I Wear Pull-Ups

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Potty training is hard work. Right now my wife and I are in the process with our daughter, so for the past couple weeks we’ve become Toilet Sentries. We watch the clock, frequently ask her if she has to go, and scuttle her to the potty approximately forty times a day. And it’s not like our daughter appreciates our efforts. At times she’s run away, hidden so we can’t see her do her business, or cried atop her Elmo seat. Sometimes we simply wanted to scrap the idea altogether. What’s wrong with a twelve-year-old in diapers anyway?

Luckily we’re in a phase where she’s made significant progress. She wears pull-ups and can go almost the entire day in the same one. Without constant reminders, however, she’d easily revert to her old ways: doing her business in her pants.

It struck me this week that too often my faith is like this. I make progress trusting God, but without constant reminders, I make a mess of my life. To be honest, I’m having a tough time trusting that I’m where God wants me to be. Or maybe I’m where He wants me to be, but I don’t want to be there anymore. Ever have that feeling?

I feel dry, and not in the good sense, like how I hope my daughter is when I check her every fifteen minutes. It’s more like a burden, and I’ve identified a few reasons. Last week I had surgery on something that didn’t hurt, and now that it’s “fixed” I can’t move around much. For someone who’s pretty active, it’s been tough. Also, I’m a teacher, and it seems the decision-makers in my state no longer appreciate what I do. Decision after painful legislative decision fills me with mourning for my students, myself, and my colleagues. Finally, I’m on vacation (I know, boo-hoo, right?) and until this blog haven’t written a new word in a week. Not a good sign for someone who fancies himself a writer. As I list all of my complaints, my life starts to look and feel like the inside of my daughter’s diaper (gotta love that imagery).

But even as I write this, I know these are all excuses. Because here’s more of what’s wrong: aside from the prayers I pray with my daughter, I haven’t offered much spiritual conversation in a week, I skipped church Sunday and didn’t refill the tank in any substantial way, and I haven’t been reading my Bible. I’ve not done what Paul advised when he said, “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). I’ve been a child in my thinking (1 Cor 14:20).

How’s that for confession?

What I’m rediscovering is that my spiritual situation is self-induced. Unless I allow it, no one and no thing can stand between me and my God. Not abdominal pain, not short-sighted legislative decisions, and not my lethargic attempts to break my writer’s block. They’re distractions. They’re road bumps I’ve made into walls when I can just as easily let God send me speeding over them.

I have the choice. It’s in my hands. But sometimes it’s more comfortable to stay where I am. To wallow in the muck of my own self-pity.

I bet my daughter feels that way sometimes.

Maybe I should take a lesson from her and start making some progress. It’s time to put on my big-boy-pants and do something about the spiritual mess I created. If you’re where I am, hopefully you can do the same.

Why Your State of Being Pleases God

Image courtesy nuttakit / freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy nuttakit / freedigitalphotos.net

As I stated in an earlier blog (check here to catch up), sometimes God calls people to just be, to put down the work and the business and rest in Him. But why is the Creator of all things so concerned with me and my state of being? Doesn’t He have more important things to do? Thankfully, no. For proof, let’s consider the story of how He created us in Genesis.

Point 1: He created you “in His own image” (Gen. 1:27)

Theologians disagree about exactly what it means to be created in His image. However two things they seem to agree on are that 1. God doesn’t physically look like me and you (which would be hard to do since you and I look different—“Not so,” says my handsome doppelganger.) and 2. mankind was made in the likeness of God, whereas the rest of Creation was not. We hold a special place with God because of our god-likeness. No other part of creation holds his image. It sets us apart and demonstrates our importance to Him.

Point 2: The Ordered Universe Ends with Man

One can’t read the creation story without seeing the order that’s drawn from chaos. God clearly displays his rationality as he orders a place to sustain and provide for His final and most loved creation: Man. As descendants of his first created, we can look at our importance two ways. Gerald Robison and Bob Sjogren, authors of Cat and Dog Theology, humorously phrase it this way:

“A dog may look at you and think, ‘You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me—You must be god!’ On the other hand a cat can look at you and say, ‘You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me—I must be god!’”

As a dog person, it’s clear that God invites me to love Him because He first loved me.

Point 3: “He rested” (Gen. 2:2)

When I teach Genesis in class, students often ask, “Why did God stop creating on the seventh day?” I generally respond with a question (very Socratic, don’t you think?): “What do you usually do when you finish your work?”

Unfortunately the obvious answer isn’t always the way of things, especially in our time-obsessed, more-is-better, rat-race lives. But God sets the example: when you’ve done the good work He’s set you to do, rest. It’s illogical to do anything else, and as displayed in Points 1 and 2, God is logical and created you to be like Him.

Point 4: He is a God of connection (Gen. 3:7-11)

In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit and hide, God comes to them and asks, “Where are you?” When Adam responds, “When I heard you, I hid because I was naked.” God asks, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Now either God truly doesn’t know the answers to His questions, which doesn’t fit with his omniscient nature, or He has another purpose in mind. Like a good parent who already knows his daughter colored on the wall and tried to cover her misdeed by pasting pictures of horsies over it, God isn’t as interested in punishing as he is in reconnecting. He uses his questions to eliminate Adam and Eve’s barrier to Him (disobedience & sin) by allowing the opportunity for confession. God obviously loves them and wants the best for them. And what’s best is to be close to God.

What’s interesting is that He doesn’t call them to reconnect by doing anything; the punishments He gives demonstrate the results of sin (literally, death) but aren’t part of the reconnection process. Instead, God makes Himself available and calls Adam and Eve to be near—physically, in this case (since they are hiding), and spiritually through confession and forgiveness.

What it tells us

There’s something beautiful about a perfect God who endows us with an element of Himself, about an ordered God who goes ahead and prepares a way, about an inexhaustible God who models the rest he knows we need, about a forgiving God who knows every fault and wants us anyway.

Our state of being is a reflection of our connection to His spirit. Since our ancestors first disobeyed, we’ve invented a million and one new ways to blow up our lives and try to sacrifice our relationship with God. Lucky for us, our state of being matters to Him. It pleases Him. And he’s forever seeking to reestablish His bond with us, if we’ll only let him.