In Which I Confess My Discontent and Covetousness

I am nostalgic.  I love things that remind me of my youth.  I love things that remind me of life before I was born.  This is a huge part of why I have a degree in history.  It’s also why I’m cognizant that my nostalgia is often artificial.  I have no memories of the Civil War era, for example, but Ken Burns can still make me somehow homesick for a home that was never mine.

I am also blessed (or cursed, take your pick) with a bit of wanderlust.  I want to go new places and see new things.  I want to pick up and move to, say, Scotland.  Why Scotland?  It sounds interesting.  It also could be the ginger population there.  Dunno.  I applied for a job in Texas late last year.  I didn’t get it, but there’s something about starting over in a new place that’s a scary sort of exciting.

My sister recently obtained some court transcripts that included a brief outline of my late grandfather’s young adulthood.  This was a story of a young man who simply would not stay put.  He had several jobs in several states, including selling pickles in Oregon, working on a ranch in Montana, supervising rail line work in Idaho and bookkeeping in Chicago.  These were rapturous pages for me.  Nostalgia was awakened.  I was meeting my grandfather for the first time, as this was his story in his own words.  I can relate to his wanderings, too, as I often too quickly grow discontent with where I am and have an urge to go do something different.

My family is spread out across the country.  I have seven cousins and two sisters.  Between the ten of us, we’ve lived in at least ten states, and I think there are only two who lived in the same state their whole lives to date (at least that I know of) and one of those two spent a semester overseas (if we’re talking international travel, my sisters and I have all several weeks or more in other countries).  I think I come by the wanderlust honestly.  Maybe it’s something in how we were raised.  Maybe it’s in the blood.  Maybe we have a strong sense that this earth is not our home.

My wanderlust feels to me very much like discontent.  This is my first confession.  I’m rarely content to stay put.  I want something different.  The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.  I’m honestly somewhat afraid of my wanderlust.  I’ve survived nearly 9 years in my adopted state and I think I’ve learned a few things from it.

Lesson #1: There Is Nothing New
There is nothing new under the sun.  Moving to a new place may give you culture shock.  You may have to learn new roads, new grocery stores and food brands (I’m sorry, Eastern US, but “Bring out the Hellman’s, bring out the best” doesn’t have the same ring to it that “Bring out the Best Foods, bring out the best” does, and what do you mean your sugar isn’t made by C&H?), but people are the same and you’ll get into a routine quickly. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.

Lesson #2: Distance
Moving from one place to another taught me that the world is both smaller and larger than I realized.  Want to go see a show in Connecticut?  That’s a day trip.  Want to go see your family?  Better take a week off of work.  Distance is a different concept to me now.

Lesson #3: Home
Home to me always meant the house I grew up in.  Whether it had paint I’m pretty sure was officially called “Awful Avocado” or a more neutral tone on the outside, and whether the floors were covered in “Blech Brown” carpet or hardwood floors, the house was the same.  It’s where I grew up.  It’s just home.  Now I’ve lived in 5 different places in two cities since I left California.  I had a friend say one day, “Home is where you know how the shower works.”  Yes, I think that about sums it up.

Lesson #4: Friends and Family
Friends, this is where my discontent and covetousness really come out.  My closest family is a 10 hour drive away.  I’ve seen some of my dearest friends no more than twice in the past 8 years, and some not at all.  I am discontent because I miss those connections.  I covet my friends who still get to see each other.  Some days I want nothing more than to put my animals in my car and drive across the country one more time, and find a place to live near those friends.

Lesson #5: Time
Time only moves one direction.  Regardless of what we do with the clocks twice a year, time marches on, and it takes us with it.  You can’t go back to where you were and expect things to be as they were.  I know very well that if I did pick up and move back to California, I wouldn’t be able to pick up where I left off.  I would have to start again just like I would if I went to Scotland or Texas, because time has changed me and my friends.  We would still be friends, but it wouldn’t be the same.  Things change, and that is where nostalgia comes in.  Did I mention I’m nostalgic?

How To, Seriously

How To: Kill Your Old Man

When I was a kid, they changed something in Awana. They started making books in translations other than King James! More modern translations are easier for children to understand, right? So my parents will get us the easier to understand (and therefore learn) books, right? Oh, no, not my parents. Their kids can learn in the good ol’ KJV. I don’t honestly know what the reasoning was behind this, as I’m pretty sure the only time I asked why is when I was too sulky to hear the answer. (Mom, if you read this, care to enlighten me?) My parents had matching NASB study Bibles, so we certainly weren’t a KJV only household.

I can think of several reasons to stick to the KJV books:

  • It’s possible the books were cheaper because the alternate translation also came in books with a new design.
  • It’s possible my parents thought learning a “harder” translation would be good for us, because we were certainly smart enough and were in a highly literate family. Bear in mind my mother had me doing properly formatted bibliographies in 2nd grade, if I recall correctly (it was no later than 4th grade for sure). This is not outside the realm of possibility.
  • It’s possible my parents didn’t want to change translations because they had already helped my two older sisters and would have to relearn the verses themselves to help me. I was an Awana leader in college, and I had to really pay attention to what the book said, because it wasn’t quite how I learned it, nor in the translation I read most often. I now have sections of Scripture memorized in a what I will refer to as the New King James American English International Standard Version Bible (NKJAEISVB, you’re welcome). This makes recitation a bit awkward (not to mention trying to find verses online), but though I may have memorized the verse that says, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee,” in one translation, I do not believe the translation in which I am hiding God’s Word is as important as that I am hiding it in the first place. Anyway…
  • It’s possible my parents were mean. (I love you!)
  • It’s possible my parents have a sense of humor. (They do, just not sure it applies here.) KJV is rife with things that made a child of the 80s giggle. Let’s talk about one of them.

Our Old Man
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Romans 6:6 (KJV)

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Colossians 3:8-13 (KJV)

I don’t know about you, but the term “old man” as used here has always given me cause for amusement. It did one thing though: in finding it amusing, I remembered it. I don’t remember the reference to “bowels of mercies,” but I think that’s going in my mental file under the “Why I’m Glad My Parents Were Mean” category.

All that being said, the old man, the flesh, this body of death, no matter what you call it, it’s out to get you. The Bible talks a lot about transformation, which involves putting off the old man (when I entitled this “How To: Kill Your Old Man” it’s a bit misleading – you can’t, but Christ can, and already has for those who are in Christ Jesus) and putting on the new. I had the privilege to attend some of the open sessions at a pastors and leaders conference (but everybody, regardless of the role they play in the body was welcome to attend) hosted by my church Sunday and yesterday, and one of the speakers talked at length about controlling our “Adam suit.” We inherited sin from Adam, and our bodies remind us of that daily. If we want to live the life God wants us to live, we have to get our flesh under control.

At first this sounds like nothing new. I have some of those verses from Colossians written on my closet doors (alas! in a translation that does not reference bowels), and they’ve been there for two months. However, through the three messages he preached, the conviction started to kick in. He asked last night what we did during our day to get our flesh under control. I’m not sure I actually did anything consciously to fight the flesh.

How’s Your Building Program?
I liked this speaker because, like me, he believes in using humor to make a point. He’s just better at it than I am. One of the things he said was along the lines of, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but your building program could use some work.” He also said that all Christians should have an exercise routine. The Bible doesn’t talk about that because people walked everywhere they went. He said there were no fat people in the Bible, but I think he may want to revisit Judges. Where did the hilt of Ehud’s sword end up again? Then again, that was a bad guy…

I can attest to how poorly we treat our bodies, and how much it takes discipline and self-control to repair the damage we do to ourselves. If you think for one moment that it did not require me to repeatedly deny my flesh to lose that 50 pounds I lost over the last two years, think again. That was hard. It continues to be hard to eat differently than I want to, and I don’t do as well as I think I should. I’ve never been able to deny my flesh its chocolate, you see. I did, however, train myself to eat less food overall, and now avoid entire sections the grocery store, because there’s nothing there I will allow myself to eat. I do not, however, exercise. I have tried off and on, but the off usually overwhelms the on. I’m a wimp. I don’t like pain. I let the old man win.

Self-Control Is Active
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:17 (NASB)

Self-control gets a bad rap. Isn’t self-control about abstention? No, it’s about action. If you are going to successfully control the bad, you have to replace it with the good. If I want to put off sloth I have to put on exercise. If I want to put off lying, I have to put on truth. If I want to put off negativity, I have to put on encouragement. I would suggest that if we want to lose something, we should focus on what we want to gain instead. My work schedule changed recently, and I now set my alarm for 5 am. I don’t like waking up that early, but it forces me to choose between doing whatever it is I do that keeps me up past my bedtime and getting a good night’s rest. Sometimes what I need to get done is more important than an hour of sleep. Usually, however, it’s just a waste of time. I cannot both stay up and get the sleep I want. To gain sleep I have to lose wasted time. This seems like a no-brainer, but it can be very hard.

What Do You Want To Pick Up For Lent?
Depending on which religious calendar you follow (I’m not attending a church that follows much of one at all, so this is usually not on the radar for me), Lent starts (or started) this week. The idea of a fast is foreign to far too many of us. I think that’s a shame. Having given up certain foods, I can tell you it’s possible, and can even make you feel so much better you might never want to start eating them again. More importantly, though, having a collective mindset of the discipline fasting brings with it can only be beneficial.

What I want to do is offer an alternative to the typical “giving up for Lent” concept. What if we all picked up something we know is lacking? If you’re already active because you work in a physical job, spend your day running after, feeding and cleaning up after young children, or you have an established exercise routine, picking up exercise may not benefit you like it does me. If you’re struggling with financial control, maybe you want to pick up a budget. If you’re struggling with finding time to spend reading the Bible, maybe you want to pick up a new routine. You cannot add these things to your life without giving something else up. That time you spend exercising or reading your Bible means giving up time with the TV or internet. That budget means giving up that expensive cup of coffee, new toy, yarn you won’t be able to use for months because your projects are so backed up already, or whatever it is you spend more money on that you really have to. Something I picked back up lately, though I don’t do it as often as I should, is (very poorly) playing hymns on the keyboard. It’s a discipline that improves a skill I want to have (reading music and playing an instrument), and puts great music in my head. Above all, if I do it every day, it’s a discipline. It is self-control. And it takes away from less productive things. We all have things we need to pick up and put on in place of things we should take off and give up. Where is your old man showing up and how can you deny him with the spirit of discipline God has given us?

(The speaker referenced is Dr. Charles Lowery. He’s pretty awesome!)