Encouragement for the Lonely During Quarantine

Despite the memes reminding us that personal quarantine is not the end of the world, social distancing is going to be rough on some people.*

Yes, we should keep perspective and praise God that we are not fighting another world war (or an infection). But if you’re going to trot out that line every time someone struggles, it gets hard to have a conversation. Loneliness is real. And we are all – accustomed and unaccustomed alike – going to learn new things about it in the coming days.

Scripture acknowledges loneliness. David cries out “Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am alone and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16). Well-known verses like Ecclesiastes 4:10 – “For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up” – reveal that God meant us to need each other and record the pain when it doesn’t happen. We are meant to need God more, but if you were to interpret that as license to run off to a cabin in the woods and commune with God alone for forty years (something my Montana people might know about), theologians would hasten to correct you. We were not meant to live this life alone.

When community is denied, struggle comes. Someone has said “Joy shared is multiplied; sorrow shared is divided.” The mathematics of fellowship, if you will. The church was meant to do good things in the world that few pairs of hands can’t, as the disciples acknowledged in Acts 6. My state and local guidelines still permit me to visit friends (for the moment), but even if we were to mutually agree on it, most of my friends have small children. That makes me hesitant to seek out companionship right now. I think that’s probably right.

Our elderly, currently the most at-risk demographic, are lonely already. We are not a country that honors its elders, unless they’re celebrities. That’s our loss and always has been (and it also happens to make us an exception amongst people groups). But we aren’t doing much about it, and they feel it in their assisted living homes and empty nests. And now, most states have ordered or strongly advised them to self-quarantine regardless of the advice given to younger citizens.

Singles are not the only lonely people, but I have a heart nonetheless for my unmarried brethren. Its not just that the common and usually fair encouragement of “it could happen any day now!” has hit a rare suspension for you. Some of you know what it’s like to spend a weekend alone with a cold. Or spend your days with no family in your immediate area. Or attend a church that doesn’t pay much attention to you. Depending on your personality and circumstances, singleness can be a socially isolating experience.

Or perhaps you’re the type who’s been feeling alone in a room long before pestilences usher everyone else out.

And, most of all, there are those who have actually gotten sick. Or those for whom “watching Netflix for a couple straight weeks” also happens to mean losing a job.

These are the people we can love and serve and pray for.

Right now, quarantine doesn’t seem too bad. This is partially because it’s still novel (any “shelter in place” orders are only days old), partially because everyone else is ignoring them, and partially because many states haven’t gotten there yet.

That will all most likely change. If other states inch closer to stricter measures and quarantine becomes more strongly enforced, Satan will not miss opportunities to oppress people in their homes. I say this sincerely not to scare, but to prepare. The church should be ready to care for people’s emotional health as well as their physical and material health.

I have a few thoughts that I hope will lift you today. They’re honestly kind of random, but I offer anyway.

1. No hole is too deep for God.

As you can tell from the article, I don’t believe in airbrushing or diminishing hardships. If a hole is there, let us admit it. God seems to.

But even as God grants the greater depth of a hole, he shows his reach is still greater. Through any storm, he is able to reach us, calm our turbulent seas, and set our feet on dry ground (or water!).

It will require vigor and intentionality to secure that piece. Don’t cop to self-pity. Believe it and receive it.

2. No permanent solutions to temporary problems.

Sadly, suicide and self-harm hotlines are recession-proof institutions. I pray desperately that those who face these demons will not succumb amidst their isolation. Use the phone and internet lines. Stay connected. Heck, send me an email. I’d rather answer them than see you hurt.

3. Better days are coming.

I’m not talking about the passing of this darkness, when we all emerge from our holes, rediscover each other, and get it on like Endgame. I’m speaking of the next life.

I personally believe that God has configured heaven to cure and renounce every defining hardship. For illness, we get new bodies; for poverty, we shall never want again; for injustice, God will right all wrongs.

It’ll happen for loneliness, too. We shall enjoy perfect communion with God and with each other, never to feel isolated again. We will be known.

For some, the isolation might prove a restful and much-needed pause, a chance to get back on the spiritual disciplines wagon and move closer to God and family. For others, it might be the thing they’ve most dreaded. The two groups should not judge each other. Let’s all just love instead. God has given us incredible tools at our fingertips; let’s be intentional, gracious, and available during this time, and let us hope. We have no shortage of it in Christ.

* Despite the hardships quarantine may cause, this blog does not endorse modifying or disregarding federal, state, or local guidelines regarding public health and safety. We should put others before ourselves, show the Christian witness, and “submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Do this, and God will see to our affairs.

3 Scriptural Promises that Speak the Language of Anxiety and Depression

Ray Of Light Forest Trees Sunlight Sun SunbeamAnxiety and depression are almost synonymous with our day, and they only seem to be growing with the lateness of the hour.

The memes may fly about how we’re the generation of the neurotic, but like many good jokes, it’s truer than we’d care to admit. The anxious and depressed long for a full, light, and steady heart. They’d give an arm for just a day of that. Instead, a great bell seems to hang from it, turning the mountaintops into plains, the plains into valleys, and the valleys…well, you can imagine. And like many bells, it takes only a small tap to start everything vibrating, shaking the heart with worried thoughts. You know what I mean – that chronic, racing overthinking, the endless suspicion, the corner of your soul that perpetually waits for the other shoe to drop.

The answer was intended to be passed from one generation to another. Instead, the reality of God’s faithfulness is becoming lost knowledge, like cursive, or how to speak Latin. Technology adds to the exodus. It’s a double-edged sword. I look around my youth group, or my classroom a few years ago, and mourn at the ease with which teenagers have all the chaos and discord of the world – and endless comparisons – beamed straight into their pocket. I’ve seen it truly paralyze some of them. It’s a burden they shouldn’t have to bear, yet one they can’t shed without falling behind in the world.

Everyone has a theory for anxiety and depression’s cause. Everyone, from theologians to self-help gurus to pharmaceutical companies to diet fads to Michelob Ultra to certain fallen angels of ill repute, claims to have locked down the solution. Drown it. Find stability in another’s arms. Stay distracted. Or busy.

The truth is, the cacophony of dueling answers is almost as discouraging as the problem. Accusation and confusion piggyback on what should be a lifejacket for the soul. And many of them don’t work, or backfire and make it worse. They’re proving they don’t speak the language. Ultimately, only God is the healer. Yet even we, his servants, struggle to get our story straight amongst ourselves.

I personally believe that the God who had a different war strategy for each stage of the Promised Land campaign, the Son who never healed someone the same way twice, prefers the personal touch. There might be many different ways God chooses to heal us. They might be extraordinary or mundane. And they might not operate on our timetable, for reasons that are far above my pay grade.

While we wait, however, God does not leave us empty. Though he cannot be anxious or depressed, God proves in his Word that he can still speak that language. It is amazing to peruse even familiar Scripture and find promises targeted straight towards our afflictions, like an ancient Rosetta stone buried in the earth. He fully intends to sustain us this side of the mirror dimly.

Here are three promises that have spoken to me.

 

1. “I do not condemn you for this.”

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Many Christians are under the impression that depression is a sin, a failure to adequately read (or believe) Scripture. They rebuke the anxious and depressed accordingly. A great many genuine, heartfelt followers of Christ therefore have guilt added to their burdens.

I don’t count myself in this camp. Anxiety and depression can stem from a place of spiritual ignorance (how depressing our future indeed without God!). But they can also be chemical, seasonal, hormonal, the product of spiritual warfare, or simply the soul’s response to tragedy. I know people whose depression clears up with caffeine. Others shed it by changing lifestyles or thought patterns.

More importantly, condemnation of the mentally beleaguered forgets the work of the Cross. If no sin or offense is beyond God’s forgiveness for the repentant, then neither are anxiety and depression – whether they’re sins or not. This reality ought to reign in our judgments, soften the contemptuous tone we sometimes level towards the depressed. They are instead candidates for grace – as are we all.

 

2. “I’m happy to reassure you as often as you need.”

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:22-23)

One hallmark of anxiety and depression is seeking frequent reassurance of love – even from those who are closest and most loyal. Ever felt like you’re always vaguely “in trouble” somehow? Ever seen a friend act distant and assumed the problem is you, that you upset them with some little offhand word or action a month ago and they’re just too polite to tell you? Anxiety brings this stuff in spades.

I have friends with anxiety, and it’s amazing to watch their spouses. They know their mates’ needs, and they’ll “check in” with them on a regular basis. During a long church function, they sometimes won’t let an hour pass without swinging by to see how they’re doing. Though knowing they can’t be God to their spouses, they offer what they can. They don’t groan, roll their eyes, or tell their spouses to buck up. They took “in sickness and in health” seriously.

We see this understanding in Lamentations 3:22-23, though perhaps we never read it that way before. God is never outdone in compassion. He is not stingy, doling out a little love here and there, expecting it to tide us over for weeks and then chiding us when we long for more or forget a verse. Nothing in Scripture suggests that. He welcomes a daily dependence on him, promotes it – and then fulfills it, overflowing like the sunshine, oxygen, and moisture that never run out. If he gets frustrated, it’s because we don’t depend on him, that we try the independence thing and wind up dry and desolate.

No, God loves to check in with us. His words of love are written down in black and white, a limitless fountain at the turn of a page. He tells us to be filled with his Spirit, a regular activity like eating or drinking. He is not embarrassed or annoyed that we seek him again and again. He is delighted – and responsive.

 

3. “You will get a new mind one day.”

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Imagine the moment we see God and receive our glorified bodies – and minds.

Imagine the incessant weight of sadness lifted, falling from our souls like useless scales, never to burden us again. Imagine constant lightness of heart, for no reason other than God always wanted it for us. No more clouded intellect, or unshakeable cold-blanket pessimism, or constant replaying of every word or conversation looking for where you screwed up. Every corner of our soul now conquered and owned and healed fully by God. Everything clear.

Until then, it’s a war. No doubt about it.

But the war will end. For the Christian, God has planned an entirely new body and mind, and nothing can avert his plans. It will be yours. “But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.” (Matt. 24:13)

It may not be easy, but at least it’s simple. Endure to the end. Hold fast to his Word, for it does speak our language.

 

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No Single Christian Left Behind

I have the privilege of doing youth work with a couple of guys I graduated high school with. They’re married with kids.

Several students I’ve mentored in that youth ministry have gotten hitched. One’s even had a couple daughters.

I saw an old (now married) girlfriend in the store the other day. She looked…I’m bad at this…six or seven months pregnant? I was certainly happy for her.

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But it’s certainly enough to make a bachelor feel left behind.

In years gone by, I would often reassure myself with Don’t worry, they’re a lot older than you. You’ve got time. Then one day I woke up and was their age. So much for that arrow in the quiver. In fact, the pastor at one of our offshoot churches has a salt-and-pepper beard, a seminary degree, and a small tribe running around his wife’s ankles – and my jaw dropped when I found out he’s two years younger than me.

Ever felt left behind?

You’re not.

Though we could turn to comforts such as there are still plenty of people who marry late and you’ve accomplished plenty that they haven’t, the best response to times of loneliness is knowing that the Father’s love knows no boundaries – including what you haven’t done.

Nobody at my church has ever openly made me feel outmoded for being single – my spiritual family is too Scripturally literate for that. They know that although the Old Testament certainly seemed to hand all the stature and security to families, Jesus changed things. He stresses singles’ place in his family. Both through his words (Matthew 19) and those inspired (1 Corinthians 7), Jesus pointed out that singles actually have an easier time navigating the evangelistic demands of his kingdom. Sometimes married people fall behind the singles!

But more importantly, Scripture breaks down barriers to his love. Rich or poor, slave or free, sick or healthy, Jew or Gentile, popular or otherwise, educated or a fisherman casting about on Galilee’s shores, Christ embraces people on every part of every spectrum as candidates for his grace.

Singles are no exception. Every single Christian is a pool into which Christ’s waterfall of love tumbles perennially. He did not come to earth, suffer the cross, empty the tomb, and ascend to heaven so that his love would be thwarted by the lack of a ring.

It hurts that there are churches who do not share this view. Singles across the world are too often ignored, sidelined, or flat-out rebuked for not marrying, as if they’re only “playing at life” until they do (and without ever being asked if singleness was what they wanted).

The emotional burden is real, and God will hear our honesty in the meantime. It’s not fun to have less and less in common with your friends, having to work harder and harder to keep up your friendships. That’s not what Hebrews meant by “running the race”.

But no single Christian has been left behind with God. You are secure in his love. Your present potential and value to God are undimmable; it need only be prayed for, sought, and cultivated. And God’s eternal future for you is sealed; Jesus will one day give each of us a new name (Rev. 2:17), whether we ever changed it here on earth or not.

Therefore, I can celebrate where I am today. For on the spectrum that matters most – God’s love – I am on equal standing with all who are his.

 

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Delight Amidst Mordor: the Hard Part of Psalm 37:4

Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37:4)

Hoo, boy. Few Bible verses carry as much potential to turn us into mercenaries.

“Love God and he’ll give you things” – yeah, that’s just begging to go down the wrong alleys. How do we handle such a verse? How do we treasure God and his opinions on things in light of such an offer? It’s Scripture. It can’t be wrong. So there must be a solution to this conundrum.

Don’t obey God to get things, obey God to get God. – Tim Keller

For me, it is the sheer intensity of “delight”.

1378807888_1c49b58b1b_z“Delight” doesn’t just mean a vague affection, certainly not a conditional one. It means delight. An intense love that crowds out other considerations. I don’t just like my mom – I delight in her, such that I’d make her a priority over a great many things. Same with my friends. (That’s why they’re friends.)

Delight can’t be faked. God sees right through it, and we’d never trust our own motives without it. When we delight in God, the first half of Psalm 37:4 outshines the second half, which sidles up to us out of nowhere while we’re absorbed with God.

I know – tall order.

How do we delight in God so freely when we have so many beefs with all he has allowed? It’s the question instantly begged upon the word “delight”.Some of our lives resemble Mordor – ashes and geysers everywhere you look.

That was the fork at which I stood.

All I can say is, I chose delight. It wasn’t some saintly nobility – I just knew the way back was cut off.

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68)

And I found that things really do operate the way God describes.

The Christian who desires more money must release it, trusting so fully in God’s creative provision that charity becomes the greater joy.

The Christian who desires upward mobility must instead wash feet.

The Christian who desires more friendship must offer it, gushing like a spring upon those around him (as Christ did) rather than incessantly drawing inwards.

The Christian who desires a spouse must be filled with Christ now, so that they will not grasp like an empty one.

The Christian who desires justice must not seek it by his own hand, but depend on God’s watchfulness and convicting power. (You might be interested to know that justice is actually the strict context of Psalm 37).

At each point, our desire is tested to determine its worth. Some would survive the fire, others would not (Psalm 37:4’s applicability to Lamborghini’s is doubtful), but all must be sublimated to Christ.

And no matter what the cherished object, we must delight in his timing.

God has a funny way of keeping dreams alive. It’s one of the great paradoxes. He brings our dreams around. But they happen in his way, according to his calculations and machinations, and often with a more eternal reach (like the artist whose future work might raise souls instead of curtains).

It is difficult to delight amidst the Mordor of this world. But if we choose it anyway, we will be rescued, pulled out of the cataclysm and awakened in a new home.

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

The Joshua Harris Fallout: Does God Write Sad Love Stories?

Forward Ship Force Of Nature Storm Wave Lake

One of the chief challenges of the Christian life is that we’re often blind to God’s plans.

We pray for healing, but don’t know whether it’s God’s will to heal. We pray in the storm without knowing what God wants to stop, the storm or our fragility. We pray for friends’ salvation; we don’t know all that goes on behind that stage.

Let’s not mince words: we face the reality that not only is God’s agenda different from ours, but his feelings, his definitions of “good”, might be alien to us as well.

Then there are times like Joshua Harris’ divorce.

Like a hurricane, this storm could reach well beyond its center. Though many Christians are glad over Harris’ fall (a sentiment that does not share God’s heart toward the lost (Ezek. 18:23, 33:11)), others are doubtlessly experiencing deep unease over questions about God’s involvement in divorce. Many single Christians have hung their hat on the idea that God is writing their love stories and have never heard wedding vows containing the phrase “until God do us part”. After Harris’ limited involvement in that teaching, their confusion now is understandable. Does God write sad love stories?

I’m bumping up against ancient theological conundrums here, of course, on the nature of God’s control of the universe, of events, and of hearts.

One group would say, “Why should I marry when I don’t know whether God will preserve my marriage?”

Another group would say, “It’s horrible to conceive a world where man’s evil is the primary wind. Is it not better to be in God’s hands than man’s?”

So how about it. Was this divorce God’s doing?

My answer is…I don’t know. We won’t be resolving these millennia-old stumpers here today. (Nor do I wish to mediate any angry debates in the comment section, please, gang.)

And perhaps…there doesn’t need to be an answer.

Instead, a back-to-basics approach is good in times like these. Three things occur to me.

1. God is sorrowful.

I have a personal connection to the question of God’s role in divorce: my own parents split when I was seventeen. Never in my life have I felt more keenly that God had let me down.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

What I got from my pastors is reassurances that when God says he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), he means it. Did he do it? At some point, that no longer mattered. That year, I learned from Scripture that God shared my outrage, that he fully identifies with us in how we feel about the world’s brokenness. This saved my faith. (You can’t swing a dead cat through the Bible without finding God displeased about something or other.)

John Piper has said, “God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend.” There might be no greater understatement. I take comfort in knowing that God enters into our pain, without needing to resolve the greater questions.

2. Fight fear.

Some single Christians feel a shaking of what they believe concerning their futures. Entire formulas feel disproven.

Satan would use this to create widespread fear among us. Don’t be part of it. “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 3:7). Whatever else, be wise to Satan’s schemes.

3. Wisdom is still wisdom.

Many of us never got on board with the idea that total passivity is the only way to receive God’s future spouse, and towards the end of his walk, neither did Harris.

But neither does his apostasy negate other Scripture, or permit us to get stupid. Regardless of questions over God’s matchmaking protocols, prayer is still smarter than no prayer, wise counselors are still better than otherwise, and singleness still beats unequally yoked marriage.

If you put a gun to this non-guru’s head, I’d say the intensity you commit to seeking marriage is between you and God (assuming it doesn’t involve sin or desperation – remember “sound judgment”). Some people he does tell not to move. I’ve witnessed it. Others seem free to look more proactively. Crackpot idea: it might depend on the person and what God is trying to address within each heart.

Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you. – Oswald Chambers

Assess your readiness with sober judgment (Romans 12:3). Know what qualities matter in another. Be driven alone by the confidence that God’s advice is best. If you believe he’s saying something – either to get a ring on a finger or return it – then obey. He hasn’t left his throne.

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I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

NOTE: I’m out this week, but will respond to your comments when I return.

The Joshua Harris Fallout: Purity’s Real Destination

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Why does all the wild stuff happen while I’m away at youth camp?

I’ve written before on navigating the fall of our Christian heroes. Frankly, it leaves us feeling a little adrift. It’s a sign of just how tangled our relationship with God can become with human intermediaries, and how threatened it all feels when the tent of cards comes down. (I remember some missionary friends moving Stateside after years abroad, hearing how the church they’d left behind started losing members immediately. They’d loved the leaders rather than God.)

Well, it’s happened again. This time it’s Joshua Harris, of I Kissed Dating Goodbye fame/notoriety. He renounced Christ publicly on Friday.

On top of that, he announced separation from his wife. Joshua Harris. Of all people.

Harris was one of the seminal generators of what we call “purity culture”. Boiled down (heavily), it theorizes that undertaking the journey of sexual purity and brotherly love that God commands, largely by avoiding dating, will lead to the destination of an amazing, God-ordained marriage.

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Yeah, I know.

I’ve never been one to pile on. Though I disagree with much of what he wrote, I also have the objectivity to spot that many of his teachings were distorted and amplified beyond their purview by others. I’ve also seen my own criticisms echoed by Harris himself the last few years. Frankly, I think a guy deserves credit for being able to so humbly and accurately renounce his central life’s work. (Have you ever been in that position?)

But I’ve also stayed moderate because I think much criticism of purity culture actually misses the point.

Much criticism of purity culture quibbles with the journey. It tells us that we’ve selected the wrong highway, that its rules on physical boundaries and dating are stifling, counterproductive, inductive of shame, and don’t guarantee good marriage anyway.

There’s definitely some truth there. Shame is no good. And as Harris said, prohibition of dating simply isn’t in the Bible.

On the other hand, I value boundaries. My first girlfriend and I barely touched, relatively speaking. I have to imagine it made the breakup easier. And if my next one wants to save her first kiss until the altar, she’ll gets what she wants, ‘cuz I’ll want to honor her. I‘d much rather our relationship be founded on words, food, Bible reading, shared experiences, food…that sort of thing. The moment you start making out, all that stuff takes a backseat to thinking about the next time you’ll get her in the backseat. Food.

My objection is with the supposed destination.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Eph. 5:3)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)

Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. (Heb. 13:4)

Notice something: in all three of these pivotal purity passages, do you see any direct mention of the future spouse? There’s none.

Yet vast swaths of evangelicalism motivate singles to purity using our future spouse – how disappointed and damaged they’ll be when you have “the talk” and find out you didn’t wait, how purity guarantees wonderful marriages and stratospheric sex, etc.

That motivator is consistently absent. Purity culture gets the destination wrong.

Instead, Scripture teaches that the destination of purity is the glory of God. It’s about pleasing him, preserving his reputation, honoring his ownership of you.

And honestly, ironically, I see very little of that in most criticisms of purity culture.

Yeah, yeah, it’s easier to get students to care about their future spouse than about God’s glory. But truth is still truth. I want our youth group’s students to have the highest aim; I want singles to have motivation for purity when marriage proves elusive.

Yes, I want to protect my future wife through my purity, and plan to do so. But God’s glory needs to be my primary goal, because God needs to be primary in my marriage. The moment either she or I become the center, its prospects drop. He is where the power lies; he is the point.

Motivations matter. Eventually, life sweeps over us all like a tide and tests our foundations. I suspect it will get to our purity motivations sooner or later. When that day comes, I’d rather be anchored by the Highest.

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

NOTE: I’m out this week, but will respond to your comments when I return.

Resting Killface and the Hard Glory of Yet Another Task

desertResting killface is a condition in which the mouth’s corners do not naturally turn upward, even when you’re eight tics happier than you look. The result is a face like mine, perpetually frozen somewhere between “quietly petrified”, “incurably grave”, and “Deep South serial killer”.

Your parents during your childhood: “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” you’d reply over your book.

“You sure?”

“Yep.”

“You look annoyed.”

“I’m not. Now I’m annoyed because you keep asking.”

Years ago, I arrived at a party to announce I’d nabbed a new teaching position, only for a friend to go, “so why do you look like someone just shot your dog?”

If any of this is familiar, you might have resting killface. We’re good, we swear! We only look like we’ll strangle the next person who approaches us.

But eventually I had to face how my killface was impacting my social life. When I stood around in neutral, my downer look would repel folks. When I made a joke, my lack of smile would conflict with my tone, leaving others unsure of my intentions. It was subtle, but influential.

Following on this revelation’s heels was the fact that the onus was on me to change.

oasis-67549_1280.jpgThat was frustrating. I’ve never been socially gifted; friendmaking has been slow. To hear that I had a hand in getting where I was, and had more work to do, felt honestly like insult added to injury.

But the world wouldn’t change for me. Social dynamics were social dynamics. No matter how many Disney movies sang “be yourself”, no matter how many memes of people snapping their fingers in a “Z” motion and celebrating rejection of all advice, the score was the same. I needed to accept either this new “growth opportunity”…or the status quo.

Have you waged a years-long campaign only to be confronted with yet another battle?

Your student with special needs uncovers another learning disability.

Your illness breaks remission.

The new boss appears and turns out worse than your last three.

God exposes another soul weakness that needs work before he ends your singleness (I do believe he does this with some, my last post notwithstanding).

Another retreat fails to fix your marriage.

Your church keeps on bickering and back-biting, and now its foremost tither announces he’s moving.

Ugh.

I think of Shasta in The Horse and His Boy. He has just raced thousands of miles across country, first in a desperate flight from slavery, then carrying word of a coming invasion of the free and noble Archenland. He’s evaded city police, endured days of desert heat, and been chased by lions. Gasping, ready to collapse, he finally reaches Archenland’s citizens with news of the impending attack – only to learn that he’s the only one who can reach the king in time. He must keep going.

…”he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed, your reward usually is to do another and harder and better one.”

I don’t know where C.S. Lewis got this sage stuff (well, yes I do), but it’s the kind that alters a young man’s trajectory.

Perhaps it is not cruelty but honor and reward, wearying though our journey be. Perhaps we should throw ourselves in without hesitation, as Shasta did the first river he found after his desert crossing. Or into the next leg of his journey.

For Shasta’s mission succeeded. In fact, not only did Archenland receive his warning in time to fortify its defenses until Narnian reinforcements could arrive, but Shasta discovered who he really was: the long-lost son of the very king he’d warned, heir to the very kingdom he helped save.

Be refreshed by God today. It is only through these travails that we will discover Whose sons and daughters we’ve been all along.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

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