Friday, October 21, 2011

when God disappoints

I wrote a guest post for Scot McKnight's blog today, on when God disappoints. You can read it here . . .

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not clear on...

There is an account on Twitter called Not Clear On. It's mostly a parody of things and people and ideas that are confusing, like rolling backpacks, or subscribing to people on Facebook, or hiking in Iran. It didn't take me too long to start coming up with my own topics of unclarity.

One thing that confuses me -- that I'm not clear on -- is people who start things. People who seem to lack the fear of failure, or have the ability to 'face the fear and do it anyway,' and go on to create wonderful things and inspire others, or create wonderful things and no one hears about them, or create terrible things but have still tried, have risked. I don't know what it's like to have that kind of bravery, but I want it very much, and I recognize that not only is it an important life skill to develop but that it may even be a sin not to develop it -- that God, all through the Bible, calls us to lives of bravery and risk and adventure (certainly in the great commission, among many other places). His plans for our lives are daring and grand, but fear can keep us from even starting to risk on God's behalf -- risk a conversation, an invitation, expressing our creativity . . . the list goes on.

It's not that I don't have ideas, or that there aren't things that excite me. It's that I get paralyzed by fear. Sometimes, driving down the street that I live on, I marvel at how all these houses got built, concrete got laid down, streets created and gardens planted. How does someone move out of fear and anxiety and into creativity and production? There is evidence of it all around me . . . but there is a panic that grips my heart so tightly when I think about starting something, creating something; a voice that tells me that no one cares and I'll certainly fail and then people will really think I'm worthless. What if my tomato plants fail, or the article isn't well-received, or the program doesn't take off? I can hardly be trusted to pick up my dry cleaning within the same calendar year I dropped it off; is it really such a good idea for me to be dreaming audacious dreams?

The thread underlying all of this, though, is that we worship a creative God. A God whose very existence is known to us only because of his creative act. People start things -- crazy, scary, daring things -- because we cannot help but in our own small ways bear the mark of our maker. And perhaps even more important than whether I succeed at something new is how I respond to the call of God on my life, in success and in failure.

I think this is part of why people felt so deeply and personally moved at hearing about Steve Jobs's death. He embodied this kind of person more than almost anyone else in the public eye.

I am afraid to try, to start, to fail. Especially to fail. But I do believe that my life will be richer for having failed knowing the glory of God than successfully sitting on my couch.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


There are days when it rains, and then the sun comes through -- days when the leaves wave just a little bit outside my window, and the new season is upon us, and on these days I remember what God talked about with Job. Those words that I love . . . "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements--surely you know!"

I love this for several reasons, but two stand out: First, that God is sarcastic. Which is my spiritual gift.

Second, though, I love that these words remind us of the mystery of it all. I don't do too well with mystery; with not knowing and uncertainty. Fear and anxiety tend to creep in at those times. But this, these words of God, God who 'answered Job out of the whirlwind,' this is the God who holds everything together. This is the God who knows what we do not know, and gives us what we think we may not want. This is the God who loves us, and who is in our corner.

These words don't make sense of everything, or give us certainty in our circumstances or, most of the time,  remove our fear entirely. But they remind us of reality, and who couldn't use that reminder from time to time? We create a million little worlds in our head every day, and instead of sending us spinning, God wants us to know that we are his, that we are loved, and that the world is his. We operate in his reality, and how funny and sad and pitiful it must seem to him when we frantically search for a place to stake our flags in his world. It is all his!