Thursday, February 27, 2003
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
1 John 3:16-20
Well, I had Bible study last night... it's been awhile since I've been there, having missed the last couple of meetings because of my temp job/errands. I work mostly nights/afternoons, so it tends to bump my usual evening activities out of the way.
The above verse was part of the study we did yesterday. The first verse, verse 16, is familar to me in that it was theme verse for AACF the year I was on core. It was also the same year I had just gotten back from my summer mission trip to Brasil. I was a lot more sure of my future and things then. These days, my confidence in both those things is no where near as unshakeable as it was then.
Having now almost gone through an entire full year without FT employment has been a jarring experience, something I never expected to happen when I graduated last March. Even during the first few months, when I was filling out applications and going to interviews, I didn't expect things to last beyond 6-8 months... but here I am. Oh sure, there were a couple of times I thought there was light at the end of tunnel, but it's still dark right now. And it's not just me, either... many of my good friends from college, all of them good people, have been forced into similar circumstances. I sympathize with them. But does our collective misery help me feel better? Not really.
As time ticks away, and idle moments abound, my mind's eye always turns inward, and the scrutiny is a harsh light to shine on oneself.
I was talking with a friend recently about how the underlying issue beneath all personal issues is our relationship with God and our faith (or lack there of). Every problem, every burden, every wound that we bear points to the imperfection of ourselves and the imperfection of this world. It also, by our awareness of imperfection points to the perfection of God and our need for Him to be a part of our lives. Once we believe in Him, we also become aware that a big part of Him manifesting himself in our lives is when we seek to emulate his character in action - like the verse says, in "actions and in truth".
This supposedly is our assurance of our faith. Yet, even the passage notes that despite our attempts to live virtuously, our "hearts" can still unjustly condemn us. I think that's why this passage struck me... I'm still grappling with myself and my own person condemnation. I remember reading awhile back about this sociological survey that found that for Asian Americans, one of the most powerful motivators in their lives is guilt - guilt from family, guilt from cultural standards, and yes, self-inflicted guilt.
It's frightening to look your accuser in the eye when sometimes, he wears your own face.
I've never thought of myself as a very self-critical person, at least not any more self-critical than a person should normally be. But every person has a personal hell, a part of their psyche that carries something that is hard to bear. It's a place where personal demons hide away, and if circumstances allow, when God has all but left a gaping absence, they run amuck. They haunt my sleep and scream in the silences.
Self-medication is becoming a bad habit just to get z's and make them shut up.
Perhaps my lack of justification is the means in which they leap out and dance about in plain view, a parade of pelvic thrusting and cruel laughter that echos the phrase, "HA TOLD YOU SO". After all, if I was working right now, I'd have the twin benefits of 1) knowing all the time I sacrificed during college toward my altruistic volunteerism wasn't a bad idea; 2) my mind would be occupied with the daily concerns of my 9-5, not giving space for these things to bother me.
Instead, I'm forced to confront the possibility that the one life I have to live has already been squandered away. It's like a twisted version of the prodigal son, where instead of spending money on booze and hoes, I've spent my time on God and what I thought was His work, and still feeling wasted from the effort. Am I just to concede that practical matters of worrying about feeding ones ownself should have taken precedence? I used to have a deep conviction that those who give will themselves be some way provided for. The conviction must now answer to the personal demons, the nagging doubts.
I'm never been an advocate of the opposite extreme, of a selfish and greedy life. But experience now suggests that its antithesis, a life wholely devoted to spiritual matters, is just as dangerous. I'm teetering on the edge, and if the wind doesn't change soon, I don't want to imagine what the fall will be like.
Like I've written before, I never asked for an easy life. Of course, I never asked for an extraordinarily difficult one either. Do I merit my own condemnation? Maybe it is unjustified... but for now, I lack the evidence to defend myself against myself.
wh00t. Time for nap. Work in 2 hours.
Mr. Rogers dies, age 74. Did you know he was an ordained Presbyterian minister? Learn something new everyday.
Man, you know you're getting old when your childhood icons pass on...
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