Friday, March 19, 2010

Good and Beautiful Life

I’ve been reading an interesting book called The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith. On the back cover Smith writes – “I have never met a person whose goal was to ruin his or her life. We all want to be happy and we want it all the time.” Smith asserts that we have bought into counterfeit notions of what leads and to happiness and success. “These self-centered decisions lead us further into the vices that cause ruin: lust, lying, worry and judging. Eventually we find ourselves living a beautifully packaged life of self-destruction.”

Here’s what I’m learning. Instead of trusting God I trust my fear. And when I begin to fear I default into wanting more control. When I start to control and take things into my own hands I turn, functionally, into an atheist. Maybe some of you can relate to this.

Here’s the fundamental question for me. Do I really believe God is with me, protecting me, and fighting for my well being? The truthful answer is that all too often I live as if God is in his heavens and is only passively involved with my well being.

The early years of my Christian life were spent learning that God wanted to ‘get me’. Sin and you’ll pay the price. As I matured I learned about ‘grace’ but never really bought into the idea that God loves me like crazy. Because I’m so adept at spotting my own flaws (and being disgusted by them) I struggle with accepting the fact that God and others can really love me.

And so, at times, my mouth speak words of faith but functionally I operate apart from the knowledge and protection of God. Even though I know that I can never flee from God I often act as though I have.

In my quiet time this morning I had a glimpse of living in a medieval kingdom. It was a good life. The King knew my name. He stopped to speak to me. He inquired of my well-being. I felt like I was important to him. I sensed I was. I also knew that when the kingdom was assaulted that my job was to rely on the King to set up defenses and protect all that was his. That wasn’t my job.

And so I wonder why I make it my job to allow my fear, my anger, and my sense of inadequacy to edge me to the point of ‘control’. That’s where I truly lose sight of my position and role in the true kingdom of God in the here and now. I create my own kingdom, becoming one of those ‘trinket’ gods the Scripture talks about.

So what’s the antidote? How does one undo a lifetime of habit?

I’m going to start by doing some study about the kingdom of God. This book is a starting place. It reminds me that the stories that shape the shadow side of my thinking and being can be replaced with Jesus stories about what the kingdom of God is truly meant to be. I know so little about what the kingdom of God truly means and yet it’s at the forefront of much of the teaching of Jesus.

And I’m going to pray and journal about fear and anger and a nagging sense of inadequacy. These are the things that drive me towards the shadow side of myself instead of into the light. In the shadows I am a functional atheist. In the light I learn about trust and the life of faith.

It’s interesting isn’t it. Almost 60 years old. A life time of experience and teaching and still so much to learn about allowing God to transform my life. The good news is that the desire for transformation still surges through me.

How about you. Ever function as an atheist even though you profess faith? Ever lose sight of your position and role in the Kingdom of God? Ever allow fear and anger to move you from a position of trust and into control?

Pick up The Good and Beautiful Life. It might be helpful.

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