Sadly, I feel that I end up having to say this at the beginning of many of my posts, but I'm deeply sorry that it has been so long since I have written anything. Life has been out of control. Or more specifically, schoolwork has been out of control. This semester has definitely been the most stressful in that sense than any of my other semesters. If there is ever a chance of me dropping out of school and going back to working at Blockbuster, this is probably when it will happen. But even though things have been busy, they have not been all bad. My good friend Angie flew out from California to hang out with us Midwesterners this last weekend, and that was a ton of fun. We went to a corn maze and made a sweet video that you need to go on facebook and check out. Angie is very cool and good at Wii and is very smart, and she has a blog that you should go check out; there's a link in the Bloggolution bar on the side. Speaking of that, Jessie recently created a blog, so you should check that out too: www.runningthroughmoments.blogspot.com.
Tonight I'm returning to a theme that I know have touched on several times before, but it's an important one, I think, so I will rehash it again now. I've been thinking lately about the various places we seek approval. A lot of people like to come off as an independent renegade, so they say that they don't care a lick about what anyone thinks, but I usually doubt that. We work so hard to make sure that our friends, families, acquaintances, and even random strangers have a positive view of us. We like to be liked, and we turn to the world to receive that approval.
But there's a problem. The world will constantly tell us that we aren't good enough, and we'd better do all we can to pull ourselves up to the level of its acceptance. So we have to change our appearance so we can look like that guy or try to be as smart as that guy or to be as athletic as that guy or to have as much money as that guy, and it goes on and on and on. In effect, we're left to pull ourselves up by our own hair so that we can reach the plateau that the world tells us we need to achieve. But no matter how hard we try and how much we fix ourselves up, we always come up short. There is always some other area in which we need to improve ourselves.
It's similar with God in a small sense, but thankfully, it's much, much different. Like the world, God also tells us that we aren't good enough. We don't live up to the standard that God has set as acceptable. But he says, "You're not good enough. And that's ok. I can make you good." We aren't told to lift ourselves up God's perfect standard. He gives it to us, and he accepts us as we come. He isn't put off by our lack of talent, our asymmetrical features, or our annoying idiosyncrasies. He genuinely likes us and wants to be with us.
One of the dumbest things we do as humans is that we keep chasing after the world's elusive approval instead of God's. It doesn't make sense. We receive our own self-worth from the opinions of others, even though it always fails, and all the while God is saying, "I love you and care about you and accept you as you are!" Why can't we be happy with that? Why do we keep trying to draw water out of a dry well when there is another one overflowing right next to it?
There's a children's picture book called Are You My Mother? In the book, a little baby bird hatches while his mother is gone, so he goes around, asking all sorts of things if they are his mother. He asks a cat and a cow and a dog if they are his mother, but they each say no, so he moves on to asking a boat and a plane and a power shovel. I think we are sort of like the baby bird. It's like each of us is holding our little hearts, and we go through life asking all sorts of different people and things, "Can you guard my heart? Can you protect it and let me know that I'm good enough? Can you satisfy?" But in the end, all of those things fail to do what we ask, because we weren't made for them. As the baby bird is finally united with his mother in the end of the book, we need to turn to God, hand our hearts over to him, and allow him to define us and let us know that we're alright.
Last winter I went on Ozark's Spiritual Formation Retreat. It was really good and helped me get a lot of things on track that I needed to. On the first night of the retreat, one of the professors read Psalm 62 to us, and we just meditated on it a bit. Here's a few select verses from that psalm: "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken...Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him."
I remember that when I heard this psalm, what stuck out to me most was the repeated use of the word "alone." God alone is enough. God alone is fulfilling. I especially like it in connection with the word "fortress." It makes me think of a castle. A castle is built of a bunch of different stones. If my life is a castle, if my self-worth is a castle, those different stones may be where I draw that worth. So the different stones may be all the different relationships that I depend on to make it through life. Obviously, the biggest stone should be God, but there are other smaller stones for my friends and family and such.
The problem with this castle is that it's unstable. If I build my worth even in part on what other people think of me, I'm sitting on a pretty shaky structure. Granted, I've been blessed with some people in my life that have always been there. But if I establish myself on this friend or that family member or that girl, I'm building on the wrong thing. God alone needs to be my rock and fortress. Even if his stone makes up the majority of the castle, it's not enough. He needs to be the whole thing, because he's the only one who is perfectly sturdy. A castle built on anything else is always in danger of collapsing.
I've written before that contentment can be a difficult thing for me to attain. And I imagine that I'm not the only one. When situations don't work out the way I want them to and when I feel let down by circumstances or by myself, it can be hard to be satisfied knowing that God still has my back. I might feel like I need something else in addition to that, but the truth is that I don't. I'm not totally sure how to deal with that. I guess we just need reminders, and we need each other for encouragement.
It's like kickball. I might be the last kid picked by the world. But I'm chosen by God. And his kickball team generally wins.