This past year has been simotaneously the hardest and happiest year of my life.  To put it pessimistically, I’ve never had a time where I was more over-stressed, over-worked, and overwhelmed.  Work has been a particular challenge.  So many things changed all at once.  I was promoted after my boss retired, my department moved locations and merged with another department, we restructured and reorganized; and much of this happened during the busiest time of year.  It was one of those times where I often came in early, skipped lunch and worked in an adrealine induced frenzy for 10 hours.

Of course, all the work stuff happened while I was in the middle of 16 summer college credits and August, which was the busiest time at work was also when finals were.   Over the past several months, I have been consistently doing homework until midnight, getting up a six to do homework, and then every other waking hour is allocated to work and family. 

My family life has been a little choatic as well.  I’m father two-year old who has the strongest will of any kid I’ve ever seen in my life and a 1 year old who is going through the worst part of the teething stage and still isn’t sleeping through the night.  And to top it all off, my poor wife suffered massive post-partum depression for a very long time.  Our finanacial situation has been dire as this will be yet another year where we play it fairly close to the poverty line for a family of four.

But I truly say all this in an optimistic fashion.  To tell you the truth, I absolutely love my life and everything in it and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.  I absolutely love my job.  I’ve never had a job I loved more.  I love school.  I am wired in such a way that I am happiest when I am learning.  My two boys are the most precious things in my life and I would go toe-to-toe and argue with anyone that this daddy loves his boys more than any other daddy in history…short of God, of course.  Even the harder struggles have been somewhat of a blessing.  Through her depression, my wife has truly started to find her worth in Christ.  God has been molding her into something incredible and her life and spirit is beoming more luminous than the brightest star in the sky.  She was amazing before but now it’s like…dang.  How did I snag such a woman?  And our financial situation?  We’ve never missed a meal or a bill yet.  God has been stripping away our western consumer mindset and has been teaching us the value of self-sacrifical giving.  We give and volunteer more than we ever have before.  And while being broke is stressful, there’s a lesson in it.  To quote a Jason Upton lyric, “There’s a power in poverty that breaks principalities, brings the authorities down to their knees.”

And the cherry on top of the ice cream is that I have never been more excited about my relationship with Jesus.  I have never found my worth  and have been passionate about Christ more than I have in the past two years.  In the past, I determined the value of my faith in God based on my emotions so my faith was more like an up-and-down rollercoaster.  And while I’m convinced it’s normal to have peaks and valleys, my faith has been a consistent climb.  I’ve learned to stop treating my faith like an emotional thermostat and have been growing in spiritual maturity and discipleship.  And the funny thing is, not basing your faith on your emotions makes your emotions all the better.

Therefore, life isn’t bad at all.  I’m fully embracing it and enjoying every moment of it.  There’s just been a lot of life to embrace. 

Life’s like a really huggable fat lady you can’t quite get your arms around.

But things can change in an instant.  In the past week, several of the aspects that were life’s stressors have eased a bit.  Sarah has found a job that perfectly fits our crazy schedule that will help our financial strain a ton.  My job has just gotten over the crazy time and I’ll actaully be able to relax a little more and actually take a lunch break.  Finals are over and although school starts next week, the strain of previous deadlines are gone.

I actually watched some TV last night.

All of these things are wonderful and I’m SO glad they happened.  But herein lies the rub.  I find that whenever life is at its busiest and most stressful, that’s when I commune with God the most.  And when life relaxes a little, that’s when I usually commune with God the least.  My spirit knows that I don’t want my Godly fevor to wane – it just can’t!  But I give my flesh a little breathing room and I’m tempted to be the guy who, spiritually speaking, sits on his couch with a bag of chips on his chest and plays video games all night.  Again, that was a spiritual metaphor.  I’m totally good with actually doing that every now-and-then if time would ever permit it.

I don’t want to sound over-dramatic here.  It’s not that I completely lose my spiritual disciplines whenever life gets a little easier.  It’s just that I am seriously serious about my romance with Christ that I don’t want any excuse to have less fervor.  Because I know that life can’t stay this stressful forever.  I certinantly don’t want it to be.  I just want to be faithful in all seasons.

Thus begins the challenge of the brighside.  Of course, life could easily ramp up next week and none of this will be an issue.  But if it doesn’t, then praise God – I have some work to do.

 

 

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I once went to a house gathering where a missionary my at-the-time church was supporting was back from Africa.  He and his family were involved in evangelizing to unreached people groups – meaning the people in the deepest parts of nowhere.  I was able to listen to his story and a watch a video of how these African natives who had barely had any contact with the modern world came to know Jesus.  It was a really cool story.

But then it got a little weird.

At the end of the video, we saw pretty much the entire tribe dancing and elated to have accepted Jesus as their savior.  The missionary then made this informal comment, “They were all really happy but then one of the natives asked about their ancestors.  When they were told they were in hell the tribe when into fierce mourning…but they eventually got over it (verbatim).”

Praise God, the good news of Jesus brings mourning!

This is one of those moments where I wish I had a time machine just so I could go back and scream “WTF?” (sorry it was the only word to convey what I’m feeling) to everyone that was in that house, including myself.  I look back on that story and am amazed that everyone accepted this little piece of horrid theology without even thinking twice.  What caused me to sit there and be so…beefheaded?

I know that answer now and I suspect that many Christians are in this rut.  We Christians have a long legacy of fear.  For many of us, we extract our beliefs about God from whatever denomination we were born into and somewhere along the line we get convinced that we got those beliefs plain and simple from the Bible.  But we really didn’t.  We get them from our pastor, who got them for his pastor, etc.

Of course I’m being really polemic with this model, but nevertheless, I’m convinced that many Christians argue the Bible when they really don’t know what’s in it.  They’re not arguing the Bible, they’re arguing their church tradition.  And whenever tough questions pop up, instead of wrestling with them, they tune them out because they’ve been trained that asking tough questions somehow indicates a lack of faith.

Having the “rebellious audacity” to ask tough questions is the thing that strengthened my faith and relationship with Jesus.  “Would God really send people to eternal hell who had no freakin’ idea who he was?” “Why was I lucky enough to be born into a Christian family while others are born in places that will never hear about Christ?”  “Can I honestly and whole-heartedly worship and give my life to a God who works under such a model?”  These sorts of questions should be asked to ourselves and to God.  God isn’t afraid of our questions.

As for the poor natives who had to “get over the gospel”, maybe God will send a missionary to go there and learn the language and tell the people, “Yes, Jesus is real and more amazing than you can ever fathom…but as far as your ancestors are concerned, don’t believe that other white guy, he’s a little beefheaded.”