No Pain, No Gain (Like You Haven’t Heard That Before)

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that one of the connecting points for many lasting friendships in the world is the endurance of pain, together. There I was sharing a margarita with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months and the conversation drifted to the tougher moments in life and how he could relate to x-y-z and I could relate to a-b-c. Perhaps that’s too simplistic a view, but being the sinful humans we are, we’ve all been hurt and we all have hurt, others. It’s our nature to be selfish, inflict pain, and to find ourselves in the crucible of sanctification, given the choice of asking for forgiveness and saying “F*** them, they’re not worth it.” We’ve all been guilty of choosing the latter at some point in life, but it’s never led anywhere fruitful. Bitterness and hatred is only serving yourself the poisoned wine, rather than giving it to your enemy. You’d be better off attempting to kill them with kindness, wouldn’t you?

Anyways – back to my point – in a world of filtered photos, edited texts, and Facebook posts that are a highlight reel of life…we need that one person to share that one painful story of rejection, anger, pain, hatred, betrayal, longing, addiction, abuse, etc. – and that’s all it takes – and then there’s an iconic moment in every redeeming friendship – a “me too – I’ve been there as well.”

I talked with a coworker about depression this week. Opening up about my need for counseling, I found myself given the opportunity to minister to his soul and providing him with helpful options that I’ve utilized for my own personal growth and journey towards freedom from the hatred and loathing of self.

All it took was an opening up, and a “hey, me too man.”

So I guess all of that is to say, you can filter your pictures and keep your Facebook as clean and crisp as you want, but my life is about to get as real as it gets.

I’ve spent enough of my time worrying about reputation, status, money, and what other people think about me, but as long as God says “well done, my good and faithful servant” and my wife is excited to see and kiss me when I get home, then I’ve lived life well. The rest doesn’t matter and it always works out in the end.

It’s amazing how much time we spend chasing peace and perfection, and some of the most peaceful, perfect, love-filled moments are those that are spent being honest and broken, and allowing love and grace to cover over them.

Tim Keller writes of a czar who adopted a son. The adopted son had squandered his wealth and was contemplating suicide due to his recklessness… (sounds like the Prodigal Son in a way)

“Because he couldn’t cover his gambling debts, he began to embezzle from his regiments funds. One night he was sitting in the tent looking at the books and he realized that his embezzlement was about to be discovered. He could hide it no longer from the accountants. He sat drinking heavily and prepared to kill himself. He had the revolver by his side and he took a few more drinks to strengthen his resolve for the suicide. But the drink was too potent and he passed out on the table.

That night the czar was doing what he often did. Disguised as a simple soldier, he was walking through the camp and the ranks, trying to assess the morale of his army, hearing what he could hear. He walked into his foster son’s tent and saw him slumped over the book. He read the book and realized what he had done and what he was about to do.

When the young man awoke hours later, to his surprise the revolver was gone. Then he saw a letter by his hand. To his shock, it was a promissory note, “I, the czar, will pay the full amount from my own personal funds to make up the difference found in this book.” And it was sealed with the czar’s personal seal. The czar had seen the young man’s sin clearly, the full dimensions of what he had done. But he had covered and paid for the sin personally.”

The crazy part is that Jesus does this for you and me, daily. We constantly squander the wealth and the gifts that He’s provided us with. We hurt our wonderful parents with our insensitivity to their wisdom, we hurt our spouse with our stubbornness to their pleas for wiser behavior and moral conduct, we disappoint our elders as they prod us toward holiness, and we discourage our brothers with our apathy – yet Jesus PAID our debt. He said, “I see what you’ve done and I know it fully. The price has been paid. Now come back home.”

I think my life’s calling is to call other’s home. I see what you’ve done – I’ve done some stupid shit too. Now let me pay the price for you, so that you can come back home. You don’t belong in the underworld anymore. Let me provide you with some clean linens and prepare a guest-room for you. You’re an esteemed guest, a high ranking official, and adopted heir to the King – grace and peace and love covers over you.

So friends, come home. Stop running. Stop hiding. Stop chasing success. Stop searching for happiness at the bottom of the bottle or at the sound of any empty pill bottle. Stop clicking through videos and images of women that don’t belong to you (I shouldn’t even look at my wife that way). Stop shopping until you drop. Stop buying friendships with your money. Stop connecting with others through your self-loathing.

Just stop.

You were worth it. You are worth it.

So worth it that he paid your debt in full and covered you in the finest clothes. “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.” (Tim Keller, “The Meaning Of Marriage”)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our slight momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

no pain no gain

Recycling Regret & A Carpenter’s Touch

A little over 3 weeks ago, I went dark. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still experiencing some withdrawals and that I cannot wait to be back in the loop with what is going on with the world and what my friends are up to. But I can also say that I think I’ve managed to learn a few things and to counteract that initial urge to just tweet away every last thought.

In fact – Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have met their fatal ends with me and Facebook will be utilized with a more limited capacity. They’re far too much of a distraction in a season of immense personal growth. There’s no need to keep up with the Kardashians (figuratively speaking) when I need to learn to keep up with what God wants to do in my life.

The church that Allie and myself have begun planting ourselves in is going through a series called Recycling Regret, and I think it’s been the perfect series for both of our hearts. Whether it be regrets within the context of our relationship, regrets from our individual pasts, or regrets within our immediate relationships with family and friends – there are fragments of our hearts that need Jesus’ healing. There are times when we’re looking at each other, knowing the other needs to be comforted and it’s hard (when you’re married to someone) to realize that you’re not going to be enough to comfort them in that given situation. They’re going to need something more – a close friend is a good start, but even that close friend is not going to be enough sometimes. In God’s perfect design, he’s left a hole in our hearts that only He can fill.

It’s funny though because we’ll spend a solid portion of our lives trying to fill that hole with other things – counterfeit affections that never fully satisfy – or we will overcompensate by attempting to put an individual in the role of God in our lives. Maybe it’s your best-friend from growing up or a significant other you’ve become infatuated with. Maybe it’s your relationship with your parents or your boss at work. Somehow, in an attempt to fill that hole in your heart, you’ve tried to put them in that place – yearning for their approval and affection, entrusting them with your past, present, and future – and then one day, somehow (because they’re human), they fail you. You’re left hurting or abandoned or simply left with needs that are still unmet. And that’s because you’re running to the wrong source.

If you’re thirsty, you have to drink water. You can sit at the bar all night long and pound pints of beer back but at the end of the night, you’re still going to need a glass of water to not be thirsty. In the same way, you can have a dozen friends that you keep ties with and are constantly surrounding yourself with but the only relationship that is going to fully satisfy your heart’s deepest needs is your relationship with God.

I still remember a quote form my college minister that went something like, “The address to God is at the end of your rope.”

It’s always stuck with me.

In your darkest hours. In your loneliness and hurt and pain and suffering. In the times when it feels like you can’t do anything right or like you’ll never amount to anything. In the moments where you’ve given up on yourself. God always seems to be right there, arms open, eyes filled with love, ready to lift you back up and set you on the right course.

C.S. Lewis calls pain God’s megaphone. And I think he’s right. Pain sucks. But it’s there for a reason and there’s a lot to be learned from it. So don’t waste your pain doing things that will only lead to more pain. Take the time to do the work to process through what God is trying to teach you so that you may find life.

And if I can let you in on a little secret – there is no escaping God’s economy of reaping what you sow. You may not have to pay the bill of your sin today but like a credit-card bill that you’ve put off until last minute, eventually it’s going to debit your bank account whether the money is there or not. Sin will find a way to take from you what you thought it would offer; it’ll garnish your wages and reduce your heart to rubble just for fun.

The good news is that God’s in the business of recycling. Of taking something old and broken and making it something new and good and useful. He’s in the business of renovation. Taking the old rooms in your heart and turning them into masterpieces where people can come for refuge and strength.

Jesus was a tradesmen as a young man, trained in the craft of carpentry. I’m lucky to be crafted by His hands; grateful that He’s in the process of sanding me down, buffing me out, and turning me into something good.