Confessions of A Sour Face, Part Two

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a certain surface quality that doesn’t immediately endear myself to people. I also mentioned that this bothers me and makes me think of things I need to do to make myself appear more friendly and approachable. But, I realized that this is foolish.

One of the speakers at the Apprentice Gathering Conference that our Community got to participate in led us through an active imagination exercise. She asked us to close our eyes and imagine that there is a figure standing in front of us and when that figure turns around we realize that it is ourselves. This version of ourselves that is in front of us is holding a gift in their hand and begins to hand us the gift.

The problem was, in my imagination, I could never turn around. This version of myself that was supposed to hand me a gift would never turn around. It was very strange. Mind you, I don’t over-spiritualize situations but this was just really odd. It is my imagination, why would it be blocked from showing me myself and what was in my hand?

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Move to the following Sunday in my own church’s service. The sermon is over and the ritual that our church follows is a song is sung and people are given a chance to respond to the message.  During these times, sometimes I pray, sometimes I am silent, and sometimes I sing. This time, I bowed my head and closed my eyes. What did I see? I saw Christ handing me a gift!

I am not trying to be cute or trying to be dramatic or trying to be overly spiritual, this is what I saw.

What does it mean?

Remember that I went into the Gathering in Wichita discussing with some friends how I get frustrated by how people respond to me and often have a negative reaction. As the week went along and I had moments with God to reflect on these things and got to listen to strong teaching on struggle and forgiveness I started to realize something. God has made me how I am for a purpose and he wants to use who and how I am for his glory. I didn’t need to get in touch with myself to understand this, I needed to get in touch with Christ. Whatever gift my imaginary self was wanting to give me was not what I needed to receive. What I needed to receive was the gift of Christ and all that he has to offer. That is where I will find fulfillment, understanding, love, acceptance, and purpose.

I may have a sour face but Christ needs to use me the way that I am and that was a rich lesson to learn. I don’t need other’s approval and admiration. God will provide what I need and when I need it. I can quit trying to fix my face and keep working, with Christ’s transformation, on my heart. Then I will be the Christ that only I can be.

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How Christ Made Me A Better Person Pt. 2

Here are three more examples in my own life of personal changes coming as a result of the work of Christ in my life. Let me note that Christ taught me these things through his Word, through prayer and meditation on scripture, and through great teaching from the likes of Dallas Willard, James Bryan Smith, Brennan Manning, and Henri Nouwen, just to name a few.

See anger for what it is and what it is not – In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spends six verses driving home the point against anger and its partner in crime, contempt. I have learned that anything that can be done with anger can be done much better without it. This has helped me in disciplining my kids and points of contention with my wife. Sure I get angry and sometimes respond to things poorly but more and more I am able to remove anger from these situations so that I can try to help the situation instead of making it worse.

To avoid second looks– Lust has got to be the biggest problem that men face and I am as guilty as any man but Christ has taught me that the real problem is not with the first look but the second, third, and fourth looks. That is when simple awareness of attractiveness turns into lust and objectification of an individual. I work on a college campus where there are young attractive females but I have learned that there is nothing good that can come if I continue glancing their way. And best of all, Christ has taught me to value more those that aren’t on the surface attractive and beautiful.

Accept who I am – One statement that has probably meant more to me than any single teaching from one of my heroes, Dallas Willard, is this, “Discipleship is becoming the person Christ would be if he were I .” In other words, I am not called to be Christ because he has already been on this earth, I am not called to be my pastor, or Mother Theresa, or whoever else we consider to be a spiritual hero. I am called to be me, who has been transformed by the work of Christ.

In the past, I have felt that there is something wrong with me because I don’t have the enthusiastic outgoing personality you often see in churches. But Christ is not calling me to be someone I am not, he is calling me to be me but with a heart change. So that means that my personality, my gifts, my background, my context are perfectly acceptable to God and not just acceptable but needed in the work that God is doing on Earth. I was made the way I am because God needed me to accomplish a specific thing and that thing could not be accomplished if I had a different personality or different characteristics.