I know this phrase seems rather cliche; you can blame John Piper for that. But I don’t think that any thing really captures the mood of how I am feeling now more than that simple imperative:
Will, whatever you do, don’t waste your life.
I have not prepared a sermon since I left college; that was the last time a preached and I remember the occasion well: my friends, Thomas, Natalie, Adam, and Amanda came to hear me speak. It was such an encouragement. I know that the passage was the one where Jonathan and his shield bearer charge a whole camp of Philistines with Jonathan’s encouraging words of:
Who knows, maybe the Lord will be for us and win us the victory.
Who knows? I think I would want to know if I were heading into battle, right? Anyway, that sermon was preached to a group of people that I will likely never see again in a remote section of Baldwin County, Alabama. Still, I cannot help but reflect back on that last sermon as I deal with the conviction from this one:
I do not know if the Lord is with me because I have never charged the garrison.
I am going to be brutally honest with you and brutally honest with myself. I am bound by the deep dark fear of “what if.” When taken in small doses, this fear can keep you from doing really stupid things; when overdosed this fear can literally paralyze, distract, and humiliate you. Instead of asking, What if the Lord is with me? I ask,
What if they don’t accept me?
What if I don’t do the job right?
What if I am no good at it and I fail?
What if they reject my resume again?
What if she is out of my league again?
What if I try to lose weight, get in shape, and discipline my life…and I fail, again?
For two years, I have honestly lived in such a way as to be afraid of failure. I am new here, this culture is different, the mindset of people here…I tend to clash with. I want to be able to be friends and get to know people here, because they are people made in the image of God just like the people in Virginia or who I went to school with. These people, in this tiny semi-rural area of the Tennessee Valley matter to God, and honestly they matter to me too. I am afraid of them, I am afraid of trying to live in their world because I don’t understand it and I don’t get it. I am afraid of them rejecting me; if them thinking that I am too different from them. Because see at the end of the day, I don’t want to become like them in every way (though are good things to imitate for sure), I want them to be who they are and truly, lovingly accept me for who I am. I want to get to know them, I want to treat them and love them like I love my college friends across the country. I want all of them to know that I am there for them, that I have their backs, and that when the snow begins to blow and ice begins to harden, that they can count on me to find them in the storm and get them out of the ice.
Still, all I have been able to do Sunday after Sunday is simply sit and nod; that is not me that is not my personality…that is not who I am. Yes, I am interested in how that even that is important to you went! Yes, I think it would awesome for us all to hang out and really get to know each other! Yes, I want to connect with you and show you the love that only God can put in me for you! I do care, I have always cared…I am just afraid to show it.
My life is dominated by the ever present, “what if.”
The one “what if” I have not been asking is:
What if God is in this; what if God is with me.
You see it has always been easy to have faith for others; I prayed that my best friend Neesha would get to go to India and she did. I prayed for my ex-girlfriend Wendy to find a job by the end of the month and she did. I am praying right now that God will miraculously provide for my friend Angelique’s World Race, bringing the Gospel to the nations and he will. But for me, God takes the harder route and I am often left standing in a prayerless desert looking up at the stars and wondering what he is up to. None of this is what I had planned on when I left college; none of it. My response at first was to get angry and rebel; not the best response. My second response was to try to distract myself and basically regress into adolescence; that has not helped either. And now what will my response be?
In life there are only two types people; there are fruitful trees and dead chaff. Looking back on just the last two years of my life, I see a lot more chaff than fruit. I am tired of that. I am tired of waking up in the morning and living to work through school work to play the next video game or watch the next TV show (not that there is anything with either of those)or even the to read the next book or write the next blog; I want to stop standing on the cliff watching the camp…because I have armor-bearers standing next me to saying:
Will, do you think we can take them? There are hundreds, maybe thousands of them!
I want my response to be:
Come on, let’s find out; maybe, just maybe the Lord will deliver them into our hands.
If you have wasted a good portion of your life: weeks, months, or years…repent of it, mourn over it, and then don’t waste any more time.
Because I am running out of time, and maybe so are you.
Grace and Peace