True Self

But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.

John 1:13

Benji is getting much more into drawing and art these days. When he makes a mistake, he stops and throws the entire drawing away, no matter how much work he put into the drawing up until that point.

It reminds me of myself when I was younger: if it’s not perfect, it’s not good enough.

I think the hardest lesson for me to learn so far in life has been to let go of having to be perfect and accept my mistakes. Learning to embrace failure as an opportunity to improve and learn, instead of beat myself up, to “try my best to do my best,” as Benji’s preschool teachers always said.

That’s been part of my journey towards being more my child-of-God self. It’s a lesson internalized through long years of trying and failing, trying again, and again, and again – and being okay with it. I keep coming back to the phrase I read in Life of the Beloved, about a broken glass: “I never knew something broken could shine so brightly.”

Sharing Light

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:4

This time of year, it’s dark. We are down to less than 9 hours from sunrise to sunset, and it’s so cloudy that even midday feels like dusk.

I especially notice the dark when I’m commuting home on the bike path. The trail isn’t lit; some places have ambient light from nearby roads or houses, but some sections are practically pitch dark. In those places, my light literally is all that keeps me safe.

I recently replaced an old light, whose battery was on its last legs, with a new and very powerful light. It’s impressively bright.

The other night, I commuted home with another guy who was going to Lake Forest Park. This happens occasionally when I’m going about the same speed as another longer commuter. It’s nice to have company, and sometimes extra motivation. This particular time, as we rode through the darkest sections, the guy’s headlight went out. We rode the rest of the way to Lake Forest Park side by side, literally sharing the light.

Blazing

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;

the darkness cold not put it out.

John 1:5

It seems like we live in a time of darkness ascendant, when the worst excesses of our natures come out to be glorified. Our current president just embodies this drive, but he didn’t invent it and if it wasn’t there, he wouldn’t have been elected.

In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller talks about how we idolize good things: family, country, working, earning money. Things that we should value, yes — but not above all else. When one thing comes comes to define who you are, your value, the meaning of your life, that thing has gone from being one good thing among many to being an idol.

It feels like right now we’ve agreed as a culture to embrace the darkness in our hearts. We reject those in need, those different from us, those we don’t understand. We accept selfishness, greed, inequality, and all manner of ills stemming from the Me First approach.

Today’s verse, part of the beginning of the Advent season, reminds me to things: One, I have that light in me, and it is meant to blaze. What does that look like in my life? And, two, although things look terrible dark now, the light wins in the end. That doesn’t mean we stop struggling; it means there’s hope.

Thankfulness

I read somewhere that human brains are better at remembering bad events than good ones. It was something to do with how, in the distant evolutionary past, people needed to remember the things that were dangerous — oh, there’s where the saber tooth tiger attacked. I’d better avoid that place now. This makes sense, from a pure survival standpoint. It’s better to survive and have a memory full of terrifying events than to be eaten because you forgot.

In today’s world, however, this isn’t such a great feature. Now it’s a little too easy to remember how traffic lights were all against me, or that package I ordered took longer to arrive than I thought, or how this person it that person slighted me.

In fact, we Americans mostly live in the comfiest, safest, most luxurious environment imaginable. Kings in the past weren’t as warm, dry, and well-fed as we are today. Compared to how people lived for all of history, and how some people live in other parts of the world today, we are unbelievably, unimaginably well off.

I want to remember this when my booties are soaking wet because I’ve ridden in the rain every day of the week and I never have time to get them to dry. I have a really nice bike, and all sorts of fabulous gear to make it more comfortable, and the opportunity to ride.

I want to remember this when I’m stuck in traffic, slogging slowly to work. I have a job I love and a great bus to ride and the opportunity to work.

I want to remember this when I look in the fridge and can’t think what to make. We have a home, with a fridge, with electricity, and good food, and all the accoutrements needed to cook.

I have so much to be thankful for.

November Thoughts

The sun comes up in one minute, at 7:22 am, today. It sets at 4:26 pm, but odds are we won’t see it for any of those nine hours and six minutes, thanks to the (likely) thousands of feet of cloud cover above us. Granted, that cloud cover seems to be coming down as fast as it can, drenching everyone in the process.

On days like this, everyone on the bus steams and drips and tries to keep their dampness to themselves — at least a token gesture that’s appreciated, even if in practice it’s utterly futile. Little streams meander off every umbrella and down the floor.

On days like this, traffic snarls to a halt, an ocean of watery red lights reflecting off wet black tarmac and wet dark cars. Colors don’t exist beyond the well-lit confines of our bus; outside, through the foggy windows, we see red taillights, white headlights, and gray everything else.

On days like this, people who moved here from warmer, sunnier climes–pretty much everywhere that isn’t Alaska–start feeling depressed. They remember the California sunshine, so reliable even in November, or of the bright dazzle of sun glinting off snow, or the bursts of autumnal leaves backlit with glancing afternoon rays. They forget the misery of drought, the constant shoveling of snow, the endless raking of leaves. How can we live this way for another five months? they wonder.

What I think of is the glory of the Olympic Mountains, dark indigo and white in the distance, with water gray-blue below and the sky coldly blue above. I think of the evergreen trees coating the rolling Cascade foothills like a dark green blessing, hazing off into snow-capped peaks. I think of the silhouette of hillsides vanishing into mist. I think of the joy of Christmas lights twinkling through the dark and reflecting off of rain-wet roads, doubling the glitter.

I don’t think about all the wet, dark tomorrows. I think about the bursts of clean-washed beauty that come between the rains.

Yes, my heart sinks at my inevitable damp clothes, my soaked-through rain jacket, the need to stuff shoes with newspaper every night and hope they’ll dry before morning. But I love this place, and every day, rain or shine, I am thankful to live here.

Where Is Heaven?

This real conversation (paraphrased here) happened tonight as I said goodnight.

B: I feel scared alone upstairs. (We’ve discussed this before, numerous times.)
Me: You’re never alone. Jesus is already with you.
B: I thought Jesus was in heaven.
Me: (thinking quickly, wanting to avoid confusion about the Trinity) Jesus is everywhere.
B: Does that mean heaven is everywhere??
Me: …Ask the pastor at church next time you see him. They study this stuff in pastor school.

Bit of a cop out, but it’s amazing how quick a five-year-old gets into murky theology. I’d love to explore that, buddy, but not as part of your trying to stall going to bed.