Last night, I was on the phone with a friend, and we were relating to each other ponderings of life that often occur when two pensive guys chat, or something. We got to talking about what it means to be led by the Spirit. Often, seeking this lifestyle can seem futile. A friend wrote in recent Facebook note/poem of “shamefully hearing my own aimless echo…” Prayer can feel like that. Futile and sheepishly hearing the echo of your own voice as you speak.
But who is Jesus? Or the Spirit for that matter? When I think of names that describe Christ, Emmanuel comes to mind. But I often forget another name. Wonderful Counselor. Yep.
What do counselors do? I learned this firsthand at Wheaton this past year. I had been harboring a lot of shame to the point where it had become unhealthy and I started meeting with this guy thru the Wheaton Counseling Center (which is free to students!) on a weekly basis. He was a good ol’ Texan named Sam Oldham and he would guide me through dozens of conversations and uncomfortable, yet necessary steps of the healing process. But the majority of the time, it wasn’t the wise words of Sam that helped me. He forced me to come to my own healing conclusions about my identity in Christ, and acknowledge my journey up to that point. And to do so OUT LOUD and take ownership of it. But yes, he did guide me to that point.
So what does this have to do with living by the Spirit? Well, since the Holy Spirit is of Christ (God), it follows that He is our Counselor too. The past few days I have developed a habit (that I think is God’s prompting) of praying out loud while driving somewhere. Anyone objectively viewing the situation might think my efforts are futile, that I’m merely blabbing whatever my train of thought happens to be. However doing this brings me a sense of peace and I’ve also had a sense that my prayers are being guided. So in a sense I’m coming to my own conclusions (which really are God’s) while praying out loud. No one watching a counseling session would say “Well duh, this counselor is no good because he’s guiding someone toward a statement that was obvious all along.” Articulating truths (most of the time, ones I ALREADY KNEW) in guided conversation was what brought me to peace and healing. Telling myself repeatedly “I’m ok, I’m ok” is futile. The mere fact that I had any sense of peace during this out loud praying shows me that another Counselor was at work, and that I wasn’t merely telling myself things that I wanted, or thought I needed to hear. The latter, I know from experience, doesn’t work.
How has the Lord been counseling you lately?
My point is that restlessness and discontentment can lead to change. They can inspire someone to wander, to travel, to go someplace else and find their Pimlico, or to plant themselves and work to change the place where they are already.
What I want to feel is Wanderlust, or a love for wandering. A love for change. The need to travel, and to find wonder in everyday life.
While I don’t really think of Wanderlust as being “romantic” like the above writer is, I can definitely relate. Being in my position, it would have been so easy to be discontent with living at home after 4 years away at school, and yet embrace the introverted, timid part of myself and become a recluse rather than look for wonder in this new stage of life. As I said in an earlier post, I’ve been learning to find fulfillment and healing in this time of transition through being outward focused. As a friend recently told me, “When I find myself getting tense or anxious for no apparent reason, it usually means I need to get out there and serve somebody (paraphrased).”
Desire and impatience can go hand in hand if you’re not careful. At least, this has been my experience. Hungry? Walk 10 yards to the cupboard and grab a snack. Sweet tooth? Hop in the car and grab a DQ blizzard. Bored? Hop on the internet and click through Stumbleupon. You don’t even have to think, a myriad of pages catered to your interests pop up in split seconds, and if you get bored one click can change that in moments.
I definitely have issues with impatience. When I desire something, I want it NOW, and usually that means if instant gratification is possible (especially if its something petty) I’m more likely to take ahold of that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some superficial guy who feels entitled to everything, but lately I’ve been thinking about the bigger implications of impatience, especially when it comes to what we desire.
Throughout the past few years, I’ve elevated social relationships to a very high level in life. Seeking community has been good, especially during tough times but I find myself questioning or creating social conflicts that are either blown out of proportion or nonexistent. Why wasn’t I aware of this social event? Why do I feel “overlooked” sometimes? Why am I single? How do I respond to all of this?
Here’s a thought. How we respond to the small things can carry over to how we respond to the big things. If we condition ourselves to instant gratification with the small things, of COURSE the bigger desires are gonna be that much harder to manage.
Compromise isn’t the answer either. How many of you have gotten cozy with your textbook on a couch, because you wanted to be “comfortable” during your long study period and ended up dozing off instead of being productive? I’ve done that a lot. Or how about this: When this yearning for intimacy (read: a significant other) emerges, do you go to God or do you seek out “godly advice” in this area? This isn’t to say the latter shouldn’t be done. Of course it should. In my experience though, seeking advice obsessively causes MORE meditation on the desire, which doesn’t really solve the problem. So what does?
God does. That seems like the Sunday school answer, and it is. But more and more, as I alluded to in my last post, God has been revealing to me “Ryan, I AM the adventure of life.” A life with God is what we are all seeking, whether we realize it or not. Without Him, I think I would feel like King Solomon in Ecclesiastes – “Everything is meaningless.” So, next time you get impatient, whether its to fulfill a craving for a dark chocolate Hershey bar or discontentment with your current relationships, ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you in your current situation, or show you how you might be able to help others along that path in that moment. This seems to be the greatest remedy.
This past weekend has been one of the best I’ve had in a long while. Friday evening marked a long anticipated concert, featuring Anberlin and Switchfoot at the Newport Music Hall (a more complete concert review will go up at my music blog, Tuned Up! in the coming days). Long story short, the concert was unforgettable. The vibe in the room was like that of a big family, and I even gained a couple of new friends in the process (later confirmed on Facebook, of course). The music, especially during Switchfoot’s set just seemed to be so Christ-centered in spite of the lack of any direct references to His Name.
Following the conclusion of the show, my group experienced an encounter with Stephen Christian of Anberlin that resulted in hugs being exchanged, and then we caught Jon Foreman of Switchfoot giving an acoustic, bare bones aftershow to a small audience in the chill of that October eve. The ambience moved into a worshipful one, especially when Foreman played his well known solo piece, “Your Love Is Strong.”
Afterward, I was walking back to our meeting place with my friends Daniel and Paul from my young adult minstry group, talking about the evening. Daniel and I began talking about the existential crises of sorts we have been dealing with of sorts (Relevant has an excellent article on this phenomenon). We agreed that at this stage in life sometimes it was a struggle to just be optimistic in general, but really the weird feelings that come with this period can be hard to articulate. Switchfoot’s song themes address these existential conflicts a bunch, alluding to what is being revealed to be true to me more and more each day. How much I really need for God to be behind everything. God IS the adventure behind life. This is why we were created. God had no need for humanity, but where’s the adventure in a universe that’s void and without form?
As Paul, Daniel and I left our little concert bubble we were rudely awakened to the flawed nature of the world when we witnessed a fight on a street corner, between two women who looked like they were about to kill each other. This perfection that we scratched the surface with at the concert was contrasted in that moment with a situation that scratched the surface at why the world needed God to intervene for redemptive purposes.
My thought process continued the following evening at a fall gathering of my college/young adult group (Alive) near campus. My friend Pete and I walked over to a Speedway to grab some drinks, and waiting for Pete to make his purchase I noticed a homeless guy eyeing me. “Can I have 50 cents?” he asked sheepishly. I said “take a dollar, buy yourself a sandwich” to which he stammered, “Oh, Ok! I’m gonna go right over there…” before scampering off. After the party, as some of us were leaving we encountered a young, blue collar guy who was very eager to talk to us about the misadventures of his cat. I couldn’t help but wonder if we would form a friendship with him in the future, given the proximity to the Alive ministry house. As I drove home, I reflected on the good times combined with the opportunities to reach out. My friend Daniel from Alive once told me that when he gets antsy/anxious sometimes that means he needs to get out and serve. I’m beginning to think the same is true for those that go through these existential crises. At just the right time, God provides opportunities to take the focus off of ourselves. I am reminded of Romans 5, when Paul writes “You see, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” in verse 6. If we can trust God to save us at just the right time, certainly we can trust Him with deliverance from doubts and anxiety at the right time if we allow Him to. When we make God the adventure, everything else seems to light up.
Well, I’ve written a bunch of heavy stuff on here lately, so here’s the first of many entries of lighter stuff. It’s been 4 years since my freshman year at Wheaton, so in this moment I thought I’d throw in some gems of quotes for your amusement and/or recollection, if you know me!
“Hey CHARLES! Can I GETZ some cheddar on RYe-ANd some soda?”
- Jimi S, Ben G, Joe O
“Nathan is hiding in fear” – Nathan Skinner’s facebook status after our floor’s collective birthday “surprise” and kidnapping of our floor’s Texas boy Adam Southern.
“Orphans are the new puppies, they’re awesome”
- Nick T.
“Heeey, what’s crack-a-lackin?”
“It’s better to give than to receive, but its better to GETZ than to give!”
- Joe O.
“Aaron, stop yelling!”
- pretty much everyone at some point
Layton B: “So you’re a pirate all the time?”
Hal L: “Yep”
Layton B: “How about you only be a pirate on Thursdays?”
Hal L: “No”
(Shaking his head and grinning) “Ryan, there was NO EARTHQUAKE last night”
- John R, the morning after a 5.6 earthquake woke me up at 4 AM.
This is interactive, and I KNOW I forgot a lot, so feel free to leave a comment if you know me from Wheaton.
It’s been an interesting week. Work is speeding up, I’m getting new ideas about vocations, a lot of fun stuff has been going on, some past regrets have worried me a bit, and I’ve been thinking about the future a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying myself a lot. God has definitely been reaching out to me a lot to encourage me, and He has been answering prayers to reveal Himself in new ways (more on that in a later post). Basically my mind has been racing a lot this week.
Maybe you can relate. Its September, so you are likely in some transition period right now (I think the beginning of the year ought to be now, not January). New school year, or else getting used to getting used to the “real world” like me. The band My Epic does a phenomenal job communicating these feelings and God’s response to this in their song “Patience and Silence.” Here are the lyrics:
I’ve never had the spine I lead them to believe, the devil born in me feeds me lies.
He creeps into my mind and spreads confusion until I’m left with fear of what could be and doubt of what has been.
Truth be told, I’d rather not know, it’s so much easier to quit, it’s just so easy not to care.
Truth be told, I’d rather not go, I want to run away and never come back again.
If all the world should come against me, I’d like to think that I could stand, but I’m not always sure that they don’t have Your hand.
You’re the only one to fear, because You’re the only one who loves me as I am.
You alone are my Defender. You alone will be my Judge.
I just need to remember that time you told me…
You’re the only one to fear. (Patience…) You’re the only one who loves me as I am. (Silence…) And You alone are my Defender. (Patience…) You alone will be my Judge. (Silence…)
Peace be still. Peace be still.