Christian life

There's Something to be Said About Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

We all have our worst fears. And if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to obsess about them and let them dominate my life. It’s all too easy to instantly become negative and allow fears, worries and anxieties overpower our faith in the Lord’s plans for our lives. Or, even worse, we begin to suspect or blame God in the supposed unfolding of these problems that might not have even happened yet.

Fear is a human aspect and is something characters throughout salvation history have struggled with. Even when the Lord reaches out His hand and does amazing deeds, humanity is all too quick to forget God’s goodness, or become disillusioned and bitter. This plays out multiple times in the books of Exodus and Numbers, where the Israelites complain about the food the Lord has given them, about what they left behind in Egypt (besides slavery) and where the Lord is taking them.

When Moses leads the Israelites to the land “flowing with milk and honey,” they become consumed with fear because they’re afraid of the current inhabitants of the land, completely forgetting the extraordinary miracles that brought them out of slavery and sustained them on their journey:

“All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, the whole community saying to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt, or that here in the desert we were dead! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword? Our wives and little ones will be taken as booty. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?…Let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14: 2-4)

In response, the Lord allows exactly what they feared to happen, because they wouldn’t make space in their lives for God and because they refused to trust in Him. He withdraws and without God, their worst fears indeed take place:

“The Lord also said to Moses and Aaron: ‘How long will this wicked community grumble against me?… By my life, says the Lord, I will do to you just what I have heard you say. Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall….Your little ones, however, who you said would be taken as booty, I will bring in, and they shall appreciate the land you spurned. But as for you, your bodies shall fall here in the desert, here where your children must wander for forty years, suffering your faithlessness, till the last of you lies dead in the desert.” (Numbers 14: 26-29, 31-33)

The Israelites became victims to a self-fulfilling prophecy and their own fears indeed came into being because they refused to believe in the Lord, and the Lord allowed those fears to become actualized. It’s easy to look at this ancient example and scoff at their faithlessness, but the reality is that we make the same mistakes in our own lives time and time again. We also refuse to trust in the Lord because our fears seem more substantial than trusting that the Lord has our best interests in mind. When we encounter the unknown, we shy away and want to turn back to the familiar past, even when we bemoaned the tribulations of what we endured in the past. By making our fears tantamount, we push the Lord aside and sometimes invite what we feared to come into being.  At the same time, it can be incredibly difficult to trust in the Lord, especially when He’s calling us into the unknown, but a life without trust in the Lord as Christians is not a Christian life at all.

But, as the Lord has also done throughout salvation history, He’s always ready to reward faith and renew His promises, as we make our way through this desert of life to the Promised Land waiting for our souls at the end of our earthly days. As long as we hope, we can prevent these dark omens of the unknown from become dismal self-fulfilled prophecies.

Freedom In Friendship

 

 

The Catholic Beer Club, a name containing three things I love the most, the Church, Beer, and Community… all kidding aside, I am so happy to be writing here for the first time! It is my sincere wish that in these few words you find some inspiration, encouragement, and maybe a few laughs. Each of our lives is full of many experiences, some humorous, others tragic, some even glorious or of deep sorrow, yet each and every experience is intertwined with the lives and experiences of other men. I realize this is an obvious statement, but it’s one that bears reflecting upon. Who is accompanying me through life? Who am I accompanying? It is only when we take a moment to reflect that we realize what we need.

I think that you would agree that life is so much richer when lived in friendship; when laughter can be shared and sorrows borne together! A few months before I was married, a good friend and I went backcountry camping.  One experience in particular stands out to me from that trip. We woke early in the morning and sat on the edge of the mountain watching the sun spread its warm, orange and red glow across the sky. We prayed and talked for an hour before breakfast sharing in the beauty of the moment. It was an impactful moment of heart to heart conversation and openness where I realized the incredible blessing of true, deep friendship. Deep in each of our souls is the burning desire to be loved and to give love.  However, it is so easy for us to stay on a surface level in our relationships. It is more expedient to send a quick text message or to browse Twitter or Instagram to see how ‘so and so’ is doing rather than to give them a call or get together. Surface level interaction comfortable as it is, is not sufficient and cannot fill the deep desire of our hearts. We often follow the example of Adam and Eve doing our best to find ‘love’ wherever we are able except where we were meant to find it! So where do we go from here? How do we find and live those rich, choice friendships that bring such great vibrancy and joy to this life?

The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote about three types of friends, those of utility, pleasure, and of virtue or excellence. I think most of the world has experienced friendships of utility and pleasure, neither of which is inherently bad. In brief, a friendship of utility is one where one or both parties benefit from the relationship with the other. For example, this sort of friendship could exist between businessmen who benefit from each other’s services. In a friendship of pleasure, one or both parties experience fun or pleasure from interacting with the other. Book club members, kayaking buddies, or jogging partners could be an example of such a friendship. Both of these friendships are good and while they can certainly play a role, neither will be sufficient in assisting one to achieve excellence. The excellent life or the good life is the most esteemed and fulfilling life according to Aristotle. This life is only possible with the help of virtuous or ‘perfect’ friendships. Aristotle writes,

“Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other… and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends;” (Nichomachean Ethics, Book VIII, #3)

It is safe to say that all of us, whether we realize it or not, desire to have friends who are good and wish well to us for our own sake. A friendship where each wishes the other well is one where both friends are open and honest with each other. This type of friendship is difficult because it is humbling to have a ‘truth-teller’ in our life who demands we fight against hypocrisy and keeping our weaknesses hidden. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” (Proverbs 27:17). I think the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Am I willing to be that sort of friend to someone else? Am I willing to sharpen and be sharpened by this relationship? Recall the parable in Scripture when Jesus talks about removing the plank from one’s own eye before removing the speck from your brother’s eye; I am an expert at finding the speck in someone else’s eye and yet a mere novice at removing or even seeing the plank in my own! I have discovered that clinging to such an attitude makes it quite difficult to build virtuous friendships. On the other hand virtuous friendships help me to see my weaknesses and to grow in those areas.

Personally, I have only in the last few years experienced friendships of virtue and they have and are still changing my life. Two friendships I have invested in are with my college roommate and of course with my beloved wife. For years I was more concerned about what others thought about me than anything else. My actions were based upon what I perceived others to think of me. What slavery that was and yet what freedom has come from investing in true friendship! I think we live in an age ripe for an explosion of true, deep friendships, yet most of us live under a shadow of fear that keeps us from experiencing true friendship because such friendships are far from comfortable. They require vulnerability, selflessness, seeking the good of the other, sacrifice, and seeing myself as I truly am. However, because of that such friendships also bring about freedom, confidence, trust, joy, laughter, growth, and seeing whom one can and will be. I have grown more in a year and a half of marriage than my whole life before combined. The fruit of that growth is much more joy and freedom than I have ever experienced!

I hope that you too will experience such friendships, truly seeking the good of the other and growing together into the best versions of yourselves. It can be quite comfortable to stay in our routines, to go to the same places, spend time with the same people, and remain the same person, but there is such adventure and freedom in becoming who we are meant to be, fulfilling our unrealized potential! Are you willing to risk something to have brothers or sisters who will love you for you? Amazing things happen when we step outside of our comfort zones and share our dreams, prayers, and hearts with a friend. Invest time with those who better you. Spend time sitting at the feet of those you admire to learn from them. Grab a beer, or a scotch if that’s your preference, and get to know yourself by getting to know a true friend. Be patient for friendship takes root slowly, like a fine wine takes time to age, but have hope because true friendship is life changing. I’ll leave you with words from the great Aristotle which are still so relevant today.

“But it is natural that such friendships should be infrequent; for such men are rare. Further, such friendship requires time and familiarity; as the proverb says, men cannot know each other till they have 'eaten salt together'; nor can they admit each other to friendship or be friends till each has been found lovable and been trusted by each. Those who quickly show the marks of friendship to each other wish to be friends, but are not friends unless they both are lovable and know the fact; for a wish for friendship may arise quickly, but friendship does not.” (Nichomachean Ethics Book VIII, #3)


I think that is enough to ponder for now, but we’ll revisit this next time and talk about what these friendships can look like and reflect on various aspects of community and friendship including authenticity, humility, conversation, and ‘eating salt together’. Cheers!

The Key to Contentment: Just One Little Tweak...

I think a massively huge portion of our twenty-something years is marked with discontentment.  

This may or may not include plaguing thoughts of “What am I supposed to do with my life? Shouldn’t I know this by now? People started asking me what I wanted to be by the time I was, like, nine…” or “I know what I want in life, but it hasn’t happened yet, what the heck.

Maybe it’s the instant gratification culture. Maybe the problem’s us. Probably both.

But I know that when I say most of my days are spent grappling with contentment, I know I’m not alone.

So what can you do about it? 

Ask yourself: What do you want to make of your life?

I know I want to make something beautiful.

I mentioned in another article that gratitude and living in the present moment are huge keys to finding joy — this goes for contentment, too.

I’d like to add another item to the list of things that bring contentment: doing something that calls you outside yourself.  

Doing something beautiful…as in, something that turns me outside myself and points to others.

So all of us binge-watching Netflix six out of the seven nights a week (okay, it’s sometimes all seven…), spending an embarrassingly large amount of time on social media checking to see who likes our stuff, or retweets our attempts to be funny — yeah, I don’t think I need to point out that this isn’t helping our struggle. 

Here’s a challenge to myself, and to you.

Make your life a song. An act of worship to the One who created you, using your gifts, your talents, your vocation, your daily duties.

It’s really simple. My life can be an act of worship, a masterpiece, simply by intentionally seeking the Heart of my Maker in everything I do: whether that’s cleaning the house, meetings at work, volunteering on a weekend, using my current single vocation to pursue deep relationships with others, using my artistic gifts to point others to Beauty. 

It’s not rocket science. It doesn’t mean flying to Africa for a week for a helicopter missionary experience (drop in, drop out).

It just means living your daily life with new intentionality. Doing little things for a deeper purpose. Why do you do what you do? Are you doing it for yourself?

All of my daily life, if I do it in pursuit of His Heart, seeking to find Him in all things — then my life becomes a song of worship.

My favorite quote of all time is, “Beauty will save the world.”

But it’s so true. If we are all pursuing Beauty, pursuing God in every area of our life, making Him the top priority, and doing things for the purpose of loving Him and others, it will overflow for others to see, and we will find contentment in today. Our joy, our hope in the midst of difficulties, cannot be hidden. 

So go out and let your heart be moved by the extraordinariness of your ordinary life. Look with wonder on the goodness about you.

In the midst of that ordinariness, soak in little things: chirping birds, sparkling stars. Smiles from friends. Read and watch things that shape you and inspire you, and share them with others. 

Get out of yourself. Create something and don’t be afraid to show the world that piece of your soul. Serve others in little ways, in whatever ways. Be creative. Whatever you do, do it for someone other than yourself.

Do something with your young adulthood you’d be proud of and make your life a masterpiece.  

We probably won’t even notice how contentment crept into the dark spaces in our hearts, because we’ll be too busy smiling.