Delaying Life

Have you noticed that people don’t start life until very late these days? By the time their grandparents were their age that earlier generation had built a career, raised children, taken responsible roles in church and community and gained maturity from each of those ventures.

Today, however, adults are still locked into the insecurities of youth: uncertain in themselves and non-starters in the journey of life. People today are delaying life, in the hope they can get enough momentum to have a go!

While there have always been people who struggle in life, it is now as if whole generations have fallen into that pattern. They fill their days, but never seem to move forward in the very things they want to do.

Insecurity?

Is the problem insecurity? Youth are normally insecure. They are moving into new territory and changing emotionally, physiologically and socially at the same time. So the insecurity of youth is to be expected. But do we really expect people who have lived half of their natural life to still be in the same condition?

It is as if modern culture, with all its “advanced” thinking and godless concepts, has left whole generations without a foundation for moving forward. The “If it feels good, Do It!” philosophy has produced a much weaker strain of human than the “This is your responsibility, Live up to it!” philosophy.

Self-indulgence and being pandered to by the culture have caused endemic insecurity. And that insecurity also manifests in the ever-growing dependence on psychologists and other props

Religion is a Prop

I recall with a smile those who would taunt Christians with the accusation that “Religion is a prop!” They were suggesting, of course, that they did not need props and were somehow more self-sufficient and complete than Christians.

I like the answer one of my friends gave to that “prop” taunt. He said, “Jesus Christ is not my prop. He’s my Iron Lung! I don’t just lean on Him. I am totally dependent on Him!

I think it is fair to say that faith in Jesus Christ provides a very real additional support to the human heart and our life in general. The Holy Spirit is our ‘parakletos’, meaning the one who is called alongside to help us on our journey. The Angel of the Lord surrounds and protects us. God’s wisdom sustains us. Faith in God gives us peace that passes understanding, provides solutions to heart issues that would otherwise eat holes in our lives, and enables us to be set free from sins that would otherwise totally enslave us.

So, “Yes”, I think it is true to say that Christianity is a much needed support for human existence. I for one certainly would not like to face life without it.

What’s Your Prop?

I have met many non-believers whose whole existence is dominated by something they totally rely on. My neighbour was a drunk. I have met womanisers. I know many ‘workaholics’. Australia has many sports fanatics. I have met ego-maniacs, sex-addicts, political animals, control freaks, entertainment junkies, computer game slaves, food fiends, choc-aholics, academia idolaters, fantasy escapists, gambling addicts, druggies, and the list goes on.

If people do not have the divine means of resolving life’s issues they have to become dependent on weak and beggarly things. Despite their pride in self or confidence in their chosen life focus, they are leaning on a broken stick. Their football final won’t solve the problems in their life. Money won’t buy them happiness. Multiple relationships won’t heal the soul.

But, I digress – let me get back to the delayed life.

Life On Hold

Many of those whose life is in a holding pattern think that it is normal to be where they are. Their peers are probably in much the same boat.

Youth are put on a slow paced and ever expanding academic treadmill. The degree they may achieve in their late 20’s is inferior to what students achieved up to a decade younger, less than 200 years ago. Today’s youth are not “getting an education”, but “getting swallowed up in a system of delay”.

Youth are also distracted with all manner of meaningless and mindless things. Their great achievement in life is to master some intangible and vaporous thing, like a new level in a computer game that will soon be obsolete. Instead of achieving tangible things that will be the foundation for their future, they spend their energies on illusory distractions, thus denying them the maturity that can only come from reality.

In these and many other ways today’s youth are put “on hold” and they can stay in that pattern for much of their life.

Admiral Farragut

A famous American naval officer, during the American Civil War, was Admiral David Farragut. What impressed me about this man is not his achievement in his latter years, but the fact that he was a great achiever as a lad.

Born in 1801, young David became a midshipman by the time he was 10 years old. That role was normally given to young lads from well-to-do families, so they could be trained up in the officer stream. A midshipman was required to learn navigation and other skills in preparation for taking charge of a ship in due course.

At age 10 young David revealed his capabilities, by capturing an English ship. David was given command of his own ship at the age of 12 years!!!!

Now, think about the 10 year olds you know and tell me whether the training processes of our culture have prepared them to capture a ship yet? Think of those who are 12 years old, and tell me whether they have any hope of being made captain of a ship, over a crew of full-grown men.

Cheated

I suggest that today’s youth are being cheated. They are being robbed of their true potential, by a social order that lulls them into complacency, blocks their maturity, eats up their years in dumbed-down processes, distracts them with vaporous illusions, fills them with silly notions, cuts away their foundations, and leaves them to flounder in uncertainty.

Meanwhile the siren song of the media and pop-culture asserts that we have ‘evolved’ to new heights and new levels of self-fulfilment. We have not moved forward, but backwards!

It’s all a “matrix”-like delusion. And the real evidence is the multitude of people who have spent half their life and have nothing to show for it. They are still insecure, holding onto scraps instead of substance. They have filled their life with samples, but never bought the real product.

Sampling Life

Marriage has been replaced with cheap samples of sex, and throw-away relationships, supposedly in preparation for the real thing. Family has been replaced with the age-streamed peer-group. Direction has been replaced with the latest pop-culture fad. Self-actuation has been replaced with addiction.

Responsible leadership has been displaced by illusory status-symbols. Moral character has been displaced by academic learning. True achievement has been displaced by material goods.

Generational integration has been displaced by the drinking buddies. Wisdom has been displaced by information.

All anyone has after a life-time of these fraudulent substitutes, is a bag of samples. They cannot show a family lineage or a life proven by consistency through the decades and against all the storms. They have not developed character or earned things of substance to pass to their descendents. For many there is little connection or care for those ‘descendents’ anyway, since the mess of their life has damaged those ties.

Disclaimer

Now, I am not saying that to be single at 35 means that life has been wasted or that people are lost in insecurity. I know many who have very purposeful lives and who are yet waiting to find a spouse.

What I do see, however, are people who reach that age having been through a series of cheap relationships and half-hearted ventures with silly ideas about themselves and the world in which they live. These are the ones I am concerned for.

Those who seem incapable of doing the things their grandparents had no difficulty achieving are the ones who have been deceived and had their lives stolen from them.

The Solution

At heart, the solution is for people to find their true selves, under God’s direction. The problem is that the cultural messages are so overpowering that God’s truth is filtered and watered down, even as it is received.

There is a corporate blindness which the enemy has blanketed western culture with. It is endemic deception, such as Christ identified to the Apostle Paul in launching that ministry 2,000 years ago.

Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision and told him that Paul was to turn people from the blindness which the devil held them in.

“To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they can receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18

We need an “eye opening anointing” upon this generation. They are blind and are being led by the blind. Only when people know the truth can the truth set them free. So, please pray with me for deliverance for today’s generations, so people can stop delaying their life and become powerfully effective in the destiny for which they were created.

Throwing Your Life Away

How much are you worth? What price do you put on yourself? How cheaply would you sell yourself to someone?

The questions have a certain silliness about them, because we don’t imagine that we will ever sell ourselves. But in fact we have all done so already. We sell ourselves short all the time.

Compromise

Maybe the word ‘compromise’ will give you another notion of how you sell yourself or throw your life away. When you make a compromise, accepting less than you wanted or demanding less of yourself that you could, you have sold yourself short. You have accepted a lesser bid for your time, your personal authority and your life than you could have asked for. Some people sell themselves short, while others sell themselves out altogether.

What Am I Throwing Away?

Have you ever disposed of something only to realise later that is was valuable to you and you should have kept it. This happens often and can be by accident or by ignorance. Maybe you have thrown something away last week and then discovered that you need it this week. Maybe you thought it was broken but it turned out to be in perfect working order.

When you throw yourself away what is it that is at stake? What are you throwing away?

You can throw away your time, investing yourself in something or someone that is just eating you up for no real purpose. A mother might say to her daughter, “If you marry that man you are throwing your life away.” What the mother means is that the man is of no value and so spending a lifetime as his wife is a waste of the bride’s life.

You can throw away your talents and potential. A father might say, “Don’t study that easy course, because you have enough brains to be doing the hard course and getting a better outcome. If you do the easy course you are throwing your life away.”

You can throw away your personal, moral authority. God has given you the ability to stand on His side and do business with all of His authority behind you. But if you compromise with sin and evil you are throwing away that personal moral authority.

The Bidding Begins

Early in life we find ourselves being asked to sell ourselves cheaply. Bids are made for our attention, time, commitment and so on. Take for example a young man who is asked to compromise his morality by listening to a dirty story or looking at sordid pictures. This will cost him his innocence and make him a slave to immoral thoughts and motivations. Surely he would not want such a penalty.

However, most young men do not understand the cost of their compromise, so they are unlikely to hold back because of proper understanding of the consequences.

What will aid the young man is his conscience and the inner sense that this thing he is being asked to do is tainted. The attitudes and actions of those tempting him will signal that there is something a little shameful or illicit in what is being offered.

Another thing that can save this young man is the instruction of his parents never to allow such offensive things into his life. Wise parents will instruct their children to avoid things that enslave lives.

The Highest Bid

If the young man is reluctant to participate at first he will find that the bidding is raised quite quickly. At first it will simply be temptation to do something illicit. When he declines he will find that the stakes are being raised to include his reputation or acceptance in the group.

Those tempting him might suggest that he is weak by being afraid to participate or they may advise him that he is not fit to be included in their company if he is not a willing participant.

If he further declines, then someone might try to sell him on the excitement that is on offer, or assert their own superiority to the man because they have already participated without injury, and so on.

What is happening in such exchanges is that the bidding for the young man’s soul is rising, until the tempters cause him to yield.

Sold

When the young man gives in he is “sold” out. He has settled on a price at which he will trade off who and what he is for something. In the end he may do what he is being tempted to do, not for the thing itself, such as to view pornography, but to keep the friendships which are now at stake.

By this process people are selling themselves all the time.

Not For Sale

The only ones who are not sold out are those who do what God wants them to do in every situation all the time. Those ones will resist every temptation and threat. They will stand alone and stand for God no matter what the cost.

The book of Daniel records that Daniel and his three friends each did this in various ways. The challenge to ‘dare to be a Daniel’ represents the idea of resisting temptation and threats so that the right thing can be done all the time, without fear or favour.

Sold Cheaply

I can think of several school friends who sold themselves cheaply. They readily bought into sensuality, drugs, lying, cheating, irresponsibility and so on. They did it so cheaply that they received nothing in return. They did not hold out for respect, privilege or gain, but hastily jumped into the slime to slide into shame, addiction and worthlessness.

Many people do this, especially if they are without the protection of loving and wise parents who guide them to wise choices and a wise lifestyle.

The Israelites sold themselves cheaply in the days of Jeremiah. They abandoned God and built broken resources for themselves that did not work (Jeremiah 2:12). They were keen to throw away their true value for that which is worthless.

If people think they are worth nothing they see no problem in selling themselves cheaply. Yet every person is of inestimable worth and should never be sold out at all!

Bought Back

The wonderful news is that the sacrifice of Jesus allows us all to be bought back from the hand of those who have enslaved us or bought us cheaply. The Bible uses the word ‘redeem’ to describe this process of paying the price needed so the item is returned.

Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.

If you have abandoned your personal sovereignty in a vain attempt to get some gain for yourself, like Eve selling herself for nothing in the Garden of Eden, then you need to be redeemed by the blood of the lamb. That was the price paid for your freedom. Make sure you are bought back from the grimy slavery to sin and are given a fresh start to live as a sovereign child of God who can change the world with His grace and power.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge Returns to the Truth

This is the day that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devon, England, in 1772.

Coleridge represents the restless abandonment of truth in the pursuit of truth. He readily devoured those things that led men away from faith in God, only to return to the roots which he valued so little in earlier years. Philosophies, idealism, drugs, irresponsibility and self-will are readily evident in his life.

Samuel’s father was a vicar in the village church and master of the local grammar school. As the youngest of fourteen children young Coleridge failed to develop a good sense of financial management and responsibility. An avid reader he first set out to fulfil his father’s wish that he become a clergyman. Introduced to Unitarian ideas in his first year at Cambridge, Coleridge was immediately drawn to it, as he also was to the older sister of one of his friends.

Coleridge accumulated a large debt while at college, which his older brothers had to discharge for him. He was then distracted by Plato’s Republic, and idealistic notions of going to America to set up the ultimate republic in Pennsylvania with a fellow student named Southey. When Southey married, Coleridge wed the sister of Southey’s bride, Sarah, thus commencing an unhappy marriage that ultimately fell apart. Coleridge still loved his friend’s sister, who was engaged to another man.

Assisted by Wordsworth, Coleridge abandoned the idealised republic and set about writing poetry. The two men travelled to the continent where Coleridge learned German and began translation, while also coming under the influence of the philosophies of Immanuel Kant, Jakob Boehme and G.E. Lessing.

When he returned to England in 1800, he settled with family and friends at Keswick. Over the next two decades Coleridge lectured on literature and philosophy, wrote about religious and political theory, spent two years on the island of Malta as a secretary to the governor in an effort to overcome his poor health and his opium addiction, and lived off financial donations and grants. Still addicted to opium, he moved in with the physician James Gillman in 1816. He continued to publish poetry and prose, notably Sibylline Leaves (1817), Aids to Reflection (1825), and Church and State (1830).

In secular circles he is remembered as being “in the first rank of English poets” and a leader of the British Romantic movement. He wrote such famous works as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.

While his early life was scarred by a broken marriage, addiction to opium and Unitarian theology, the last 20 years of his life saw him back in the Anglican fold as a ‘practicing Churchman’.

He wrote Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit, dealing primarily with the authority of Scripture. “For more than 1000 years,” Coleridge wrote, “the Bible has gone hand in hand with civilization, science, law … in short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation of the species, always supporting and often leading the way” (quoted in Our Roving Bible, page 142).

Samuel Taylor Coleridge died at Highgate, London, on 23 July, 1834.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

The Un-Charming Prince – “I Kissed the Frog”

Someone who I discussed these recent posts with identified with what I have written and she had a cute way of describing the situation. She said, “I kissed the frog, and he’s STILL a frog!” This is the disappointment many young wives and husbands have about their spouse.

Someone else put it this way. When a man marries a woman he doesn’t want her to change, but she does. When a woman marries a man she wants him to change, but he doesn’t. Either way, both husband and wife find themselves living with a reality that is not their ideal.

One of the traps in the process of marriage is that both the guy and the gal are transformed from one status to another. As boyfriend and girlfriend they live in the reality of being single and full of hope. However, when they become ‘man and wife’ they are both brought through from single-hood to a new personal status of husband or wife. It is almost as if in internal switch is then triggered to readjust them to this new status. Whatever their factory settings are for ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ is what they now being to operate by. So the sweet little ‘girl’ is a ‘girl’ no more. The hopeful boy is a boy no longer. They both switch into the settings which they have been programming since their child-hood, most strongly from the example of their parents and their own responses to that example.

It should never be a surprise that both the bride and groom will change their behaviour once married. So this demands two effective processes at work, for ideal results. Firstly, we should each be aware of our humanity and need to become better people. The most ideal role-model for us all is Jesus Christ and we all need to become more like him, no matter what our religious persuasion. There is no-one in all of human history who is a more worthy example to us all. Each of us should be committed to changing to be more like Jesus all the time. So, when we discover that our internal, automatic settings cause us to behave less like him we should be quick to address that.

The other effective process is for the people affected, especially the spouse, to offer grace and forgiveness to the person who proves to be less lovely than was hoped. An important reason for this grace response is that God will treat us the way we treat others. If we are unforgiving and if we despise our spouse for not being what we want, we are inviting God to refuse to forgive us and to despise who we are. Since we are all imperfect it is very dangerous to engage in despisement of others who are also imperfect.

I counsel couples who are planning to wed, to realise that they may both change in the months following the wedding – if not even in the first week. They both need to be sensitive to this process and to see that they bring themselves to God so that God can teach and heal them, perfecting who they are. They both need to be ready to love and forgive each other, even when the frog stays a frog, or the princess proves to be unworthy of that role.

For those who have chosen to make Jesus Christ their role model there should be no Un-Charming Princes and no tainted Cinderella’s. That is, of course, unless they are still a ‘work in progress’. And I guess, we are all works in progress, eh?

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince:

http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-thats-me
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/i-kissed-the-frog
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-forgiven

Un-Charming Prince – Forgiven

This is yet another instalment in the investigation of how to deal with the ugly reality most marriages confront, of the husband or wife not being what we want them to be. Susan and I have both experienced this in our marriage and I have spoken to many men and women who have their own story to tell of this phenomenon. At some point in most relationships we come to realise that the other person is less than we hoped and thought them to be. They may prove to have qualities far below what we expected.

I believe that the most powerful Repair Mechanism in marriage is forgiveness. So let me tell you about my own experience of having to forgive Susan. When she proved to be a Tainted Cinderella I struggled, but eventually resolved the situation by applying forgiveness. I think this experience will be instructive and helpful.

In the early years of my marriage to Susan, which took place almost 35 years ago, I was surprised to find that she was not the ideal wife I had expected. I did not realise I had specific expectations until they were not fulfilled. I simply thought that Susan would have the same ideas of marriage as me and would naturally do the things I thought she would. I was mistaken. Susan had her own ideas and her own determination to be and do what she thought was best. When I suggested she do things my way or fit in with my expectations she showed that she had no inclination to do so. She could tell me why her ideas were better and why mine should be rejected.

I don’t recall the detail of a lot of this now; since it was three decades ago and we have worked through many things since then. I do know that I found myself so bewildered and hurt by what Susan turned out to be that I would cry silent tears into my pillow. One day at church my pastor prophesied as he prayed for me and he said, on the Lord’s behalf, “I know the tears you shed at night”. That was an amazing prophetic revelation. I had told no-one of my situation and inner pain. I feared for a while that Susan would ask me about the tears. I didn’t want to tell her that she made me cry.

The problem was resolved very simply. I finally realised that I was despising Susan for being ‘Susan’. OK, she wasn’t the person I thought she was. She wasn’t the person I thought I was marrying. But I did marry Susan. Susan was my bride. I was rejecting and despising her for being ‘Susan’, because I wanted her to be someone else. I wanted a warm and devoted wife whose whole focus was to please me. I even coined the term, ‘Country Kitchen Mum’, to describe the idea of a loving woman who made you feel special and who made you the focus of her life. Susan was not a Country Kitchen Mum.

I finally came to the place, without me ever discussing it with Susan, of forgiving her for being ‘Susan’. I told God that I forgave Susan for not being the woman I wanted her to be. I committed myself to be Susan’s husband, to love her unconditionally, even though she was not the bride I thought I was marrying. I guess I felt a bit like Jacob must have felt being married off to a different person to the one he thought he was marrying.

Once I forgave Susan for being Susan something wonderful happened in my heart. It seemed that my fantasy ideas about the ideal wife I wanted Susan to be just evaporated and all the disappointment and hurt feelings I felt evaporated with them. I found myself on a journey of discovery, to build a very real relationship with a very real person; my wife Susan. At first I had been building a fantasy relationship with a person who did not exist. My season of struggle with the Tainted Cinderella was a vital step toward removing the fantasy notions.

Please note that it is possible for the dream to die and for bitterness and resentment to grow instead. If I had not forgiven Susan for being Susan I could have spent the rest of my life resenting Susan for being Susan. So the journey from the Honeymoon Phase to the Happy Reality Phase requires God’s grace, not just realisation. Forgiveness is the very powerful Repair Mechanism in marriage. Never hold back from using it. And the internal transformation you can enjoy will often surprise you.

This is part of a series of posts on the theme of the Un-Charming Prince:

http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-thats-me
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/i-kissed-the-frog
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-forgiven