Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Have you ever...(part 2 of 2)

I’ve been confused for a while now. Prior to last week, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life. I felt the pressure of providing for my family, but I’m not trained to do anything besides what I got my degree in, and that’s out of the question…or at least it was. My degree prepared me to do church ministry. I thought that’s what God wanted me to do, but through a series of events and church jobs, I felt less secure in that. So I’ve pursued other options, all to no avail. Plus, there has been this rebellion inside me ever sense I felt a call into ministry to not do it, and the main reason is because it’s what my dad does. I feel like the kid in all those movies that’s supposed to “take over the family business”. It’s not because of anything that my dad has done; in fact my dad has always been my greatest supporter in everything. I’ve always known that my dad would be happy with whatever God led me to do. I’ve realized that my rebellion has come from a response to people throughout my life that have “expected” me to go into ministry. You see, my dad is very good at what he does. He’s an excellent pastor and God has given him all the necessary skills to do that. And for whatever reason, people think that his legacy should live on in one of his offspring. It’s a somewhat natural assumption that people place on great individuals. Great athletes are supposed to breed great athletes, and if they do, the expectation is just as high if not higher for that offspring. “Out-do your daddy!” is the motto. People used to always ask me when I got to a certain age what I was going to be when I grew up and their first expectation was for me to say, “I want to be just like my dad!” Again, it’s a natural assumption. Most young boys want to be just like their dad, especially if their dad is as awesome as mine. And it’s not that I don’t want to be just like my dad. My dad is my greatest hero and if I desire to emulate any individual besides Christ, it’s my father. However, when people asked me that, my first response was one of bitterness and anger. “Why do you assume that? I’m NOT my dad!” is what I would think in my head.
There’s something about fulfilling other people’s expectations that just didn’t sit right with me. I think it’s because as much as every little boy wants to be just like their daddy, there’s an impulse in them to do something completely different: to blaze new trails and conquer new territories, and just be DIFFERENT than their dad. There’s nothing wrong with that impulse, but there is something negative about “taking over the family business”. The job is forced upon you because none of the other siblings wanted to do it or the sibling who is least capable takes it on because it’s their last option and they don’t want the business to go under. And I think I’m especially susceptible because I’m the youngest and none of my other siblings have chosen ministry as an occupation. As I grew up, I really hoped that one of them would so that I could do something different. However, it didn’t turn out that way and it appeared that the lot fell to me. Even after I felt a “call” into ministry, my heart rejected it. I wrestled and argued with God for a while. I took my crap degree as proof that I was right. It’s this weaker man in me saying that if I go into ministry, there will be no new trails blazed; I’ll just be falling in line with expectations. And I couldn’t stand doing that.
So I spent a while running away from ministry, trying to find something else to do, hoping that something would fall into my lap that would guide me to some other field. Even though I knew I was really good at ministry and that I had a blast doing it; I had all these excuses to convince myself that it wasn’t for me: the job doesn’t pay enough, my dad does it, my degree still sucks, etc. Plus I just didn’t like the fact that I was good at ministry. I think it’s because in my mind, it’s really not that hard. The only thing that I’m really good at is talking. Communication comes really easy for me, but that’s not that big of a deal! And so I have good relational skills and I love getting to know new people! Everyone has those skills and they’re so not-fun and not-cool skills to have. My friends are good at marketing and business and photography! Those are cool skills, man! I wanted God to make me good at those things. Anybody can communicate and hang out with younglings for 3-4 hours a week! Psh. Big deal!
This is how I’ve felt for a while, up till last week when I had somewhat of a divine experience. I was writing out the first portion of this blog, kind of throwing up on the page (the step prior to editing it for posting-that’s just how my brain works) when there was almost an audible voice that I know was the Holy Spirit that simple said, “Bryce, you know what you’re supposed to do with your life-ministry. It’s what you’re best at. It’s what I’ve gifted you to do. Don’t be concerned with the gifting of others. I’ve given you some really special gifts that can only be used to spread my message of love and salvation!” It was very startling since I’ve never experienced something like this. The reality and truth of the message kind of floated down into my heart and my heart was satisfied. It just kind of resounded with a very matter of fact, “huh.” But it wasn’t the huge uproar that used to arrive. As I’ve mulled over this, I’ve come to accept it more and more every day. I have been gifted with some very unique and very cool gifts. If the #1 fear in the world is still public speaking, then I’ve got a one up on almost everyone else out there. And the truth is, not everyone can handle younglings or difficult people, but God has gifted me with an exorbitant amount of patience (one of the many things I learned from my dad). Furthermore, some people are just really awkward in social circumstances and I’ve been granted the ability to be super easy to be with and really fun to talk to. My wife reminds me of that every day ☺. These gifts and talents combine to be a pretty stacked deck when it comes to ministry and God seems to be pointing me there. And so far there has been no crazy fear that everyone will be watching to say, “I told you so.” There is also no fear that I’m just doing this out of obligation-there is much joy in my heart, in fact. So I have a great amount of clarity and great amount of confidence in my future. I still don’t have a perfect picture of it, but…all in good time. God is good. God has helped me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Have you ever...(part 1 of 2)

Have you ever felt insecure? I would venture to say that every person has felt insecure at least once in his or her life. As a middle school teacher, I witness insecurity on a moment-by-moment basis every weekday. Kids are insecure about how their body looks, so they eat less or sometimes eat more. They’re insecure about how they dress, so they make fun of others for how they dress. They’re insecure about how they talk or about their opinions so they end every sentence with a questioning inflection or the word, “right?”, or they don’t talk at all. Retail clothing stores make a killing in sales every August when school starts up because young people must feel secure in their social standing by exhibiting the latest trend or brand. But young people aren’t alone in their insecurity. Adults do the same thing. Men experience a “mid-life crisis” because they’re insecure about their future. So they go out and buy a sports car or a motorcycle to reinforce their masculinity and give them a sense of security in that feeling. Women are consistently battling the signs of age because our culture holds a viewpoint that once a woman starts to get wrinkles and gray hair, she is no longer attractive. So they’re insecure about how they look and they get plastic surgery or they continually die their hair back to its natural color. Cosmetic companies are making money hand over fist by putting out a new product once every 6 months that claims to hide wrinkles and then they throw up a digitized picture of a 50-year-old celebrity to “prove” that it works. I’m not bashing the cosmetic companies or the retail stores, in fact I applaud their marketing endeavors and their desire to sell their product. Nor am I angry with people who feel insecure. Insecurity is a natural process of trial and error.
People feel insecure when they don’t have a clear picture of who they are. Their identity is in question. This is why adolescents, colligates, and middle aged adults all feel insecure, and people in between seem to be doing just fine. Humans are in a constant quest for identity. We attempt to identify ourselves first and foremost by the position we hold. For most men, we seek a career that will give us some sort of meaning in life and fulfill our quest for identity so that we can identify ourselves by our position. I would argue that most women identify themselves by their position as a mother-that’s their primary position. We hope that our position in life will help solidify in who we are. However, there are times in life when our position becomes insecure and therefore, we become insecure. Adolescents are learning what their position is in their social stratosphere, and feel insecure about it. College aged people have just spent 4 years studying for a career, and then they have to go out and actually do it, a step that is often very scary. When men linger at a job too long or don’t achieve the paycheck they hoped, or maybe they feel they’ve settled for too many things, their position in life gets shaken and they feel insecure. As women age, their position as a mother becomes insecure because their kids are grown and leaving the house. When we don’t maintain a clear picture of our identity, our insecurity causes us to create and project different prototypes of what we think we are. They are messy versions of what we think we could be. In most cases these prototypes are rejected by either the person themselves or the people in their social circles. In essence, these possible versions of us are all asking, “Is this who I am? Does this match who I think I am on the inside?” This is demonstrated in various ways: sometimes in depression, sometimes in anger, sometimes in just an emotional shutdown.
I myself am feeling very insecure right now, and have been feeling so for the last few months. I am insecure about my position: working at Starbucks and teaching middle school students about discipleship. It’s a meager living and I have a lot of trouble being satisfied with it. I tell people this and they say, “Well then why don’t you just go get another job?” I wish I could. I’m stuck in my insecurity, absolutely paralyzed. I’m not confident enough that I could do any job I put my mind to. I try to talk myself up and say, “Bryce, you’ve got a college degree! You graduated high school with a 4.0 and college with a 3.7. You’ve got great communication skills…You can do anything you put your mind to…blah blah blah.” It only works for maybe a few minutes and then I’m back to my paralysis of insecurity. This came as a surprise to my wife. She told me that I’m one of the most confident people she knows. I would agree with her in most other areas of my life. I learned early on that you can’t please every one and that attempting to do so will drive you mad and only decrease your sense of security in who God made you to be. It has been very easy up till now to maintain that security because I had a clear picture of what God wanted me to do with my life. Furthermore, I wasn’t married and therefore not responsible for another person’s well being. However, God has since shoved me into a giant cloud of ambivalence and uncertainty. The calling that I had once felt so secure in is no longer present. I’m grasping for straws of solidarity and permanence every day. I ask, “Is this right, God? Maybe I could do this with my life?”
The problem with insecurity is what I mentioned earlier. When we identify ourselves by our position or our capabilities, we’re placing our trust in things that aren’t completely secure. The only thing that we can really identify ourselves as with any certainty is our position as helpless creatures of a loving and sovereign God. That position will never change. I will always be a helpless creature; and my God will always be loving and powerful. Sometimes I may not see the love when its present, and many times my insecurity is my acting out and trying to take control back from Him. Kind of ironic, is it not? As I have said before and will continue to say, God help me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Rough Draft

I expect that this blog will help me process much of the things that I’m going through right now. I don’t have a career at the moment. That frustrates me. I am 25 years old, working at Starbucks part time, and teaching Jr. Highers the same things I’m learning myself - part time as well. I am consistently fighting the battle between hating my job, wanting to quit both of them for a “desk job” so I can make more than $10 and at least be assured that I won’t work past 5 o’clock during the week, and being grateful for my jobs and having a wonderful time making cappuccino’s and lattes for an ever demanding populace. (Please take a moment now to say a prayer for my wife who puts up with my manic mood swings on a day to day basis. She is wonderful and an amazingly wise and patient woman that God has blessed me with, knowing that I would be going through this.) I thought I had an idea of what God had planned for me to spend my life doing, and he has since “pulled the rug out from under me”. He has done this to me several times in the last 2 years. I think he’s trying to teach me something. ;-) Let me give some context.
I graduated from Biola University in 2008 with a degree that is nearly useless. I say “nearly useless” because the only things that were useful were the diploma I received and the name of my major: Christian Education Ministries. It makes me sound prepared to do something amazing, when in fact it did not. I feel that I cheated my way to graduation because I did nothing to deserve it. The CE major was notorious for being the easiest major on campus, and rightly so because I once turned in the same assignment 4 times in 4 different classes. It was a total cakewalk. (Since leaving the school the CE department has been transformed into an amazing program that is preparing young people to do stellar church ministry. Thank you, Biola. Not to worry, I’m not bitter at all…) To this day, it is my biggest regret that I didn’t change majors my last semester. (My other biggest regrets are not body surfing a perfect wave in Hawaii and not sky diving while in Interlaken.) So there I was, unprepared and thus unwilling to go into the proposed career for which my major was intended-youth ministry. I was disenfranchised with the church as a whole, bitter towards my major and the fact that I had wasted my parents’ money, and unsure of what I was going to do with myself for the remaining 60+ years of my life. God has led me down several paths (college ministry, junior high ministry, church planting, and the latest, school teaching) and has “pulled the rug out from under me” on all. So here I am, working 2 very frustrating jobs that I don’t want to be working, and waiting for some direction. I am right back at square one, at the same point I was 2 years ago after graduation. I feel a little more prepared to do what I was originally intending to do, but just as unwilling as I was 2 years ago. I don’t want to work at a church. I love teaching, but after teaching Middle School for 6 months, I’m totally over it and am content to leave it forever. I still have a great passion for teaching and instructing and would love to do it at the college level, but that requires much more schooling and I want to do something besides Starbucks in the mean time. Call me crazy. I started a Master’s Degree at Talbot, but am currently unable to focus on studying because I’m too worried about making enough money to provide for me and my wife, who is also working on a Master’s Degree. Also, why should I be dumping $2500 a semester into a degree when I have absolutely no idea if I’ll be using it? I am stuck between a rock a hard place, waiting on God to come and move the rock. I am not bitter towards God, I’m just tired of not having a solution to my life’s equation. I’m on a journey, but without a direction. I’m just…wandering. And before you quote Lewis or Tolkein’s “not all who wander are lost” (I don’t know who said it because I’ve seen it credited to both), please know that I know I am not lost. I am static. I am a rough draft of myself. God, the great Editor, is fine-tuning and erasing my grammar and spelling mistakes with his giant red pen. So what I have to go on for now is just my effort to gain understanding about the world I live in, about myself, and about God. That’s what I’m doing in the mean time while I wait. To put it in a very large cliché, I’m waiting at my gate to board the plane that God has predestined for me to be on, but I’ve got my boarding pass-His Word….I’m a moron. God help me.

An Explanation

Let me first explain the name of this online journal. The Bible talks a lot about knowledge, but also about wisdom. Knowledge is a fairly clear term, but few understand wisdom in its entirety, the result of which we see on a day-to-day basis. If more people understood and sought after wisdom the way that Proverbs describes-“searching after it as a lost treasure”-I believe we would not be stuck in the cultural and economic quagmire that we are currently in. That is not to say that wisdom will create a great utopia, but rather to say that foolish behavior is a rampant outbreak and is so because of the lie that foolishness is somehow admirable (see Jersey Shore). To put it shortly, wisdom is the ability to live life well. It is wrapped in the ability to make good decisions, use logic, see the bigger picture, and to apply the knowledge you have to better yourself. I guess what I am getting at is the difference between knowledge (facts, rote memory, common knowledge, etc) and understanding (the ability to combine knowledge and wisdom). This is what I call Knowledge (capital K). I am fascinated by the idea that Knowledge and ideas can change people. It frustrates me that I’ve already forgotten so much from my undergraduate studies because I just memorized things and then forgot them 30 minutes after I took a test or turned in an essay. God has given us as humans several gifts that he didn’t give to any of his other creations, most notably a mind and a soul. God has granted me the opportunity to learn and gain understanding about myself, Him, the world, humanity, history, and everything else. By applying that knowledge, I learn wisdom and not only is my mind continually formed, but my soul grows to a better understanding of why I am here. I hope that this blog accomplishes this for you as well as for me. At least that is my aim and the reason behind the name.
That being said, what you can expect to see and read on this blog are things that I find interesting, things that expand my knowledge, and common occurrences in my ever-monotonous life. This includes theology, psychology, philosophy, history, music, movies, news, economics, politics etc. I love learning and I love thinking, but I also love sharing those things with other people. At my core, I am a teacher. I want to challenge people to think differently, not just pass along information in a lecture. True Knowledge is a rare commodity these days; and so it makes sense to me to say that Knowledge is power; power to change yourself and influence those around you. However, this blog will also be a place where I share part of myself: how the Lord is changing me ever into a more perfect picture of Himself. That is what my life is about so I feel I must include that here as well.