I have the fun and privilege of talking to many people each week by phone, email, chat and in person at Base Camp, retreats, on radio interviews, podcasts and over a cup of coffee. Each person’s story is fascinating and their questions both profound and common. So, from recent conversations, let me offer a few thoughts that may be helpful.
Adjust with the seasons. Life continually changes and when we lock our self into one particular way of living, we will become stuck, frustrated, disappointed and questioning. There are times when we can navigate our days by clarity and desire. But there are also times when the fog is so thick that we doubt that we ever had either. This is when discipline is needed. Yes, discipline…that word that seems to be in opposition to desire. C.S. Lewis wrote, “A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people), like a crutch that is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times: but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc.) can do the journey on their own!” You see, there are times when “desire” looses it legs, and discipline must carry us. There is a beautiful dance between desire and discipline.
Develop your splendor. It is easy for us to neglect the development and training of our particular glory because it comes fairly easy to us. Instead, we put out time and resources into the development our weaknesses because they are painful and difficult. As a friend said me, we will almost always choose the relief of pain over the increase of pleasure. We need to take the time to enhance, focus and hone the God-given splendor / effect of your life: read, experience, ask questions, offer and reflect. Erwin McManus wrote in Uprising, “Our capacity to run free is related to our commitment to stand firm. There is a discipline of the heart that marks the free spirit. All of us long to play the song in our souls, and more of us would do so if it didn’t require endless hours of studying the notes.”
Live fully in your world. All to often we disengage from our surroundings and friendships because we live in the “what about” world. You know, “what about what missionaries go through”, “what about the hardship those in Haiti and Japan are experiencing”, “what about the Middle East situation”. Dallas Willard wrote in The Divine Conspiracy, “Every last one of us has a ‘kingdom’…a realm that is uniquely our own, where our choice determines what happens…in the range of our effective will…In creating human beings God made them to rule, to reign, to have dominion in a limited sphere.” So, don’t let that which is not within in your influence (other kingdoms) diminish or deter you from offering your glory to those in your world (your kingdom).
Utilize what you’ve got: We are all longing and looking for that group of people whom we can create, battle, achieve and journey with. For most of us, the cry of our heart has been the U2 chorus, “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” We look for something that we believe “should be” vs. “could be”. We believe that finding and developing this “fellowship” should be easy, since God wants this for us and we need it. I’ve found that we always possess more than we are aware of. We look over and around what is already available to us. Of those whom I create, battle, achieve and journey with, some are local while others are distant. Some of these friendships are fairly new and some historic, but regardless of longevity, we need each other and we’re turning into something.
I hope that something I have written here has been helpful. It has for me.
Wanting to learn, move, offer and advance,
What I am really good at is Duty. I always see what needs to be done and I do it. I don’t give up until the job is done. I know this can be bad. It has been for me at times. I don’t really know what gives me the most joy. If I had to guess it would be a sense of accomplishment. I just don’t know how all of this correlates with my calling. Should I resign myself to being a servant. That seems scriptural, but when does the joy and pleasure come?
I appreciate all of your posts and your book.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much this spoke to me today. Linda and I are about to head out to our 57th counseling session in 8 months, and I’m sometimes want to call in a “broken arrow”, take the losses, and move on.
Then….the Lord uses you, a trusted ally, my friend, to hold me up, to encourage me, to give me another “don’t quit” shot in the arm when “…the fog is so thick…”(para 2)
Headed out….see ya!
I agree with your take in “Live fully in your world”. I’m reminded of what someone once said to Mother Teresa, I can never become a saint and do what you do for the poor. Her reply was, you become a saint by being the best husband, father, friend, neighbor, you can be. Look after those around you and the rest will take care of itself. God Bless.
From an FAA’er, I just wanted to offer my deepest thanks to you. Your work has taken several decades of revelations and chaos and placed it in an understandable framework. I now know how to act to get where I want to go. I no longer feel like I am stuck in a washing machine – just being beaten up and getting nowhere- but on a path up the mountain. It involves taking some hits but the scenery is amazing!
So good, so right, so needed!
Thank you for your insight.
I need to read this blog everyday of my life Gary. It is amazing how easy it is to flip flop back and forth between clarity and fog in life. When I have discipline on my side it helps to even out the polarity of my life. Thanks for the reminder just to offer who I am. Keep up the great work. Awesome blog!
Duty! Wow. Anyone else identify more with the older brother in the prodigal story. Every time I heard that story and heard the brother’s lament, I used to respond, “Yeah, what about him (me)?” I finally realized, that the reason I identified so strongly is that I too had lived a life of duty. I had not realized that it was relationship that the Father wanted! Now that I have begun to experience it, I am not looking back!!! (Great book on the subject is called “Prodigal God” by Tim Keller.)
Thanks again Gary, keep up the good words!
Loved the part about living fully in your world. I have come a long way in this. Internet and media bring so many stories/kingdoms to our awareness these days, that it is easy to feel small & insignificant compared to these. But I am learning to trust in what God arranges for me each day, to fully offer there, and indeed God does arrange for new and larger stories for me.
The phrase, “we will almost always choose the relief of pain over the increase of pleasure” is awesome. I know that I tend to look for that path, eliminate the pain and I will feel better. But through those trials, we will experience that pain, but it’s that pain that can build such character and ultimately deepen our relationship with Jesus. Your writings are fantastic and reading through some of the comments, you really help a lot of people!
All I can say is: YES!!!
Feeling completely exposed after reading this today. I know that’s a good thing (groan). Struck by this thought: How can I so love visionary things and the idea of something new…yet hate (and often fight) the reality of change? Is this common to others?
I can only respond to this with a wow! and from a carpentars mind you just nailed some things I am currently wrestling with.
Ecclesiastes 12:11 (New American Standard Bible)
The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.
May the Shepherd continue to bless us by the wisdom you share.
Thx Gary for this. I love the ‘adjust with the seasons’ section. There is this beautiful tree that blooms down the street this time of year. For only about three weeks in the year, this tree is the ‘glory’ of the neighborhood. Then, nothing (apparently) for forty-nine weeks. That tree accepts it’s Glory better than I do that’s for sure.
Gary……magnificent post! You bring clarity to men’s lives in such a way that moves them forward. you remind me of “Gandalf” in LOTR in that you see the bigger picture in men’s lives and you speak affirmation to us as in “There is more to this Hobbit than meets the eye…..”
keep telling us what you “see”….as you connect the dots for so many……
In the Christian community and out, this world has a way of diminishing our value. “Utilizing what we’ve got” got me thinking, sometimes I underestimate the impact I have in relationships. Maybe I have been of value to other people ( hard to believe) The overriding voice I hear from God is you are invited into relationship with Him and others.