Why is my blog site called The UnCommon Journey? Because that’s a title that should be given to every Christian’s relationship with God. If your Christian life mimics most other Christians around you, you’ve settled for a comfortable expression of Christianity foreign to scripture and historic Christianity. Sadly, most Christians don’t realize this. I don’t blame them or accuse them of being “less than.” It’s what they know. Yet, there is more to be discovered in knowing God and loving Him.
I actually wanted to call this blog: “Unconventional Wisdom for the Uncommon Journey” but was told immediately that this title was too long. A friend urged me to keep writing the blog and simply call it, “The UnCommon Journey.” So, that’s what I did.
One of my motivations in starting this blog was to challenge the status quo of modern Evangelicals related to the Christian life and how to live it. I wanted to challenge the “common” understanding with uncommon (to evangelicals/fundamentalists) ideas. However, these uncommon ideas would not be of my own making but reflect the understanding of the Christian life from ancient times (pre-Reformation) past down through the centuries and practiced by uncommon Christians today.
What I didn’t realize was how uncommon was my own journey. This reality hit me during the past two months of blogging “sabbatical.” I continued to write (almost) daily during this time even though I did not publish a blog. So, here are some uncommon thoughts from a guy on an uncommon journey shared for those who are on an uncommon journey, too.
Why share such intimate thoughts? Maybe you’ll glean something from my experiences that will benefit your own life. I don’t share because I want you to be like me. I share so you can get a little glimpse of one person’s uncommon journey and keep pressing forward yourself.
These are excerpts from my writings during Lent and Holy Week. I sat on my front porch, listening to the sounds of birds and wind, writing in a spiral notebook whatever came to mind.
Becoming a Christian
I become a Christian by becoming like Jesus. I become a Christian by His life in me as I participate in that life. His way must become my way. His being Truth must become me being truth (not merely propositional). Belief is the beginning and ongoing journey. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” Participation in God is the challenge to die to myself and live more fully in Christ. Repentance – getting back on the right road/way is key. Prayer is essential. The life of the Church, too. I have it all. I am thankful for all of it. Now, seek God and live!
Productivity, TV, and Letting Go
I find that I’ve been cranking hard producing posts every week even though I had little idea of their effectiveness – not that that matters – God matters. My own effectiveness doesn’t really matter. I’ve slowed down, initiated by the appendectomy, and gotten outside more enjoying the simplicity of life. I’ve not learned to live like that while blogging. Simplicity, diligence, contentment, awareness, perseverance, quietness, resting, struggling, listening, loving are all positive aspects of living I want to incorporate more fully in my being. I want to be these attributes not just do them or think about them. Can I have it all? I’m not asking for fame, success, wealth, or recognition.
If I could clear from my life a few things that prevent these virtues, what would they be? Where am I hurting myself? I’m not a social media junkie nor do I need large doses of entertainment. One thing/activity always comes to mind when I contemplate these things is my evening TV viewing. 1-3 hours, 3-4x/week is not a prescription for the kind of life or transformation I need and want. That’s easily 6-12 hours per week of wasted time. Not that I need to be super-productive. I simply need to use those hours more wisely. Reading and creative writing, yard work, prayer come to mind as better ways to use that time. I’ve done this before. I can watch highlights of games instead of watching whole games. None of the detective shows are necessary except that I’m with Rhonda. We’re not talking but that’s OK. I need to talk with her about this and work something out that is better for my use of time. Can I read while she watches – we’re in the same room but doing different activities. Evening gym time, dance lessons, working in the yard together – there are a few activities we can do together besides watch TV.
Is God Enough?
What good is my life? Is my life significant only when I help or influence other people towards some betterment? If so, then I am dependent on other people to respond to my efforts in a way that pleases me or meets some personal standard. I fear much of my life and ministry has been shaped by this framework. [I act as if] It’s now up to me to persuade people to follow my lead, to convince them that they are missing something and I have the answer.
Monastics kick this view in the gonads. They are devoted to God in such a way that, in that relationship, they find completeness/wholeness/purpose/fulfillment/good. They are not dependent on others for their purpose for living. They’re not driven to persuade people to follow a certain path. They live their life for God, doing His will as they are able, trusting that everything else in their lives (all other relationships) will be fulfilled/satisfied as God wills. They don’t need people’s approval or thanks. God is their portion and refuge, their everything. He is enough.
In my solitude I get brief glimpses of what I describe [above]. If it is going to be experienced, God as everything, it is experienced when in quiet solitude. Here, people are outside, closed off from making me feel significant. Yet, it’s here with the Trinity, that I feel most fulfilled. It is here that community with the saints is experienced. Often people come to mind for whom I pray. I am still yet so much is happening. The focus on Jesus Christ opens my heart to reality – myself and others. I am hidden from others but I am not most certainly alone.
How does this reality influence my blogging? I don’t have a good answer. I have always spoken and written with the need/desire to persuade/influence towards some goal. This is how I was taught; this is my 50-year experience. I know little else. Now I struggle to live, write, talk differently. To write so that people are drawn to truth not commanded to it [is my desire]. To arrange the items on the buffet so beautifully and wholesomely, to appeal to all the senses, so that people can’t resist, though many will. It seems that God operates like this. He’s not OK with people resisting. He simply will not violate their free will. He gives us “all things to enjoy.” We must respond. I want to live and write like that.
On Pleasing Others, Performing Well, and Pride
I’m often a slave to duty but not this [Holy] Week. This week I want to be a slave of Christ and His Church, quietly seeking Him and His passion. To whatever degree possible, to live dead to myself, crucified with Christ yet living by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gives Himself for me. [I hope to] Lay aside my agenda while dealing with what is in from of me. Though not my own, I live as if I am my own person. One week, almost 7 days. Is it possible to live quietly from my Trinity-residing heart, outwardly in sorrow, peace, and joy? Can I radically alter my activities and walk contrary to the ways of the world and my sordid upbringing – including my fundamental, Baptist, performance-oriented, moralistic, scholastic, pietistic, Bible-touting, obligatory, “successful” life-style??? My [self-determined] devotion to Christ could be my undoing. Can I lay aside my plans, dreams, hopes and fears and live moment-by-moment with God? For one week? Not doing any of this to please some other person, trying to live out the expectations of some authority figure – pastor/priest, parent, or police?
This is a bigger issue than I’ve given credence – living to please another/others. I’ve grown up with good parents and sought to please (not always, of course). I feel guilty when I sense peoples’ displeasure. I am afraid of disappointing them, though in moments of clarity, I know I can’t meet their expectations. This attitude now carries over to church. I don’t want Fr. Seth to be disappointed by my actions or inactions. I feel like I need to be doing what he asks. I don’t measure up to being “good Orthodox” if I don’t, let alone being “good Christian.”
I’ve been plagued with this my whole life – teachers, coaches, pastors, professors, parents, church members, wife, respected authorities, official authorities, even my children. I don’t want to disappoint and yet I know I can’t meet their expectations – maybe only enough to keep them happy with me, to keep them liking me, to keep them on my side.
Lord, deliver me from myself. I have been trained to perform – sports, singing, preaching, worship leadership, etc. The fact that I despise people who like to be showy, stand out, be the center of attention or try to impress people, indicates how deeply rooted this problem is with me. It matters too much to me how I look before others. When I think it doesn’t matter, my ego is fed and I find an excuse not to take this problem seriously.
Stripping away this ego-fortifying issue seems to be what this week is partially about. To enter more deeply into Christ’s passion means I have to delve more deeply into my own ego-centric passion. Why do my issues/sins always seem to come back to my pride? Will I ever be able to live otherwise?
I talk a good talk – living in the moment, not having expectations, accepting all things as from God, etc. It must be that thankfulness is key. If I’m thankful for all things how can my ego grow? How can I try to be in control? (Another biggie!?!) How can I be judgmental? How can I be concerned about pleasing others? I would simply be thankful for what’s in front of me at all times no matter what. It would certainly help me get my eyes off myself and what others think of me and on to God and all He’s doing around me.
I know this in my head. I need to practice it much more. To have a thankful heart so that all that comes out of me – from my heart – is good, edifying and beautiful. Interesting how all these realities tie together to shape me into someone else:
- silence and solitude
- dealing with passions – ego, pride; trying to please
- living thankfully
- living in the present with the Trinity
- involvement in the life of the Church and Christ’s life
- crucifixion and death (Holy Week)
I hope God never runs out of patience. He’s probably been working on me in these areas for decades. His faithful love is amazing. I need a strong dose of it.
Another way this egoism manifests is by my need to compare myself to others. This is a way to build or protect my ego. I’m getting ready to go to the gym. That’s where a lot of this crap surfaces. In fact the ego gets most active at the gym and at church – two places where exercise/training happens. I guess that explains the struggle. These are places of training, challenge, and breaking down. I need both though I resist engaging both. Yet, I accept both.
If you’ve read all of this to this point you’re a better person than I am. I hope there is something from my babblings that resonates with you.
Being on the uncommon journey can feel lonely at times. Yet, we share some common experiences and feelings. We’re OK with ambiguity. We’re comfortable with the struggle even though we don’t like it. We’re good not walking the path many of those around us walk. We sense God is directing us differently. We challenge the status quo. Joyfully, we discover that God is good with our uncommon journey and takes us places with Him we never imagined but desired.
Thanks for reading and being patient with me as I gear up to blog more regularly.