I stare at my students sitting quietly in my classroom, most of them analyzing the advertisement on the board. “You have a test on ethos, pathos, and logos, tomorrow!” I remind them, hoping the announcement motivates them to take this exercise seriously. As I walk around the classroom, in between desks looking at their work wishing the Christian life, too, was a streamlined, narrow pathway not a befuddling map with a broken compass, or a hallway of multiple rotating doors.
Sometimes, well, most of the time I wish the Holy Spirit would give us a time and date of when a test is approaching, because, as of lately, I am building a consistent history of failing them. As long as I have been a Christian, it appeared to me; maturity was an individual choice. I had the power to elevate myself spiritually; all I had to do was study, study, study! Then search for opportunities to practice the lessons my spirit accumulated.
Oh, how blissfully ignorant I was! Recollecting, I cannot determine whether my life was easier during my college and high school years or the way I coped with peer pressure, body dysmorphia, anxiety, and depression were easier, because my life lacked the multi-faceted nature and dimensionality it has now. I acknowledge my childhood differed and focusing on the Lord God was child’s play, especially when your parents’ are Christians, married, and maintained a healthy, growing environment. I know, I was indubitably blessed in this area.
Many of us adults would not kill to be a child again (not at the chance of losing our adult privileges), but to rub our palms together and say, “I quit!” walking away without consequences, oh yes, I miss this dearly. I don’t remember my life ever becoming this complicated. At what moment did I notice a surge in complications? Why are there so many middlemen and wicked agendas in the basic tasks of life? Incompetence was everywhere! Alas, I found myself in a bizarre yet predictable tug of war. The flesh yanked one way, and my spirit resisted. My spirit gave a mighty pull, and my flesh sought to gain the upper hand when I least expected it.
Many mornings, I stared at the wall, wanting the ceiling to fall on me. Hope, no longer a warm acquaintance but a bitter ex-lover visited less and less frequently. I was being drawn to the world, for I was losing heart and faith in my God. How can something so freeing to other people, seem so threatening and dangerous to me? All I wanted was a break, a little day off that is all. A night where I could throw my head back and laugh without fear or worry about tomorrow. A night where I could fulfill my dreams and be happy.
To embrace life’s experiences, and its pleasures, however, so much of living a fulfilling Christian life is built upon the principles that children of God do not draw our ultimate delight from the world. Jesus is our freedom. We live for God, not for ourselves. My predicament reminds me of Jesus’ famous parable of the prodigal son. The funny thing is I am neither one or the other. I am both.
I am the younger son, looking for myself, my identity, my pleasure, in the world, because I am so easily distracted. I am unhinged at the sight of Instagram photos (because I am lame), beautiful clothes, exotic places, and, every now, and again, a very cute face. At the same time, I am the older son, I have been overwhelmingly faithful to the Father; I go to church, volunteer, have bible study, and I find my heart becoming cold as I look down, judging people, growing a putrid self-righteous aroma.
Honestly, both brothers missed the picture. They were two sides of the same coin, two missing puzzle pieces. Both were self-righteous, but one came to the end of himself, realizing he was nothing without his Father and the other one was too blinded by his pride to recognize the eternal love his father had for him.
So, which one are you? Which path have you taken?
Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken” is a poem only about how the path, the speaker does not take has made all the difference in his life. When walking a path, we acquire a whole onslaught of positive and negative consequences. We experience circumstances we may not see if we do not choose the path. It is not only a matter of free will, but it is also the path carves permanency into our lives, we cannot undo, and we must be careful, primarily as Christians to be led by the Holy Spirit, leaning not unto our own understanding, for it is of grave importance that we do not waste our lives. Fulfillment and abundance are gifts from Jesus Christ. Abundance is overflowing. Fulfillment is satisfaction beyond oneself. Jesus promises both to Christians who would voluntarily lay down their lives to serve Him and do His Will.
To me, it is quite simple, decide on this day what path you would take, what God you will serve.