December 16, 2006
I’m sitting in Chic-fil-a, enjoying my first truly restful day in what seems like a long, long time. As I transition to a time when my life is balanced around a marriage and a ton of ‘adult’ responsibilities, I have an honest fear that my life will always feel this exhausting. I’ve done some good reading to that end recently, which is coming up…
Today has been a weird day… This week has been a weird week…
It seems like, from time to time, with no obvious connection to any event or circumstances, I become suddenly, powerfully aware of my existence. I see everything through lenses that seem ever-so-slightly more like the ones that God probably sees through.
I drove to walmart this afternoon and I was overwhelmed with a weird desire to find someone I could serve. I prayed for the opportunity, and went inside. I overheard a lot of kids complaining about gifts and shopping. I hard mothers chastise their kids and saw several employees that looked like they were trying their best to hold it all together.
But what rung by bell was a little boy. I noticed this little guy — about 4 feet tall, skinny as a rail, tattered clothes… and his face made me cringe a little bit. It was bright red, and somewhat crusty. My initial thought was that he was horribly sunburnt, except it’s mid-December, and it wasn’t peeling like you would expect. It was different. I decided to watch him for a few minutes. I wanted to see who he was there with. From the way he was wondering and looking around, I wondered if he wasn’t there alone. He didn’t seem to be looking for anything in particular. I finally walked up to him while he was looking through some DVDs. He stunk. Bad. I asked him what his favorite movie is, and he said something with a raspy voice. I thought he said ‘alligator’, but he corrected me and said, “No. Taledega Nights.” I was trying hard to connect, so I asked him if he knew when that would come out on video, and he told me that it already was, and led me to it. He informed me that he already owned it. While we were talking, a couple of people said hello to him, by name. I asked where he goes to school and he told me that he goes to Warrenton Middle School.
And just like that, he was human. A little boy with little boy problems and little boy hopes and dreams and friends.
And then I had a hollywood moment. My ears weren’t ringing and nobody froze, but suddenly I felt like I had another sense. Like a deaf man suddenly hearing, I strangely became aware of the people around me in a new way… as if I could see their souls. I noticed people with stories, pain, fear, burdens… but mostly with stories.
That feeling hasn’t gone away yet.
But it will.
I know because it’s come and gone before, and I got too busy to pay attention to it.
Rob Bell put some good language around a bad habit I nurse in my life. It goes like this:
(A counselor said) “Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. And anything else you do is sin and you need to repent of it.”
I started identifying how much of my life was about making sure the right people were pleased with me. And as this became more and more clear, I realized how less and less pleased I was with myself. What happens is our lives become so heavily oriented around the expectations of others that we become more and more like them and less and less like ourselves. We become split.
As the lights were turned on, I saw I had all of this guilt and shame because I wasn’t measuring up to the image of the perfect person I had in my head.
But I am not defined by what I am not. And understanding this truth is a huge part of becoming whole. I had to stop living in reaction and start letting a vision for what lies ahead pull me forward.
I had this false sense of guilt and subsequent shame because I believed deep down that I wasn’t working hard enough. And I believed the not-working-hard-enough lie because I didn’t function like superpastor, who isn’t real anyway.
If we don’t know who we are or where we’re trying to go, we put the people around us in an uncomfortable position. They are doing the best they can with what they have, but sometimes we haven’t given them much, have we?
And when we begin to pursue becoming the people God made us to be, we give them more and more to go on.
I meet so many people who have superwhatever rattling around in their head. They have this person they are convinced they are supposed to be, and their superwhatever is killing them. They have this image they picked up over the years of how they are supposed to look and act and work and play and talk, and it’s like a voice that never stops shouting in their ear.
And the only way not to be killed by it is to shoot first.
Because your superwhatever will rob you of today and tomorrow and the next day until you take it out back and end its life.
Thanks a lot Rob.
So here’s the question: What do I do with that?
I don’t want to just acknowledge that it’s true and say, “Wow. Isn’t it neat that he seems to be able to read my mind?”
How do I apply this?
First, I want to put some energy and intentionality into being myself.
No, that’s too vague.
Myself apart from the guilt of not living up to superzack.
Superzack is impossible. I understand that.
But here’s the problem: I don’t want to stop trying to be superzack. I just want to stop getting frustrated when I fail, and I want to stop letting it push me around. I want to be pulled by vision, like Rob said.
I think that means that superzack needs to lose a few of his characteristics. In particular, superzack v2.0 believes gives all of himself to whatever he’s doing. He knows that God doesn’t need any help.
Let me repeat that: He knows that God doesn’t need any help.
I just read about a deaf man who was healed in Mark chapter 7. Jesus strictly warned him not to tell anyone. He told everybody. He put it in the newspaper. He called the talk radio station. He went to walmart and started telling random people.
You know what he didn’t do?
He didn’t go around and tell the world how frustrated he was that he couldn’t restore hearing to people.
Think about that.