Sunday, December 16, 2012

Man Up 2012 - A Year In Review - Part 1

It seems so crazy to me how the year 2012 has come and gone so quickly. It's also crazy to me that there were times the days would drag on, never seeming to end.

Looking back at the year I dubbed "Man Up 2012", I have to stop and ask myself the one thing that demands an answer: Did I really man up? In the next few weeks I'm going to post a few entries dedicated to this subject to find out for sure.

These posts aren't about to be a play by play of my life or a diary of any sorts. I have taken some time to think about these posts and I've decided to write down the things that were most meaningful. These are the moments that I took something away and will keep with me the rest of my life.

I succeeded many times this year, I also failed many times this year. Each experience has taught and molded me into a wiser man of God, even if only a little bit. In many ways, It seems I had to fall far away from God in order to become closer to Him. In many ways, I had to figure out that a life of a Christian man is not a life of ease or comfort. It's become clear to me that the days I am most comfortable are the days I am not challenged in any way. Comfort is a place of complacency that looks like joy, it feels like joy, but it isn't true joy at all. Comfort tells us that we are satisfied with everything exactly the way it is. We don't want anyone to touch it. We don't want to work for anything else. We don't want to step outside of that "comfort zone" for fear of losing what we deem is enough.

The question may arise "Isn't comfort in God/Christ a good thing?" and I answer that by saying that Gods comfort is a good thing to seek out and find -- obviously. Gods comfort is different in that He continues to push us and challenge us. God never just leaves us in one spot. We are always growing and learning when we're truly seeking Him out in any way -- even in comfort. The type of comfort that paralyzes us is the one we should be most afraid of, and the one of which I speak.

I digress.

This post isn't to preach on comfort or stepping outside of your box. I am merely conveying that the first thing I learned this year is that complacent comfort is never truly satisfying or beneficial in the long run. It is a mirage that gives us nothing of true spiritual substance.

Why else would we hear in James 1:2-4 that we should consider it joy when we are going through trial? Because a comfortable life doesn't finish it's work in us. Perseverence through trial DOES finish its work in us -- to the extent that we are not lacking ANYTHING.

This post is simply setting up the theme of this year -- Man Up 2012 was a mixture of several learning experiences for me. It is obvious that the overlapping theme that God wanted me to grasp was that I could not man up at all without learning to be totally and utterly uncomfortable -- This lead to an even stronger reliance in Him.

As you'll see in my next entries, this story is just beginning.

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"I paid for this"

It's been quite awhile since I've last written anything. No blogs or journal, nothing to write down my thoughts or opinions. I'm honestly not very good at expressing myself on any type of journal, with the exception of the occasional moments of brillance where I feel like I HAVE to write something down.

Lately, I've been feeling that I need to write something. Not because I wanted to do it just for the sake of doing it, but rather, I've had a reoccuring thought that I can't seem to shake. Most of the time I shake it off and just think "eh, it's just a random thought" and that's the end of it. Not this time. This time I need to speak out.

As some of you know, back in October I participated in an obstacle course called "Tough Mudder" For those of you who have never heard of it, Tough Mudder is a 12 mile obstacle course (with usually about 20 obstacles) through backwood terrain, built by British Special Forces -- (Yeah, I know) It was a bit intense, to say the least. It had fire/smoke, electrical wire fields, artic water, and lots of mud. You PAID to do this and even signed a death waiver before you did it. The way I explain how the experience was -- Awesome and Awful.

That day there was a high of 55 degrees with a windchill of 50. You can't really wear a coat or anything warm while you're participating, so it's pretty much you and the elements. Oh, and the artic water I mentioned before -- was the second obstacle. You are immediately thrown into survival mode. You have to keep yourself warm by running and moving, without stopping for anything. You are leaping walls, jumping over logs, and crawling on your stomach in the cold mud. The water splashes your face. The wind reminds you how vulnerable you are. You're exerting yourself to stay warm, while pacing yourself just to keep going. Thankfully, I was not alone on this quest of toughness as my friends Chelsea, Brad, and Lauren joined the fun.

There were several points throughout this day where there were "traffic jams", as I liked to call them. People would get to an obstacle or to a point where they didn't know what to do, so people stopped and waited or made up their own "route" to go. Our specific Tough Mudder was in Maysville, KY and the hills were steep as ever. After many muddy people walked the hilly paths up and down, the paths lost all traction and simply became muddy slides. People started going off path to avoid these muddy trails, and I'll admit I did this for a time. After awhile, I got frustrated with it and said four iconic words that stay with me to this day -- "I paid for this." Those words were my motivation. Those words were my driving force. Those words became my catch phrase throughout the day. I clung to them as if they were my warm blanket. I sipped on them as if a hot cup of coffee.

I took the hardest roads and faced every demon on that course from there on out. I attempted every obstacle and didn't let anything hold me back. When everyone else looked at the slip n slide that had electric wires hanging a few inches above it and said "No thanks!" I looked at that slip n slide and said "I PAID FOR THIS." and leaped with wreckless abandon. Sure, I ended up swallowing muddy water and getting shocked a few times, but I did it -- and dang did it feel good!

You see, some people will look at what I did and say "That's just an excuse to be wreckless." or "You didn't gain anything from it." and my response to those people is that life is not merely about playing it safe. Life is not about cutting corners and taking the easy way out. You get your hands dirty and you experience life. Sometimes you swallow the muddy, gritty water. Sometimes you cut your knees on the rocks in the mud. Sometimes you get shocked by lifes electrical wires. You breathe in the smoke from the fiery trials of existence. You. Live. Life.

My catch phrase is the not the same one I use in my everyday life, it is slighty different. It's different in this way. Instead of saying "I paid for this." I say "Jesus paid for this." And with those words I remember my savior who died, and gave me a real life to live. A savior who commanded "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.." (Matt 28:19)

Jesus certainly didn't tell me that life would be an easy ride to paradise. (Matt 24:9), nor did He tell me to live a sacrifice-free life (Mark 8:34-35)

He told me, through Paul, to run the race -- "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)

I don't know about you, but I have zero desire in my heart to live a life that does not have risks. I don't wan't to play it safe. I don't want easy. I want my spirit to sweat. I want to hurt so bad that it delights my soul.

We finished that obstacle course -- five hours later. I was tired. I was worn out. I slept like a baby that night - and I am so thankful that I did it without any limitations. No regrets. Left everything on that course.

Christ took the hardest road imaginable to save my weary soul, should I not do the same for His ultimate glory in my everyday life? If He can carry the cross through the mud, I must too live a life that takes me through the mud as I carry my cross. (Matthew 16:24-26)

We all have a story, and the beauty is this my friends, when you give it all you've got and keep going for His name sake -- you win. (Hebrews 6:10 - Psalm 37:27-29 - John 3:16 - Romans 8:38-39)