From aspirations to what really matters—#25 of the 30 day challenge to blog

I’ve often joked that the 13 year old version of myself might kick my ass if he saw me now. Many things have changed from 13 to 35. Many things that I like. I used to be a flirt-a-holic, and now I’m a one woman man to my beautiful bride Amy. I used to cry myself to sleep because of depression, and now I pray myself to sleep because of depression. My home used to be a home of sadness and fear, and now my home is one of joy and love and peace.

But there was a trait I used to have that I loved, that has become a distant memory most days, and that is I used to be so obsessed with Jesus, that I had no other dreams because he was my dream. I had no career aspirations because I just wanted to preach the gospel. The gospel of His grace. I never cared about a career. Never. But something happened that ruined that: my twenties.

My twenties helped me forget about what really mattered, and the reckless abandon that I once had for Jesus faded into the past…Remember the old 80’s movie with Jennifer Connoly and David Bowie…”Labryinth”…do you remember how she was just trying to find the baby…but she wen’t into a false reality that looked like her bedroom…and the goblin was trying to distract her with items from her room (her past) that didn’t really matter…and when she came to her senses she kept saying…”this is junk…all this is …is pure junk”.

That’s what’s been happening in the last few weeks. I’ve been waking up to the reality of my life and looking around my metaphorical room and going all this stuff that I’ve been chasing after, and holding like trophies in my room …is pure junk.

In my twenties I slowly, but surely I went from all that matters is Jesus, to I need to make money. And I need to be liked. And I need to be thought well of. And I need to be admired. And I need to be thought of as “doing well” , and…and…and….and…what became a small snow ball rolling down a molehill, became an avalanche tumbling down Mt. Everest. Like a madman obsessed with insanity, I became obsessed with “making it” as an actor. To put it bluntly, making it as an actor became my idol. It became the god that I worshiped. It became the king on the throne of my heart instead of Christ. I remember the day after I worked with my comedy hero Chevy Chase. I woke up that morning and went…”That was is it?” The euphoric feeling didn’t last longer than 24 hours.

Sure, that wasn’t my theological perspective. I had a missional objective when it came to “being in the world, but not of the world”…but that’s not really what was, and has been going on in my heart. I just wanted to be on SNL, or have a sitcom, or get a great agent, or become a working actor. But sometimes God doesn’t give you what you want, sometimes he gives you something better. But, even if he did, or was willing to…my heart is “prone to wander”…and still does from time to time…and I can want things, things that don’t really matter above Jesus. My twenties weren’t non stop grossness of the heart…I’d have moments of “all I care about Jesus and nothing else” …but they were the equivalent of being in the pitch black night…and then lighting would strike…and for that short 30 seconds I could see clearly…and than I would go back to being blind. I was in the shackles of the heart most of the time. And if I’m honest, I still like to wear those shackles, and I still like to worship those idols…even if I know with my heart, that they are empty and meaningless…my heart doesn’t know…or rather should I say…doesn’t care.

One of my friends was a new dad…and I saw him talking to his boy after he was mis-behaving…and I loved what he did…he got on his knee…and versus just spanking him…or scolding him…he asked him a question…and it’s stuck with me all these years….he simply asked…”What’s going on in your heart?”  That’s why I love that Christianity isn’t a one time decision, but an every day decision…because the Psalms talk about how wicked the heart is…and even though I’m born again, I still have this metaphorically dead flesh that I carry around, and will until I die…it’s not an excuse as much as it is a reality…I have two hearts…one that loves Jesus…and one that doesn’t…one that want’s my will…and one that wants His will…one that loves his self more than all else and everyone else…and one that forget’s his self because he’s so head over heels in love with God and ragamuffins….On a daily basis I’m finding I need to Psalm 46:10…I need to be still and know that he is God…and in the stillness by faith hear my loving Abba God say….”What’s going on in your heart my beloved”…

Maybe you’ve heard me say or heard Matt Chandler say, “Pay attention to what stirs your affections for Christ.” I like this, and quote it quite often…but I’d also say…Pay attention to what draws your affections away from Christ.

You know how Christ said, “If your hand is causing you to sin, cut it off”…well, I personally have always hated that verse…because even though I make fun of bible literalists…It’s hard for me to not be one myself…I think I was born with all the protestant and catholic guilt this world has to offer…and when I come across versus like that I’ll bang my head against a wall…usually until I can hear God’s loving voice instead of a religious one…but very recently that happened…as I was pondering on this verse what hit me was…”Oh, a hand is a good thing…not a bad thing…it’s something God created us with…even in his image…” And yet even if  good things are causing you to sin…might as well cut it off…So pay attention…yes pay attention to what robs you (speaking to myself) of your attention to Christ…and for me that is career…Maybe it’s why as a 13 year old I just never cared, and in my child like faith I knew that…but as I got older I just forgot…and didn’t want to be left out of the crowd of my fellow 25 year old men…who were getting jobs, raises, houses, cars, bank accounts, retirement plans, and security…again not bad things…but for me when I get caught up with all that…I loose sight of something that’s more important than all of that…Jesus…and I’m genuinely challenged with this…do I believe him or not…because he said…he’d always take care of me…I’d always have food and shelter…

It’s easy to hide under the umbrella of good things, and hide what false worship is going on in your heart. We, men, can hide under how it is a holy thing to provide for our families…but is that what is going on in our heart? If so …great, wonderful…but what if it’s something else…what if it’s “I want to be well thought of”…or “I want that job, and I don’t want frank to get it”…or whatever…

Most people I know, especially the Christians I know…get so caught up with how well or how not well their life is going on the outside…all the exterior stuff..and I go…well don’t read the bible or what God has to say will scare the shit out of you…because when I read God’s love letter (the bible) to myself…I read about a God that only really cares about what is going on …on the inside…his mission is to draw you near to him, and form your heart into his heart…and I have come to think that he will destroy your life if he has to…to accomplish his will…but isn’t it a better thing in the end?

I rarely live in the present moment, so much so I don’t even know where the last decade went. I slightly remember being 25, and now I’m married and got a kid. It feels like it all just happened over night.

My wife deserves better than me, she deserves the best, but regardless she’s stuck with me. But I kinda think I shocked her yesterday. We are in Santa Barbara for my job…and we took a break for a few hours…so I could take Amy & our daughter Lucy to the zoo….often when my wife looks at me and asks me what are you thinking? I’ll respond and say…”work…writing something in my head…or depression of some sort”…but this time I just responded…”i’m just trying to not think…I’m just trying to enjoy this moment.”

Brennan Manning’s example of this is from the story of the strawberry:

A monk, who was being chased by a tiger… raced to the edge of a cliff, glanced back, and saw the growling tiger about to spring. The monk spotted a rope dangling over the edge of the cliff. He grabbed it and began shimmying down the side of the cliff out of the clutches of the tiger. Whew! Narrow escape. The monk then looked down and saw a quarry of jagged rocks five hundred feet below. He looked up and saw the tiger poised atop the cliff with bared claws. Just then, two mice began to nibble at the rope. What to do?

The monk saw a strawberry within arm’s reach, growing out of the face of the cliff. He plucked it, ate it, and exclaimed, “Yum! That’s the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.” If he had been preoccupied with the rock below (the future) or the tiger above (the past), he would have missed the strawberry God was giving him in the present moment.

Life is difficult, and the honest truth is I’m often the one that makes it difficult by not trusting in Jesus. I don’t mean with my salvation, or in his general goodness, but with my every moment. I feel if I’m brave enough to trust him with my life, I will become more present in every moment that he has given me. If you’ve been reading any of my earlier writings (blogs) it kinda goes back to the whole Rich Mullins line of “forget yourself, you’ll have more fun”.

So do you know what trusting Jesus looked like yesterday. It looked like not worrying about what Job I’m going to do after I am done with my next movie Brennan. It meant not worrying about how post-production is going on the movie Brennan. It meant not worrying even about my spiritual maturity or growth as a Christian. Trusting Jesus for me yesterday, meant…I’m gonna look at my beautiful wife’s smile as she held our daughter Lucy. It meant holding my wife’s hand, and really enjoy it. Really feeling the warmth and love of her five fingers interlocking mine. It meant watching with closer precision as my daughter looked at an elephant and pointed. It meant looking at my child’s eyes as she looked at mine, and not checking my email on my phone.

I’m finding that to trust Jesus, to radically become who Christ wants me to be in any given moment, is to enjoy the strawberries, the smiles, the hugs, the kisses, the cool breeze on your face, the sand under your feet, the ice cream on your tongue…

Yes there’s deeper ways to trust Jesus, like declaring what Paul did, “I must decrease, while Christ must increase”…or melting down the golden idols of the heart…or cutting off the good things if they are causing you to sin…but what I’m finding is that if I am present, and pay attention to the things that really matter in life, like my lovely bride Amy and my silly daughter Lucy…and becoming so entrapped with enjoying them…I won’t even remember my worry-wart tendencies…and the more practice I have at being in the now…the more I actually will be…I’m convinced these are the lessons and disciplines we need as a follower and disciple of Jesus…just as much as the “big ones” if you will…because it’s these small lessons…the small moments of our life…that far outweigh in so many ways the other ones. Mainly because it’s the small moments of my life are the ones that take up the most realestate of my life’s journey. And yours.

So pray for me, if you have a second, because I tend to worship shit that doesn’t matter like my life’s career, or I like to sin by worrying about how I’m going to provide for my family…10 years from now. Yes, C.S. Lewis said, “it’s our Christian duty to plan for tomorrow.” And the scriptures talk about how awful you are if you don’t provide for you family…but I’m not talking about planning or providing…I’m talking about not using “Planning” or “providing” as mere excuses to not trust Jesus.

Trusting him in sickness and in health.

Trusting him in riches and in poverty.

Trusting him whether I have been loyal or not.

Sounds like wedding vows doesn’t it…but isn’t that what the Christian marriage is supposed to be…a mere symbol of Jesus the bridegroom marrying the church. It has to be since on the other side there will be no more marriage, but just all of us married to God. One big family in the community of those who acknowledge their need of the love of our Abba.

Abba God, 

Save me from the past and the future moments that want to rob my affection from you. And thank you for what you have given me in the present moment. May I enjoy the hell out of them and each moment, and in living in the now you shape my heart…a heart that trusts you…because no matter what happens in the future …you will be there too, just like you are here …in the now.

Trying to enjoy the strawberries,

David Leo Schultz

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~ by David Leo Schultz on October 30, 2015.

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