The Uphill Battle Of Pride and Humility

Humility digs deeper than the rudiments of opening doors for the elderly, or the simplism of admitting our wrongs. Humbleness comes from the willingness of the spirit to be broken in order to grow, surrender in the form of release; not surrender to the loss of authenticity, but to the release of the egocentric mind and its narcissism. 

We discover humility upon, for instance, the consideration of respect we have for our grandparents in raising our parents, our parents in raising us (or the parental figures who raised you, be they aunts, cousins, or other familial parental roles), and whether our deference for either is obligatory, or embraced with gratitude.

When humbleness of spirit is squandered or exhausted, pride either replaces its quiet reassurance, or humility is defeated in the disappointment of depression. Either arrogance undermines our humility to the point that our pride overrides its steadfast assuredness, or we get drowned away with self-degradation by the extremes of shying away from overzealousness.

The importance of humility is pivotal in learning to better ourselves, but detrimental when we confuse the life lessons meant to challenge our pride for punitive evidence of our vacuity. In other words, yes, we don’t know everything, but that doesn’t pronounce us a black-hearted dunce. Learning something new is merely a sign that there’s room for growth, not nearly that we lack the spacial aptitude for character development.

What strikes me about pride is how subtly it can percolate through us like innocence. The smallest denigrating comment, the slightest integer of intention apart from sincerity, and pride has the cunning to intoxicate its own choice to surrender. This is not to say that humility lacks ample self-reassurance and firm grounding; humility’s self-confidence exists independently of the pompous verbosity of pride. Truly, the characteristics of humility we admire so highly are divulged in the confidence of pride. It’s where pride’s imperious nature hinders its own ability to recognize room for growth that its overbearing distortion obscures its perception of humility. This narrows humility’s path in accepting its potential weaknesses, and in turn, reluctantly force-dipping it into the overflow of pride which appears as desperation careening on arrogance. At times, pride may be too afraid to acknowledge its need for the necessary demands of humility to slow down and practice discernment—steering itself away from the source problem and diving directly into the heart of the storm on the whim that its own strength is sufficient. Of course, pride’s weakness is the greatest strength of humility, insofar that humbleness is complemented by the surrender of pride in order that its weaknesses would be reformed and properly re-established, having been mitigated by steadfast assuredness—the very heart of humility.

Why is humility inspiring and pleasing to our perception of others? Why do we feel driven to emulate the characteristics of the humble, the calm, and the steady? Put simply, we admire, respect, and prefer someone with self-control. A balanced mind, willing to consider others’ opinions and pondering alternatives before making a decision, be it a belief, a behavior, or otherwise, is influenced and guided by moral obligation, and embraced with a ready heart. This is, subjectively-speaking, one perspective of the thought process of humility. Humility can begin with discernment, first understanding the situation of the mind and heart before translating it into something as palpable as empiricism. When what we see expressed displays the surrender to love, to feeling joy and hope, we witness the incarnation of humility in Jesus Christ. His love is welcoming, His humility contagious, His Truth invigorating; His reality all-encompassing. In this perspective, we find Jesus’s reality extrapolating through Christianity into modern times where Christ-followers understand the importance of Christ-like love as more important than anything. When this reality becomes palpable for the believer, humility becomes second nature to the following and pursuing of God, continuing to know Him through Jesus.

Humility without Jesus is surrender without letting go; when we see how Jesus presented humbleness is His passion to love others first, we, even without volition, let go of our narcissism. We release our selfish desires in the humility of, “If Christ did it for me, I will do it for Him.”

Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but that He had overcome the world (John 16:33). What does a Christ-follower have to fear then, by loving others through Him? What does a Christ-follower have to fear by loving others because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, and the miracle of His resurrection? Nothing. We have nothing to fear. Not even fear itself, which is the darkest and most facetious joke of the enemy in a feeble attempt to convince us God isn’t really in control. But God is, and because He is in control of everything but our choices, we can choose Him without fear. That sets us free from the malicious devastations of a hedonism—leading to loneliness, isolation, and the decay of the soul.

Perhaps we have some work to do on our interior. Perhaps we could resist more tenaciously against our pride by refining the way we consider humility, and in so doing, recognizing humility’s face in the person of Christ. Whoever we emulate, be they other than Jesus—we ask ourselves who they emulate.

What’s so very telling about a person is who they are inspired by. Some of the most interesting people are inspired by others whom we would never emulate, and the question which proceeds is: “Why, then, do we feel so drawn to these people?”

It’s easy to get drawn to the world. There are numerous traps set along the way to convince us we don’t need faith in God and that we don’t need a belief system to live a good life: the flood of dopamine through sex, validation by those who don’t actually care about us yet who we still allow to feed our ego; hedonistic pleasures like drugs which we justify in the name of “living the life,” all implemented by believing pleasure-filled lives is a purpose to embrace. The way I think about it is this: We are attracted to this world because the world doesn’t require us to have faith. Those who are drawn to Christ have had their spiritual eyes opened to the truth of this world’s treasures: Earthly treasures will be wiped away until even a stone is not overturned (Mark 13:2). If we truly believe that, why would we continue to use and practice a lifestyle that will ultimately die and fade away? We are attracted to the humility and love of Jesus when we understand, accept, and have faith that His love will never die. Believing in the hope of Jesus is the difference between abusing our lives in the world while we live in it now (i.e. “living the life” (idolizing sex, drugs, alcohol, etc), or living as if pleasure is “all there is”), and choosing to see life as an opportunity to grow close to the Creator on our way to spend eternity with Him. One must believe in God in order to choose to spend their lifetime growing closer to Him. Rejecting this invitation to eternity is to suffocate the selflessness of our surrendering to the desperately hopeless, constant search for pleasure and Earthly satisfaction.

Humility comes into play for the believer when we face the odds; when adversity strikes and tempts the mind to believe there is nothing better than this. But there is. For every moment of suffering is an eternity of infinite happiness, painlessness, deathlessness, and freedom. A believer believes for all the afflictions of this life, there is hope unlimited in the life to come. There is nothing to fear when there is nothing to lose; there is nothing to lose if all was never had. The only precious treasure never lost or forsaken has been the Truth of Christ, and the love of our Father in Heaven. That love relationship will never fade away, and it will make us for every second of suffering and pain. To have faith in this is to experience humility by seeing the world to come while still journeying our way there in this moment. We are not yet embracing the world to come because we still exist in this one, but our hope aims for that place like a compass; with our eyes focused on the destination that lies ahead.

One day soon we will no longer be on the journey, we will be at our destination, and all of our losses will be accounted for and multiplied by eternity. Truly, if this is your faith, you have nothing to lose here, but everything to gain. If you live like this, selfishness isn’t a thought, but a sacrifice; releasing selfishness to replace it with satisfaction in Christ. Humility is the jewel of the soul, refined and molded by Jesus.

We only need look at what is to come and to live in this moment, knowing for certain it leads to that life. Not with blind hope, not with doubt, and not with fear, but with confidence and perseverance, we march straight for Heaven: No matter the pain, the trouble, or the loss. We seek God face-to-face, and our heart’s desires will be fulfilled for all-time. We’re almost there. Can we cling to Jesus and live in the reality of His humility in a world wearing the blind-folders of sin, confusion, shame, and regret?

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Seek the hope of Christ this very moment, and embrace the One who inspires us to live on. He lives in us. With Jesus as our Guide, let the world see us for who we follow—and let them follow Him, too.

Interior

The Echo Of Jesus’ Love Through History

Who we are echoes throughout eternity. Our next breath is just the beginning of the next moment; the beginning of another chance to be who we choose to be. Do we consider how who we are affects the people around us? How often do we contemplate how much of an influence we for others? 

Often, I forget the expression of living as if today is my last day. I forget that at any moment, my heart could stop beating. We’re spoiled. See, our hearts beat involuntarily—we don’t have to worry about the process, or set an alarm to keep the rhythm going. Many times, we choose to live as if we know tomorrow will come, despite our lack of omniscience. We know not what the next minute will hold, and many of us already have our lives planned up to the second for the next week. Do we leave margins open for life to happen during the “in-betweens” of our plans? 

Surely, we cannot plan our next breath, but we can hope for it. We can hope we won’t have to fight for our lives if oxygen doesn’t make its way up through our lungs. In this same way, we can hope our best friend will still be alive tomorrow. We can hope our job is still on the market in the morning. We can hope for so many things… but how much hope do we place in things we’re sure we know, compared to the hope we place in our faith?

As Jesus is my Savior, I believe He controls the oxygen in my lungs. I have hope that He will give me another, and another, and another… because He loves me. And when He decides not to give me another, I have faith that His love for me has taken me away from this place to be with Him where He is. And for every pain in-between those two breaths, I have faith Jesus has a reason for those. Jesus allows pain to give us opportunities to draw near to Him. Some pain feels traumatic and severe; the worse pain we experience, the closer to Christ we can become.

If you get to know me, you’ll notice my smile, my genuine curiosity, and the way it’s hard to make me angry. I don’t get angry over silly things, but it upsets me when you’re driving skills give me the impression that my life is in danger. I’m the kind of man who would rather be reading in quiet or walking on the shore than at a bar or club. The reason I am the way I am is because I treasure simplicity; I admire patience, understanding, and empathy from others. These qualities are qualities I’ve tried my best to adapt to the best of my ability because I think their roles in human life are eternal, and worth echoing throughout history. Truly, I believe these qualities have echoed through history, otherwise they would be faded in definition and mythic in reference. But they aren’t. These characteristics are cherished, refined, and established as precious and rare—because the quality of such characteristics as these are to the human design as gold is to currency. If we want to understand what is worth echoing, we can look at history to see what has prevailed and what has phased out. Certainly, the reason behind the prevalence of evil is that with regards to the sin nature of humankind, evil trumps peace when ego trumps humility.  

How often do we try to make a difference in the world? How often is the difference we’re making worth an eternal echo through history? What guidelines must be adhered to in order that the qualities we emanate are of the highest degree? If we look carefully, there is but one category which must be placed above the rest, and that is love. But not just any love—the love of Jesus.

If what we’re doing, saying, and displaying to others isn’t out of love, then what is it worth? What does love look like? Picture a person crying and another embracing them. Picture young men opening the doors for the elderly without having to be asked to. Imagine church members giving of their time to improve their community in ways that won’t put their name on any billboard or check. Think of the people who spend hours at hospice or geriatric care centers where older people who have lost everyone are desperate for connection and company. Think of little children supporting their friend who didn’t make the sports team they tried out for. Support, connection, trust, empathy: LOVE. Love in the name of Jesus. 

See, we can love and say it’s because we just have good intentions, but then we must define the source of “good”. And if we cannot, then how can we claim to know what kind of intentions we have? Truly, if we aren’t loving in the name Christ, we are loving conditionally, because there is no foundation for altruism that derives from the self. 

If we want to send echoes into history, we must send eternal ripples of love, or the ripples we send will not reach farther than our minds or our egos. Ask how that stranger who looks sad is doing, and offer to pray for them. Open the door for someone even if it takes a few seconds longer than usual for them to get to the door–just to send them the message that they were noticed and validated. Some people are so used to the prideful side of others that these kinds of loving actions will be an absolute shock and a pleasant surprise. For others, with the very pride which the former expect, they will take your act of love for granted, thinking you’re a fool for waiting, rolling their eyes as they take the door from you without so much as a scoff or a muffled “thanks” under the scoff of their exhale. It doesn’t matter, love them anyways. The point is to show others not that you’re a doormat or that you have no confidence, but that you’re humble beyond words. Humility expresses love in ways pride never will.

We can afford to show more humility and to speak from deeper authenticity. We can afford to call our friend who we know had an interview and ask how they’re dealing with it. We can afford to pray for our friends when they’re down, or to celebrate with them during a victory. All of this is Christ-like love. Christ-like love echoes a million times into eternity, and the ripples do not slow or stop because Jesus blesses them as they flow. He blesses us for our faith in Him, and He blesses those whom we extend ourselves to in His name. We only extend a fraction of who we are; yet His power expands the ripple a million times over, because He is love. 

Think about these words, and consider the way you put love on display for others. Is it obvious, subtle, unconditional, unexpected, thoughtful, spontaneous, care-free, empathetic—is it authentic? If you’re unsure of your motives, ask yourself what you’ll gain from the experience, and if the answer is joy from another person receiving happiness, even in a small way–I would say go for it. And if anyone approaches you or responds to your love by asking why you do what you do, give Jesus all the credit–but explain it in a way that makes sense to you. The more genuine you are in what you do and say, the more others will be ever so curious about “this Jesus, guy.” 

If you don’t have Jesus, then perhaps someone will do this for you. If you disbelieve in Jesus as Lord, but you experience the love of others in His name–does that not make you curious about the way faith in Christ inspires them towards authentic altruism? I hope you will be inspired by others’ choices to love you without reason beyond Jesus. Jesus’ love is eternal, and it echoes still today. If there’s anything worth echoing, it’s the ripples of love, joy, and hope that comes with knowing Jesus in our hearts, and sharing what that means to us. May you be blessed as you are overcome with His love for you. In Jesus name!

Echo

Explication Of Christian Love: What It Means To Receive Jesus

Doubt in the purpose and deity of Christ is a prevalent theme in today’s world. Many times condescended by a castigating skepticism, Christianity can become the contemporary joke for modern folklore, reprimanded for its largely misunderstood and underestimated call to love others, as well as to receive unconditional, eternal love from God.

There seem to be several common denominators for this love relationship between humankind and God. Among them, I believe unmitigated disgust with the ambiguity of human purpose is ranked very highly. I believe, at least in part, there is confusion about the message of God’s love, and that the confusion was brought about by the religiously pious—even in the days Jesus walked the Earth. The very attitude which defined Jesus’ manhood and simultaneously set Him as God Incarnate—His gentle, confident, knowledgeable, infinitely loving nature—is what the religiously pious completely lose sight of. In missing this, those who are quick to judge and slow to love, while claiming to be highly religious, have shunned people– generation to generation—from being fully receptive to Jesus’ unabated love. With knowledge comes pride; people learn about God and sometimes grow proud of their understanding. Rather than apply the knowledge, they abuse it, losing sight of the wisdom derived from humility. They forget to extend Godly love to the needy because they forget they are among the needy, themselves.

Unmerited judgment from these theologically confused, pious believers can feel an awful lot like a contradiction of the love Jesus calls us into, and an intrusion of hypocrisy. Furthermore, when someone who claims to be close to God acts in this way, their distorted expression of love defines religion in the eyes of the weary and the lost, and when an unbeliever experiences the haughty of religion behaving like know-it-alls—rather than experiencing unconditional love from someone living in the hope of Christ’s love, the prospect of faith appears to surrender to fallacy; blood-soaked in religious discrimination, which Jesus never taught.

Forgiveness of sins is definitely a hard topic to uncover, but the heart of the issue is that we are commanded to forgive others in order that God will forgive us. Now, instead of jumping to the conclusion, “I thought it was said that Jesus forgives us no matter what?” This command to forgive others is for the benefit of us seeing how detrimental our bitterness is in the context of our relationship to God; in the context of understanding our sin compared to His perfection. God has forgiven us through Christ–IF we receive, in our hearts, that promise through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. His forgiveness is a promise if we receive Jesus’ love sincerely. However, the reception of His promise of forgiveness requires our humility, repentance, and the desire to move forward in His love; away from our desire to satisfy ourselves with indulgence and greed.

Receiving His love does not mean we forget we ever desired to satisfy our sin with greed and indulgences; in fact, we’ll likely fall many, many more times before we see Him again. The difference is that we do not treat our sin with nonchalance and a numbness of spirit anymore. Receiving Jesus’ love means we understand the weight of His holiest promise: eternal life in the presence of God. In understanding its weight, we are transformed by the love that saves us from an eternal life separated from God, and the peace and joy which comes from that promise is what brings our souls to life in a way nothing else ever could. That is the reason why Christianity is humbling: no matter how much we feel the pride of Jesus’ love covering our entire lives, that is NEVER a reason to be condescending, careless, or nonchalant about our words and actions. We can always refer back to Christ, who lived a perfect life, and ask for strength. There is no excuse for us to justify sin when we accept Jesus; only the humility to confess the sin in openness and transparency with Him, and try our hardest to do better moving forward. Pride is justification; humility is striving to do better without so much as an explanation other than “I didn’t mean to cause you harm. Forgive me, I’ll try harder from now on.” The voice of humility is a complement of receiving Jesus in our hearts.

Jesus’ love also translates into the acceptance of who we are as individuals. He always sees every facet of our being; flaws, strengths, the number of hairs on our head, the number of tears we’ve cried, and the number of times we have sinned or will ever sin. And He doesn’t see us with a sigh of disappointment or a loud moan of frustration; He sees us with everlasting love and mercy. Why? What did we do to deserve such fantastic love from the God of the Bible? Nothing. We have never done–nor could we ever do anything. We are loved because He created us to be loved by Him. He chose to love us, and that is why He created us. Think of it this way–parents don’t make babies intentionally just to dispose of them or scoff at them; they procreate so they can spoil the child with love! God wants to spoil us with His love, because we are His children. We don’t always see it that way because we’re busy focusing on everything but His blessings.

These are some of the truths of His blessings:

  1. If you’re breathing without suffocating, it’s a gift from God.
  2. If you can swallow without choking, it’s a gift from God.
  3. if you can move with excruciating pain, it’s a gift from God.
  4. If you can smell, taste, touch, hear, or see the world around you–these are all gifts of God.
  5. If you’re alive–your life is a gift from God!

Think about this the next time you’re sure you aren’t being blessed. And if you are experiencing all of the items in the list above as unchecked, are you being supported by friends or family who want to see you through to your recovery? Are you alone in your journey to healing? If so, your support system is a gift from God.

Please hear me, I do not mean to belittle anyone who is experiencing any kind of pain, or to dismiss anyone’s pain as worthless. My point, and what I would hope you might take from my words–is that God has bestowed us with SO many blessings, we would honesty have to make excuses in order to not give Him credit where it is due. We all experience pain. But we all experience the love of God, as well. He does not leave us empty-handed, even when it may seem like it sometimes.

Experiencing the love of Christ means loving others the way we know Jesus would. Even though you can’t heal people, you can pray for them, you can show them kindness, thoughtfulness, mercy, patience, understanding, grace—and above all, you can tell them about the one inspiring you to be that way. Christianity is a not a faith of the ego, but an ego-check. Christianity is not about egocentrism; what’s in our hearts must be shared because it’s too invigorating, too important, and too purposeful to keep to ourselves. The love of Christ is the key to the lock of our soul—a key we didn’t even know existed before we realized our hearts were locked shut with doubt, shame, regret, and the excuse of transient pleasures masking the wounds of our empty hearts. We need Jesus more than we realize.

Without faith, the whole world looks very different. When I was an atheist, I appreciated very little about my surroundings. I was heavily enamored with the desire for lust because human relationship filled the hole in my soul where I resisted my need for God presence. There was nothing as ecstatic as the idea of a romantic relationship, because human love is a bridge to–and representative of– our love with Christ–hence Jesus is the “groom” of the church, with the church (community of all Christ-followers) is the “bride”. That said, I was only seeing the first half of the equation. Lust was all that mattered to me; Christ was just a distant religious joke that made as much sense as pickles and mustard. Very different from what I understand now as a Christian.

My understanding of both sides of the fence is what inspires me to write this to you, so that you would understand someone like me, who once viewed Christianity with facetious mockery, now worships the deity of Christ because I understand the importance of Jesus’ love as more significant and purposeful than the void of an Godless life, where purpose is only moment-to-moment, defined by society and instant gratification; not life everlasting through Jesus calling me to action through love, grace, and forgiveness.

Where instant gratification gives me what I want now, it simultaneously strips me of retaining my sense of meaning and purpose once the satisfaction wears off. Instant gratification is like a drug/alcohol buzz: once the buzz is over, everything wrong with the world comes flooding back into my mind. That is empirical evidence in direct opposition of the ideology of selfish pleasures masquerading as the definition of purpose in life. Believing in selfish ambition as the replacement for “What else is there to live for?” is just as empty and vacuous as a picture without any hint of dexterity. Art can’t be art without the artist; likewise, life isn’t life without its Creator—and humanity didn’t create itself. Making up as many as thousands of excuses as to how humanity arrived on the scene of Earth is not as fulfilling as believing that a loving God created us to be fulfilled in the promise of His love; once accepting that following His love also commands us to to love others the same way—forgiving them and treating them with the same kindness and mercy God did when He came down in the flesh as Jesus. We could argue all day about where humanity comes from, but at the end of the day, the question may actually deviate from the point of a scientific origin story and culminate with a theology that invites us into a purpose both worthy of striving for, and exciting to embrace.

What I want to leave you with is that there is more to Christianity than the judgment you may have experienced. The love of Christ is so much more important than someone correcting your wrongs by condemning you. We need to check the log in our own eyes before we pick at the spec in others’ eyes. As much as we need not let someone do that to us, we also need to be encouraged not to close ourselves off from receiving love from those who understand Christ’s call to love us as brothers and sisters of God’s family. That is what we’re being called into, and that is what we embrace as Christians.

If you have any questions you would like answered–whether about this post or what you might like addressed for a Part 2, please leave those questions in the comments below. If you enjoy reading these posts and would like to read more, please feel free to follow my blog and share it with others you think would benefit from reading about the message of Christ. I am passionate to tell you about what Christ’s love has done for me, and what it’s still doing, as well as to clarify so many confusions about the Christian faith. In the end, what happens from clarity is there is a transformation of the heart from rock hard to soft and open, and that is when Jesus can enter. That is what I want for you, as a Christian writer; that you may experience the love of Christ in your heart when you’re most vulnerable and susceptible to feel it completely.

May you be blessed while reading this and I pray you walk away with some newfound understanding that you may not have had. In the very least, I hope you are reminded that Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done, and it’s up to you whether or not you receive that love and live into its promise to transform you from the inside. Jesus is the key; the answer. Will you let Him be that for you? If so, let this be a new day for you. If not, may He help you to understand and embrace that His love is everlasting, compassionate, confident; steadfast and eternal. He will never stop loving you, even if you can’t believe He already does.

Let that soak in. May He transform you, if that is your desire today. In Jesus name.

Transformation

Recognizing the Broken Soul In the Mystery Of Faith

 

Before I received Jesus into my life, I was an atheist; and before I was an atheist, I was raised Catholic in a very traditional church where repetition seemed more sacred than relationship, and repentance more emphasized than forgiveness or community. The concept of God always seemed a one-dimensional idea that didn’t breathe, feel, or matter, and therefore it never pulled at me during those years. I didn’t pray because I didn’t have any faith in receiving an answer, and also because I didn’t believe with my heart that there was even a God listening. 

PHYSICAL STRENGTH & IDENTITY

During the end of seventh grade, when I was going on 14—I began weight-lifting to get in shape for the football season the following fall. What I eventually grasped, after playing for one season and disliking it at the time—was that I only had a passion for muscle-building. I enjoyed my time in the weight room far more than my time on the field. Once I fully realized my interest for weight-lifting as a bodybuilding exercise and not as preparation for any specific sport, I began idolizing muscle-building, putting more emphasis on working out my body to receive attention from society than on challenging my mind and soul to stretch and understand the esoteric of the supernatural and the theological. If I couldn’t work out, it was a big deal because I had associated looking strong as a part of my identity; trying to act strong with my body without actually being strong of heart or pertinacious of will.

Years of this mentality drove me to take offense when anyone would label me as thin or weak, because I tried so hard to be the opposite. Truth is, I only weighed 155lbs, but my pride told me I was 200lbs of muscle. In fact, my pride convinced me that my identity had to be stronger than I really was, and it rejected the humility of accepting that I was holding myself back from my true potential. What my true potential was—or what I learned it was later on—obviously had nothing to do with my muscular physique. But I was stubbornly clinging to the artificiality of strength for power in a lifestyle void of spiritual purpose or meaning.

From where does our desire for power derive from? Everyone wants to feel powerful, but not always in the same way. Some people want power in the form of wealth, where others want power in the form of fear or intimidation. I wanted power in the form of strength, volition, and recognition/validation. And while none of these related to my true potential, they all drove me towards the desire for a purpose that made sense to a heart lacking belief in the supernatural; I didn’t believe in God, therefore power and validation were my reasons to breathe and to live for the next moment, the next hour—and even for tomorrow.

UNINSPIRED BY RELIGION

The impersonal aspects and disconnects of my childhood religion–preceding the trauma of my parents’ divorce, grandparents’ death, and being forced to cope with the repercussions of such drastic life changes–were still my reasons not to return to some one-dimensional religious system. However, looking back now, lacking faith in God changed everything for the worse.

There was a time in my life when I was only open to the topic of God if I was allowed to exit as soon as possible. I remember choosing to restrain my capacity to accept the topic of the possibility of God’s existence to enter the conversation long enough to make me think. Now, I consider myself a very deep thinker, and quite analytical, but at the time I was an atheist, I was “deep” in that I was studious about the psychology of the mind; not so much the influence and influx of spiritual matters and their pertinence to human purpose.

I obstinately rejected the consideration of a world in which supernatural forces could coincide with the existence of mankind; where the insidious actions of some God seemed to leave behind a trail of devastation, heartache, misery, and pain.

PAIN, EVIL, TRAUMA, & GOD

What I failed to understand as an atheist, and one of the ways I now relate to atheists today, or even agnostics who aren’t sure of what they believe—is that pain, suffering, heartache, and even devastation—these are all circumstances God allows so we will call out to Him for help, closure, and guidance; where His response will not be to eradicate the danger or to rescind the trauma, but to guide us through our hurt and pain.

Does this all sound too technical or cliche? To rephrase: God uses trauma to help us to draw near to Him.

Another common argument I hear brought up is that if there is a God, He is evil because He allows evil. If you are someone who believes God causes evil, however, then you have misplaced the Devil with God, confusing the two by making the mistake of allocating evil to one spiritual force, and ignoring the other. Basically, you are–whether intentionally or not—dismissing the fact that there is not one, but two separate spiritual forces at play simultaneously: God and the Devil (good and evil). Ultimately, you absolutely cannot have one without the other while on Earth. To argue that point, you would have to claim that love can exist without evil—and on the plane of Earth, free will is what convolutes the nature between choosing one over the other. This picture of free will is what creates the undeniable schism between love and hate; good and evil. Free will dictates the extraordinary dichotomy in which humans have ably produced the atrocities of generations past, as well as the blessings of goodness in human history (good samaritans, acts of selflessness without credit or reward, etc.). The choice to love can replace—or override—the choice to do evil, because in order to decide on one and not the other, one must be decided against. Primordially, choice is what gave birth to sin to begin with: Choice (pride over humility) was what transformed Lucifer into Satan.

Therefore, God and the Devil cannot both be evil, otherwise love could not exist. But since we know love does exist, both of the spiritual forces cannot be evil. One must contradict the other in order for us to raise the dichotomy of their differences in debate, transmuting the concept of morality into a reality we can see, touch, taste, and smell.

For instance, the taste of flesh is connotative of cannibalism and, depending on which culture you reference—for the majority of people, cannibalism is considered “bad.” However, does it make a difference whether or not the person being cannibalized is an adult or newborn baby? Does your conscience not speak into this discussion and call for a timeout? If that is not an explicit indicator of the existence of morality, what is?

As an atheist, none of these thoughts were even given the light of day. Not until years into discovering Christ did I even give them any consideration to make sense of them at all. What’s important to me now is that I share where I am with people who are open to receiving it, and that I try to be as gentle as possible out of respect of understanding where they are now, considering where I was, many years ago.

GRACE AND MORALITY

For those who don’t believe in the love of Jesus–extending grace may at times becomes not a gift from one person to another in the name of something bigger than themselves, but rather the scoff of resentment for having to go out of the way to do good, and to be genuine about doing it. I remember as an atheist, I cared so much about what others thought of me that a lot of times, my actions were only influenced by my intention to get a reaction from the crowd. In hindsight, this indicated a lot of my actions were influenced by my desire to be accepted by others, and not by authenticity.

I witness so many secular-minded people dismissing morality as too complex to discuss, and theology as too unbelievable to process, and yet–magic seems a feasible topic because, when transfused subtly, it doesn’t require God or Jesus to be interjected in order to be validated. What also seems confusing and distorted to others–and what was distorted for me growing up in the Catholic church–is that God requires religion to initiate contact with. That is something I strongly disagree with. In fact, I detest religion, myself, as a Christian. I consider Christianity a walk of faith, not a religion, because to me–religion signifies rules, obligations, and false pretenses (“Talk the talk but not walk the walk.” Or, as another example, those who go to church and pretend to have it all together, just to leave the same way they walked in: unchanged and not trying to improve). I was raised to believe religion was the only way to God, but I’ve learned that Jesus wants intimacy; not false pretenses. I was convinced that God was a God of rules and expectations—not to mention a God who allows trauma because He is careless; but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Now I understand religion is not the way Jesus ever taught us to follow Him—He taught us the way was through HIM; through loving God, others, and ourselves, the way He loves us.

JESUS DESIRES INTIMACY

What I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t want me to come to Him uncomfortably in some formal fashion, but rather, He wants me to come to Him to build an intimate relationship with Him as Savior of my life and best friend, recognizing and worshiping His deity while also admiring His precious sin-consuming humanity (Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself when He was crucified; therefore He consumed all of our sin and paid the price for all of us at the same time). I couldn’t love Him more for that. And, if you will accept that into your heart—that is your choice, after all—could you not love Him for that as well—for being worth deifying and also worth the admiration of a best friend? Jesus is not just some character in a book; He is as real as anyone you know. I didn’t understand this truth until I was in my mid-twenties! You may not be ready yet, but I want to encourage you to open your mind and try to seek further into this truth for yourself.

My prayer for you is that you’ll come to understand whatever area of your life this represents, and that you’ll try to seek out the Truth for yourself. Whatever that means for you, I pray you will pursue this for your own sake so that you have answers where now, you have none. May you be blessed in that search, and may you do it authentically, putting intentional effort into uncovering whatever mystery is blocking you from living into the building of your soul, and not the hopes that this world will ever get you what you want. What you want is to feel important, validated, cared for, and loved. Intimacy, right? Guess what? God planted those desires in your soul, He knows what they are and why they are there; even why they are unique to you. Why don’t you try talking to Him about that, and see how He responds? It would be a great conversation starter:

“God, I’m not even sure if you exist… but You know me better than I know myself. Please help me to see you in my life, and in my heart. Help me walk away from my distortions of you, and towards the Truth that you are my loving Father. You know what is best for me, and You want that for me. Please help me to move towards what that is in my life. I have never tried trusting you before, but I want to trust you now. I’m sorry for ignoring You and not putting more time into understanding Your intentions for me. I want to try to do that now. Please meet me where I am, and help me to feel Your presence in my life now. In Jesus name.”

BE BLESSED!!

Artificial

The Picture Of A Best Friend

What characteristics define your picture of the word “friend”? What about a best friend? Are there key qualities which stand out from the rest that a friend must have? I believe there are, and I believe these qualities give significant weight to the way we treat others, ourselves, and the influence by which we decide to embody these qualities and influence others to do the same. Without these qualities, I believe the qualities of friendship corrodes, and I believe that the the behavior we use encourages others to follow suit; whether the influence we follow is the lazy selfishness of dependency, or the compassionate selflessness of a devoted ally.

I will break down my picture of what it means to be a best friend, and I would like you to share with me any qualities you feel should be added in the comments below.

We acquire the strength of compassion by witnessing it in action, or we deface its essence by drowning selflessness with narcissism. By seeing compassion in action, we see through the behavior or empathy and sympathy how important it is to reach outside of ourselves and lift others up with the strength we have from God. We are not strong on our own, and others need to know they are not alone, either.

Love without God is artificial and transient. Love isn’t sex: Sex is representative of something deeper. Searching for love only in sex is an incomplete journey. Love is emotional, and where sex feels amazing, the ecstatic sensations of copulation are not transcendent of feelings or their realities; it is, in fact, the opposite is true: Ecstasy derived from sex is the made possible by the emotional bond between two partners. Without their bond, sex is a flood or racing hormones, and emotions are dismissed as an unnecessary appendage. This indisputable mistake is detrimental to the relationship—which, in itself is only a conduit to hedonism. If sex is used purely for ecstasy, then the culmination of the bond is to appease the brain, not the heart.

Trust is built over time, and requires vulnerability and the amalgam of adversity with compassion to sustain. Experiencing hardship wth someone genuinely choosing to stay with us during a painful period is indicative of the desire to gain trust and deepen the bond; not only for themselves, but for you. Trust is either a cornerstone to a strong friendship, or part of the broken backbone of heartache and betrayal.

Vulnerability is transparency and honesty rolled into one. Telling someone your secrets is being explicitly vulnerable. Your darkest, most embarrassing, humbling flaws reveal your most susceptible self in a way nothing else can compare to. Openness is the window to transparency, and closing the shade over that is dismissing the desire to gain intimacy. Notice I placed trust ahead of vulnerability– because for many people, vulnerability comes after trusting someone; though, you can take a leap of faith and be very vulnerable and bold in discovering whether the person you opened up to is worthy of your trust. Undoubtedly, if they receive you well, the trust is that much more clearly unshakable.

Caring for someone does not equate with doing something for someone to elicit a response. We do not take care of our friend when they’re sick so that they’ll buy us what we want when they recover. An authentic person understands the difference between loving someone unconditionally and conditionally is the lack of expectation later on. The most caring person shocks us because we don’t expect their selflessness; yet the source of concern is not looking in the mirror, but helping your friend by being their mirror.

Kindness is such an underrated quality in today’s world. That’s why the kind people are the ones with the friends, because the only people in this world kind enough to make best friend material are the magnets for the rest of us. Beyond etiquette and politeness, beyond “please” and “thank you”—there is the core to a person who wants to be kind because they can tell it feels good to be considerate and generous to others when they can see their actions having a positive effect. However, being a positive influence is not testing others for a response; it’s acting on the will to do what is good and right (and usually unexpected) for the sake of being a difference to someone else ((showing the light of Christ through unconditional (perhaps unexpected) love)), regardless of whether they blink their eyes and ignore your good deed, or stop dead in their tracks with gratitude for your good heart.

When I think of a great friend, it’s someone who is dependable, someone who is able to be there for me regardless of what they’re doing. Some friends literally leave work to spend time others experiencing pain, and sometimes a friend will step aside their life schedule to call when a friend needs that favor. Dependability means not making excuses not to care, and choosing to be the kind of person who wants to experience every aspect of their best friend; good and bad, hard and easy; fun and depressed. A dependable friend knows to be there for you, and learn what it means to meet your needs in any way they can.

How often do our friends just drop away, out of our lives, like a rabbit in the hat a magician? There is pain to loss, and even deeper pain when loss carries no explanation. Being a constant in someone’s life requires both dependability and stability, caressing the wound of years past with a simple, “I’m here.” A best friend’s “I’m here” could be a decade–or several decades–worth of experiences building up to the culmination of being able to say, “I understand what you’re going through. You’re not alone. We’ll get through this together. Just stay with me, and everything will be fine”–in two words. A constant friend need not say much after a while, because their presence speaks volumes.

What kind of a friend are you? What kind would you like to be, and what road would you need to take to get there? Do the qualities of a friend stated here resonate with you? Do you know of many people who carry these characteristics–and do they inspire you to be like them?

Our characteristics are God-given qualities that were meant to keep us directed towards Him. Jesus showed all of these, and much more. Truly, if there’s an example to live by, it is Christ. Can we take from this and learn by His example?

Maybe this list is not what you expected. Maybe you have your own list? What does yours look like?

I hope this challenges you and encourages you to try to be more than you have ever been. God is with you and can show you everything you need to know if you’ll search for His presence within you. He is closer than a brother, and certainly the prime example to look to. I pray you are blessed this day, and inspired to do more and be more than you ever thought you could. May He bless your decision to be your best in all that you do. In Jesus name! 🙂