It’s been an eventful year: a time of the greatest happiness, greatest sorrow, greatest trials, and greatest transformation.
We had a speaker at Collegiate Week talk about Exodus: How God could have delivered the Israelites home with ease, but he instead gave them learning opportunities. They were painful at times, but Israel was stronger as a result. I might have just been in the desert for a couple weeks instead of 40 years (har har) but this past year as a whole had a plethora of growing opportunities.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned about my walk with God in the past year:
1. Biblical manhood doesn’t fit perfectly into secular/Western ideas of masculinity.
Until last year, I felt weak. I cry a lot, I’m not muscular, I can’t kill bugs without feeling guilty, I don’t watch or play sports, and don’t drink or curse. I’ve always felt “soft” because a lot of society thinks men should be physically tough and detached from their mushy feelings. But as I’ve come to care more and more for Kristina, I started researching concepts of Biblical manhood, because I want to be the best man possible for her.
The Bible describes the toughest man (Jesus) weeping from the death of a friend and the expectation of physical pain. It describes the need for kings to be disciplined, humble, and respectful. The need for a man to treat his wife and family as he treats the church (keywords: rejoicing in her, love, selflessly). The need for a man to turn away from perverse talk, adultery, and intoxication. The need for a man to not belittle, slander, or give in to violence. The need for a man to value wisdom over riches. The need for a man to be kind.
The man described in the Bible is the one I want to strive to be. I don’t need to be macho like Clint Eastwood or Ryan Gosling (though I’m not opposed to looking as good as them). I do need to be a follower of Christ.
Scripture: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalms 1:1-2.
Also: Proverbs (the advice King David gives to Solomon on how to be a man), 1 and 2 Kings, Ephesians 5:1-33.
2. Joy is not necessarily happiness.
I’ve covered this many times in my blog. “Adamantium Joy” does not mean “Unbreakable Happiness.” I get very down sometimes. Joy, in the Christian meaning, is a confidence in God that produces comfort and love. It’s knowing that you are satisfied with Him, and striving to make an even deeper connection.
As a matter of fact, joy can be incredibly painful. It requires a pruning of the Vine: the pruning of temptations, habits, some relationships. Things that give us pleasure, but hurt our soul.
Scripture: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3.
Also: John 15:1-8 (the Vine)
3. Submitting to “The Plan” is simultaneously the hardest yet most comforting thing.
The Plan I’m referring to, capitalized for dramatic effect, is God’s plan for your life. His Will. The Plan often takes sacrifice, stepping out of your comfort zone, and taking risks that seem irrational.
Dropping everything in Hawaii and pursuing a transplant that wasn’t guaranteed… That was following The Plan. What should have been the scariest thing I’ve ever undergone, was instead a period of the deepest calm I’ve experienced. Because I had faith God would pull me through. While transplant is difficult, I’m healthier than I’ve been in a decade. God does give you more than you can handle… But you can handle it with His help. Rely on Him.
Scripture: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
Also: 2 Peter 3:9, Proverbs 16:4, Exodus
4. The power of prayer: Three powers.
Post a status and say you need prayer. Many will answer and say they are praying. But how many actually pray? Finding out that a friend has diligently prayed for you is just, wow. Praying for friends shows that the relationship goes beyond this earth, that the love was strong enough to bring genuine worry or praise before the throne multiple times.
I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to have so many of my atheist or agnostic friends say they’ve prayed for me — their first prayer, or the first in many years. That’s so touching to me and has been a cause of happy tears on many occasions. They don’t know God, but it’s beautiful to me that they so strongly hope that someone will answer their prayers anyway.
Lastly, I discovered the power prayer (or God, technically) has over my anxiety. When I feel the panic (from my panic disorder) rising in my throat, I turn to prayer. Where it used to take medication to bring down my panic attacks, I now just need to talk to God. It works!
Scripture: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
Also: James 5:14-16, Mark 11:24, Psalm 107:28-30
5. Children are something to cherish.
If you know me, you know I love to pretend I don’t like children (shout out to ‘Sally’!). Truth is, I think they’re… cool, I guess. I think we have a lot to learn from them, and Scripture says as much. Their childlike faith extends to humans as well as God: it is pure and can move mountains.
The aforementioned ‘Sally,’ also known as Sadie, is the kid-o of my pastor. She’s prayed for me to come home to Hawaii and to be healthy again. And I dunno, to her, it’s not just words. She believes in the power of prayer more than most. And I think her belief in it is how it should be: Pray big or go home, pray specifically and pray with unshakeable faith. Don’t tell Sally, but I’ve wiped tears away when she isn’t looking because I’m so touched by her caring.
Children also make me feel better about my appearance. I get a lot of unfriendly, scared, rude stares from older people because of my mask or from back when I rolled oxygen tanks around. But kids always look at me in fascination, like I’m some kind of superhero. I dig it.
Scripture: “And he said: ’Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4.
Also: Psalm 127:3-5, Matthew 21:15-16, Psalm 8:2, Matthew 18:5-6.
6. We need to be better stewards of the Earth.
I’m not even making a political statement. It’s a Christian statement. I’ve come to appreciate nature so much more thanks to my deafness (sight matters more) and my new sense for adventure. But it’s really disturbing to see how much litter is sprawled across the landscape and equally distressing to see, smell, and breathe in the smog caused by machinery (including cars).
You don’t have to believe in climate change. You just need to believe that God’s creation should be cared for respectfully. After all, it’s His property and He made it beautiful for a reason.
7. Sabbath is overlooked, but so important to our spirituality.
It’s probably the least talked-about commandment. Many view the walk of faith as one that is as active as possible. But even God rested after His creation. It’s not just a day of physical rest, though. It’s holy and should be used to connect spiritually with God. Don’t get too busy with your life that you can’t hear God over the chaos. I’ve learned to stop just talking to God, and instead sit and listen (much easier when deaf, ironically). Like a good, healthy friendship, our relationship with God requires selfless listening if we want it to be intimate. We also need to rest to keep ourselves healthy, which is covered in my next point.
Scripture: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9-10.
Also: Exodus 20:8-11, Genesis 2:3, Ezekiel 20:12.
8. Your body is a temple. Keep it clean.
Physical health does matter for a Christian. Don’t let your walk be disrupted by health problems you could have avoided. Imagine being called to a mission field overseas but finding yourself too unhealthy to fly because your lungs are damaged from smoking too much. Our body is an instrument for His Will, and so we should be in the best health possible if we can help it.
9. Envy leads to demoralization.
Many use envy as a motivator to push themselves harder. But it can be very destructive as well, and can even demotivate. Before this year, I envied people so much for being able to breathe easily. I kept saying over and over in my head that, “I want to be normal, this isn’t fair.” Time that could have been spent at the gym or doing extra treatments was instead spent focusing on fuming over the situation. I would literally sit there and do nothing but think about how much my life sucked.
When I realized my journey was my own and shouldn’t be compared to others, I worked much harder. I always knew envy could lead to destructive behaviors towards others, but I didn’t realize how much harm it was doing me.
10. The Plan is ice to God, liquid to us.
God already knows the full Plan for us. But from our perspective (seeing bits and pieces at a time), it is ever-flowing and bending. Many think The Plan is just one statement/goal: “You should become a journalist.” And they get stuck on that one thing and feel like they either misunderstood or are failing God if they change goals.
In reality, The Plan is supposed to stretch over your whole life. It might not be just, “You should become a journalist.” It might be, “You should become a journalist, then take a break to experience deafness and transplant, then become a blogger, then write a book, then (seminary? become a teacher? back to journalism? …”). If you’ve prayed about it and feel called, go for it. Don’t get stuck on one idea when God has a whole bag of ideas for you.
Click here to watch one of my favorite scenes from Prince of Egypt for a more entertaining explanation of The Plan (we are a single thread in a tapestry).