How can we possibly know the future, and jeopardize it for the moment? We can’t possibly be sure that current actions won’t bring future hurt. Better to trust God than your own logic, IMO.
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My friend Roby Duke (now with Jesus) once said this to a group of song writers: “Your inspiration is perfect, but your songwriting needs work”.
We can be wonderfully inspired to express ourselves, but not quite have the ability, time, or energy to rightly say what we are trying to say. Perhaps the inspiration is fighting against good common sense that would tell us to slow down and think it through. Now is such a moment for me. The inspiration is perfect. I am rushing ahead. I hope this comes out O.K.
QUESTION: “It is easy to live vicariously through others, but is that really living?”
Let’s start with one of many definitions for the word “vicarious”.
“Felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others”: a vicarious thrill.
There is a place for such experience in moderation, but our world is making it increasingly easy for people to feel emotions that don’t have any corresponding personal experience.
We can dial up, Google, Net Flix, read, browse, or Pay Per View our way to any emotion we want, without ever having to actually “do” something that requires dedication, effort, commitment, or faith.
If there was ever a generation that could become addicted to “feeling without doing”, that generation is now.
One might ask what the danger or problem is with living vicariously through the great accomplishments of others. Some of that might be O.K., in that it might inspire us to aspire to do great things. Plus, it certainly feels good to feel good. So what’s the problem?
The problem is this: That kind of living, if it becomes the habitual lifestyle of a person, does nothing to produce in them the quality traits needed to actually enjoy those emotions from first hand accomplishment.
I understand that some of the things that “thrill” us are only for a few to actually experience. We can’t all go out and win gold medals, climb Mt. Everest, or do world tours singing about changing the world.
But I wonder, if vicarious living comes to satisfy us to the point that we don’t pursue what we COULD BE DOING, then has it gone too far? I say “yes”: then it has gone to far.
So….what is it that you are actually supposed to be doing?
I submit to you that actually desiring, struggling, sacrificing, and dedicating one’s self on a personal level is far more important than taking the vicarious route of simply feeling the goose bumps from someone else’s accomplishment. The satisfaction that comes from personal accomplishment is much more valuable than enjoying someone else’s “bigger than life” accomplishment.
Finally, if you are a follower of Jesus, then He wants to live through you. Your part is to surrender, seek His will, believe His promises, walk in holiness by His power, and take small and big steps of faith in responding to what He wants to do through you.
That process has been the most satisfying part of my life, whenever I have actually gotten out of the way long enough for it to happen. The small victories of having my life so bound up in His life have been the most satisfying experiences of my life. My experiences may not compare to some of the great accomplishments of others, but they don’t need to. They are my experiences with God, and I can have first hand satisfaction from them.
Rich Mullins said it well: “Jesus, write me into Your story…whisper it to me.”
The words “hearing” and “listening” are very similar, and yet for the purpose of this article, allow me to offer a distinction.
Hearing: the faculty or sense by which sound is perceived.
Listening: the act of hearing attentively.
Those who hear the words of Jesus need to put forth effort to hear Him with sincerity of heart. It is entirely possible to hear the words of Jesus, and see His works among men, but still be deaf and blind to the realities of Who He is.
In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke the parable of The Sower. When He finished, His disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables. Consider the ramifications of His response to their question.
2007 was a year of new discoveries for me. I discovered that there was a lot I didn’t understand. The discoveries were not regarding book knowledge, but heart knowledge. The things of life. Let me explain.
In June, I became the “father of the bride”. I was blindsided, even though Sarah and Caleb were engaged for months. Caleb asked me well in advance to court Sarah, and then after many months, asked for her hand in marriage. I wasn’t surprised about what was going on, and I knew how this was going to turn out, but I was completely surprised about my reactions to it all.
As their wedding day approached, I was increasingly struck with thoughts and questions about how well I had done as a father. My only daughter was leaving “me”, and this was it. There wasn’t going to be any “do-overs”. I had raised her to follow Jesus, and now she had the nerve to actually follow Jesus, and to be joined to this young man. I was going to have to trust “this guy” to take care of my Princess. (Caleb is a great guy, you know what I mean) There was nothing to object to, and only joy to be felt. Why then, were my emotions swirling so?
Then in August, I became the “father of the groom”, as our son Chris took Melissa as his bride. Once again, personal reflection took over. What kind of man had I raised Chris to be? Had I been too busy with ministry responsibilities? Had I spent enough time with him? The questions charged at me relentlessly. Again, there would be no do-overs with Chris. He was 21, and becoming a husband. The emotions and self-examination rocked me.
This was it. The day of reckoning. The total sum of my worth as a dad was now going to measured. (I momentarily forgot about Jon. Sorry son!)
My kids were starting their own lives, just like they were supposed to. They were marrying great people. They loved Jesus. I should have been nothing but happy, right?
Well, very naturally, I finally got past the weddings. My emotions stabilized, and I started to settle down. Then it happened.
Chris and Melissa got a dog. His name is Tucker, and he is a beautiful Golden Lab.
I have had three dogs in my life, and they were all high maintenance animals. “Digger” was a Black Lab, and he, well…dug a lot. “Bear” was an 80 lb white Samoyed that ate shoes and was a tick magnet. “Brandy” was a cute little Siberian Husky who was half gopher, dug out under the fence a lot, and had lots of puppies as a result.
Me and dogs were not working well.
I finally swore off dogs, seeing no redeeming purpose for them. They were a waste of time, and the return for the effort put into them was not worth it. Then Tucker came along, and suddenly, I felt like a Grandpa. Where in the world did THAT come from? I had a grandpuppy. What in the world happened to me? I even let him in the house, and he sat around our dinner table. And I liked it! Talk about coming in from left field.
This last December 28 (my birthday), I awoke to a call informing me that my friend Roby Duke had died of a massive heart attack. I was stunned. My parents and sister are still alive, thank God. In my 52 years, I had never lost someone so close. I have lost other friends and family, but this was new. I had an emotional connection with Roby that was eclipsed only by my wife Debbie. I spent the next two days searching online for every picture, every article, every blog tribute, and every video of Roby that I could find. I read and listened and Googled over and over. I tried to step away from my computer, but felt emotionally compelled to keep reading, looking, listening. Was there something I missed? Had anyone posted anything new? What was I hoping to accomplish with all this?
I was supposed to see him in three days, and we were “gonna have fun”. We were gonna do music, then he and Erick Hailstone were going to go to “Never Never” land playing guitars. Then we were gonna eat tacos really late on New Year’s Eve off of the taco trucks downtown. We had a plan.
And then he was gone.
I was angry at him. I cried a lot. I smiled a lot. I sobbed. I was all over the map with my emotions. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
So what? Glad you asked. You should always ask, “so what?”
My purpose for writing all of this is to share an additional discovery with you all.
The discovery is this: You don’t know until you know.
You don’t KNOW until you KNOW.
YOU don’t know until YOU know.
You DON’T know UNTIL you know.
Catch my drift?
It is very easy for us to view and judge the world based upon our own experiences. We determine how people ought to be feeling. We judge their spirituality based upon how we believe we would react to the same situation. We wonder why they can’t get over things, and determine that they should be further along in their emotional lives.
We minimize their life experiences, and measure their lives by our own. We forget that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, uniquely individual. We assume that everyone is like us. They ought to feel like we do, think like we do, and react like we do.
And the crazy insane thing about it is: we are SO sure that we are right.
Of course, that all changes when what they are going through finally comes into our life. Then we really see what we are made of.
Let me confess some things.
I have never, ever been able to relate to things like candle light vigils, flowers and stuffed animals at a makeshift shrine, posters addressed to the deceased, etc. I always thought that that stuff was well, a little extreme.
Now I understand it.
I have never understood what parents went through as the nest was emptying out.
Now I understand it.
I have never known how wrong I could be in judging other people’s reactions to pain sorry, change, loss, etc.
Now I understand it.
One great thing that has come as a result of this year’s discoveries is this: I am a different guy. At least I think so. I certainly hope so.
God has kept His promise to “work all things together for good for those who love God”. (Romans 8:28)
God has taught me a lot through the discoveries of 2007.
I am slowing down a bit now. I am lingering in conversation a bit longer. I am trying harder to look into people’s eyes, and listen more intently. I am trying to love more.
I am trying to not relate with others based upon their feelings for life, their experiences, their reactions, etc. I am trying to listen and understand, and I am trying to simply love people better, regardless if can relate to them at all.
I am revisiting old attitudes that I have had, and repenting of some of them. I am trying to be patient with others who are judging people based upon their limited experiences.
Most of all I am thanking Jesus for stepping into my world. The Bible says that “He was in all ways, temped as we are, and yet without sin”.
I am stuck in my highs and lows. I cannot avoid times of sorrow. I am a man, and stuck in my humanity, good and bad.
But Jesus stepped into MY world, put on flesh, and chose to feel the things I would rather avoid. He did it so that He could be my “Great High Priest”, one who could identify with my weakness, and comfort me.
Some discoveries are things that we go looking for. Other discoveries blindside us.
If you are a Christian, God will use every single one of them for your good and His.
May I encourage you to not be so sure in your judgment of how others ought to be feeling? You probably don’t have all the facts, and you haven’t walked in their shoes. You very possibly don’t now how they feel, and if you had more facts, you would probably change your tune about them.
And, more than anything, …remember that Jesus LOVES them.
He loves you too.