Wednesday, August 02, 2006

All of this is more than I've ever known or seen

[Nothing Left to Lose, Mat Kearney]

As promised, the continuation of the previous to be continued entry.

This is installment two of a three part series; the first was where I've been, this is where I am pertaining to the next year of my life, and the third will be where I'm going.

So where, then, am I? As always with me it requires prefacing.

For nearly two years I let a hardening come into my heart. After walking with God in a way previously unknown to me for a summer in China I came home committed to living sold out for Christ. However, it was at this point that I slowly but surely began to turn from Christ. It happened in small ways, not even really able to be measured.

Looking back I can see the signs of having a heart that was retaking the reigns from Christ are all there. I packed on not only the 30 pounds I lost in China but also about 80 more. I slowly but steadily began to rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and grossly overborrowed in student loans. I lost my passion to talk about Christ and what He was doing in my life with my family and friends- Christian and non-Christian alike. Eventually my desire to spend time in God's Word and to fellowship by going to church all but fizzled. I was selfish and defensive in relationships, focused on the negative in everyone else.

Up until about four months ago I go to the place where I wondered what my purpose for living even was. I never contemplated suicide or anything like that, but when I thought about my future it felt heavy yet empty and devoid of meaning.

God has graciously brought me full circle. He allowed me to find a healthy church, literally brought two Christian friends out of the woodwork of largely (albeit not entirely) anti-Christian T_F*A, and used a relationship to wake me up to the path I was on. I was ready to pledge my life to someone with drastically different beliefs that would have ended, eventually, in my spiritual deadness. I would have lived a miserable life. I have no doubt. Yet, in His infinite wisdom, God chose to use that relationship more than anything to show me just how hardened and far my heart was from Him.

Recently Christ has been reopening my heart to His Word, and His will. I am convicted that this year I need to get into a routine and be disciplined in the areas of time management, finances, and eating/exercise. I've already started all of the above, but when I get back to school it's imperative that I actually do my best as a teacher. The truth is, with half-arsed effort I can be a good teacher. I say that not with pride, but nearly with shame. The Lord has enabled me to excel at anything I put my mind to-- how dare I waste His talents and gifts?

This year I desire to be the best possible teacher I can be (putting effort into good planning, and refusing to sit around and waste time; also getting sleep!), a better friend (no more gossiping/whining/complaining/negative focus, but loving and encouraging), a better steward (stick to a budget and stop being so wasteful- getting out of debt is not enough), a better caretaker of my body ( about what I eat and exercise even if I don't feel like it), and, most importantly, a more passionate pursuer of Christ. Church must be a priority, not an "if I feel like it" deal. I simply must make time for God's Word and quiet time spent alone with Him each day- not because it's a rule or a requirement, but because, simply put, I need Jesus Christ. As with any friendship, I can't shut Him out of my life and expect Him, then, to be a central part of it.

All of these areas require vast improvements... the good news is, I suppose, that I was so lame last year that almost anything would be quite the jump. But I don't just want to be merely "better"- I truly do want to do the very best I possibly can.

As anyone even remotely close to me knows, I love sports. LOVE them. When those men (yeah, I think watching women's sports is 40x less exciting 99% of the time as opposed to watching men's sports. That's just the way it is.) step onto that field, court, pitch, etc., they know that no matter how much they want to win, so do the other guys, and someone has to lose. At the end of the day, what matters most is that they trained their hardest in preparation and then poured out their very hearts and souls in the battle. Better to lose with one's head held high in defeat than to win and know deep down that the victory belongs to someone else who did his job when you were lackluster. And, of course, how much sweeter the victory when you know there are no questions about who played the better game and deserved the W (interestingly enough, the [loathed] Pittsburgh Steelers just came to mind, since this DOESN'T apply to them in last year's Superbowl. Yeah, I'm still bitter.). The simple truth with sports is that you simply have to give your very best because someone else is always going to exploit your weaknesses if you're not.

I feel this way about my life- I have to be my very best. It's not about being a better teacher/Christian/friend than someone else- it's all about ME knowing that I did the best I could with what was entrusted to me, as in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-29). To whom much has been given much has been required. Something tells me I'm not the guy with only one coin. Who am I to waste this precious gift of being me? My flesh- or at times the adversary, at times other people, and at times circumstances- are standing at ready attention to exploit my lack of diligence. I want to come to the end of my life and be able to say, like Paul in II Timothy 4:7, that I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and remained faithful.

I am leaving it all on the field, my very best. I have long said (since 2002 at the latest) that I intend to live my life with no regrets. I do not regret the hardening of my heart because it was the decision I made at that time; I would, however, regret not taking every opportunity to draw close to the heart of God while He's drawing me at the present time.

I want to leave you with lyrics to the Joy Williams song No Less:

I wanna give my all and
No less
I wanna live my life with
No regrets

I'll listen to
The call
Because You gave
It all

And when You put me to
The test
I'll give You
No Less

Part III to come...