Welcome to Brian's Bits, where Brian gets to share at length about various topics stirring inside of him.
Living For a Living
28 September 2010
yesterday's article, which discusses the book So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobsen. You'll want to be sure to read yesterday's article before diving into today's.
Today's article is also the third installment in my series which explores my circumstances of being unemployed for nine months now, after having been fired from my job at the ElijahList last Christmas. The first part of that series is The Agony and the Ecstasy, and the second part is The Good and the Perfect. To have a fuller understanding of what I'm sharing today, you will definitely want to read those two previous articles first.
Reading this book was such an astounding experience for me. It was as if the author could peer into the deepest thoughts, feelings, fears and hopes of my heart, and then he wrote it all down on paper. Or it was as if I was sitting down and having a deep heart-to-heart talk with a close bosom buddy who has known me inside-out for the last twenty years (unfortunately, I don't have such a friend in my life). The following quotes are the ones that spoke to me in that deep, intimate, heart-felt way:
"Sorting out a relationship with Jesus is a lifetime journey.... If you want to live this journey, you have to put honesty above personal expedience. It's easy to try to cover things for the good of the institution, but that's a step down a path where God does not reside.... There are worse things that could happen than losing a job. And it won't change God's responsibility to take care of you."
"The road is rarely easy, but you will find the joy of living in Jesus' life will far outweigh any pain in the process."
"But what if I'm wrong?"
"Wrong about what? Would you betray the truth just to hold on to a paycheck?"
"No, I get that. What if I'm wrong about this whole situation and I'm just being selfish?"
"Selfishness is protecting yourself at someone else's expense. Risking job, reputation, and friendships to be true to your conscience doesn't sound selfish to me."
"But how can I be certain I won't make a mess of things?"
"Whether or not you make a mess of things really isn't the issue, is it? Neither is being certain. You can only be responsible for doing what you think is best. If you make a mistake you will see it in time and learn from it. At least you'll learn to be more dependent on Jesus. No one is perfect, and when you give up trying to look like you are, you'll be free to follow him."
With few friends, no measurable income, and a hopeless future ahead, I finally hit rock bottom.
"I've never been more frustrated with my spiritual life or more isolated from the church. And now I don't even have an income to show for it! Some great life in Christ this turned out to be!"
"I know it isn't easy right now. These times never are. Just try to remember you're in the middle of a story, not at the end of it."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"God is doing something in you, answering the deepest prayers you've ever prayed. Yes, that process has brought some incredible pain in your life, but he has not abandoned you. Far from it! He's holding on to you today as tightly as he ever has."
"I've just tried to do what was right and it hasn't helped me at all."
"But it has in ways you don't know yet. God is setting you free from the things in which you used to find security in the past. They were in the way of God being the Father to you that he knew you wanted — and they were false hopes anyway. Losing them is always painful and I know you're dealing with more than most right now, but you are wrong to think God has turned against you, or that he is somehow ignoring you."
"What else can I think? I thought God was making some things clearer to me and I thought that would bring some added joy and peace to my life. I thought others would love it as much as I did. But I find out that they do not and I'm wondering myself if I've not been duped. If this was God, don't you think things would be getting better?"
"You're on a new road with your eyes on old road signs. I think what God wants you to know is that those old road signs are nothing but myths to prop up a dying system. They don't really work, as you're finding out."
"What kind of myths?"
"For one, you think suffering is a sign of God's displeasure with you. Didn't Job make that mistake? Suffering often indicates that God is setting us free from something so that we can follow and embrace him more deeply. Walking in his life will always mean you are going against the grain. Don't expect your circumstances to conform easily to this journey. They will resist it at every turn. God wants to teach you how to walk with him through these things so that you can know a joy and peace that transcends circumstance."
"But doesn't God promise to bless those who follow his ways?"
"Certainly that is the fruit of doing so, but he doesn't define those blessings in your terms. He's leading you on a greater journey than you can yet fathom. Keep following him and you'll be absolutely astounded by him. The hardest thing you'll learn in this journey is to give up the illusion of controlling your own life or that you can manipulate God to bless you."
"God will provide for you. He always has, except you don't know that. The fact that you don't have insurance or a job to lean on doesn't mean he will forsake you. The fact that others are destroying your reputation doesn't mean they'll have the final say. God is not a fairy godmother who waves the magic wand to make everything the way we want it. You won't get far if you question his love for you whenever he doesn't meet your expectations. He's your Father. He knows far better what you need than you know yourself. He is a far better provider for you and your family than you yet know. He is bringing you into his life and, rather than saving you from these things you are enduring, he has chosen to use them to show you what true freedom and life really are."
"So he likes me to suffer?"
"I hope you know better than that. He agonizes right along with you. How can he not? He loves you. He is not doing this to you, he is working through the brokenness of this world to accomplish something greater in you. Once you know that, even the sting of difficult circumstances will be blunted. You'll find him in the midst of them and watch him accomplish his purpose without your control. This is where his life truly begins to take hold in you."
"I think I'd rather just be happy."
"But happiness is a pretty cheap substitute for being transformed into his image, wouldn't you say?"
"I know! But this isn't easy."
"No one said it would be. But you make it even harder on yourself when you think God is against you! What if you knew he was right in this with you, leading you to the life you've begged him for?"
"Then I certainly wouldn't be so overwhelmed."
"No, you wouldn't. And you'd still be able to enjoy his presence while he's working this out. You're missing what every writer of the New Testament proclaimed — even though God does not orchestrate our sufferings, he uses them to bring freedom at the deepest core of our being. If you walk with him through it, instead of pushing him away with blame or accusation, you'll be surprised at what he will do."
"Just remember he's not worried about tomorrow because he has already worked that out. He's inviting you to live with him in the joy of the moment, responding to what he puts right before you. The freedom to simply follow him that way will transform so many areas of your life. He loves you and he wants you to live in the security of that, without having to figure everything out."
"You're caught in the same approval game. That's how this culture works. Do what they want and they shower you with affirmation. Cross them and they'll crucify your reputation, with or without the facts. Religious systems, too, have to play the approval game to work."
"Is that why I could go from 'rising star' one moment, to 'condemned outcast' the next?"
"Exactly! And why you could go back to 'rising star' tomorrow if you returned and admitted it was all your fault. They would celebrate your return as quickly as they shoved you out the door. All that matters is that you stay in the game and play by the rules."
"So even though I'm not there, I'm still playing that game, aren't I?"
"Oh, yes. It's a lot easier for you to get out of the system than it is to get the system out of you. You can play it from inside and out. The approval you felt then came from the same source as the shame you feel now.... Institutionalism breeds task-based friendships. As long as you're on the same task together, you can be friends. When you're not, people tend to treat you like damaged goods.... One of the big things Jesus is doing in you now is to free you from the game. Then you can live deeply in him rather than worry about what everyone else thinks about you."
"Well, I'm done with it! I'm not playing the game anymore."
"How I wish it were that easy. You already knew they were wrong, but it still bothered you. How are you just going to stop? Actually, this is going to be a bit of a process. Even the pain of feeling rejected is part of it. He is using what's going on around you to help you learn how to care more what Father thinks of you than what anyone else does."
"I barely make it through each month and am never sure how to get through the next one. I hoped my life would be much more stable by now."
"Maybe you're looking for stability in the wrong places."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"You've learned to measure stability by your circumstances and by your ability to see how things will work out months in advance."
"And that's wrong?"
"I wouldn't say it's wrong. I'd just say it's not going to help you walk in this kingdom. When we're looking to the future, we're not listening to Father. Anything we do to try and guarantee stability on our own terms will actually rob us of the freedom to simply follow him today. We'll resort to our own wisdom instead of following his. The greatest freedom God can give you is to trust his ability to take care of you each day."
"It's when I look further down the road that I get worried. I don't see how this will work out over time."
"We've all been there, and I certainly understand. But that's because we can't see yet what God will do. We can only see what we can do.... You appear to be the bad guy when you know it isn't true. You appear to be on the verge of financial ruin, but you're not. Never let mere appearances become your reality.... We only need to do what God puts on our hearts to do, and doubting his ability to work beyond us is not the best way to hear him. The great lie of this broken universe is that God cannot be trusted and that we have to take care of ourselves."
"Our worst moments result from grabbing for ourselves that which Father has not given us.... Our biggest messes come when we try to do something for God that we're convinced he can't do for himself."
"Then what do I do, just sit around and wait for God?"
"Who said anything about sitting around? Learning to live by trusting Father is the most difficult part of this journey. So much of what we do is driven by our anxiety that God is not working on our behalf, that we have no idea of the actions that trust produces. Trusting doesn't make you a couch potato. As you follow him, you'll find yourself doing more than you've ever done, but it won't be the frantic activity of a desperate person, it will be the simple obedience of a loved child. That's all Father desires."
"I've got a good friend who was so hurt by her past church experience that she doesn't want to meet with any group of Christians ever again."
"And God knows where she is and how best to get through to her. We often mistake the middle of a chapter for the end of the story. Maybe Father is just drawing her to himself right now. If she's your friend, stay close to her. You can be her link to the family as Father works in her."
"And I have a friend who just can't find anyone who wants this kind of life together"
"Father knows that, too! Certainly there are others near him with a similar hunger, but if Father hasn't made those connections yet, your friend can rest in that. It's much easier for us to find it when we live contentedly in God's provision rather than being anxious for what we don't see. Encourage him to enjoy what Father is doing each day while keeping his eyes open for others. You never know how or when God will make connections."
"That's often how God works. If you're willing to do something but don't sense it's right when you move ahead, you are better off waiting until it's clear."
"Even if someone else thinks you're a flake?"
"Even if. You can't blame them for not seeing what you see. Be true to his work in you and love others even through their misunderstanding of that. That's how to live with grace."
"But I feel like I AM such a flake."
"Maybe you are; or maybe you're just worn out with a religion of obligations. Let yourself detox from that for a while and then you'll know better. Besides, just because you don't go to a church meeting doesn't mean you can't pursue fellowship with people individually.... Learn to live this life and you'll find no end of folks to share it with. Teach it first, however, and that will be your substitute for living it."
"Does trusting God to do what YOU think is best really sound like trusting God to you? It would seem to me that trusting God allows him to do whatever HE desires. If I focus that trust on a specific outcome, then I am only trying to manipulate him.... If we don't learn to trust, we will only interpret every event from our own self-centered vantage point, which is invariably negative and undermines our relationship with God.... Mistrust will only make us feel threatened or afraid so that we'll either lash out at others in hostility, or turn it inward into depression. Growing in trust allows us to walk with God through our concerns and disappointments, knowing he has something else in mind than we might have thought.... He hasn't promised to resolve our problems two weeks in advance, just one day at a time as we walk freely in him. And he told us we could be content with what he provides."
"Just because people say they are following God doesn't mean they are. People often put God's name to their own agenda. But don't let that rob you of the reality of living in his agenda."
"What I'm saying is that following him, as he makes himself clear to you, is your responsibility. Providing for you is his. You'll be better off if you don't get the two mixed up."
"Well, that flies in the face of my Puritan work ethic."
"As well it should."
"But doesn't Paul say if you won't work, you shouldn't eat?"
"I didn't say anything about not working. I'm talking about doing the work God gives you to do and watching him provide for you as you do it. Paul was dealing with laziness and presumption, which is not you."
"But it seems so irresponsible."
"In the mind of the world, it is. But if God's asking you to do it, it would be irresponsible not to."
"I guess I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing."
"He's not asking you to do something despite all evidence to the contrary. He's asking you to follow him as you see him unfolding his will in you. As you do that, you'll find that his words and his ways will hold more certainty for you than your best plans or wisdom.... Living in the freedom of God's provision is critical to what God has for you. Learn to live by what God puts before you, not by your plans and schemes.... Too many people confuse faith with presumption. They are consumed by their own agenda, even quoting Scriptures that prove God will have to do it their way and end up so disappointed when he doesn't. But God will use even that disappointment to invite them into a real trust that is based on his unfolding work in them."
"Nothing distorts ministry more than believing you have to make a living by it. So much of our life in Christ today is corrupted because people want to use ministry to secure their income. We have inherited systems of body life and leadership that result from people trying to find a way to provide for themselves, rather than demonstrating what it is to live in Father's care. Once ministry becomes a source of income, you'll find yourself manipulating people to serve you rather than Father's love moving you to serve them.... Increasing trust is the fruit of a growing relationship. The more you know him and his ways, the freer you'll be to live beyond the influences that tie you down to your own flawed wisdom. As you see his faithfulness unfold in your life through the coming days, you will come to know just how deeply you can trust him. That's where you'll find real freedom."
"I don't know all God has for you. Just keep following one step at a time, doing what you know to do each day. It will become clearer in time."
"Being in ministry again sounds good, and so does a steady paycheck, but not that kind of ministry, and not that kind of paycheck."
"Steady income, credible job, personal validation? Weren't those the important things to you when we first met?"
"I don't even think about those things anymore. I am having so much fun sorting out this life in Jesus and helping others do so, I'm not even worried about what others think, or about my career."
"Just keep living, loving, and listening, and he will lead you to whatever expression of church life best fits his plans. Don't be concerned if it's nothing you can point to and say, 'That is the church.' You are the church. Don't be afraid to live in that reality.... We can trust Jesus with this! He's a far better manager of church life than any of us will ever be. Live in him and follow whatever he puts on your heart to do and you'll be awed by what he does."
"It seems to me you're trying to make a decision about your future based on principle instead of simple obedience. Is Jesus asking you to be here, or is he asking you to leave it?"
"I was hoping you'd give me some criteria that would make it easier to know."
"And rob you of the chance to hear him breathe his will into your own heart? Never. This is between you and him. Sorting it out with him will help your relationship grow. Don't look for a right or wrong answer to what you're asking. Then you will condemn others who don't choose what you do."
"That's where I'm stuck. I just don't know. On any given day I vacillate wildly depending on the circumstances I'm in."
"That's why it would help to get your eyes off the circumstances and look to him. He can take you through anything and perfect his purpose in you as he does it."
"I just don't know. Maybe I'm just afraid of losing my income."
"I wouldn't be honest if I said I don't think about it. I trained for this. I don't know if I'm qualified for much else."
"You'd be surprised what Father might ask you to do and how he might resource you. But all you can do is take that fear to him and ask him to show you the way."
"I have. A thousand times."
"Then it isn't time."
"What does that mean?"
"Part of the journey involves doing what he makes clear to you. If you've submitted it to him, then let him sort it out. If he were asking you to leave today, I think you'd know that, even in the face of your fears. If he hasn't made it clear to you, then wait. Just keep loving him and following him every day. I'm learning the joy of resting in him, doing what I know to do and not doing what I don't know to do. It's been one of the hardest lessons to learn, but also the most freeing."
"But I want a right or wrong answer."
"Don't we all, until Jesus becomes answer enough? This is his decision, not yours, and it will be clear when it is clear. Just ask him whom he wants you to be walking with right now. Don't try to sort out what you want or what you think is best. Follow the growing conviction he settles in your heart over time. This may not even be your decision. Someone else may get to decide it for you. He often works that way, too.... Sometimes we don't know what God wants because there are stories yet to play out and people's lives still to be impacted by yours."
"So it really is a day-to-day walk, letting Jesus sort out his way in us?"
"Yes, it is, and when you learn to live that way you'll never want to go back. Jesus is really good at showing you how to do it, especially when your desire to please him is not competing with doing what you think is best or easiest."
"Like putting my financial security above my spiritual passion."
"You'll be surprised what you'll do when the way is clear. Someday you might just have more valuable things to do than what you're doing here."
"So what am I supposed to do about all of this in the meantime?"
"Keep following your hunger. Be honest about it with yourself. Do each day what he puts in your heart to do. You need to follow Jesus, even when it creates conflict. Always be gentle and gracious to everyone, but never compromise what is in your heart just to get along. I have no idea how this will all play out for you, but it always does, in ways we can't imagine."
"But I could get killed this way."
"Yes, you could. But if you're going to follow him, what choice do you have? Follow the hunger. It will continue to shape you and give you courage for whatever lies ahead.... Jesus is teaching you how to live free. Others will find that threatening, as you will yourself at times."
"This goes against everything I've been taught. I've been trained to do this, to stay in control. I feel so powerless to live the way you're talking."
"That's how the system controls us. It's a system we think we can work through our own initiative and effort, but that is also why it cannot produce the life you hunger for. That's only found in him."
"And only when I give up control."
"Or the illusion of it. The hardest-won lesson of this journey is that I was never in control. I only thought I was."
"I still don't know what to do."
"Yes, you do."
"I know. Follow him, every day! As scary as that sounds, there's a real freedom in it, isn't there?"
"That there is. And you'll do that best when you can relax in his working. He's not trying to make it difficult; he wants you to experience the very kingdom itself. This is his joy he draws you to, not some tiresome duty or empty promise.... You've had two desires that conflicted with one another."
"What do you mean?"
"You had this incredible hunger to know God and follow him. But you also wanted to be circumstantially secure and well liked by others. Those just aren't compatible with following him. We are safe because he is with us, not because our circumstances are easy, and trying to get everyone to like you only made you less a person than God made you to be. When you started following what God put in your heart, the other kingdom had to collapse. It was inevitable if not enviable. It is never easy watching people go through it."
"I could answer your questions all day and it wouldn't make a difference. This life can't be neatly sewn up in the intellect. It must be uncovered in the journey. He'll make things clear to you as you need them... Time isn't Father's focus. He enjoys setting things right in us, even if it does take a bit of time.... Jesus didn't leave us with a system; he left us with his Spirit — a guide instead of a map."
I also mentioned yesterday that even though this book is a work of fiction, I still think it is largely autobiographical. This impression became more solid once I read the author's biography. One sentence in his biography strongly echos what I feel Father God is doing in my life during this season: "Every attempt I made to seek normal employment was met with a deep sense that I was moving outside what God desired for me." I don't know exactly what that means for me — after all, I'm still in the middle of the chapter of my journey with Yeshua (Jesus), not at the end of the story! So, I guess time will reveal what the Father's plans for me are.This Way Of Life. It's the true story of a Kiwi family that lives a simple, counterculture lifestyle. As the online synopsis describes it:
In This Way of Life, the Karenas unite their philosophy with their circumstances, turning hardship into a meaningful and satisfying life.... we explore family relationships, their connection to nature, their keen survival skills and their absolute intimacy with each other and their horses. Regardless of their hardships, the Karenas manage to never lose sight of the magic in the everyday.There is a scene early in the film where the father, Peter Karena, is explaining his way of life. It is a prime example of what I have been sharing on this page:
What I do for a living? I live for a living.
What I do for income ... is whatever I can without compromising my integrity.If can combine the two — the living and the income — then that's good.
In summary, what I sense the Father saying to me is that He wants me to pursue and follow Yeshua on a day-by-day journey, and not pursue a job or a career or ministry or money. I simply need to do the work that He puts before me each day, and leave all of those other details to Him. It does sound kind of scary, but it also sounds pretty exciting and liberating.
So after nine months of waiting for God to tell me what His next big step for my life is — specifically, where I should be working to earn an income — I feel that I finally have my answer. I will discover the work He has for me while ON the journey. It's definitely NOT the answer I was looking for, but all in all I think it's a BETTER answer, and one that will fulfill the deepest longings of my heart. I have more I want to share about this, which I will continue in my next article, Hearing But Not Listening.
There is a joy in the journey,These are words of life to me — I pray that they bring life to you too. See you on the journey....
there's a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
and freedom for those who obey.
This article is 3rd a series of articles on this Web site related to My Journey with Yeshua (Jesus) which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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