Thursday, April 3, 2008

spurgeon paper

another paper for class. the title analogy is a bit shotty, but roll with me.

"breakfast at tiffany’s"
During the formative years of my life, the following events took place: freshman year of high school—enrolled in a four year culinary arts program that led to an internship and job during senior year; sophomore year—quit the culinary program to get into advanced acting and began piano lessons; junior year—quit acting because of differences with the teacher and tried my hand at adolescent psychology, also quit piano lessons; senior year—dropped the two year pysch program due to too much self-diagnosing and completed computer literacy and dance (not simultaneously). And while I was able to stick through four years of water polo, I only participated in two years of swimming and one year of track, because I just wasn’t having fun. Longest job: ten months. Shortest job: two weeks. College drop-out.

After hearing this resume, most would say I have some commitment issues. I would say they are very correct. But what’s the big deal? I mean, isn’t it good to keep your options open in case something better comes along? Really, I’m just being flexible to my environment, and blessed are the flexible… right? Perhaps I’m just kidding myself out of thinking I’m simply a product of my generation—a generation that when the going gets tough, we runaway. We all talk a big talk, but when it comes to keeping our nose to the grindstone, we huff and wince and say, “But that thing smells and I just got my nails done, so I really don’t want to get my hands dirty and I think I just heard…uh, Bob… call my… um, I’m just gonna see if he needs help with… paperclips?” What’s happening is we’ve lost focus in developing key values of character and what’s worse is it’s infiltrating an area of our lives that should be steady as a rock—our relationship with God.
So what do we do? Well, if we can’t help ourselves, we should look to someone else to help us. Case in point: Charles Spurgeon. We can look to Spurgeon for his examples in discipline. He recognized that the most important thing in life is our relationship with God and when you are dedicated to Him, being dedicated to others and to other things almost comes naturally. Through Spurgeon, we can understand that character does not come from accidentally having the right genes or a responsibility you gain when you turn 21; it comes from a willingness to suffer, to build a faith that endures because of a deep love for the Lord.

One of the biggest contributors to complacency in my generation today is due to our unwillingness to step out and take a risk, because with risk there is an opportunity for failure, and failure many times leads to suffering. We have it ingrained in our brains that if we do anything, we will suffer the consequences. I wonder if for Christians, this sentiment is heightened because we see failure as being eternally worse. So instead we construct rules to adhere to, because as much as we may say we don’t like rules at least it gives us a standard to live by, so when we get to heaven we can say, “But God, I followed your rules. I lived to the standard.” Perhaps that’s true, but following God doesn’t equate a relationship with God. I can follow the instructions sent to me through a computer, but unless I leave my cubicle, I’ll never know why I’m doing them and, perhaps more importantly, I’ll never know the one sending them. Unless I leave my box, however sturdy, however comfortable, however familiar it may be, I’ll never become a better worker; I’ll only be a robot, typing away information for no reason. Spurgeon, being a man drowned by suffering (and by that, I mean hardship), says, “A mother’s heart cries, ‘Spare my child’; but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God” (129). It’s as if we think that in stepping out and very likely, failing, God will shake His head at us, strike us down in His almighty wrath… there are a bunch of Christians running around who have forgotten how to live by grace and I’m one of them. Spurgeon explains this is not the character of God, and if we can’t trust in the infallible character of God, what is faith?

Well, some might say that faith is believing the Truth. In the Christians life, faith is believing that God is who He says He is and that He’ll do what He says He’ll do. But it seems like this is one of the most difficult things to do as a Christian, as mentioned above. It’s interesting how these two concepts are essentially codependent on each other; that in order to build up an enduring faith, we must be willing to suffer (like Romans 5:3-5) and that it also takes faith to step out to be willing to suffer. This challenge of faith becomes less of a challenge as we become completely and utterly dependent on God. And this doesn’t mean that only for life issues do we thrust all our cares on God and believe that He will carry us through (not that we shouldn’t do that), but are we really able to trust Him in the most challenging areas of out lives when we refuse to let Him take control and work the least areas of life. Spurgeon says that, “We generally make out worst blunders about things that are perfectly easy, when the thing is so plain that we do not ask God to guide us, because we think our own common sense will be sufficient, and so we commit grave errors” (43). How radical would our faith be if we cast every area of our life upon God? I mean, that’s all He really asked of us anyway, right? I believe that if the body of Christ, if I, began to consciously throw every part of my life on God, laid if all at His feet, not only would it become less of a task-that-I-must-do, but our love for God would grow deeper through this act of humility.

Now, I’ll admit, a part of me wants to laugh and say this is a lot easier said than done, but it fundamentally isn’t. The reason it appears difficult is because it would require from me a sense of discipline that I’m really not use to. Because how I’m I supposed to trust the character of God unless I know God's character and the only way to know someone’s character, is to get to spend time with them. What it takes is dedication. Spurgeon draws a really interesting analogy between us and a squirrel in a tree, explaining, “I wondered and admired the beech, but I thought to myself, I do not think half as much of this beech as yonder squirrel does. I see him leap from bough to bough, and I feel sure that he dearly values the old beech tree, because he has his home somewhere inside it in a hollow place, these branches are his shelter, and those beechnuts are his food. He lives upon the tree… With God’s word it is well for us to be like squirrels, living in it and living on it” (106). In order to have faith in the first place, we must know what we are claiming to have faith in.

Personally, all this is a little daunting to look at and read as something that is being called out of me. And yet there is encouragement in the fact that it is possible. Spurgeon would be the example of how these few aspects of our walk with God work together, weaving into each other to create in us a real sense of who God is and who God wants us to be. I believe that at the root of everything, God is really calling us to one thing—commitment. Through commitment, feelings can grow. In commitment, we can love God and those around us as He loved us. Because really, love is a commitment. Jesus was committed, in love with His Father and His children, when He paid our debt with His blood. So maybe now it’s my turn to settle down, commit and give the cat a name.


danp said...

True spiritual formation comes when a person is willing to go beyond comfort and live by a commitment. There are too many factors of life competing for our devotion. We abdicate our control when we surrender to pleasure. It's good to see you taking control and maintaining it through a commitment.

Now what's the cats name?

love you!!!

bert said...

second paragraph:
"i mean, isn't (it) good to keep..."
"developing (key) values of character..."

fifth paragraph:
"because how (am) i supposed..."
"i know (God's) character..."

i love you:)
since im getting better at this whole grammar thing, i noticed some areas of interest.

i could try and comment on your piece but i am fully confident you are about to stumble on something amazing and life altering, and any words of mine will get in the way of that by diverting your attention.

i love you sara perkins.
from one anti-commitment foe to another, i pray we both find our place of rest.

good luck.