Thursday, August 26, 2010

"A goal inspired by God is a blessing, by man, a burden."

OK, so that's not an official quote (if there is such a thing). I just made it up. I'm not even sure if ALL goals inspired by men are full on burdens, but I'm definitely starting to see a trend.

I couldn't sleep last night (allergies have been insane lately), and figured it would be a good chance to catch up on my reading from A Slice of Infinity. The essays come in nice little emails to your inbox, but they're far from light reading even in the day time, let alone at 3am. Today's writing was based on Jesus and the paralytic in Luke:

"Which of the two is harder," asked Jesus, "to bring physical healing or to forgive a person's sins?"  The irresistible answer was self-evident, was it not? To bring physical healing because that would be such a miraculous thing, visible to the naked eye.  The invisible act of forgiveness had far less evidentiary value.  Yet, as they pondered and as we ponder, we discover repeatedly in life that the logic of God is so different to the logic of humanity.  We move from the material to the spiritual in terms of the spectacular, but God moves from the spiritual to the material in terms of the essential.  The physical is the concrete external—a shadow.  The spiritual is the intangible internal—the objective actuality.Yet we all chase shadows.  We chase them because they are a haunting enticement of the substance without being the substance themselves.  It takes a jolt, sometimes even a painful jolt, to remind us where reality lies and where shadows seduce.  Our Savior was so aware of this weakness within us that he often walked the second mile to meet us in order that something more dramatic might be used to put into perspective for us.

Now, I don't consider myself to be particularly ambitious, but I am very goal oriented. I wouldn't say I have any huge desires for success or achievement, but I do have focus and determination, both of which I believe are God-given. 

That said, some of the most stressful periods of my life have come from pursuing goals that I've "absorbed" from the world around me. Not just the obvious ones of things like education and home buying, but whole value systems that were programmed into me, and most other people, from a very young age by the world around us.  Lately, I've come to see (yet again) that all my planning and fighting, scheming and clawing, is pretty much in vain. God can do in a few simple steps (though they may take longer or be different from my plans) what would take me all the strategizing in the world. I found out over the weekend that I'm being considered for a leadership position that I would have never been able to negotiate on my own. Where did it come from? From keeping up something apparently small, something that annoyed me, something that was really starting to tire me out, but that God told me repeatedly and clearly not to let go of. I came very close would have been the smart thing to do financially and emotionally and was the advice of a lot of people whose opinions I respect.

I have to remind myself regularly to just let go of my tangible little life, and focus on the intangible things that God's leading me toward. I've gotten much better at it, but still find myself clinging on occasion. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Balancing blessings and ambition...

My life's gone through some interesting and subtle changes over the last year. I finished grad school, turned 30 and started a martial art (which I've always wanted to do). When I take a step back and look at my life, it makes me smile. I know I'm blessed...I have family that loves me and that I'm growing closer to in a time where families are drifting apart. I have a steady job with growing potential in an environment where people are struggling to survive. My life is financially sound at an age where most people are saddled with loads of educational and consumer debt. I have overall peace in a time when life is becoming more stressful.

Some of these same changes though, have wrinkles of discontent popping up in my head. I finished grad school...I don't know if we're programmed through education to expect grand-change every four or so years, but I feel like something big should be happening now. I feel like I should move. Also, my friends are moving away. My best friend moved away late last year. We didn't hang out a lot (we're both big inside people and talked a lot online), but it made me sad. It was definitely the best choice for her, and she's happier, but I miss her and it still makes me feel a little lonely...which is WAY rare for me. On top of that, another friend is thinking of moving. That just ads fuel to the "I really need to do something!" fire. On top of that, I'm at a point in my Chinese studies where, to become fluent (a big goal of mine), I need to spend some time immersed. I'm at a point in life where I have almost no commitments (aside from a job) and though I'm quite single, I still worry that if I don't go plop myself down in Taiwan right now, I'm going to end up married with children in the blink of an eye, tied down for twenty or so years and unable to explore that option for a very long time. 

On the other side of that coin, I have even more changes that have me wanting to settle down here, where I was raised. I have my "new" church...a great place where I feel I can grow a lot spiritually. This has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. There's also my Brazilian jiu jitsu school. I really love it there and genuinely want to stay with my instructors while I pursue a black belt (we're looking at 10+ years...easily). I'm making new friends, improving myself and for the first time in...maybe my life, I'm excited to see people that I'm not already long time friends with. And then, I have my roots. My family...immediate and extended are here and I'm at the point in life where I'd like to buy a house. Couple that with low mortgage rates and home prices and I feel pressure to move in that area.

Choices are a crazy thing. Mine are great ones to have...freedom and options...but being torn between personal ambitions and God's guidance has left me terrified of making a mistake in either direction. That concern though, I think is a reflection of how I view God. I think it signals that I see him, at least in part, as some great puzzle-master, throwing challenges at me with one choice leading to ultimate disaster and ruin. I know that's not true, but I don't think I believe it yet.