01 February 2015

Help Me Die

Scary title, right? Before you jump to conclusions about what this means, take time to hear a small part of my story and why I want this.

I am selfish.

There - I said it - but it is true. Most people probably already knew this.
I think about me.
I look out for me.
I care about me.
I want the things I like.
I prefer to be satisfied.
I want to be happy.
I am an adult and I do what I want to.
Me, me, me.

Remember Jan Brady? She was frustrated that Marcia was getting all the attention. She would rather it were about her instead.

This type of thinking is why I fail. I must be more than just a wannabe.

On March 26, 1989 - I made a decision to follow Jesus and I chose to be baptized on July 14, 1990. I was not afraid to share at school, to spread the good news, to help others find what I had found. I remember being "on fire". I had a certain sense of purpose, a mission even. I had even went as far as applying and being accepted to Saint Paul Bible College - now known as Crown College. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. I was simply listening to what I thought God wanted me to do.

As if in response to this - God took me to another state and within months of graduation from high school was off to basic training for the US Army.


If you knew me as a high school kid - you would know that I was just some Jesus freak gymnast that really had no desire to get involved with the military. Once again, I was just trying to listen to what I thought God wanted me to do.

As a follower of Christ, I was excited but also very green behind the ears. I went from a life where I chose to submerse myself in church activities and surround myself with like-minded people to a very radical environment where choices were something we did not get very often, the activities were anything but church-like, and the people expressed a very diverse set of worldviews.

I survived, obviously, but I was different. I was trained to use weapons, I was hardened, I became impatient, and I gained a sense of needing to be in control. On the flip side, I also learned to be on time.

I still sought after God upon returning from BASIC and AIT but not quite with the same fervor. Since I was living in a new place, I tried a new church. Oh dear - that was a nightmare. As I recall, one of the Sunday school leaders told us that it would be bad for us to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarves because it was evil. Garbage in - garbage out, she would say. Ironically, I was working at a local gas station when they still rented VHS tapes. The same Sunday school leader came in and rented a handful of rated R films. My time at that church was very short lived.

I moved again to go to school - college - but not a biblical one. I got married, started having children, and started trying to build a career. I seem to recall trying a church here and there but never staying long or getting involved. I seemed to have lost my enthusiasm and desire for it. I had been sucked in by the world around me and started to think of myself a bit too much.

God was a part of my life but not as much as He should have been. I was totally dissing my friend Jesus. He was thinking of me but so was I and that is a problem. I should have been thinking of Him.

The image on the left is a somewhat popular way of thinking in our culture today. I think that some people genuinely use phrases like this one to help motivate people who are in a rut of some kind and are very well intentioned.

I cannot help but wonder, though, what type of "collateral damage" does the thinking represented by this statement create?

I am glad that Jesus chose to think of us first or we would not have access to the wonderful gift that He gave.

I would be lying if I said that I did not think there was a place for thinking of oneself but those examples mostly fall under the category of survival. I have experienced the "dog eat dog" competitive nature of the world. It is easy to get trampled. Please don't get me wrong - I don't think there is anything wrong with striving for excellence or being the best that you can be. The issue is one of the heart. Do I struggle with this? You bet!

I later went back to school because I thought that was what God wanted me to do. At the time, I was working several jobs to make ends meet and really felt like I needed to consolidate into a single job. After my wife and I had prayed over it, I recieved a phone call two days later from a college recruiter asking if I had thought about going back to school.


Yeah, I did go to school earlier and completed a two year degree. Going back to school again would allow me to get a four year degree and become a teacher. I listened to the call and started filling out an application. I began full-time college work the following Fall semester.

Oh boy, was that a ride! Not only did the school end up closing, forcing me to change my plans for a degree but after graduating, I had to do even more work in an alternative certification program. To top it off, before I could finish the program, I was called to war - Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I remember being angry that things were not going as I thought they should. I mean, God sent me on this path, right? Why all the obstacles? There I was focusing on myself again.

The war did not help my relationship with Jesus. It wasn't like there was a church for me to attend and there was an awful lot of let's just say "negativity" being poured into me during that time. I became bitter and increasingly frustrated by people in general. It was all about me and how I felt. It was all about staying alive and keeping others around me alive. It was all about not questioning orders. Woe is me, woe is me, woe is me.

I came home with an attitude. I was happy to be home but I really had no desire to be around people at all. I was only interested in retreating into my own little hole where I could think about myself and take care of me and how I felt. I did not want anyone else's input on it.


I may not have said it but I was thinking it.

I was an ugly person.

I eventually found work as a teacher but it was a 75 minute trip one way. The experience was not entirely positive either. I was still struggling with the certification process that was interrupted by the call to war. To make a long story shorter, I taught two years full time and then moved into the technology department. I eventually gained a proper certification and taught a few classes over the next few semesters while doing tech stuff. A nice benefit for being a veteran was some additional college funding. I was given 128 college credits and since I already completed an undergraduate degree, I decided to get a second one with an IT focus along with a graduate degree in education. Was this part of God's plans?

I retreated into my studies - full time work and full courseload for two different colleges. DON'T BUG ME - I HAVE SCHOOL WORK TO DO!

Through much encouragement from my wife and softening from the Holy Spirit, I decided to go back to church. I wasn't interested in talking to anyone though. I just wanted to go in, listen, and get out as fast as I could. I wanted to just be the guy that sneaks into the last row and disappears quickly after the pastor says Amen.

God, because He was still thinking about me, because He still loved me, began massaging the stiffness out of my heart. Work was pretty good, the child count increased to five, and I was slowly starting to recall what it was like to seek after God again. It was - it is - a good feeling.

Then I get this feeling that God wants me to make another change but it involves making some choices that are counter-intuitive to our culture. I am drive farther to take a job with less pay. I struggled with this but at the same time had peace about it. A sorf of relief. I felt as if God was asking me how much I was willing to sacrifice to follow him.

Let's just say that God's path is not necessarily a smooth path. The new position was extremely painful in many ways. I wasn't happy, my wife wasn't happy, and the bills did not stop coming. I have come to see that it was not a place to rest but a place for God to expose me to things along the way. He helped open my eyes to new things that are driving me towards acts for the Kingdom. He continues to mold me and shape me for His plans and for this I am grateful.

So, almost 26 years after deciding to follow Jesus, I am feeling, yet again, that Jesus is asking me to do something. I don't mind because I know that He knows what is best. That does not make the requests easy however.

I need to die.

This is not some sick suicide thing or a die with dignity thing.

This is much more than that.

I need help.

If I am to truly follow Jesus, I need to die.
The ME that is ME. The person of the world that I am must cease to exist.

You see, I still struggle with ME. I still think about me too much.

I am selfish.

My old self must die and I must be made new in Christ. So many years I have believed but now I must surrender myself, stop thinking about me and start thinking about Him. I need Him to help me think about others first - to put aside my own desires - to be the best that I can be for Him - to strive for excellence on behalf of the Kingdom. To set an example. Model the walk.

There's a Savior that took death from me,
There's a King that demands more from me,
And a Family that deserves better from me.

It is time to be more than a wannabe.
It is time to die.
For them.
For Him.

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