When the Journey Is Wild

Credit to V-Nom (http://v-nom.deviantart.com/art/Journey-380667105)

Credit to V-Nom

Spring break.

Those two words are so pleasant to the ear of a stressed student.  Those words also mean that this girl finally feels guiltless in sitting down for an hour or two to meditate on Scripture, comprise a few meaningful thoughts, and craft a little message about life, without the urgent call to work through a mountain of homework.

I can safely say that this has been the most stressful semester I’ve yet experienced.  I know it could be much, much wilder, but the busyness has still had some significant effects.

I don’t need to go into every detail, especially because I’m not that busy, but here are a few of the things that have added to the craziness of this semester:

  • Sixteen hours of college courses (six of those for honors students, four for a Spanish course I’ve seriously considered dropping, and the other six for English undergrads);
  • A now year-plus internship for a local Christian student ministry;
  • A twice-daily, thirty-minute commute with a kind, but talkative carpooling mate;
  • The conviction as a believer to spend time with and to disciple younger Christians around me;
  • And the continuation of living at home with a large family, calling for my responsibility to help with chores and to hang out with younger siblings who yearn to do so.

Now, I should add two postscripts for the list above.  One, everything in that list is good.  I love the impact that college has had on me, the growth and knowledge I have gained from my internship, the relational training I have earned from my carpooling experience, the joy I gain from helping younger believers to grow, and the family with whom I am blessed to live.  All of these things together have been used for my good in transforming me into a more zealous woman for the glory of God (Rom. 8:28).

I should also add the fact that this list is nothing compared to that of so many other people in my life.  I’ve never had to pay for housing on my own (besides paying for my portion of the bills, as I do now), nor serve as the primary model in child-rearing and care-taking in a family, nor hold a full-time career; and I can’t imagine the stress of those things and more.  It makes me glad to not have those things on my list—at least, not yet.

Even so, my small list of responsibilities is taking a toll.  But I have no right to complain.  I know what I ought to do to alleviate this stress as I walk on this wild journey of life and academia, internships and human relations.

I need to have daily communion with the Ultimate Guide on this journey.

Credit to Sawuinhaff (http://sawuinhaff.deviantart.com/art/Journey-294938480)

Credit to Sawuinhaff

This communion is precisely what I need, and it is what I have not been doing as often or as intimately as I would like.  It seems that every evening (my preferred time for communion), there is either a paper to write or an assigned text to read, and so I place my time of focused prayer and meditative Scripture-reading on the back-burner.  And the following morning, when I could catch up on communion, I am either so tired that I press the snooze button or so busy that I work on more homework before heading to school.

But most often, I skip this quiet time because I lack the motivation to do so or because I feel guilty for having missed so many days already.  And even on the days when I do have communion with Christ, I am rushed and thinking of other things to do, the meant-to-be sweet and rejuvenating moments of reflection thus tainted by a tangled mind.  When this occurs, I am left feeling more tired and stressed than before, regretful of having attempted at all when my time of meditation was paltry and paper-thin.

This trend of either skipping or rushing through a quiet time with Jesus is an unwise one for me to have implemented.  Rather than moping about it, however, I want to change.  I want to consider how to become more disciplined in this area of my life and, in doing so, to rely on the power of God, rather than my own.

I have to rely on God’s power in this.  If I tried to rely on my own abilities in my drive for sanctification, I would be completely lost and helpless, living as a gasping trout on a bustling sidewalk in the city, a flower wilting on a mussy, wooden table, a dove in the church with two white, broken wings—unable to support others when I myself am unsupported and evaporating under the frailty of my own fruitless human independence.  I cannot walk this journey on my own, and I cannot find the motivation to daily dwell with Christ by my own means, but I can be like a child holding the hand of the guide on the path toward a higher home.

Let’s consider these ideas.  I’d like to reflect on my own experience, but also on the importance of communion with Christ and the journey to sanctification for all believers.  As we consider this, I’d like to back up my thoughts with two references: Psalm 43 and a video game called Journey.

First: this journey is a blessing, not a curse.

Credit to Sawuinhaff (http://sawuinhaff.deviantart.com/art/Journey-294938480)

Credit to Sawuinhaff

Life may feel crazy right now, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad.  In fact, it is often through these crazy and difficult times that God teaches us to rely on Him and to trust Him with our future.  If life always felt smooth and steady and easy to handle, we would never learn to draw our strength and sustenance from the sovereign, immutable God who has everything under control and in place for His glory.  Therefore, it is in these times that we learn to say, “You are God my stronghold” (Ps. 43:2), and to humbly admit that we need a Helper—a Helper who is constantly present, ready, and willing to vindicate and to rescue (Ps. 43:1).

So what do we do from here?  We have established that when life feels crazy, we feel needy, and we must shift our neediness to open dependence on God.  But how does this relate to communion with Christ?  Well, one way to admit our need for and dependence on God is to come to Him and to draw what we need from His Word and from conversation with Him.  It is good for us to have this time at least once a day so that our hearts and minds will be focused on things above (Col. 3:1-2) and so that we can anchor ourselves in truth in preparation for the wild and uncertain hours ahead.  This needs not happen only once in the course of the day’s events, of course, but at least once is good.  I, for one, am able to note a radical difference in my mind, heart, and stress levels when I have focused communion with God, as opposed to the days when I do not.

It should also be noted that while the journey to sanctification is difficult, it is so worthwhile.  To preface the reasons for it being so, I need to explain the source from which the pictures above have been taken: a video game called Journey.

Credit to Spyders (http://spyders.deviantart.com/art/Journey-292263844)

Credit to Spyders

In each of these pictures, you may see one or two red characters with long red scarves who are looking toward a looming mountain, a large distance separating themselves from the geographical feature.  In Journey, this mountain is the characters’ destination.  It is not revealed exactly why they are traveling to this mountain, but from several murals shown along the way, it is made clear that they are the last of their kind to go on this pilgrimage.  They are traveling on the same path as those who came before to reach their final destination—their last and perfect home.

These characters face many obstacles along the way.  Monsters, fierce elements of nature, and physical weariness are just a few, and the game does a stupendous job of making the player feel the strain and exhaustion of this journey.  Yet the game exudes the stunning worth of the journey, as well, depicted through the joy of fellowship between the two red characters and the beauty of the scenery around them.  It is a journey of strife, yes, but it is also a journey of great growth and awe.  It is a multifaceted experience, one which the characters will smile upon when the mountain is beneath their travel-worn and tired feet.

Journey, then, can be taken as an analogy for the slow, arduous, and beautiful trip which you and I are taking toward sanctification today.  And the journey is certainly worth all our effort.

Second: it is necessary to rely on God as we walk this path.

The white-cloaked angelic creature (source: gophoto.us)

Credit to moth-eatn

I have a choice in this.  I could mope about my lack of discipline in communing with Christ.  I could stay in a place of regret and say over and over along with the psalmist, “Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” (Ps. 43:2).  It would be easy for me to stay in this place, and it is where I have dwelt for far too long.

But no more!  No more moping or whining or grief or regret.  It is time for pursuit.  It is time for me to move on and to ask God for His aid—for me to ask Him to grant me motivation and development in time management skills.  So I choose to present my weakness to the Father and to ask in humility, “Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell” (Ps. 43:3).  I choose to admit that I cannot do this on my own.

This is key, I think, for every Christian to come to admit.  If we cannot admit that we desperately need help, we will definitely not experience full and lasting satisfaction.  There is real peace that comes in recognizing one’s incapability and Christ’s complete power, in understanding our utter weakness and His omnipotent strength.  God is our Helper on this journey to the mountain (Psalm 121), and we must come to realize that we cannot reach the mountain by our own means, but by His grace alone.

This element of recognizing our need for help and guidance from God is present in Journey.  For example, in the picture above, it is obvious that the two creatures are different.  One is red, and the other white, and the white creature is taller than the red.  These white, angelic beings appear numerous times to the characters in red, most often when the red creatures reach various temples and sit down before stone altars.  When the red characters sit, the white creatures appear and impart visions, sharing important pieces of the red creatures’ history, explaining what happened to their people and hinting as to why they are now being called to travel to the mountain.  These visions are presented as murals, as seen below:

The act of the creatures’ sitting down at the altar to gain help, advice, and guidance for the journey ahead points to our need as Christians to do the same.  We, too, ought to “go to the altar of God, to God, [our] joy and [our] delight” (Ps. 43:4) if we are to find the strength we need.  Reliance upon our Heavenly Helper is key to moving forward with passion and purpose on this journey.

Third: it is good to form ties with those traveling to the same destination.

Credit to Ailovc (http://ailovc.deviantart.com/art/Journey-340727318)

Credit to Ailovc

Not only do we need to rely on God for sustenance and support, but we should also teach, rely on, and learn from fellow travelers who are likewise walking (or have walked) on the path to the mountain ahead.  Let’s focus on these varying kinds of travelers.

There are those who walk behind.  These are younger believers in the position for you to teach, perhaps being new in faith, lacking in maturity or discipline, or in need of a mentor.  You can build relationships with these Christians in order to help them to grow and to become the strong men and women they need to be.  God employs us as examples and heralds in these relationships, using us to encourage these ripening travelers to keep walking ahead and to show them that the journey is possible and that discipline is good.  You can show the fruit of communion to these walkers, and you can put what you’ve gained from this communion to good use.  You can share what you’ve learned on the portions of road they have yet to travel.

There are those who walk beside.  These are the believers who walk alongside you and can be relied upon, possibly being in similar situations in life, sharing similar levels of maturity, or in need of an accountability partner.  You can form ties with these Christians so as to draw joy and strength from fellowship as you both move forward to greater maturity, bringing each other to more intimate communion with God and walking along together to sanctification.

This is best exemplified in Journey, as the two red characters journey together to the mountain.  As a result of a function of the gameplay, these characters are forced to stick together, and if one falls back, the other must turn around to help.  In addition, one character can “feed” on the energy offered by the other, so as to be able to run and jump more quickly.  And lastly, the characters often communicate with each other through cheery chirps, seeming to encourage each other and to say, “Come on, let’s keep moving.”

Credit to Shattered-Earth

Credit to Shattered-Earth

This ability for the red characters to turn back to help their companion, to offer energizing support, and to encourage through communication is a wonderful model of a functional and God-glorifying relationship between believers.  This kind of mutual believer-to-believer relationship is one that is good for Christians to have with at least one other person in life, helping to ensure that they will have the diligence and zeal to press on for Christ.

And finally, there are those who walk ahead.  These are more mature believers from whom you can learn, who will likely be older, more mature, or maybe even deceased.  These are the people who can teach you helpful lessons from their experience on the road ahead and are those who will serve as mentors for you, teaching through either living conversation or through words shared from the past (via text, song, or other, more contemporary means).  These are the people who will remind you to look to Christ and to rely on Him for your own personal growth.

This is not to say that you cannot learn from those walking behind or alongside you.  However, I think it is crucial to form ties with all three sets of these believers as you travel, as these ties will provide necessary fellowship, accountability, friendship, and support.  These are the ties that will season you into a more capable traveler.

Fourth: communion is primarily a heart matter.

Credit to Shattered-Earth (http://shattered-earth.deviantart.com/art/Journey-347236785)

Credit to Shattered-Earth

This is important to note because it is often forgotten: our communion with Christ is primarily a matter of the heart, not of time or content or comparison to others.  Yes, how long we spend and what we study in the presence of God is important, and we can certainly learn from the habits of others’ communion, but as I’ve touched on above, what truly matters is the nature of our attitude.  We may be studying the most interesting aspects of theology, the most crucial characteristics of God, or the most enlightening parts of Scripture—and we may be doing this for hours at a time every day—but if we are not coming to God in humility, can we really expect to grow?

When you have a quiet time with Jesus, consider your attitude as you enter His presence.  Come to the altar with the intention to beg for His help and to “praise [Him] with the lyre” (Ps. 43:4).  Come to Christ knowing that you are nothing, that He is everything, and that only He can guide you on the journey to sanctification.

Fifth: we can look forward to the destination.

Credit to Oune (http://oune.deviantart.com/art/My-Journey-300958961)

Credit to Oune

I’ve said it before, but this journey is definitely worth it.  It is a trying and difficult experience, and it’s a little hard to me to believe right now that there are good things ahead, what with the craziness of life at this point.  But I can look at Scripture, and I can see that God is good and powerful and willing to help.  I can see that He loves me, a speck of dust, and that He is working for my growth and sanctification, as well as yours.  I can look at history, too, and see that God has supported every one of His chosen travelers—those who have traveled in the past, those who are currently walking, and those who will soon begin their journey to the mountain.

God is our Ultimate Guide, and the destination draws ever nearer.  So, “[w]hy, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Ps. 43:5).  Let’s you and I put our hope in Christ and praise Him together as we walk along.

By the way, the red characters made it to the mountain in Journey.  And you know, I think we’re going to make it, too.


P.S.  Want to read more about communing with Christ when life feels crazy?  Check out the article “Communing with Christ on a Crazy Day” from Desiring God, one of my favorite Christ-centric websites.

P.P.S. One more thing about Journey: there is no dialogue in the entirety of this game.  The only words spoken are the lyrics for “I Was Born for This,” a beautifully lulling song played during the end credits.

Credit to Keikilani (http://keikilani.deviantart.com/art/Journey-293660967)

Credit to Keikilani

This song features gorgeous bits of game play and translated lyrics (as the song is a collection of foreign quotes and poetry), reflecting on the idea of being born for a purpose, walking through the journey of life, and pushing forward in difficult times.  I’d say it’s certainly worth five minutes of your time, but I’ll leave that up to you.  ^~^  Click HERE to watch the video.

Tasked to Testify

Taiwanese Elantris cover

My sister, Rachel, and I are about as different as two people can be.  Rachel is very extroverted, recharged by her time spent with others and adept at handling small talk with exuberance and poise.  I, however, am immensely introverted, thrilled by the thought of a quiet, uninterrupted afternoon to write or read and naturally introspective.  Sometimes I wish things were the other way around, but in general, I’m thankful that Christ designed us in the way that he did.

Why am I thankful?  Well, although Rachel is two years younger than I am, I have looked up to her and learned from her example for several years.  It’s not that I don’t like who I am or am seeking to become exactly like her.  Rather, because Rachel and I are so different, we’re each able to examine and implement the godly qualities that the other exhibits.  And, usually, the qualities that we try to implement are not those that we naturally possess.  So, it’s a good thing we’re so different because, otherwise, we wouldn’t have nearly as many chances to grow.

For example, Rachel has told me that she admires the fact that I can speak truth, sharing my genuine opinion when I think it’s necessary.  She has admitted that she speaks too quickly, without thinking it through, and occasionally talks in a way that doesn’t describe her true feelings so she can avoid hurting others’ feelings.  I don’t think that’s always a bad thing, but it has gotten her into trouble a few times.  In the same way, though, I know I’ve offended some people when I’ve spoken too honestly.

I, on the other hand, admire Rachel’s tendency to share what God has been teaching her with passion.  Many times, she will send me a text message with a Bible verse and her thoughts on it, or will simply walk up to me and ask if we can discuss what she is learning from God through Scripture, everyday life, and other Christians.  Rachel even makes the effort to ask others about their walk with God—and she truly wants to know.  Seeing as she and I share a room, there are times when I wish she would wait to talk to me until the morning (which I’ve laughingly told her before), but our conversations often ignite a fire within me, leading me to greater affection for Christ, stronger respect for my sister, and a desire to know God in a deeper, more powerful way.

This quality that Rachel has of declaring God’s work in her life to other Christians is not one that comes naturally to me.  I usually journal about what I’m learning and keep it to myself, but now, after examining Rachel and her lifestyle, I’m learning that telling others about the evidence of God’s deeds and grace in my life is important—maybe even vital—for my growth, as well as for other believers.

Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this, starting with a passage from the book of Psalms.

But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Psalm 73:28

And consider these verses from Acts, spoken by Paul when he discussed his future in Jerusalem.

[In] every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Acts 20:23-24

Now, some might feel that these verses apply more to the subject of evangelism, specifically for the sake of others’ salvation in Christ.  In response to that, I should note that I’m primarily writing about Christian-to-Christian discussion in this post, but this is not to degrade the need for evangelism, for I know that every believer is called to spread the aroma of Christ, as I’ve written before.  Additionally, I would point to this passage from 1 Chronicles:

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

1 Chronicles 16:23-24

By reading these verses, I do not believe that testifying to God’s deeds should stop with unbelievers.  It should also extend to Christians, for we, too, are living “among the nations” and are included in “all peoples” just as unbelievers are.  Plus, even we need a reminder of God’s goodness and perfection every once in a while, and, in my experience, those reminders often come from other Christians—from we who have experienced God’s grace most radically.  This can be seen in the Bible, as well, such as when Nathan came to David in 1 Samuel 12, reminding him of both God’s hatred for sin and his complete forgiveness.  And just take a look at Paul’s letters!  That guy was so wise, and he packed his many letters to churches with all kinds of reminders about Christ and his Body.  All in all, then, I would definitely say that testifying to God’s work is something that we as Christians should do for one another.

So how does sharing about God’s work in our lives (and, equally important, asking others to share) help us to grow?  To illustrate, allow me to introduce you to Prince Raoden.

Raoden

Raoden is a lead character in the book Elantris who is struck by the Shaod, or the Transformation.  The Shaod once transformed people into godlike figures called Elantrians, who possessed magical abilities and were sent to the elaborately beautiful city of Elantris to live in luxury.  Now, for reasons unknown, the Shaod transforms its victims into undead creatures who are shunned and balding, whose skin is patched and hideous, and who are declared dead by those who knew them.  Still, they are sent to Elantris, which is where Raoden discovers a city that is coated in sludge and filled with many hurting and hopeless citizens who either wander the streets or join one of several factions.  He also learns that he has no heartbeat, no body heat, and has lost the ability to heal, living in eternal pain from even such tiny wounds as a scratch until it proves too great, leading many Elantrians to insanity.  So, yeah.  Things are looking pretty bad for the former prince.

But Raoden is an optimistic man, one with the natural ability to lead and inspire those around him, and he slowly starts to reshape the hopelessness found in the city, sharing his vision of a more cheerful and unified Elantris.  Even Galladon—his closest, most pessimistic, and usually grumpy Elantrian friend—begins to look on the bright side of things as Raoden speaks of hope and rebuilds the community both mentally and physically by creating a new, cleaner part of town: New Elantris.  Sadly, Raoden and his companions are often faced with strife, such as when Raoden nearly gets his friends killed and grows discouraged after unfruitful negotiation efforts with a faction leader.  But check out this development in Galladon here, found about halfway through the book:

“I’ve failed [our friends],” he said quietly.

Galladon shook his head.  “We can’t always get what we want on the first try.  Kolo [agreed]?  You’ll find a way—I would never have thought you’d get this far.”*

And here, soon after, when Raoden and Galladon walk through the now uninhabited streets of New Elantris after events take a turn for the worse:

“Sad.  Kolo?”  Galladon regarded the now clean, but empty, houses.

“Yes,” Raoden said.  “It had potential, if only for a week.”

“We’ll get there again, sule [friend],” Galladon said.*

Did you catch that?  In both cases, Galladon is unconsciously optimistic because of the influence Raoden has had on him.  And I think this is exactly what sharing about God’s work in our lives will do for us and the people with whom we share.  You see, just as with Raoden and his consistent reminders of hope, our declarations of the evidence of Christ’s grace may very well bring others to notice the same in their own lives, as Galladon noticed the hope in his.  Pointing out the hope and grace in life leads others to notice it where they never had before.

Testifying to God’s work in our lives does much more than that, however.  These are a few more of the changes that I have noticed in my heart when I testify and ask others.

  • It points my heart to Christ, giving me a sense of awe.  It leads me to think, “Wow, God does so much for his children”, and it reminds me that he is the one who does everything—growth, blessings, trials, and whatever else is best for us (Romans 5:8).  He’s the one who is totally in charge, and I am utterly dependent upon him.
  • It makes me more thankful.  God is really gracious to work in our waning hearts and mold us to be more like him.  We definitely don’t deserve that (seeing as we can be very stubborn), so it’s seriously awesome that he takes the time to teach us.
  • It gives me a sense of unity with fellow Christians, reminding me that we are all in this together.  It leads me that to realize that we need to lovingly keep each other accountable in order to point each other to Christ and better avoid Satan’s pitfalls, because it can be pretty hard to do that on our own.
  • It reminds me of God’s glory and the lack of my own.  Just as it teaches me that God is totally in charge, it shows me that he’s the only one who deserves to be—and that that’s a good thing.
  • It wells up in me a desire for Jesus.  All of this makes me to want to know more about Christ and to know him more deeply (which I think is very important indeed).

I could probably have listed many more changes, but I’ll stop here so I can add one last thing.  I’m not saying that you have to testify about God’s work in your life verbally.  There are many other ways for you to share, such as through texting (as Rachel has done many times), social media, or even blogging, obviously!  However, I do think there is something superbly rich in sharing face-to-face with another Christian.  Ever since I’ve started trying to do so more often—even though it’s been uncomfortable for me at times—I’ve definitely noticed growth in my life.

Either way, no matter how and when you choose to testify about God’s work in your life, or whether or not you try to ask others, I want to leave you with this:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

I love this verse.  It brings so much to mind, like the fact that you and I, brother, are radically blessed—that you and I, sister, have so much for which we can praise God.  We have been brought from the worst of scenarios into the wonderful light of Christ, and that’s reason enough to shout out some declarations, for both our sake and others’.

So let’s go!  Let’s go and declare the praises of God, remembering who we are—chosen, special, royal—and what we are called to do.  And above all else, may our words bring glory to he who saved us, to the God who is so good to bring us into his work—to the gracious King who has tasked us to testify.

 

 

*Sanderson, Brandon. Elantris. New York: Tor, 2006. 308-40. Print.

Note: Cover image found at http://brandonsanderson.com/books/elantris/elantris/elantris-cover-gallery/, and Raoden image found at http://www.deviantart.com/art/Raoden-Elantris-286544265 as drawn by CrisMarVaz (http://crismarvaz.deviantart.com/)

Chasing Fantasies

snape and lily 2

Ever heard of PewDiePie?  AmazingPhil?  Tobuscus?  I could tell you all about them.  Way too much.

In case you aren’t aware, PewDiePie, AmazingPhil, and Tobuscus are popular YouTubers, each of whom post weekly (if not daily) videos about video games, comedy, and everyday life.  And they have become all-too-familiar faces to me this semester.

I’ll be honest—this semester was one of my hardest.  I had very little motivation to do well in my college classes, and I spent more time than ever immersed in entertainment and social media.  In the midst of tests and homework that I kept pushing off, I started to watch several new television shows and to spend many, many hours watching YouTube videos, when I had much more important things to be doing with my time.  This was not a good combination with the fact that I was taking a couple of classes that were pretty challenging for me.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love YouTube.  I like social media.  I enjoy entertainment.  (I mean, for real, I’m a college-age geek).  But there is definitely a potential for spiritual warfare in the wake of all of that, and I really faced it last semester.  I fell time and time again to the temptation of chasing fantasies.

Check out this bit of Scripture.

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

Proverbs 12:11

I read this Bible verse a few weeks before I finished the semester, and I thought to myself, “What in the world have I been doing?”  All those hours watching television, playing video games, watching YouTube videos…I had been chasing fantasies the whole time, when I should have been working the land.

What exactly is the difference between working the land and chasing fantasies?  To me, to chase a fantasy is to chase something that isn’t real, or that has very little quality or substance.  Basically, it’s a big waste of time, and working the land is exactly the opposite.  To work the land is to sow what is needed so that growth occurs—in this case, spiritual growth—and to make the effort to provide the revitalizing nutrition that your body needs.  Also, perhaps more importantly, it is to trust that the cultivator of the soil will allow the food to come forth in abundance, according to the work that you put into it.

It might be helpful to examine Severus Snape’s undying love for Lily Potter.

snape and lily

I love Snape as a character. Unfortunately, although his and Lily’s story is tragic, he is one of the prime examples of chasing after a fantasy.  (Harry Potter fans, I would understand if you hate me for what I’m about to say, but hear me out, and believe me when I say that I am one of you!)

To help prove my point, let me share with you a portion of the seventh book in the Harry Potter series, when Harry was sifting through a few of Snape’s memories in the Pensieve at Hogwarts.

And next, Snape was kneeling in Sirius’s old bedroom. Tears were dripping from the end of his hooked nose as he read the old letter from Lily. The second page carried only a few words:

‘…could ever have been friends with Gellert Grindelwald. I think her mind’s going, personally!

‘Lots of love, Lily’

Snape took the page bearing Lily’s signature, and her love, and tucked it inside his robes. Then he ripped in two the photograph he was also holding, so that he kept the part from which Lily laughed, throwing the portion showing James and Harry back onto the floor, under the chest of drawers…

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 33)*

Now read that last part one more time.

Snape took the page bearing Lily’s signature, and her love, and tucked it inside his robes. Then he ripped in two the photograph he was also holding, so that he kept the part from which Lily laughed…

By reading this section of the book, it should be clear that there was more to Snape’s feelings for Lily than a simple crush.  Snape was fanatical, even to the point that, as a grown man, he would tuck Lily’s signature into his robes and rip her family’s photo apart in order to keep part of her for himself.
This was an incredibly unhealthy attraction, and the effects were clearly evident throughout the book series.  Snape may have been one of the good guys, and he may have done some noble things in his lifetime, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he constantly exhibited both verbal and physical cruelty toward the students at Hogwarts because of his feelings.  Snape’s love for Lily and his fantasy of being in a romantic relationship with her drove him to do some very unkind things.

This is just one example of what it looks like to chase after a fantasy, and this has been my problem for the past five months.  This is why I haven’t posted on this blog all semester, why I have watched too many YouTube videos, and why little growth has occurred in my spiritual walk for a while now.  This is all to say that I should have been working the land and investing in my spiritual growth because the Bible tells me to.

For instance, take a look at this verse.

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…

Philippians 3:8

The most valuable, worthwhile thing I can do is to know Christ.  Everything else—every time I invest in things like entertainment when I know I should be doing something else that will help me to love God more—is simply garbage, because, although it can be fun, it’s not going to do me much good in the long run and could lead to many negative side effects.  It certainly lead to junk in my life this last semester, like procrastination, anger, and impatience. This is why I need to strive to be like the believer exemplified in the following verse.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

2 Corinthians 2:14

I want to be more like this.  I want to be led by Christ, captivated by him and living triumphantly.  I want to learn how to work the land, rather than chasing fantasies, so I can spread the appeal of his aroma wherever I go, because that’s what I need to do (as shown in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8).  And how can I spread that aroma when I’m so focused on the things that don’t really matter?  I have to focus “on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2) so I can truly grow and spread his fragrance.

With that being said, I need to make it more of a priority to work my land.  It’s going to be hard, especially because it’s summer break for me now, but I want to spend more time in the Word and in prayer, and less time in entertainment.  I want to cut back on the stuff that doesn’t really matter.  After all, refusing to run after pointless dreams any longer may lead to a few trials, but it will most definitely lead to growth.  (And maybe it’ll lead to fewer guilt-ridden blog posts).

So here’s to working the land.  Here’s to knowing Christ.  And here’s to saying “goodbye” to the fantasies that can only hold us back.

 

——

 

*Copied from http://readfreeonline.net/OnlineBooks/Harry_Potter_and_the_Deathly_Hallows/Harry_Potter_and_the_Deathly_Hallows_33.html

As Good as Your Word

LOTR walking fellowship

I bet you’ve heard it before.

A man is only as good as his word.

I bet you’ve faltered, as I have, in that your actions have at least once failed to match what you said—that your word was, at one point or another, not so good.  I bet some of you struggle with it as much as I do.  And I bet some could relate to what I did a few days ago.

“Can I borrow your earphones for, like, twenty seconds?”

My brother, Connor, gave me a skeptical look.

“No, really, it’s literally twenty seconds.  It’s just one video.”

He sighed in a joking kind of way, and handed them to me as a slight grin danced on his mouth.

“Thank you,” I gushed.

I knew it wasn’t entirely true from the start.  I knew I would probably find another video to watch, and that I probably wouldn’t tell him when I clicked “play”.  And I was right.

“Uh, Kelly?”

I fingered with the earphones as my conscience quivered.  “Yeah?”

“It’s been more than twenty seconds.”

“Um, yeah, I know.”  I removed them.  “Here you go.”

He wasn’t upset, but I felt bad.  Not for long, though, as I soon forgot that it even happened.  This wasn’t the first time.

I admit, “Yeah, God, I realize I need to read the Word more often,” and give my Bible a guilty eye before turning around to do things that are more fun and less demanding of thought.  I vow to my speech therapist, with words I barely believe, that I’ll do the exercises more often next week and things will go better because it’s Christmas break, and I do exactly the same as with my Bible reading.  I tell the church youth minister, for whom I’m interning, that I will complete the assignments that he gives me, and I don’t, knowing I won’t when he makes me promise in a joking and yet sincere manner.  I make appointments with college professors and counselors, and cancel them at my convenience when I realize there are more important things to do that I should have thought of before.  I tell, and I don’t, over and over and over.

I’ve got a problem, guys.  I realized this a few months ago, but it rarely crossed my mind, until a night not long ago, when my dad gathered my mom, siblings, and grandparents in the living room for a family Bible study.  He spoke of New Year’s Resolutions and of promises and of the power held by one’s words.  He spoke, and I was convicted.  I was convicted by ancient laws from Scripture that have been taken to heart and mind by many an Israelite.

When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.  (Numbers 30:2)

I was reprimanded by his telling of one portion of Solomon’s wisdom.

It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows.  (Proverbs 20:25)

I was moved by the reminder of Paul’s instructions to all believers.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.  (Colossians 3:23)

And all of this made it clear that I’ve been really dumb—that I’ve been sinning against God and hurting others, making promises that I never intend to keep.  It also brought me to think of someone who illustrates how to do just the opposite—someone who is truly as good as his word.  He is a Hobbit, and a gardener, and his name is Samwise Gamgee.

Check out that swag

If you’ve ever read or watched the trilogy known as The Lord of the Rings, you may have recognized that Sam is one of the most incredible fictional characters ever created, despite being often overlooked.  Why?  Well, in the first film of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, Sam and another Hobbit named Frodo left their homeland at the bidding of a wizard, Gandalf, to carry out a task of great importance.  At an early point in their journey, Sam panicked when the two Hobbits became separated in a corn field, later admitting to Frodo that Gandalf had asked him to keep an eye on him.  He added that he planned to carry out Gandalf’s request, affirming his promise to both Gandalf and Frodo in that moment, and the two moved onward.

The Hobbits soon formed an alliance with others who wanted to help them on their quest, but, after a while, Frodo decided in secret to continue alone, slipping away from the group to climb into a canoe.  Sam discovered this, ran off to find Frodo, and found him at the river, but could not make him return to shore, so he waded into the water.  Being unable to swim, though, Sam began to drown, and was pulled into the canoe by a startled Frodo, who asked Sam to explain himself.

“I made a promise, Mister Frodo,” he said.  “A promise.  ‘Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee.’  And I don’t mean to.”  He started to weep as he repeated his vow in earnest.  “I don’t mean to.”

It’s a good thing Sam stayed true to his word and chased after Frodo because life got rough, especially for him.  He was kidnapped, he was hungry and parched, he was wrongly presented as a thief and liar, and, in the last film (The Return of the King), he was pushed aside by Frodo.  Frodo told him to leave, to return to their homeland alone, and to give up, which must have produced in Sam a deeper kind of hurt and pain than I have ever felt.  After having kept his promise by helping and protecting Frodo along the entire way, he was harshly rejected by his closest friend, no longer able to do what Gandalf had asked.  Everything he had done was worthless.

And this is why Sam is so incredible.  Even after Frodo did this to him, Sam still stuck to what he said he would do.  He went after Frodo once more, saved him from a terrible fate, and stood firm until the end, going so far as to carry Frodo over his shoulders across the threshold of their final destination.  Because he kept his promise, the quest was completed, and Sam proved the vitality of sticking to your word. Sam showed that making the effort to keep a promise can change lives, save friendships, and alter fate, and that doing the opposite can do much, much worse.

There are many, I’m sure, who wish they could be more like Sam, who wish they could keep to what they say, and who don’t know how to try.  I’m right there with them, but I’m not going to stop there, and this time, I will push myself to mean it.   There will be forgiveness to be asked from others when I realize I’ve strayed from my word, and I will ask of it.  There will be grace and hope and transformation to be obtained from Christ, and I will take it with humility and thankfulness.

And when I forget to keep trying—when I don’t really care anymore—I will come back to this, right here.  I will read this, and I will remember.  I will remember the wisdom of my dad’s words, of Scripture, and of Sam’s actions; I will recall the awareness that my words mean a great deal more than I realize; and I will reaffirm a promise.  A promise to keep this one, and all others.  And I don’t mean to stray from that.  I don’t mean to.