Warning! What you are about to read is the true confession of a sinful man. I personally find it disappointing and slightly nauseating. But it is what it is. Read on at your own risk...
In less than a year, I will transition from a 15 year full time career in health care to a mostly unknown world of full time ministry. As I have faced this reality during recent weeks, I must confess that I have struggled to decide if what I am doing is truly a step of faith or just sheer stupidity. I find that there is a fine and slightly blurred line between these 2 options. Yet, I am compelled to walk in the direction both Teri and I are convinced God is leading us. One step at a time.
During this journey, this crucible of faith as I like to call it, God has revealed a number of disgusting traits that I am ashamed to possess. His gentle and yet firm hand continues to chisel away at the ugly parts in my life and I am convinced that I am a lifetime project. Most recently, the hand of God is chipping away at a particularly painful place. It is disappointing...consider this your second warning.
I have convinced myself that during these final months that I should do things that I want to do that I may not be able to do during full time ministry. This includes things such as triathlons and bike races that often take place on Sundays. Along with this includes the purchase of items that I will not be able to afford in the future. This mentality has bled into so many areas of my life where I have adopted the very simple attitude of: "You better do it now because, very soon, it will no longer be an option."
It's like a man's dieing wish. Do everything you ever wanted to do because very soon it will all end. How depressing! Yet, I must admit, I believed it (maybe I still do). And so I set out to make the most of the time I have left.
At first it was innocent. The lifestyle changes were healthy and the decisions were made in moderation. Yet, as time grew, so did the attraction of the passions. I no longer simply want to experience the moment, I wanted to succeed. Not just succeed by finishing, but succeed by finishing first. I needed more time to train, better equipment, new challenges. Not unlike the rising fuel costs today, the price keeps going up and I keeping pumping the gas into my life in order to fuel the passions.
Here's the problem: I am an addict. It is part of my personality. It is amazingly easy for the innocent things I enjoy to transform themselves into a deadly boa constrictor which slowly but eventually suffocates the life right out of me. This is not a new issue. It just is more exposed lately because of God's revealing touch.
All the while, I am adding more to my plate. I have met with other pastors to gain insight into my future career change, by the wise counsel of friends I am working to plan out my first year of ministry, I am meeting with the church staff to walk through important issues, I continue to lead a Men's Bible Study, I lead efforts to plan our Men's Retreat, I teach a SS class, I take seminary classes, I preach on occasion, I meet with our neighborhood Board, I take care of the honey do list, I build furniture, I serve as an elder, I strive to be a faithful husband and a loving father. Date nights, one on one time with the boys. Lead projects at work. Serve on more committees and boards, soup kitchens, and all the various and asundry things that are right and dutiful.
I have become a victim of pleasing people and fulfilling passions. I have bought the lie of Satan and I am in debt up to my ears. What has promised fulfillment and contentment has slowly drained the lifeblood from my soul. To continue would leave me a shell of a man and what a perfect strategy of the enemy. I have walked right into his trap. It is a setup destined for my personal failure.
God is not tempting me. This is from the Devil. He knows the passion and drive of my heart better than I do and he has lured me with my own lusts. And when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
I have gorged myself on the things that bring me satisfaction and pleasure, treating them like a vanishing commodity. It is like a person who learns of an impending famine so he consumes massive amounts of food and dies from overeating. Lust - sin - death. What an ugly picture. And yet, it is the picture I see when I look in the mirror.
Maybe I'm scared. Maybe I'm lonely. Maybe I'm depressed. I think it is all of the above. And instead of finding fulfillment in Christ, I have chased the illusion of the world. The treasure I have stored up is beginning to reek a foul odor. And the stench fills the whole earth.
I looked down at people who so mindlessly fill their lives with fabrications of fulfillment. The empty promises that only leave us longing for more. Careers, houses, cars, travel, style, music. Madonna's new song "4 Minutes" echoes the call of our culture when she says, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but if I die tonight at least I can say I did what I wanted to do."
I no longer have the ability to look down with disdain at others because, the truth of the matter is, I would only find myself staring into a mirror. Clearly, I am not immune to following the same siren call of empty promises.
This must have been the lesson intended for God's people in the wilderness when He fed them manna from heaven. I would have joined in the master plan they had to store up the manna for a future day when it might stop raining the bread of sustenance. Yet, when they did, the bread spoiled and was covered in worms. They were forced to daily depend on the provision of God without any effort to store up this treasure on their own.
Such is the lesson I am learning. God will provide and I must relinquish control to store up treasure which serves only to expose my lack of trust in His provision. Daily he provides. Daily.
There will be more to this ongoing story. As for now, let me stop and pray.
Lord, Thank you for continuing to chisel. Thank you for your grace and mercy amidst my selfishness. I abandon my control and ask you to lead me in your everlasting way. A road much less travelled than the one I am on.
Be gentle. For I am a fragile man from my own demise. My actions have demonstrated my lack of trust in you; for if I truly believed you were the satisfaction of my soul, I would not have assumed the role of captain on this ship. If I trust your provision for my life, I would not be attempting to store up my own. You have become the one who takes things away, not he who gives abundantly. Forgive me Father for this sad misconception.
I am empty, but I am kneeling. Please fill me up with things that matter. Set my heart on things above. Help me to consider the depth of my faith in You and my trust in Your provision.