If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.(James 1:26-27 ESV)
I used to think that I was a “religious” person.
I still do.
Religious and spiritual.
And yet there were times that I needed “bridle” my tongue. A short five or six years ago, I was a rabid and dogmatic guy. If you didn’t believe what believed about God, church, ministry, relationships, or family, I tore you to pieces. I was not nice. I sucked, honestly. I was blinded by my own pride.
I was one of those guys who was orthodox and not humble.
I had not yet learned that the way up, was down. I had thought that my way was the only way. I said things that hurt people. Friends, parents, my sister, other church members. I had a lot to learn. I needed to learn how to believe what I believed, and still love people who were different than me. People who loved God and believed the Bible, and had positions that were different than mine.
Humble orthodoxy was what I have come to walk in, slowly, sometimes painfully.
In the past few years, I have learned a lot. I am a lot more flexible with my dogmas now, after seminary, than before seminary. And that is saying a lot. After all, I am a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
You need to understand: realizing that I could be wrong about my theology, or even my own personal character, was difficult to accept. Embracing humility and meekness is a process that I have only learned through making mistakes. Through messing up badly. I am not perfect. I have never said, nor will ever say, that I am blameless. At least not in this fleshly, earthly state and fallen body. I know I have a lot to work on. Theologically, personally, pastorally. And I am working on it. Yet there is still a long way to go.
You could say that there is now more room at my “table” than there used to be. Fellowship-wise. Maybe I have learned the ways of evangelical church politics. You know, the necessity of building and maintaining friendships with Christians that aren’t simply a duplicate of myself. Or it could just be that I have learned better to do theological triage, to keep the main things the main thing. To hold the necessities of Christianity in a closed hand, and hold everything else in a relative more open hand.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:a time to be born, and a time to die;a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;a time to kill, and a time to heal;a time to break down, and a time to build up;a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance;a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;a time to seek, and a time to lose;a time to keep, and a time to cast away;a time to tear, and a time to sew;a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…(Ecclesiastes 3:1-7 ESV)
Personally speaking, I have come to realize that sanctification is truly a process. A progressive process, certainly. Yet a slow process, most definitely. I have come to know this in others, and in myself, painfully. Like I said, I’ve got issues I’m working on. Like active listening. Like anger, especially. And how to better deal with catastrophes, disappointments. Just ask my dad. I’m a dying man, just like you are. There is no secret formula for growth, but the daily disciplines of grace. And if you are reading this, you are an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands in my life.
In this road of life, where things recently have not turned out the way I’ve wanted it to, learning to mourn and lament has been a trying process. Ask my fiancée, and she can tell you how stubborn I can be. I need to grow in letting the emotions out, emphasis on appropriately. I am learning; I am trying. Whereas I once did not have any room in worldview for lament, tears, and mourning, I now am trying to make room for it healthily, proportionately.
Like right now, it is appropriate for me to lament my extensively delayed entry into the USA. It is appropriate for me to mourn the postponement of me and Vivian’s wedding. It is appropriate for me to be utterly disappointed that I cannot be in California, and to minister to the youth God has called me to. It is utterly difficult for me sometimes to watch my Facebook Newsfeed & Ticker, to see the photos & status updates from my youth in the Bay area, and not wish so badly that I could be over there to hang out with them.
I have had much lamenting over that. And yet there is also a time for to seek, to keep, to speak, to plant, to laugh, and dance. And God I pray, that this next season would start soon. My soul, your soul, and this blog would be better for it.
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.(Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 ESV)