Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On the life I always wanted

While eating my bologna sandwich at lunch the other day, I glanced through a Christian book and retail catalog. As I flipped pages, I noted the following assertions:

Live the life of your dreams
A groundbreaking journey of self discovery
Experience the uncommon life
A no-regrets life
Find the fulfillment you're missing
Power and purpose and true happiness can be yours!
Keys to improving my life to become a better me
Seven secrets, ten strategies, thirty days, 40 minutes, ten steps, etc.

I'm not picking a fight with a particular title or author. I'm just amazed at how easily the Christian life is boiled down by some to a series of secrets and steps. So many titles promise so much: happiness and fulfillment, power and purpose.

It seems to me I have little of those things.

Rather, my life seems messy, and I'm not just talking about the state of my home (though certainly an apt description). I find myself in a place I had not planned on. This is not (necessarily) the life I've always wanted. I'm not living the life of my dreams (who is?). I'm not where I thought I was going even six months ago.

Listen, the life of my dreams would include a perpetually clean and organized home, beautifully decorated with a pool in the backyard, children who obey readily and rarely watch tv, a growing and vibrant ministry, and maybe even a book deal or two.

Instead, I am an exhausted mom who yells too much and struggles with melancholy, a mediocre housekeeper, occasional blogger, and Bible teacher currently without a class.

What does that mean for me? For my faith? Did I read the wrong books and somehow miss the secrets that aren't really secrets if they're published for all the world to purchase and read?

Do I sound cynical? Maybe I am. But surely you would agree life is not always "fulfilling" as we wish.

Just the other night, I heard a Bible teacher speak of the implications of missing our callings. Our calling is where we find fulfillment, she insisted. You may think me mincing words (and you would not be the first!), but I do not think it is our callings that fulfill us. It is the Lord Jesus.

Our callings may in fact lead us through the fiery furnace of refining or the deep water of doubt. Look in the Bible; how many of the Lord's chosen lived the life they always wanted? Check out Hebrews 11:35-40 just for an example.

Yeah, so I am a bit cynical. But I see that life is not simple. It is complicated. And hard. And messy. And more than 7 steps or 5 secrets. It will not always be the life I wanted or the dream I desired. It may be more; it is often less, particularly if I define my dreams in terms of ease and comfort, prosperity and accomplishment.

As believers, our hope stretches far beyond the confines of this world. We hope in Christ, believing His promises of an eternal weight of glory to which nothing else--nothing else!--compares. Let us persevere, whether we soar with the eagles in the life we always dreamed of or whether we trudge through the life that is messy and hard and complicated. Truly the best is yet to come!

22 comments:

  1. Lisa, You took the words right out of my mouth. I started reading a book for review that, while it has some good stuff in it, is waaay too focused on this sort of thing. "If your life isn't an adventure you aren't following Christ." Well, sometimes following Christ is faithfulness in the humdrum.

    All of these "formulas" are nothing more than a different costume for being self-focused.

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  2. This is so very, very true! Life is so much more than what any "formula" can describe or take care of.

    (sorry if that didn't make sense, my children are calling)

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  3. Amen to the best is yet to come.

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  4. Lisa,

    You are so right! Personally, my dream life varies depending on the day, my mood, and my environment. I guess there are things I can say I've always dreamed of, but even those things have changed somewhat as a result of my walk with Jesus (though I'm with you on the clean house, pool & obedient offspring). I'm in the midst of learning that our specific calling can change, though our general calling as believers (to bring a lost and dying world to Christ) never changes. I think we find PEACE and JOY in working within our calling, but only Jesus will sustain & fulfill us (otherwise, isn't it just a works doctrine?)

    While my life isn't what I would've chosen (and is surely not perfect), I can honestly say there's nothing I would change. Mistakes have been covered by God's grace, lessons have been learned, and it's all drawn me closer to Him.

    The truth is, if life was perfect, we wouldn't look forward to Heaven & we wouldn't need Jesus.

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  5. Welcome back. God gave you just the right words.

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  6. AMEN!!!!! Thanks for sharing, Lisa!!!!

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  7. I add my "amen" to that! Life is messy, and the only way I find contentment is by hiding myself in God's presence in prayer and doing His will. Scripture says that suffering will be common, and to be disciples of Christ it means we will be laying down our lives (our wills, our desires, our plans). I'm not sure where that fits into a neat little 5-step plan. We live in a very self-centered Christian culture, I'm afraid.

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  8. All those book titles crack me up!

    It's interesting/odd to me that as Christians we can't get enough of self-help books, when we have the One book we truly need and direct access to God, we still seek out others opinions so eagerly...I do it all the time. AAHHHHH! :)

    I like the last line of Mocha with Linda's comment...so true!

    Great post, Lisa.

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  9. I too have discovered that it just isn't the way you imagined it would be whenever I get to ANY stage in life. But then look at Christ. He lived in a obscure village, was born in a stable. John the Baptist lived primarliy in the wilderness. There is a lot of hum drum stuff and difficulty in any calling of God. It seems glorified only when you are looking in from the outside...is the way I see it. I often have people say to me that I am this or that...and I think, "No I am not. You should know my thoughts, my difficulties, my struggles, within...We live in a fallen world with sinners as sinners...what do we expect. If it were better we would take all the glory, but it belongs to God. I think He loves to call the SO imperfect so that it is obvious that anything accomplished is SO Him and not us! LOL! Hugs to you.

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  10. Beautiful, Lisa.

    I was just thinking the other night that while I can clearly see the benefits of occasional UNhappiness in the lives of my children (it forms character, teaches perseverance, etc.), I am too quick to pray for unhappiness or difficulty in my own life to be removed. My joy and fulfillment need to come from the Lord, not from perfect circumstances or from discovering some "secret" way to manipulate my own life.

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  11. Those book titles are right in line with the trend of many sermons today.

    There are so many pastors who are operating as motivational speakers, using the bible as supporting material. It used to be that sermons were based on scripture and the message was in support of that scripture. Now, more often than not, a pastor/speaker comes up with a premise or a topical series and searches the Bible for support.

    I want "old school" sermons.

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  12. Those book titles are funny, yet sad. Even we as Christians are falling prey to the worlds ideals of what it means to be fulfilled.

    I think your sentence... life is not always as "fulfilling" as we wish.... is the key and as you sum up in the end of your post. Often what we wish for is not what will ultimately fulfill us.

    I'm finding that often my wishes are what is causing me to go astray and become dissatisfied. If I was wishing more of Christ, then I would feel fulfilled. But if I look to what the world values as fulfilling, I will never feel fulfilled.

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  13. This is so true. Wonderful post my friend. Wonderful

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  14. I have such a hard time with books that focus on so many steps that "we" do to obtain that perfect Christian life. What is a perfect Christian life anyway? One in which we choose everything we want as if we're walking through a department store of life wishes and adding things to our cart? Where is faith in God's sustaining love and power if all "we" need to do is follow a formula to obtain what "we" want? I don't know, maybe I'm disallusioned to this coming from a "believe it, claim it" background. But I have found much more real, deep down peace in life by hanging onto God, not onto formulas. I agree with the 1st commentor. Sometimes following Christ is faithfullness in the humdrum.

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  15. Lisa, glad you're back. And what perfect timing. Your words have encouraged me today as I have been dealing with doubts and frustrations in my own life...thanks :)

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  16. Those book titles were so funny, but unfortunately too common. I find myself pulled into those kind of titles and then feeling hopelessly inadequate. Then I have to think about it to realize that pretty much I have the life that I always wanted -- loving husband, healthy children, safe home, food in my belly. Sure I don't have a second home on the ocean or fame and fortune but do I really need that? Nope! Life really is more than material goods or a formula for happiness.

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  17. How aptly put! Thanks for reminding us that life is daily and we find out fulfillment daily only in Jesus.

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  18. The thing is that the life of our dreams is not the life of God's plans for us. Our dreams are centered on ourselves.

    I, too, have noticed the "Christian self-help" mentality in too many book offerings. Most of the books that appear in the catalog I receive are the ones I'd never buy.

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  19. Wow! Were we separated at birth? Yousould just like me.

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  20. I add my "amen" to that! Life is messy, and the only way I find contentment is by hiding myself in God's presence in prayer and doing His will. Scripture says that suffering will be common, and to be disciples of Christ it means we will be laying down our lives (our wills, our desires, our plans). I'm not sure where that fits into a neat little 5-step plan. We live in a very self-centered Christian culture, I'm afraid.

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  21. Lisa,

    You are so right! Personally, my dream life varies depending on the day, my mood, and my environment. I guess there are things I can say I've always dreamed of, but even those things have changed somewhat as a result of my walk with Jesus (though I'm with you on the clean house, pool & obedient offspring). I'm in the midst of learning that our specific calling can change, though our general calling as believers (to bring a lost and dying world to Christ) never changes. I think we find PEACE and JOY in working within our calling, but only Jesus will sustain & fulfill us (otherwise, isn't it just a works doctrine?)

    While my life isn't what I would've chosen (and is surely not perfect), I can honestly say there's nothing I would change. Mistakes have been covered by God's grace, lessons have been learned, and it's all drawn me closer to Him.

    The truth is, if life was perfect, we wouldn't look forward to Heaven & we wouldn't need Jesus.

    ReplyDelete