I just called my good friend Kendra. Kendra is a volunteer leader for ROCKHARBOR High School ministry. I’ve been leading the church’s students alongside her for the past couple years and over the course of time we have developed a pretty solid friendship. She has her Ph.D. in Psychology and she works as a Child Therapist. In addition to being my friend, she has also been somewhat of my own personal therapist. Whenever I need to vent about something, she has always been there to help me talk out my problems. Why am I telling you all of this? Well she didn’t answer her phone.
Here’s a confession: I often suffer from a self-diagnosis that I call “overcriticism”. I’ve been taught to think and I’ve been taught to read. I read a lot. And I think a lot. I believe it is important to pursue knowledge and understanding about just about anything that you find interest in. But what lies in the journey of reading and critical thinking, comes a myriad of identifiable problems. The issue here is that, the problems that I identify are often the problems that are vastly too large for me, or anyone, to fix in the near future. Oh yeah, there’s another problem – I am also impatient, and often apocalyptic in my perspective of the future. Maybe this is just paranoia? Nope. That was just a paranoid thought.
This is my black hole of a mental process: I first notice certain problems, form an opinioned answer to fix it, attach passion to my messianic answer, then wrap my mind and attention to the current issue in my mind until it becomes an obsession that can’t be satisfied. It can’t be satisfied until I vent about. So here it is. I won’t get into details about the issues that I am unable to shake frustration from. The last thing that I want is my therapeutic word vomit that I share with the world to offend anyone. One thing that the internet and social media has taught me, is that words are forever. Also, words seem to sting much more when it’s written digitally and without a sympathetic human face to lock eyes with. My preferred form of communication is, and always will be, personal face-to-face conversation.
I don’t want there to be a misunderstanding between what I am calling overcriticism and hypercriticism. I actually don’t see too much of an issue with overcriticism – as long as there are healthy avenues to relieve the stress that it might cause. However, I believe that hypercriticism is unhealthy within itself. I define overcriticism as identifying problems and thinking of rational solutions that can help the given situation progress and carry it out through wisdom. The problem of overcrticism arises when I obsess over the problem and allow my emotions to be influenced by an issue that is far out of my reach. I define hypercriticism as identifying minor problems too often and speaking out aggressively on the minor issues at hand in a way that influences the overall environment. Hypercriticism is negative in nature and focused on giving power to every problem possible, which doesn’t help anyone progress past the problem. I do feel the need to clarify this difference because I am actually passionately against hypercriticism, especially within the halls of the Church. Critical thinking is a beautiful God-given gift that can be used to advance the Kingdom, but hypercriticism can have the power to dampen the move of God in a situation – but that’s a whole nother topic.
So in the midst of my constant overcriticism of our political system, educational system, corporate world, mass marketing, wealth distribution, nutritional habits, mass media, self-centeredness, music, fashion, and the Church, I have had to learn one thing: How to remain optimistic and to maintain the Mind of Christ in a world of chaos. My duty as Christian, as I’ve written many times, is to represent him well as a Christ-ian. In other words, you and I are called to be “little” Christs. A representation of the Father’s Love to an orphaned world. This is the key to my optimism. In the effort to change the world, it starts with the person right in front of us. If I cant express the love of Christ to the people around me, then how do I expect to impact the whole world with the love of Christ? This mindset, this perspective of bringing Heaven to Earth through prayer and obedience, is what drives me everyday. This gives me purpose. And my hope and my heart’s desire is that any one word in this long post can somehow inspire you to seek God’s voice and leadership in your life.
When I was about 15, I remember being in a bible study when I first heard someone refer to “intimacy with God”. As a teenage boy, I felt awkward about that word – intimacy. My adolescent façade of tough skin and limited emotion didn’t like the idea of being intimate with anyone and especially with God. At this point I wasn’t necessarily living the most faith-filled life either, so that didn’t help.
As I’ve grown older and my relationship with God has most definitely deepened, I have come to recognize the beautiful opportunity in having an intimate relationship with God. For many, God comes off as cold, distant, or disinterested. However, scripture describes our Creator as one who is far more involved in our lives – even to the point of uncomfortableness. What Jesus accomplished at the Cross was so much more than the forgiveness of sins. There is a reason the veil of the Most Holy Place was torn at the point of His crucifixion (Matthew 27:51). That veil represented the barrier that sin had placed between man and God. The Holy sacrifice of Christ made it possible for man to enter into the Holy Presence of God through the gift of grace. The author of Hebrews describes this miraculous event with eloquence,
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” – Hebrews 10:19-22
It is important to remember the great love that God displayed by coming to earth incarnate as the Son – Jesus Christ. This divine visitation was all a part of God’s radical plan to restore his relationship with his creation. He longs to dwell with you, even to the point of death. He sacrificed his Son, so that he and his creation could be together. There is a beautiful invitation for us to enter into God’s presence, and the response is up to us.
I love the book of John in the Bible. To me, it is seemingly drenched with intimacy. The language that John uses and the words that Jesus says are full of love and depth. I often find myself reading John chapters 14-17. I simply can’t get enough of those passages. About 90% of the words in those chapters are red, meaning that they are the words of Jesus. In John 14:17-18, Jesus is seen comforting his disciples and speaking of the Holy Spirit he says, “You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus speaks very highly of the Holy Spirit and it is a shame that he often goes unnoticed in some Christian circles. Jesus even said that it is better for us if he leaves, so that he could send the Holy Spirit! (John 16:7). The Trinity is a beautiful mystery of intimacy. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in constant relationship and glorification of one another. What is more – is that God’s own hand has pulled us up into the warm center of that Holy triangle of affection.
I have learned to turn my affection to the Holy Spirit, he is my helper. I long to feel His Presence daily. If I’m being honest, the days that I don’t draw near to Holy Spirit, aren’t my most fruitful days. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” This is intimacy 101. We are now in Christ and He is in us. It doesn’t get much more intimate than that. Whether it’s through worship, prayer, meditation, studying the word, we must learn to turn off distraction and redirect our hearts to the rhythm of the Holy Spirit.
What does his voice sound like? What does he say to you? Where is he calling you to go? Without the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, this journey will be even more challenging. We have not been left as orphans, God has come to us.
As a species, humans truly fascinate me. For a variety of reasons of course:
Our divine capabilities.
Our creative expressions.
Our athletic prowess.
Our ambitious drive that gives birth to technological advancement and futurism.
But one mystery that has recently left me pondering is our ability to defiantly reject our unique gift of rationality.
(DISCLAIMER) Listen, if you happen to fall into any of the examples of irrationality that I provide in this post, please don’t take it personal. My goal is not to offend any one person – I fall into the same traps of irrationality myself. This particular post is just to vent about my personal observations as I attempt to eliminate harmful irrationality in my life and hopefully can motivate readers to always pursue the rational choice.
The information that highlighted this issue of irrationality to me was what I recently read about cigarette smoking. In a book titled, “Buy·ology”, the author, Martin Lindstrom describes a market research project in which they tested to see how the warning labels on cigarette packages effected the buyers’ behavior. What they discovered was that an awareness of the dangerous health effects did not dampen consumers’ desire to smoke at all. If anything, it seemed to enhance their desire to smoke. Lindstrom went on to state, “Despite what is known about smoking, it’s estimated that about one-third of adult males continue to light up.”
In regard to smoking, there is no true wholesome benefit to the addiction. I’m not picking on smoking alone, there are many irrational decisions being made that are consistently harming our well being – individually and corporately. I would say we can find more of this poor decision making in our use of drugs, junk food, alcohol, pornography, excessive entertainment, and an engagement with acts that add to the destruction of our planet’s atmosphere.
Once again, I am not picking on or judging anyone. As I’m writing this, I am currently suffering from the instant regret of indulging in an unsatisfying McDonald’s breakfast sausage egg Mcmuffin. However, I do long to continue to grow in rationality for the well-being of myself, my church, and my communities. To be human is to always pursue greatness and to never settle for harm.
I have been curious as to what is the route cause of our irrationality. I had an idea, which was seemingly confirmed by Martin Lindstrom. In his book he stated, “The more stress we’re under, the more frightened and insecure and uncertain we feel – and the more irrationally we tend to behave.” What he said here confirmed what I have believed to be a base cause for our poor decisions. Pay attention to those key words stated, frightened, insecure, and uncertain. From my Christian perspective, those are all symptoms of an orphan mentality that hasn’t found the love of the Father in Heaven.
If you’ve read any of my blog posts before, then you know that I believe that fear, insecurity, and uncertainty should be overcome by the Christian. Why? Because it’s the rational choice.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to renew our minds to think like Him. If we have found truth in Christ, and we are assured that God is a perfect Father who has called us up into higher things, then how could we ever settle for further worldly thinking?
God is good.
So then, if God is good, and he is sovereign, and he loves me. Should I continue to go along life filled with fear, insecurity, and uncertainty which leads to harmful and irrational decisions? As Paul might say, BY NO MEANS! We have been called to a higher way of life and a higher method of thinking (See John 10:10 and Romans 12:2). Let’s continue to press into God’s presence, listen for his voice, and pursue healthy, rational decisions. And for those who are not Christian, never remove your attention from things that matter. Pursue truth, no matter the cost. Put aside personal feelings or experience, and seek out the Truth of life and I think that eventually, you will find it.
And yes after much studying for the past 4 years, I do believe that Christianity is the most rational paradigm for life, but that’s for another post…