Sometimes a post is the product of days and months of study, reflection, writing, editing, re-writing, and so on. I regularly read through old posts and correct and edit as necessary. Even my own views do need adjusting – a lot of adjusting actually. I’m grateful for the edit button. For major changes, I usually dedicate a post to it, such as my turn from chauvinism to describing an identity for women that has been culturally forgotten in the series: This Is Who You Are, or with my non-expert views on relationships in the series It’s About A What’s Most Important.
But sometimes a simple thought or sight, or picture, or an event, or even just a single word can trigger a piece. This is one such example. For this particular post, it started while I was answering messages and comments on my blog, and it seems The Crush post and This Is Who You Are has resonated with more than a few of you – for some, it resonated too much.
Again, I don’t want anyone to make this mistake that I’m some great guy. The only reason why people think so is because they don’t know me well enough. if you were to ask me for a name of a girl who really likes me I’d probably only be able to give you one: my mom. I don’t know a single girl who can stand me for long periods of time, what more a lifetime? It’s just not worth discussing.
And once again, I want to direct your attention elsewhere. It’s not because I’m allergic to girls liking me. It’s that I would rather people pour their affection into someone who they truly love (not just some crush they’ll drop when there’s a replacement person or activity).
Besides, I don’t want to be a fake ideal. I’m fake enough.
Give your affection to people you truly love, the ones you’ll cry buckets over when they die (and I’m not talking about movie stars or royalty who don’t even know you exist), the ones whose presence you’ll truly miss, who’s kindness and generosity cannot be forgotten, the ones who, when you remember them, actually involve you sharing life together.
Give your affection to the very real people around you in your home. They need your love too – they need it more than I do. They especially need it more than your magazine crush.
Also, give your affection to the people who truly love you. Many times, when we step back and really look at our relationships – and this is something I recommend – we’ll find that people we’re suppose to love most, the ones we already truly love most at the bottom of our hearts, are also the ones who love us most such as our family and friends.
When we honestly ask ourselves, “Am I showing them true love?” the answer for us is usually, “I can do better.” So why wait for a better time to do better?
It’s easy to take for granted the constant presence of someone who loves you.
It’s easy to take it for granted because that kind of love is always there. The more unconditional the love, the more real it is in every day life because it is faithful and persevering even in the small things.
Look at the most reliable things that sustain us, the air we breathe, the warmth of the sun, the turning of the Earth, all critical things that happen each day that most of us have forgotten how remarkable they are.
The constant things in life are the easiest to take for granted.
Yet, when that constant fails, when the air is polluted, when the sun is clouded out, and when the Earth quakes, we are shaken to the core and realize just how lucky we were to have those constants. We pray for their return.
Our families are a good example. There will come a day when we wake up and they won’t be around. They’ll be dead, or we would have moved, or some change that keeps us apart has happened. Someday, we ourselves will be dead and will leave loved ones behind. Yet, when we think of constant love, the kind that provides, and guides, and protects, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone more proven than the family you share a home with. Let’s not take this constant for granted.
Just because someone has always loved you, doesn’t mean they always will or they always can. People do die. Time does run out. Relationships are always moving. We’re either moving closer or further away. And the more constant love is, the more real the danger of familiarity – that first step towards taking something for granted.
This is where your affection belongs, not to me, or to some celebrity, or inspirational person, but to the people who need your constant love and who constantly love you.
Most of all, give your affection to Jesus. I have been reading from the book of Jeremiah the past few days, and in Jeremiah 31:3, there is a beautiful verse that goes, “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Everlasting love. What a thought. Even when I am unfaithful, He is faithful.
In the constancy of His love, I have many many times taken Him for granted. More than that, I have hurt Him, on purpose too I’ll admit. That’s what it means when I choose to be proud, or lustful, or unforgiving. It means that I choose to hurt Him.
The constancy of His love shows me how far I am, how much improvement I need, how much I lack. Yet, that same constant love, shows me that I’m loved the way I am and that His love makes me better.
Each day, I have a choice, to embrace constant love or take it for granted, until that final day when I may no longer choose, and that which I have embraced is what I am left with.
“Love is the foolishness of men, and the wisdom of God.”
– Victor Hugo
“Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and kneeled before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’ He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due.”
– Matthew 18:23-35
We humans are a funny lot – that’s putting it mildly.
We want others to be patient and bear with us as we grow, yet we are quick to criticize, quick to show anger, quick to pronounce judgment.
We want to be accepted for who we are yet condemn others for failing to be a certain person for us.
We want the friendships that make us better, sacrificial friendships, yet we dispose people who have offended us or threaten us – proving their value to us was based on how they made us feel.
We want to be treated as important and be served yet do not show compassion to those who need it most when they need it most.
We want complete forgiveness while selectively being unforgiving.
We want true unconditional love yet we burden others with our conditions – conditions that change depending on how we’re feeling.
We want our record of wrongs to be erased yet we engrave their sins, even their past sins against others, on our stone hearts and hard minds.
We do these and we call it justice, we call it wisdom, we call it survival, we call it discernment, we call it practicality, we even call it obedience sometimes. Yet at the center is fear, self-preservation and the preservation of the chosen ones (those we are comfortable with loving and forgiving). At the center is hurt or the avoidance of hurt. At the center is pride and selfishness – I am more important than him or her. What I think about him or her is more important than him or her. My protection is more important than him or her. My comfort is more important than him or her. My feelings are more important than him or her. My opinions are more important than him or her. My success is more important than him or her. My relatives are more important than the relatives of others. My friends are more important than the friends of others. My children are more important than the children of others. My beliefs are superior to the beliefs of others. My choices are better than his or her choices. My sins are not as bad as those of others.
This is the human heart. This is my heart.
And this is so far from God’s.
If our stronger faith, our learning, our wisdom, and our better decision-making have made us more judgmental and less patient then we should search our hearts.
If our obedience to the law has made us more condescending and suspicious of others then we should search our hearts.
If our relationships with good people have made us less forgiving, more disdainful and less welcoming of bad people then we should search our hearts.
If our blessings and answered prayers have made us forget the prayers of others then we should search our hearts.
If our higher positions have made us look down at others then we must search our hearts.
If our kindness to others, our generosity, and our good works have made us less forgiving of the unkind and selfish then we should search our hearts.
Our hearts are never stagnant, never just in one place, it is either beating towards someone or moving away. We can check our own growth by very simply asking:
“Am I more patient today?”
“Am I more kind today?”
“Am I less envious today?”
“Am I less boastful today?”
“Am I less proud today?”
“Am I more honoring of others today?”
“Am I seeking the interests of others more than my own today?”
“Am I less easily angered?”
“Am I less bitter, more forgiving, and not keeping yesterday’s wrongs on record today?”
“Am I not holding on to evil, but rejoicing in the truth of God’s love today?”
“Am I more protecting of others today?”
“Am I more trusting today?”
“Am I more hopeful today?”
“Am I more persevering today?”
For me, the answer is usually a resounding “NO”. That is the honest truth. Yet when I turn the question back to God and ask:
“Has He been more patient with me today?” YES. He has given me another day with Him.
“Has He been more kind to me today?” YES. I’m breathing His air. Living on His planet. Enjoying His sunshine.
“Is He less envious?” Was He ever envious? He has never zapped any of the girls I liked. In fact, He loves them more than me.
“Has He boasted less today?” He never has. His works boast of His greatness and those who know Him boast of His love, yet all He ever tells me is how much He loves me.
“Has He been proud towards me?” NO. On the contrary, He made Himself lower than me by taking my sins once and for all.
“Has been honoring towards me.” YES. More than I deserve. He has taken a dishonorable man like me and honored me with His loving kindness.
“Has He been self-seeking?” NO. He has been seeking me. He has been self-giving.
“Has He been easily angered with me?” NO. He has been forgiving. He has been patient with my continuous faults. He has been gracious.
“Has He kept a record of my wrongs?” NO. He has taken them upon Himself and paid my price. He has erased my debt.
“Has He rejoiced in my evil?” NO. He has brought the Truth of His love: the Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus died for my sins.
“Has He protected me today?” YES. He has protected me from my sins, from my wrong choices and the wrong choices of others. He has used my hurt to build my character, to strengthen me. He has protected me with His love.
“Has He trusted me?” YES. More than I deserve. I have let Him down, yet He continuous to entrust me with time on this planet, with relationships with people, those He loves most, with His purpose for me.
“Does He still hope for me?” YES. He continues to work in me to realize His plan and purpose in my life.
“Does He persevere with me?” YES. Despite my stubbornness, He doesn’t give up. He is faithful. He perseveres in His love.
The greater our understanding of God’s love, the greater the love we will show others.
In The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the servant owed the King the equivalent $3,000,000,000 USD. Yet the King forgave all His debt. This shows the absurdity of God’s love – the love He wants us to show others.
The servant had a debtor, someone who wronged him, someone who owed him, someone he felt he had the right to collect from, and when that person couldn’t pay, he condemned him to prison. How much did this person owe the servant? The equivalent of $1000.
He had been forgiven $3,000,000,000 yet he could not forgive $1000.
Again, this is my heart. I have banished others to the prison of my bitterness for $1000, maybe even the $1,000,000 offense against me. Yet, God has forgiven my $3,000,000,000 debt.
I don’t want to get what I deserve. I want to get better than I deserve – and I have in Jesus. I must treat others better than they deserve.
We humans are a funny lot – we are a selfish lot. Because of this we cannot embrace fully that His wisdom is summed up in His love. Proof of this is our inability to love – especially those who threaten us, the ones who need our love most.
We humans are a funny lot – we are a selfish lot – we are a rotten lot – we are a proud lot – yet we are loved – so we are forgiven – so we are redeemed – so we are blessed – again, how great have we been loved – so we can love.
Recognize, Receive, Reject
Every morning, right after having my devotions and right before working out, I take some time to scan Twitter and Facebook and mark the articles I plan to read throughout the day. I’m not of the opinion that one should only read the Bible, though I do believe it is complete in itself. I believe that just as God can speak to us through His nature, and just as He has used animals to speak to prophets, He can speak to us through other books, other articles, and other mediums.
…we can recognize His voice.
Sometimes we spend so much time listening, reading, watching, and experiencing so many other voices, so many other opinions, so many other influences, in loud proclamations and soft whispers, that we become attracted to the wrong things and choose the wrong things. We wonder why we’re attracted to shallow things, and worse, evil things, but it’s really because we have not filled ourselves enough with what’s truly good and therefore no longer recognize what’s truly honorable, what’s truly lovely, what’s truly praiseworthy, what’s truly worthy of our minds and hearts.
So even as you read books, watch videos and movies, take in the news, and hear reports (or gossip), filter everything by asking God, “What do You want to tell me? What do You want me to believe? What do You want me to hold on to? What do You want me to reject? What do You want me to do?”
Simple questions. But we don’t always ask them, and, from experience, not always easy to follow.
But they are necessary if we want depth in our lives. The alternative is a life that is easily impressed, which means easily marked, easily influenced, and easily fooled.
I’ve been a fool many times. That’s why I go back to these questions.
What do You want to tell me?
What do You want me to believe?
What do You want me to hold on to?
What do You want me to reject?
What do You want me to do?”
Recognize what is truly worth embracing. Receive what is truly worth keeping. Reject what is shallow, what is simple-minded, and the things that erode your ability to recognize real value.
One of the posts I came across last week was a Huff Post Parenting article on Why Society is Failing Young Boys. I encourage you to read it especially if you are a parent, most especially if you are a father.
The article describes the portrayal of boys in media today:
“All the leading male characters are presented as expendable losers usually incapable of taking responsibility for themselves, often plotting intricate but seldom realized plans to get laid, and generally running the opposite direction of any kind of commitment. Not only do they avoid the future, sometimes they attempt to re-live past glory in order to avoid living in the present. It seems these guys don’t have much value to contribute to society beyond their ability to entertain the other male characters, and of course, the audience.”
The article continues…
“Without better male role models in real life, guys become confused about what constitutes acceptable male behavior.
Boys aren’t spending enough time with fathers or mentors who can show them the way they’re supposed to behave as healthy men and it’s no longer an isolated problem. This is the first time in American history that boys are having less education than their fathers. Many young men see their future as bleak and about 70% of them don’t feel they’ll be as capable as their peers in other first world countries.”
I think this is sad. It’s sad that the confusion has led to impotence. Should I be strong or gentle? Should I be tough or kind? Should I obey or challenge? As if these are mutually exclusive. They’re not. People can be strong and gentle. We can be tough and kind. We can obey and challenge. In fact, not only can we be this way, we should. But there are conflicting messages between the values we teach them, the example we show them, and the media we allow them to consume.
Many boys don’t think this way because no one has ever modeled this life to them. A passionate life is possible without having to take advantage of women and beat people up. That’s not passion. That’s Conan, and he was a… barbarian.
A respectable life doesn’t mean showing-off and being appreciated. An honorable life has more to do with the work done inside us than outside. It has more to do with our ability to make a stand, not give in. It has more to do with our ability to commit, not chase freedom. It has more to do with our ability to sacrifice, not the amounts we consume. In reality, a person who doesn’t make a stand, cannot or does not commit, and cannot control his consumption, whether food, material, or relationship, is a dishonorable person.
Sounds like a lot of our political, sports, and media heroes to me. Sounds like me at times.
The article ends by saying:
“It’s time for men to step up and take responsibility for our boys. It’s time for moms not to be content that their son is “safe” up his room, doing whatever, but to engage him more fully in conversations, to encourage him to track his activities for a week, to have friends over, and be a more social animal. The current generation of boys and men need more real male role models, courageous, compassionate and heroic ones, and less modeled after the losers in Knocked Up, and with fewer Hall Passes.”
I once mentioned in another post about how there is no word for “unresponsible” but only “irresponsible” because what that means is that when a need arises in front of us, no one can say “That’s not my job” or “I wasn’t ready” or “I’m not capable.” When a need arises and we don’t respond to it, when we give in to our excuses, what we really did was turn our backs on that person in need. We reject him.
We are in small and big ways guilty of rejecting our boys. We have our reasons and our excuses but they remain rejected as a whole.
As the article says, “It’s time for men (and women) to step up and take responsibility for our boys.”
Let me highlight the description of a male role model in the last line: The current generation of boys and men need more real male role models, and describes them as courageous, not rebellious, compassionate, not selfish, and heroic, not spoiled.
We need new heroes, not stars, not celebrities, not attention-starved, I-need-to-prove-my-machoness / coolness, but people who whose orientation isn’t “Hey look at me, I’m great!” but outward looking. This is not to say celebrities cannot be heroes, they most certainly can, but it is character, courage, and sacrifice that makes a person worth emulating, not popularity.