Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Flames of Idealism

I can be a pretty optimistic person.  I'm of the mind that things will always work out in the end (even though I don't always act like it) and I enter into a lot of situations with my hopes high and my expectations positive.  I am an idealistic person... a visionary, if you will.  I have been told that comes with being young, and I somehow do not have a hard time believing that to be true.

But I have learned something over the course of my growing up-

things often do not turn out like we hope they do.

I have given my heart to a situation many times, often with the idea that all my efforts to pour myself into something that seemed to be Gospel oriented, would have sanctifying and fruitful results.  I get so darned excited at the prospect of entering into something that holds immense potential for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ!  In short, I'm like the weather man who always labels the forecast "sunny", when in fact it ends up being torrential rains with deadly lightning and gale force winds.  

Disappointment is natural.  In fact, disappointment is a gift because it is the very thing that shows us we will not ever be satisfied with anything on this earth.  It is the key player in pricking our hearts and shoving us towards the foot of the cross for true fulfillment.  **BUT** in the moment, you feel like someone has ripped your beating heart out and is crushing it with their bare hands.  I mean, maybe I'm just crazy, but when my optimistic outlook is dashed asunder because false motives manifested themselves or scoundrels were exposed, I usually don't smile and say "this feels grrrrrreat!!" 

No, I usually cry (which I'm told is perfectly normal, so don't judge) and then get in a passion driven fury that causes my heart to ache from a want of justice.  I hate seeing people destroy other people's lives and somehow think that because it was done in efforts to preserve their reputation or to safeguard their lies, it is okay.  My spirit writhes in grief when I see the weak taken advantage of by the powerful and then tossed aside like an old shoe.  I feel the tears of my soul when I see those hurting at the hands of others and told it is their fault, rather than being scooped up and shown what grace looks like.  (and I am not talking about those hurting because they are suffering the consequences of a specific sin)  You see, when the sheep of Jesus Christ are being attacked by spiritual wolves, God doesn't want us to just sit back and watch them struggle, He wants us to be Jesus to them, and too often we embrace the philosophy of the pharisees, as opposed to the theology of our Savior.

"I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35

So often I see the Body of Christ live solely for themselves.  Paul tells us that the Body of Christ is to function like a real body does (1 Corinthians 12:15), so why do we not embrace that?  It's like having your dominant hand be injured, but not using the opposite hand to assist in the functions which the dominant hand cannot perform.  Can you imagine not using your eyes to see things that your hands need to accomplish?  Like trying to get all the different members of your body to function in an autonomous sort of way... totally independent from each other.  You know what that would make?  A royal mess.  You wouldn't ever accomplish anything and you would only make yourself perfectly miserable all the time.  The thing that flabbergasts me, is that we have been told how we should function as the Body of Christ, and yet we only look out for number one.  We have this insatiable desire for:

power. popularity. control. fame. notoriety. praise. adoration. wealth. recognition. acceptance.  

And a label that says, " I am the BEST Christian there ever was!"

"The best"?  Who was "the best"?  What would make one "the best"?

Jesus was the only one who can claim the title of "the best" anything. period.  I am probably "the worst" Christian, because there is not one single thing *I* can do to become "the best".  However, I belong to the Best, I have been washed in the blood of the Best, and even though I am not the best on my own, I am part of the Best.  I am a branch on the vine of the Best (John 15:15)!

We get so wrapped up in what we want that we forget what we are supposed to give.  Look at the words of our Beloved...

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.  
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. -Matthew 5:3-12

In these verses, I see a complete and total lack of a me-centered attitude.  In fact, the text above is just oozing with self-LESSness.  He doesn't say "blessed are those who are popular, self-righteous, famous, adored and idolized for they shall inherit"....what?  What will they inherit?  You see, getting the focus off yourself and all your sappy goodness is how we get our eyes pointed to Jesus.  It is how we see that there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn His favor and His inheritance...  Why do we want to take this beautiful gift that God has bestowed on us, and throw it back in His face?  Why do we want to make it about our hopeless selves, instead of the One who is infinitely perfect? 

That is something that every Christian struggles with.  It is just part of the spiritual battle that we face against the enemy and our own flesh; but what scares me is when it can't be identified.  I know that I get wrapped up in my "ideals" and they can become the object of my focus.  I know that I struggle with making my salvation about my works!  It is when we think that we have it perfectly together that we need to be concerned.  It is when we look in the spiritual mirror and go "Dang, we are looking good, my friend!", that we should feel convicted and probably worried

So as the idealism that associates itself with my youth (and my zealous heart doesn't do my idealistic nature any favors, let me tell you) becomes progressively harnessed for something even greater, I am learning that pointing my eyes to the cross and feeling my very imperfect heart sting from the pain of my sin, is a beautiful way for me to learn how to forget about myself.  I want to give all of myself to helping others!  I want to be the poor in spirit, mournful, meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker who is persecuted for Jesus' sake and hungers and thirsts for righteousness!  When others look at me, I don't want them to see *me*, I want them to see Jesus Christ and His work manifested in my pitiful life.

But that is only going to be accomplished if I take my eyes off my temporal, justice seeking ideals, and point them towards the feet of Jesus.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." -Ephesians 3:20-21