Saturday, July 05, 2003


The latest CD release from Switchfoot, “The Beautiful Letdown” has a song in which lead singer Jon Foreman asks, “This is your life, are you who you want to be?”

Maybe it’s because I’m careening toward age fifty in November. Maybe it’s because my family and I are dealing with so many transitions in our lives right, but that question—”This is your life, are you who you want to be?”—smacked me in the forehead when I first heard it and made me ask, “Well, Mark, are you who you want to be?”

I have to say that the answer is Yes...and No.

Yes, I’m happy to be a husband to a patient, loving wife after nearly twenty-nine years of marriage. She’s had to endure my many faults and stupidities for us to achieve that landmark and I’m grateful.

Yes, I’m happy to be the father of two great kids of whom I am so proud.

Yes, I’m happy that God has given me useful work that I enjoy. I’m happy that the congregation I serve as pastor is doing well and that whenever people visit with us at Friendship, they say things like: “This is how religion is supposed to be.”

But no, I am not who I want to be. I get disgusted with myself. Although I know full well the truth of the bumper sticker author who wrote, “Christians aren’t perfect...just forgiven,” I find it vastly more difficult to forgive myself than God does. I can be embarrassingly selfish and incredibly inconsiderate of others, can say harsh things to my family, and in spite of how this little mea culpa may seem, I’m often quick to rationalize every wrong thing that I do.

My sense of disgust with myself extends to my achievements in life...or lack thereof. While I’ve experienced enough life to know that I don’t have the talent to be a modern day Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin, boyhood fantasies I once entertained, I do sometimes stew over dying of “permanent potential.” I know that all of life is a gift from God and that most of the time, I am prone to squander it on selfish, pointless pursuits.

According to the wonderful book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” by John Ortberg, such thoughts can be dangerous unless we first take the step of putting ourselves in the hands of God. Failing that, self-critical thoughts will only lead us to self-loathing with no hope for healing or positive change. God doesn’t want that to happen to us!

When God came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, the heart of God was on full display. Through Jesus, we see that God isn’t an angry judge looking for opportunities to “vote us off the island.” God wants us to place ourselves—sins, infirmities, and everything—into His hands. When we do that, God commits Himself to patiently helping us learn to become who both God and we want us to be.

A man named Paul wrote a huge chunk of the New Testament. He wrestled with the reality of his own sins and inadequacies, even attempting various self-improvement regimens. But he writes in the New Testament book of Romans, chapter 7: “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something terribly different.”

Are you who you want to be? This side of heaven, none of us will be all we want to be. But Christ is the way to becoming that person, starting today and perfected in the world to come. Thank God!

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