Grace

Portland

I’ve enjoyed everywhere I’ve ever lived. I like Portland just because it is where I live right now, and not because it’s quirky, unique and interesting. I have actually found those qualities everywhere I’ve been, maybe just not as predominant. What makes the move I made here unique was that for the first time in my life I have been perpetually thrust into situations completely over my head and beyond my abilities. The circumstances and stories surrounding the events of my last two years are incredible to me, and while they are a joy as I reflect on them, they stand as a monument to my weaknesses and limitations. The grand summary I’m finding is that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. A common theme for many folks I believe.

Part of me just wants to document the stories. I think I’d have plenty to say about the drug dealer who tried to convince me the Magi brought Jesus weed as a kid, all while eating my curry with the munchies. Or about how working at Starbucks was actually really challenging, and all the strange situations I found myself in, and the friendships I made there. There’s no end to the stories from my internship at Mars Hill Church, my favorite one is still being written, her name is Ashley

Honestly, it’s all been very hard. Very good and very hard. Deeply unsettling and sanctifying. I’ve had a number of good plans in life, all of which I could have pursued in fulfillment of my faith and my hearts deepest desires. But God shook me up with lots of change. Jobs that were hard for me, relationships that were challenging, a great number of unsettling circumstances that provided me an opportunity to see what I was really standing on. This could have happened in any number of ways, but it happened in a move to Portland and the events that ensued.

I found that there’s this part of my heart that wants to be defined by what I’m doing, where I work, what others think of me and by my education. Sometimes it takes some unsettling to find that out. In God’s grace he provided that. It’s also a chance to find the supernaturally placed deep desires of the heart, where I know I’m a sinner saved by grace, that Jesus died for me, that God calls me his son, and that that grace is what defines me.

When I’m mobile God is teaching me to be stable in him. When I’m stable, God is teaching me to mobilize with him. I’m never off the hook of his grace or the call to his mission. It makes for a terrifyingly wonderful life.

So I find myself reflecting on grace, knowing that whether I’m in a stable position or on the move, by my choice or not, I’m God’s son and that grace defines me.

First, I need Jesus. Not like, I used to need him, then I got him, now I don’t need him anymore. No, not like that. I still need him everyday. Why? Because I’m still a sinner. So, to my non-Christian friends, I’m not better than you. To my Christian friends, I’m not better than you. To those who have cheated on their wives, I’m not better than you. To those who had sex with their girlfriends before marriage, I’m not better than you. To the arrogant, the insolant, the pervert and the pagan, in the same way I think you need Jesus, I need him. Any Christian pretending to be better than anyone is behaving in a non-Christian manner. The whole premiss of our faith prevents us from acting better than others. We cheated on our God, murdered him, and though he rose from the dead and saved us from our sins, we continue to fail him everyday. We are better than nobody, and only better off than everybody because our God shows us grace in an unending and incessant pursuit of love that cannot be stopped. I’m not a holy man, but an unholy one clothed in the holiness of my God who died for my sins, and changes me everyday. As my Pastor likes to say, it’s not my job nor my goal to impose Jesus on anyone, but to propose him to everyone.

Second, because of God’s grace I’ve managed to pursue my fiancé in a manner that I can point to and say, “this is one of many awesome ways to do this well.” I haven’t walked the only path nor the best, but a real good one. I learned everything about this from Jesus and those who follow him, and I have been able to follow through because I relied on his Spirit to empower me and his people to look out for me. That’s how it works.

Third, it’s not over. I have a six month engagement and then a lifetime of marriage. I’m still going to need a community of Jesus-Butt-Kicking-People to rock my world from time to time. I still need to take all the emotional risk in our relationship as much as possible, and I still need to be praying and preparing for our future. This is far from over, and I’m just as dependent on Jesus right now as I ever was.

Last, I was single for a long time. There’s nothing wrong with being single, there’s something wrong with idolizing it. You get absolutely nowhere in ministry by trying to make yourself unattainably holy. There are legitimate reasons for being single, but if you’re not mature enough, rich enough, healthy enough or just generally not ready enough, then start working towards those things. Some of the best wisdom I received was that everyone is either called to celibacy or marriage. The problem is thinking that being called to marriage means you have a divine right to it, you don’t. I had to accept that, and I personally prepared myself as best and as fast as I could by God’s grace trusting that even if I never married, the spiritual growth that would come from preparing for it would be worth it because it would mean being closer to Jesus. To be honest, that’s how I’m still functioning. Jesus is my teacher, and I run out on him all the time and he is nothing but patient with me.

Jesus is the man, and he’s the point of all this.

I just want to make that clear if I can.