God is wrecking my life

What is this, a scandalous title? The crazy thing is, it is true…God is wrecking my life.

He’s destroying the life I once lived and giving me a new life in the light of His glory.

Let me break that down for you.

I am shaped by my experiences. I have been shaped by my upbringing, my schooling, my friends, and my interactions with the world. For so long I’ve taken in what the world gives me and have considered it true. I had a less than ideal childhood, so I believed I was worthless. I struggled with depression through middle and high school and I believed that I was broken. I would hurt myself out of this profound sense of brokenness and believed that I would never be okay. From all of these things I carry with me a profound sense of anxiety that is always waiting to strike.

For so long I’ve lived in these things and have allowed them to define me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had little victories. I stopped hurting myself. I got medication for depression. I took all of the outward steps to try and fix myself.

The problem here is in that last phrase: I was trying to fix myself.

I still try to fix myself.

I look to other people to fix me, too. I look to professors for advice, friends to make me feel better, family to make up for what I was given growing up, and while none of these things are inherently bad the focus on was what I could do to fix me. The focus was on the fact that I was trying to control my life, and only once I felt like I had accomplished this or that I could turn to God and say, “now you can love me. Look at how smart I am!”

My life has improved but I’m still fighting to maintain control.

I still walk as the Gentiles do, “in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:17b-18 ESV). I continue to cling to my old self because it is what I am comfortable with. I know how to survive and get by in my old skin. Sure, it is miserable sometimes (most of the time), but at least it is controlled misery. I am a Pharisee, who in the face of Jesus performing miracles and changing the status quo thinks, “No, I’m okay with how things are right now thank you very much. I don’t need any of that.” I’d rather drink old wine and pass on the new, because at least I understand the old wine (Luke 5:39).

God offers me love, grace, and new life but I turn my nose at it because I’d rather be in control.

However, in the past week and a half it has become abundantly clear that when I’m in control things don’t work out very well.

When I’m in control I wake up dreading the day because I expect so much out of my time and know I will never be able to meet my own expectations. I go through my day avoiding relationships and avoiding deeper connections because I’d rather be safe and in control than put myself out there to be hurt. When I’m in control I ignore my needs, ignore God, and live an ultimately shallow life.

I live with a hardened heart.

God has been breaking that hardened heart wide open and I’m overwhelmed by it. I’m scared of it. Everything I’ve clung to is dissolving in the light of God’s healing glory.

God is wrecking my old life, my old expectations, my old status quo…

I’ve been made new. I’ve been created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

God has offered me a new identity, but it means I have to let go of the old and embrace it.

That’s where it gets hard.

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Worth, Humility, and Pride (Where we’ve got it all wrong)

I was in church on Sunday and during worship a familiar song came up. It is called “Canons” by Phil Wickham and I’ve sung it many times before. This particular Sunday, however, I found myself caught off guard by the chorus.

Singing, You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars declare who You are
I’m so unworthy, but still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great You are

It doesn’t seem too bad, right? I was singing along, contemplating each of the lines until I got to the third one:

I’m so unworthy, but still You love me

I’ve sung this line so many times, I’ve put my heart and soul into it, but on Sunday I realized something: This line is wrong. Not only is it wrong, but it perpetuates a sense of worthlessness amongst Christians that I’m beginning to realize shouldn’t exist. Phil Wickham’s song isn’t the only one out there that encourages Christians to sing about how unworthy they are. It is a concept that isn’t restricted to singers, either. There are preachers, pastors, and teachers out there who all agree with a single concept: Christians have no worth in the eyes of God.

Do you realize what that says about God?

If we are so unworthy, why does God love us? He is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent being that could crush us like ants if he wanted to (and has a history of, if you take a gander at the Old Testament). If we are nothing but worthless, wretched creatures, then why would God desire a relationship with us? He probably wouldn’t.

Sin is an issue, I do not deny that, but why do we so often tie “sin” and “worth” together? Obviously God doesn’t. Show me where in the Bible is says, “and because humans sinned they became worthless,” and I will write a follow-up about how wrong my observations are. I don’t think that is going to happen, though.

If sin made us worthless (which is the same word as unworthy, but when we use the word unworthy we pretty it up and make it sound like we’re not referring to ourselves as worthless), why would God continue to pursue us? If human beings did not have inherent worth (instilled there by their creator), why would the creator of the universe send Jesus to earth to die a miserable death? That seems to be an unnecessary step to take to try and redeem a worthless creation.

From God’s actions I think one thing can be surmised: He believes his human creation to be worthy of love and pursuit. There is something inside of us that He tries to reach and show us.

Yet we continue to call ourselves worthless and tremble at the feet of God begging Him not to stomp us out because we’re such wretched, horrible creatures that deserve nothing but death, torment, misery, and pain. We put on this veil of false humility where we claim we’re worthless so that we will appear to be humble, because it seems prideful to believe we have worth. I had a friend at my old church who once told me this: Humility isn’t about degrading yourself, it is about realizing it isn’t about you and there is more to the world than yourself.

Humility is being willing to accept and pursue what God thinks of me, even if I’m not willing to believe those things about myself quite yet. Honestly? Degrading myself and believing I am worthless in the eyes of God is easy. Opening myself up to the fact that God believes I am worthy and taking His opinion (someone else’s opinion) as my own conclusion, on the other hand, is a lot harder because it means I’m no longer in control of how I think about myself.

Suddenly there is more to my world than my own opinion of myself, and that just doesn’t fly.

That’s pride, and it is one hell of a beast to battle.

To all you Who Worry – A look at 1st Peter 5:5-7

I am a worrier. Sometimes I don’t even mean to worry, but anxiety creeps up on me and I spend an entire day wrestling with it. The verse that always comes to mind and seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues regarding anxiety is 1st Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” It would be very easy to take these verses to say, “All you have to do is cast your anxiety on God because he cares for you” and leave it at that. However, there is so much more to it.

It is erroneous to ignore the “therefore” in verse six. As we used to say in youth group: What is the “therefore” there for? The term always points back at what has been said leading up to the sentence it has been used in and puts what is being said into the context. Whatever comes after a “therefore” is a conclusion, so it is only right to look above and find the argument. The preceding verses look like this:

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”

By looking at verse five, the preceding verses suddenly take on more meaning. Peter, who is writing this letter to the “churches in dispersion,” is not just telling them that God cares about them and wants to help them with the anxiety. He is telling them that part of being humble means that they are willing to give up their worries and concerns. God wants us to relinquish control out of a place of humility and acceptance that we cannot do it on our own and that He will carry us further than we can carry ourselves.

To let go of anxiety is to be humble and admit that we are limited in what we can control.

This must have been especially meaningful to Peter’s audience at the time. They were being persecuted and mocked. Their neighbors talked behind their backs, their homes were probably vandalized, and the “church in dispersion” was living a life in fear because the Roman government did not approve of their faith. They were struggling, they were anxious, and yet even in the midst of persecution they were told to roll with it and to let God handle it.

They were asked to give up their anxieties because they had no control over them anyway.

So when I’m facing down a day like today, riddled with anxiety and worry, I take a deep breath and remember that I cannot control everything. It is ridiculous and arrogant to believe that I can. Some things are out of my control and instead of worrying myself sick over them, I need to admit that I can only control myself and my actions and give everything else up to God.

It is easier said than done, but isn’t that generally how it goes?