Today was a day of extremes

Today was a day of extremes.

Today I sat on the porch of a cottage, the sea breeze finding my clothing no levee to its saline chill, and watched the generations above and below me, grand relations that they are, pass their time in the timeless activity of casting out and reeling in, the Good Lord himself joining in with his own ebbing out and flowing in. My father and my sons, backdropped by the unceasing and immeasurable grandeur of God’s creation, playing out before me Jesus’ promise of life abundant.

I drank it deeply in.

I drank also deeply of evil.

Today I sat on the porch of a cottage, the sea breeze no match to the wickedness which froze my bones, and watched as a car plowed through a crowd of people, shoes and bodies launched unwillingly from earth’s natural pull. I heard over the impassioned prayer of a worshiping congregation the sneers and jeers, equally impassioned, though antithetically energized, of a cresseted crowd in search of violence.

Today I sat on the porch of a cottage with the Word of Life on one side and the words of death on the other. In between were the words I had thought to bring, but now seemed so deeply inadequate.

“Dear children,” the apostle once wrote, “the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared.” (1Jn 2.18) And so they have. I have seen their faces. They looked like mine.

“There, but for the grace of God, go[ I],” John Bradford is credited as saying. And also, “when [seeing] any drunk or hear[ing] any swear, &c., [he] would railingly complain, ‘Lord I have a drunken head; Lord, I have a swearing heart.’”

Lord, I have a bigoted head. Lord, I have a violent heart.

Lord.

We keep using that word. I do not think it means what we think it means.

The one with control. The one with authority. The one who is present with us.

This one simply breathes and “galaxies form out of nothing, mountains appear with one word.”

This one, standing opposite his own mob of torch bearers, powerful enough to drive them to the ground with only his words, ‘I AM he,’ (Jn 18.5) was led like a lamb to the slaughter. A silently shorn sheep. (Isa 53.7, kinda) “[H]e never said a mumblin’ word”

Jesus is Lord.

This statement is a declaration of allegiance. Of belonging. A cry from the rooftops that, regardless of whatever sinful propensities I find within my own heart, I am of Jesus. No matter how many times I may “want to do what is right, but I can’t. I [may] want to do what is good, but I don’t. [or] I [may not] want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” (Rom 7.18–19) I can cry with the apostle, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Rom 7.24) And I can answer with him as well, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 7.25)

No longer is my allegiance to “blood and soil.” To a flag. To a country. To a man.

By Jesus’ blood we “who once were far away have been brought near.” (Eph 2.13) We are no longer “foreigners or strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,” (Eph 2.19)  By his death on the cross Jesus has made peace where there was division, peace where there was hostility, peace near, peace far. (Eph 2.14–16, ish)

My allegiance is to a King and a Kingdom. A kingdom where the Lord’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt 6.10) Where the poor are given the Kingdom and the mourners are comforted. Where the humble inherit the whole earth and those who hunger and thirst for justice are satisfied. Where the merciful receive mercy and the pure in heart see God. Where the peacemakers are God’s children and the persecuted are Kingdom dwellers. (Matt 5.3–10)

Anything short of this, any hope, any dream, any person, any job, any system, any ideology, any theology, any blessing, or any other created thing which gets in the way of this kind of living is to be thrown down and cast aside.

There, with the grace of God, go I.

“How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Rom 10.15)

Today was a day of extremes.

Today I sat on the porch of a cottage, the sea breeze filling my lungs as the Word filled my heart, and I believed anew this Good News. This Good News that “tells us how God makes us right in his sight.”  That “This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.” (Rom 1.17)

Today I sat on the porch of a cottage, looked evil square in the eye, and said, “Jesus is Lord.”

Don’t call me a feminist

Don’t call me a feminist

I’m sitting in a restaurant feeding my 7 month old some kind of Japanese appetizer from chopsticks and I hear the comments from several tables over…

Now I’m out at the library reading to my 4 year old and I notice the eyes and the whispers…

Now I’m playing in the snow with my 6 year old at the bus stop, waiting and I see the heads turn in cars driving past and the smiles. The smiles not directed at a child in the throws of joy only one unfettered by life’s weight can experience…

And now I’m lying in bed next to my wife. We’re an hour or so into a conversation punctuated by tears, by screams, by sighs. Then comes the illumination. The identification of the source (if not the main stream then at the very least a massive tributary) of so much hurt, pain, anger.

The looks, the comments, the adoration, all these come my way because of who I am. Not who I am in the particular, but who I am in general. A man.

It seems that cultural mythologies die hard. Myths are far more than simply quaint tales of pre-scientific understanding. They are foundational stories told to create and sustain civilization. Mircea Eliade writes:

the foremost function of myth is to reveal the exemplary models for all human rites and all significant human activity—diet or marriage, work or education, art or wisdom.1

We have a cultural myth about fathers that just won’t die. He’s either the well-meaning, but blundering idiot or the hard, distant man who puts work above all. In either one he works while the wife stays home and cares for domestic duties. Quite obviously these are caricatures, two extremes that bookend more moderate positions lying within, but that conversation is for another post.

What I want to focus on is the emotional damage done by these myths on women.2 Because of these myths and the realities they create I get praise for doing things my wife would not. I receive adoration where she would, perhaps, acknowledgment. Due only to my genetic makeup and temporal location I am seen as the ‘amazing dad’3 for doing only those things that in my estimation any good, loving parent would do.

Please don’t call me a feminist. To do so only perpetuates the catechetal force of the American Father Myth.4

Please call me a human being.

I work from home. My wife is a teacher and artist. We both take care of the kids. We both take care of domestic duties. How do we divide them? We ask the really hard question of, “Can you?” “Sure can,” is the usual answer. And when it isn’t we adjust accordingly. There is no gendered divide as to who does what work. I am a human being because I believe that the kind of praise I receive for how I parent ought to be lavished on my wife in the same quantities and degrees. I am a human being because I don’t think lower expectations are cause for lavished praise.

Perhaps it is a function of the communities to which I belong that I run into this sort of judgment. Maybe my experience is an outlier to what is happening in the larger view. It is possible, but I doubt it.

To see the look in her eyes as she tells me that for just once she would love to feel the same recognition and approval for her work as a mother as I do for being a father tears me apart. It also enrages me that what I do is considered out of the ordinary. The myth destroys us both.

I will never stop supporting my wife in her work. It is my joy to work the late nights and in the seams between the feeding, the cleaning, the playing, the disciplining, to see her explode into her giftings and abilities. Just as it is her joy to encourage my continued growth in work and talents and to support me in carving out physical and mental space from these four walls when I need it.

The myth needs to die. Even as most of us tacitly agree, our actions and attitudes perpetuate it. Only when we stop being surprised by things that a mother or father does because of their gender will its cultural grip begin to fail.

Would you join me in being human?


  1. Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality, p. 8
  2. I am by no means a woman. I am writing as an outsider, simply attempting to put into words what I saw and heard from my wife.
  3. I have heard this phrase more times than I care to admit.
  4. In no way am I undermining or devaluing the need that women have had to rise up under the mantle of feminism to right the wrongs of patriarchy. I am simply making a statement as to how I see this term being used around me.

If The Lord Wills

    Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15 ESV)

If the Lord wills.

Four simple words. One complex and mysterious meaning.

It has been quite some time since I have written anything substantial to post online. It is not for lack of adequate subject matter, rather for lack of inspirational muse. For some, writing is as simple as the eyes-closed exhalation of a still moment. For others it is a laborious chore that, while birthing a beautiful result, involves much tearing and screaming. I count myself a member of the latter group.

If the Lord wills.

The metaphor of birth is a potent one. Beauty from pain. Life from death. Beginnings from endings. It is all the more potent having now gone through, alongside my amazing wife, a natural birth.

Our first son was a scheduled caesarian. In the second to last week of her pregnancy the doctor announced that our son was breach and so therefore could not be, or perhaps more truthfully ought not be, birthed naturally. We were given a day or so to consider our options. A very long night of talking, praying, crying, and silence ensued. The next day’s dawn fell upon bloodshot eyes as we gave the doctor our answer. The goal is a healthy baby and a safe mother. Dreams of ‘normal’ childbirth lay stillborn on the floor. About a week later Becky was rolled into a sterile white room, draped, sliced, drawn, and sewn. We were parents. We had a son. The whole experience, while joyous, was rather clinical. We knew the date, time, and location. We checked in, had a child, and checked out.

The second child was a completely different experience. Not wanting to feel like so much red meat we enlisted the help of midwives at a free standing birth clinic. We were bound and determined to have a different experience, to feel the catharsis of labor and delivery. Her waters break at 2am on Wednesday morning. We wait. At 10am we call the midwives and they advise staying home. We wait. We arrive at the the birth center at 4pm and they tell us to go for a walk, grab dinner, and wait. When we return at 6pm Becky has progressed enough for us to at least stay at the facility.

What happened over the next 14 hours is something of a blur. In the birthing tub. Walking in the house. In the shower. Swaying in the room. She’s lying on the bed. I’m lying there also, but for the times when I’m not. After those 14 hours we are transferred to a hospital. It’s been too long since her waters broke. There’s not enough progression. I find myself driving in the car behind Becky and the midwife realizing that, having been awake for 26 hours, I am most likely more impaired than many drunk drivers. We arrive at the hospital, are wheeled in, tabled up, and vacuum assisted. In 10 minutes we were new parents again.

Fifteen minutes for the first. Thirty one hours for the second.

Birth has become a more potent metaphor.

If the Lord wills.

I recently read an article written by one of my pastors. His church is moving into a new facility and as with all major construction there have been plenty of delays. He writes:

In total, our delay will have dragged on for two months. I thought my disappointment quotient might have run higher. Maybe it hasn’t because ever since that sign on the property went up we’ve included the initials LW at the end. Lord willing. For good reason. James says in chapter 4 of his epistle that we don’t have any idea about what will happen tomorrow. Life is nothing more than a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. His counsel in verse 15? You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” Opening new church buildings definitely falls under the broad category of this or that. Plan, but hold everything loosely.

“Plan, but hold everything loosely.” I have been trying to hold everything loosely for the last 11 months. A job transition that moved me out of one career, but did not move me into another has me learning blow by painful blow what it means to hold things with an open hand. Providing for my family? Open hand. Finding out where I should be going and what career opportunities I should be pursuing? Open hand. Fighting back anger, frustration, depression? Open hand.

I am by no means a Job, but “the silence of God” is unnerving. Andrew Peterson, in his song by the same name, deals with feelings of this sort by asking the question: “Then what about the times when even followers get lost? ‘Cause we all get lost sometimes… ” Perhaps even more frightening, however, than God’s silence is the thought that he could be speaking loud and clear, but I am simply unable to recognize his voice. In waiting for a storm, I miss the whisper. As I curse the plant that I did not grow, it dies above me and the creator kindly points to my misplaced pity.

If the Lord wills

Perhaps I am in a labor whose end is far from near. Perhaps the light is breaking even now over a new day’s dawn. I cannot say where he is taking me, nor what his end goal is for this process. Yet, I must confess that if the Lord wills I will lie in this nascent bed, screaming, tearing, crying, groaning, until what he’s bringing forth breathes it’s first and the eyes-closed exhalation of that still moment passes my lips.

LW

So I have this sign posted on my office door…

…I am an interim youth minister…
…and I am working on my exit strategy…

It went up this last week with little fanfare. And I don’t plan on removing it any time soon. In fact I hope that this sign, or some variant of it, stays posted to my office door for years.

‘Wait,’ you say, ‘how can you be an interim for years to come?’

It’s a reminder to me that this ministry is not mine. It’s a reminder that if I leave this ministry and it falls apart, or if the person who comes after me has to begin from the ground up, then I have failed.

‘Wait,’ you say, ‘how can you say you have failed? What if students’ lives have been dramatically changed through your ministry?’

The grounding and growth of a student as a follower of Jesus is central to the ministry.

I am not. And it’s difficult coming to that realization.

I say that it is difficult because no matter how many times I might say the words ‘it’s not about me,’ but build ministry structures which center on me, on my gifts and abilities, and which without me would collapse, then it effect it really is all about me. Like in so many other areas of my life I realize that I have been living functionally divergent from my confessed values and aims.

No matter how many years I may serve in ministry, at any church, in whatever capacity, I will always have a successor. The Church has been around for thousands of years and there is no reason to believe that it won’t be around for thousands more. Even if she were to exist for only another 100 years there will be someone who follows me. My love for another brother or sister who must come after me ought to drive me to cultivate a ministry which can exist apart from me. My love for the students ought to drive me to create a sustainable ministry which in my absence will continue on unabated.

Ten months into this thing and I feel like I am just scratching the surface as to what it means to be a minister. If it’s true that every believer is a priest to God, which it is (1 Pet 2:9), then those of us who are in ‘full time ministry’ are simply the ones freed by the rest of the priests in our churches to focus on the job of ministering to others. But if in return we horde the responsibilities of ministry, refusing either through lack of faith in their abilities (we’re the ones trained for this, right?) or desire for praise and recognition (aren’t ministers worthy of a double honor 1 Tim 5:17 ?) to enable and empower every member of the church to use his or her God-given gifts to serve others then we have failed in ministry.

In this regard the ‘staff’ of a church serve as ministry facilitators.

In this regard I have failed to empower those in my church to serve our youth.

And so I’m embarking on the process of creating my exit strategy. I am committing myself to establishing ministry structures and a church culture which will far outlast me. I know that whomever follows will take the ministry in directions I could never have imagined or designed, but I am committed to leaving a healthy and thriving ministry in my wake, one which the next youth minister does not have to build from the ground up. Do with it what they will, that is not my concern. What is my concern is making me dispensable.

That sounds like a stupid thing to say. Especially when in business we are taught to make ourselves indispensible, read: job security. But which comes first, job security or healthy ministry? To strive for the former ahead of the latter is to build a house without a foundation. Yes, I want job security. I have a family. I have bills. To be wanton with my job would be unfaithful to the rest of my responsibilities. To strive first for the latter will inherently bring with it the former. With a healthy ministry comes the job security desired.

It may sound crass to talk about such things, but it’s the truth. And yes, I understand that in certain situations being the prophetic voice that God may call you to be will result in job loss. In that respect healthy ministry negates job security. But here I am talking about ministry in a healthy church.

God help me to become the minister he desires me to be. God help me actualize what I conceptualize. God help me be a good interim for those who come after me.

Giving up for Lent…?

“I’m giving up [blank] for Lent.”

It’s a phrase you hear quite often around this time of year. Given that we here at the Orchard just celebrated an Ash Wednesday service last night (as of this posting) I thought it appropriate to write just a small piece on the purpose of the Lenten Season in the life of the church. If you attended the service last night you would have heard some of these same things, but I also wanted to add my own particular twist. [ed. That’s one of the benefits of having this job… 😉 ]

Most of us are familiar with the practice of self-denial, shown in the ‘things we give up’ as was mentioned above, but this is not the whole of what the Lenten season means for the church. Traditionally there have been three parts to Lenten observation: prayer, alms giving, and fasting. We Protestants have grabbed hold of the fasting bit, whether it be from food or some other item, activity, etc. But what of the other two activities?

How would our lives look differently if we were to actively pursue all three of these activities? What if during this time of the year we spent focused time in prayer, delving into the depths of God’s promises to meet us there? What if during this time of year we gave over and above what we usually do (do you?) to those less fortunate than us? What if that involved your whole body rather than just your money? And what if, out of giving in those two areas, your self-denial in the form of fasting would actually transform your life?

We live lives of functional materialism. We confess to believe in a supernatural god who works in and through us to effect change in the world. And we confess that he does these sorts of things through the means of spiritual disciplines. And then we reject those disciplines. Or perhaps simply pay them lip-service and then move on.

I stand just as guilty as the next person.

I think I’ll take this time and live it patterned by the rhythms of the kingdom of God rather than the hectic patterns of the blind-led world.

A Character Grabs the Author’s Pen

There’s something compelling about a good story. Whether it be in a book, on a screen (large or small), or on a stage, there is something about a good story that draws you in and envelopes you. Some people are drawn to epic stories in scale, some to epic stories in length. Others, perhaps, are drawn in by the minutiae of life and see worlds opened up in a single glance.

I like the small things.

This is not to say that I don’t care for stories such as the classics The Iliad and The Odyssey, nor even for neo-classics such as The Lord of the Rings or even, in its own way, the Harry Potter saga. There is something to be said for a story with a scope so large as to create a reality all unto its own. But I still prefer the small things.

It’s the sparkle in the lover’s eye, wordlessly full of meaning.

It’s the contented sigh after a struggled fight.

It’s the single tear quickly wiped that betrays the emotional maelstrom inside.

Strip away the special effects, the soundtrack, the talents and abilities of the author and/or actors and a good story will still draw you in. It will still whisper a siren song to your soul, to your psyche that irresistibly engages you. God does something similar with his grace, but that is for another post, where we’re going is far deeper.

Shakespeare famously wrote, in As You Like It, ‘All the world’s a stage.’ But how many know the rest of it?

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Upon the lips of Jacques Shakespeare expounds a futile view of life. From birth to death life seems to be a battle against world and self. The closest one gets to ‘the good life’ is as judge against others. Yet, even here, life is a façade kept in appearances.

This fear of life drives people mad.

We all know a good story when we see one. And we often feel the tension between a good story and the story we live in. Something tells us that the story we are living is not good. Donald Miller once wrote, ‘Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend our lives living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful.’ We instinctively know that there is something more to life than living day in and day out. We know that if our daily experiences are nothing more than going to school, doing homework, going to work, and waking up the next day to do it all over again we’ve missed the point.

Those kinds of characters are tragic.

In an instinctual reaction against living a life of tedium and meaninglessness we frenetically grab the pen out of our Author’s hand and try our own at the page. We write plots filled with love and fortunes, power and intrigue. We become the cool kids, those whom everyone else wants to be. We become the beautiful ones, those whom everyone else wants to look like.

And somehow, in these counterfeit autobiographies, our stories always degenerate into battles for power and control. This shouldn’t surprise us, however, for those two things were the impetus for our usurpation in the first place. In the reading of God’s storyline for our lives we judged that plot to be deficient and desired the power and control to be our own authors. Wasn’t this the root of humanity’s fall into sin? ‘God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God’ (Gen 3.4) We desire to be equal with God in power and control, which manifested itself as a desire for God’s knowledge and wisdom in our first parents.

The ancient Greeks had a word for this: hubris. Hubris is an excess of ambition or pride, and in literary terms hubris ultimately would cause the character’s downfall. Sound familiar? Human history is a hubristic tragedy.

Or is it?

Tolkien had a term that he liked to use, eucatastrophe. A catastrophe being a sudden turn of events in a story, typically of a complete failure, Tolkien appended the Greek preposition eu, meaning ‘good’, and in doing so turned an idea of failure into one of unforeseen salvation. He called the Incarnation the eucatastrophe of human history and the Resurrection the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation. Far from being deus ex machina, the God from the machine, a literary device to remove the story’s characters from danger in a way that is entirely out of sync with the rest of the narrative, a eucatastrophe is unforeseen, but in harmony with the narrative arc.

In the Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus God, as it were, takes back the pen from humanity as a whole and begins to write the conclusion of all stories.

As we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead (Rom 10.9) God, as it were, takes back the pen we have personally stolen and begins to write the conclusion to our story.

God’s literary brilliance is shown, as well, in that he does not erase what we have, unauthorized, written. He takes up where we have left off, broken lives, failed storylines and all and supernaturally brings them all to a wonderful conclusion.

If only from the eucatastrophic moment it were a smooth narrative decline to the end of the story.

God’s promise to us is not one of immediate joy and comfort once he retakes authorship. Just as in so many other stories, the deciding moment, the turning point is not necessarily the end or even close to the end. Whether it be catastrophic moment of Mercutio and Tybalt’s duel in Romeo and Juliet, or the eucatastrophe of Gollum’s attack on Frodo in the heart of Mt. Doom (here the recent movie adaptation departs from the book, where after the destruction of the ring there is an whole other storyline of the destruction and redemption of the Shire), quite often characters find themselves still deep in the plot when the turning point comes.

A more fleshy example of this may be of D-day, the storming of the beaches of Normandy. There is a real sense in which, though the war was not won on that day, the battle was over. The year which past between D-day and VE-Day, from 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945, was simply a working out of the victory at Normandy. The decisive battle of the war had been won and the remainder of the war was the outworking of that singular victory.

In the same way, the eucatastrophic victory of Jesus has initiated the beginning of the end of all stories. But it has not ended all stories.

Yet.

In the intervening time our great Author is in the process of working in us and through us to bring all things to right. His story arc from Garden to Garden City, from Genesis to Revelation, involves with it the necessary purging and honing crucible fire which produces faith. Any, even cursory, reading of the New Testament will show that one thing which is promised, perhaps more than just about anything else, is suffering and trials. ‘In this world you will have trouble,’ Jesus said. But thankfully he concludes the statement with, ‘But take heart! I have overcome the world.’

God’s story of Life, Death, and New Life is a sad, but hopeful story. We know that in the end ‘all shall be well.’ Whatever plot he has chosen for our lives we can be assured that the Author is good and knows just where he is taking us. Though it may seem in the moment like the world is falling apart, sometimes a little unraveling is necessary to re-sew a cloth.

The beauty is in the details.

The littlest things in life can communicate the most profound truths. The small things, like the looks, the sighs, and the lonely tear can reveal more about who we are and who those around us are the often the most boisterous sermonizing.

Andrew Peterson, a singer/songwriter, once penned these words. Each simple line opens up oceans of lifestories. Enter in. What would your line be?

After the last tear falls
After the last secret’s told
After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone
After the last child starves
And the last girl walks the boulevard
After the last year that’s just too hard
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

After the last disgrace
After the last lie to save some face
After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue
After the last dirty politician
After the last meal down at the mission
After the last lonely night in prison
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is
Oceans and oceans
Of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last plan fails
After the last siren wails
After the last young husband sails off to join the war
After the last “this marriage is over”
After the last young girl’s innocence is stolen
After the last years of silence that won’t let a heart open
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is
Oceans and oceans
Of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales
‘Cause after the last tear falls
There is love

permission for leisure

Here’s a devotional by Charles Swindoll that I found rather refreshing, if not in places convicting. Even now, as I sit here in my living room, the sunlight just newly breaking through the leaves to dance in revelry on my walls, I find myself strangely unable (or unwilling?) to allow myself the space for leisure. ‘There’s always something more to do,’ my mind tells me. In fact, to illustrate the point. I was asked yesterday afternoon over lunch what I do for fun. My knee-jerk response was, ‘what time for fun do I have?’ That is a tragic response to a beautiful question.

What do you do for fun? What do you love?

Give Yourself Permission

by Charles R. Swindoll

Ephesians 5:1

Since most humans suffer from a lack of balance in their lives, our best counsel on living a steady and stable life comes from God’s Word. In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he includes this most unusual command:

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children . . .” (Ephesians 5:1 NIV)

Maybe you never realized such a statement was in the Bible. It seems unusual: “imitators of God”! The Greek term translated “be imitators” is mimeomai, from which we get the English word mimic. One reliable scholar says this verb “is always used in exhortations, and always in the continuous tense, suggesting a constant habit or practice.”¹

In other words, this is neither a passing thought nor a once-in-a-blue-moon experience. The practice of our being people who “mimic God” is to become our daily habit. We are to do what He does. Respond to life as He responds. Emulate similar traits. Model His style.

But to do that, to be an imitator of God, requires that we come to terms with the value of quietness, slowing down, coming apart from the noise and speed of today’s pace and broadening our lives with a view of the eternal reach of time. It means saying no to more and more activities that increase the speed of our squirrel cage, knowing God requires that we “be still” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).

To be God-mimics, we must begin to realize that leisure is not a take-it-or-leave-it luxury.

Please understand that leisure is more than idle time not devoted to paid occupations. Some of the most valuable work done in the world has been done at leisure . . . and never paid for in cash. Leisure is free activity. Labor is compulsory activity. In leisure, we do what we like, but in labor, we do what we must. In our labor, we meet the objective needs and demands of others—our employer, the public, people who are affected by and through our work. But in leisure, we scratch the subjective itches within ourselves. In leisure, our minds are liberated from the immediate, the necessary. As we incorporate leisure into the mainstream of our world, we gain perspective. We lift ourselves above the grit and grind of mere existence.

Interestingly, “leisure” comes from the Latin word licere, which means “to be permitted.” If we are ever going to inculcate leisure into our otherwise utilitarian routine, we must give ourselves permission to do so.

1. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, vol. II (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), 248.