I apologize if I ramble in this one a bit, my mind is all over the place. Lately I've been feeling blessed. It's not that things are going any better for me, or that my future looks brighter based on current projections, it's just that I've felt a random wave of gratitude and I need to write about it so I don't forget. I need to record this feeling so that when the wall of despair comes I'll have some C4 to blow through it.
I've come to find lately that life isn't about the haves and the have-nots, its not about your wants or even about meeting your goals. It's about enjoying the process of living - the failures and victories that inevitably lead to growth and a better perspective. It's about having the peace that surpasses understanding. The peace that doesn't come with the ownership of more materials. So many times have I glanced in envy at my neighbor, be it other more successful bands or well-adjusted professionals, and I've craved their success. I would ask: Why not me? When is it my turn? Have I wasted my earning potential?
This only brings unrest.
There is something in a man that makes him feel inadequate when he is unable to provide support and stability to those around him. The ability to provide financial security, comfort, protection and opportunity is something that I have not yet been fully awarded with, so at times, I've felt the pang of regret. Have I wasted my gifts?
But then, once in awhile, something happens. I don't believe in Karma, necessarily, and I don't think that God is cause-and-effect or easy for humans to wrap their heads around. So I'm not saying I did anything to deserve this feeling, but sometimes when my life feels like it is in right-standing spiritually, when I am giving back, I start to feel blessed. It's funny, because I have absolutely no worries. Regardless of the circumstances (they rarely change), I know that things will be okay. My perspective changes, and I am overwhelmed with a calming sense of peace.
Some would say that I am foolish and that I have no basis for any sense of peace, I mean, look at my situation, what am I really doing to "protect my financial future"? Regardless, I know that I am taken care of. Kristie and I have three meals a day, reliable transportation, a comfortable roof over our heads and a place to call home. I don't mean to brag, but we even have iPhones (=D). In my weak moments I've felt weighed down by our debt, but in better moments I've felt peace that we have the freedom of not being burdened by major investments. We have dreams of a house someday, and kids. Just like my band has dreams of a bus, and fans*. But it's not about the end result anymore.
What if our band blew up off of our first record? I often shutter to think about how much I would have squandered that blessing. The fame with the credit would have probably gone straight to my head, and the influx of money would have inspired ideas of how to spend it - ideas which would have become idols. The blessing would have been a waste. I wouldn't have learned any of the valuable lessons I've taken to heart over the past four years. I would have squandered any real growth. In fact, I'm not so certain I wouldn't squander it now if it happened. My current goal is not to be at the ever elusive "top" anymore (If it exists, I've never seen it). I'm happy to enjoy the process, because in the trenches of war growth happens, and that's what really matters. Material success will pass and ultimately never satisfies, but what you learn about the things that matter is eternal.
I'm happy to be in love with my wife in a world where true love is rare. I'm blessed to have family and friends who pray for me, who really care about my well being. Making close to the poverty line every year isn't a struggle, living in a small one-bedroom apartment isn't a struggle, not being able to afford fixing my dented bumper isn't a struggle, shouldering debt is not a struggle. I am BLESSED! I have not struggled at all on any level that means anything. Peter talks about sharing in Jesus' suffering with Him and what a blessing that is. Keep in mind his audience was truly struggling in terrible ways:
For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
-1 Peter 2:20
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing... if you are reviled for the name Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
-1 Peter 4:12-14
I have not struggled. I have not suffered! If when I see Jesus some day all I have to tell Him about my struggle was that I couldn't afford nice things I WILL WANT TO SHOOT MYSELF IN THE FACE (sorry for lack of a better term, and the caps-lock).
I won't starve to death, die of malaria, aids or lack of clean water. I am blessed to live here in this country at this time. I won't get sawed in half, burned at the stake, filleted alive by knives or crucified upside down for being a Christian as the disciples were. I wont even get thrown in prison. It's quite the opposite. By claiming Christianity I can get elected president, sell out high-paying church concerts or make a lot of money by duping nice old ladies on TV. Of course this isn't the real form of Christianity (the Christ-movement), it's a bastard form that creates religious drones enslaved to their practice whose only struggles have to do with lacking the one thing they should be characterized by: Love. They're great at judgement and discernment, but how convicting is this passage by Paul:
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3
If there are any Christian martyrs in our country they are those who are attacked by the so called "Christians" who have no love. Our oppression as American Christians comes from within the Church, and so our struggles come from living inadequately in the eyes of the extremely religious. The roles in our country are completely reversed. The church no longer suffers, the church is responsible for inflicting suffering. The Bible says the world will hate you if you live correctly, and I say a dead church and a dead Christian will hate you just as much. The Pharisees who knew the prophets could not see that Jesus was the Messiah. They hated Jesus and His movement of love that flew in the face of their religion. Their religion blinded them and they missed the boat.
We have not been chased from our homes and into hiding, we have not been separated, abused, tortured and devalued, but we have been scrutinized by our own church family. We are blessed, and should choose to bless in return. Not out of duty, but out of gratitude for how much we've been spared in comparison to those who came before us.
Sometimes I think the fact that we've been spared any real oppression is more of a curse than a blessing. Faith lies dormant in so many lives, even in my own, and it could really be awakened by a healthy fear of persecution!
Alas, I've stumbled into another topic. My point is that I feel blessed and I have no reason to fear tomorrow. I have no good reason to worry. As long as I am obedient in my faith I know that I will be taken care of. The next time I worry, I resolve to punch myself in the face with this blog post.
*being a little jocose here, I know that we have some.