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.