These Infinite Other Ways

You prove me wrong over and over
I’m sure I’m to go a certain way
Then You open up another…

Then one after another…
So many paths to choose from
I find myself confused with wonder

Which of the infinite ways?
Which is right for me?
Which of these lead to Your place?

Your place, Your place
Where Your beauty is present
Beyond time and space

Which of the paths I face
Of these infinite winding veins
Lead to Your place?

You say, “Choose.”
I say, “Just give me one.
I’m afraid to lose.”

You repeat, “Choose.
A loss greater than mistakes
Is to allow your freedom to lose.”

“But what if I’m wrong?
You know how prone I am to pride.
What if I choose the siren’s song?

And miss Your place…
Your City I’ve long desired
Lost for the rest of my days”

You are silent and still
Though I feel you are there
Or am I imagining my own will?

The sound of the wind and rustling
I listen, but they are all I hear
I hear no audible leading

So I choose a way
Of the infiite paths
I choose a road to stay

Am I wrong? Am I right?
I can only study and hope
And live by faith not by sight

I dream to find You present in Your place
Until then I must content
With my heart’s picture of Your face
#db

5 Signs of a Mature Person

We walked together by the dock
We shared the hues of the dying sun
What a perfect way to spend the time
Our hearts and minds were one
But the currents take us away now
Blown further with every new feeling
Let each believe as they will, we said
And now we share no meaning
How are we to share the sunset?
How are we to agree again?
When the sun is what each feels it is
We lost the meaning we had then
#db

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
– 1 Corinthians 13:11

I remember what my younger brother, Joshua, once commented about people always using the excuse, “I was born this way.” He said, “If you stayed the way you were born, you’d still be a naked baby pooping on himself.” And he’s right. To use being born a certain way is unintelligent and forgets that we can all develop ourselves from wherever we are towards becoming better versions of ourselves. While who we are starts with our natural conditions, what we do with what we start out with is more important. What is this process of improvement called?

Maturity. Maturity is the process of ripening. What does it mean to be ripe? It means to be ready. I always encounter the question, “How do I know I’m ready?” And the answer is, there’s no real set standard to determine readiness. The best we can do is to constantly be in a ripening process, that we may be ready in all circumstances.

But what does maturity really look like in practice. It has to be more than age. I know many people much older than me that drive me nuts over their lack of ability to navigate life’s most basic things. It has to be more than knowledge for information is abundant and only a google away. It has to be more than good speaking or convincing opinion, for there are many people who fit this but are basically useless at executing life’s requirements.

I want to define maturity for what it is, and not lump it with today’s favorite virtue: Nice. As regular readers of my post will notice, while I have nothing against being nice (I think being decent to everyone goes without saying), thinking that “nice” or “agreeable” are virtues forgets that many times the most important virtues we need to uphold won’t be “nice” to others. It’s actually easier to go with unthinking crowd and be seen as nice than it is to make a stand and be embraced. So don’t mistake being liked for being nice as being mature.

Five signs of a mature person:
1. Conscientious net contributor
2. Wise objective reasoner
3. Systematic resourceful learner
4. Effective 360° communicator
5. Disciplined self-improver

Let me breakdown each.

1. Conscientious net contributor
This has to do with developing a level of independence that allows you to participate in more interdependent relationships because you’re giving more than you’re taking. A mature person is aware of his role in society, aware of his responsibilities, and is deliberate with his contributions, being a good steward of his resources, and making sure he gives more than he takes. Opposite of this are laziness, entitlement, and idleness.

2. Wise objective reasoner 
This has to do with how one processes the experiences of life and responds to things. The ability to intelligently process information, stimuli, events, feelings, and urges, is what separates mature people and immature people, not age. The ability to reason objectively is a foundation of being “reasonable”. Sadly, many were never taught this. The most unreasonable people I know are not evil but ignorant. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but no one is entitled to their own facts. Facts are the common ground dialogue can be built on, without which there can be no agreement, unless we think it’s wise to build agreement on the non-factual, which is not wise at all.

3. Systematic resourceful learner
Information is all around us. A mature person doesn’t just store information indiscriminately. He is actually very discriminating, looking not just for resonance but for foundations. Being systematic means you’re deliberate and methodical about your learning. Being resourceful means you’re able to learn from any situation, good and bad, easy and difficult. Being systematic and resourceful learner means you’re deliberately learning from all circumstances, processing everything with purpose, objectivity, and convictions.

4. Effective 360° communicator
The ability to communicate effectively with a whole range of people is essential in life. A mature person is able to successfully communicate to a wide range of people, relying on influence, credibility building, and objective reason to send a message across, not emotional manipulation. When a spoiled brat wants something from another, he cries and pouts until he gets his way. When a mature person wants something, he looks for win-win scenarios to incentivize others to achieve together. A mature person cultivates the ability to talk to older AND younger, richer AND poorer, less successful AND more successful, non-spiritual AND spiritual. He is able to communicate with a wide range of people because even if his audience changes his values and his integrity doesn’t.

5. Disciplined self-improver
Continuous improvement is essential. I find it very sad when people get offended when others are very determined to better every day. It’s as if the constant improvement of another makes them feel insecure about themselves. Constantly want to be better, especially if your goal is to better for others, is a noble goal. But getting better is not some random accident. No one ever became a master painter, master pianist, or master anything simply by being random. One must order his steps. Even the Psalmist, David, prayed “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) He understood that wisdom isn’t random or accidental. It is developed.

You may have noticed that in all aspects, a level of deliberateness of purposefulness is needed. That is after all what a mature or “ripe” person is: someone fit for their purpose. Someone fit to be the husband or wife their family needs. Someone fit to be the worker their company needs. Someone fit to be the friend that many need. Someone fit to respond to life’s many challenges.

Not someone who is merely trying to be liked.

Notice, that it is possible to be any and all of these attributes without being liked or “nice”.

In a world that thinks the best virtue is “nice”, I have taken it upon myself to bring definition back to our thinking. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “he (or she) is nice” in response to a totally unrelated question. I’ll ask, “Is he effective?” I’ll get, “He’s nice.” I’ll ask, “Can she be relied on?” I’ll get, “She’s nice.” I’ll ask, “Do you trust him?” I’ll get, “He’s nice.” You can even ask, “Does he love God?” and the answer will be “Yeah. He’s nice.” This is obviously a problem, for “nice” means nothing more than “agreeable with us”. We have conveniently, made our own definitions of everything, defining everything by how agreeable it is to us. Does anyone else think this is stupid? That we can make up our definitions for things based on how we feel about them? Does anyone else think this is selfish? That it doesn’t matter what something actually means, because we feel differently about it. Does anyone else think this is dangerous? That we are destroying any potential for intelligent agreement because we lack common definitions and common meanings.

Instead of seeking “nice” in others or being seen as “nice”, be reliable, be trustworthy, be compassionate, be dependable, be intelligent, be a servant, be kind, be reasonable, be responsible. Be mature.

At the very least, if the price of maturity is not something you want to pay, don’t burden those who are already paying them. You need people like them, people who’ll do the heavy lifting, you yourself were too weak to do.

Why We “Christians” Get Fooled

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
– Matthew 10:16

Note: I’ve gotten complaints from people claiming that my post was aimed directly at them. Funnily, anyone who has read my posts will know that I normally aim my posts at “group paradigms” more than individual personalities. I am more concerned with the greater impact my efforts than the hitting back at a single person. So don’t waste your time asking. Besides, if the post hits a nerve there’s probably a reason why. A reason that deserves more reflection.

Anyway…

This post is inspired by a phone conversation I had with a friend of mine, who called to ask advice about his small group leader who had been gossiping about him (sadly, something that has happened quite often in a very gossipy culture). As I listened to him recount his side (and there’s always more than one perspective), I remembered the words in Matthew 10:16, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. Based on his recounting, it seemed that his trusting in his small group “leader” caused him to reveal things to his “leader” that he was shocked to find hearing from other people. Apparently, his “leader” had been gossiping about him, telling others about his issues. I put the word “leader” in quotes because I don’t consider anyone, even people with the title, to be the authority of my life if I am not clear about their intentions, not convinced of their capabilities, and not aligned with the contributions we both make. A good leader, in my opinion, must have a clear purpose for his followers that lead them to a better place, without which, abuse is inevitable. He must also have capabilities, without which his commitments will prove dishonest, as he will fail in his role as a leader. And he must be willing to invest more than he is calling others to. Without these three, again, in my opinion, this leader does not have credibility. Notice, I didn’t say “a leader needs to be perfect” or even “great” or “good”. Every leader will be flawed, and will fail in many areas. But it is enough for me to be aligned on a clear purpose, working with capable superiors, and sharing in the cost required for success in the given purpose. From my friend’s description, his leader failed in the three areas.

When situations such as my friend’s arise, it’s easy to point the finger at the leader, and he does have a responsibility, but we all must remember our responsibility to obey the command of Jesus to be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. This is a command after all, not a suggestion, and Jesus made it because He understood the world. Jesus was very unlike the average sheltered Christian who does not know how to navigate the real world. It’s not enough to be a nice guy. It’s important that we’re also wise. People who are nice but not wise will not succeed and will end up falling for bad leadership, scams, and the evil intentions of others. I, myself have foolishly fallen for things that now look so obvious in hindsight. I thought I was being “submissive” but I was really being naïve, surrendering my responsibility to be wise, and relegating the discernment to someone else.

 

The Bible is really a nuanced compilation of wisdom. It really does have answers to life’s many challenges. The older I get, the more I appreciate how much wisdom it contains. But we need to discover the wisdom, and we need to apply the wisdom ourselves to our own situations. We cannot simply take the word of another person for it. The Bible doesn’t say, “only leaders should be wise”. It actually puts that responsibility on everyone. It doesn’t also say that it’s enough to be good. Jesus emphasizes what kind of shrewdness he wants us to have: be as shrewd as snakes. This was a powerful metaphor since snakes were seen as crafty and cunning animals, even evil. He was saying, “Be as smart as evil people but don’t have their selfish motives. Be as smart as them, know strategy, know what they know, be creative, be resourceful, but use your intelligence, use your strategy, use your know-how for the right motives.

While much can be said of bad leaders (The Bible has many very scary verses on leaders who lead their people astray, which is why I like to remind people I’m not a church leader nor a ministry leader, simply a writer), this does not remove our responsibility to be wise in choosing our leaders, choosing our influences, choosing who we follow, and choosing who we obey. The Bible isn’t stupid, and Christianity isn’t for people who don’t think. A Christian who doesn’t develop wisdom will inevitably hold others back, and most especially himself.

The point is this: Real life is difficult and can be complex. Thriving in real life requires wisdom. Why do you think the Bible emphasizes it so much. Sadly, it seems that people are more concerned about the kind of wisdom that leads to making wishes and dreams come true, and so we end up falling for anything that seems to point us to those wishes and dreams easily. It’s easy to fool someone with a bait they already want.

But after all this explaining, Jesus said it best, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” That’s as clear and straightforward as it can get. Now the question is, “What are you doing to become shrewd? What are you doing to become wise?”