Wednesday, March 23, 2005

midlife crisis, red corvettes and foolishness

Many of us men arrive at midlife and lose it. We lose direction, focus, and some of us lose our minds. Often we become unbalanced in the areas that have been imbalanced during the first half of our lives, but the imbalance was imperceptible based on business and natural constraint. Take away the constraints, and the imbalance wobbles out of control.

John Eldredge talks about a question that men have for most of their lives, "Do I have what it takes?". Most of what men do answers this to some extent or another. Even couch potatoing it watching football has an echo of this question, albeit vicariously.

Many men make the critical error of allowing our wives to answer this question for us. While they are part of the answer, they cannot and must not attempt to answer this question as the sole arbiter. Our wives don’t write our report cards. The net result of many who have attempted taking the question to the female is easy to spot… they’re the guys buying flashy cars, flirting with hard bodied women in their 20’s, and generally looking foolish to everyone but themselves. The more deceived of these guys dump their wives and families and start popping the secretary at work. The result for everyone, the man, the wife, the kids, the secretaries and the 20 somethings is a ripple effect of pain.

Here’s the real deal in my opinion.

During the first half of our lives, we are like a river… we’re constrained by banks, and because of this gravity creates directed motion. We become comfortable with the motion because we are touching the banks, they irritate us, but they provide predictable guidance, and they serve as a progress meter… we measure time and progress as the scenery on the banks slips by. We become accustomed to the limitations, learn to work within them, and eventually unknowingly need them like Red (Morgan Freeman) in Shawshank Redemption.

These walls are kind of funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That's institutionalized.

At some time or another, we reach midlife, and the constraints drop away… it’s like we enter a lake from the river. Less stress, laid back living, but we’ve lost some of the supporting infrastructure. The lake is directionless. We know we’ve lost velocity, and worse, we’ve lost the ability to measure velocity, the banks no longer meter our progress because they are too far away to compare ourselves to. We know at times we’re actually going in circles. There is no control and everything has changed. How long we spend here ranges from a couple of weeks to a couple of decades.

But here is the key!!!!!

There is another river on the other side of the lake. It is faster, and deeper, and more directed than we can imagine. It will take everything we have become and more. It potentially is the most effective time in our lives. Culturally, it is during this time that we put ourselves out to pasture. Do not buy into this, go for all that God has designed and prepared you for. Grab for the ring. Sell all you have and become a micro enterprise missionary in the third world. Start a business. Mentor kids, heck, mentor your own grand children.

I write this as a warning and an encouragement.

We can so damage ourselves and our families by thrashing around in the lake and fighting this realignment, (which I think is designed by God), that we waste much of the rest and enter the second river in a MESS, wasting precious energy.

Men, if you’re in the lake, accept it, and take what God has for you. Use the lake time productively, and above all, don’t fight it.

If you’re in the second river, BE COUNTERCULTURAL, read John Eldredge’sJourney of Desire” grab a fresh handful of throttle, and max out.

Monday, March 21, 2005

gospel of sin management

I would never argue with anyone who suggests that sinning less is a good idea. Sin is... well... sin. But following Jesus is not simply about cleaning ourselves up, and remediating sin... it is about experiencing the incredible effect of the living Jesus in our lives... and freedom from sin is part of this, but the freedom comes from Jesus, not from us.

A fundamental issue with even discussing sin is that there are many definitions of what sin truly is. While I agree that intentionally doing something we KNOW is wrong IS irrefutable sin, I think that this definition is way too specific and narrow. I believe that sin is "missing perfection by any amount".

We live in a fallen broken world. Much of what we do is imperfect.

Doing what is right with the wrong motives involves sin by this definition.

If we focus on sin, we're focusing in the wrong direction. None of us can fix ourselves... the best we can manage with sin is to stop, but we cannot change the desires of our hearts. Stopping is not nearly enough.

The gospel of sin management breaks down most spectacularly in that it is human based, and as such only deals with sin that is easily measurable by humans. This leads to the "sin ranking system" that many evangelical churches adopt... the system in which those who practice idolatry with the bass boat in their driveway are accepted, and the ones who struggle with same sex attraction and homosexuality are banned. Those who struggle with pride and arrogance are promoted to leadership, and those who kick heroin but still struggle with tobacco are kicked around as "less than".

I am amazed at how often arrogance is confused as a spiritual gift. I am amazed at how un-grace doubles as a negative incentive for some. I am amazed at how few people kow how to be truly vulnerable.

The gospel of sin management is not the Gospel of Jesus... it is not the Gospel of Amazing Grace, it is the gospel of humanist self help disguised as Godly spirituality.