Friday, June 3, 2016

Falling to Pieces — Lord, Help Me Keep It Together

In his New York Bestseller, "The Road To Character,” David Brooks uses the conflicted and unconformable life of the brilliant 18th Century Englishman Samuel Johnson for his chapter on Self-Evaluation. Brooks describes the life of Johnson, using the German word “Zerrissenheit,” which he defines “loosely” to mean “falling-to-piece-ness” but then goes on to describe what he means. “This is the loss of internal coherence that can come from living a multitasking, pulled-in-a-hundred-directions existence. This is what Kierkegaard called “the dizziness of freedom.” When the external constraints are loosened, when a person can do what he wants, when there are a thousand choices and distractions, then life can lose coherence and direction if there isn’t a strong internal structure….
Johnson’s internal fragmentation was exacerbated by his own nature…the way he spoke, ate, read, loved and lived. Moreover, many of his qualities were at odds with one another…." (page 218)

This is such a poignant paragraph. As I read this I thought to myself, this is reminiscent of some lives we read about in the Bible. I couldn’t get my mind off this paragraph and its many applications to others I knew today. In thinking about this, I was reminded that wearing the latest fashion, driving a nice automobile and living in a comfortable house may be urgent on some level of keeping up with the Joneses. However, clothes don’t make the man, driving a nice automobile doesn’t equate to being a person of integrity and living in a comfortable house is certainly no guarantee of a respectable home!

Then suddenly it dawned on me, as I glanced the chapter heading, “Self-Examination." Ouch! This is MY life when I lose focus! Forget about making application to others. What about me? I often become distracted by many things and situations because I have way too many “irons in the fire.” You know those moments when I think I am an excellent multitasker! (Who am I kidding? Who are you kidding?) The truth is when I have "too many irons in the fire" if any of them ever gets accomplished, I often have to settle for mediocrity. The truth is when my moment of “falling-to-piece-ness” overwhelms me, because of "too many irons in the fire," it is then that I realize I have confused those urgent irons with the truly important. In my own life as I go to India to preach, or have the great privilege of baptizing someone into Christ, or cross this country holding gospel meetings in far away states, there may be a certain urgency to all of that. But you know what? None of that is what is really important in terms of what I am supposed to be as a Christian!

I think of the life of David, the man after God’s own heart. King Saul thought what was important to being King was having all the praise of the people. Consequently, he was jealous of David when the people praised him, especially, when they attributed more victories to David than to himself. Saul's jealousy consumed him and he tried to destroy the young David. But, David refused to retaliate in kind on multiple occasions, in spite of having both the opportunity and perhaps, even the right. Clearly, David's heart in dealing with Saul was focused on glorifying God and not in satisfying his own personal desire. Yet, the remarkable thing about David's life, after both the shame of his egregious sins and his repentance, his life became characteristic of his earlier life. David regained his focused of what was important. He geared his thinking for the things of God rather than for himself. This was evident in his later life in the story of Shimei. Shimei cursed and threw rocks at David and his men as they fled from Absalom. David refused to retaliate in kind toward Shimei even when it was within his right, as a King to do so (see 2 Samuel 16:5-14). David's focus was clearly on what was important to God. Sadly, David knew all too well what happens when you confuse the urgent (or your own rights or desires) with the important (what will bring glory to God) — it can lead to disaster and destroy your house! 

In the New Testament, we are afforded a glimpse of another whose life was caught up with the urgent and characterized by that “falling-to-piece-ness”! This individual for the moment had confused the urgent with the important having lost her focus. You see, being hospitable may be urgent to the point of being helpful but not at the cost of what is important! Ask Martha! "Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42) Look how Luke presents the story “troubled about many things” versus “one thing is necessary.” Jesus reminds us to make the right choice and our lives will not fall to pieces, even when we are challenged by the urgency of a matter!

Stay focused don’t let anything interfere with your relationship with God - that is THE IMPORTANT. All else merely has the appearance of being urgent! When all around us the storm is raging and the urgent is trying to distract us, only by choosing to focus on God and His will are we given that strong internal coherence and direction which holds our lives together! Being committed to prayer, pray for wisdom. Being committed to Bible study, seek God's glory.  

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