"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~Jim Elliot

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hunger and Thirst - What It Means to Be Somebody

Entry 3 from my collection of essays titled The Final Lap: Meditations of a Second-Semester College Senior.


The clock continues to tick, and I have come to week 4.

Tonight brings me to heavy meditation on the faithfulness of God – sometimes clouded, but often enhanced, by my failures. I should note that my journey through college was not primarily a time spent being educated and trained by books and lectures and professors and tests, although there was a lot of that. Above and beyond all these are the experiences and spiritual journeys I have traversed. At the end of my education, I will receive a piece of paper saying that I finished. But at the end of this series of spiritual journeys, I will be a different person.

My outlook has been heavily influenced by the drive for what many deem to be winning at life. The power of the invisible hand, the almighty dollar, return on equity, cost-benefit analysis, theorems, x- and y-axes, supply and demand, gross margin, market behavior, empowerment. Math, economics, management, accounting. Some combination of all of these things and more provide the essence of what many people live for. In the end, they use the combinations for money, and that is enough to wake people up in the morning.

As a believer, it is often hard to balance the aggressive nature of business administration with my primary identity as a believer in Christ. One instance specifically changed my entire perspective on the issue. From 2012 until now, I have had many spiritual and emotional battles trying to figure out the core of who I am and why I do what I do. It is not that I am confused about either, but rather it is the Romans 7 type of struggle that I feel in my body every day. Even with the word of God and the Spirit of God abiding in me, there is one struggle that remains. It is not the power and not the penalty but the presence of sin. Sin lives in my skin.

I recall one evening when Megan and I were not yet married and we had a serious conversation. It is no doubt the weight of the school semester and my work load were weighing down on me, but the heaviest thing on my mind was my own despair over sin. So many times have I offered to God the prayer of David: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). This felt as a distant dream that day, and all I could do was throw my hands up in the air in frustration. I cried out, “I don’t want to be me anymore… I want to be someone else… I don’t know what to do.”

My loving soon-to-be wife then asked me, “Well what would you say to someone who told you that?” It was in that moment that the words of Numbers 14:18 came to me: “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression….”

This answer does not always take away all the pain. It does not remove the physical presence of sin. But what the truth of this verse does accomplish is the removal of the power and penalty of sin which would ultimately happen through the death and resurrection of the Savior. Often I still find myself stuck on, “O God, be merciful to me, the sinner” and unable to move to Christ’s words, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” But in the steadfast love of the LORD, I find my hope. His grace is the shelter that protects me; His love is the wings that carry me; His mercy is the song that I sing into eternity.

One song that has strongly shaped me in the latter portion of my time working towards my degree is called “Be Somebody” by Thousand Foot Krutch. Some of the words to that song read,

After all the lights go down, I’m just the words, you are the sound
A strange type of chemistry, how you’ve become a part of me
And when I sit alone at night, your thoughts burn through me like a fire
You’re the only one who knows who I really am

We all wanna be somebody
We just need a taste of who we are
We all wanna be somebody
We’re willing to go but not that far

Somehow in the end, God used all of this for at least one major transformation that I still see and hold onto today: He changed my hunger and thirst for success into a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Through His grace, I continue to see that righteousness in Him day by day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My Plans, His Plans

As I am in the final semester of my undergraduate degree, I have decided to compose a series of essays called The Final Lap: Honest Meditations of a Second-Semester College Senior. The following is one of the entries...

Entry 2


Week 2 has ended, and I am now 14 weeks away from a long-pursued goal. As I run the final lap of my race, I reflect on the many things that have brought me to this time in my life. I can still remember how my sister Melissa during her high school graduation – almost in tears – said, “I want to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point.” The final lap has that effect. And so I remember.

None of this happened like I was planning it. It all started with a 16-year-old high school kid who was just going to a community college in Southwestern Indiana in 2011. The plan was to spend a couple semesters there, get some prerequisites under my belt, figure out a school, and figure out a major. Ivy Tech was an option only for two years, but I was looking seriously at the University of Southern Indiana (USI). Writing was my passion, but I was hesitant to pursue a degree in English because I wanted job openings but not a teaching position; and I definitely didn’t want to spend six or seven years in school for a master’s.

It is peculiar how things unfold. God mysteriously moves in all things, and I could have conceived none of it. USI never happened, nor did I continue on at Ivy Tech. Instead I tried working my way through a cost-effective accelerated program called CollegePlus which had students take CLEP exams and then transfer to an online university for one semester. From the outset, I knew that learning college-level material only at home with no professor would be a challenge. After a few tests – and failing one or two – I knew that getting through was not realistic.

By that time my family had moved to the Phoenix, Arizona area. Phoenix is home to an excellent district of partnered community colleges with easily-transferring credits. My previous community college credits and most of my test scores transferred over. I began pursuing a degree in Business Management because of its appeal to me. It was a general degree that I perceived as presenting job openings with a wide variety of career options. Eventually I would switch to a more demanding degree – Accounting.

The rest unfolded from there. I didn’t end up finishing very much at Ivy Tech, never made it to USI, never finished CollegePlus, didn’t stick with management, and never made it to Arizona State University. It will be a pure miracle if I even end up with a bachelor’s degree in anything even remotely related to business! If this isn’t a testament to God’s plans prevailing over man’s, I don’t know what is. I never planned Arizona. I did not plan on meeting my future wife and getting married while I was still in school. The beauty of God’s design is that sometimes He wrecks our plans so that He can enact better ones – His own. Had I not made it out of Indiana, I may have never finished school, and I wouldn’t have met my beautiful wife Megan.

Where I am is not where I once thought I would be; it is much better. And that leads me to believe also that where I am going is not where I think I will go. It will be much better. There is a life that I have not been able to live, friends I have not been able to see, and needs I have not been able to meet because until now I have been completing the step to the next step. As that finishes, God will take me to be His light in new places to new people while doing new things. I can imagine no higher honor than to be used in any way by the King of this universe, so with great joy I lay down my life to be used by Him to do His will wherever His providence will take me.

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