“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”
Sometimes we get in a funk. Things might not be terrible or falling apart, but there are still moments where we feel like we are in a haze. I talked last week about the nature of God and how he is our savior and deliverer in our moments of doubt, and today, I want to talk to you about the power we have because of Christ’s love for us. God is Yeshua, our savior and deliverer, and what that means is that because of the ultimate sacrifice, we are free. Easter is here, and while it is well known to be a big day for local churches to have new guests, the reason for Easter is the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is how Jesus holds the name of Yeshua, he came to earth, as God and human, in order to fulfill the old testament’s prophecies and then be crucified, taking on all of our sins. Then three days later, defeated death and rose again allowing each of us to enter into a relationship with him. That is a very condensed version of the gospel for you, and it is a beautiful tapestry of how nothing, not even death, can hinder God from overcoming all things.
Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can overcome.
One of the toughest feelings is that of getting second place. It’s said that Olympic athletes deal with this idea; gold medalists obviously are ecstatic and even bronze medalists are proud of being able to place in the top three of the world’s athletes. The silver medalists though, that’s the hardest placement. Silver medalists are often the most tortured mentally, battling the inner fight of the fact that they were good, just not good enough. Milliseconds off of making it across the finish line first, but never getting there first. I’ve felt like this as of recent. I feel like I just keep coming up short.
Everybody wants a place to belong. I think it’s just a natural human trait, we crave the feeling of belonging. We all try to find a tribe, a group of like-minded people that know who we are and welcome us in. The thing is, sometimes we aren’t welcomed in. That feeling of the lunchroom, you just want to have a seat at the table, but don’t have a place where you belong. We then enter this cycle of searching for validation, where it might not be good. We see this all the time in our current time, we have our social media presence desperate for that perfect shot of our life, in order to get a hit of that red notification. The internet is a powerful tool, but because of the internet, mistakes are forever and validation is ever-changing. While you may be popular one moment, the next you are a distant memory in the stream of content. If it’s not online, we tend to push ourselves to fit in with the group. Geek culture is terrible for this, while you’d think it was the most inviting, it can get toxic easily. Your opinion is different than mine? Well I think you’re the worst. So, we start to tell little lies about ourselves, making compromises about our values, and start to lose ourselves.
Everybody just wants to belong.
It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these journey updates. The flow of these is pretty much just me taking some time to share about what’s been happening to me personally and what God has showed me through it all. It has been an insane ride. I got married, moved in with my amazing wife, got fired, wandered in a state of unknown, we decided to move, had a few panic attacks in there, and are on the job search as we move to Orlando, Florida.
Yeah, a lot has happened.
Fear is just the worst. I’m not talking about the type of fear that comes over us when we watch a scary movie or hear a noise in the night, I’m talking about that great and powerful, “unknown.” Think about it, we are all scared by what we don’t know. Ever been at a party and you knew no one? It’s the pit in your stomach when you were in a class and the teacher said to choose a partner, but you have never spoken to a soul in that room. You kinda just have to go with the guy next to you, but if you have the luck like I do, you get partnered with the guy who blows his cigarette smoke into his backpack. That’s a true story by the way. I have never been more speechless than that moment. Anyways, fear of the unknown is extremely unsettling. It’s the reason why you rarely see the shark in Jaws, the picture you create in your mind will always be scarier than when you actually come face to face with it (though sharks are all kinda freaky to me). I recently dealt with this amped up fear of the unknown this past week, and came face to face with some heavy lies.
I want to talk about fear today, but more accurately, how fear truly stinks.
One of the biggest trends that is in the current forefront of culture is the idea of understanding yourself. We take tests, read books, listen to TED Talks all about looking at the “self” and revolving your life around what makes you tick. I know I’ve done many of these tests and listened to books. We have Strength Finders which gives you your top personality traits, for example mine are responsibility, strategic, developer, restorative, and individualization (So, like, please hire me). Then there’s the Myers Briggs test (INFJ, woot woot), there are tons of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) tests, and the current trend in the Enneagram (I’ve yet to take one). All of these tests to help us know, us. Why then do we struggle with finding our personal value? I think it’s a combo of self-doubt and words that have been spoken over us. One of the most annoying things I’ve had to deal with is the question of “what do you want to do?” My answer, and it’s always been my answer, is that I just want to be in full time ministry. Yet, over and over, people who have asked this of me, “forget,” or like to remind me just how hard ministry is. Like, yeah, I know how hard it is, my parents have been hurt in staffing positions twice now, and even myself have dealt with rejection. That’s the way I think about responding in my shower talks, you know, the conversations you wish you would have but it only comes out in the shower. What really happens is I get frustrated and then internalize the lack of care I think people should have.
I begin to forget my true worth.
Over and over we take tests to know how unique we are, but a simple conversation can have us doubt our worth and calling.
I’ll never forget the creepiest class I took at UNCG. I was in a “history of horror films” class that met for three hours every Thursday night. It was a blast, scared me to death, but it was such a blast. Sure, some parts of the class teetered on the “this is too much that I want in my mind,” but with an understanding professor, it ended up being a fantastic experience. The only bad part was, by the time the class had ended at nine, the campus was empty. It was dark and eerie, and after talking about horror, it made for a bad combination. I learned that walking to the bus pickup spot was really creepy alone, but luckily, I made a friend in the class who also went to the bus stop. After Jamal and I decided to go together, the creepy night wasn’t so bad.
It’s funny how much of a difference that made, and the same can be true with many different things as well. It helps to have a workout partner to keep you motivated. Going to the movies is a lot more fun when you can talk about what you just saw over milkshakes (Now I want milkshakes). Playing board games with a group leads to lots of laughter. While these are pretty surface level things, when it comes to more serious matters, we choose to walk alone.
I recently have started adding podcasts to my morning runs. I normally have been listening to music to help me get hyped, so the heavy rotation was the Frozen soundtrack or Czarface, ‘cause you know, my fav Disney movie and a rap group with members from Wu-Tang Clan go together. Instead of listening to music, I started listening to podcasts to help me deepen my relationship with God and grow as a leader. I recently listened to a podcast called, “Leadership Lean in with Chad Veach.” Chad Veach is the lead pastor of Zoe Church in LA, and I really love his perspective and attitude when it comes to leadership. In the course of the podcast, he said that there is something he has learned when it comes to discerning decisions and other areas we find ourselves in. He said that God often times will block it, or bless it.
That idea hit me, because it’s so true, and it’s often the biggest hang-up we can find ourselves in.
This past weekend, my wife and I decided to go on a road trip. In December, we went to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon, and we had the idea to go back. You see, they had a Festival of the Arts event at Epcot, and we were bummed we might miss it. My wife then said, why don’t we go? So, we decided to pick a weekend and drive down to Florida. It’s always awesome to go on a road trip, you have lots of time laughing and goofing off in the car. Singing songs at the top of your lungs (whether you know the words or not), having those moments of needing to pee and not seeing a rest stop anywhere, and munching on whatever food you brought (shout out to peanut butter sandwiches). Time feels slow and fast all at the same time, and it’s a great experience. There are often moments where you have to fill up on gas, sometimes you are stretched to see how long you can go without stopping or praying a gas station will be there soon, either way, you gotta fill up. If you don’t, you could end up getting stuck.
What’s funny is we understand this idea on a road trip, but when it comes to our heart, we run it into the ground.
I love powerful storytelling. I’m a big fan of books and movies because of the stories they can tell. I love stories, but I also really love true stories. Not so much history, but stories of people who have overcome and made something incredible. I’ve recently been reading a lot more, and it’s so interesting to see people’s stories and how they choose to press on even when things get tough. That’s one of the best parts about the bible for me. In Christian culture, people seem to have this idea of being perfect or fitting a standard, but that’s simply not true. Last week I wrote about how God designed each of us, but sometimes it can feel like we aren’t living up to how we were designed. I feel this way a lot, you feel like you have been made for a purpose, but that I don’t add up to what I’ve been called to. I look at my brokenness and don’t see how I can be used. The fear of rejection or that I’m not good enough give me anxiety and I question how God can use me. In these moments, I have to be reminded of true stories in scripture. One of my favorite parts in the bible, is found in the book of Hebrews. Written by an unknown author (so I’ll use she/her pronouns), she writes a section known as the “by faith” section. In this part she describes people in the old testament that chose to live by faith and listen to God. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit or the sacrifice of Jesus, they simply did what they were asked. The crazy part is, each of these people she writes about are broken people. They all had their individual struggles and dealt with crazy situations, but in all of it, one thing remains true of them and remains true for you.
Despite our brokenness, God says that we are loved.