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God's Gifts to Himself
March 2006 (notes from before Jaymun got here) (finally posted a year later)
The world can be a lonely place. Everybody wants love. To be encouraged, to be admired, to be touched, to be cared for, to have time spent with.
Everyone is familiar with lonely times. Those times when your world seems out of balance - a little bit scary, when you are uncertain what to think, or are confused about the future. Or maybe it is when your world is full of people and events but there seems to be an emptiness starting from the corners of your mind and you wonder if something is wrong - are you missing the real meaning?
We all have methods to deal with times like this. Some times we might turn to our "significant other" for encouragement, or intimate confirmation - to fill the gap and provide the "all is well in the world" feeling. Other times we might enjoy spending time with friends, pouring ourselves into activities like golf, sports, hunting, fishing, etc. Or we regularly escape into "nightlife" - bowling, playing pool or darts, socializing at parties and in bars, etc. Or we build friendships over the Internet, and as we chat with strangers and share our lives with others in far-away places we feel significant. Maybe you older people live for your job and career accomplishments, and you younger people live for your victories in the electronic gaming world. Maybe you satisfy your cravings by using nicotine to smooth out your day or alcohol to lubricate your evenings.
Have you really succeeded in filling your life with meaning? What about those times when everything you are doing doesn't quite fill up the gap? When you are bored, or feeling down, then what do you do? I think many people just look for more ways to find new meaning. A new video game, some more friends. A new boyfriend, a new car. A new bar, a new pool league. A new job, buy a new gun, get some more toys. Drink more, smoke more. Summer softball, or improve the golf game. An online dating service, a marriage seminar - get some counseling. Vacations, cruises, high-school sports. Children, siblings, and education. Drink less, smoke less, lose weight, join the health club. A new coffee house, mochas and biscotti. Earn more money, spend more money, borrow or save. Tax refunds, maybe we'll win the lottery. Church and Sunday school, little-league and P.T.L. Dances and picnics, barbecues and playing cards. Camping, boating, and paintballing.
I think loneliness is a worry, a despair whether deep down we really mean anything - and because most of us are afraid to peer too closely inside, we grab from the buffet of activities life has to offer in an attempt to make our lives feel worthwhile, and we try to build this reliable structure around us that affirms our value. However - since external things cannot satisfy our inner needs, many of us either spend a life pursuing more quantity, adding more variety, or constantly switching focus in an attempt to guarantee the value of our life.
Have you reached success? What about when you can't ever get there? Everything new thing you try gets old. And as you go through life - the time it takes to wear out the novelty of a new pursuit gets shorter and shorter. When you are young you have what you think is unlimited energy to try new things - the world is before you. But sooner than later (in my case it was about 19 years old) you will realize that your energy is not unlimited, your powers are not infinite, your control will not always increase, and you will never fill your gap by a manic rush to gobble up life. You can borrow money till you are ready to either go bankrupt, flee the country, or commit insurance fraud - and you still will not be able to buy enough things to catch up to what the other guy or gal has that you envy so much. You can spend huge amounts of time scheming, stealing, or conniving but you won't get where you want to be.
Are the anchors of your life dependable? What about when you turn to something important and it fails? Someone or something you have been counting on as a major part of your life doesn't do what you wanted. Your spouse dies - or leaves you. Your boyfriend / girlfriend dumps you. Your job is terminated, your car breaks down, someone steals your XBOX, you loose the big game, you get fired? How do you fill huge gaps like that when there aren't any more fresh starts immediately available to you... ...you can't add anything more to the mix in your life - you are out of money, time, and opportunity? You have no money for a new car, the job you had is the only one you know how to do, there will never be another person like the one you loved, you are embarrassed and your reputation is ruined, or life has just moved past you and it is too late to do it over again?
Ok, maybe it isn't the big worries that drag you down, but just a series of smaller annoyances. You thought your team would to better this year, you were sure you'd meet that special person. Those raises always seem to be a bit smaller than usual, and there never seems to be quite as much extra cash around. The kids were supposed to be more fun this weekend - we weren't supposed to be arguing and yelling last night. The day was stressful and your husband was supposed to come home and be helpful. The day was tough and your wife was supposed to be warm and loving. The weather was supposed to be nice - and now it's dreary on the weekend. Why do you always get sick when important events come along? Why doesn't your spouse understand how you feel? Today business was slow, the boss was cranky, the customers were demanding, family annoying, friends busy, checking account empty, you have a headache and can't get a good nights sleep.
That is about the time you are rolling over in bed at 2:00 in the morning and you think...
"I need something. What is wrong? Life seems frustrating or lonely. What should I do?"
Now let me stop right here and tell you what happened to me in this kind of situation. I am a person just everyone else - although I have heard people say I am one of a kind and I am not sure they were complimenting me at the time! I know I have "re-learned" these lessons far too often - I'm confused why I lose focus (of God's life priorities) so often and have to repeat them. People say I have ADD - not sure what that means - possibly Advanced Driving Disorder? Maybe I'll ask the police ...next time I see them (grin).
But seriously - I woke up this morning at 2:30 - couldn't sleep - and started evaluating my life. It is full of many good and exciting things. I was not necessarily unhappy - I just had this feeling that there was something better. I love my wife, I have four wonderful children and another on the way. A good business, a nice house, fufilling church and friends across the country and around the world. Yet I was confused... What's wrong - am I forgetting something? what's missing? I need something.
Well... poking your pregnant wife at 2:30 in the morning isn't really a safe thing to do and I was pretty sure how that would turn out (grin). I lay there thinking over everything... and thinking... and thinking. And I recognized that deep need to be loved and valued, and to have quality time spent with - that need for God - that God loves to fill. So I got up, turned the light on in the living room, took out my Bible, and humbly told God how much I needed Him. I read a chapter (John 17) and returned to bed. However, I never drifted off to sleep. I just grew more and more excited as I thought about what I had read.
At least six times in this chapter Jesus mentions in his prayer that the Father has "given" to Him his disciples and he extends his prayer for us "those who believe on Him". So that means we are "gifts" from the Father to Jesus. Gifts. I kept thinking about that - and what that means to me.
People give things that are of value - our new lives are given as a gift to Jesus from the Father. God placed a great value in you - giving you to his Son as a gift.
Think about that a bit - what does one do with a gift?
* People protect gifts - they don't lose them. God promises to keep you safe. His faithfulness is to be counted on. Jesus does not want to lose you.
* If gifts are damaged, we take special care to repair them. Wow. Jesus loved us so much that while we were yet sinners he paid the price for our freedom. His life and death are the power that heals the distress of our body, mind, and soul. How valuable people we are to Him then - with that kind of personal sacrifice and investment in us.
* People enjoy time with gifts - together with the giver. Jesus wants to bring you back in touch with His (our) Father - and together spend quality time with you.
In fact the final emphasis of Jesus prayer in John 17 was the togetherness (time) that Jesus wants...
togetherness of us, Jesus, and our Father.
I take that to mean that my time periods, however small and/or insignificant they may seem to me, are valuable to Jesus. He has a plan for today, tonight, this weekend, my family... these hours are a gift - to Him and from Him.
"Lord, thank you for your love - please help me follow your lead in this time today... I am in awe of your majesty" I am humbled by your interest, and excited about the posibilities of your plan.
Thank you for the responsabilities and challenges you have placed in my life. It means everything that You want to be with me. I am sorry for all the times I run away, lag behind, or forge ahead of You. I desperately need Your inspiration, and Your help.
With Your forgiveness, Your power, Your grace, this very day can be the most special of days - not because I necessarily reach some goal, but because You transform the moments with Your presence. Help me to celebrate together with You this day here...
...and to anticipate the day I will be with you there.