What life is good enough?

I know who I'm not, but who am I?

Periodically, I find myself wanting to watch a movie. Not just any movie. I'm not really a film buff, and don't watch many. But this is for a specific movie, a relatively old one that I originally thought had a pretty stupid story line. The movie is "The Kid," starring Bruce Willis. It's about a 40-year-old man meeting his 8-year-old self and learning who he really is.


During the course of their joint adventure, the guy discovers he is not the loser he had thought from childhood, and his entire outlook on life is transformed. Suddenly he sees why many negative events happened, and understands that he wasn't really a nobody whose only talent in life was screwing up his life.

I watch "The Kid" for several reasons. First, there's a really sweet, bright red biplane in it. (Perhaps you thought this was about Willis' really sweet assistant, Amy?) Since boyhood, I have loved airplanes. Especially really sweet, bright red biplanes. And second, for much of my life, I had - have? - a deeply rooted suspicion that I was also a loser. That all I knew how to do was stumble through life making a mess.

I originally watched the movie at the suggestion of someone else, and I'm glad I did. I immediately saw a process happening in the guy, something many viewers tell me they never noticed. But God speaks to me through that film, and reassures me, like Bruce Willis' character, that I am not a loser.

So, now that I know what I'm not, another question remains: What am I? It's not sufficient to simply remove a negative. I need something in its place. What am I?

Now, I have a fair understanding of the Bible, and I'm pretty good at telling myself the Biblical statements of who I am: a child of God, brother of Jesus, representative of Jesus, and all that. But there is something deep within me that is not satisfied with that.

On a daily basis, here and now, what is my purpose in living? I am relieved to know that I am not merely a screw-up loser, though that thought still occasionally raises its ugly head. I have been an effective, functioning member of both the society and the church in my lifetime. I have touched some lives, and I have made a few things better.

But if that's all true, and if God loves me and enthusiastically accepts me, why do I sit around, doing little, in empty and frustrating relationships where there should be intimacy, and with little hope of significant change, except perhaps when I die, which doesn't answer the question.

I hate doing nothing. I hate not using the gifts, education, and interests I have been given. I have studied, trained, practiced and been mentored for many years. Decades. I have looked forward to the day when I could most effectively work in the service of God's kingdom. And yet, here I am.

In this struggle, one thought has recently grabbed me. What if God doesn't let me "do" anything? For the rest of my life. What if the rest of my life consists of one thing alone: Knowing and enjoying him?

That's a big what if. One of my favorite verses for years has been Psalm 27:4: One thing have I asked of the Lord, and that only will I seek: That I may dwell all my days in the house of the Lord, to enjoy his beauty, and to inquire in his Temple.

So, what if God made that happen. What if, for the rest of my life, God allowed me to dwell in his presence, enjoying his beauty, and talking with him? And nothing else.

Would that be enough?

Another movie comes to mind: "The Butterfly and the Diving Bell." In this true story, a man's life is reduced to the bare essence of being human. Everything he thought - and we think - was essential to a meaningful life was stripped away. At what level is he still a man, still a human being with a life worth living. The movie raises profound questions.

So what is the life that I consider acceptable, that I would call "the good life"? I have taught and I believe that we are accepted by God solely by his grace. But do I really believe that?

Some years ago, someone complained to me that "Christians talk about how they are 'saved by grace,' but after that, they live completely by works. No grace to it." I had to admit to some truth in his comment. Too many of us, who received God's favor by grace, work frantically to retain that favor.

So, I long to be doing things that advance the kingdom of God. I am by nature a problem solver, a builder, and someone who hates looking at a "non-optimal" situation I can't address. I find doing those things very rewarding.

But what if God closes all those doors, and says, "Just sit at my feet, son, and let's enjoy being together." Would that be enough?

That's a hard question. Heavy stuff for a rainy Sunday morning.

12 Comments

G'day Larry;
One of the subjects in my course is called Creative Living. One of the questions raised in this module is about who we are. One thing that came up was maybe it is not WHO WE ARE BUT WHO'S WE ARE. My opinion is, we as humans are complex beings. I have been many things. My work is something I can identify as ME. But I am not my work. I have done lots of jobs. My hobbies and interests I can identify as me too but I am not that either. But I am all these things. These things make up who I am. The truth is, I AM ME.

I wonder if I am a looser too. I have failed at alot of things. We know the know that GOD LOVES US ALL UNCONDITIONALY but it makes no difference to self esteem. It is hard to love your self unconditionaly. The theology course I am doing is the first time I have ever studied at tertiary level. I have failed at alot of study courses by not completing them. This has been an on-going struggle in my life. One that never gets any easier to overcome. I know GOD lead me to theology. And I know it has to be at this level of study too. I am also being very challenged with my circumstances now too. Again I struggle to keep on with studying. I think my latest assignment is late going in because of the mess in my life at present. But I want to purservier.

I know I am not a looser. But WHO AM I? I am me.
All that we do and all that we have done make up who we are now. But can anyone put a label to who I am, who we are? To be honest, I think NOT, But for one we can give to ourselves. WE ARE LOVED BY GOD.

Take care and GOD BLESS;
Ian.....

Ian,

You got it right: God loves us. He deeply, exuberantly, passionately, unexplainably loves us. And it has nothing to do with the simple fact that we all a bunch of klutzes who can't do much of anything right. I think that makes us even more attractive to him, in fact.

You make an important point: Whose we are is more important than who we are. BUt it remains that we derive our value because of our God, who has invested in us, and not because of any inherent worth in us.

God calls us to be his own, and to represent him on this earth. We stand in his place. Nothing else matters very much alongside that.

nothing can separate us from the love of God.that is final ,the word says so

You are absolutely correct. However, at least in the western world, many things can separate us from our perception of God's love.

First, I must start out by saying the word 'loser' doesn't even show up on the horizon when I think of you and how much your honesty, integrity, and vulnerability has blessed my life.

In some ways, this blog entry reminds me of the conflict that Eric Liddle had as portrayed in "Chariots of Fire" when his sister looked down on his love of running. To paraphrase, when he ran, he felt God's pleasure and he considered that a good thing.

I bring this example up because I sensed a tension between 'being' and 'doing' and I hope it doesn't sound to harsh to say, but I think it is a false dilemma (if I am perceiving your blog correctly).

You know from my history that I have struggled a lot with being goal/task oriented and the inability to just 'be' and rest in the presence of God. Through the years, I've had to sort out the motives behind that drive, and I have had to let go of many dreams. Some have been returned by God and some have yet to be, and may never be, given back to me.

I guess my point is even in doing something that we feel/think we were 'just made to do', we can still do it while being, and enjoying, the presence of God. I think that in order to understand this concept, though, we have to first understand why we feel/think we were made for that purpose.

God equipped Paul with an excellent education, Roman citizenship, and a zealous heart. Now, it is a true statement that had Paul never lifted a finger to reach out to the Gentiles God's love for him would not have decreased one iota. However, if we see our life experiences and the natural inclinations that each of us have been given as 'gifts' then even imprisonment is seen as something to be rejoiced over.

Finally, you mentioned the example of a person who was stripped of any ability to 'do' anything. Yet, I wonder...what was it about this person that drew others to him to the point that 'they' would be willing to put a side a portion of 'their' lives in order to tell his story? Something tells me that even when our bodies are unable to do anything, our spirit remain unfettered.

As always, you give me much to think about. I truly do want to live a life of grace, and I want the earthly things I have, or will accomplish, to point to the one who makes all things possible. The questions you pose are excellent ones that each of us need to ask ourselves regularly. I see them as 'chaff sifters'. :-)

Hello Norah,

Thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure how to respond.

I think what I'm experiencing and writing about is indeed the "Eric Liddle syndrome," but not only that, the Apostle Paul syndrome (Romans 6-8). I prefer Paul, though I loved "Chariots of Fire." Scripture teaches that when we become a follower of Jesus -- become "born again" -- we receive a new nature. The old me is truly dead. But I have lived a long time in a corrupt, exceedingly destructive world, and I bear the scars of that. So I struggle. And I think my struggle is between the new, living nature and the remnants of the old, which has left in me patterns of thinking that are not good, and which don't die without a fight.

Am I a loser? Absolutely not. I was, it's true. But no longer. The task now is to learn to live in that new reality. God deeply, passionately loves me, and delights in talking with me. He welcomes the sound of my voice, and delights in spending time together. That's fact. Now, my task is twofold: remain focused on Jesus, not circumstances, and remain responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as he builds in me the character of Jesus.

What's the most important factor in doing that? Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during World War II, explained the key to that country's success against the German onslaught in the Battle of Britain: Never give in. Never, never, never. Never give in.

We can do worse than to make that the motto of our day. Post it in our homes, at our offices, on our computers: Never give in. Never quit. Because God will never quit loving us and working both in our lives and through our lives into the lives of others.

There is a highly important and little spoken of "spiritual gift." Elisha had it in huge measure: Determination. Never give in.

I agree about living with the scars of this broken world and how they can mar how we see ourselves and the good gifts He has given us (including a vocation).

I think this is why I called your questions 'chaff sifters'. I think it is a good habit to ask ourselves serious questions for why we do what we do. "Am I seeking approval?" "Am I doing this to gain attention?" If we don't ask ourselves these types of questions when pursuing a course of action or service then we can never come to the truth of either why we do what we do, or what does God think/feel about me?

There is such liberty when we come to the place where we no longer see God as a tyranical task master who is never pleased with us. Words can't express what it means to me when I comprehend, even at an infantisimal level, that God delights in just spending time with me. When I understand THAT, everything else just seems to fall into place.

Norah,

Good points. Our motivation is important, and most of us spend a lot of time and effort working hard at going nowhere. Our work does nothing to enhance our relationship with God or our personal life. It might make us feel better, but that's a problem in itself, if our goal is to show ourselves "spiritual."

I think the greatest, most life-changing truth possible is that God passionately loves us, and delights in both us personally and in our relationship. If we think otherwise, that he doesn't really care for us -- logical, of course, since we don't much care for ourselves -- it's no wonder we don't like to pray or do the things that enhance our relationship with him. Who wants to spend time with someone who doesn't like him?

G'day Larry;

I know this is not the place for this I am about to write but, What are your views on the sabeth day as in the TEN COMMANDMENTS? I have looked into that a bit to establish that the seventh day is indeed the Sabeth day, the day of rest and worship. Then thinking that the Sabeth day is the seventh day and the seventh day is Saturday, why then do people worship on the first day, Sunday?

I have been wondering how that came about to worship on a Sunday and not the Sabeth day, Saturday as is in the Ten Commandments. I am not with any church so I am not being bias to the Seventh Day Adventist Church but I have seen some documentries how the Seventh Day Adventist Church came about. That is what sparked my investegation.

To me the Ten Commandments still stand and are not by-gone laws. So the Sabeth day to me is the day of rest and worship as stated in the TEN COMMANDMENTS.

As for how Sunday came about as the day of worship and rest is something I am a bit stuck on. I believe it has something to do with Jesus rising again on a Sunday. And because of that people believe that Sunday is the day of worship. But Jesus too followed the Ten Commandments. After all before He was born into this world, He would have had alot to do with giving Moses the Ten Commandments (I believe so anyway. He is the SON OF GOD AFTER ALL).

Anyway mate, I am just wondering about your views on this subject.

GOD BLESS;
Ian.....

Hey Ian,

Well, I'm glad you only bring up easy questions here. Makes like simpler for me. :)

The original Sabbath -- the seventh day -- was instituted in Genesis to commemorate the cessation of creative activity by God. Israel was commanded to keep it, and there were severe consequences -- at first -- for breaking it. Later, it became a time to remember being redeemed from Egypt, which became the defining event in the life of Israel. It was a major part of the Law of Moses. (Interestingly, in the biblical Hebrew culture, the only day of the week that had a name was the Sabbath. The others were merely the first day, the second day, etc.) In Hebrew, it's "Shabbat" and is so called in Israel and other Jewish communities today.

The church changed very early on to worshipping on the first day, from their understanding that the defining event was not creation, and not the exodus. The defining event of the church -- and much of history -- was the resurrection of Jesus. Without that, there is nothing to believe in, and we are without hope. So, from early on, it was Sunday worship. Sadly, in modern times, most Christians are no better at keeping the Sunday as a holy day -- set apart to God -- than most of Israel for much of their history.

Some argue that the church should be worshipping again on the seventh day, but I'm not convinced. Those who "worship" on the seventh day, Saturday, don't do much better than those who worship on Sunday. They have no greater level of spirituality, are no more passionate about their love for Jesus. In fact, many "Saturday Sabbath" folks tend to be quite legalistic about things in general.

Western culture has been formed around Sunday worship -- even if the worship part is long gone -- and it would be extremely disruptive, and probably impossible to shift back to Saturday. And, I don't see that there is anything to gain by it.

In the end, the law is no longer in force, and the Sabbath was a part of the law. Therefore, the church was and is free to choose, and the resurrection is certainly the most significant event in history, even more than the exodus.

G'day Larry;
This is making me think that if then the Sabbeth day as in the Ten Commandments is no longer applicable, then what about the rest of the Ten Commandments. Since then the Ten Commandments would actually be the NINE COMMANDMENTS. Or mabe now they are just a time in history to learn and know but they don't apply to us anymore as there are law makers here who have taken over the role.

I am not going nuts at all mate. It just seems that if one Commandment is not applicable anymore, how can the others be so? You know my story and how I feel about churches and the preachers in them. I am in no way legalistic. It just seems to me that the Ten Commandments are as applicable now as they ever were right from the begining.

I don'tknow about how legalistic 7th day people are. I have heard good and bad about all church practices including Free Massons!! (I have to admit, I can't get with the massons!).

I can see though that in the end,GOD is obviously not at all fussing over which day to rest and worship. GOD just wants us to come back to HIM. GOD's love is greater than a particular day of rest and worship. When people do come back to HIM they soon begin to worship anyway. But I do live by the Ten Commandments as it , to me at least, all makes perfect sense.

Thanks so much for your thoughts mate.
HAVE A GOoD WEEK;
Ian.....

Hi Ian,

You raise a very good question, but one that takes an answer that goes farther than a mere comment here. So I will write something that gives more detail and post it in the next day or two on the main blog.

Keep asking questions.

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  • Larry Baden said:
      Hi Ian, You raise a very good question, but one that takes an answer ...
  • Ian McDonald said:
      G'day Larry; This is making me think that if then the Sabbeth day as i...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Hey Ian, Well, I'm glad you only bring up easy questions here. Makes ...
  • Ian McDonald said:
      G'day Larry; I know this is not the place for this I am about to writ...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Norah, Good points. Our motivation is important, and most of us spend...
  • Norah L said:
      I agree about living with the scars of this broken world and how they ...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Hello Norah, Thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure how to respond. ...
  • Norah L said:
      First, I must start out by saying the word 'loser' doesn't even show u...
  • Larry Baden said:
      You are absolutely correct. However, at least in the western world, ma...
  • Mr Maluleke said:
      nothing can separate us from the love of God.that is final ,the word s...

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