The Journey starts with the LOOK. Followed by the WALK through DOORS.
“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
God promises light at the end of the tunnel. But at a certain point we must walk to move our fundamental peg. A fundamental change could be to your person or your environment. The deepest changes will be to your mindset, your deep goals in life and your commitment to God above yourself. But fundamental changes also involve physical changes around you. It could be a new job, a new season in another country, a new exercise routine, a new church, new hobbies, a new set of intimate trusted friends, a new practical plan for development. Both the internal and external changes must work together for results to be alive. The world might call this “acting with intention”. However, I am suggesting “acting with God’s intention”.
Once you look to God, not only will your face be made radiant and never covered with shame (Ps 34:5), but He will work to bless the doors you have to walk through. It is only when we walk through these door, and close them behind can we deal with the Abyss in the manner spoken about in the beginning of this post.
When you walk through these doors, and close them behind you; you allow your peg to move in accordance to God’s plan and prevent you from regressing too much on bad days. You might seem to regress back (your feet is chained to an elastic band), but at least your peg is stymied by the closed door, so this regression is temporary. Note, your mental state can regress behind the door, but the peg is fixed at the door.
Henri Nouwen alludes to this phenomenon when as prescribes how to go to the place of your pain. He says:
You have to live through your pain gradually and thus deprive it of its power over you. Yes, you must go into the place of your pain, but only when you have gained some new ground. When you enter your pain simply to experience it in its rawness, it can pull you away from where you want to go.
(Go into the Place of Your Pain, The Inner Voice of Love)
True recovery requires you to look back in the Abyss at certain times. But those doors prevent you from being consumed by it. Think of it as special sunglasses that you put on that allows you to look at the Gorgon, but her eyes are blocked out. Without its power to paralyze, we are able to take a hard look at the monster. The Abyss is stripped of it’s mystique and power and it goes from terrorizing to less scary to neutral, to eventually becoming a toolbox for you to bless the world with. These are symptoms of real progress.
The Abyss is usually dominated by a major problem in a particular area of life. However, when God blesses other parts of your life (He will), don’t ignore it. Build on it. Going to Seminary in USA for a couple months in 2009 was an example of such a door for me. Leaving behind many sad memories, I was building new meaningful memories in a new place of growth. But God lead to me to go to this specific seminary in this specific country and state. Once there, I had a few significant achievements. I had a couple of very well received papers that professors thought could be further developed into books, I made some new friends that were kindred spirits… the type you can search for years and not find. I discovered certain trading strategies for the stock markets which are not covered in books. Although these did not plug up the gaping hole in my heart stemming from years of failure and heartbreak, it provided a healthy distance. No matter how bad I felt and wanted to return to my past, I still was in a new geographical location, and nothing can take away the new accomplishments.
But how do we know which changes get us the New Country and not simply going in a circle?
Emerson’s truth claim above is very true, however, just because you go into a new ocean doesn’t mean you come out stronger or better. You come out different. In my old post The Crownless shall again be Kings, some people try to do things their own way, but they come out with “worldly” results. They fight on their terms, and in their victories they emerge with a bruised ego and a chip on their shoulders. They tend to disdain anyone who competes with them and they generally do not like themselves. But the results of God are always “exceedingly and abundantly more we can ask or think.” (Eph 3:20). Jesus-type victories are characterized with love, joy, and peace and His love never fails (1 Cor 13). The New Country is characterized by these. In fact, God will use the very things that the enemy wanted to imprison you with… the condemnation, the emotional pains, the lies, the fatalism, the futile post-modernist thoughts… God will use those very evils, turn it around for good till what was weakness becomes a reservoir of wisdom and experience to draw strength from. God can unfold the box made out of evil, and make it into something you can use to soar with the eagles with.
A Small Sample of Ken’s Story
In 2009, I was almost at the end of my rope. By then, my career was washed up and the auto-immune problem brought me to my knees as the medicines were helping, but not helping enough. The worldly thing to do is to get healed by seeing more doctors, get a great job so that I will have enough money to everything and put myself out there to make new friends. These worldly things are the intuitive things to do and they are good. But it was not the right thing to do at the time because there was no real cure. God opened a door by forcing me to re-invent myself as a financial trader from home and then He convinced me to go to Seminary (I had my own reasons). That was the worst thing to do. I almost died in 2009 due to infections. My body and face is covered with 70% sores. How could I be traveling to the USA for Seminary? I already had career issues, how could I waste more time with a “non-monetizable” pursuit like Seminary? There were many voices discouraging me from going.
But by seeking God first and having the courage to walk through this particular door for me (it doesn’t mean you should go to Seminary), I ended up meeting certain people that either I had a heart for, or they had a heart for me. In this “divinely set-aside” space, God also gave me very bright ideas as it pertained to the Bible, life, health, the world and finance/business. For the first time in more than 15 years, God started to reverse the direction of my illness. (It would take 5 more years for an even more significant recovery). He also gave me wisdom for me to experiment on other ways to improve my health – something that no doctors or whosoever told me in the last 10 years before that. This was something that couldn’t happen in my situation before. He also gave me great ideas for financial trading (in the quietness of Seminary), as well as eventually triggering a series of other doors that ended up with my present job right here in Nashville. Honestly, this job is one-in-a million. The statistical odds of what happened to me is so infinitely small that it can only be God. I had to go through each and every door that God prepared in order for this opportunity to manifest. One after the next. This job and situation I am in now is something I could never imagined. This job is a restoration of a broken career. I didn’t think of my health and career when I stepped through that door, but God took care of those things.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)
Back to DOORS: the perfect interaction between imperfect You, perfect God, a fallen world and Doors with your name on it
As we looked at how God crafted the journeys of Abraham and Joseph, you’ll see that God progressively created specific, not intuitive, doors along the way for them. Each time they stepped through, they were closer to the New Country and further from the Old. So He will do for you.
God works for in your life by preparing doors for you to enter. All the doors are directed at the New Country. Do not be afraid you will be on a wild-goose chase, especially once you have given yourself to Him. Every time you have the courage to enter them and close the door behind you, you have moved your peg that much further away from the Abyss. So even if the Abyss manages to turn you back around, and you have “bad days”, you can only retreat a certain distance because your fundamental position has changed.
Yet another attractive force for physics buffs F = Gm1m2 / r2. The force diminishes with distance away. Very apt.
You may not see too far beyond each door and thus resist going through, but that is why we keep our eye on Jesus and see His promises. It gives us the courage to step through the door He sets up for us even if it doesn’t seem to solve our immediate problem. It is also a characteristic of God to use events that are not intuitive to set us up for greater glory. Consider this pivotal set of verses:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. (1 Cor 1:26-28)
The beautiful irony of God is that He has always used the weak to confound the strong. He uses the unlikely to show the world who He is.
God asked Moses to grind in the desert for 40 years… it turns out that was exactly the leader the Israelites needed to lead them out of Egypt – not a guy trained in political school, or in the military. Go figure.
God asked David to grind and do low-class manual labor as a shepherd boy. He asked David to risk his life against lions and bears to save a couple sheep. This might be today’s definition of a dead end job. David, with child-like faith, agreed to grind in this anonymity. No one expected that this shepherd boy was hero Israel needed, not what they wanted. He was not a fully-trained Israeli soldier. Thank God, because no soldier was going to be bigger a soldier than Goliath.
ONE LAST THING ABOUT THE DOORS. God works in the higher dimension.
This means that He is able to fully satisfy your nature as a free-will decision maker and His nature as a higher dimension sovereign will God. He knows that even if you make initial mistakes, He knows all the permutations of future door arrangements to get you back. So, try your best, but don’t be afraid you’ll make too big of a mistake. Big mistakes hurt. In God’s economy, big mistakes lead to big scars (meaning: they will heal), big scars make you beautiful.
He is so amazing.
A parent protecting and shielding their children is great. But a parent that allows their children the freedom to make mistakes, and then sacrificially tries to be their safety blanket as well as continue to give them more opportunities to succeed is down-right amazing.
God is like that. Even when the mistakes you make seem to totally derail you off your course, God can guide you back within the perfect timing of your rhythm. He doesn’t force you in a direction like a donkey. Instead he trains you from a healthy distance to make you a King and Priest, but always around spiritually to give you intimacy when you need it. When He doesn’t seem to be there, trust me, that’s when His eye is the most mindful of you. That’s the time when He knows you are most vulnerable and Daddy is waiting. I will write a post about this another day too. I’ve experienced this.
Please bear with my last-minute scribbled maze of one-way doors.
My apologies. There isn’t a solution. All initial ways tend to either make you go in circles, or back to the Abyss. But life is very much like that.
Imagine those arrows are potential doors you could go through to change either your person or situation. From the many people whom I counseled, I observe that many people choose the more obvious ones girded by popular or conventional wisdom but have a tendency of ending up going in circles. For example, we hear things like “the world loves you if you love yourself”. But many people’s reality is that the world may not want to cooperate with you even if you love yourself. Racism is still very real. We hear things like, “if you harbor negative thoughts, don’t be surprised by the negative outcomes”. This can be dangerous for people with genuinely difficult situations or have been raised in a broken past – they may continually blame and condemn themselves for their lack of success. I’ve seen this in my own life and in the lives of others.
See my blog post: The Gospel is head & shoulders above “Positive Thinking”
It’s intuitive that such popular psychology is can be quite limited. Such advice is everywhere, people do attempt to follow them, that’s why they are popular. But in many disciplines (especially in finance and trading), knowledge which is openly popular usually aren’t that effective, or else everybody would be succeeding. I hear this all the time, “forgiving is good for you”. Sounds good, except that it’s practically lacking. Everyone knows that if you get to the point where you can forgive, it’s good for you. The question is how to get there! There’s a girl who couldn’t forgive her partner from cheating and abusing her. She is told that she needs to forgive to release herself. She cannot, hence, she repeats this to herself on bad days, “I need to forgive, I need to forgive”. The reason why she cannot forgive is because of what was “stolen” from her. Because there is evidence in her present life that makes her feel she can never get back what was stolen, that’s why she cannot forgive. And in a naturalistic worldview, there is no reason to believe that getting it back (or more) is guaranteed. There usually are fundamental reasons why you got into this mess to begin with. Continuing the do things the same ways almost guarantees the same types of outcome.
Einstein’s thought that the idea of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is quite apt. If pop-psychologies were popular at one point but diminished in the next generations, what does that tell you about their power to really change your life? I am not saying learning these philosophies are useless. Some are more effective than others. I concede they are helpful, but perhaps they are not the cornerstone to fill that hole in your heart. Neither are they ample to fix your problem if wounds run very deep.
These “positive truisms” puts the cart before the horse. This “fluff” gets it wrong, you must be restored and released first, and that’s why you can forgive. You don’t will yourself to forgive in order to be restored. If bad genetics, natural selection, selfish genes caused you to be where you are and you are too disabled to work yourself up in ways this world recognizes, in this framework, how can we ever get out? There is no point looking for a key inside the prison you are in. The key must be external. External to the limited naturalistic world we live in.
A close look at Nick Vujicic reveals something out of the ordinary.
Did he make it because of positive thoughts alone?
Nick is a premier inspiration speaker. He is arguably the most qualified (IMHO) to teach inspiration because he TRULY had to overcome obvious great disadvantages to get here. Being born with no arms and legs is a totally different tier of adversity entirely. He has to probably spend 10x the amount of time to do anything physical – from mundane things from getting something from the fridge or to travel to school. He had every reason for self-esteem problems. If you want to learn about how to forgive the worst circumstances, talk to an Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp survivor who has forgiven. If you want to learn about overcoming adversities in life, ask the one that has overcome the worst adversities.
Hence, If Nick says something different, I would pay close attention. What’s different about him?
He too as an expert on the power of positive thinking. He is currently ranked in the top 10 motivational speakers in the world along-side contemporaries like the 6 ft 7 Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and the governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yet all of these other guys have already started off with great advantages – all attractive guys who are able-bodied. Just imagining Nick amongst these folks look like a comedy movie poster. It seems obvious to me that those positive techniques are just the appetizers and side dishes to the main course.
He tells you the key difference in his introduction to his Life Without Limbs website.
“Born with no arms and no legs, Nick Vujicic has overcome life’s challenged through strength and hope found in Jesus Christ.”
I echo the same sentiment. A positive attitude certainty helped me socialize a little more, have the discipline to keep going to the gym and eating right as well as to not give up in my financial research (that led to a breakthrough). But what got me to that point that caused my immune system would improve that I could START going to the gym and work longer hours in the first place? In my limited ability to go out to make connections, how did I meet all the right people, in the right time, in the right place for me to end up where I am today?
If you are severely malnourished, don’t look for tictacs, or even one or two good meals; look for a dietitian who loves you enough to get you the food you really need and will supply you until and even after you get healthy.
That is your Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t just open doors – He is a Map-Hacker and Game Changer.
Remember that maze of doors above that irritated you because there was no solution?
Are you trapped by the “rules” of the world? The “rules” of man? Are you doomed by statistics?
If you take the original maze and fold it such that the “PRESENT” meets the “FUTURE” (cool huh?), you’ll see that all of a sudden, any of the initial doors that led you nowhere now leads to the New Country. Jesus is not just an external guide. He is a savior that works with you and through you. You walk your journey not just with Him, but through Him. Jesus doesn’t guide you through the maze to find that one perfect path. He does a whole lot more. Instead, He can fold the landscape on itself, funneling your mistakes into the New Country. He works with the totality of your human nature, your free will, your pains, joys, good and bad decisions, and makes it work with His sovereignty. This causes you to have “the best of both worlds”, where you end up going through unintuitive doors only to end up in a place much better than you expected. In addition, you don’t lose yourself in the process, but find the New You. You can be fully you as He is fully God.
Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.
Why is it so important to LOOK at Jesus and all His promises? Because it gives us the courage to walk through those doors when the time comes. It really isn’t the case that there is a specific order of doors that you have to go through to the to the New Country and if you don’t go through the exact ones you won’t make it. It’s about going through those doors with and through Jesus. Without Jesus, those doors may lead nowhere. With Jesus, the same doors lead you to the right place. The reason why we need to look at Jesus to generate faith is precisely because those doors look like mundane ones from the outside, and we usually can’t see how it would lead you to the New Country.
He will customize that sublime sea to get you where you need to be. He will satisfy your free-will and His sovereignty in perfect balance to get you there. Therefore you won’t lose yourself in the process but be fully you as He is fully God.
This is your Jesus. Your lover. Your shepherd. Your Wisdom. Your Savior. Saviors don’t come to teach. They come to save. If you are drowning, He is not going to throw a “learn to swim” book at you. He jumps in to save you first, saves you again when you need it … and recommends good reading and wisdom for your soul later.
Those who look to the Lord, their faces are made radiant and are never covered with shame (Psalm 34:5)
The smile and complexion today, is a far cry from this: