Life is hard. I have to work when I don’t feel like it. Things don’t always go the way I want. Crisis comes with pain and devastation. Sometimes I do the right things and still do not see a reward for my efforts. I don’t get to make many of the rules in life. Others have authority over me. In order to get what I want, someone (me, or someone on my behalf) has to be able and willing to pay for it. When I do something wrong, there are painful consequences to one degree or another.
You get the point – I’ll not extend the list of unpleasant life-truths. But here is the real point. These unpleasant truths are not the problem. The problem is when I try to live as though they aren’t the truth of the matter. I mean, let’s face it, my sinful nature (flesh, immature self, ego, etc.) would rather life go according to this alternate reality of expectations:
Life is easy. I don’t have to work when I don’t feel like it. Things will always go the way I want. The pain and devastation of crisis will never come to my life. I will always see a reward for my efforts, whether I do the right thing or not. I get to make all the rules in life my way. I don’t have to submit to any authority but me. In order to get what I want, all I have to do is want it and it is mine for the taking. I should be able to have a free pass every time I do something wrong.
The problems of living according to this flesh-directed set of expectations are too many to count. Irresponsibility, addiction, terrible relationships, crime, and misery would be somewhere around the top of the list, based on what I have seen. If you find your self living more according to the second “compass” than the first “compass,” it’s time reset your bearings and get plugged into Truth on a regular basis. I would highly recommend plugging into God’s Word from the Bible, worship and fellowship at a healthy church, small groups and meaningful relationships with others who are plugged into the Truth, Men’s Fraternity for men, and even active participation in support or recovery groups for those with particular addiction struggles.
But mostly, I share this as a challenge to parents. Take some time to look at the reality of your children’s lives as lived out in your family/home experience. Are you helping them to live in view of the first compass of Reality, training them to live well in this fallen world? Or are you actually leading them toward the second compass of the self-centered flesh expectations that have become so prevalent in Western culture?
In my work with adolescents and with addicts, I constantly see this skewed compass of flesh at the heart of the problems that have surfaced in their lives. As parents, we have the privilege and the responsibility to train our children to live in view of Reality. It may feel good now, for them and for us, to deny or minimize that reality by serving up life on an easy silver platter for them. But we do them a terrible disservice, and we invite deep trouble and misery into their lives and ours in the process.
I am by no means a “doom and gloom” kind of guy. Those of you who know me can certainly testify to this. But it is critical that I commit each day to living in view of the Reality of this fallen world, and that means embracing the unpleasant, difficult, and seemingly harsh truths that make up a significant portion of the fabric of life. And so I share this today as a reminder for you, for me as a parent, and for my own life. Let us live in the freedom of Truth!
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 NIV)