giving me a heart of wisdom."

Andrew said...

With all due respect, that's a long comment, Anonymous. LOL. Sorry if mine is shorter. I just want to say I disagree with you on your point - that God doesn't make mediocre saints. Hm. Sounds like hyper-Calvinistic thinking. Do you really think we, as his saints, have no say in any matters relating to our salvation? I think WE make OURSELVES mediocre saints.

Just think about what you're saying. Why are we even on earth? Why is there sin? Why even pray? If we're saved and are never going to be mediocre, why even try to do anything goof (if we already are so amazing)?

Or here's a thought 'cause I know I for one tend to be a mediocre christian: maybe NONE (or few) of us are really saved, LOL.

On a lighter note, thanks Jenn, this gave me a lot to think about.

Sherri said...

Ditto on the diet thing! I'm still a vegetarian, but I didn't last as far as the sans sugar thing was concerned. No fruit was tough as well. Was yours a gluten free diet as well?

Anonymous said...

Haha...it's all right, Andrew. Your comment wasn't too much shorter.

I think I didn't make myself clear. Of course we have responsibility in our walk with God - like I said, we glorify God by seeking Him with our whole heart. Someone once told me that the miracle of sanctification is that God uses our obedience to change us - to conform us to His likeness.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to do good 'cause we can't fail; we must obey Him so that He will bless us with more love for Him.

But we're going to fail, and we're going to disobey. Ultimately, He will be glorified even in our failures, for they demonstrate His grace and forgiveness. Not that we who are dead to sin should continue therein, of course. It's just a comfort to know that He will still be glorified even when we've stumbled.

That's one of the things that love is, right? Knowing that beauty can still rise even from the ashes of hurt and suffering...because love endures all things, hopes all things, and believes all things. That's why it's something worth fighting for.

None of us will be able to stand before God and say "I always obeyed You and always glorified You." But the verse Jenn quoted reminds us why we won't be consumed with regret on that day - because God gave us just enough time on this earth to teach us a heart of wisdom. And so He is perfectly glorified in our lives.

All we have to do is seek Him. Obey Him. And then , we get the blessing - peaceful, ordered life and a priceless heart of wisdom.

Andrew said...

Okay, I think I understand. Thanks for clarifying. I like your definition of sanctification hadn't quite thought of it that way.

You do know that only God is capabale of ultimate love like bearing, believing, ect. so I assume your speaking about Him (and yes, your relationship with Him is worth fighting for; points for the Barfield reference, however, lol).

I have to take issue with one more thing though (lol, sorry!). You said that God gave us just enough time on earth to teach us a heart of wisdom. Uhm, I'm not so sure.

Okay, a good friend of mine was killed in a car accident three weeks ago and he was just 19. I don't think he'd had time to totaly mature and gain a heart of wisdom. He loved God, sure, but he wasn't much wiser than your average Christian teen.

So is that really what you meant to say?

Anonymous said...

Glad to clarify. And thanks, but I can't take credit for that definition of sanctification - it was given to me by someone much wiser than I. Of course, since I'm anonymous, "taking credit" for anything is kind of a moot point.

"I was just remarking on the irony of asking a masked man who he is." V, V for Vendetta

Haha yes, Barfield is pretty good. Although I wasn't just referencing God's love alone...true love between humans is an echo (whether they know it or not) of God's love for His bride. And so it ought to look like a tiny slice of God's love. Christians get the immense benefit of knowing the height and depth and breadth of God's love, and so we alone are able to let our true love reflect His love.

A Christian should fall in love with the Spirit of God in another person - that's what makes it so perfect. And if that is how we love another, then it will ensure that we always love God more than we love them. So, as long as we're focused on letting God number and direct our days, true love will make us strive to love God more.

I'm so so sorry to hear about your friend. And I would agree that he probably wasn't too much more mature than your average Christian teen.

I guess that I wasn't talking about maturity as much as I was connecting the heart of wisdom to God numbering our days. God knew all the days of your friend's life before the foundation of the earth - He knew exactly how your friend's life and testimony would glorify Him. "Behold, all of my days were written in Your book before any of them
came to pass" - God had planned your friend's life perfectly. So He gave your friend just enough wisdom to live the life that would glorify Him exactly how He had planned.

One of the most beautiful things about the passage Jenn quoted is that no one will get to heaven ahead of or behind God's schedule. And while we may grieve over loved ones we have lost, their lives were complete before God because He planned it. We can be assured that God will give us everything we need to glorify Him for as long as we are on this earth. And that's something that's good to rest in.

Andrew said...

Hey Anonymous thanks for taking the time to write such loong comments back, lol. No idea who you are but I just want to say uou have a unique view of things and its refreshing. I'm currently in a Methodist church, but am kind omf a slacker because there's no good teaching and not much in the way of deep thinking. There's a lot I want to understand but no-one i really respect to teach and/or disciple me. Anyways, that's neither here nor there, sorry lol.

Also, totally beside the point but "a Christian should fall in love with the Spirit of God in another person." That's good. Really good! thanks for saying that

A while back, I was in a relationship with a girl who seemed awesome in pretty much every way. She went to my church (decent church but I left when the relationship ended because to many people I knew were involved in the breakup and itwas messy. I just wanted to forget) and we dated for a long time (almost 11 mos) but it turns out she was seeing another guy behind my back. The whole time I was thinking seriously about engagement and marriage and the whole skidoo but she was just playing.

It was hard becauseI never liked anyone else before (like I had crushes in high-school and my freshman year but nothing serious) and she acted like it was no big deal and they were just friends and she saw him as a brother but it turns out they were more than that. So yea some serious hurt there. :(

The whole time I thought she was a nice Christian girl, but words are words, she knew all the right things to say but when push came to shove she was more interested in her own feelings than what Christ wanted for her like honesty and purity.

If I'm ever ready for another relationship that's what I'm going to be praying (to be atracted by the Spirit of Christ in the other person) like Jenn's latest post I commented on where I'm mentioning my story, its so important to love Christ in the person - not just a person who talks about Christ and puts on a good show.

Anyways omg, this got long!

"Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."

;-)

Anønymøus said...

Haha. My pleasure to write back. I'm just a guy who's trying to pursue the things that matter most.

I'd encourage you to seek out a solid Biblical church in your area and see if they have any mid-week Bible study with guys your age. If you're comfortable with the church you're attending, then by all means keep going, but it always helps to have fellowship and discipleship with people who are like-minded. You can look at Biblical churches in your area by visiting www.9Marks.org.

Can't take credit for the "fall in love with the Spirit of God in another person" thing either - actually, the same person said that. It's a person I have a lot of respect for. Like, a whole lot.

It's really hard. Because people are complicated. And so falling in love is complicated too. I don't think that we should be disappointed in ourselves when our love for a person extends into areas of their lives that aren't in order. I don't think that's a sign of weakness or poor judgment. Love that comes from a heart for God is never misplaced.

So we continue to love. That way, as the other person conforms their life closer and closer to Christ's image, our love for them centers more and more around Christ in them. It works both ways - sanctification and love for God. God is so good at setting things up where they just work when we do them His way.

I'm so sorry to hear about that story. I've seen situations kind of like that before.

Relationships can make it so hard to evaluate how to handle situations - even when people desire holiness and purity, they also desire to make the other person happy. This can play out in so many different ways - girls can put up with things that they shouldn't 'cause they want to make the guy happy, or guys can overlook their responsibility to lead because they want to be romantic and make everything "perfect". Either purity gets sacrificed for the sake of temporary peace (peace between the couple, not peace at heart), or responsibility gets sacrificed for the sake of premature romance (premature in intensity, not intention). Or both.

So the one thing that is vitally important to a relationship (if both people really truly seek to honor Christ) is accountability. Not just that the two people have accountability, but that they seek it. Together and apart.

And the authorities involved (hopefully the parents) need to be bold about confronting issues. They have to be. It's so easy for two people with the best of intentions to be blinded by love (even genuine love) and miss glaring or not-so-glaring issues. The couple has to be diligent in seeking counsel, and the counsel has to be up-front about the things they see. That's the only way.

There's a question that's really good about revealing issues: "How has your relationship with this person grown your relationship with God?" It's a question that needs to be asked often and answered honestly. If that's a hard question to answer, then it's a sign that priorities have been misplaced and communication has been strained for a while.

For a person who truly seeks to love from a heart that desires God, finding out that your relationship has caused the other person's relationship with Christ to falter is the worst possible feeling. Really. It's awful.

Nothing you ever want to go through. So please - seek accountability in relationships!

Wow, that's quite a vichyssoise of verbiage.

I'm not V, though. Although I am (somewhat) masked....