Driving, Worth and Existentialism: A Confession of Sorts

“What if a person isn’t supposed to be alone, isn’t supposed to have glory on his own, but rather get glory from the God who loves him? What if, in the same way the sun feeds plants, God’s glory gives us life? What if our value exists because God takes pleasure in us?” ~ Donald Miller

If I am honest with myself, if we are all honest with ourselves, on any given day at any given moment, I operate as if I have glory on my own. What I mean is at some point during the day, and usually at multiple points, I have an interaction with another person in the world around me and my words or deeds are founded in my belief that I am more important, smarter or better than the other person in some way. I’ll give you an example: I struggle with anger when I drive. If someone is going to slow I get frustrated and move in close to try and get them to speed up. If someone cuts me off, I’ll swear (either out loud or in my head) at them and shake my head. But why? What gets me so angry? On the surface I would probably say, “Well, they just shouldn’t have done that” or “it was dangerous”, but the truth goes deeper. The truth is when I get angry on the road it is usually because I feel disrespected, like the offending party doesn’t give a crap about my existence, is barely aware of it or worse, is totally aware of it and yet values their own over mine.

I think this dynamic, this feeling of self-worth and self-righteousness is our misplaced need for the love of God playing itself out in our lives. Instead of seeking God and finding our worth in the fact He loves us, we constantly seek the approval and justification of our existence from other people. And when someone doesn’t approve, or doesn’t notice our worth we get very angry. I know this is true of me anyways.

In San Francisco, many people when asked if all humans have equal worth would say yes. Which I suppose is good, we do and it’s nice they think that. The problem is, for many, this is just lip service. They may say it and even think they believe it and yet live their lives as if they don’t believe it. For some, all humans have equal worth as long as their opinions line up with a certain political party or religious ideal. For others, all humans have equal rights until those equal rights infringe on their own private lives. And I bet if your follow up question was, “Well, why do they all have equal worth” you probably would get a pretty rambling answer.

But I think Donald Miller is onto something here. I think what gives people equal worth is the fact that God loves each one of us, not how much money we make, or how much we are adored by those around us, or how talented we are. I happen to believe this and I also happen to forget this on an hourly basis. My belief that God’s glory and love alone is what gives all humans worth is swell and dandy until someone drifts into my driving lane while yammering away on their cell phone at which point my red-faced cursing would seem to suggest, actually Josh, you really believe you are more valuable than that person. This is all very true and very convicting. I often am no better than Clamence in Camus’ The Fall when he says, “I could live happily only on condition that all individuals on earth…were turned toward me, eternally in suspense, devoid of independent life….doomed in short to sterility until the day I should deign to favor them,”.

And yet Jesus has changed all of this. Jesus’ very presence on earth, his life, his death and his resurrection were all confirmation, proof if you will, of just how valuable we are to God. Not because we have any inherent worth or value in ourselves, but because a perfect God loves us perfectly which makes us infinitely more valuable than if our worth was determined by ourselves. Imagine how radically changed your own life would be if you constantly lived your life through this reality. Imagine how changed your relationships would be, how changed your family would be, how changed your community would be, how changed your city or town would be, on and on until finally you come to how changed this whole world would be if the love of God for each person regardless of race, gender, age, or any other subdivision was known to everyone. If we all grasped how valuable we are and more importantly how valuable everyone else is in the eyes of God and how much He loves us and how it is this love that gives us value in the first place. My guess is this world would be a drastically transformed place. My guess is my own life would be a radically transformed one…and that is what I’m praying for, for this reality to really change not just my perspective but my heart. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Read more

In The Big and The Small

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!
-Luke 1:45

Faith in the Lord to accomplish what He has said, this is what the Lord desires. Faith in the big things: like one day we will be with our Lord with no pain and no sorrow, perfected on the new earth; and faith in the small things: like God called us to ministry in San Francisco and thus will provide the financial support to get us up there. Whether faith in the eternal or temporal the Lord values it the same, it is the state of the heart with which He is concerned.

Yet the faith in the big can inform and encourage our faith in the small and vice versa. If we truly believe God is who He says He is in His word we know that "The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have planned so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand." (Isaiah 14:24) We also know that "with Him there is no variation." (James 1:17) Therefore if we count sure our salvation in Christ, why should we be uncertain of His promises being accomplished in smaller ways. Additionally, if we have seen the Lord's faithfulness over and over again in our live in slighter circumstances why should we ever begin to doubt God's love for us or be half-convinced of His forgiveness?

We shouldn't, I shouldn't. I must stand today and say, "Lord I am as confident that you will get us up to San Francisco as I am that my name is written in Your Book of Life." This is what God desires; blessed are those who believe what the Lord has said will be accomplished in all circumstances.
Read more

Does God Care About Sports?

Does God Care About Sports?

These are not profound (or well written) epiphanies, but rather, random thoughts I had while watching Sportscenter one morning, so please excuse the lack of structure (and closure) in this post. Think of these as merely fun things to think about.

1) Does God care about sports?...short answer, No. There are days when I hear athletes often thanking God for their teams win, or their performance on the field and think, “God doesn’t care about your stupid football game.” Maybe it is a bit cold hearted, but excuse me if I have a bit of a problem thinking of God as intently concerned with the outcome of a sports game when there are wars, genocide, famines and diseases ravishing the world. At the same time, I do think God gives people the ability to perform excellently in sports and is glorified when they do. It is an interesting contrast: yes, as a God believing athlete, you should give praise to God for the talents He has given you, but you also shouldn’t be so na├»ve as to think God cares if your team wins or not. God doesn’t take sides.

2) Sport is a common, unifying thread throughout all humanity, no matter the culture, country or continent, sport or competition is everywhere. Even skinny hipsters race their fixies. Sport or competition seems to be inherently part of what it means to be human. Why is that? For one, I think it allows individuals to identify with a united community and allows very different people to be of “one mind and one spirit”, to quote Philippians. Of course that can be a good or bad thing. On the one hand, being a fan is always a form of tribalism and othering which in the worst cases can lead to violence and actual hatred of other humans simply because they support a team you despise. On the other hand, sports can unify a community in a profoundly positive way. Think of Nelson Mandela, using the South African Rugby team, a team that symbolized apartheid in every way so much so that black South Africans always cheered for whoever was playing them. Mandela used the team to unify a nation on the brink of a race war. In that instance, I think God really was on the side of South Africa in the Rugby World Cup. As weird as it may sound, I think there are times when God wills a side to victory, not because they other team is so evil, but because a victory would redeem or heal a particular community. Is this always the case? Of course not, but I think it happens once in a blue moon.

3) One of my friends had a profound thought while at a Dodger game once. He, a twenty-something, white guy was in the bathroom on a scorching hot day at The Ravine. It was so hot, he took off his shirt and put it under running water in the sink. At the sink next to him was a huge, Latino dude with tattoos everywhere. As he rinsed his shirt, the man next to him said, “Yo homes, that’s a good idea!” and proceeded to take off his shirt and do the same and the two started talking and had a conversation about the Dodgers. It was two profoundly different people, who would have never talked to each other in any other situation, connecting and having a shared experience of being a fan. My friend began to think about how the Church is similarly a community of people for whom the common denominator is Jesus, not personality, or interests, or gender, or ethnicity. I thought it was an interesting and valuable insight and one I plan to reflect on the next time I am at a Dodger game.

So what do you think?

Read more