Tag Archive | society

Living in the World

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

My personality is unique. I’m very open and try to appreciate others for who they are, no matter their sins. I’m pretty successful at this, even with acquaintances and strangers. People generally feel comfortable being their true selves around me, and find no reason to hide anything. This is a very good thing…usually!

A problem can result when other people take my acceptance of their beliefs as my personal agreement with their decisions. I’ve never walked in the other person’s shoes, so I have no right in judging them. But, I have walked miles in my own shoes and know where God is leading me.

Since I’ve been on this trip, a couple of “weird” comments have been made by others that concern me greatly. I’m somewhat comfortable with expressing my beliefs, but fear these people’s thoughts represent the “status quo” for society. Considering the frequency of such remarks has been increasing in my life, this must be true!

Before I go into specifics, let me warn you that this is going to get personal really fast! You may not want to know this much about me or my struggles. I’ve been told that I should come with a warning label! This is it; you’ve been warned!!

Let’s start with last night. I decided to have a couple of beers with my colleagues, but I arrived at the bar earlier than the others. I ordered a beer, sat down at the bar, and the man next to me struck up a conversation with me, as frequently happens. It was completely harmless and innocent. When the others arrived, a colleague of mine asked me why I didn’t “go for that”. I initially thought she was joking, but I quickly learned she was serious. I explained that I’m not like that and don’t want to hook up with a random person. She then said something that disturbed me greatly….”No one has to know.”

I laughed and said, “This is me we’re talking about, everyone would know because I can’t lie or hide something that serious.” I tried to explain what I was looking for in a relationship and that I was not going to compromise that, but I don’t think they understood.

This morning, the group was talking about dancing, and since they know I enjoy it, they showed me a YouTube video of a hot, new Latin dance. I remarked that I would not be comfortable performing that dance socially, but it’s something I could enjoy with my husband, if I were married. A comment was made – “Isn’t that what dancing is for, to have fun with random people?” It is, but I feel some dances are too intimate to be shared so casually. Think back to the movie “Dirty Dancing” – this is your dance space; this is mine.

In society’s eye, I have become a prude! Anyone who has known me for any amount of time would have to credit (or curse, depending on their perspective) God for this transformation. I used to think just like everyone else seems to think…but I don’t anymore.

Maybe I’m ultra-sensitive and vigilant in this area because I know all too well the slippery slope that you face when you flirt too close to the line. I’ve even learned that being upfront and honest with people may encourage “challenge” in the wrong man’s eyes. This is all very dangerous and I’ve yet to meet a non-Christian who understands. Perhaps my mistake here is in trying to justify myself to someone who may never get it.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many Christians who seem to get it either. Many are married and haven’t experienced the pressures and societal “expectations” of single adults. I’ve also met single Christians who choose to ignore sin in this area of their lives, and others who have never had the opportunity for temptations or are not interested in “such things” at all.

It’s really too bad that sex is such a taboo subject in the church and many people are uncomfortable talking about it. I really believe that if we Christians are open about our struggles, it would show that this is a common issue among single adults who want to honor God in their actions, and still want to enjoy life to the fullest! It would also make it easier for everyone to be on the same page, and allow for compassion and grace.

Honestly, I’m not even completely at peace with God’s teaching regarding sex and marriage. I’ve come a long way, but I’m not there yet! A friend of mine recently got married for the second time and they decided to wait to have sex until their wedding night. I fully respect and admire their devotion to God, but I’m not convinced I could be that strong!

Now that I think about it (and you’re reading it here first, as I never considered this until this precise moment), maybe this is the reason I avoid relationships, especially with Godly men… Part of me feels guilty that I have these struggles and not having a pristine past makes me feel unworthy of their love. But, more than that, I know I could never be successful waiting to have sex until marriage (something that may never happen) in my own strength…and I’m not completely sure that I want to. It sounds terrible that I would want to deliberately be disobedient, but unfortunately, that’s where I am. I may have subconsciously decided that it’s safer and easier to be alone, date casually (where sex isn’t an issue), or most horribly, get involved with men outside of God’s will. In all of these ways, I am showing my lack of trust in God…and that’s a huge problem for me!

I feel God is asking me for complete trust and obedience in this area and that’s scary for me…but like I said yesterday – if He brings me there, He’ll bring me through it. So, I really need to get over this issue completely…and maybe once I do, I’ll be more comfortable being “different” to “the world”.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV).

Oppression, Control, and God – Ecclesiastes 4:1-8

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business (Ecclesiastes 4:1-8 ESV).

Oppression is defined as a prolonged cruel or unjust exercise of power. It is a control tactic where people put their personal agendas ahead of what’s best for society as a whole. Oppressed groups can be because of race, sex, religious preference, or essentially any differing of opinion between people. It seems the more successful some people are in their efforts, the more oppression may actually be encouraged. You’re likely familiar with the expression of how it’s lonely at the top. This is because man’s attempts to be prosperous on his own could alienate the people who surround him. Man may view success as being “by any means necessary”. Without compassion and meaningful relationships, those who are oppressed and the successful who fight their way to the top may both find themselves alone.

Does this imply that pursuits of success should be avoided? No, but as Christians, we should stop working in our own strength and allow God to pick our battles for us, in society and in our toil. We should focus on God being the center of our life, and try not to become god to ourselves or others. We need to serve God completely for His glory, not our own personal gain.

I have written about this before, but I think it deserves a second mention. I’m generally pretty slow when it comes to realizing that God is trying to tell me something important!

As I’ve previously mentioned, I am an incredibly passionate person in everything that I do. I fully submerge myself in my hobbies, my church, friendships, and most importantly, my career. I want to give my absolute best effort to make a difference in everything I do. I don’t believe I do this selfishly or for the wrong reasons, but perhaps not everything I do is completely Christ-centered and it should be. There have been times that I have become discouraged or burnt out trying to make a positive difference and that may imply that I am working outside of God’s will for me at that moment.

My career tops the list where I experience this frustration! While sitting through “Death by Power Point” training today, everything clicked perfectly for me! I was reminded that I work for an organization that I am not going to change. There’s too much history; it’s too large; there are too many managers, too much politics… I’ve known this for a while, but it’s hard for me to accept. Let me say it again – There’s nothing I can do to significantly improve my employer! Trying too hard to “fix” my organization will only result in backlash towards me.

Should I find a new career, one that I can exercise more authority over? No, God led me to this position in an amazing way. There were so many bizarre “coincidences” and all of the timings related to my job change fell perfectly into place. I am completely at peace with everything, and God is carrying my through all of my work challenges. His hand is all over this!

Should I give less than my best effort at work? Absolutely not! My work is meaningful and deserves my total focus and commitment. It may not be perfect, but I am definitely making a contribution to society. I should give it my all for 40 hours per week (plus any mutually agreed upon overtime); but, I should not lose heart because I cannot “fix” my organization. I also feel that God is not leading me to be on the fast track to management within the organization. As long as I do my best in my current capacity, that is enough!

I should look to God for guidance as to where to focus my passion and endless energy. Some of His answers may be work related (especially regarding a colleague of mine whom God has placed in my life), but there is so much more to my life than my career.

I feel that God is leading me to become more involved in my family, my friends, my community, and with “strangers” through ministry. The time I am not working should be spent investing in the lives of others, especially my son. All of this should be done prayerfully and completely under God’s direction – because if He leads me somewhere, He will bring me through it. God has shown me time and time again that He is faithful. While I have come a long way in submitting to Him, I know there is more that I can surrender. I’m ready…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).”

Better isn’t Good Enough

Lately, I’ve been thinking about entitlement and selfishness, a topic that troubles me greatly. In fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that this character trait, along with poor communication, is a main cause of society’s problems.

All my life, I’ve been told I’m selfish, often by people more selfish than I am. It’s truly become a sore subject with me. I try to do whatever I can to not be selfish, and have become quite defensive about the whole notion! But, no matter how far I think I’ve come in being ‘self-less’, the fact still remains – I am selfish. We all are!

I don’t mean to make excuses, but it is rather easy to be selfish and entitled in our culture. Commercials tell us “You deserve a break today”; there are songs about wanting “More”; we deserve education, degrees, our job, the good life, everything!

Young people seem to be even more entitled than their parents’ generation (I’m sure this is true in past generations too). I think that’s because we want to give our children the things we never had. It’s an act of love, with an undesired side-effect. Essentially, one cause of selfishness and thus, entitlement, is someone else’s loving attempt at being selfless!

This makes selfishness and entitlement very sticky subjects and not easy to remedy. Trying to be less selfish isn’t really the answer….because it is actually a re-representation of the problem. I mean, isn’t it kind of selfish to think we can become less selfish? Aren’t we awfully entitled to feel we have that ability?

This is one of the thoughts that came to me while studying the book of Job. Job was given a bad deal, let’s face it. He was a good man, who had it pretty together. He didn’t ‘deserve’ to have anything bad happen to him. He wasn’t very selfish by our human standards. He had every right to be entitled because he worked hard for what he had. He lived a Godly life, and cared for others above himself. Even when his life collapsed, he amazingly never cursed God.

Not only did Job have to deal with Satan’s torture, his wife and friends threw salt in his wounds. Yet, Job remained graceful through everything!

The only negatives were that Job did whine, wished he was never born, and questioned, “Why me, God?”. Job was human, after all…although so much less selfish and entitled than I am! I think about how I would react in the same situation… Well, let’s just say, my laments would make Job seem perfect!

Finally God comes on the scene, to comfort Job, right? To let him in on the little bet between Him and Satan? To tell Job that he didn’t deserve any of his torture and that he handled it incredibly well?

No… Not exactly… God didn’t do any of that! God made a whirlwind of an entrance and essentially asked Job, “Who do you think you are?” God’s point was that until we can do the magnificent things that He can, we shouldn’t question His ways!

My absolute favorite verse is Job 38:3 (KJV, for effect) when God says (before His monologues), “Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.” God repeats this in verse 40:7, before His second speech, so these words must be important!

God’s speeches were not exactly the heartfelt comfort that Job desired, I’m sure! However, when God was finished talking, Job simply said, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted….therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:2,6).”

Unfortunately, those are not the words I would have chosen, but then again, I’ve never seen a personal display of God’s awesomeness. I’m sure seeing His greatness in person would bring anyone to their knees! But, His power and majesty are the same regardless of what I see, and by faith, I should be as quick to repent!

Job may have never understood why all of those horrible things happened to him, but he learned a lot about God through the process. Even though his former status was restored and his riches were doubled, the wisdom he gained was his most important gift!

Like Job, I am called to release my sense of entitlement and selfishness, and stop demanding what I want from God. I need to “gird up my loins” and let Him control my life!

I know, academically, that God’s plans are significantly better than my own, so I should trust Him completely. Always! And, thinking that I’m doing better than anyone else is pointless! That’s pride…. The truth is, we are all so far away from God’s perfection, our individual differences are meaningless. Whenever we start a thought with “I am,” we’re being selfish because God is the only “I Am” that matters.

Thank you Lord for the incredible riches and opportunities you have given me. May I never forget that everything good is from you, not from any works I have done, nor will ever do. I pray that as a society, we can all return to this truth, and put You first in everything. You are our only hope for escaping the selfishness and entitlement that have taken over our lives. I pray that I can step out of the way and let your love shine though. Guide me to focus my efforts on what matters to You, and may those efforts result in Your glory, not mine. I ask all of these things in the name of Jesus, who died so that I may one day live forever with You in heaven. Amen.