When I started this blog I had just moved recently to Washington D.C. from Pennsylvania and had spent my travel funds for a ticket for 10 days in Costa Rica. I traveled with one of my brothers, and together we made friends at the hostels, witnessed a small earthquake while staying in a tree house, and jumped off a waterfall. In fact, that last thing was what inspired my very first blog post. I talked about going for your dreams, living the life you’ve imagined, taking risks and not making excuses. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty high.
Far from my mind was the question I should have asked at the start but didn’t: ‘How does God want to use this blog?’ All I was thinking was that having a blog was on my bucket list and therefore I should just create one. I should just create one and start writing about whatever I think might be a good topic. I do really like my first posts, even as I’ve changed so much over the past year, I can still appreciate my arguments and open mindedness I articulated in my first posts. My biggest qualm is that I wanted to share my thoughts about God while being far from Him. I wanted to live out my Christian faith in a way that was convenient for me, and a way that made me feel self righteous.
In his book Jesus > Religion, Jefferson Bethke says the following about this mindset:
“I certainly have focused on outward appearance and made extra to-do lists to add to my salvation, all the while neglecting the simple needs of others. I’m often more pharisee than saint. I’d rather people tell me how awesome is than how awesome Jesus is. I’d rather concentrate on other people’s sins before I look at my own. More often than not, I sense the toxic Pharisee spirit rising up within me.”
I had a hard heart towards God. Although if you asked me, I would have said my faith was a big part of my life… It was more of a proactive trying to see where I could fit God into my life versus having God as the focus and going from there. I was making plans and then seeing if God had any adjustments to the plan. I guess I thought the alternative was that if I left stuff to God or looked to God first he’d send me to some third world country where I’d eat crickets and waste away sharing the gospel.
I think some part of me was afraid God wouldn’t let me pursue my dreams; that pursuing him first would be a detriment to my personal development… I didn’t want to blend in with other Christians either, or any group of people, seeing their mistakes and not wanting to make the same (while sinning in my own unique way but hypocritically judging others). I assumed therefore, that because I liked the path I was on – because I was so in control… To include God in that might screw it up. I foolishly thought what I was doing was working, and you know what they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. Though I wouldn’t have admitted it in a thousand years, I thought I knew better than God. I was projecting my idea of God unto Him, as a reason for not serving him, instead of letting Him speak for himself.
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,
I have a selfish desire for everyone to think my life is all put together. It’s not. I’m still figuring out a lot and struggling to be vulnerable about my shortcomings. I’ve noticed that both my pride of my biblical knowledge and ways I’ve upheld the faith (or at least the things that in my pride I deemed as most important) has stunted my growth. I had reached some imaginary plateau of knowledge where I thought I knew it all, while paradoxically saying I was so open minded and open to change.
Also in Bethke’s book he uses the phrase: ‘Just enough God to not need him’… As I’m typing even now, I feel so conflicted. I’m trying to let God in, but letting go of everything is hard. As I seek him and examine the truth of the scriptures, and make changes in my heart and actions… I only see yet another thing that I should surrender to Him. I’m still tripping over myself to fix the first thing. Asking God in all areas ‘What should I do God?’ Instead of simply doing research or leaning on my own understanding but pausing and seeking God’s heart. It has been a very humbling six months or so. I’ve noticed how much I’ve ignored. I want to be a better steward of my resources, I want to serve. I’m so freak’n selfish though! It’s hard for me to step out of that old way of thinking, and put others first.
I love talking about psychology and one of my favorite things is the term ‘cognitive dissonance’, the emotional imbalance you feel when your actions don’t line up with your beliefs. So to correct that balance you have to change either your action or your belief, and when a habit has sprung up, it’s often easier to change your belief so that you don’t have to change your actions – That’s when I start justifying and making excuses (even if they seem logically sound, doesn’t mean they aren’t spurred on by emotion). Cognitive dissonance was a term I knew so well, but couldn’t recognize in myself. The first step to change is acknowledging there is a problem, trouble is, we are humans with a lotta those and a lot of pride. To change the way I viewed God would naturally – should naturally – mean a shift in my way of life, and since I loved (and love) my life I didn’t want that to change at all. Since I was finding my joy and identity in other things, I kept putting off and ignoring things that after some thought realized could be important.
For instance in ‘Why church going isn’t all that’ I give my reasoning for why someone doesn’t need to incorporate church into their weekly routine. I think it’s a sound piece of writing. My premise was that the reasons attributed for frequent church attendance are items not wholly exclusive to a church setting and might very well be better sought after elsewhere. My trouble with this piece is that I wasn’t making church a priority, but I also wasn’t making any of those other items a priority… Namely: worship, Christian community, and reading/learning about scripture. As someone who is addicted to self-help books, I should have, and could have prioritized the scripture more, but the Bible isn’t so much a self-help book as it is a book about how God can help you, and how we should serve Him and others even if it doesn’t seem to be helping our selves.
In my post about prayer, ‘Power of Prayer vs power of God’ I admitted at the end that routine prayer might actually be a really good idea:
“…I was going to write that fitting in a slot for God is a mundane, ridiculous thing and has no intrinsic value. Ha. I also was going to use exercise as an analogy, saying you don’t need to get up at 5 or 6 every morning to stay fit. However, I realized my argument was full of holes, and using that analogy actually went against me. Sure, not everyone who’s fit and healthy wakes up at 5 to exercise, but being active at some time in the day is super healthy. I mean even I try to workout in the morning or do something active in the day if I miss that mark. Scheduling in prayers didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t be just what someone else needs to stay ‘spiritually fit’. Just so long as you aren’t totally tuned out to prayer in all its forms, or putting an over emphasis on prayer, I think you’re alright. It may be a little mundane (or just seem like reciting a speech), but praying isn’t a bad thing to work into your routine if only to refocus yourself.”
Notice where I said ‘Scheduling in prayers didn’t work for me’? I said why it might be a good idea and then I took myself out of the question. Essentially saying yes, it’s a great thing to do but not for me, I am fine not following this. Which is hypocrisy at it’s finest.
Reading back on my old posts I can see where at times I did some working around an issue to make it in favor of what my actions were. I think this is something we all struggle with. I’m thankful for people in my life who’ve called me out on that way of thinking. As I continue with this blog, I encourage you to challenge me. If you see me contradicting myself or stating ideals contrary to scripture – or justifying a doctrine or call to action (or call to non-action) and backing it up with my faulty logic – please call me out.
Change takes a while, so as I recognize this tendency in myself, I appreciate ya’ll speaking the truth in love even if it means my pride will get hurt. I’ve been trying, slowly, to change my habits, recognizing that things like routine scripture reading, prayer, and prioritizing church, can be a wonderful gift from God. I’m starting to see it as a blessing, but also it’s hard – it’s hard to make those changes but I know God gives us strength and grace when we slip up.