Monthly Archives: January 2014

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Learning to find contentment when change seems to be taking a long time

Part of spiritual growth is learning to be OK with unfinished business. That can be a tough lesson for a guy who use to work in a newsroom. I prided myself on digging up a story, getting the interviews done, and the story written by our noon deadline. I was Mr. Deadline. I thrived on that. From start to finish in a couple hours. My editor liked it too. He even made a business card for me that said, “Chief Writer.” He knew I was the go-to guy when he needed to turn a story around fast.

As I’ve gone on in life and in Christ, the more I’ve discovered that very little runs like that. Hours turn into days, days into weeks . . . you know it. Whether its work projects, home projects, character growth, a friend coming to know Jesus personally, spiritual maturity, marriage communication — things seem to take time.

Not that I’m advocating passivity, but I continue to press on with what Jesus shows me today about my faith, my family, my friends, my marriage, knowing that whatever I do, I may not turn any big corners today. Or this week, month or year. Thanks to God for the times where I do see progress. That’s a blessing and a source of motivation.

I’ve gotten better at letting things sit in incomplete mode and I see that as a type of progress in my character. I had a client whose book went through 3 iterations before we got around to finally getting it into print. Stop and go, stop and go. Hurry up and wait. Get some input, wait. Get some interest, wait. Scrap the whole thing, wait. Start all over again, wait. Finally, in the spring of 2013 the book came out. I met my client in 2008 and we started work on it then.

With people and church work it’s the same. Lots of waiting while God moves in people to change them, call on them, using circumstances and human beings, including me, to love, share truth and hang in there with them. And of course it’s like that for God in my life too. Movement forward. Wait. Movement backward. Wait. Movement side to side. Wait.

I’ve learned to shake hands with unfinished business. I won’t say embrace, because that means somehow I’ve become buddies with it. No, I won’t go that far. Shaking hands is growth for me. It’s my way of saying to work-in-progress — whether it’s a character issue in my life, a book project, or what God is doing in someone around me — “Hey, I get it, this process has a life all its own and I need to be ready to go when the Lord is ready to go. I just need to keep alert to what He’s doing, because He’s the one who really runs this show.”

God is all about the undone. 2 Peter 3:9 affirms it — a thousand years is like a day with him and a day like a thousand years. While Christians may look at the world and say, “God, when are you going to wrap this up?” God looks and says, “I’m patient with the world because I don’t want anyone to perish. So I’m waiting just a bit longer.”

Now, on the flip side, I’m mighty grateful that God doesn’t rush to judge. “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7a). He is slow to anger and quick to forgive. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Well, this isn’t a blog about anger, but I just find that impatience and anger are close relatives in my life.

So God has been trying to teach me it’s OK to have things in a state of incompleteness. I suppose if he’s trying to make me like Jesus, this is one of those things that is very much like Jesus. Hanging with those twelve guys for 3 years. Plenty of unfinished business there. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6). We’re all unfinished business, aren’t we?

A friend of mine worked on his house for years. It always seemed to be “getting done,” but not quite done. His wife had at least made peace with that situation, having confidence I suppose that her husband would finish someday. She knew he had the drive, but not always the time or resources. She was confident in the builder.

I suppose that’s what God is trying to teach me. And I wonder sometimes if my desire to just “get things done” is an expression of unbelief in my Builder. I suppose the construction of my faith is a bit of unfinished business too. Thank God for that.

 

Three signs that jealousy may be ruining a relationship

Beware the green-eyed menace

Beware the green-eyed menace

Jealousy is such a horrible sin. It drives me crazy and humbles me all at the same time. I find myself  driven by jealousy in the way I read other people’s Facebook posts, evaluate how someone’s weekend went and compare how another’s work life is going versus how mine is doing. Jealousy is really ugly. And it can ruin relationships.

 

Mostly, jealousy shows up in how we choose to respond to people. Do I find myself getting judgmental toward another? One reason may very well be that I envy them. But if I admit that, then I’m admitting I’m not as great (foolish thought, yes), or my life isn’t as great. Always comparing – that’s the jealous way. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,” Paul urges in Romans 12:3, “but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

Jealousy can definitely show up in outward, destructive ways. Think Joseph’s brothers in the Old Testament. However, it seems in “good Christian” culture jealousy can tend to seethe more than it boils. Here’s three ways I’ve seen the green-eyed beast mess with relationships:

1. It makes me very cool or non-communicative toward other people’s successes. If I were to acknowledge that someone was doing better than I, then I would somehow be diminishing my own sense of self. And even if you have trained your mind to tell someone, “Hey, that’s great,” when secretly you’re beside yourself, people can pick it up. We’ve all got pretty good radar when people are genuinely happy for us and when people are negative toward us. If I’m not experiencing true joy about someone else’s wins, I need to humbly face my jealousy and say, “What an ugly beast you are. How I wish you were gone” and ask the Lord for a heart change that allows me to genuinely applaud and enjoy the other person’s victory.  “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” right? (Romans 12:15) I also need to apologize to the Lord for making the world’s view of me more important than what He says.

2. I think “comparing” thoughts when someone tells me something great from their lives. I don’t tend to verbalize such ideas, but I sure do think them. Maybe I hear how someone is getting a chance to write a book. I begin putting them down in my mind. “Obviously, their identity is coming from their work; pretty spiritually weak.” Maybe I hear that a certain cultural perspective, that isn’t biblical, is getting more and more popular. “Well, this country is going down the tubes.” Godly disgust or jealousy that my side is losing? It’s hard for people to come close to me when I’m letting such ideas run all over my head. Even though I may not be voicing these notions, they give off a vibe. And people don’t want to be near that.

3. I find myself competing with people rather than enjoying them. It’s really hard to build a closer relationship with someone if you’re always comparing how you’re doing against how they’re doing. It’s healthier relationally and spiritually if I’m asking questions about other people’s lives, discovering how they came to experience such amazing things, how they came to serve God in such incredible ways, how they got through such difficulties to a stronger, better place in their lives. Learning, learning, learning — this is more humble and builds relationships. And I end up gaining from that person’s journey rather than observing it coolly from a distance and seeing it as a threat to my own wonderfulness.