Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Tyranny of Self Improvement

I'm at a point in my life right now where I am being forced to grow in many areas. My job is challenging - not beyond possibility, but enough outside of my comfort zone that I'm required to stretch. My family life has reached a new level of chaos. My volunteer work at our church and school are requiring increased diligence and responsibility. And through this all, I hear the call of God to simplify, to live life as frugally as possible, and to stay connected to him through prayer.

So growth is happening. Some would call it maturity.

The last time God brought me through such an intense phase of maturity was right before I met my wife. As a teenager, I was constantly lovesick. I needed a girlfriend in the worst way. I knew I was a catch and couldn't figure out why the young ladies I knew didn't seem to realize it. My desperation reached a frenzied pitch until one day God led me to a book called "Wide My World, Narrow My Bed" by Luci Swindoll. In reading it, he challenge me to abandon the hunt for a girlfriend/wife and instead to be content being single.

It took me some time, but I got there. Then he really rocked my world.

"Now James," he said to me, "I want you to be happy being single."

That was a difficult step. "Content" I could do; peace comes easily to me. But "happy"... that was another thing entirely. It meant giving up my quest for what I thought would bring me happiness and to surrender not just my heart to Jesus but my mind as well. It meant to find joy in what I had up to that point perceived as the ultimate despair: being alone.

So I rebelled. Not openly, mind you. I was never the kind of guy to sleep around or go drinking or experiment with drugs. But in my spirit, I said NO to God. I turned away, and although I kept up appearances, for a time I abandoned the concept of believing that God loved me. Over the course of several months, he wooed me back, and I did reach that point where I was able to think about the single life and genuinely smile about it.

God appreciates irony, and it was about two weeks later that I met my wife. Although I was puzzled at God's timing then, it makes perfect sense to me now. He does want me to be happy, but he wants my happiness to come from following his plan for my life instead of my own plan. If I had met Dawn in my own frantic search for the perfect woman, I would not have been wise enough to know I had found her.

Anyway, the point of that story is that right now I'm at a point in my current life where God is saying to me, "You enjoy your down-time and your relaxation, but I want you to give those up and take on the work of the kingdom. I want you to sacrifice your own idea of what will bring you rest and trust me to provide rest for you. You say you don't want to be one of those people who takes on too much; I want you to abandon your idea of what is too much and respond to my call."

So here I am. I am struggling not to rebel against this new direction.

I believe that part of this journey will require me to become more capable in my public speaking, so I am joining a local Toastmasters club. This morning I came back from my second meeting. At the end of the meeting, we all cast ballots on who was the best speaker, best evaluator, best dressed, etc. Today I won an award, and I suspect that I shall be a frequent recipient of this one:

In case you can't make it out, it is the award for Best Humourist. The trophy itself is a horse's rear end.


1 comment:

  1. I feel that sometimes the best things happen to us when we aren't _trying_ so hard to make them happen.


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