Sometimes, the person you want God to remove from your life is the person you need most.
Everyone encounters difficult people on this journey called life. Are you sitting down? Sometimes you may be the difficult person for someone else. Paths do not cross without leaving a trail, some kind of imprint, on each other. What if we viewed these impressions left by other people as marks that shape us? Even the painful ones.
A sculptor’s mediums cannot shape themselves, they are simply material. Unformed shapes, unrealized potentials, piles of stock longing for attention. Pressure and pinches shape clay, blades and abrasives form wood, extreme heat molds metal, hammers and chisels chip away at stone. Pressure, pinches, abrasives, heat, chips…..considered alone, none of these sound very pleasant!
What would these mediums become without the process that changes them into the works of art meant for them? Nothing. Forgotten piles of material collecting dust in a closet. The pain of being worked and formed gives the medium meaning, the process creates beauty.
The people in our lives do the same for us, and us for them.
The next time you’re faced with that person that pushes all of your buttons, that grates nerves only they can reach, or simply turns your stomach to look at, consider what they are forming in you. Embrace that change, grow with them.
In 1999, Warner Brothers released The Matrix, an American science fiction classic. The story tackles philosophy, sociology, technology, and spirituality; but for today’s drawing we’ll focus in on one aspect; “The One”. In the movie, Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo (Keanu Reeves), is a human living in the Matrix and working as a hacker. He is totally unaware that what he perceives as reality is nothing more than a computer projection created by artificial intelligent machines that took over the planet. A band of rebel humans who escaped the Matrix break Neo back into reality to join their rebellion. The leader of this band believes Neo to be “The One”, the human prophesied as coming to defeat the computers. In the climactic image above, Neo reaches a point of self-realization. He embraces his place in reality and finally grasps the ability to control and manipulate the Matrix to battle the machines. The attitude of embracing one’s place and stepping up to fill your position is at the heart of today’s installment of Man School.
The Matrix is unquestionably a guy flick; technological warfare, big machines, and guns galore. In the climactic scene, Neo stops a flurry of bullets racing toward him by raising his hand. He then defeats the lead villain by diving into his chest and shattering the simulated body into a cloud of computer code. Why guy doesn’t want to cheer and chest-bump his friends when the computer-generated walls start flexing in correlation with Neo’s breathing?! Neo became “The One” by conquering his fears and embracing his position, out of willingness to sacrifice as much as physical ability. Men, we need to step up and be “The One” for our families.
God, our father, provides us guys with an example to follow in fatherhood; a position to embrace. When it comes to fathering us, God is patient (1 Timothy 1:16), He is forgiving when we screw up (Ephesians 1:7, Isaiah 43:25), and his relationship to us is intimate (Luke 15:20, 1 John 3:1, Psalm 68:4). At the core of all these attitudes is love. Men who step up an embrace the role of fatherhood by reflecting God to his children become their hero. Embrace these characteristics with your wife also and you will be “The One” to your family.
1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong
The purpose of the series ‘How to Wreck Your Life’ was to expose idolatry. Over the last three weeks, we’ve talked about how, if’ we’re not careful, we can take a good thing, elevate it to being an ultimate thing, and turn it into a ‘god’ (little ‘g’) thing. Without correcting our priorities, this god thing eats away at the foundation of our ultimate goal until it is irreparably damaged. We know to make God our ultimate focus, we have seen red flags popping up in the places our life’s focus has become skewed, we’re not proud of our poor prioritizing, but it’s where we’re at; so now what? When we know we’ve idolized some area of our life, good or not, what can we do about it? Repent. Don’t say you’re sorry and promise not to do it again; intentionally change your mindset by making changes to you priorities.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness,which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Will that be the end of it? Unfortunately, not. We have to constantly keep ourselves in check, cycling through having everything in order, something flashing catching our eye and drawing our attention, realizing that shiny thing is not as important as we thought, and repenting by putting everything in order again. Martin Luther nailed this aspect of life in number one of his ninety-five theses; all of life is repentance. Luther understood we are fragile, weak beings that will not maintain a righteous lifestyle even with the best intentions. Life is a constant cycle of trying, succeeding, failing, and repenting.
The comparison to life as a cycle in the context of repentance immediately got my neurotransmitters firing like a Fourth of July fireworks finale. My imagination settled on an Ouroboros, an ancient icon of a serpent eating its own tail, consuming itself and regenerating itself simultaneously. A what?! I’m sure many of you wonder. Allow me to explain. The Ouroboros originated in ancient Egypt but its name is Greek, Οὐρά (oura) meaning “tail” and βόρος (boros) meaning “eating”. Referenced in many cultures, the Ouroboros carries a common theme of life, death, and rebirth; the cycle of life. The Christian life follows the same cycle, life is found when we are born in Christ, the physical body dies, then we continue our spiritual life in heaven.
Applying it to the Christian walk, we begin a place where we are close to God, aligning our priorities with his, trusting his direction and ignoring our desires; this is the ‘birth’ stage of the Ouroboros. As life goes on we grow comfortable and confident, without keeping ourselves in check comfortable evolves into entitled and confident into arrogant. We let go of God and latch on to that shiny thing that becomes our god; this is death. The cycle completes when we look up and realize life is not what we thought, we acknowledge our poor choices led us down a path we wish we’d avoided and we re-embrace life as God intends. This is re-birth.
Historically, the Ouroboros is manifested in the form of a snake of a dragon. I chose to create my Ouroboros in the form of a dragon and in the style of a tattoo. I am not familiar with the art of tattoos and don’t necessarily prefer dragons to snakes, so I’m not completely sure why I landed on this design. Julie and I watched “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” last night (an excellent movie if you like a good mystery), I’m sure that has a lot to do with it!