Friday, October 29, 2010

The Mess of Learning

"Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

I'm somewhere I've been dreading for a while. I am potty training one of our now three year old twins. (Don't judge! :) ) Potty training is not something new for me. I have been to this rodeo before with the twins' two older sisters. You'd think I'd jump in with supermom gusto (and would have done so sooner) and show them who's the potty boss. But I haven't. I've procrastinated and delayed. There's one reason why. Learning is messy.

I've been making excuses and putting off the inevitable because I don't want to deal with the mess of learning. I don't want to wash out all of the soiled underpants and wipe down potties. I don't like the embarassment of having my kid pee on the floor when we are away from home. I don't like the inconvenience of the drop-everything-and-run-like-the-wind-for-the-nearest bathroom stage every time I hear those little words "I have to go potty." I've just plain been selfish, because learning is messy.

Pottytraining isn't the only thing I've pushed aside because of the mess, though. I've done it with writing and relationships and other things too. I avoid messy. I don't like it. I often want everything to go right the first time, and all of the time, but it doesn't. I am not perfect. My kids, my relationships, and my writing aren't perfect. For some strange reason, I am always thinking one day they will be. In fact, it is a recurrent newsflash to me that God doesn't ask me to struggle for perfect. Jesus already bought perfect for me. It is my calling to walk forward by grace, instead of sitting sidelined and paralyzed by fear.

Failing isn't the antithesis of learning, if I will let God use what I've learned to help me grow forward. I don't have to live in dread, fear or worry over potential, and sometimes inevitable, messes. The same God who rescued me from the mess of myself for eternity can rescue me from the mess of my learning to walk with Him here (Galatians 3:3). Life will always have some elements of chaos and imperfection, but those obstacles need not keep me from reaching for what lies ahead.

Are you like me? Do you avoid new things or hard things because you're afraid of the mess it may make to get there? Let's commit together to remember that learning is messy and that's ok. Let's get out there and live big, steadied by that perfect grace of Jesus who loved us before we ever got the crazy notion we had to be perfect anyways (Romans 5:8).

Now, off to more laundry and clean up on aisle 3's!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hide or seek?

What about life makes you feel like hiding? Is it consistent pressure, unrelenting demand? Is it fear?

I'm convinced that many of us live perfecting the art of hiding. As John Ortberg termed it, we become satisfied with living out a shadow mission, a second-best-settling for our life's purpose. I cannot tell you how many things fear has robbed me of in life. The fear of what could happen or what someone else might think or what I might be incapable of, have all kept me paralyzed at different times.

We may think that we can insulate our lives from pain and failure, and all of the other things we hide from (even success). The truth is God knows where we are all along. There is no hiding from His loving presence.

I was struck by this afresh as I read in 1 Samuel 10, where Saul was to be publicly anointed as Israel's first king. Saul had previously met with Samuel and knew that he was to be God's chosen man for this task. Yet, when it came time for the public anointing, verse 21 said he was not to be found. When they couldn't find him, they asked God where His man was at. God said, "He has hidden himself among the baggage."

I both chuckled and cringed when I read that. I laughed because it seems ridiculous to hide from a sovereign God in a pile of suitcases. I cringed because I have tried to hide among the baggage too. More times than I would like to admit. I have hidden behind my past, or my inability, or my fear of failure, or any other number of excuses - ducking out on callings I know God has issued to me.

No matter how you or I seek to insulate our lives from pain, difficulty, rejection, or uncertainty, there is no good to come of hiding. Hiding robs us of seeing God at work in us and through us. It robs us of learning to walk in deeper faith and abiding trust, because hiding demonstrates that we really don't trust God's sovereignty at all. We would rather hide out among our baggage - our past, our inadequacy, our present circumstances, than to step out and take a risk by faith. We would rather put all of our effort (and it takes effort and planning and expense) into hiding than we would to put it into the action of living faith.

Jesus came to set us free from every entaglement this world can offer. Sin, our past, our future, our present, our cirucmstances - anything we face cannot separate us from God's love. We may think we are hiding, but God knows right where we are. Because He sent Jesus, we are no longer slaves to fear. It is not about what we are able to do. It is about His ability to do in and through us the works He prepared in advance for us to do.

So instead of hiding, we can step out to meet God at the point of His call. Is He calling you to forgive? Is He calling you to lead? Is He calling you to love? Is He calling you to something you've been hiding from? Then, step out! As Scripture encourages, Do not throw away your confidence in God (Hebrews 10:35). Instead, move forward in faith.

What baggage are you hiding out in today? Stop hiding and start seeking!