Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This is LOVE!

(adapted from correspondence)

There is one thing that has weighed heavy on my mind over the last day or two, even though it's actually fairly silly: having arriving in Korea, surveying my schedule and financial situation, and weighing the costs and benefits, I am looking into going to Beijing/北京 for the week after I finish my job, to catch up with my rap crew and also several other close friends.

However, for several reasons (needing to move my initial flight from Seoul to the States back one week, needing to get a Chinese tourist visa, the costs of international flight, the stupid OLYMPICS [ugh], etc. ad infinitum), this is an incredibly painstaking endeavor. But God has been really using this intensity to teach me something. And this is it.

This is God's mercy and grace: if I lose all I possibly could, I would still have more than I could ever discover.

And this is why I've been thinking about this.

Making travel plans sucks, especially for me. I am a pretty frugal guy - some might say stingy, and they wouldn't be wrong - and when I get into the details of visa fees, airport taxes, scheduling flights, application paperwork, comparative shopping, et cetera., et cetera., et cetera., I am able to grow thoroughly obsessed with saving $10 here or $30 there. I hate spending money that I don’t need to: sometimes it seems that my absolute greatest nightmare would be to find out that, for instance, I booked a flight too late, and wasted $200 that didn’t need to be spent. So, for all of my free time today*, I was calling, researching, and emailing travel agents to find out who could get me the absolute lowest price on an air ticket. (*I used my phone so much that I ran out of prepaid minutes… adding another stress: wasting $18)

And it was thoroughly unhealthy. Why was I doing this? Not because I wanted to save money for God's kingdom: because I was, in a very real way, making an idol of money. The thought of spending $20 that I didn't need to began to seem like blasphemy to me.

For those who haven't seen me when I get really anxious or concerned about something, I grow amazingly obsessive about that matter, until it is either resolved or has passed (side note: these issues ALWAYS resolve, and always in my favor. God's track record in my life is something on the order of 13241451:0).

In such cases, I am a perfect antithesis of Matthew 6:25:

"Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food?"

OK. I'm usually not particularly obsessed about food. But this is the nature of anxiety: when you are anxious about something, that one thing becomes the single most important focus of your life.

Imagine a man starving in the wilderness. His life, his survival, his continued existence, is reduced to one factor: food. If he finds food, even one morsel, he will continue to live; if he fails to do so, he will surely cease to be.

The psychology of anxiety, at least speaking for me, is such that, if I am anxious about something, it consumes my mind in this very same way (and I suspect it is so for many of us). I focus on it to the exclusion of all else: success or failure in this one arena becomes the be-all and end-all of who I am. It becomes, in a real way, my identity: have I beaten this problem, or have I been vanquished by it?

Isn't that idolatry? Yes, and I'm sure there are whole books to be written on that, indicting us for our blasphemy of God. But this is not what I am concerned with here; this is what I find so urgent in this situation:

If I truly love God, this anxiety is foundless! It has no basis.

I grow anxious over things - money, friends, a job, travel plans, etc. - because I begin to think, without this, I cannot proceed with my life. Why does someone worry when they might get kicked out of a house? Because life requires a place to live! Why worry when you feel that you don't have a single friend? Because life without friends is not worth living!

But this is the miracle of God's love: If I have it, and it alone, I still have more than I could ever know.

And neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, nor things in heaven, nor things on earth, not ANYTHING can take God's love from me! (paraphrasing Romans 8:38)

Ms. Joshu I Sky AKA elee AKA esta! posted a quote on her blog (sorry to blow up ya spot est) a while ago, from German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "The darkest of dark cannot extinguish the light of a single flame."

-So what if I don't get a ticket to China?

-So what if, for whatever reason, I get ripped off and lose all the money I worked all summer to earn?

-So what, actually, if I die, and never return to the States?

If my love for Christ is like a "single flame," then these darknesses will pass over it and never disturb the one thing that matters, matters more than I can understand!

This is God's love: was I to lose all I ever could, I would still have more than I could ever know.

Is that not great?

I wandered home from work today with a head full of neurotic wonderings: If I move my Saturday lunch appointment from 11 AM to 10 AM, I can be in Hongik by 1 PM, talk to the travel agent… If I work 3 extra 40-minute shifts for each remaining week, I will earn 3 shifts * 30 dollars/shift * 7 weeks more, which will subsidize X amount of travel… If I… and if I… and if I….

But then God nudged me: Who are you, to accomplish anything?

Yes, I hope to go to Beijing, and this hope requires me to be diligent in researching and understanding my options. But this endless speculation, this iterated mulling over of financial matters, this is not diligence: this is self-absorbed “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:17).

Ultimately, I will probably wind up finding a flight to Beijing for a fair price (also, a fare price.... get it? a ha ha.), going, having a good time, traveling smoothly back to Seoul, and returning to the States in time for the first week at Yale.

But what if every one of those steps goes wrong?

My life would still be fuller and better than I deserve, than I know, that my human hopes could encompass.


I love you all. Surrender to God. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and your journeys will be impossibly beautiful.

Your brother,

1 comment:

John said...

someone's leaving a deposit on your heart. the Man has good guarantees though.

now, loving running? that smacks of asceticism. my favorite word is now 'physical training is of some value'.