I used the word clarity for my social networking status probably three or four times thinking I knew what it meant. However I quickly found out that I really had no idea what it meant. How do you define the word clarity? Let me give you my definition (and no I do not care what Webster says about it). Clarity is the ability for us to see that we are not in control of what is happening and that God has it completely under His. A startling thought no? The fact that we can build our own design for our lives, and carefully work towards the end that we see that is good for us is well known. After all this is America, and in America we seek after the American dream do we not. We seek to have the big house with the nice yard, the spouse and two and a half kids. We have had presidents who have told us that their vision for America is a chicken in every pot and a car in every driveway. It all sounds nice, and in the whole fantasy it really is a nice thing. In fact, for many people it is more than just a fantasy, it is a reality. The problem is that there is no thought given to what is actually going on inside the big house. There is no second glance given to what is in the mind and heart of the spouse, nor is there any real concern for how the two and a half kids are going to make it through life.
There used to be a great commercial on TV. I don’t remember what company it was for, but in the commercial was a man driving around on a lawn mower exclaiming all the things he had in line with the American dream. He concludes his part of the commercial with these words, “somebody please help me!” Now he is referring in that moment to his debts. However the example is a good one because I was that man. I was focused on this dream that I had for my life. I surrounded myself with the opulence that was within my reach. I stretch whatever money I had to gain more and more things. I ran up debt that I could not afford to pay back in the pursuit of what I thought would really make me happy. Gated community, nice cars, a hot tub, nice clothes, all had my attention. How little did I realize that I was writhing in my own misery because nothing was going to fill the hole inside of me. Sure I knew Jesus, I had accepted His call for my life as a minister and I was following that. What I was screaming with every purchase was, “somebody please help me!”
The Bible gives us the story of Jesus and a rich man. This man has money, possessions, and he is a good religious man. He even says that he keeps all of the commandments. Jesus shocks him when He tells the man to sell everything and follow Him. The rich man leaves dejected. Rather than follow Christ he goes back to his money. He goes back to the same empty feeling he had before going to Jesus. Now I was never rich, but I had what I needed to support myself and my family and give them a comfortable life. It was a gift from God, pure and simple, and I squandered it. I fell in love with things, and with money, and gadgets and guitars. I ignored the old adage, have what you want, but want what you have. I also ignored my call to stewardship of what God was giving me. I became consumed with an old enemy of humanity, greed.
Greed is like every other enemy of the human spirit in that it has friends. It brings envy, and gluttony, and sloth. And slowly but surely as you become obsessed with your possessions, you become envious, gluttonous, and slothful. Before you know it you are so miserable just like a drug addict looking for your next fix trying to fill the emptiness inside. Just like families of addicts, your family suffers. My family suffered. They suffered financially, and in the remains of that family the financial strain is still there. It all comes back to the cause of sin, selfishness. I was selfish. I was selfish with my time, my funds, and myself. No wonder I could never find the happiness I was looking for so badly. I was so consumed with myself that no one could get in.
The story of the rich man holds a new meaning to me. God is not really asking every rich person in the world to really sell everything they have and give their money away and become poor. What He is asking is that we not focus on building up stores for us here on earth, but to build up stores in Heaven. He is saying great, you keep the commandments, so follow me. Surrender yourself to Him, and follow Him in every way. It means sacrifice, it means not having what you want selfishly, but gaining what Christ offers selflessly. How much more successful would I have been as a minister had I not been selfish with my time? How much more would my family be blessed if I served them instead of myself? How much happiness did I miss by not following Christ everywhere including home? There is a war for the Christian to fight at home, and I forgot that, and I was completely lost in it. The band, Addison Road, has some fantastic lyrics about it in their song “Casualties”. Here is the chorus:
“Casualties of the American dream
Have we lost our vision
Drifting off and living
Half asleep with a faint heartbeat
Just dying to be revived
I want to be revived”
The war we are called to fight at home is the battle for our families. If you live the way I did you will lose it. If we get so consumed with what we think life at home is supposed to be like at home, we will lose the battle before we even realize it has become. I lost my battle. I am a casualty; I have the scars all over my heart to prove it. Losing hurts! Mike Tyson says that there is nothing more humbling than getting your butt kicked. These are wise words from a man who knows what it’s like to be on both sides of a fight physically. Getting my butt kicked spiritually by my own selfish decisions has been incredibly humbling.
So what difference does clarity make in what I am talking about. Basically it is the first step in realizing what is really going on in my life. I do not have the control I once thought I did, nor do the notions that I have about what life is supposed to be about make a bit of difference in reality. It’s like putting on a new pair of eyes. Having clarity, for me, means that I see that God is at work and if I am in His way He will knock me down. In fact, He did. Does that make Him mean? No, it makes Him sovereign. It makes Him holy. It makes Him in charge. You can say that you understand that all you want, but if you are not living that knowledge out in your life you are lying to yourself! I know, I lied to myself for a long time about what was real and what was supposed to happen in life. I lied to myself about living a normal calm life just like everyone else. I wasn’t called to do that. I was called to follow Him, wherever he would lead, not where I thought I would be comfortable.
It has taken me a long time, and cost me so much to understand this truth. The American Dream is a nice little fantasy, the dreams and plans that God has for me, and for you is so much greater. What I have written in this little project is not about me telling you what to do because I think I know more, or because I am accusing you of doing it wrong. My goal in writing this down is actually two fold. I need to get this out of my system. I need to face the mistakes I have done on paper so that I never go back to the same way again. But I also want you to see that, people makes mistakes, and God redeems them. He doesn’t want us to make mistakes; He wants us to follow Him so we don’t go through stuff like this. I pray that when you read this you take stock of your own life; you look inside yourself and answer this question. Am I making the same mistakes this idiot has, or am I truly following what God’s will is for my life? If you think that’s a stupid question let me give you this example. Last week I just wanted to die. I wasn’t suicidal; I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. I didn’t see the point; I just didn’t care anymore (that was the first chapter by the way). My entire being hurt so badly that all I wanted was to be released in death. When I hit my knees before God and begged Him to do something, a strange thing happened. He did! It didn’t happen all at once, He’s still not done. What happened was that I realized that this was not the end of me; in fact it was an opportunity for me to actually be what I was supposed to be. It happens bit by bit, just like I said, baby steps. Clarity is not instant, and I still probably don’t see everything completely clear yet. It begins with the knowledge that God is in complete control and the closer I get to Him, the better I feel. We were never meant to live life apart from Him. I’m harping I know, so I will leave you with this. How clearly do you really see yourself? And are you answering that question honestly. Because trust me, God will probe the depths of your heart, it is a painful experience if you’re not where you need to be. I like what I see with my new eyes, I don’t want them to ever be clouded again. What could you see with the ones God wants to give you?