I remember as a child my mother telling me to think about what I am doing before I go through with it to make sure that it isn’t, first, illegal or, second, dishonoring to God. I was taught growing up, whether by my parents or Sunday school teachers or others, that everything I do should glorify God and, if what I was doing didn’t glorify Him, maybe I shouldn’t do it. Good, sound, Christian advice, right? Then, why do I want to take this teaching now, crumple it up, and throw it into a fire?
It’s not that my parents or Sunday school teachers were wrong. My life and everything I do should glorify God. They were right. But I wonder now what it is that actually brings glory to God, and I’ve struggled for years with condemnation and shame for wanting to do things that I wasn’t sure would honor God. When I was a teenager, my mother told me that I should honor God by working hard in my schooling and not slack off, not fall behind, not cheat, and that I should always do my best. I was homeschooled from first through twelfth grade, and I knew very well how to slack off, cheat, and only rarely got caught. I wasn’t really devoted to the Lord in my heart until I was sixteen, so I didn’t really care that I cheated on most of my work and did the bare minimum required of me. I just wanted to get through it. Keeping my mother from crying and getting mad at me was my motivation every day of high school to complete my academic duties. Apparently, I didn’t honor God with my school work.
After high school and into my twenties, as I grew closer to the Lord and my faith grew hotter, it seemed the best way to honor God according to most people was for me to become a missionary. Some people said I should go to seminary and become a pastor. Others said I should write books that teach about God. I felt a lot of pressure to glorify God by doing this, doing that, doing what other people had done to glorify Him.
Let it be known to you, the reader, that throughout my late teens and even into my mid-twenties, I wore gothic make up fairly often, regularly painted my finger nails and toe nails, got both of my eyebrows pierced on separate occasions, wore outlandish outfits including a man-skirt that were often hand-made by yours truly, dyed my hair a number of colors, and had a nasty cursing habit at times. I didn’t want to be a pastor. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a missionary. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or be. I knew I loved Japan, though, and I knew I loved art and fashion, world cultures and food, writing, reading, traveling, and masturbating. Were these things glorifying to God? I didn’t know. I knew I had failed, though, by cheating in high school and yet still managed to graduate. I knew people expected me to be a good, clean Christian. But I needed to know, and still today I need to know, that God looks at me and is proud of the man I have become. I’m not a pastor. Am I a missionary? I don’t know. But I’m God’s son. Doesn’t that mean anything to anyone?
I struggled a lot throughout my twenties with having interest in stuff or wanting to try something, but being afraid to do it because I wasn’t sure if it would honor God and I didn’t want to risk anything. I like making games. I always have. Board games, card games, etc. I’m quite the inventor when it comes to games. But, because these games are not Bible-centric — they’re just puzzle or strategy games — I have felt that producing them and showing them to anyone else would open me up to ridicule from other Christians, from God, or from myself, for wasting my time when there are Kingdom matters to attend to. I like fashion, but I’ve given up making my own clothes because I don’t have enough time, money, or space in my apartment to pursue this. Also, because there are Kingdom matters to attend to and making fashion matters little in light of eternity. There are a lot of hobbies and things I wanted to pursue in my teen years, but after slaving through a day of academics, I had no mental clarity or energy left to devote to anything more than six straight hours in front of the TV before jacking off and going to bed. There are a lot of hobbies and things I wanted to pursue in my twenties, but didn’t because I had little time, money, opportunity, or will power. I’d never learned how to pursue something that was in my heart. I’d never really learned how to live; only how to fulfill requirements and maintain a good Christian image. Now I’m thirty and I think it’s time for this trend in my life to stop.
I’m reading Rick Joyner’s book “The Harvest” now for the second time. In it, Joyner talks about how important it is not only for us to know who we are in Christ, but to know who Christ is in us. Who is Christ in me? I think, if I’m dead to flesh, alive in Christ, reborn in Him, if the old things are passed away and everything has become new, if the Spirit of God which raised Jesus from the dead is alive in me, and if I am submitted to His Lordship, then what bubbles up inside me and flows out must be from Him. Paul said in Galatians 5:19-21 that “the acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” The acts of the sinful nature are obvious. But I struggled from the time I was a teenager until just recently with worrying about doing things that were not obviously sinful. Is fashion sinful? No, but I had to think about it and, due to peer pressure or religious indoctrination or some other influence, I concluded that it was a waste of my time and I shouldn’t pursue it. I like inventing games and puzzles. Is that sinful? No, but I feel embarrassed about letting anyone know this about me when it seems there are more important things to do in this life.
There’s a war happening in Gaza right now. Hundreds of people are being killed. There’s violence in Syria, in Sudan, severe persecution in Iraq, human trafficking around the world, starvation, disease, flooding, disaster, and suffering at every turn; sometimes it seems like there are portals to hell that have opened up across the globe and an endless stream of evil is being poured out into humanity… and I want to sew a scarf and try out a new game I made with my friends. Does God still look down at me and smile? Is He still proud of me? Is He happy with me? Or am I wasting my time? Are these selfish ambitions?
I’m not sure this one is so obvious. Shouldn’t acts of the sinful nature result in evil? But if the Spirit of God is in me, why do I still have these desires and interests in things that are not obviously sinful? And if they aren’t sinful, is it okay for me to pursue them… passionately, devoting plenty of time and energy to them?
There’s a saying that’s popular now which goes, “God is glorified most by a man who’s fully alive.” Some men take that to justify going camping every month with their friends and working out at the gym every evening. I have to wonder where their wives and kids are and how they’re doing when they’re away being fully alive. I think God is glorified more by a man who’s fully dead, but has allowed the Spirit of Jesus to be fully alive through him.
Now I’m just wondering what that looks like for me, because, really, I would love to go camping.