Monday, February 14, 2011

Some personal reflections

I've been studying the Gospel of Matthew using with various commentaries, among them Matthew Henry's exhaustive work. While going through the temptations of Christ in the desert, in particular the second one atop the Temple, I read Matthew Henry's words: "God casts down, that he may raise up; the Devil raises up, that he may cast down..."

This gave me some time to contemplate on my experiences in the past two years, as well as my experiences recently, and how much it's changed dramatically. At the beginning of 2009 I had a full-time job, benefits, my own apartment, able to take care of myself, etc. Now, at the beginning of 2011, I have a part-time job, relying on benefits provided by my parents, renting a room, and surviving bit by bit. For a person in his mid-20's, that can be a great shock, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't lead to a few "quarter-life crisis" moments every now and then.

However, I have to put things in perspective: what, exactly, did I lose? When I graduated college I practically had comfortable living handed over to me, and almost overnight I had enough to live by along with a decent amount of disposable income. In truth, I wasted much of it while wallowing in the more comfortable aspects of my lifestyle. Coming to know Christ did not fully destroy that. Although I had experienced my intellectual conversion, it took a spiritual beating to get my heart in order.

A great deal of pride, self-reliance, and perhaps some self-love came with my journey through my first church. All that changed throughout the year of 2009 when I lost my job, lost my apartment, left the city I had lived in for three years, lost my car, and eventually lost my connection with those I knew in Eastern Orthodoxy. I lost everything that I had clung onto in my early years as a Christian. Indeed, they were everything that had fueled that pride and self-reliance. Life had changed so dramatically for me that it became a serious test of faith - just where was that God who was supposed to be there for me? Christ had rebuked the storm in the Sea of Galilee, yet here I was, in the midst of my own storm, and it seemed to have increased into a hurricane. I prayed and yet situations grew worse. Was I praying to empty air? Was there really any truth for me to believe in? Why did I continue to suffer?

Yet I have now, by God's grace, been able to see much of the providence given to me by the Lord. No, I'm not in my own apartment, but I have a roof over my head which I help pay for, and in these Kansas City winters I cry out to God in thanks for that. No, I don't have a full-time job with benefits like I did before, but I have an income, and I make enough to survive, and for that I am grateful. Yes, I don't have the 2004 Dodge Neon, but I now drive a cute little 2010 Kia Rio5 that serves my needs. The first church I went to had a congregation in the hundreds, whereas my current church has membership that barely reaches forty...yet they are godly people, and they have welcomed me with open arms. I got all I could have ever wanted literally two days after graduation, and it was all taken from me just as quickly as it was given - yet now, gradually, over the past two years, things are starting to be rebuilt. None of the credit goes to myself, but rather I pass all glory and honor and praise to the Almighty God who has provided it for me. I still have a long way to go, and I know that God will have much more maturing in store. God has knocked me down, but He is building me back up, bit by bit, remodeling me into the person He desires.

What have I learned the most about my current situation? That it took me two years to learn to be a child of God...and now I am learning to be a man of God. Soli Deo gloria!