Food for thought from "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller:
If you don't love somebody, it gets annoying when they tell you what to do or what to feel. When you love them you get pleasure from their pleasure, and it makes it easy to serve.
It is hard for us to admit we have a sin nature because we live in this system of checks and balances. If we get caught, we will be punished. But that doesn't make us good people; it only makes us subdued. ... The genius of the American system is not freedom; the genius of the American system is checks and balances. ... It is as if the founding fathers knew, intrinsically, that the soul of man, unwatched, is perverse.
I am the problem.
I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest
I know now, from experience, that the path to joy winds through this dark valley. I think every well-adjusted human being has dealt squarely with his or her own depravity. I realize this sounds very Christian, very fundamentalist and browbeating, but I want to tell you this part of what the Christians are saying is true. I think Jesus feels strongly about communicating the idea of our brokenness, and I think it is worth reflection. Nothing is going to change in the Congo until you and I figure out what is wrong with the person in the mirror.
What was more frustrating than the loss of exhilaration was the return of my struggles with sin. I had become a Christian, so why did I still struggle with lust, greed, and envy?
I love to give charity, but I don't want to be charity. This is why I have so much trouble with grace.
A few years ago I was listing prayer requests to a friend. As I listed my requests, I mentioned many of my friends and family but never spoke about my personal problems. My friend candidly asked me to reveal my own struggles, but I told him no, that my problems weren't that bad. My friend answered quickly, in the voice of a confident teacher, "Don, you are not above the charity of God." In that instant he revealed my motives were not noble, they were prideful. It wasn't that I cared about my friends more than myself, it was that I believed I was above the grace of God.
I lay there under the stars and thought of what a great responsibility it is to be human. I am a human because God made me. I experience suffering and temptation because mankind chose to follow Satan. God is reaching out to me to rescue me. I am learning to trust Him, learning to live by His precepts that I might be preserved.
Andrew is the one who taught me that what I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.
Authenticity is an enormous value at [my church]. I love this because by being true I am allowing people to get to know the real me, and it feels better to have people love the real me than the me I invented.
Bill set down his coffee and looked me in the eye. "Don," he said, "If we are not willing to wake up in the morning and die to ourselves, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether or not we are really following Jesus."
My friend Julie from Seattle says the key to everything rests in the ability to receive love, and what she says is right because my personal experience tells me so. I used to not be able to receive love at all, and to this day I have some problems, but it isn't like it used to be. My eye would find things on television and in the media and somehow I would compare myself to them without really knowing I was doing it, and this really screwed me up because I never for a second felt I was worthy of anybody's compliments.
He was saying I would never talk to my neighbor the way I talked to myself, and that somehow I had come to believe it was wrong to kick other people around but it was okay to do it to myself. ... I would not let myself receive love from myself, from others, or from God. And I wouldn't receive love because it felt so wrong. It didn't feel humble and I knew I was supposed to be humble. But that was all crap, and it didn't make any sense. ...
And so I have come to understand that strength, inner strength, comes from receiving love as much as it comes from giving it. I think apart from the idea that I am a sinner and God forgives me, this is the greatest lesson I have ever learned.
I think the most important thing that happens within Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus.