Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Man in the Mirror

Being a commuter without a car sucks.

I found that out pretty well this last week. It didn’t hit me that hard until I had double practice for cross country, biked back and fourth to eat at my apartment twice and then went to weight lifting class. That day I put in a good fifteen miles of training—not including biking back and fourth which is roughly two miles there and back. I also had a considerable amount of books and a few other bags containing food and practice clothes and shoes.
On my way to class I probably looked like a homeless person who just stole a bike. No joke.

Coming to class sweaty and out of breathe everyday after dodging cars and making deals with God that if I make it over just one more hill without dying I’ll become a missionary in Africa is not my idea of a super time. Its fun to be a college senior!

Oh boy! Just think what splendid joy I’ll have biking to class with swine flu secretly nesting inside me while I desperately peddle in place up a snow covered hill in temperatures rivaling that of the former planet Pluto. Burr.

Oh come on we’re all going to get H1N1. At least that’s the impression I get from the media. I mean I’ve always been told I like to ham it up so it just seems to be the natural consequence.

Wash your hands please.

Well, this blog is not me complaining how horrible my student living situation is, because I actually happen to love living in an apartment and pretending to be an adult. Pretend is a fun game. Look mom I made toast without inflicting 3rd degree burns!
I know there are great financial benefits and I’m sure I will make responsibility strides just by sticking to this arrangement. No more complaining for me, however this blog is on complaining.

I feel ever so complacent. So much so that I feel the need to publicly complain about my level of complacency.

At any rate today in class Dr. Kim Harris asked us what we think the problem of the world is—what the problem with the human condition was.
I remembered a quote from G. K. Chesterton when he was asked to write an essay, along with other noteworthy intellectuals of his age, on the same question. Upon the request he wrote back with two words. What’s the problem with the world? His reply: “I am.”

And so I borrowed that quote and told Kim and the class that I was the problem of humanity. I am the reason there is so much pain, suffering, swine flu and bloodshed.

Ponder that for a while because I’m going to bring it home for you real hard.

Of course the answer “I am the problem” carries a bucket load of theological juiciness involving tasty original sin, the necessity for a redeemer, grace and salvation and all that jazz. We won’t get into that now.

However telling the class that after experiencing my grand “I’m a selfish jerk” moment sparked an interweaving of threads. Something God was trying to teach me or “unlearn in me.”
(I say unlearn because His goal is to simplify us until we bear a child like faith not complexify or complicate us.)

It all happened in the middle of a very intense workout after a miscommunication with a significant other.

My coach had almost doubled our workout amount and made us run it on a very hilly very difficult place.
In my opinion the number of intervals was a little excessive and I was upset for being asked to run so much.

I was cranky Brian. I had a bad attitude. I was emotional. This in turn exacerbated the problems in my mind and the workout itself.

Towards the end my teammates and I were taking a water break and one of them called us over to talk.

In my mind I thought he was going to complain and talk bad about our coach and how ridiculous the expectation was. Then it came. The pale of warm spit dumped over my head from my own dirty mouth.

Instead of complaining this younger guy decided to provide a simple word of encouragement and an inspirational quote to get us through to the finish. Positive thoughts. We were all experiencing pain and hardship together. What we needed was that one person to lighten the load just a touch. Healing words. Someone had to be Jesus.

I felt so low because that wasn’t me. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was the “Christ follower” wishing negativity and complacency over genuine encouragement and love. How could I be this person and still claim to be an image bearer of the One True God? The Gospel is revolutionary and yet in this moment I could not find one trace of it in my heart. Where was the cross in me?

This reminded me of the words of my pastor from the day before, “where is the cross of Christ forming in your life?”

Do I really know?

I could feel selfishness on me like a heavy backpack. I could feel sin covering my skin like black oil from the earth. Ugly.

The problem with sin is in its subtle nuances that go undetected until just the right level bleeds out to wake us up. It starts as a thought or an attitude morphing into an action or a word finally exploding into a broken home or the holocaust. Sin is there even when we don’t see it. Count on that.

After doing some careful reflection I realized I had to talk to someone about this gross affliction.

I made up with my significant other and started talking things through, telling her my story.
It began frustrating me. Until it came out.
I asked her, “when am I going to grow up?”

To which she replied.

“Brian it’s not about growing up, it’s about growing together.”

Growing together…...Brilliant!

She meant her and I which is profound in and of itself. But then I thought what if I apply this to my faith?
I had been a Christian for many years and still I had so much to let go of. What would it take for me to grow up… for any of us?
But it’s not about growing up.
It’s about becoming.
Becoming One.
Growing together, sanctification.
It’s life long.

So now I have to ask God.
“When are we going to grow together?
When am I going to let go of stuff that keeps me from you? When am I going to step aside and let you? When am I going to cherish the gift of your grace?”

If we really have faith in what we believe then we should know that we am not our own. We are not us anymore, not who we think we are or what our sin tells us. Our identity is found in Christ and in Christ alone.

We are becoming. A verb, His verb, not a noun.

We are becoming like Him with bits of Self hanging on like static cling until we leave this place.
I really should be more gracious with myself. After all it takes grace to receive grace. Accepting a gift is the most humbling thing.

So right now the world is filled with scum like me. A grim view.
But there is hope.
There was One who took that scum upon himself and transformed it into something beautiful. He gave us the ability through his grace to become beautiful too. If we only believe.

And so I may be the problem….but I’m getting to know The Solution and He's a pretty cool dude.

Don’t be the problem. Please dear friends get onboard with the Only Solution.
Its the only hope this twisted world has.

In the words of the late great Michael Jackson, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I am asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”