There seem to be several themes running through my life as of late. This advice, these words seem to be casually interwoven into conversations I’ve had, films I’ve watched and books I’ve read recently, so I figured I’d share them.
Lesson #1 – Emotions are neither good nor bad, only the reality of where I am. A good friend of mine recently wrote to me, “where dealing with your emotions is concerned, just not to judge yourself–not to limit or gauge your feelings or decide whether they are trustworthy. Of course they aren’t. And of course, you know, they are. Just be willing to feel whatever comes along…”
Somewhere in the past few years of my life, I somehow subconsciously learned that “emotions are bad,” mostly because they tended to get me into more trouble than they seemed to be worth. So somewhere in the past couple of years, I became this logical, overanalytical person who—while well-protected and preserved and perhaps a bit wiser—had forgotten how to be in the moment and create and feel—even if it hurt.
This may be why I haven’t been able to write a decent song in six months.
Lesson #2—Just do the next thing. Take one day at a time. I seem to remember Christ saying the exact same thing while teaching His famous Sermon on the Mount. The reality of those words rings so much truer for me right now. The big picture may inspire and enervate, but it can also drain and make despondent. Sometimes it’s better just to not concern myself with things I have no control over, and to simply make do with the things I can make choices about.
Lesson #3—Prayer changes things: mostly me. I am sick of people decrying the “church answer.” I have the right to say that, because I used to be one of the church answer’s most vehement opponents. However, I can’t even tell you how many countless times this bare fact persists in presenting itself to me: prayer is powerful and absolutely necessary if anything—especially me—is going to change. The most useful thing about prayer is that it gets the focus off of my own problems and agendas and allows me to lean into the Father and unknowingly become selfless. Because as we all know, the moment you become aware that you are being selfless is the moment that you’ve lost it again.
But faithful, earnest prayer automatically puts us in a proper posture of humility and mystery and connectedness before God. Prayer is not a religious exercise…it’s a passionate discipline that positions ourselves where we ought to be. Where we are meant to be.
Lesson #4—Serving other people also changes things: mostly me. I am discovering again and again how ineffably lazy and self-absorbed I am. Being attuned to other people’s needs and doing the right thing to serve and help people is the best way to learn how to love. Just doing it. Nike was right.
Lesson #5—Acting on fear is a subtlely self-destructive way to live. This is more of a process, rather than a lesson. I don’t think I’ll ever truly learn this lesson, only chip away at it for years to come. Acting on fear is the kind of thing you learn to do day by day until it becomes instinctive. And then we adults have to spend the rest of our lives unlearning fear and moving toward honesty.
It is fitting that the first thing Adam and Eve did when they made a mistake was that they fled. Out of fear. To hide. Human beings like to hide from one another. Fear of loss, fear of being found out, fear of being completely seen, fear of death… this subtle fear drives so many of us, but it’s so subtle that we don’t even realize it half the time.
I didn’t mean to end on that downer. But I suppose the counter-lesson would be…
Lesson #6—I want to live a free life. By free, I don’t mean unlicensed, unrestricted, and do whatever I want kind of life. That kind of uninhibited freedom, I have learned, is not freedom at all. And I’m actually starting to believe that.
I mean the kind of freedom that is based on the values of this kingdom that God is supposedly establishing… a freedom that is not afraid to try and fail, to forgive, to trust, to move forward, to hope. That kind of freedom.