Pursuing What You Love

A bundle of appetites.  That’s what I am as a bodily entity.  This fleshly tent in which I abide is intent on and, unfortunately, often content with finding things that satisfy it, please it and make it feel comfy-cozy.  Any twinge of displeasure or dissatisfaction is immediately addressed sub-consciously with, “What can I do to alleviate this abomination?”  That thought arises no matter how small the discomfort may be.  Or even if it is not discomfort…even if it is just a thought like, “I want something pleasing at this moment,” which is actually often the follow-up to feeling discomfort in some area, though we may not connect it in such a way at the time, because often the pleasure we choose has no logical connection with the discomfort we are feeling.  This is a commonly known phenomenon.  For example, I may come home from work feeling tired and somewhat disgruntled, thinking my boss is unfair or my co-workers are untruthful, but instead of quitting my job or looking for a new one or trying to come to terms with the situation, I eat a package of M&Ms and watch a funny sitcom, ergo subconsciously trying to alleviate (or rather mask and ignore) one discomfort by allowing myself something that could, in a perfect world, be a good, simple pleasure.  Comfort foods, mind-numbing television…those are two of the most obvious choices.  They are the easiest to come by and the least associated with negative connotations.  Some people do choose alcohol or drugs or lasciviousness or something that happens to be more associated with what the Christian community would dub inherently to be “sin.”  But it all amounts to the same thing, and used in this manner, is itself inherently sinful.

 

The funny thing is that this appetite does not have to be so animalistic as I have painted it in the above paragraph.  It can seek deeper things, even lofty things, aspiring to greatness and achievement. 

 

So, what is one to do with this?  How does one cease constantly desiring and seeking to appease one’s appetite for comfort, for greatness, for recognition, for love?

 

I am not an expert.  I usually say this somewhere in my posts, so perhaps you are getting tired of hearing it, but I need everyone to know that I do not claim to do the things I discuss.  I claim to recognize the truth in the things that God shows me.  I am not always so good at living them.  But God did show me something a couple of months ago that I am attempting to keep in the forefront of my mind as I go through my days.

 

I will not go backwards into what my life has been like this year, but if you care to know the history, read previous posts or shoot me an e-mail.  I will start with the fact that I was in the process of interviewing for a new job.  It is a very regular job with regular hours and regular pay and regular dress codes, etc.  This has not been the reality for most of my life.  I have had very odd jobs, or even if it was somewhat regular, I have predominantly been in charge of my own schedule.  In fact, in looking back, there have only been about 3 years of my adult work history in which I did not control my own schedule.  So, while I was interviewing for this position, I started to get a little freaked out.  Only having two weeks of vacation, and even when I get that is somewhat managed and completely out of my hands??  Well, frankly, that sounds a little like hell to me.  I nearly backed out of the process altogether.  Then one morning I woke up and God spoke to me.  I was still in the hazy state, lying in my bed.  I was not thinking deep thoughts.  I was thinking nothing when these words appeared in my mind’s eye, “Only pursue what you love.”  Well, by the world’s standards of what that means, I have done a pretty good job of that in my life…rarely letting a job take away my freedom to do the things I actually enjoy doing, etc.  But in that moment, I knew that was not what it meant and my next thought was, “What am I supposed to love?”  And everything sort of fell into place for me.  I am supposed to love God and love people.  I am not supposed to LOVE writing or creating or singing, unless God sets those in front of me as ways to love Himself or other people.  And honestly, I have been pursuing those sorts of things in lieu of pursuing the love of God and people for most of my life.  OK, well, “in lieu” of might be an exaggeration.  I have pursued loving God and loving people, but not with such passion and vigor as I have pursued my own pleasure and my “dreams.”  At the very least, I was acting like not being able to pursue those things would inhibit my ability to love God or love other people, which is simply heresy.  First off, I had the order wrong.  I wanted to pursue the things I loved (yes, things) in order that I may better love God and love people.  I was waiting for some moment in the future when apparently, I would feel I had pursued it enough or gotten enough satisfaction from it to be able to start pouring that contentment out on others around me.  How ridiculous.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

 

I have always had the attitude that whatever job I had was evil and keeping me from doing whatever I was really supposed to be doing, i.e. anything important.  I have been realizing for a while now, even before this revelation from God, that this was a serious slight towards those I worked with.  The attitude that “anything important” is outside the sphere of whatever work I am doing negates the importance of every human being I came into contact with during the course of that workday!  It was a self-serving attitude that, at heart, believed “I am more important than these people and I should not have to join in these menial tasks with them.”  Definitely not the heart of a servant.  So, I confess and repent of that here to you now.

 

At the moment God spoke that to me, I knew I needed to get over myself.  I needed to get over my arrogance and let go of myself.  Let go of behaving like a child…as if I could only obey God’s commands to love if He gave me what I wanted first.

 

But let’s take it somewhere else as well and make sure that y’all know I am not saying that God is out to kill all of my fun and enjoyment of life.  Not in the slightest!!  My own selfish desires were fueled by societal training such as Nike’s “Just Do It!” and Barbie’s “We Girls Can Do Anything” philosophies.  I am not trying to negate pursuing excellence in things you enjoy; I AM trying to discourage pursuing those things as a fulfillment separate from those two most important commandments that Jesus spoke and that I am relentlessly repeating here: to love God and love people.  Pursuing or achieving excellence in something does not mean anything special if you are horrible to everyone on the way up, if you crush those who stand in your way or if you are unfeeling or negligent to those around you.  I may not have been horrible and I may not have been crushing people, but I have definitely been unfeeling and negligent.  And I am beginning to understand that pursuing the thing only creates more disenchantment and dissatisfaction, because no matter how hard you pursue something, you are still at the mercy of others to determine its worth.  A song I write only grants me so much fulfillment if no one else likes it.  And even if others do like it, it still only grants me a measure of fulfillment until it begins bringin’ in some cash, right?  All of the doing requires recognition of some sort in order to bring any feeling of satisfaction.

 

But guess what?  Loving God?  Self-fulfilling.  Because God is PERFECT.  He loves you as fully as you can ever imagine being loved.  I’m not saying you feel all warm and fuzzy all the time.  I’m just saying that when you forget yourself and you really are about loving something outside of yourself, there’s much less that will rattle you.  It’s not about, “What’s in it for me?”  It’s about, “What’s in it for God?” which can usually be answered in a much more satisfactory fashion.

 

And when you are really about loving others, the pressure is suddenly gone because you are not relying on their reactions.  You only want to love, to give.  It’s the one thing that you can do, though even that only through Christ’s strength because He has to act through us so that we do not let that bundle of appetites override our love.  It’s suddenly not about you anymore and the stress is off.  THAT is what I felt when God spoke to me.  It didn’t matter anymore if I only had two weeks of vacation or if I was at the whim of the not-so-esteemed corporate elite…they could not stop me from loving.  And loving was suddenly what mattered.  All of the other stuff was mere self-serving prattle…the modern heresy of “following your heart” and “chasing your dream,” which thought very little of others and therefore, by default, could not be thinking much of God.

 

I have spoken of similar things in previous posts and I will give the same disclaimer here:  I in no way believe that putting this into practice leads to that asceticism which denies its own needs or becomes an unhappy martyr.  If the manner in which this life is being led does not lead to joy, then there is still some heresy deep within.  I am still uncovering my deeper heresy, to be sure.  God calls us to this sort of life because He KNOWS us, and knows what our spirits, minds and bodies need.  I heartily believe that living life according to His guidelines will lead us into peace and joy and hope, and that fulfillment which we seek by doing such things as “chasing dreams” will be realized in Him and only in Him.  I do not mean externally; our world may be falling apart around us.  But our hearts will be wholly His and wholly, well, whole, and that bundle of appetites I spoke of at the beginning will not be so ravenous and insatiable.

 

I re-posted my title poem yesterday as a pre-cursor to this.  I did so because I would like people to read this post, and then continue down to read that poem through its lens.  I used to view it as more of an individualistic evangelism, stating that we should pursue our dreams.  Now I know that the idea of passionately pursuing those dreams is part of the mold the world and Satan would like to press us into in order to keep us focused internally, always looking for our own fulfillment and happiness instead of trusting it to God.  It is a road that will wind around into an interminable maze of confusion.  It is much easier to stay on a single path and actually arrive at a destination when I am not bowing to the constant caprices of my own will, instead trusting the Will of Someone all-powerful and all-knowing who will not lead me wrong. 

Just Reiterating

A reminder of the origins of my blog title:

Taste the Sea

A glint, a gleam, the hint of a seam

Connecting, correcting the crack.

The ocean, the massive, rejecting the passive;

Accepting, protecting the cast—

The cast-away from the pre-staged play,

Refusing, profusely the role

Of body as puppet, of life as a muppet,

Confusing, abusing the soul.

Adventurous journey, tumultuous turning

To travel, unravel the myth—

Expose the mystery of imposing history—

The sameness, the lameness of this.

My fistful showing of wistful hoping,

The standard I’m handed, a fake.

You say it’s a dream, I’ll say what I mean.

This cistern, this fissure, this lake—

I think that it’s frosting, I think I’ll be crossing

To some shore to find more of me.

So, I’ll dare the fray, I’m more scared to stay.

You waste it; I’ll taste the sea.

 

There will be a folllow-up about why I wanted to re-post this.  Coming soon….

 

Chasing

Sometimes in my ignorant rebellion,

I chase You away with chocolate and caffeine and television.

They numb the senses, soothe…no, smother the soul

With their indulgent decadence.

So seemingly innocuous,

Yet so addictive –

Like porn and liquor and heroine.

They are used in the same manner

To gain the same ends…

To gain the “I want” now

And lose the “I win” later.

So, instead, I lose a day, an hour, a year with You…

And slowly become a Christian vegetable.

Buried or Planted?

Bury: to put in the ground and cover with earth

Plant: To put in the ground and cover, as seed for growth

God asked me on Sunday if I was buried or planted.  I know it was Him because I wasn’t thinking about getting buried or planted, either one.  Those are not two of my normal activities.  But when I felt the question, I knew that whatever I am, I act like I am buried – like I’ve been buried alive.  And then I realized how the two things are exactly the same – being buried and being planted, except for the intent behind them.  Did you read the definitions above?  In case you missed it, here you go again:

Bury: To put in the ground and cover with earth

Plant: To put in the ground and cover, as seed for growth

So, if I pretend I am a seed who does not know the intent of its gardener, then I have every right to flip out when the dirt begins to block out everything in the world that I know and understand in my life.  The weight of the earth on top of me is immobilizing; it’s dark; i’m lonely and scared.  It seems impossible to become anything under here.  And just when I think it can’t get any worse, someone comes along and dumps *#%& on top of me.  Now, in addition to everything else, it starts to stink.  And then they drown me, and all the filth from the you know what starts trickling down over me, mixed in with the dirt and now I’m wet, too.

Is anyone seeing what I’m getting at here?  Being planted would seem a whole lot like getting screwed.  (Theologically speaking.)  But being planted is also the only way for a seed to fulfill its purpose, and when that little green shoot first starts to peer out over the earth, I don’t imagine that sentient seed will be minding so much, although it might wonder if there were not an easier way to get here.  But there’s not. 

I think I act like God has buried me, when I’ve really been planted and now I am being nourished and tended to by a Gardener who says that I should be “confident of this very thing: that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.” (Philipians 1:6)

And now for the lyrics to a song I wrote almost 8 years ago:

In Its Time

The whole world is barren.  Whenever will this end?

It’s been so long, I hardly know if anything can grow.

I’m so unbelieving, so foolish for grieving.

How many times have I seen death revive with one small breath?

And every beginning must start with an ending,

Just like the life You gave to me when You died, so willingly.

But right now it’s winter, and it’s still December.

And the sunless sky is dark and grey again.

The cold wind’s still blowing, and though it’s still snowing,

I know that Spring will come in its time.

Lord, help me remember, though it may seem bitter,

There’s always more than I can see underneath those lifeless trees.

And, so in my own heart, when I need a new start,

I know it brings a little pain, but soon enough, the soothing rain.

But right now it’s winter, and it’s still December.

And the sunless sky is dark and grey again.

The cold wind’s still blowing, and though it’s still snowing,

I know that Spring will come in its time.

Hope

I have not put any more poems of mine up here except the title poem, but here’s another one from my journal on 12/2/07.

 Hope seeps; hope keeps coming from somewhere.

Tired: tired drains it away,

And yet it comes again

           and again

                              and again.

Breathing; breathing just enough in –

A trickle – enough for sustenance, enough for staying here, for standing

In the middle.

In the middle of sorrow; sorrow flows, and yet hope holds it at bay – a dam strong enough and yet seemingly weak.

Chandeliers crashing down around you, around me – damaging, smashing the beauty.

And yet there is beauty still

Beauty you can feel and not see.

Beauty you believe in.

Behind the curtain.

Just through the window.

In a different world.

And it’s enough.

Enough to live for.

Why the title?

Taste the Sea

A glint, a gleam, the hint of a seam

Connecting, correcting the crack.

The ocean, the massive, rejecting the passive;

Accepting, protecting the cast—

The cast-away from the pre-staged play,

Refusing, profusely the role

Of body as puppet, of life as a muppet,

Confusing, abusing the soul.

Adventurous journey, tumultuous turning

To travel, unravel the myth—

Expose the mystery of imposing history—

The sameness, the lameness of this.

My fistful showing of wistful hoping,

The standard I’m handed, a fake.

You say it’s a dream, I’ll say what I mean.

This cistern, this fissure, this lake—

I think that it’s frosting, I think I’ll be crossing

To some shore to find more of me.

So, I’ll dare the fray, I’m more scared to stay.

You waste it; I’ll taste the sea.

.

This poem holds a key element of my world view within it, and it is my title because, well, I like it.  It reflects what I feel about our society as a whole, and myself involved in it as an individual.  I feel that there is more to us, that there is this huge schism between what we are, and what we are supposed to be.  For myself, every now and then I get just a hint that there is a way across…a way to the other side where I am not divided.  This schism is like an ocean, and you cannot cross it on accident.  It accepts those who are thrown away, cast out because they will not accept the stereotypes they are born into, thrown into.  This is not an easy choice…it’s undoubtedly the harder route, but if I get there, maybe, just maybe I can show someone else the way – show someone that just because something has been does not mean that it has to continue to be – that the facade of meaningless patter thrown in front of us day after day is not showing us what life is really supposed to be about.  I cling to this idea, the idea that we can reach the other side, because I know that what we are told to base our identities on is a lie.  I’ve been called a dreamer and an idealist, but I know that to fight for this is more important than waking up and realizing I never made a solid choice in my life.  I may die a penniless nobody, but if I can take myself out of this aimless cycle that society puts us in, I will be richer than anyone else in the world, because I will have achieved my purpose, and it will be like tasting the sea for the first time.  I am a Christian, first and foremost, and I believe that this purpose can only be found by looking at the nature of the true God.  I believe that I find little pieces of it every day, but do not expect life on this earth to fulfill itself…we are meant for more than that.  Welcome to my journey.