Monday, June 29, 2009

Charles Simeon

"What I have found in my own experience, is that my own personal disappointments and discouragements find resources for endurance when I have before me a model of one who endured. I find tremendous strength flowing to me if I can put before me, in my minds eye, somebody who incurred or experienced what I'm experiencing and more and held on or even thrived in the midst of it.

I think we live in a very emotionally fragile time, and I am a child of my times much more than I wish I were. When I'm honest with myself, the things I hate about my culture, I see evidences in myself. By "emotionally fragile," I mean that we are easily hurt: we pout easily, we mope easily. When I say "we" I mean the American culture, inside and outside the church. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. Our commitment to the ministry and to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened and discouraged. We seem to have very few resources and little capacity for thriving in criticism and opposition.

The typical emotional response in a church where your people reject your ideas is: 'Well if that's the way they feel about me, then I'll just find another church.' We don't see a lot of models of people who live out the rugged words 'count it all joy brothers when you fall into various trials.'

I think that when historians write about the character traits of the later quarter of the twentieth century, words like commitment, constancy, tenacity, endurance, patience, resolve, perseverance won't be on the list at all- not even at the bottom. At the top of the list will be an all-consuming interest in self-esteem. Sub points under that list will be self-assertiveness, self-enhancement and self-realization.

And if you think you're not a child of your culture, then I suggest that you just test yourself and ask how emotionally you respond when significant people in your life reject your ideas.

We need help here. We are surrounded in a society of emotionally fragile quitters. And a good bit of that ethos is in you and me and therefore I have found that one of the weapons against being that way is to nuzzle up close to people who aren't that way- even if they're dead.... And most of them are.

'Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.' Hebrews 6:12."

John Piper began his biographical talk on the life of Charles Simeon with the words above and when I listened to them, they shook me inside. I need this. I need this badly.

Far too often I am exactly this: an emotionally fragile quitter. And far to often I don't fight this gross tendancy at all. May it not be any longer, by the grace of God.

For me, one example I can think of being like this is when I encounter difficult cultural stressors- comments, stares, obstacles- that I chalk up to being because I live here. Some days I can blame so much on the hereness (if you will) of my life, it's just ridiculous (and altogether grievous). And far too often in this blaming, there is a self-satisfying justification that my rebellion against loving people when I feel insulted or just plain awkward is entirely reasonable or permitted. But it isn't. Not at all.

I sometimes also quit wayyyy to easily and give in to reacting out of my flesh when dealing with temper moments from disobedient or honestly, sometimes just plain curious, playful toddlers. Some might say "but that's only natural." But Scripture says that's not what God sent the Holy Spirit for- so we could live merely natural lives.

I thought of Jonathan Edwards Resolutions... When he was a young guy (19 years old, I think) he wrote up 70 defining resolutions for his life. I would shy away from calling what is below "resolution" for myself, except that I am hugely comforted by the intro he wrote to his own 70.... and I think that maybe, in that same spirit of things (you'll have to check the link to read his intro), I can say-

Resolved, to think less of myself: to consider every interest in self gain or self protection as negative points against me- utter loss- and to patiently and generously love others above myself, to the glory of Christ.

When I feel like others are demanding or expecting far too much of me: humble yourself, serve them. When I feel like my own needs or desires are not being met: lay them down. When I feel like obstacles and responsibilities have piled up too high for me to ever overcome them: go to the Lord and give him your burdens, and then press on. Consider Him who endured the cross and nuzzle up next to Him right there- against our God who humbled himself and served, and loved us to his death.

Lord give me grace to uphold these resolutions.

I really think that perhaps one of the highest privileges of motherhood (and living overseas like this) is having such daily opportunities for being humbled and refined and for learning to serve others with the Spirit of Christ. May it be a joy to us all and may the Lord be glorified in our homes and hearts as He works His grace in these opportunities!

1 comment:

  1. Well written. We see the manifestation of our fragile society in the youth that serve with us. Kim and I will definitely use these thoughts as we strive to instruct these youth (and ourselves) in living out the spirit-led, more than conquerors, life. Thanks for the insight. And by the way, we are totally stoked to officially meet you when you and Matt make the trip back here!
    In the Potter's hands,

    Todd Erickson