My eldest kiddo turned 18 a couple days ago. Bridget and I were kiddos ourselves when she had him; I was 22 while she was merely 19. We had no clue what in the world we were doing. Our life was forever altered, and we had to learn a lot of things on our own.
We are still far from “old and wise”, but we’ve gained some experience over the past 18 years. Now that Caleb is closer to getting set to embark on his life’s journey away from the nest (less than a year, perhaps???), there are a few lessons we wish to pass along to him. Well, some are lessons and some are habits. Some are lessons that become habits. And I guess you can say some are habits that become lessons.
Oh, how I wish I had learned this in my youth! While I was a Christian and had heard that my life was not my own, I was still trained to chase my dreams, follow my heart, do what made me happy, and so on and so forth. Everything opposite to this lesson was nurtured in my youth and young adult years by the very institution that heralded “your life is not your own”. The idea of sacrifice that I had was to “surrender my life to the ministry”. All that meant was that I wanted to be a preacher or pastor or ordained church leader. But it wasn’t really a surrender of my life at all; it was more akin to a consecration of my old man to God’s service, i.e. here I am Lord, take what I have to give and use it. So what does your life is not your own actually mean?
When your life is not your own, it means you have no more right to it. It means that you no longer draw from your own resources (which are very limited, by the way). It means that you deny your own impulses. It means the death of self, the denial of the soul-life, the putting off of the old man (or nature), and the taking up of the cross daily. It means goodbye to your life and hello to God’s. When you’ve believed into Christ (which my son has), then you now have every right to His life. This means that you now draw from His resources (which are unlimited, by the way). This means that you welcome His impulses. This means the birth of Christ in you, the allowance of the spirit-life, the putting on of the new man (or nature), and the acceptance of the way of the cross in your life.
When your life is not your own, you now live by so much freedom! So much more freedom than you can ever imagine! It sounds depressing, and it’s against everything this world tells you, but it is extremely liberating and satisfying. It is the epitome of an abundant life. It’s Christ’s life, and He is the Epitome of Abundance! When you can start to actually live like it’s not your own life, you will find joy, rest, peace, love, freedom, and every good thing you’ve ever wanted in life. Oh, how I wish I had learned this in my youth!
This habit is closely tied to the first lesson, and vice versa. Unfortunately, there’s really not a “how to” manual for this; it’s something you really learn as you go. However, if you consider your life to no longer be your own, then you can learn how to abide in Christ. Basically, this is the practice of aligning your thoughts and will with His, and acting from there. You learn to live by His life that lives inside you. This is easier than you might think in that when you believe into Christ, you are placed in Him. He is now your abode, your dwelling place. You’re in! So, abiding in Christ is not an act of getting into Christ, but an act of resting in and operating from Christ. Your life is hidden in Him, so your life now takes on His characteristics, thoughts, and actions.
This isn’t a “What Would Jesus Do?” kind of thing. Jesus is alive and well in you, so this is a “What Are You Doing Now, Jesus?” kind of thing. This is a quieting your mind and spirit before Him, and allowing Him to guide and direct your thoughts and actions. This is an act of capturing every thought and holding it before the Lord. This is an act of being ok with not acting right away (or not even acting at all). This is an act of operating from God’s desires rather than perceived human need. “What are You doing now, Jesus?” Practicing this habit can certainly become a lesson integrated into your DNA, just as understanding the first lesson can become a habit incorporated into your daily lifestyle.
Hand in hand with the first lesson, this is another one I wish I had learned in my youth. Growing up in the institutional church system, I ate of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil daily. I thought I knew what God’s ways were, because I had a knowledge of good and evil. God is obviously good, so whatever was good (whether it was for me and not the other person didn’t matter) was obviously God’s way. And vice versa, what ever was evil (for me, regardless of whether it was good for somebody else) was obviously not God’s way. Oh, how I ate from the wrong tree!
Eating from the Tree of Life, however, gives you a different perspective. You learn to see things how God’s sees them. When this is the case, you understand better how His ways are not our ways. For example, our way is to live in a house, have a 9 to 5 job, and be what the world considers normal; God’s way is for us to live in a 5th-wheel camper, rely on Him to provide for us, and be anything but what the world considers normal. Our way is to protect those we love from making bad choices and from being hurt by the big, bad world; God’s way is to increase Himself in those we love through their bad choices, so they learn to abide in Him, and to reveal Himself and His nature in their hurt from the big, bad world. Our way is to look out for number one, do everything we can to keep us number one, and do whatever number one pleases; God’s way is to deny yourself, take up your cross, and lose your life (see lesson #1).
Basically, this is another way of saying Abide in Christ. How do you eat and drink Christ? Remember that God’s ways are not our ways, so instead of only ingesting Him, we also regurgitate Him. How do you ingest and regurgitate Christ?
To ingest Christ, we behold Him, which means we gaze intently at Him. Now, unless you have a vision of Jesus standing in your room, you’re not going to necessarily physically do this. In your spirit, by faith, you behold your Lord. You see Him in the scriptures, in your natural surroundings, in your brothers and sisters in Christ. You learn to fix your eyes on Him. In other words, you focus on Him instead of your problems or circumstances. He remains the same. He never falters. In seeing His glory and grace, everything else dims.
To regurgitate Christ, which is utterly different from regurgitating knowledge, by the way, you open up your mouth and let the living Christ come out! You actually share what you’ve ingested. You proclaim and declare Christ to your brothers and sisters (in Christ). You exalt your Lord. You speak, you sing, you express Him to those around you. Often times, you even do this to yourself. (Side lesson: expressing Christ to your brothers and sisters and to yourself really isn’t expressing Christ to those entities at all, but it’s really declaring Christ, the manifold wisdom of God, to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.) To eat and drink Christ is to discover and display Him, it is to seek and share Him, and it is to perceive and proclaim Him. To eat and drink Christ is to abide in Him. To abide in Christ is to eat and drink Him.
Admittedly, this is more of a hobby than a habit, but of course I’m going to pass this along, too! I see so much of the Lord in this habit, that it has also become a lesson. Simply put, you learn to rest, or keep calm, in Christ. Smoking a pipe takes time, is slower paced, and is pleasant to most around it. Like beholding the Lord, you have to be focused, at rest or peace, and be willing to work through distractions in order to better appreciate it. Also, while I will smoke alone, much like my individual walk with God, it’s in community that I find a full enjoyment. One could say that the solo sessions are “discovering the Lord”, and the group sessions are “displaying the Lord”.
Also, we have many brothers in the Lord who smoke a pipe. Just as we walk with each other, considering how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, we can do the same with this little habit. For instance, for Caleb’s birthday, I allowed him to choose a pipe from a selection of my briars. He chose the churchwarden. We then got him a case for it, some pipe cleaners, a tamper, some matches, and some tobacco. On his birthday, our co-laborer in Christ, brother in Christ, and fellow pipe smoker in Christ, Andrew, walked over from his rig to ours to join in on the inaugural lunting session. It was pretty cool to teach my son some of the nuances to lunting with the help of another brother. Caleb loved it, and will probably partake of the hobby again sometime.
Just as in modeling and teaching the art and joy of smoking a pipe, I’ve had help with modeling and teaching the art and joy of living by the life of Christ. Bridget, along with Andrew and his wife, Carrie, and many, many other brothers and sisters in Christ have all taken part in passing along our Lord. We’ve had plenty of experience with God and His life, but we’re far from the journey’s completion. So as Caleb continues to walk through life, we’ll continue to pass our lessons along. Just as others pass along theirs to us.
What lessons do you pass on?