Have We Overspiritualized The Christian Walk?

Is there a danger to putting our best foot forward? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the kind of post that is really hard to write. It’s because I know there are some readers who will be shocked to realize some things about me, but I hope that if they do, it will bring them comfort. I know I am an answer man to many, but there are many times that I have my own struggles and those are often with the Christian walk.

Sometimes I think we overdo how it is. I know many people who have rich and vibrant prayer lives. I don’t deny that for a moment. For me, this is an honest struggle. I have a very hard time with prayer. It could be because of my Aspergers. It’s hard enough to talk to a person. Make that person divine and in fact a being who is tri-personal and it becomes even more difficult. I more often do minute prayers than long extended prayer times. I find it hard to know what it means to wrestle in prayer for someone. If that’s you, excellent. Not knocking you. I am better at brief prayers throughout the day.

Sometimes I see Christians talking about their Bible study and how awesome it is every day. God just shows them something new that they hadn’t seen before. If that’s you, excellent, but I wonder if I’m more like other Christians want to admit. Sometimes, you’re just reading the text. You don’t get anything immediately. Maybe you can make a connection. Honestly, I seem to get more just doing my nightly Bible reading with my wife. I read it out loud for us together and sometimes I do get things that way.

Church services can be outright boring to me. I’ve grown tired of preachers who just give a text and jump straight to an application and Christianity is all about just being a good person. This doesn’t even get to the music. The music part to me seems more like a concert. I don’t really relate and I can’t remember the last time I sang along. It’s all too awkward for me.

Sometimes I think we put forward a position where we shouldn’t struggle in the church and our lives are full of joy abundantly. Excuse me, but I know I’m rarely at that level. Many times when I am in a crisis, I find it hard to follow James and count all things joy. If anything, I can find myself lashing out at God and accusing Him and asking Him if He remembers His promises or if He even cares about the suffering going on.

Yet when I read the Psalms, I wonder if I’m not the odd one out. The Psalmists seemed to do that a lot. It’s strange that the question the Psalmists normally had was not if the people remembered the covenant, but if God remembered it.

We seem to have this attitude in the church that if we put forward an image of our lives being less than perfect, there’s something wrong with us. We’re not fooling anyone. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re free of struggles. Sometimes a good worship service shouldn’t leave you feeling happy. It should leave you feeling miserable with the conviction of sin. (This doesn’t deny that you could have happiness when you realize grace and forgiveness.)

1 in 3 men are said to struggle with pornography in the church, yet how often at a church service do you hear guys sharing that with other guys? It’s almost like we want to treat sin as if it’s not really real. Our messages at church are more self-help and can be found in any episode of Dr. Phil more often. You won’t get the Biblical text from him, but many times the messages are awfully similar.

Maybe also this idea of putting forth this image is damaging. It damages new Christians who think there’s something wrong with them and it bewilders skeptics who think we don’t take life seriously. Christianity is just a feel-good religion to them. I try to tell them sometimes being a good Christian will mean you feel miserable. You feel the evil in the world or you feel the weight of your own sin or anything else.

I fear we can present the Christian life as just one amazing experience after another. I doubt that’s what it’s really like for most people. On the other hand, some could say I am guilty of intellectualizing matters and focusing too much on that area. They could also be right. Could it be like in most other cases, moderation is what is needed? Maybe the middle ground.

I conclude this wondering what your thoughts are. Maybe you’re out there thinking you agree with me and there’s too much show in our personal lives and very little grow. Maybe you think I’m way off base and want to tell why. Comments are always open. Let me know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thirty-Six

What’s going on today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I thought today I could continue book reviews, for while I have been reviewing McCormick’s book and I’m finally done with it, I was reading other books in the meanwhile, one of which I posted a review of Friday. That could be done, but we have a lot to do today and I want to have just a fun post today. Why? Today is the day I celebrate thirty-six years of living on this planet.

So let’s start right there. Celebrate. Why? Because life is a gift and a gift is to be celebrated. I can work to sustain my life, but I can do nothing to give myself life. That life comes from God alone. We each can view our lives as gifts from God or curses, I choose to live mine as a gift.

I was telling my wife Allie yesterday that while I am physically mature and am of age, there is still a part of me that is a boy and that part will never die. There is a part that says life is an adventure to be lived. This world can be like a big playground and I should wake up every day waiting to see what adventures the day has for me.

It really is an adventure also. Every day we get up, we have a chance to do something good for the world. In my own field of apologetics, I think of what Peter Kreeft once said. Apologetics is the closest someone comes to saving the world. I really like that quote. This is the battle of good and evil after all. I often compare it to the Matrix. Those we argue against are not really the enemy, but are unknowingly being used by the enemy. The ones we argue most often against are ironically the ones we’re fighting for.

Of course, something that makes today special is having Allie by my side. I have in my own bride a gift no one else could have ever given me. Just like in the Christian walk, in marriage, you are the gift you give to your spouse and they are the gift they give to you. In Christianity, the gift Christ gives you is Himself and you give yourself to Him.

It’s hard to believe there’s been 36 years. I still have so much more of a difference I want to make in this world and so much I want to do. Yet today I think there will be a lot of time spent with fun things. The Mrs. has already made me blueberry muffins for breakfast and this afternoon, she’ll be making me peanut butter cookies. My in-laws meanwhile are going to take me out to a pizzeria here in Atlanta. I’m definitely also looking forward to getting the mail today to seeing what all is in it. That will probably extend for a few days. Sometimes mail is late getting here after all.

Thank you to everyone who has sent birthday wishes so far! Thank you for your friendship and liking the material put out here at Deeper Waters! I owe you all so much!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

The Death To Self In Marriage

Why is it that a marriage relationship requires hard work? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I lived the bachelor life for quite some time. I didn’t marry until two months before I turned 30. I had lived on my own for a time and then I lived with a roommate, who turned out to be my best man at my wedding. It was a couple of years after moving in that we realized that like the roommate agreement, we hadn’t put in anything about what if one of us gets a girlfriend. (That seemed a little too far-fetched) As it turns out, I was the one who got one and even after the first date, talk was buzzing around our circle of friends. “Well we all know where this is going.” Indeed, we did. My roommate moved into another place and I found another apartment for my future wife and I to live in together.

So then comes the wedding and then comes the honeymoon. When we get back, it’s time to get used to living our lives together as husband and wife with sharing a grocery bill, sleeping in the same bed, and of course sex is involved.

News flash to all of you out there who are unmarried.

This is radically different from anything else.

Now I could write a separate post sometime on why I think living together beforehand is really a disastrous idea, but not now. In fact, it could be when I’m done here you might get some clues as to why I think it’s so foolish. You see, after I made those vows and came home, I had to do my part of the work. I had to get used to sharing my life with someone else. When it was just me or just me and my roommate, for the most part, I could do my own thing. Oh sure, roommates have to make sacrifices for each other, and we did, but it’s not like a binding contract. If one of us had wanted to get out, well we could have I’m sure. Friendship does not require the level of sacrifice that marriage does.

Marriage shows that the pathway to true life is death. Not in a suicidal sense, but dying to the life of self. When you cling to yourself in a marriage, you will lose and in fact, your spouse will lose. What you do to yourself, you do to your spouse. What you do to your spouse, you do to you. There really is something to the whole idea of being one flesh. When you marry, you give up the right to be your own person as it were. You belong to your spouse and your spouse belongs to you.

This is why the marriage relationship can be so difficult at times. We all want to do our own thing and be able to get away with it. We all want there to be no consequences to our actions, but there are in fact consequences. There are prices to pay. There are no actions that have no ramifications. Every little thing you do has an impact. This is also because everything you do builds up a character. You are becoming a kind of person over and over and that is the kind of person that your spouse is going to have to live with. Remember this, in marriage, the greatest gift you give to your spouse ultimately is you.

This is one reason that when a husband wants sex, and in most marriages the husbands are the go-getters (Although I do like how Mark Gungor in his Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage says that he knows some of you men out there are married to women who love sex and want it constantly and can’t get enough and I think I speak on behalf of all men when I say “We hate you.”) and when you ask them what they want, it’s more than just pleasure and a good time. They want their wives. They want them as persons and nothing leaves them feeling closer to their wives than that sexual intimacy.

For a woman, a woman will often want that security from her man. She wants to feel safe and protected and nothing seems to make her feel as safe as the presence of the man in her life. My wife can be someone who can get scared of many things and I, as anyone who sees me knows, am not a big muscular man by any stretch of the imagination. I am actually very much underweight, and yet if I have her in my arms, my wife will feel much safer. What is it that makes her feel safer? It sure isn’t knowing that I’m a powerhouse who can take down anyone who comes after her. It’s just me. I’m what makes her feel safe.

Men and women want something different from each other in marriage. There is something that they do not have in themselves and they seek that in the other, but here’s the deal.

Both parties have to die.

A man will have to sacrifice much of himself for the love of his life. A man will give his time and his money and pass up many other things he would like to do. He’s no longer free to spend every minute of his day at the golf course or be spending all that time with his friends. Now of course, he can do that from time to time and that’s fine. When we lived in Charlotte, my wife knew that on Sunday evenings, I’d go out for a bit with my friends, but if she needed me, she could call and I’d be right there. She just knew that for me, time with my friends was important, just like I want Allie to have time with her female friends apart from me.

But a man has to sacrifice much of that and he does that when he marries, but let’s be sure on one thing. Men would not marry if it were not for sex. I’m not saying a man marries only for sex, but it sure is a high ranking reason. A man sees the beauty of the woman and wants to embrace and take it on and be received by all that beauty. He wants to be as close to the beauty as he possibly can.

And so, this is the death of the woman. A woman wants that kind of security quite often, but what does she have to do. She has to risk herself. She has to put herself in a position of vulnerability, but in order to do that, she must be convinced the person she’s with will not hurt her in any way. She must be willing to make herself totally vulnerable to that person in the most intimate way possible.

The beauty of this all is that the more the persons die to themselves, the more they actually find life. In fact, in the case of sexuality, they find true life in that that kind of love is capable of bringing about a life on its own.

And this is the difficulty of marriage. Our natural tendency is to look out for #1. In marriage, we have to not do that. That means that for the husbands, your wife needs that security from you and she needs you to sacrifice for her. Meanwhile, you wives, your husbands need that intimacy with you. You will have to sacrifice.

And in fact, the more each party sacrifices, the more it will not become a burden. It will become a joy. There will be no harm in giving something to your spouse that is entirely good for them. Their joy will be your joy.

Death is the way to life in marriage, but that life is something beautiful.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On the Death of Robin Williams

What are my thoughts on the death of Robin Williams? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When I heard the news of Robin Williams’s death, it was in an email and I thought “That can’t be right. Surely it must be another actor with that name. Robin Williams committing suicide?” I went to IMDB and saw the age given matched perfectly. It was quite a shock to hear and it was indeed tragic.

Let’s go ahead and say it right at the start. Suicide is always tragic. 

None of us really like death, but in some cases, we can accept it to an extent. If our loved one is old and it’s “their time” we’re sorry to see them go, but we understand. If a soldier or a police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty, we are sad to see that happen and we don’t really think it was their time, but we understand it. 

Suicide though?

That leaves us with question after question.

I put something about this on my Facebook yesterday and someone told me about someone whose Dad had committed suicide when they were five years old and how they kept asking “Did my Dad not want to see me grow up?”

This person was in their 60’s and still asking.

Suicide will leave a mark on every family when it takes place. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas will be different. Wedding anniversaries and birthdays won’t be the same. Whenever the date of the suicide comes around, the people involved will remember it. Every time they think they will ask themselves “Was there anything I could have done differently? Could I have stopped this?”

And they will never find a satisfying answer to those questions.

For our family, Robin Williams was a treasure. When my wife and I were dating, we lived in different states about 250 miles apart so I’d often bring over movies when I came to see her. At that time, she struggled with depression and one movie I bought was Patch Adams, which is about a doctor who used humor to treat his patients. 

If you’ve never seen the movie, Robin Williams’s character, Patch Adams, has set up his clinic and a girl, Carin, he has an interest in is one of his doctors that helps treat the patients. One time, she is alone and a man with mental illness of a severe nature comes to see her.

The next thing we hear is that he has murdered her.

Patch blames himself and in the following scene, we see him having a dialogue with God wondering if he can even go on.

As you see in the video, what stops him is a butterfly on his medical bag that flies on to his shirt and then he has on his finger. Why? Because Carin had said earlier how she wishes she could be a caterpillar so she could transform and fly away. Patch has his spirits renewed by this and continues his work.

Since marriage, we’ve watched a number of other films of his such as Jumanji and Mrs. Doubtfire and we did watch the only season of the Crazy Ones together. Allie also was happy to share with me about how his daughter was named Zelda, after the Legend of Zelda, a series Allie knows I thoroughly enjoy.

Since hearing the story of Williams’s death, I have also been given some hope in hearing that he had attended Redeemer Church where Tim Keller serves as pastor and that he has attended at least one other church in San Francisco on a regular basis and had been asking questions. Did he find the right answers? We can hope.

I do want to say a few other thoughts that come to me about this.

First, if you are a Christian who is making comments about someone being in Hell right now and doing so gleefully, shame on you. I have unfriended one person on Facebook who did this. It is not our call to make if someone is in Hell or not. Yet even if we were absolutely certain that they were, we should not be rejoicing in that fact.

Years ago when Saddam Hussein was still alive, someone messaged me on a forum I was in when the news came that Saddam’s sons had been found and killed and said “Isn’t this good news?” Now I was absolutely certain they were Muslims and outside the fold and I replied that it was good that the evil they would do on Earth had been stopped and they would never harm someone again, but it’s tragic that someone enters eternity without the grace of God. 

Yes. Even our enemies.

I do believe in Hell, and if you agree with me, you should defend it similar to the way that you would defend the reality of the holocaust (Since there are holocaust deniers). Both should be seen as realities and both should be seen as things that you would prefer could be otherwise. 

Christian. You may think someone didn’t do the best with their life, but the reality is, well, neither do you. We all screw up and make mistakes. On this point, I don’t care if you’re a Calvinist or an Arminian. We all know the only way we get to Heaven is by the grace of God. We do not deserve to be in the loving presence of God and walking with Jesus at all. We all need grace.

If you think Robin Williams didn’t make it, then just remember that if it wasn’t for the grace of God, neither would you. I, meanwhile, hold out hope. This is also so since I found that one of the books he read often to his children and one of his favorites was the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I hope he came to know who Aslan is in this world. 

The next point is that suicide is a tragedy. This has been said, but some people have been sharing the meme of saying “Genie. You’re free.”

What does that mean really?

Do you really want to affirm the view of the suicide and the person contemplating suicide that this world is just awful and that we should all be seeking to escape it? Let us consider what G.K. Chesterton said about those who are suicides in contrast to those who are martyrs.

“A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside of him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside of him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end.”

If you are a Christian, you should know that this is your Father’s world. This world is not all that it was meant to be. That’s true, but it is not Hell. There are plenty of good things here and one just needs to take the time to see them. Many times when I have been depressed, it has been the simple things that have brought me out, such as seeing my cat play with a toy. It can also be the love of other people, such as the touch of my wife. 

You see, it’s okay to not always be in a happy mood. You’re not meant to always be happy. It’s okay to have a down day. You can’t force yourself to feel happy. If you could make yourself feel something, we’d all make ourselves feel joy. You’re not always responsible for your feelings, but you are responsible for what you do with them.

You might think Robin Williams is free today, but you know who isn’t?

If you’re reading this blog with sadness thinking about it, you’re one of the people who isn’t.

Neither are the immediate friends and family. The rest of the world is at a loss right now because of this tragedy. Suicide takes the pain that one person goes through and thrusts it instead on everyone else. It is a wound that will never be healed this side of eternity. It will be a constant reminder on the lives of everyone involved from then on.

I say this as someone familiar with it. Some of you know that when I was introduced to my now wife, it was when she was recovering from a suicide attempt.

How different things would be if she had succeeded.

And keep in mind for her, at one point, she thought it was all over. In fact, what she was doing was because of a bad relationship with a boy. 

Would she have even dreamed that within about a year’s time, she’d be walking down the aisle to marry a totally different man who saw her at her worst and still loved her? 

In fact, I wrote earlier this year about how she even won a beauty pageant earlier this year put on by Joni and Friends called the Miss Shining Star pageant for girls with disabilities. 

MissShiningStar2014

I still remember it well. All the girls I had seen won had won the talent competition also. Allie had lost it in her division. There it was at the end and I was thinking “She’s not going to win it.” It just looked like she would lose this title.

And then they announced her name as Miss Shining Star.

She’ll also tell you I cried more than she did that day. It was just such a delight to see how far she had gone and how she had been so hesitant to enter this pageant and yet, she won it. Next year, she will pass her crown on to someone else so they can enjoy that privilege, but now, she is an inspiration that there is always hope.

And all of those might not have been.

In fact, each one of us is a “might not have been.”

None of us was required to exist. The world could have gone on just fine without our being here. None of us are essential to the story. Each of us has been given life and each of us is to decide what to do with it. I pray you’ll treat it as a gift.

Please remember this. Suicide is never the answer. Your pain might end at that point, but the pain you leave for others will never end.

Third point is one that seems odd coming from me, but it is true. My wife and I are Aspies and introverts. We don’t thrive on relationships like other people do, but we also know that relationships are important. I am incredibly thankful for the friendships that I have earned over the years. There is nothing like it. I am thankful for a family that raised me up in a Christian home and showed me love always, and I am thankful for the family that has become mine as well in my in-laws. They are honored to have me as a son-in-law and I am grateful.

I am also thankful for our church family. Just last Sunday, we celebrated Allie’s 24th birthday and some friends took us out to eat. Allie talked about how her family couldn’t do that since they were far away and my family can’t really afford it. This couple that took us out is in their 70’s and lead a group called Marriage Moments at our church. They know something about marriage. They’ve been married for 50+ years. Since our church is “The Point” they said to just think of them as their Point Parents.

That is something that I am sure will never leave me.

That evening, Allie and I watched Into The Storm with a gift card we’d been given by my parents. Allie really liked Twister and likes this one even more now. Still, as I saw it I was left in a somber state. I can assure you the movie is an awesome one that will have you on the edge of the seat, but I also think about the times that people were near-death and focusing on the relationships that they had formed over the years and wanting to tell people how much they loved them.

Allie would be the first to tell you how quiet and somber I was that evening.

Why? I’m a go-getter type of guy who wants to make the most of what I have and was thinking “Are we making the most of our time here now?”

Those relationships are important and of course, none of them will be perfect. You will not be a perfect spouse. You will not have a perfect spouse. You will not be a perfect parent. You will not have perfect children. You will not have perfect friends or be a perfect friend or have perfect siblings or be a perfect sibling. 

And that’s okay.

Things won’t be perfect, but they can be great. 

For we Christians, we should know this first and foremost. Our own God is eternally relational Himself in the Trinity.

Too often, we take these relationships for granted. We act like that person will always be here, and then a car accident takes place and they’re gone, or they get the news that they have cancer and their time is limited. We can often ask ourselves what we will do with the future, which is fine, but we need to ask ourselves what we’re going to do with this moment.

Of course, I am not saying be reckless with other people. As an introvert, I will not relate to everyone and there will be times that people like myself need to be away from the crowd and recharging, but even then, introverts need people too. Let us remember what C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

These are the people. These are the ones you will take with you into eternity. I am an avid lover of books and reading and the quest of knowledge. I hope my wife would agree however that I am a greater lover of her and I would hope ultimately also that I am a greater lover of God. The knowledge of God is subservient to God Himself after all.

Today, the world just doesn’t seem as funny because of a tragic event that has happened and made us all stop and think about what our lives really mean and what they’re all about. What we all would give right now to have had a butterfly come and land on Robin Williams at this time.

And if you are in this boat right now of considering taking your own life, please please please do not do it. Reach out and talk to someone. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. (1-800-273-8255) Please also find a good local church and talk to a good minister or counselor there. Just reach out and get some help. The Christian message is that every human life is valuable and precious by nature of what it is. 

My own wife wrote about what she was dealing with in her journal last night and shared it on Facebook. (So yes, I am not sharing something private here and she knows I’m sharing this and is fine with it.)

As I was journaling tonight, I journaled a bit about the death of Robin Williams and it got me thinking about my own suicide attempt five years ago.  Stories of suicide is very heart-breaking, and for me, they resonate very deeply because I was almost one of them.  Here’s what I wrote, you may like it, you may not like it, but it’s the truth and is what’s on my heart:

Why…why did God rescue me from my suicide attempt…but he allows others to die?  Why did he rescue me from my death but not other people?  It almost makes me angry to have survived.  I’m no more special than anyone else, I still haven’t figured out what I’m really good at, yet God decided to rescue me?  Why?  I was still a follower of Christ, if I had died, I would’ve gone to heaven and been with the Lord.  But there are some who don’t follow him who kill themselves, and their despair is even worse in the afterlife instead of having peace.  Why God…why did you rescue me from death…but you don’t rescue others from the grips of suicide?  Their lives are just as precious as mine!  Robin Williams was doing good in the world – he made people smile when they thought they couldn’t.  But I don’t do any good in the world.  I don’t make any contribution to the world.  So why did you rescue me?  My soul aches…people are hurting so much…and there is so much death around me…people killing each other…people killing themselves…this is not what you created us for!  All this death and violence…this isn’t what you wanted for us!  What are we to do in world that is killing itself and breaking down?  Will we all eventually kill each other to the brink of extinction?  No, that won’t happen.  You promised you’ll come back for us.  You promised you’d come back and reign over us on earth, just as you do in heaven.  We still have hope!  You won’t abandon us, you always keep your promises.  I know you’ll come for us, and you’ll be our King.  The world will finally know you are there!  The world will finally bow down to you as LORD.  You will rescue your servants.  You will come for your children.  You won’t leave us like this.  We are waiting for you…come soon my LORD!

As you can see, she still has problems and attitudes she’s working with, but I like at the end what she’s doing. She’s seeking to find hope in God and frankly, where else will you find it? If Christ is not risen, then death will indeed have the last laugh. It will have it on the suicide or the murder victim or the martyr or anyone else. No one will escape it.

If Christ is risen, those of us in Him have the last laugh on death.

And speaking of laughs, let’s look back on the life of Robin Williams and remember he left us with several. We will miss him, but let’s not lose sight of them.

Please be in prayer for those who have been left behind from this tragedy.

R.I.P. Robin Williams.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

 

Edited to add: A kind reader suggested a guide to help those struggling with depression and other conditions that can be found here.