Bigger Than Me

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CLA Eagles – Varisty Girls

This past winter I had the opportunity to teach, train, disciple and build relationship with 22 jr. and sr. high school girls alongside people that I respect and admire. For four months I found fulfillment in doing the work God had called me to. Every day I found joy in the knowledge that coaching was what I got to do with my life. The challenges were minuscule in comparison to the daily rewards, in fact, the challenges made everything all the brighter.

I dreaded the end of our season.

Sure enough, Saturday, March 22nd came and along with it the Winter Sports Banquet. It was a lovely time. I had the blessing of talking about the Varsity Girls team and it gave me a lot of closure. But that was the problem—the season closed, and I slid into deep post-season depression.

The following Monday I started a new job, and it went well. I had a great boss, helpful and encouraging co-workers, and I was confident that I could do well in the position. To my own confusion, though, when I got home I cried my eyes out. I didn’t understand why, I mean, things had gone well. Then I realized that for four months I had been doing work that I felt meant something. Coaching was much, much bigger than me and I felt honored to be a part of it. To go from that kind of joy and fulfillment in coaching to work retail flattened me. [1]

I let myself cry a little longer, but as C.S. Lewis said, Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” So, reluctantly, I forced the tears down and opened up the Word to 1 Peter 1:5-9:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

The verses were so perfect I started crying again. I realized my own fear of becoming ineffective and purposeless…and God addressed it immediately. That passage told me  that as long as I am constantly pursuing him, it is impossible for me to become ineffective. If my desire is to be close to and serve the Lord, than I will be a fruitful force for his Kingdom, and thus, always a part of something MUCH bigger than me.

…..but *cough* I still miss coaching.

[1] Not that it really matters to this post, but I’m actually not working retail anymore. Yay! 

For the Days Are Evil

1239422_10152464075566564_404198548_nTuesday Morning, September 11th, 2001

As I came into the living room I saw Mom hugging Grandma, Dad buttoning up his LAPD uniform and strapping his gun to his hip, Grandpa just sitting in his arm chair—all crying and staring at footage of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. I didn’t know whether to to be more scared by the smoke, fire and screams coming from the TV, or by the fact that the four main adults in my life were scared too.

Mom and Dad recognized my presence when I tearfully asked, “what’s happening?!” They gave me a hug and explained that there were “bad guys trying to hurt people.” Soon I was tucked away in another room watching Mary Poppins and drinking hot cocoa—safely guarded from seeing any more disturbing images.

The next few years of my life were spent semi-oblivious to things going on in the outside world. It wasn’t until my later grammar school years that I started to put the pieces of that history together—to understand and know.

Wednesday Morning, September 11th, 2013

I woke up to the sound of my obnoxious cellphone alarm. The old wood from my bunk bed gently creaked as I hopped to my bedroom floor. I turned off my alarm and began, along with millions of other Americans across this country, to remember…

…the terror, the pain, the death

…the heartbreak, the loss, the fear

…the instigators, the victims and the heroes of 9/11/01.

~~~

My heart aches as I bear the reality of evil—it is here and it is active. Acts of sheer terror like the events of 9/11 serve as a constant reminder of that undeniable fact.

I wish I could say that the world has changed for the better in the last 12 years. But it hasn’t. Innocent Syrians are being murdered in horrific ways through chemical warfare, millions of unborn children are being killed in the womb and human trafficking is continuing to spread across nations. Genocide, murder, rape, slavery—gut wrenchingly awful.

All of this causes me (as C.S. Lewis says in his essay Learning in War-Time) to“always answer the question, ““How can you be so frivolous and selfish to think about anything but the salvation of human souls? How is it right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to Heaven or to Hell to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology.””

Life is frail and every second brings me a little closer to the end…and I spend most of my days studying, working so I can study, writing and reading every spare moment I get. It does not seem right. I should be on the street ministering every waking moment of my day, right?

Lewis, however, in the rest of his essay gives encouragement to Christians struggling with this question: All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest, and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not. Christianity does not simply replace our natural life and substitute a new one; it is rather a new organization which exploits, to its own supernatural ends, these natural materials.”

When I read that little passage (and countless others in Lewis’ essay) I felt as if Jesus were reminding me that I am right where he wants me to be. I am studying, working and writing that I might grow and that I might better serve him. Along the way, I am ministering to the people within my sphere of influence. It is not useless.

As you observe the evil of this world, think on these things. My encouragement to you is from Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15-17:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Love With Abandon

What does it mean to be vulnerable? Well, according to The American Heritage Dictionary it means, susceptible to physical or emotional injury. Hmm, what does susceptible mean? It means (same source) likely to be affected. So, to be vulnerable essentially means to be likely affected to physical and emotional injury.

Now, read this quote:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”[1]

~ C.S. Lewis stated in his book The Four Loves

Uh-oh.

Love is dangerous. When I step into a friendship; share thoughts from the heart; give of myself, I risk getting hurt in the end. Unfortunately, the pain of a relationship disintegrating is simply inevitable. But fear of experiencing that pain cannot stop me from loving others.

Isaiah 53 (and each of the gospels) describes the emotional and physical pain that Jesus came under during His time on earth. He, in His immeasurable love for us, endured so much. And how do we respond on the whole? We spit in His face. Did it stop Him? Did He retaliate? No. He instead sacrificed His very life in a horrible, sickening, bloody, awful, gut-wrenching, humiliating death because He loved us. He loved us. Think about the ridicule that rung in His ears day in, and day out. He was (is) the God of the entire universe, the maker of all things, the author of our stories, the ruler of the nations, the judge of right and wrong, the giver of all things good…and He came down to us. He was vulnerable. He was hurt. He is hurt every time we reject Him—and yet “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” [2]

Jesus loves us with a vulnerable love. I am called to love as Christ loves me, so, I am called to be vulnerable.

This week:  love people with abandon. It will hurt. Jesus never said that it wouldn’t.

[1] Thank you to Owl City/Adam Young for bringing this to my attention! Simply perfect!

[2] Lamentations 3:22-23