God Does Not Share Your Pessimism

The constant pull on the church is to drift in to secular modes of thinking. No, I am not talking about views on the latest social and culture trends that seem to cause ubiquitous fighting, name calling, and dismissive labeling. I am talking about the appalling lack of joy found among Christians and churches in general.

The sign of our times in America is to be outraged, to bemoan, to criticize, to choose doom and gloom. And Christians seem to be no different. Why is that?

Perhaps it is because we view God as a being like us – prone to eyerolls, in constant need to point out faults, a glutton for reasons to be annoyed, always ready to pass judgement. But this is not the God that we worship.

Dallas Willard says:

We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and richness.

God’s great pleasure is for you and me to experience his life of joy. This isn’t some by and by sentiment about the afterlife but even now, even 2019.

silhouette of person holding glass mason jar

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Jesus says, “my peace I give to you, not as the world gives.” Jesus, himself, was a peaceful and joyous and creative person. He told his followers repeatedly that if you have seen him, you have seen the father. Jesus was not morose, frustrated and did not lose himself in pessimism; instead he comes off the pages of scripture as tender, loving, ready for a dinner with friends, joyously wanting to heal and change hearts.

We should not overlook the great problems and tragic circumstances of this world but our general state of being should not be doom and gloom but joy and peace. We have a God who is a joyous being and is awash in his good creation and desires our lives to be echoes of this reality and even bodily representations of it.

Let’s call the church and its members to a Grown Up view of God and our lives in the strong and unshakable and joyous Kingdom of God.

 

 

The Night I Learned What It Meant To Be A Dad

I wrote this a few years ago when Grace graduated from High School. I thought I would update it and share it again on her birthday.

Our first born turns 20 years old today. She is bright, hard working, mature, and brave. I am amazed at her growth and maturity. She is going to be a great adult.

My most vivid memory of Grace as a toddler involves the moment I feel I first became a Dad. Sure, I was a dad by function and circumstance but it was this incident that showed me what kids can do to you and how they can teach you profound lessons.

Grace was two years old and a pleasant kid despite the age. My wife had a weekend commitment and that meant that I was in charge of Grace for the night. I would have to feed her, get her ready for bed, and make sure nothing seriously went wrong.

I was, and still am, an incredibly self focused individual. All of this responsibility was incredibly inconvenient, hard, and was removing me from my own agenda and preferences. I was feeling sorry for myself and bitter towards my wife for leaving me alone for hours on end with this bundle of demands, irrational behavior, and diapers. As the evening progressed, my plan was to do what I had to do and then get her in bed as soon as possible so I could be free of all of this annoying responsibility.

We lived in a duplex at the time and our neighbors had a toddler size play set out front complete with a slide. They were kind enough to allow us to use the play set whenever we liked. After I fed Grace, we went outside and she started to play and slide and slide and slide. At first, I thought this was a great way to occupy her before bed and I wouldn’t have to entertain her and I would soon be on to my own agenda. But something changed in the course of a few moments.

GRace

I think I first noticed her smile. Each time she went down that little slide, she had the most joyful grin on her face. It was infectious and I started to smile along with her. I began to notice everything, I noticed her joy, her beautifully cute hands and feet as she went about play. I noticed the way she completely lived in the present. Then I noticed the incredibly perfect night that enveloped us. West Texas sunsets are the best in the world and this night’s sunset was a masterpiece. The coolness of the early spring evening was so pleasant I wanted to soak in it.

Slowly, I began to live completely in the present myself.  This moment was beyond anything I could have ever concocted. This little girl was mine and she was planted on this earth to show me a side of love, compassion, and sacrifice that is unique to parents. I became a Dad that evening because there was nothing I wanted more than to have a thousand more moments like that night. To share a bond that only a parent and a child can experience. To recognize what family means on a heart level and not just a surface level.

I am grateful for that little girl teaching me this lesson and for the lessons she has taught me the following 18 years. Hopefully, I have taught her a few lessons and given her a few priceless moments along the way as well.

You Are Doing The Enneagram Wrong

People can’t get enough of the Enneagram. Two of our daughters have taken multiple tests, share memes and posts related to their Enneagram type, and like to discuss their type frequently. Podcasts and books abound discussing the Enneagram and how our knowledge of the 9 types found in it can shape our work, relationships, and potential success. I am attending a conference in September and an intensive workshop on the Enneagram is already sold out.

The fadishness of The Enneagram means that we can lose sight of the true value of this particular personality marker. Unlike other personality inventories, the Enneagram numbers are not designed to be a fixed style (like Myers Briggs) but help explain why you do what you do. In other words, the best use of the Enneagram is to help a person become a more whole and integrated version of themselves, taking in some of the best aspects of the other number types to be the best version of ourselves we can be. Our Enneagram number has its positives and its negatives. In our best moments, we take on the best characteristics of our type but their is a dark side to our type that is unhealthy and can be damaging to ourselves and others.

For example, I am predominately a 5 which means that I can be perceptive and full of insight but when I am not doing well I can be stingy, greedy, and unwilling to extend myself in useful ways. What I see many people who have started dabbling in the Enneagram do when they find out their type is to over identify with it and use it to label themselves and others. They spout off about their type and treat it like a limiting, predictor of the future that everyone should take notice so that we know what to expect in all situations. I refuse to let our 11 year old take any kind of Enneagram quiz because at her age, nothing is set in stone and I don’t want her as a pre-teen already thinking that she is this kind of person or that kind of person with little hope for growth or transformation.

The best resources on the Enneagram are ones that discuss it as a tool of transformation. As a 5, I collect knowledge and observe but my best version is becoming a person that is generous with myself and my time so that my knowledge is shared and let loose for the benefit of others. I have to be more vulnerable and transparent. It is not about losing my characteristics but enhancing them and transforming them with traits that may be easier for other Enneagram types. Each Enneagram number has a shadow issue that is not intended to stay and fester but be changed so that more virtues are present.

So go take all of the Enneagram tests you can find but use the knowledge you gain to begin Growing Up. Take that awareness as a means to discover more of yourself so that you can love God and love others to the best of your ability. Remove the 21st Century tendency toward narcissism and instead find a way to become a better you for the benefit of those around you.

*Jan Johnson‘s work on the Enneagram was helpful in formulating this post. Other resources I would recommend are The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels and Virginia Price and Donald Miller’s interviews with Ian Cron on the Building a Storybrand podcast.