Lots of people have lots to say about 2016. Was it the worst year ever? Maybe for some.
- Harambe was killed to rescue a little boy (absolutely the right decision).
- Still having school and mass shootings in America (when are we going to get smart on guns in this country?)
- Black Lives Matter (If you say All Lives Matter, I swear I’m going to come through this screen….)
- Syrian Refugees/Aleppo
- Kobe Byrant played in his last game in the NBA scoring 60 points (Basketball seasons are way too long…like Hockey. Anyone watch hockey anymore?)
- Fricken Cleveland Indians breaking my dad’s heart again.
- The passing of many people who were tops in their field (Gene Wilder, Mohamed Ali, Arnold Palmer, John Glenn, Abe Vigoda, Nancy Reagan, Fidel Castro)
Oh… there was more? That’s right; a little thing called the election.
Easy to say, 2016 was, well, weird.
For me personally, 2016 had some ups and down, some high stress and some low stress. I started getting active again by playing disc golf and racquetball (but then strained my calf and was in a boot for a week). My middle kid started Kindergarten, we started this podcast, and I started being more of a responsible adult (sold my motorcycle).
When thinking what to write, I find three different “themes” that kind of made its way through a my 2016 that hopefully you can learn something from.
My heart has hurt more for others…but I have a long way to go
This year, I feel God has been moving in my mind, heart, and eyes the most out of any year. He has opened all three of those things to people, circumstances, and perspectives that I once had very closed to.
From anxiety/depression/mental illness, to hell/grace/discipleship, to Christians being involved in politics and social change, to white privilege and racial injustices. With the access to information that technology has brought, you can’t avoid the issues anymore. You can’t avoid people. You can’t avoid their hurts.
I think before I enjoyed my little cardboard box. I setup my boundaries of what I thought was right, and I liked it because it made sense to me. It was easy for me to put up the blinders and only care about my immediate surroundings. But people getting shot, nations fleeing their homes looking for place to live without fear war, and friends suffering because of mental illness broke through those flimsy walls. Launching the podcast with the vision of starting conversations and challenging people’s ideas quickly became more about roasting my ideas than about roasting others. That’s a good thing. Holy Spirit often has the goal of actually changing you when you have the goal of changing others.
My desire for the church to lead by example is increasing…but I’m getting frustrated
With my heart now being affected by more things going on in the world, I look towards Christ. Christ has called his church to be his hands and feet, to go out, and spread the gospel. Meeting people where they are at spiritually/emotionally, meeting their needs, and just actually meeting people is what I look for the church to not only do regularly, but to be the world leader in.
But I’m getting frustrated with the church.
Don’t get me wrong, local church can certainly be doing this well. But for the American church, as a whole, I don’t think we are. Our capacity to love seems to be getting smaller. Our desires are focusing inward, and only inward.
I would expect the church to be the voice for the hurting, the hand reaching out to those in need. But if reaching my hand out means I have to give something up, to sacrifice my comforts, to speak out and risk getting labeled and ridiculed…you see where I’m going with it.
I’m guilty of it too. I’m not perfect when it comes to my self-sacrifice for others. But God is working on me and I want him to. I want Him to change my heart and I’m actively seeking his counsel to see what I’m called to next. Is the church being active in their pursuit of transformation to more of the heart/character of God, or are we not willing to risk good things to get great things?
I’ve realized God is using me/John/podcast to start conversations…but they all aren’t fun and games.
I like starting crap. Getting people stirred up, challenging their thinking, and arguing for the sake of arguing. It’s just fun for me. Don’t know why. I think maybe I like the mental exercise, and I really do enjoy being wrong (sometimes). When I find out the process I used to come to a conclusion about something was all wrong, I’m excited to learn the new process and be ready to apply it to the next situation. That’s why I really like our podcast.
I didn’t think that putting an opinion out into the public forums would be criticized so dang much. I have a much higher appreciation for people who do this full time (or any time). Sharing your ideas to the public = people will not just disagree, but think you are just one of the worst human beings God created. Actually, He must have miscalculated when creating you because how could you ever think something like that — yeah, people think that.
But the conversations need to be started. Our boxes are not good enough anymore to be effective with the Gospel. You need to talk. You need to share. You need community.
Start sharing your ideas in a safe community (hopefully that is your church). But I realize, the church doesn’t always get this right too.
This year has brought lots of hard conversations with Christians. I have been involved in some relationship restoration/mediation meetings this year. It really drained me. I think what drained me the most was people just not wanting to talk to their brothers and sisters. Not wanting to reconcile because it was hard. Not wanting to give up their rights/comforts/time for peacemaking.
I’m hurt when the church can’t see the damage it is doing to itself.
But there is hope.
Maybe out of anything, 2016 has brought me perspective in Christ’s long-term plan for his people: Process. It will take time. It will take sacrifice. It will take pain.
My wife’s and mine verse is Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
That’s my prayer for 2017; that your relationship with the King will change you in such a way, that you desire more of Him and more of what he wants. I have a long way to go, I’ll probably get more frustrated, and I know it will be hard. But would I want it any other way?