Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter 2: My masterpiece won't have a Volvo in it.

This photo has been a source of intrigue and inspiration to me for years.
It started with a little inspiration. It was this image of two motorcycles crossing a river from the 2004 movie "Motorcycle Diaries". The sky is misty and the river is bordered by thick trees, maybe in the Amazon basin or some other rain forest. The boat appears sea-worthy from the inside, by there are several boards that are broken or displaced. The motorcycles are dirty like they've been on the road for days. They aren't your typical Harley's they are like the little Honda trail bikes that are so common in small countries with bad roads like Haiti.

Waiting for the sake of waiting.

I am a very impatient person. In fact, I think I might be the most impatient person I've ever met. I don't want to wait for anything. I want to eat the second I'm hungry, I want to pay off my loans and debt now, not in a few years (when in actuality, I realize that it is pretty amazing that this is even possible). I want to be good at my job my first day of work. I want my injured back to heal and be 100% by the end of this weekend. When I have to wait on a lab result for one of my patients, even though the lab at the hospital I work in is really efficient, I still get frustrated. When we are understaffed, I try and do everything myself and juggle multiple patients, even though this just leads to chasing my own tail and sends my entire work-flow into a near tailspin. I want to know God's plan for our lives and I want it to be shown to me in vivid detail before I head out in the morning. I want what I want NOW!

I'm learning though, that the heart of my impatience though, is a sin issue. There is a lack of trust there. What I want is to take over for God and do things the way I think they should be done. I say things like "it's not just the destination but also how you get there" about travelling, but I don't feel that way about life. I think that as long as everything goes according to my plan and nothing ever takes longer than my timeline allows, then my life will feel whole.

You won't find it here.

Last week, my mind was just racing after I finished a very busy day in the ER. I lay in bed as my dear patient wife slept soundly wondering why my mind would not just shut off so I could sleep. I opened up my iPad and went online. I don't even know what I was looking for. I browsed my normal websites, Yahoo!News, Relevant Magazine, Facebook, and could not find anything that could help me shift my attention so that I can fall asleep (where I will probably just dream about work).

As I grew more and more dissatisfied with pretty much the entire internet and began searching frantically for something of some significance to read I heard, in my own voice of course, "You won't find what you're looking for here." But how could I know that? I didn't even know what it was that I was looking for. I have begun to understand this voice a little more over the years. It sounds like mine, but has a lot more wisdom than me. I read a lot, so sometimes this voice quotes something that I've read by some theologian, a piece of scripture I've read or heard quoted, some pastor I'v heard speak on a podcast or at church or even on rare occasions, a philosopher's insightful conclusion I once studied. Sometimes it's just an overriding theme in a sermon I once heard or a book I once read. Usually, though, it's worth listening to because it seems so profoundly apropos that I can't help but to admit that it must have been profoundly inspired. This was one of those times.

"We Work by Grace."

So I closed the web browser and saw this devotional app I downloaded a couple years ago hat I read only sporadically. The title of the day's devotion was "We Work by Grace" which was based upon one of Dr. John Piper's indomitably spiritually driven and logically fed books "Future Grace." At first glance, the title and even the first Bible verse of the devotion didn't seem even very applicable to my state of mind, but I read on. It was from 1 Corinthians 15:10:

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Don't worry, I didn't understand it either, at first. As Dr. Piper so eloquently unpacked this verse he extrapolated this bit of insightful wisdom: "I take this to mean that, as Paul faced each day's ministry burden, he bowed his head and confessed that unless future grace was given for that day's work, he would not be able to do it."

That WAS what I was looking for. As Piper expounds further he ties in the words of Christ fonud in John 15:5 "apart from me you can do nothing." Paul believed these words, we see in Philippians 4:19 and applied them: "My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

and Piper concludes, "Then he acted with all his might."

My Portrait

My adventure longings have been maturing a bit over the last couple of years. I've gone from having an insatiable wanderlust to a desire for something much bigger, but the canvas is blank. I'm waiting and hoping for The Painter to dip His mighty brush into the colors of life and create this personalized masterpiece from the lives of my family and me to His glory. I have something to learn first, though. My frustration with not knowing what that "thing" I had to learn was turns out to be the very "thing" that I need to learn.

The journey and the destination are intrinsically linked. One cannot exist without the other. The value of a masterpiece, as any art aficionado will tell you, is as much about the masterful technique used to arrive at the final product as the beauty of that final product.

Donald Miller wrote in his book "A Million Miles In A Thousand Years" a conclusion I quote frequently:

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”
No one just wants a Volvo, although we often don' realize it. What we are designed to want is a meaningful life that unashamedly screams the glory of God's future grace.