I woke up around 7am this morning. Actually, it was 6:55, five minutes before my alarm went off. I finished yesterday's post up, since I fell asleep writing it. Then I grabbed my Bible and headed to the toilet. I had a job at 8, so I didn't have time to make myself breakfast and sit in the backyard for quiet time as I had been doing the last few mornings. The toilet has always been a faithful reading place for me, though, and I tackled a few more chapters of Luke. Chapter 13 really stuck out to me, particularly the first few verses. Some dudes come to Jesus talking about how Pilate killed some people and mixed their blood with the blood of sacrifices on the alter. Then he talks about the Tower of Siloam collapsing and killing people. But the point Jesus is making is that those people weren't any worse sinners than we are. I started thinking about Jerry Falwell. He's a pretty well known reverend (recently deceased), and when 9/11 happened, he came out saying that it was God's judgement against the homosexuals and abortionists and feminists and such. It breaks my heart to see such "logic" used to explain things. I mean, I can just picture Jesus in the crowd, listening to Jerry Falwell, then standing up, possibly even shaking to control his (righteous) anger, and saying, "Dude! You're no better than they are! What are you going on about? Your sin is just as bad as theirs, and you have no right to judge them or pretend like you know why my Father lets things happen! Cut it out! You have no idea what I'm all about! You have no idea the LOVE I have for those people! I was eating dinner with some of them just last night, and my heart is broken that they just died! Stop pretending like you know me, dude, 'cause you clearly have no idea!"
It's just, the more I read about Jesus, the more I see how amazing the love he has for us really is. This past month, something has been changing for me. I was praying around the end of April for Jesus to become real to me. I've spent my life accepting Jesus and believing and such, but he only ever seemed like a good idea. He never really seemed like a person or anything, just a noble cause. This past month, that's all changed though. I feel like I "get it". I know I won't fully understand God's ways or anything, but I feel like Jesus became real to me. And I'm overwhelmed by his capacity to love without bias and by his capacity to love without reason.
Jesus never, ever offended straightforward sinners. He always loved them, lifted them up, and cared about them so strongly that they desired him above their previous sin. You know who Jesus consistently pissed off, though? It was the Pharisees, the scholars and the teachers of the law; the people who constantly misrepresented God. They were so hung up on following these rules they created that they were clueless to the love of God.
Something else that's been huge in my mind is how I, striving to be a Christ-follower, am an instrument of God. God uses me to show love to others. Actually, he wants to use me for that, but I mess his plans up with my own ideas constantly. God wants to use me to show his love to people, he wants to use me to show his own compassion and mercy and grace and selfless giving. Then I go and get hung up personal stuff and refuse to let God work because of the things I want. I've been praying a lot recently that I don't get in the way of God, and that he'll use me to show his love to people. I've been praying for all of the spiritual gifts at once: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Maybe that's a little dramatic to demand everything from God at once, but I know he'll help me grow in all of them, and my desire to grow them is born of a desire to be more like Christ.
I read somewhere that back in the day, if somebody confused you for your rabbi, that was the greatest honor ever, because you were so good at living like your rabbi. I mean, that's what I want with Jesus, you know? I want people to see the way I live, and confuse me with Jesus. Don't get me wrong here, I don't want people calling me their savior or anything like that. But Jesus loved people practically to show how much God loves us, and people were transformed (often literally through healing) by that love. I want God to use me in that way to point people's lives back to him.
Wow. I just realized how risky that hope is. I actually just got scared by it, because I don't even know what that means exactly, like, what God might choose to do with me to show his love. But I get it now! I understand the fact that God loves us overwhelmingly! I still can't grasp that love even partially, but I want my life to be a tool for God to show that same love to others! I long for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control because that's what Christ had (without limits) for EVERYBODY.
One more thing, and this is probly the last thought for the day, I've realized, I think on the flight home, how significantly lacking I am in love for myself. It's been about three years, I think, since some things happened that destroyed my identity and gave me a sense of worthlessness. I would pray for people, but I never for myself, because I either didn't think I was worth those prayers, or there were even times where I didn't believe God was even there to answer them if I did. (This is all really complicated, and I'm skipping a ton of details in my life-story.) I would try to love people even though I felt unloveable- I just didn't want other people ever feeling the pain I felt. There's a lot more similar things I tried to do for others, but it was never really effective. I really, truly felt without any value, and this worthlessness even came with me to Europe. So many things happened, though, and everybody on the team was so constantly encouraging about anything and everything, so I couldn't ignore it anymore. I used to deflect encouragement and compliments and things because I didn't feel deserving of them, but it was like there were some many coming my way that I couldn't deflect all of them.
Then some stuff I was reading was talking about how if we don't love ourselves, we can't even accept God because of who he is: a being that IS love. Later in that same book, there's a whole chapter about loving ourselves, and I kinda feel like the author was struggling exactly in the same way I was. I was reading this chapter on the flight home. Anyway, the part that struck out most is how we need to learn to accept love people show towards us. And God tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, which also means we need to love ourselves in the first place. It's not arrogance, it's really just an acceptance of the overwhelming love God has for us. The author pointed out how critical it is to love ourselves, because we're hypocrites otherwise. I go around hating myself, but trying to love other people. Thus, I'm trying to give them something I won't even accept, so I'm being a hypocrite. I've started praying that God will help me see it when he uses people to display his love for me. Encouragement and compliments have really started to edify me, especially this past week, since I started praying for that. It feels really radical, because I'm so used to turning them away and ignoring them since I felt so unworthy and undeserving. But God is giving me grace to accept those things and let them build me up.
Well, back to my day. At 8am, I arrived at Aaron Zink's house. We spent about two hours moving gravel from his driveway, through the garage, into the house, down to the basement and into the crawlspace, then dumping it and spreading it... using five gallon buckets and brute manliness. ;) We moved probably around 4,000 pounds of gravel, no joke. Once I finally get to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ...today... I'll be crazy sore. Then I'll set in to moving the rest of it with a couple friends, starting around noon. It was hard work, but really gratifying to do some physical labor. I also sweat insanely, which was uncomfortable, but still kinda cool because I was working so hard.
I got home, showered up and split for the Great Harvest in Pickerington. My friends Ashlee and Kevin own it, and they wanted to go to a concert, so I obliged by closing the store. It was actually a really great time for a ton of reasons, but I don't want to keep writing about all of that. It was so slow that I wound up texting several people throughout the latter half of my eight-hour shift there.
I drove home after that and wound up playing guitar and singing a bit. It's been a long time since I've just unwound in that manner, and it was really refreshing. Dad made me an awesome burrito, and I ate it while we swapped ideas for some piano and synth parts to a track a friend's daughter sent to him. Then I went outside (I love our backyard, by the way) and read for probably an hour or hour and a half. I talked to Brian for a bit to keep him awake while driving, and we had some really solid conversation about loving people. Then I started this.
And now I'm ending it. I really do appreciate you taking the time to read about my life and my thoughts. If you have any comments or anything, feel free to leave them. I'd totally enjoy a conversation about any of this, so if it strikes a particular chord in you, then let's converse over the phone or in person or something!
Okay, I'm really done typing now.
Adam Lambert's cover of Feelin' Good
Kris Allen's cover of Heartless
both on repeat, many, many times