December 12, 2010

Treehouse Revelations

I overanalyze things. My spell-checker says that's not a word but I am the boss of my spell-checker, not the other way around.

It's easy for me to get depressed at home. I didn't know why it happened for a while, and in retrospect I couldn't figure it out because I was overanalyzing it. I get apathetic, sad, angry, and I just don't care about anything. For a long time, I just dealt with it by getting things done; except for when I wasn't able to even get myself that active. Usually, I ended up drowning myself in a movie or some video games.

This past Thanksgiving break, I had avoided said feeling for most of the break and it was great. But that Saturday it hit again, and again, I was confused and cloudy minded. This time I was going to ask God about it; usually, for praying about such a problem as this I would go to my designated prayer spot on campus, but because I was at home I went to the treehouse instead. In the Gospels, Jesus often goes to a mountaintop or some separate place to pray to God and I've found that getting away from things you surround yourself with in your routines is a good thing.

I started praying to God about this very particular depression that hits me. After a few minutes and some God-directed reflection, I suddenly realized/was told: "You're lonely." It was that simple. Once I got back to the house, I called a friend who God is equipping to be able to empathize with and encourage people through any emotional problem and he did just that.

Two weeks later I was attempting to study for my finals. I got to the library and tried to read my notes, but I just started to cry and I had no idea why it was happening. I went to my secret place, prayed, then called my dad. After some prayer, he asked me about what possible stresses there were and I told him about everything that was going on with me (there was more than just finals). His simple response, with some explaining after, was "You're stressed." I wasn't able to see that with both my tendency to overanalyze and my mind being clouded by the negative feelings.

I started writing this just as a confessional, but I think there's a really good lesson to be taken from this stuff: talk to people about what's wrong, and pray about it. If I know what's wrong I don't have a problem with this (you're reading about this on my blog, aren't you?), but I've discovered that I either don't acknowledge or realize how much stress I'm under or what my feelings really are.

Our emotions can often cloud our minds enough to stop any attempts at clear, objective analysis of our situation. Let someone else into your heart and mind to open the windows, turn some fans on and get all that stink out of there.

December 11, 2010

Hezekiah's Backbone

He had quite a bit of it.

The people of Judah had 13 kings over more than 150 that did not follow through. The closest anyone came was Asa, who ruled for 41 years and did everything except remove the "high places" which had originated as places God was worship but had become corrupted. To his credit, he was "fully committed to the Lord all his life" even though he did not remove the high places (1 Kings 15:14).

Hezekiah, though, completely followed through after coming from a line of corrupt kings. His own father Ahaz sacrificed one of his other sons/Hezekiah's brother (2 Kings 16:3) following the ways of nations the Lord had driven out before Israel. This family is messed up. The writer of Kings doesn't go into how Hezekiah came to be strong in the Lord to stand up to the vast amount of wrong going on in Israel, but he did. He had backbone.

Here's where the stakes get raised. Hezekiah is being king and "did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done" (2 Kings 18:3). The other kings all get compared with David, except that they were not as devoted to the LORD as David was; of the kings of Juday, only Asa and Hezekiah get this honor. He trusted in God fully, and is called the best king Judah ever had ("There was no one like him among the kings of Judah, either before or after him" 2 Kings 18:5).

He was highly successful until Assyria started to retake some cities that Hezekiah had taken back from them (he had cut ties to Assyria, the local bully who liked to take over other nations). Israel is deports all the people of the nation of Israel and then turns his eyes toward Judah. What happens next it not encouraging.

Fourteen years into King Hezekiah's reign, the King of Assyria "attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and occupied them" (2 Kings 18:13).

All the fortified cities of Judah. All of them. All of the cities that were fortified, e.g. not supposed to be taken over.

That's like hearing "So-and-so country/faction attacked and took over Washington DC, Chicago, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, and most other major cities in the U.S. You are now completely helpless."

For the sake of not giving away the spoilers that would give away how great this story is, I want to read 2 Kings 18 and 19. Hezekiah had backbone; he didn't give up even when his nation that he had stewardship of had been conquered except for Hezekiah's actual official surrender. Check out his response and what God did.


Two conversations I've had with friends recently merged in my head, and both were about Heaven.

The first was a few weeks ago with my friend Meredith. We were brewing ideas about what to do with our afternoons and our friends, and Lake Matoaka came up. Then Jamestown Beach. Then Virginia Beach. Then California. Then Australia. And there's only one place better than Australia.

As the climax to this frenzy of outlandish suggestions about where to take our friends on a Sunday afternoon, Meredith suggested that we go to Heaven. This got me thinking quite seriously all of a sudden: what if we went to Heaven just for a few minutes and came back? I was focused less on the metaphysical implications of the event itself and more on the effect on our daily lives from then on out.

Heaven is something we trust that is true, but we do not know it experientially. We have seen echoes and reminders throughout nature and glimpses in worship, but these have all been merely glorious suggestions of the real thing. If all of a sudden we had that fulfilled knowledge, assuming we would be able to function after seeing our true home and experiencing true fulfillment and then leaving it, wouldn't we live with that as our frame of reference? It would such a strong impression that we would never stop living for it; it would never be out of our minds.

I don't think that the situation just described would be the perfect one, because through our broken journeys God teaches us and draws us to himself and improves us; experiencing the end result would be to cut out the journey of growth. But it is a really intriguing thought experiment to consider, because I do want to live with eternity in mind.

Another friend, later, mentioned the song Eden by Phil Wickham. She said that in a strange way it made her sad; not necessarily depressed, but sad that she was not yet in the state of bliss with God that the song speaks about, that she has to face each earthly day with its troubles. I told her not to see it primarily as something she doesn't have, but something that she will have, that has been promised to her, something she can live for. It is a sobering thought, but I believe it is also one that can remind us who we are, where we're going, and why we're here.