What happens when I read for six and a half hours, volunteer at the homeless shelter for two hours, then go to church for two hours? Oh, maybe I should mention eating sugar the whole time? Basically I act like I have ADHD. I am a little keyed up. I talk too much, and I can’t concentrate on listening to the message for more than thirty seconds before my mind wonders even if it is a really good message. But I am not going to lie, half of it was probably because I was trying to get hyped up because I was worried about falling asleep if I was in church at 9:30 at night. That is my desired bedtime. Not that I actually go to bed at that time more than once in a blue moon.
So I read my novel from cover to cover today. I was really surprised by it. I think it is weird as an author to be surprised by your own book, but it isn’t what I was expecting. I am learning that if one is going to write something 150 single-spaced pages long, the characters get minds of their own. At some point, I have to just be true to the character in each scene, and it determines how the scene turns out. So my book only half turns out like I thought it was going to. Very bizarre even to myself.
Now I think the weirdest part for me is I have to read it again straight through before I can begin editing it. Maybe this time, I will read it with a notebook next to me to just jot down the scenes that need the most work. Actually, that is not the weirdest thing. The weirdest thing is that it surprised me. I am upset that it is not more offensive, and I am offended by it at the same time. It is not necessarily that I wanted to offend my readers; I just really wanted to make them think. I cannot decide if I did that well enough.
Anyway, that has nothing to do with my spiritual growth. What does have to do with my spiritual growth is that I had a fantastic time in church tonight. Very much being myself. Now I am off to either go to bed or work for an hour so I can have a full sabbath tomorrow. Decisions. Decisions.
Oh, and I realized in church tonight, I always think about my relationship with God. I never think about His relationship with me. Though in some ways I have been engaging this recently as I have really been thinking about His love. “Earnestly believe that God exists and that I matter to Him.” I have been trying to really embrace “that I matter to Him” for like the last four months. If I really believed that, I would never worry again. Finances would not matter. Eating thirty pounds of rice a day would not matter. Nothing would matter except His kingdom because I would actually understand its priority.
I have been thinking about the immediacy of the kingdom over the last week. Someone asked me recently if perhaps I was just being an extremist. Perhaps the life I was living was one of self-torture and not what God was calling me to. After all, God does not call us all to live radical lives. That very statement will get me fired up right there. The New Testament is a radical book, especially to the self-centered, conceited Westerner of whom I used to be the chief. Not one command or instruction of Jesus calls me to lead anything less than a wildly radical life in the eyes of those around me. The God of the entire universe died, so I could give everything. Wait, He died so I could live. And I am so thankful that because I live, I can give everything.
I do not have to give everything. I would be His precious child if I settled for a boring, safe, self-centered American dream; but I would not experience Him like I am now. Without wondering how I am going to pay my bills at the end of the month, all that jealousy, envy, criticism, dislike and self-centered yuck would not have had a way to get cleaned out of my heart. I would have just kept covering it up with being safe.
I do not need to be temporally safe. I can live a wildly radical life because Jesus died so I could be eternally safe. If I end up spending my last dollar, have to move out on the street and then starve to death, I am just as safe as I am right now in my own personal apartment with cupboards full of food and a bank account to take me through the end of the month.
If I truly comprehended Good Friday and Easter, a radical life would not in any way be radical. It would simply be the natural outcome of my gratitude to an unimaginably selfless God.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” – Matthew 16:24-28