Why Worry?

A glass bottle and a glass with water and sliced bread

There is a connection between consumerism and anxiety.  It should be no surprise that as we increase in consumerism (go obtain stuff) and materialism (obtaining stuff will bring fulfillment) that our anxiety goes up.  Often we find our life is this delicate balancing act of obtaining more things (possessions, wealth) all while protecting the things we have already obtained.  At best this leaves us with two main fears; There wont be enough and I am going to lose what I have.  We think that if we increase what we have we can squelch our fears of scarcity.  However, much to our dismay, the fear we lost with scarcity is compensated with our increased fear of losing it all.  Round and round we go as our anxiety moves up and to the right. 

This problem is not new, Jesus when teaching the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) he deals with this connection.  He warns people about the danger of storing up things on earth, it has the potential of mastering you.  Then he states:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”    Matthew 6:25

He then goes on to say, you are important to God, He knows what you need, and He will provide for you.  So what are you worried about? If only it were that easy.  If only the solution to our anxiety was our awareness of it and our need to stop.  Most of the time we are well aware that our anxiety is a problem in need of a solution and then we get anxious about our anxiety.  What Jesus does is clarify the line between the provision and the Provider, a line we often blur.

In the Exodus story God has the Israelites go out everyday to collect mana to eat, but only enough for the day.  There is a reason why God has the Israelites while in the wilderness go out everyday to collect the mana daily.  God wants to show Himself to be their daily provider, by providing for them daily.  He knows that we are a people who love to horde and stockpile.  Then when we do our trust shifts from trusting in the Provider to trusting in the provisions.  We then find our security in our provisions as we become suspicious of the Provider.  Our relationship with the provisions deepens while our relationship with the Provider becomes increasingly shallow.  Then ultimately this leads us down a road where we worship the provisions instead of the Provider.

If I am being honest, what I really want is the provision for tomorrow, today.  However it’s not what God promises us.  We pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread” when we really mean “Give me this month, my monthly bread, give me this retirement, my nice 401k”.  We want security and comfort while God is trying to teach us to trust Him and deepen intimacy.  Ironically enough, the fact that God has proved Himself as provider today frees my mind to be anxious about tomorrow.  I have often wondered what the next meal will be, but have never wondered if the next meal will ever come.  This has skewed my perception of God the Provider.  It has allowed me to look at a fridge full of food and think “There’s nothing to eat.”  God has always provided in a timely fashion.  You would think that day after day, year after year, of the same experience that my soul would find the peace it so longs for. 

I often feel like an Israelite in the 39th year asking “Yeah, but how do we KNOW the mana will be there tomorrow?”   God has already shown you He is a provider in the past, He will show you today, and may your soul find peace that He will provide tomorrow.  May your lack of provision not drive you into the despair of your anxiety but into the care of your Provider. 

Oh Master! My Master!

Jesus

I find it difficult to simultaneously embrace both God’s transcendence (He is big, mighty, holy) and His immanence (He is right here with you).  These are two equally formative truths: He is my master and He is my friend.  As my friend he listens to my unceasing vomiting of words, celebrates with me, weeps with me, and speaks into my life.  As my master He has authority over me, leads me, disciplines me, and demands obedience.   This tension is one of the things that makes Christianity unique.  If He is simply my friend it is easy to reduce Him to a God who is merely making suggestions for improvements in the betterment of my life.  As my master I am confronted with the fact that He isn’t making suggestions but demanding and expecting my obedience. 

We are more comfortable with a peer than we are an authority figure, suggestions than we are commands, and collaboration than we are submission.  Jesus holds this duality in perfect tension as he teaches his disciples at the Last Supper:

You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:14-15

I’ve had friends who were only my friends as long as I did exactly what they wanted me to do; they were not good friends.  However, here I think Jesus is addressing the uniqueness of the divine relationship.  Status as friends seems to be connected with obedience (do what I command you) and understanding (you’ve been told what the master is doing).

We want understanding to precede obedience.  We expect that God gives us a “why” before we give Him a “yes”.  Like a child who has been told to finish his vegetables or clean his room, we are constantly asking why.  If I am being honest, I often expect that God gives me His line of reasoning so that I can evaluate it, check for weaknesses, and affirm that His conclusion is the best.  Sometimes when asking God “Why?”, I hear God say what all good parents will say at times, “Because I said so”. 

I find that often understanding flows out from obedience.  After choosing to be obedient to God I gain an understanding that only time and perspective could have afforded me.  As your Master, God is seeking your obedience.  At the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) Jesus states it plainly, if you follow his teaching you are wise, if you fail to follow his teaching you are foolish.

Not only does God expect our obedience but He expects our exclusive obedience.  Not because God is insecure in His status as our Master, but because He knows we can’t have two masters.  At some point obedience to one will require disobedience to the other.  On that day we will embrace one as our master and the other as not our master.

I find often that we try to embrace this dual master lifestyle even after being told of its impending failure.  So we try to serve both God and money, God and success, God and self-gratification, God and family, God and country, God and (fill in the blank).  Only to be confronted by a God who continually demands  our exclusive obedience.  Our master is revealed by our obedience. 

God is the good Master.  As the good Master His ways are good, pure, and can be trusted.  As the good Master He is faithful, He will protect you even when others harm you, He will heal you, and lead you.  As the good Master He loves you, forgives you, and comforts you.  And as the good Master He is seeking obedient children.  May it be true of you.    

Where are you?

We are all hiding something and fear being found out.  We live in a world where often people are exposed for the purposes of public shaming.  We are constantly being bombarded and baited with headlines like “You will never guess what Insert Celebrity did!”, “Exposed”, “Secrets Revealed”, etc.  We click, we are horrified, and we are shocked just as promised.  It further reinforces our need to hide, lest we too are exposed and receive the same kind of treatment.  However, God wants to expose you.  God wants to expose you not for the purposes of shame but for the purposes of healing.  God knows that you cannot heal and hide at the same time.

As soon as Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, and they clothed themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7).  There is a cosmic shift in the self-awareness of creation.  God had reflected on creation and deemed it “good”, creation reflected upon itself and thought “not so good”.  The fig leaves allowed them to hide from themselves and each other. 

Then God comes strolling through the garden and calls out to Adam “Where are you?”  Adam’s response is that he’s hiding because he’s naked and afraid.  Although clothed with fig leaves Adam feels naked and exposed in the presence of God.  Evidently the fig leaves had limited effectiveness.

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.   Hebrews 4:13

It would be one thing if the story of Adam and Eve was just a story we told children about the origin of humanity.  However, it’s more than that.  Adam and Eve’s story is our story.  We break relationship with God, cover ourselves with fig leaves, and live our lives feeling naked and afraid.  

We all have fig leaves that allow us to hide, they just look different.  They are the fig leaves of anger, success, isolation, work, children, money, busyness, faux-happiness, addiction, etc.   They allow us to hide in relationships insuring people don’t get too close.  The fig leaves allow us to put a false sense of who we are forward while we hide our true self.  Problem being, as long as our true self is hidden we cannot experience true love.  Not the Disney happily-ever-after true love, but the Jesus I-love-you-uncondionally true love.  Even if people embrace us lovingly, our fear is that they only love what we have put forward.  We think if they truly knew the things that were hidden, they would not love us but reject us.  This only amplifies and justifies our need to hide all the more.

God loves you too much to leave you in hiding, naked and afraid.  God tells us in his Word, he knows everything (Psalm 139:1-4) AND he loves you unconditionally (Romans 8:35-39).  God’s love for you is based in his character, not yours (or lack thereof).  We are also told that God’s perfect love will cast out all fear (1 John 4:18).  God is calling you out of hiding, he knows everything, yet still loves you, and there is nothing to fear.  Could it get any better?! But wait there’s more!  When we come into his presence he will not leave us naked, but he will clothe us.

After God calls out Adam and Eve he takes from them their fig leaves and gives them garments of skin.  God takes from us our brokenness and  gives us wholeness, he takes our unrighteousness and gives us his righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30).  This is a large part of our journey with God.  Allowing God to disrobe you so that he may clothe you.  God is calling out to you, beckoning “Where are you?” wondering if you will come out of hiding and allow him to clothe you.