Last March, Taylor did a series of posts of pictures and videos that made her laugh. She called it her “Pursuit of Happiness” and it was meant to be a celebration of simple pleasures as an antidote to the winter blues. Because I can’t wait for March to see if she does it again, and I’m feeling an early need for an antidote to the winter blues, I’m selfishing ripping off her concept. Here’s my first installment in my own “pursuit of happiness” series for the month of February.
I entitled this photograph “Ahhhhhhh.” I look at it a lot this time of year.
Climb the Abarim ridge and cry— you’ve made a total mess of your life. I spoke to you when everything was going your way. You said, ‘I’m not interested.’ You’ve been that way as long as I’ve known you, never listened to a thing I said. Jeremiah 22:20c-21 (MSG)
The further I get in the journey, I perceive with greater clarity how blind I am to the entire concept of needs and wants. Life can be so materially easy, that spiritual need doesn’t even register with me.
When it comes down to it, we really are a people of wants and needs. And, we always mix up the two. Our needs are so well covered that the only thing left is wants. Because we have no concept of what it truly means to be in need, we feel our wants and tag them as needs. And so, our basic needs met without conscious thought, we spin in our little wheel of the rat-race cage, chasing after want after want after want.
How deaf am I to God’s still, small voice trying to speak truth to me while I, like a silly rodent, endlessly rattle on inside my little spinning wheel? How blind am I to the true needs of my soul and the pile of discarded acquisitions that lay broken and rusting in my wake? How am I going to see my true spiritual need, and the true needs of those around me when I am fixated on the perceived “need” of my next “want?”
Lord, have mercy on me. Help me discern clearly my true “needs” and selfish “wants,” and grant me the wisdom today to make choices accordingly.
“And then tell the people at large, ‘God’s Message to you is this: Listen carefully. I’m giving you a choice: life or death.”Jeremiah 21:8 (MSG)
I make life and death choices every day.
What I choose to think about. What I choose to do with my time. What I choose to say. How I choose to treat my spouse, my children, my family, my friends, my co-workers, and the stranger I meet. What I choose to do with my money. Where I choose go in my spare time.
A million little choices each day. They can be “life” choices that inch us towards life, health, goodness, and love. They can be “death” choices that inch us toward selfishness, spiritual suffocation, decay and isolation.
Today, I have a choice. I have choices. Lots of them. Each of them lead me one of two directions. I inch my way toward life, or I inch my way toward death.
But if I say, “Forget it! No more God-Messages from me!” The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I’m worn out trying to hold it in. I can’t do it any longer!Jeremiah 20:9 (MSG)
Along the journey, we all reach places that feel like a dead end. Frustrated, exasperated, and at the end of our patience we feel like a ticking time bomb of emotions.
Jeremiah stands as a testament for all of us. Today’s chapter reminds us that we all hit a breaking point, and when we do it is perfectly acceptable to pour out our hearts to God. He is not surprised by our emotion. He is not deaf to our cries. God is big enough to handle the full onslaught of our anger, our frustration, our screams, and our tears.
Along the way, we will all need a healthy release of our our pent up emotions. Like Jeremiah, like David in the Psalms, like Jesus in Gethsemane, we sometimes need to plead our case and get out what’s bugging us. If we don’t, then it’s all going to spill out anyway. We can’t contain it. It just squirts out in unhealthy ways.
“This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies to you: ‘Warning! Danger! I’m bringing down on this city and all the surrounding towns the doom that I have pronounced. They’re set in their ways and won’t budge. They refuse to do a thing I say.'”
Sometimes being a consultant is like being a prophet. You don’t always have good news to share in the data. Sometimes you bring warnings of doom. Sometimes you even know in your heart and mind that the client won’t listen.
So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Jeremiah 18:3-4 (MSG)
I recently spoke to a person who found themself on the road to crazy. Broken, feeling very much alone, and with their life scattered in so many pieces around their feet after it all fell apart in a tragic explosion of circumstance. There they stood holding on to a compass, but the needle was spinning uncontrollably in every direction. They couldn’t, in the moment, see the road out.
Consider yourself blessed if you never find yourself on the road to crazy. Consider yourself blessed if you do. I’ve been there. The circumstances were somewhat different than my friend, but they always are. There are a million paths in and out that intertwine like a maze.
“I can’t see why God has me here,” my friend said.
You never do, in the moment. That’s why Jeremiah’s word picture is so critical to hold onto. God uses broken things. He makes new things out of old. But, the clay must be broken down into a lump before it can be fashioned into a new vessel that can be used for new purposes.
The road to crazy is the place where God allows us to be broken down into a shapeless lump. The road back from crazy is where he begins to build us into something new.