Feeling out of place? Not fitting in? Are you watching those around you making strides in ways that make you envious? Are you dissatisfied with your christian life. Envious of your christian brethren who seem grounded and living the perfect christian life? Is there a slight temptation of envy as you watch your friends and colleagues making their way in a society you feel alienated from? Do you have any friends at all? Do you feel you have passed your used by date? Be encouraged. You are not alone. As a matter of fact you are in good company.
As the years have passed me by I have on so many occasions gone through the motions of loving God and my neighbour as commanded in the bible. Although I have tried my best to fit into the contemporary christian lifestyle but there has always been this nagging feeling there is something missing. Not only missing but the undeniable fact that I just wasn’t fitting in.
Time caused me to redefine my relationship with God, Jesus and his church. Over a long period of time I came to conclusion that I could never be part of today’s religious mainstream church. It was not in me. I could never be a part of a society that is not designed for the life that God has given me. This has alienated me for many years,albeit self alienation, until recently I came to the realization (not a revelation or epiphany) that I was not meant to be part of either. I was purposed for something completely different. I was meant to be a misfit. In context or language that best describes what I am, a stranger and pilgrim on this earth.
Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that those that do fit in and are making a place for themselves on this earth, helping their fellow-man, the poor and under-privileged of this world are also exactly where they are meant to be, along with those who have found purpose and usefulness in the church, their religion or their way of life. Even those who are successful in the field of their calling, gifts or talents. There is nothing wrong with that. They are where they are meant to be.
Our calling is different. Yes, calling. God has a different plan for us. But we must come to terms with the fact that if we don’t fit in it is for a reason. The bible calls people like us a “peculiar people”, we are strange and different.
Once I faced the truth about my place in this world and have stopped struggling to fit my square life into the worlds round hole I stopped trying to define my life by societies and religous standards. I have accepted that God in his infinite wisdom has given me the calling of a stranger and a pilgrim as I try and weave my way through the maze of life.
In my opinion there has been no greater stranger and pilgrim to this world than Jesus. He made it very clear to his first disciples that in order to follow him through this world then they were required to give up everything to follow him. You have to give thought to what ‘ everything’ means to you. I know what it means to me and I am excited about the future that I have left in this life as a “peculiar” people.
So you don’t fit in? Great, join the club.
In retrospect, my late forties was when it all started. I didn’t know it was a midlife crisis. I thought more along the lines that I had lost my way, I had wandered off the path that God was leading me on but somehow got lost.
I spent so much time trying to get back to the path , it felt like I was stuck in quick sand. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the way I was seeing things.
When I was twenty two I had an experience that changed my life in a big way. I later learned that it was what Christians call being born again. God took over my being, everything was God this, God that, Jesus loves you, Jesus loves me, man Jesus even loves my 8th grade teacher who gave me a failing grade.
I was so full of this new phenomenon in my life I even tried to convert my ever-loving and understanding Jewish parents. Not only did I deliver the “you will never make it into heaven unless you repent and give your life over to Jesus” followed by “you need to give up everything to follow Jesus, like the early disciples did”. But that is a story for another time.
I was on fire for God, my faith grew in leaps and bounds, I went from being a babe in Christ to trying to take over the world for God single-handed. I learned to witness, preach the gospel, read my bible, pray, spout bible verses, be a missionary in foreign lands, teach others to teach others. Got married, had kids, cloned my children in the way. I was a man on a mission. In my own eyes I was the perfect child of God.
Gradually without warning my self-made persona started to crack. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and I felt hopeless and helpless to do anything about it. God surely abandoned me in my time of need.
From going from believing that God spoke to me at every turn, his presence ever so immediate, feeling so special that nothing could touch me. His voice became less obvious. His presence hidden from my daily life.
I felt like I was doing something wrong, surely God was mad at me to hide himself from me. I was taking this all too personally. I wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees.
Most recently I have been encouraged by one of our most revered bible characters; Moses.
Here was a man who was not only spared from death as a child but because of the foresight of his parents he not only lived but was raised in the house of the ruler of the most powerful country at the time.
The bible doesn’t really say but using our imagination Moses must have had the world at his feet. A prince being prepped for great things in his adopted fathers kingdom. He was probably full of himself too.
Driving through the cities in his fancy chariots, attending all the best parties, strutting through the streets flexing his muscles feeling the top of the world as the peons bow as he passed.
Then in one moment of insanity that all comes to an abrupt end when he kills a fellow Egyptian as they were picking on one of Jewish slaves. You know the story. He had to flee and wound up in the middle of nowhere tending cattle for a man who took him in and gave him one of his daughters to marry. A new unexpected life.
Around the age of forty Moses virtually lost everything he had lived for, Driven away you may rightly point out by his own stupid impulsive bad temper or sense of justice.
So our dear Moses spends the next forty years in virtual exile. Talk about a midlife crisis.
I would love to have been a fly on the wall or tent and take in all that Moses suffered and learned during that time. From a brash “I can do anything I please” upstart to a man so broken that when God said “OK buddy, I think your ready, your people are ready, all the pieces are in place, its time for you to do what you were born to do”, he virtually begged God to pick someone else.
The bible doesn’t say much about what Moses went through inside but now I can sort of relate and understand to some degree of what it takes to become ready for the call.
Perhaps it took Moses forty years because he was so resistant to change or there was so much to strip away of his old life. Either way God is patient as He waits for us to shed the past and prepares our hearts for the future.
The last twenty years of my life has built up to being one hell-of-a midlife crisis. For the most part I hadn’t understood God’s plan.
To be honest I still don’t. But God is giving me some semblance of understanding that He is in control. If it takes one year or forty years, God is will wait till we are ready for whatever it is He needs us for.
Now I believe I have turned a corner. I understand now that God has not been angry with me but has used the situation that I had gotten my self into so as to make me a better man by stripping me of myself.
God may not be prepping me for a higher calling in this world, or a greater mission with more meaning than what I am doing now but I do know that God doesn’t make mistakes and he doesn’t waste the life that he gives us as long as we see Him in everything that comes our way.
Have you felt that God has abandoned you? Do you feel its going on far too long? Are you at the point of giving up? Do you say “I can’t can’t take this any more” more often than you should?
Then yes, welcome to the club, you are going through a midlife crisis: God’s way.
God put us on earth for a reason. Each one of us with a special task or anointing, calling, mission or purpose, however you want to tag it.
As two snowflakes are not alike so is our relationship with God. If you have been blessed with many children like I have you understand that although your parenting may not differ from one to the other if for no other reason than making an effort not to show favoritism.
There is a special place in your heart for each one. You may not be able to manifest this openly but as we love all our children with all our heart so God loves each of us with all His heart and has a special place in His heart for you and me and every other person who sees Him as their father.
In growing up spiritually from a babe in christ, to a young adolescent, a young man or women and then a mature adult we strive to do our best to please our God. We make a life for ourselves on earth only wanting to please Him.
He gave us life, he presented us with a mission or purpose and even if we don’t fully understand our place in the pecking order of our Christian world we want our Father to be proud of us and to be able to look down and say, well done good and faithful servant (child) enter into the kingdom of God.
So we strive as children of God to please our father so he can accept us “again” in His kingdom or house. It is easy to lose sight of the overall picture. We tend to make our stay on earth the most important factor in our relationship with God.
So why is it that we continue to struggle and never seem to be content or completely fulfilled?
Paul stated …”If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable.” (I Corinthians 15:19) In other words if we put all our eggs in one basket in our life here on earth and view our calling or mission in this life as the most important thing in our lives and service to God we can be assured that we will end up feeling “miserable”.
In all our good works, our faithfulness and desire to make our life on earth a legacy to be remembered we must keep an eye on eternity.
So how do we do that? How do we keep a good balance of doing the best we can and pleasing our God with the gifts and talents he has given us and keep our ultimate goal of always moving toward our eternal home?
In Heb 11 we are told about Abraham who God blessed richly while on earth.
God gave him a massive promise that his seed would inherit the earth, a promise that was clear Abraham would never see in his lifetime or the life time of his immediate heirs, Isaac and Jacob.
In fact “these all died in faith not having received the promises but having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them and embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth”. They knew the promises were real and yet they understood that their reward was not in this life, they lived on earth as continual gypsies, strangers and pilgrims just passing through to a better place.
That is how we keep a proper balance, by not let the cares of this world and our mission and calling in this life consume us so much by trying to please our God on earth. Keep an eye on eternity while doing your best on earth and your life will take on a balance that will ensure more peace and happiness.
This world is not our home. This we must accept and live our life accordingly.
In a world where technology has taken hold of our lives at every level, we can communicate at high-speed, we can access information on just about any subbject at the touch of a finger. We are the “I want it now generation”.
One thing hasn’t changed when it comes to following God. We take one step at a time.
Whether God shows your calling, a ministry, mission or plan for your life, we can only get there one step at a time.
If you are compelled to reach an allusive goal that has been out of your reach for too long we start by taking one step at a time.
God only illuminates our path one step at a time. We may in our minds eye see the end result but make no bones about it, God will not allow us to take shortcuts. He only lights up our steps one at a time. David knew what he was talking about when he said, “thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
In the pitch black country path with nothing but a wick candle or lantern you can only see the step in front of you. One step at a time and its time honored that unless God needs to perform some sort of instant miracle we mortals will only have the near sight of putting one foot in front of the other.
In God’s wisdom He insures that we will not miss out on every minute detail that goes into us reaching our destination.
With God’s word lighting our path, we only need to take one step at a time.
What step are you taking today?
Getting the right balance between our relationship with God and His service is tricky business.
Confusing our service and work for the Lord as being in the center of God’s will is a common mistake we all make .
Why is that?
I believe it’s because we want to show Him how much we love him, we want to give back to him for what He has done for us, we want to share it with others, we want to prove our love to him by our good works. We start to believe that our works for him is the most important way to physically show our love to Him.
My desire in the beginning of my walk with the Lord was to tell others about Him, what He did for me and what He could do for others. I was so full of His spirit that I wanted to make sure the whole world knew about it.
Was that a bad thing?
Absolutely not, I was on fire for God and I can still see him smiling down at me, this new born babe, full of love and joy, wanting to share it with anyone who would come his way.
Like a toddler who sees someone he loves and puts his arms out to be lifted up and hugged. That is what I was like, I wanted to share my new found love with anyone who came into my space and at the same time look to the Lord for love and encouragement.
My love for God and my desire to share it with others was on equal ground in the beginning but like so many others as I started to grow and mature and the growing pains started to kick in.
My service for the Lord and sharing his love started to outweigh my personal relationship with God, thinking I always had to DO something to remind Him of how much I loved Him.
As time went on and I had more responsibility, my own family to care for, God’s work to tend to my personal relationship with the Lord looked more like a man who was struggling in deep water trying to find his way back to shore before he drowns.
More emphasis was put on service than relationship and over time the proper balance between my relationship with the Lord and my service for Him went from fifty-fifty too maybe ninety ten in favour of works. In proverbs it says that “a false balance is an abomination to God, but a just weight is his delight.” Proverbs 11:1 (KJV)
I was on a free fall, heavily laden with my service and nothing could stop me until I hit rock bottom.
But rock bottom is good. I found that it is very difficult to start your climb back up when you are still falling. So when we finally get to hit bottom with our feet firmly on the ground then we can start our trek back to where we are supposed to be.
To find that proper balance between relationship and works. Both are important but you see to get back to where I belonged I needed to put more into my relationship with God than trying to serve him.
As I write this I am reminded of a bible story that has always been an enigma to me. Cain and Abel. Cain a farmer and Abel a shepherd. Cain brings a sacrifice to God, the works of his hands. A bad thing? I wouldn’t have thought so.
Abel on the other hand brings a lamb, the best parts and offers his sacrifice to God.
As a father myself, in my finite way of thinking, if I had two of my children bring me a gift I would appreciate and love both equally. Perhaps one gift was something that was not as costly as the other in terms of matters of the heart. You know, one gives you a poem specifically written for your encouragement. The other a pair of gloves I needed from his clothing business.
But what gift meant more and longer lasting?
To me it seems that they both gave from the heart so I don’t understand God not being happy with the gift Cain gave. Well you know the outcome. Cain gets pissed off and kills Abel.
An over reaction? I would think so.
So why did God allow that to happen? And if Abel was on the right track why write him out of the story.
Now lets fast forward a few thousand years. having read or heard the same story I read,Paul writes in Hebrews 11: 3 “Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”
Would we not have gotten the point or heard the story if Cain didn’t send Abel back to God?
I am sure the bible historians could put me straight on this one.
So if I am reading this right, God prefers our sacrifices to be of the heart more so than from the works of our hands. As I write this I am making a mental note.
A more up to date example could be learned from Jesus’ two friends, Mary and Martha when he visited them in their home. Mary sat at Jesus feet to spend time with her saviour, the one she loved dearly and Martha who also loved Jesus was busy, serving in the background taking care of business.
I am sure Jesus loved them equally but He took the opportunity to chide Martha when she complained that she was doing all the work. He told her that Mary had chosen the better part. Sitting at his feet and spending time with him hearing his word.
So let me see if I got this in perspective. Jesus first, service second.
I am a slow learner but a learner just the same.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:17 (KJV)
Through out my christian life I have heard and often adhered to the proverbial motto of God speaks in three ways, yes, no, wait. So when praying for some direction, leading or intervention in my life and praying for God to give me an answer to what was on my mind I would obediently wait for yes, no or wait.
Since my direct link with God was somewhat dubious and the line was not always a clear one, I reverted to hearing through the Word.
Since I didn’t know any scriptures on God saying “yes son, this is what I want you to do or no son, this is not what I want you to do I waited a lot because nine times out of ten the scripture “wait on the Lord: be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait I say on the Lord” Psalm 27:14 (KJV) would pop into my mind.
So a good portion of my life was waiting on the Lord for one thing or another. Most of the time I waited myself out of faith, forgot about what I was waiting for or something more interesting came along that I could wait on.
So let me throw a spanner in the works for those of us who have used this method of hearing from God for his leading our lives.
In Matthew 9:27-30 as the story goes; two blind men followed Jesus knowing that he was doing all these miracles. They called out, Hey Jesus how about us, can you heal us? To my knowledge Jesus didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no and he didn’t say wait. His answer was with a question. Do you believe I can I can do it?
They said yes. It says that Jesus touched their eyes and said “According to your faith be it unto you.” (Matthew 9:28) Their eyes were opened they were healed, they could see.
The point I wanted to make is this. We as Christians are content to wait on the Lord, wait on His perfect timing, wait for the Lord to make it so obvious for what we are praying about that many times we wind up waiting ourselves out of faith.
It’s not always about what God wants us to do. Many times it’s about what we know we should do, because God has already shown us and we are looking for validation. Just say yes to Jesus when he asks “do you believe I can?”
So when asking God for an answer lets trust Him that his answer be with a yes, no, wait or do you believe I can.
My money is on Matthew 9:28 According to your faith be it unto you.
BE A GOOD LISTENER
When I first started witnessing on the streets of Vancouver, armed with only a bible in my first months as a Christian, I came out guns blazing and I didn’t stop until I was the last man standing. I left it for the more mature sensible elders to pick up the pieces.
I didn’t know any better and of course experience and time are the best teachers. With thousands of hours clocked up on the front lines ( streets, Universities, Colleges and where ever there was a heart beat) I learned that one of the greatest tools we have as a believer is a listening ear.
When I go to the doctor, the first thing he will ask me is “what’s wrong, what’s the problem, what’s bothering you.” The doctor needs to hear it from me to explain to him what symptoms I have. From there he will invariably poke and prod and ask more questions. If the problem is not visible on the body. If its internal he needs to gather the most information he can from me the patient.
In other words he has to listen to what I am saying about myself by asking leading questions.
Personal one on one witnessing, for success is not much different. It’s not always easy as I experienced, especially in my early years that my guns were loaded, the safety off and my finger on the trigger ready to fire.
In my overly zealous enthusiasm I thought I already had the answer and was just waiting for the right time to fire away not really understanding what a person needed in his or her life at the time.
It took me a long time, many, many years in fact, before I learned to listen by asking the right questions. Questions that would put me in a position to have to really listen to what a person is trying to convey.
By asking the right questions I became a good listener because I was hearing what I needed to hear about a person that would help me to know how give them Jesus in a way that would be easily understood by them. Given a chance people love to talk about themselves and will open up if they know they can trust you with their heart.
It’s our job as God’s Ambassadors to lead them to Jesus, show them the way. If they are ready to pray there on the spot fine but sometimes they just need directions and sometimes all they need is a listening ear. If we have asked the right questions, listened well, and pointed them in the right direction we have done our job. All the rest is icing on the cake.
“…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.. James 1:19 (KJV) Now this may have been taken out of context and James may have meant it for something other than personal witnessing, but that is what is so great about God, He can apply HIS word any way he wants.
So if we want to be better witnesses let us use both our ears, first and then be very slow to speak. I
We may not know until we get to heaven to see all the souls that we influenced along the way. How great it will be when Jesus greets us with a “well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord”
I would like to tell you of how I got my degree. It is from the University of Life. I have a Masters in the Art of Comparing with thirty years experience. Comparing myself with others is an art and one that I have become quite expert in.
Unfortunately it has gotten me nowhere so I have had to rip it up.
All kidding aside, comparing myself with others over the years had become more of a debilitating disease than anything else. It’s the kind of sickness that goes right to the heart of one’s faith and without proper treatment can render us ineffective not only as a christian but a person.
Comparing was never a problem for me growing up. I never did it, I didn’t have too, I enjoyed my life and I enjoyed who I was for the most part. I didn’t automatically get it in my blood stream when I became a christian either.
Although my spiritual rebirth resulted in me looking at life from a new perspective I still didn’t compare myself with others. I wanted to be like others who seemed strong in the faith, loved Jesus to the max and were good examples to follow. I was a babe in christ and like a child desires to be like his mother or father, older brother or sister and aunts and uncles while growing up and finding his or her own feet, it was not much different to me when exploring the spiritual world when Jesus took over my life.
No, it happened much later. I can’t really pinpoint when it became a problem and it’s not something that is unique only to christians. The world is afflicted by comparing also.
In essence comparing ourselves to others is just plain discouraging. It makes us look at ourselves in an inferior way, we are not as good as someone else for what ever reason; looks, wealth, success, body, intelligence and whatever excuse we use to run ourselves down.
Now in the christian world its dangerous to compare because it goes to the core of our beliefs. Our faith. When we as Christians compare ourselves with others we are in effect saying, God, why didn’t you make me a better christian, a stronger christian, more obedient , better gifts, more talent, more compassion, more empathy and understanding.
Every time I compared myself with another, a small sliver of faith inside of me died. Paul told us in II Corinthians that we are not to compare ourselves with ourselves.
OK, so we know we are not supposed to do it but how are we not supposed to do it. When we finally come to grips with the fact that we have this habit or problem, how do we alleviate it from our life.
So how did I combat this area in my life. Firstly I had to recognize it was a disease or a problem. Secondly I had to do something radical. I tore up my Comparing degree. I said to myself, no more, I can’t possibly see any good coming from this.
But the kicker was when I had coffee with my eldest daughter one day. Although we live in the same city we don’t get to see each other that often. Aside from family gatherings we don’t get that much one on one time. On this day we were engrossed in gossiping, reminiscing and generally trying to change the world over a cup of coffee.
When our conversation got more meaningful I made a comment that I wished I could have been a better parent in some areas of my life comparing myself with others.
She stopped me in my tracks and said, “dad, let me tell you how I see you as one your children”, in short, she saw me like only she could. I actually felt like turning around at one stage to see if she wasn’t talking to someone behind me.
She certainly didn’t see me as I saw myself and going away from that conversation and having time to reflect I realized it is exactly how Jesus sees us. Differently than anyone else on earth and more importantly differently than we see ourselves.
Jesus sees us for who we are. The creation that was formed by his own hands for his own purpose and for the outcome that he designed for us.
We become our own worst enemies by slowing down His progress in our lives by not accepting who we are and that we are made exactly for the High calling that He has specially designed for each of us.
Philippians 2:13 sums it up. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (KJV).
When we accept that we are special in God’s sight and that He adores us for who we are then maybe we can face the fact that comparing our lives with others is counter productive.
Do I still compare? Of course I do, but I recognize it quicker and am able to put it where it belongs. In the trash.
So how do we fight comparing ourselves with others?
We can start by seeing ourselves as Jesus does.
Lets start there and see where that takes us.
I am today, exactly where I am supposed to be in God’s overall plan for my life. Which put’s me in the center of God’s will. Now how can I be sure of that considering I spend half my time desiring to do something else and to be someplace else. You know, doing God’s higher will.
I am convinced that being in the center of God’s will has nothing to do with service. It has more to do with the reason why we are where we are. Both physically and spiritually.
I know what you are thinking. “My greatest calling surely can’t be, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, refereeing sibling disputes, walking the dog, feeding the cat, working for peanuts, and putting up with the neighbors loud music, sitting in traffic trying to get home etc, etc, etc.”
But if we truly love the Lord, are passionate about our relationship with Him and most of our waking hours are consumed with doing all we can to please him then we have to trust that He knows that we are where we are because that is where He wants us to be.
It was made clear to me not too long ago that not everything is about me. Let me explain.
My 17-year-old daughter woke me up to that fact one day. She does not get along at all with her older brother so much so that I have to step in to pull them apart.
Our family is far from perfect and sometimes when I have to keep our kids at arm’s length for no other reason than to keep them from killing each other, I have at times felt that I had enough and could take no more.
Presenting my case to my irritating, self-righteous daughter one day, I pleaded with her. “Hey give your dad a break because its been a rough 60 odd years and I’m getting older and to be quite honest I’m getting sick and tired of all this crap that goes on, so for your dear old dad and mom lighten up OK?”
Surely I struck gold with this plea bargain.
She looked at me as though I was an alien trying to communicate in a foreign language, then said, “dad, not everything is about you”.
I was speechless because I knew she was right. She hit the nail on the head. I had made it about me when in fact it was about her and her brother.
That incident also helped me realize that God had been trying to convey to me when I feel that I can’t take any more. When I feel like I should be somewhere else serving God at a higher capacity , rather than being weighed down with the pettiness of daily life and its infinite struggles.
He says to us when we feel that He has forgotten us and our desire for a better calling or desire to be in a higher will (if that is even possible), “hey son (or daughter), not everything is about you.
How true that little gem is because many times we are where we are because of others, those that need us or need us to be there. In fact God’s callings and his will is always about others.
Mission fields are about helping the poor, preaching the gospel in exotic places is about helping others know Jesus and making disciples of all nations is about teaching others is serve Him.
It has made life so much easier to accept this one little point, it has given me a peace of mind that passes all understanding.
In saying that, if you knew me, you know I wouldn’t be completely happy with the “doorkeeper” tag so I asked God if he could at least throw me a bone to gnaw on while being in the center of God’s will.
Now I could be out of line here but I am sure that there are times when God rolls his eyes at us and gives a huge sigh wondering when we will get it.
So what does he do? He tells me to start a blog and share my lessons and stories with others.
I love my God and He loves me, warts and all.
Enjoy where you are because you are in the center of God’s will.
(Footnote: My daughter and son are doing much better. They can actually be in the same room together and for now I have been able to put my referee whistle away.)