If the title has you excited, I’d hold your applause and congratulations until the end of this post… it’s probably not what you think.
In my last post, I admitted that my pride had kind of snuck up on me and all of a sudden I was planning my future life and career like I know what’s going to happen, like I know what’s best for me, like I’m in control. I knew I needed to come back to that place of open-handedness with that future.
Open-handedness…? That is, what if my dream job isn’t the thing I’m “supposed” to be doing? Would I be okay with that? If I were honest, no, no I wouldn’t be okay with that. Why does God’s best for us have to be so unimaginable that it’s hard for our rebellious human nature to trust Him?
Well, last night I dreamt that I was in LA, making phone calls, pitching to execs, desperate to make my scripts happen. The unfortunate downside to the dream career that I’m pursuing. Maybe it’s a personality thing, but I’m just not a good verbal communicator. On the page, sure, maybe… but I have to be mentally prepared for a spontaneous presentation. Anyway, I like to think that my passion for the craft is big enough to make that kind of stuff bearable, but today kind of challenged that.
There have been countless theories on dreams and their meanings and interpretations. One of them is that dreams prepare you for real life situations, something like a built-in simulation mechanism. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s besides the point.
I wake up feeling stressed and shoot my roommate a text about the dream, to which she replies, “it’s prophetic!” I smile, knowing that should make me feel better but it doesn’t.
I walk into my first class of the day, the highlight of my day — Screenwriting. Except, the agenda is — you guessed it — pitching our final projects.
Given the nightmare I held back any and all participation. But as Irony would have it, the entire class called on a classmate and I to pitch. He’s a fairly performative guy and as talented as the best of them, so I figured I’d go first… don’t want to get stuck on the follow-up act.
Needless to say, the pitch was an abysmal failure — I didn’t get to the end of the story, I blanked on what made me love this story and what excites me about it. I even blanked on what actually happens, who the characters are… I knew I wanted to get to the big twist reveals, but didn’t know how to set them up dramatically… I only found solace in the fact that now no one else in class will be nervous about pitching their ideas.
And that is the story of how my nightmare came true.
Thankfully there were no real stakes, and my prof and classmates were so generous and gracious.
In all seriousness, this little incident was an eye-opening reminder of how small I am, how powerless and insignificant I am, that I’m not special, and that I have no reason to boast about any skills, knowledge or talents that I have– that I’ve been given.
As I write to cope with the mortification, I’ve got Ascend the Hill’s Be Thou My Vision blasting on Spotify…
O God be my everything, be my delight, be Jesus, my glory, my soul satisfied.
What a balm to this heart floundering in years of insecurity drudged up to the surface. I’ve still got the adrenaline rush, that fight or flight response, and my body screaming FLIGHT! I want to run away, crawl into bed and hide for the rest of the day, and that’s no exaggeration. What a strange impulse. Have I been fooling myself this whole time? Is this industry actually not for me? Do I turn back while I still can? I thought I’d found my “thing,” do I have to go back to that state of aimlessness?
Some might say, “don’t quit! Nothing was meant to be easy.” Others might say, “do what makes you happy.” While these are true and helpful to some degree, it is still a limited degree.
My identity isn’t in my career. My ambitions may not be what comes to pass. In fact, my ambitions may not be what I actually want. It shouldn’t be where I go for satisfaction.
My vision shouldn’t be on how high I can pull myself up (and anything higher than 0 is a delusion), but on how I can make much of the name of Jesus in all aspects of my life… in this case, giving him praise for this humbling morning.
It is incredibly easier to say “I am nothing apart from Christ” today than it was yesterday. The life He calls us to, a life of holiness, is hard. It hurts. And yet… it’s so sweet to return to Lord and be reminded that the pressure’s not on us to “be all that you can be,” it’s not on us to look all put together, it’s not on us to be the champions of this world, it’s not on us to be our own saviours, it’s not on us to fix ourselves, or anyone else. He already did the work, and we are free to train, and learn and fail.
In a way this whole pitching snafu reminded me of the hidden inspiration for one of the big reveals of the story in the first place: “No longer I, but Christ in me.”
And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1)
Some of you have heard the story, “Hosea, Hosea, your wife was such a player.”
The first command that God gives Hosea in the text, is to marry a prostitute, which is difficult enough if you’re hoping for a long term stable marriage. Even so, Hosea obeys because God wants to show the people of Israel how unfaithful they’ve been, and how much He abounds in love and grace. How much more difficult is the second command to keep loving her after she rejects him and pursues a life of shame, dishonor and worthlessness? Truly, love is a choice, decision, promise and commitment before it is a feeling.
Will brought up this cakes of raisin thing this morning… it’s a fun sounding cultural-historical thing, but given th context, it’s safe to assume it involves pagan worship and idolatry.
Cakes of raisin. Entertainment? Career? Future? Image. Status. Money. Pleasure. When they come before God, when they replace our first love, they are despicable. And though we turn to these empty wells, still He pursues us and purchases for us our freedom, restores our dignity by the blood of Christ, and offers us the peace, rest and living water we’ve been searching for: Himself.
I was challenged… I had forgotten that my sin is wicked and offensive in His Holy presence, that apart from Him I can do nothing; I am nothing, and deserve death.
But for the grace of God, we have been redeemed and restored if we are in Christ.
In 1 Samuel, the Israelites go up against the Philistines by their own might, but are defeated and lose the ark of the covenant. The only reason why they got it back, is because God made the Philistines send it back… the Israelites had nothing to do with its restoration, or the plight of the Philistines. We are no different today. We are powerless (less in general, if we’re honest) apart from God.
Something that I’ve been catching myself doing lately, is not worrying about the future, but planning for it. Obsessively. It gives me the illusion of control, that I know the best way for me, that circumstances will obey my every whim — or that God will make it so.
Surely, we have control over our own lives at least? We make our own choices, but we have no say in what actually happens, the consequences of those choices. I don’t know what’s in store tomorrow, I may not last the night, let alone next year, 2021, 2026, 2036…
CS Lewis once remarked, “there are those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.'”
Indeed, pride has reared its ugly head and I am nothing.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
Father, thank you for your goodness and grace and mercy and steadfast love. Would you teach my heart to come to you always because you are more than enough. Though my heart and flesh may fail, you are my portion forever. You’re all I need, and Lord I need you, every hour I need you. Teach me to be Holy and obey despite imperfect human execution of obedience… Let me renounce my idols and my cakes of raisins. Do not give me up to the desires of my heart, but deliver me from evil. Break my heart from what breaks yours…
November 1st… the day where we enter the Halloween-Christmas limbo period.
I was walking home just now, and passed two houses, side by side. One had the lights and sparkles, red and green decorations, the works. The only thing missing was a pristine, light fluffy layer of fallen snow.
Their neighbours on the other hand had demons in the trees, skulls and monsters in the yard, smashed pumpkin on the porch, cobwebs on the hedges… Seriously, the cobwebs were everywhere, someone went crazy with it. It almost looked like someone toilet-papered their yard.
One house was ready for joy, the other was clinging to death.
This Sunday, Pastor Jacob preached about the joy of repentance, of leaving our sin behind us and trusting in the Lord. Trusting that the good He has planned for us far outweighs the valley of suffering that we may have to cross to get there. Moreover, when we put our trust in Him, the pressure and the focus is no longer on us. Why– how is that a good thing? Imagine it. Our world stops being about us… we can step off stage and just… enjoy. Laugh, cry, connect, be strung along for the ride of what Christ is doing centre stage.
In Genesis 45, after decades of bottled emotions, Joseph sends his brothers back to get their father Jacob in Canaan, to unite the people of God as a family once again. And he tells them, “do not quarrel on the way.” Do not fear, don’t stress, don’t fight.
Jacob fought his whole life for his inheritance, God’s promise to his grandfather Abraham that nations would come from him. But his 12 sons, the nation of Israel was crumbling before his eyes. His first born slept with his father’s concubine, Simeon and Levi slaughter a whole city, Judah sells Joseph into slavery, Joseph’s mother dies in childbirth to Benjamin…
Is anyone to blame? Maybe. But does it matter? When Joseph sends his brothers back, they’ve all accepted that God can bring beauty from the ashes. There’s no need to point fingers, or to wallow in remorse. What’s done is done. What God’s people meant for evil, God meant for good.
So what is this good?
The good is the fact that it’s November 1st. We don’t have to cling to death anymore, it’s time to get ready for joy. Not only is Christmas time the season for joy, it is the celebration of the Messiah’s arrival, the one who takes away the sin of the world, the one who loosens our white-knuckled grip on death.
Colossians 3 invites us to “put on the new self.” In Christ, getting rid of death is as simple as changing your clothes. Or for the sake of this metaphor, as easy as cleaning and redecorating a front yard, because Christ already did the cleaning 2000 years ago on the cross.
In the same way that snowfall covers the city in pure, sparkling beauty, in the same way that it heralds the season of joy and cheer, let us let go of death and find joy in repentance: “Repent and believe the gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
P.S. Oh, and move over Pumpkin Spice Latte… bring on the Peppermint White Hot Chocolates!!
It’s been quite the ride.
I jumped on a bandwagon (LETS GO BLUE JAYS), stayed ahead of a wave (of midterms and assignments)… and now I’m not quite sure what to do on the shore.
For those of you still hanging on, I promise I still have work and assignments to do… just not what some call “hell week.”
ALDS, Game 5, Bautista bat flip… I was hooked. Before that, I couldn’t care less about baseball. Then the game was explained and I marvelled at the amount of strategy involved… it really is a mind game. Followed it through the Championship Series… and I’m still feeling the let down that it didn’t turn into Game 7, let alone a World Series.
At the same time that the ALCS was going… so were midterms and midterm-equivalent-assignments. I was wired in and out of class… Not at all a healthy thing. On top of my usual sleeplessness, I could hardly celebrate finishing one midterm and/or assignment before I had to start thinking of and planning for the next. And when I wasn’t, there were the Jays.
For some the following will be heresy… but maybe for me, it wasn’t such a bad thing that we lost… the spell broke and here I am blinking in the sunlight wondering where the last week and a half went.
These games turned me into something I never thought I would be… a sports fan. Maybe not the super crazy ones, but crazy enough to feel every out like a ball to the gut. Crazy enough to scoff at the opponent team’s despair. Crazy enough to cheer for a team I’d only been with for a week, and study all the terms and the players (alongside my midterms).
This wasn’t me, was it? Since when did I care about a game?
As for midterms… this is the first time where because of the back-to-back nature of my schedule, I basically had to cram every night. I’ve never crammed before, so that was a learning curve in itself! By God’s grace, I still did well… but marks are still coming in. All week, I was stressing over what’s done, what’s next, what’s ahead… just survive until Friday and I’m home free.
Well… it’s Friday. No Jays. No midterms.
I’ve forgotten what it was like to breathe. I’d forgotten what it was like to rest. I’d left peace and joy that surpass all understanding for… fandom — tension and anxiety.
Now that it’s over, it feels like the room was flooding, and just before I ran out of air, someone slammed the valve shut. It’s been a week of so much noise and panic, that the quiet sounds suspicious.
But in the quiet, is a still small voice of graceful intercession.
Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
It’s over. Jays, midterms, adrenaline, stress, anxiety. No screaming, pounding fans, no profs and TAs telling me how much time I have left. Just a still small voice.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
A very present help in trouble… infinitely more present and more help than seeing a win for the Jays. Though that would’ve been nice, what would it have really accomplished?
The nations rage… sounds like the jays fans. First a bad call on an inference homer, then a bad call on Revere’s strike.
He utters his voice, the earth melts… can I just let that sink in? And then, He is with us? He is our fortress? It’s such a silly thing to forget. How can we forget that God is on our side? The Jays lost… when did that become such an important thing to me that losing hurts? When did losing Jays glory matter more than forgetting God’s glory?