Captain's Log; Stardate 42115
Tensions continue to rise as the impending summer looms overhead like a tower of blackened cumulonimbus rumbling in the distance. The threat of storm brings fear and anxiety with the relief of the fresh water that quenches the bone dry ground.
April is almost over, and that means so is school. What students view as the off season, those of us in ministry see as prime time. It's when we have the most opportunity to make a deep impact in the lives of students. August through May, we're constantly competing with school, homework, band practice, football practice, finals, studying, and whatever else comes with the fall.
But when June rolls around....
Many of the responsibilities of school fade away like a waning layer of snow revealing the beautiful lawn of freedom beneath.
We have the chance to engage with our youth in a more relaxed environment, an environment that is more natural, unscheduled, intentional. The opportunity to make this the Best Summer Ever is there; all it takes is a little planning and a shepherd's heart.
When we have a deep understanding of the impact and ramifications of the Gospel, the natural response is a desperate love for those in need of the transformative work of Christ.
The end of March also brought the end of our study of the life of Joseph.
Genesis Joseph, not New Testament Joseph.
We were looking at the incredible life of the first savior of Israel over a span of six weeks, and I had never fallen so in love with a bible character as much as Joseph.
Talk about a man of faith!
In the beginning, I wasn't sure how I felt about him...
The scene is set with Jacob playing family crushing favoritism, picking Joseph as his most beloved son. Ironically enough, it was favoritism and jealousy that tore his own family apart and ripped open a rift between his brother and him.
Out of Jacob's four wives, Rachel is his favorite, so naturally, Rachel's first born son is his favorite. The only problem is he already had ten sons. Joseph was number eleven of twelve, and the other ten brothers hated Joseph for being their father's favorite.
Jacob treats Joseph differently than his brothers, giving him gifts, privileges, easier work, authority over his older brothers. The bible goes to tell us that they HATED him. That gives a good foundation explaining their hearts towards him.
But what about Joseph?
Is Joseph an arrogant, gloating punk, lazy, prideful, and manipulative?
Or is he naiive, young, loving and obedient to his father?
The bible doesn't describe his heart or his motivations. It does go on to describe a boy growing in to a man sustained only by his trust in the promises of God, triumphing over hate, slavery, anger, lust, and saving millions of people.
I came to a conclusion:
Our opinion of Joseph's obedience reveals more about our own heart than his. We are given no other information than that he was loving and obedient to his father and that he made a mistake sharing his divinely inspired dream.
In the beginning of the story, I found myself sneering at this kid, almost feeling condemned by him. I could see myself standing beside Judah, shaking my head and rolling my eyes every time he opened his mouth. What an arrogant weasel.
Then it hit me. I'm threatened and feel condemned by him. I don't know Joseph's heart, but I can see that his father likes him so much better than he likes me, and that makes me feel insecure about how loved I am.
And it's not just with Joseph. The more time I spend in the church world, I find myself feeling threatened and disliking people because I see them as people more deserving of the love of the Father. They give more money, read their bible more, worship better, have better answers at bible study, are involved in more ministries, have more friends, bigger youth groups, know more original language, can use bigger theological terms, have bigger degrees, and they smell better.
We look at them, and we feel inferior to them, and when we feel inferior, like a scared chihuahua, we bare our teeth and get defensive. The exposure of our own weaknesses causes us to lash out in defense of ourselves. We hurl out words like "religious" or "judgmental" when we couldn't possibly know their heart. All we know is that they seem to be better than us. They deserve the love of God more, and we can't stand watching them be better in their betterness.
Like we're not in the same family. We envy them because we feel they have more of God's approval or God loves them more, but we are not a nomadic family of Hebrews in the desert with a flawed human father who picks favorites. Our Heavenly Father loves impartially and eternally. God loves more than you can imagine, despite our sins and jealousy that cause us to tear at each other.
But this prideful comparison goes both ways. We can look up to people and compare ourselves to them and scowl, or we can look down on people we see as below us and scowl. In both cases, we are taking the opinion of someone else or our own and elevating it to a place where God's opinion is almost irrelevant.
We say things like, "I know what God says, but...." or "God is the most high, but..." or maybe "My faith is number one in my life, but..."
I'm guilty of it, and I've been doing it for months now, and it wasn't until God revealed it to me through the account of Joseph that I saw this in myself. I've been looking at a Christian brother with such disdain and defensiveness that it has put a rift between us. I saw his incredible biblical knowledge and convictions as a commentary of my own personal failures and it boiled me. Every comment made me grit my teeth and any criticism was confronted with bitterness and defensiveness.
If I were to claim "that's not like me!" then that would only reveal how ignorant I am to my still flawed heart. God is still continuing to sanctify me everyday. It's a good reminder to remember that God will never finish sanctifying you until this beautifully designed meat sack stops working.
Since discovering this about myself, I've had to pray that God would adjust my heart's goggles. I've been looking at him not as competitor for God's approval and affections, but as a coheir with Christ. This powerhouse of a Christian is not a rival or archnemesis, but my brother in Christ, my fellow soldier, and my team member. I'm honored to have a man like him on my team.
So if you guys missed our study of Joseph, bummer. The whole six week series was centered around God's promises and how living according to the promises of God creates hope, peace, and victory.
Anyways! I'm getting married in..... 66 days, 1 hour, and 48 minutes at the moment I'm typing this. I have a countdown app, don't worry, I'm not just a creeper. I'm not that numerically talented anyways. There's a short list of to-do stuff like pick a first dance song, finalize flowers, get married, stuff like that, but other than that, we're right on top of it! In a few weeks, Haylee is moving up here to Las Vegas for good. She'll officially be a Las Vegan, and I'm not ashamed to tell the cyber world that she's a little nervous. Aaaaand so am I. Not nervous like hunting raptors in the jungles of Isla Nublar, but nervous like I'm sitting in the pilot seat of a space shuttle.
Did you watch Interstellar with Matthew McConaghey and Anne Hathaway? Ugh. Phenomenal. Beautiful flick.
So in a few weeks, Haylee will be moving here, I'll be moving in to an apartment that will become our first home, the psycho summer Uth schedule begins, and we have to finish planning for camp. I am so excited and so terrified! Stay tuned for crazy rants and observations that I discover about myself when the pressure is really laid on me. A wise man once said;
"If you want to know what kind of fruit a tree really produces, bump it, and see what falls off." In times of trials and tumultuous circumstances, our true character is revealed.
It's Wednesday, so you know what that means. Time to get my Uth on.