The Art of the Brake

Last week, my oldest daughter took her drivers permit test.  Unfortunately, she passed.

And its not that I’m not looking forward to her driving.  I’m just not looking forward to her growing up. But alas, that’s the aching plight of every parent, isn’t it?

The driving part I’m actually cool with.  I like the sight of her behind a wheel.  Mostly because I know how huge a life step this is for her and her excitement to take that step.  And I’m laid back enough to actually both enjoy the journey of teaching a teen to drive and hopefully also help to set her at ease as well.

The other night I took her to the biggest, emptiest parking lot I could find. We filled it with imaginary cars and navigated our way through the invisible traffic.  We started off with the first-things-first checklist like seat position, mirrors, seat belt, and all that good stuff.  Then, when everything seemed to be in order, I said some pretty terrifying words: “Okay, now with your foot firmly pressing the brake, shift from park (that’s that big “P”) to drive (that’s that big “D”).  She did just that and as far as I could tell, we were both still alive.

“Okay…now slowly, ever-so-slowly, painfully slowly, I want you to slowly, real slow-like, lift your foot off of the brake pedal.”  She did and we slowly (that was on purpose) began to creep forward.  Technically speaking, my daughter was driving our car.  And yep, we were still alive.

While other parents might have instructed their new driver to move their foot to the accelerator, I did not.  Mostly because acceleration was something I was entirely disinterested in at that moment. Instead, and after a long journey of 10-15 feet I said, “Okay…now slowly apply pressure to the brake pedal.”  With the slightest jolt, we came to an immediate stop.  And so we tried again: release the brake, apply the brake…release the brake, apply the brake.  Its not that I was afraid of the gas pedal, its just that my priority for teaching my daughter how to drive was to first get her to learn the art of the brake.

We’ve lost that art form in our culture today.  We seem to constantly be full-throttle, never-stop, ever-faster, and busier-is-better.  But from what I can tell, we’re reaping exactly what we’ve sown. We’re burnt out, we’re worn thin, we’re frayed inside and out, we’re impatient, we’re irritable, we’re self-centered, and we’re unrested.  We’ve lost the art of the brake.

Where are your heart, mind, or emotions thread-bare today?  Where is rest a forgotten art form?  While your defense mechanism might throw up the wall of “things just have to be this way” or “I’m just going with the flow of traffic”, let me challenge you to look deeper than defenses.  Look to where you lost the brakes and find a way to regain your ability to come to a full and complete stop.

Moral Failure

You’re about to read a blog that comes from an extremely passionate and angry part of who I am.  Without any attempts at sensationalism, I’m going to be quite candid.  If you’re in a marriage relationship, please feel free to comment or even call me on the carpet for what you’re about to read.  I welcome it.

Nearly 3 years ago I had a friend.  He was more than a friend really; he was a partner in ministry.  In fact, he was someone I’d consider my closest friend in student ministry.  We spent tons of time together, we always got along well, we had a similar passion for students, we shared many interests, and we really enjoyed each other’s company. All in all, we were close.  Yet as it turns out, not close enough.

I say that because I clearly wasn’t close enough to see what perhaps he kept hidden from everyone; his inch-by-inch journey into moral failure.  Until one night, seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself sitting face-to-face with my friend, pleading with him not to leave his wife and kids.

He left anyway.

Soon after that, I heard someone say something about the situation that I still to this day disagree with.  It was a statement I’ve heard in other situations as well. You’ve probably heard it too.  It’s a statement that has nearly reached the status of cliche’:  “There but by God’s grace go I.” or more to the point: “That [moral failure] could have happened to any one of us.”  I completely disagreed.

You see, my friend who left his family didn’t slip and fall into a hole.  He climbed in.  Moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, he CHOSE to keep hidden an inappropriate relationship; one that he KNEW would ultimately bring about the end of his marriage.  Do I feel compassion for him?  Absolutely.  But do I also hold him responsible?  You better believe it.

It’s utterly flabbergasting to me how many people in ministry (and those who are not) wrongfully justify immoral behavior.  And in today’s world of hyper-connectedness, we’re literally surrounded by ways that we can step into an inappropriate relationship.  But no matter how many traps are set for us, it is always our choice that leads us into sin.

Consider 1 Corinthians 10:13:  “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

Simply put, Satan sets a trap but God gives an escape.  According to this verse, you’re NEVER cornered by the enemy’s schemes.  God is always faithful to provide you with a way to get away and free from the destruction Satan desires for your morality and for your marriage.  ALWAYS.

Now, I know better than anyone else just how imperfect a human being and husband I am.  That being said, one of my desires for my life is to be one of those men that–if you know me–you think of as a man who is head-over-heels crazy in love with his wife.  But more than that, a greater desire is for my wife to know that and to feel secure in it.  To that end, there are certain things that I’ve set as principles/boundaries/habits in my marriage (I recommend them to every husband):

1. My wife has full access to my phone & computer; including all text messages, web history, call history, & calendar.  Period.

2. My wife and I have a standing weekly date–just the 2 of us–to talk about anything and everything.  (It’s the highlight of our week!)

3. I swat my wife’s behind every chance I get.  It’s my silent “I love you.”  (This is a multiple times daily occurrence.)

4. I tell my wife not only that I love her, but that I’m IN love with her. And when I say “love” I don’t mean “you give me butterflies” (though she does that too), but that “I’m completely committed to God, to you, to us, to our kids, to this life together. This love is a committed decision. Period.”

5. I consistently confirm that I’m in a spiritual relationship with my wife, not merely a physical and emotional relationship.  I faithfully remember that on our wedding day while I was surrounded by family and friends, I stood before God and made a covenant vow to Him that it is to this woman I am giving my everything; and all for no other reason than to have the joy of her company, the strength of her friendship, and the security of her love.  And God helping me I would provide these things to her as well.  That was my VOW TO GOD.  Oh, that husbands and wives would study carefully and understand the word “vow” before they make one.

No, moral failure such as my friend had (and still lives in) wasn’t a “oops, I slipped and fell” kind of situation.  We CHOOSE to fail.  We CHOOSE to stop loving. We CHOOSE to look where we ought not look.  We CHOOSE to get reconnected with that old “flame”.  We CHOOSE to show interest in that co-worker.  We CHOOSE to send that text message or picture.  We CHOOSE to cross the line of our marriage covenant into moral compromise.  We CHOOSE to put our spouse and children aside while we pursue utterly selfish and lustful desires.  We CHOOSE to get emotionally entangled then physically involved with someone other than the one we’ve made a vow to.  We CHOOSE.

And here’s what I CHOOSE:

I CHOOSE to grow old with the same woman I once was young with.

I CHOOSE to put on display for my kids the fact that their mother has no reason to worry about her husband’s commitment to her.

I CHOOSE to show my wife that I take completely seriously the fact that I am standing in God’s full view and accountability as I live my love for my wife out on a daily basis.

I CHOOSE to be a man of integrity, of passion, of morality, of mind-blowing monogamy, and of Godliness.

And when my vision fades and my eyes close on this life, I will look back and know that I have shown the world that in regards to marriage: “THAT is how it’s done.”

Own the season

I’ve been following Jesus long enough to know that this journey comes with its ups ‘n’ downs, its losts ‘n’ founds, its silences ‘n’ sounds.  I have run the gammut of sensing that Jesus is using my life like a hand uses a glove, to being in places where He seems nowhere to be found.

But in a strange way, what comforts me most is that both of those places are real.  Those “mountaintops” are just as real in my life as those “valleys”.  This tells me that no matter where I am on the continuum, it all remains authentic.  If the highs validated my faith and the lows made it seem non-existent, then I’d be in a more dire position than I am.

As it is, I know the truth is still truth no matter where I happen to be in relation to it.  As an illustration (albeit a flimsy one), the Eiffel Tower stands in Paris, France.  I can be standing on its highest observation deck taking in the sights of the city or I can be on the other side of the world, having only seen it in pictures and movies.  Either way, the Eiffel Tower stands in Paris, France.

If you’ve ever felt less than as close as you can possibly be to God at one time or another, I trust this reminder will give you some encouragement. God and His Truth transcend your emotional state and your circumstances. Whether you find yourself feeling closer than ever or farther than ever from God, He remains with you, in you, and blessing others through you.