Emptying Myself

Is it possible to have spiritual colic?

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” – Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” – Galatians 6:3

Those of you who don’t believe in God, or who don’t share my faith may find this post a little hard to relate to, but I hope you’ll read it anyway. If I’m honest with myself and with you, I’m tired. The burden of striving is unbearable, and the strain of clawing and grasping has brought me to the unhappy realization that I’ve been living like a practical agnostic.

copper, oxidation, the kitchen sink, revereware, saucepan

Oxidation, like rust, is just a slower form of burning

At least I said practical

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I advocate living close to one’s own heart — that is, being attuned to what’s going on in your spirit as much as to what’s going on around you. Circumstances can refine us, but they don’t define us, for only God is capable of telling us our true name. I believe this — down to the bone — but in spite of myself I have found myself paying more attention to headlines, aches and pains, and my bank balance instead of paying attention to what God is saying in the midst of these things.

God doesn’t care

Before you swallow your gum, let me assure you that God cares a great deal. He loves you and me beyond our capacity to comprehend it. But God does not care whether I’m rich, famous, or popular. He does not care whether I am powerful or particularly comfortable. In His great love, He is interested in my belonging to Him, and in response to that love, my faithfulness through every circumstance.

This is what it means to imitate Christ: He was God, but lowered himself to serve. My mission is to adopt his mindset and place myself second, allowing Him to reign on the throne of my life. I’m sorry to say my thoughts, words, and actions lately have more closely resembled a palace coup than that faithfulness Jesus demonstrated to the Father’s will.

Soil and seeds

If you’ve tried gardening, you know that the crop you get (or don’t) depends on the quality of soil in which you plant your seeds. Jesus explained this to his followers in a parable about a farmer who scattered seeds that fell variously on a hard-packed path, on shallow and rocky soil, into thorny weeds, and on good soil. Predictably, only the seed that fell on good soil grew to fruitful maturity and delivered the return on its potential. In case you didn’t click through, Jesus explained that the seed in the story was God’s word, and the four soil types described human hearts in four different conditions.

I’ve always found it interesting that Jesus didn’t command that we amend our own soil. For most of us, I’d argue that’s too tall of a task. But God will soften our hearts, deepen our capacity for Him, and remove the thorny distractions if we put ourselves in His care. I’m telling you this in case you need to do as I am doing.

Holy week and a realization

So here in this week leading up to Easter, I have come to the realization that I have let my preoccupation with busyness, money, and ambition choke the connection between my inner and outer life. Instead of thanking God for the dozens — hundreds — of blessings I get to enjoy, I have fretted, fumed and let my mind entertain some rather dark thoughts.

No, I’m not in danger of going pagan, I have no hope anywhere else but in Jesus Christ. But I noticed that I was feeling restless, agitated, and boy, could I get angry in a hurry.

I also noticed that I was shorting my prayers and the time I normally devote to studying scripture. Correlation is not causation, but there is a noticeable change in my disposition when I am communicating constantly with God compared to when I am not. Selfishness and irritability are the principal symptoms of my spiritual colic. Not a good look for any man.

But wait! There’s more

I thought I had totally recovered from my addiction to politics — not so. I regret all the time and attention I devoted to thinking and stewing over the upcoming election. I do care, but I am choosing to trust my fellow citizens to do the right thing — and if they don’t, I trust God to take care of my family and me. There’s already a God of the universe — and it isn’t yours truly (much to my relief). If you want to talk politics with me, I’ll be kind and indulge you, but I’m more interested again in the unshakable and everlasting Kingdom of God.

Thanks be to God, I am confessing to Him and to you that I renounce the unwholesome attachments that disrupt the connection between my Heavenly Father and me, and I trust Him to pardon and deliver me from my many sins through the worthy sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah, our Passover — and through His resurrection, which we are preparing to celebrate on Easter Sunday. The Lord is risen! Hallelujah!

So how about you? What is keeping you from reaching your potential? What do you need to retire to become fruitful? Add your comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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