Silence Is (Not So) Golden

Nothing new here. Life is moving on imperceptibly slow. Sure, there are minor details of life that may be interesting to some, but for the most part life has been nothing but the slow turn of the Earth, marching onward with no slow down in sight. 
I’m not sure how much time has passed since I have been here. Sure, a calendar will tell me it has been two weeks since my arrival, but every day has felt like many days. Even yesterday is a blur at this point. 

I went without running water in my temporary home for almost ten days only to find that the leak that had once forced me to keep it off has mysteriously ceased. I had a shower today and it was lovely. Also, my dishes that had piled in the sink refound their homes in cabinets and drawers. 

Life has been good, yet lacking. 

I miss the companionship of a wife and children. I miss the noise that accompanies the domestic half of my life. Work is a welcome distraction from the silence of my borrowed trailer, but it is no substitute for the joy of family. 

So I wait, impatiently, for their arrival, angry at those who have delayed it with their careless (and possibly criminal) actions (or lack therof). 

Perhaps I should relish the silence, enjoy the time spent in quiet. Perhaps I should take this time to reflect or grow. 

Not for me. For me, there is no growth without the stress of noise. There is nothing in silence but time for navel-gazing and dangerous over-contemplation of one’s life choices. 

I think too much when I am alone. I go to places the mind should never go. I worry and fret and despair over details of life which I have no control over. I take too much credit for my position in time and space. 

If I have discovered anything in this time of silence it’s this: God has given me gifts which I have taken for granted. I assume that what I have is normal and is a part of me, like appendages. I did nothing to bring them into existence, they just are. Every good gift must be something I deserved, merely because I exist. 

But, a wife, children, and the fertilizer of chaos are not deserved, they are gifts. God supplies them for the growth of a man, and when they are removed, even temporarily, a man can find himself stunted and unable to flourish. 

God knows I need noise as much as He knows I need times of silence. One to grow me, the other to force acknowledgement of His gifts. 

Pray that they arrive safely and more importantly soon. 

Tumult

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The mind of a two-year old is a tumultuous place, going from the highest of highs to the lowest of sorrows in a single breath. Sometimes I wonder if my mind is much different. I fear that our highest highs get numbed, while our lowest lows get more morbid with time. Death is always ever closer. We feel not simply the sorrow of not getting one’s way, but the sorrow of knowing that every moment gets more and more valuable. To watch a young child get frustrated with circumstances one is convicted that one is nothing more than a young child all grown up. As we get older we are still frustrated, but our frustration is directed at different objects. Life never cooperates. By the time one figures that out, life performs its last frustrating act: it ends.

I am terribly resistant to change. I want everything to stay the same. I will go to great lengths to ensure nothing ever changes. I take pictures. Lots of pictures. Not because I will ever look at them, but because they preserve every present moment. No one changes in a picture. No one grows up. No one ages. No one dies. That moment is perfectly captured. Frozen. Still. I resist change and attempt to live my life in a series of these frames. But life is never still. Life is never frozen. I can’t hold a single moment in a frame and be there forever.
Perhaps I am subconsciously preoccupied with death. Not a fear of death. Just a fascination with its inevitability. It is the one thing we all experience. It is the destination of all of our changes. Good changes, bad changes, all changes end with the one final change.
I don’t think God wants us to be morbidly occupied with our death. We should be acutely aware of it, but we should not allow it to dominate our lives. We were made to glorify and enjoy Him forever and “forever” begins in this mortal life.  If I am to truly enjoy Him I should enjoy His gifts in my life. I should enjoy my children and my wife. I should enjoy good food and drink. I should enjoy music and friends and knowledge. I should embrace the world around me with unabashed joy.
If I am to glorify Him I should show the agnostic and atheist world around me that there is joy in knowing the Creator. There is pleasure in His creation. Death is inevitable but it is not to be feared. It comes at precisely the moment God decides in His wisdom to bring it. And those that know Him and His salvation have even less to fear, because while that enjoyment begins in this mortal season it gets better in the eternal season.
I want to learn contentment this year.  Part of contentment is accepting change. Part of accepting change is accepting the inevitable. To accept the inevitable one, has to accept the ultimate inevitable: death. Only when I accept death and place it in its proper place in my mind will I be able to enjoy life with contentment and without tumult.

Some Birthday Resolutions

Today is my 32nd birthday. When your birthday falls this close to Christmas and new years it tends to get lost in the stress of one and the excitement of the other. Because it is so close to the new year anyway, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Instead I try to make some resolutions for my own next trip around the sun.

Before I start on the resolutions for this year, let me count this past year’s blessings. This year I finally got my full time fire job. I was blessed to travel through 15 states and live in 4.i gained incredible experience in firefighting and friendship. I gained at least five new friends. I got to watch my children frolic and explore nature in the mountains and the deserts and the ocean. I grew closer to my wife and watched her grow in incredible ways. I learned to pace myself and trust in the Lord’s Providence. I saw many beautiful parts of creation. There are probably many more that I will remember after writing this.

This year was also a painful year. With blessings come the crucible fires of sanctification. We started off the year treating the depression that has plagued Nicole for as long as I have known her. This meant the trials of antidepressants and the struggles of adjusting to a wife that I had never known. Follow this up with a job offer in February almost all the way across the country. After accepting the job I made perhaps one of the worst decisions that I have ever made by buying an old rv from a squirrely redneck in western Florida. This choice led to thousands of dollars of debt and two months of beating my head against the wall trying to get the thing to run, not knowing if I should just turn down the job to stay with my family.

Given the stagnation of our lives and my career for the previous five or more years we decided to take the job and trust the Lord to reunite us when He saw fit. This meant driving alone to Utahzona and leaving Nicole and the five kids back in Florida. She worked on the RV as much as she could before one of her worst nightmares came true.

A report was made to the session of our church and they were bound by law to call the Department of Children and Families (CPS) to investigate. I got the call from Nicole while in training, followed by a call from our now pastor explaining how it had all come to that. They had tried to ensure they would be with her when the agent came but the CPS lady knocked on the door before they could get there. In five minutes the focus shifted from reunion to preservation.

Nicole spent the hardest week of her life cleaning and disposing all of the clutter that had filled our home and our lives for the past ten years. Our church family sprung to action and acted with the most love and generosity that we have ever known. By the time the investigator returned our home was the best it had ever been. But the pain was deep and it left me feeling like I had abandoned my family and Nicole feeling much bitterness towards me and my hoarding habits.

I spent six weeks living as a bachelor in AZ before she finally gave up on the RV and bought a trailer. Ten days after that purchase and one very long trip with five kids, two cats, one dog, and one bearded dragon (who sadly did not survive the trip) we were searching for a place to park in Kanab, Utah at around midnight. We spent our first night together in a dirt pull off north of town.

The following day we moved to the Kaibab and began dealing with the problems of trailer life, namely lack of water supply, dump sites, or steady electricity. In time all of these problems were solved, and new ones came to light.
I dealt with difficult people at work and probably made my first enemy in life. She dealt with loneliness and fear that someone might attack her in the woods. There were some hairy moments in our marriage out there on that mountain.

Then came the unexpected death of Nicole’s granddad and the unsuccessful attempt to get her to VA for the funeral.I have never had to help her mourn for any family member and I am still not sure I did the best I could have.

Six and a half months of work and life on the Kaibab ended in October and for the first time since graduating college I found myself unemployed. Driving to VA with practically no money was a trip in itself. We made it in ten days.

Now I find myself a full-time stay at home dad while Nicole is (happily) working two jobs. This has been the most trying two months of this year as I learn a completely new job managing five hooligans while living in two houses and a trailer.

Money is tight and the mortgage is late, but for the first time this year we feel somewhat hopeful for what the next few months will bring.

My biggest resolution this year is to learn contentment. For as long as I can remember my focus has been on the negatives of life. I have always seen all of the wrongs and never the rights. I apologize for enjoying anything and feel like I should be ashamed of good feelings. I push down all the good and instead focus on all of the “shoulds” of life. Far too often my response to a blessing is “This should be____” or “I wish this was more____”.

This year I want to learn how to enjoy my blessings and be content with all that God has given me. I resolve to play with my children more. I resolve to love my wife more passionately and with more abandon. I resolve to take every day as a gift and work to glorify God in each one. I resolve to live life according to what is, and not according to what I wish it was. I resolve not to take for granted my work, my talents, my family, my friends, or my days here on Earth. I intend to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I enjoy my blessings and instead say “thank you.”

By the Grace of God I will do all of these things and whatever else He intends to teach me to do this year.

My Chief End

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Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

That is the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This, I believe, is the Bible’s answer to the commonly asked question “What is the meaning of life?” If I was asked about the meaning of life, that would be my answer. How that answer is applied is a bit more nuanced.

As seen on my definitions page I define truth as “that which corresponds to reality” and economy as “household management”. If I had to apply the first catechism question to my life I would say my chief way of glorifying God is to learn true truth and apply it the best I can to my personal economy.

“True” truth is objective. In our post-postmodern world, most would say there is no truth. To most in our world truth is as subjective as one’s feelings about a subject. As feelings change, so also does truth. This has led to a myriad of confusion on a number of topics, gender and sexuality being two of the more recent hot buttons. Confusion about reality used to be called “psychosis” where now it is often labeled as just another version of reality. Raised in a world where truth is subjective, we are quickly becoming a generation of psychotics.

My biggest earthly goal is to gain the proper perspective of the truth and not rely on my subjective viewpoint of it. This can be tricky of course, as my mind is finite, flawed, and my perceptions are skewed my own sinful nature. As a created being, I will never know the full extent of all truth in the universe, only God can know that. But it doesn’t mean I should stop trying.

Where does one find truth? This is a hotly debated question among Christians. Some insist that truth can only be found in the Bible while others feel truth can be observed in other places. I tend to be of the latter camp.

The Bible contains the only necessary truth for saving the human soul from damnation, but it does not contain every truth or the only truth that man can know. There are some in the Reformed camp who believe that man can know nothing outside of scripture, but I think a basic reading of Romans 18-22 makes this argument mute.

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

Man observes nature and self and understands the existence of God, as well as His attributes and nature. He knows God and understands Gods attributes just by virtue of being created in the image of God and in being able to observe creation itself. Man knows before he suppresses, he is perfectly able to discern, he just chooses out of his depravity to suppress the knowledge (this is normally where I point out to Presuppositional apologists that man is “without excuse”, but that’s another topic for another day).

It’s not just the nature and attributes of God that man can observe and understand in nature, it’s anything which God chooses in His sovereignty to allow man to know. For instance: we can know truths about nature, about economics, about physics, about math, and about our physical bodies, all without consulting the Bible. Sinful man may never get a full view of every subject, and our imperfect views may lead us to false beliefs about a topic, but with enough observation it is possible for us to get a workable grasp on reality.

Some would say that our finite minds and flawed thinking prevent us from having real knowledge, but I think it’s close enough that we shouldn’t squabble with semantics. We can know well enough to put our knowledge to good use.  We can understand our physical reality enough to manipulate it for our needs, otherwise we would have never survived life outside the Garden.

Should we rely solely on our observations to comprehend reality? No! Scripture contains enough truth about other matters (besides Salvation) that we can make comparative analysis. When we make an observation about the physical universe Christians can and should consult scripture to see if our observation matches with scripture. If it does not match scripture, either our interpretation of scripture is wrong or our interpretation of what we observe is wrong. In many matters it is impossible to discern which is which (thankfully those matters have little to nothing to do with our salvation, it is quite clear in scripture what man must do to be saved).

For example: the question of creation. Folks will argue endlessly about young earth vs old earth creationism, one side finding irrefutable evidence in the Bible, the other finding irrefutable evidence in nature. While the Bible states that God created everything, it is not specific on the actual process by which creation took its shape. This is a topic for another day, but let’s just leave it with this: either the young earth interpretation of Genesis is incorrect or the old earth observations of nature are incorrect.

My chief desire in life is to find the truth about as many things as I can and live my life as consistently with the truth as I can. This means all matters of my personal economy must be consistent with reality, even if that reality is not observed by the world at large. This has created some conflict in my life. This should create conflict in all Christian’s lives. All Christians are going to live a life that is in conflict with the fallen world.

But what if the conflict comes within the church? What if what I think is the “truth” about a topic is disliked or even condemned in the church? Obviously as a Reformed Christian I have only the Bible to turn to. On many topics it seems the church at large is hasty to adopt the larger cultural perspective. Whatever the prevailing attitude of the world is, so too is the prevailing attitude of the church. In other topics, the church often seeks to distance itself so far from the world that it misses whatever truth the world may actually be promoting.

The truth about any subject will only be found when the church bases its moral attitudes in scripture. I often stop Christians who are railing about a certain topic to cite me chapter and verse. It is truly depressing the number of believers who simply can’t come up with anything more than quotes from church patriarchs. No disrespect to the patriarchs, but they may have been wrong. And until one has at least a tentative grasp of what scripture actually says, he should probably avoid quoting flawed men. If there is a question about a matter, one should first consult scripture, then consult a multitude of sources to explain what he does not understand.

What is my point in all of this?

Seek truth, seek it in the Bible, seek it in nature, and seek it in the wisdom of church patriarchs. Then seek to live your life in accordance with your findings.