Adventures of a Manboy and his Father

The Adventures of a Manboy and his Father

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Donde he estado

This last week has been pretty crazy. 

 I attempted to read three books on the Christian worldview.

Thursday- Saturday my group went to Papallacta, which is a village with hot springs about 2.5 hrs. away from Quito.  There, we were given the opportunity to experience the hot springs (which were really beautiful, enjoyable, but crazy hot... like to the point of pain and lightheadedness).  We also began our 7 day- 40 hour worldview class intensive, which continues to dominate my days.  The class is really cool actually and focuses on how the Biblical story impacts every part of our lives, and how God wants every part of us to reflect that reality.  The class is taught by a guy named Spencer, who is a professor who flew down from Eternity Bible College (CA) for the sole purpose to offer us this class. 

Last night, while attempting to return home from our class, my friend Jasmine and I hopped on the wrong bus and received the opportunity to travel to another city at night.  When I finally got back home hours later, my family expressed concern and then just laughed at me.  Haha.

Tonight, has been one of best nights with my family.  During dinner, I asked my mom if she knew how to play cards.   One thing led to the next, and soon I was blowing off homework to play a newly learned card game (Cuarenta) with her.   It was fun just to be confused, laugh, play, and connect with her.  Its one of the first nights I've done anything with my family besides eating. 

In two days, I leave for a little fall break trip to the Galapagos Islands!  I'm pumped.  If following this blog thing is something you do, be prepared for muchos pictures! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Religion, Pharisees, and the Most Beautiful Journey

Time to get real.  (Note: this post is going to be longer than most... so feel free to skip to the next one.)

Ever since I was a little kid do you know what I wanted to be?  I wanted to be the best.  The best.  I think my mom, family, and close friends can account to this.

         In elementary school that meant I would be the first one done with math drills, on the winning team in kickball, and friends with the cool kids.  In fourth grade, when we had to list our three life goals, I wrote: become president, go to the University of Oxford (I had heard it was the best), and ride a jetpack (which is still a goal of mine).

         Then, in Middle school, I realized that those things didn't matter as much as I thought they did, so I shifted my sights onto greater things: I aspired to be the best Christian I could be.  I remember revering older Christian guys who seemed to live out the life that I wanted.  Everyone seemed to love them, and they seemed alive, and so I set my heart on it.  I would burn bright.  I would be a leader.  And I would serve Jesus with every fiber of my body.

         Now, was there anything wrong with those desires?  No! I think they were fantastic, but my heart quickly twisted them.  Soon the desire to burn bright resulted in creating high standards for myself.  Unattainably high standards, which I rationalized by saying it was good that I never would be able to realize these expectations, because then my consequent daily failures would ensure continued effort.  Right? This was how you gave your all right? So I kept trying, each day a little harder, except for the days I didn't, which I would regret and chastise myself, questioning my commitment to Jesus.

         Eventually, the feeling of constant failure drove me to my knees.  God I can't be good enough for you, I would consistently pray.  I want to be good! but I'm a constant screw up, hanging on strictly by Your extravagant mercy.  I don't deserve Your love. Why don't you just forget about me?  The desire to be better would keep me up at night.  (And I'm no longer just talking about Middle school, I'm talking about highschool, I'm talking about this last year.)  I have spent so many nights lying in bed, reflecting over each of the day's interactions one by one.  Failed there.  Failed there as well. Could have love more.  Eh, that was okay, but I still did this.  God I don't get how you love me, I don't really get how anybody could. If they really knew.  And those are representative of the good conversations, the ones that don't end in tears or curse words. Those are the conversations that don't follow whenever I fell to an addiction, thought about hurting myself, or screwed up a conversation with a girl.

         The fact is I've never felt good enough, and I often find my weaknesses pitiful.  Most days this disgust with my sins or just general failings can probably be stripped away to reveal simple self-loathing.  I hate that I can't be the person I want to be, the person I "should" be.  To make it worse, I take this idea that I'm not good enough and I start to see everyone around me making the same conclusion.  I know people realize how far short I fall.  My inadequacies are trumpeted in every program or position that's turned me down, and I know that girls come to the same conclusion.  I see the look in their eyes, or at least I think I do, and I reason that it is better to preemptively reject yourself, when you are pretty sure that they will as well if just given enough time.  It is always better to hurt yourself than to let others hurt you right?

         So where does all this often leave me?  Crying out for mercy.  Asking God not to turn His face from me.  Many days I strive and fight desperately for what I know I can't have on my own: approval.  I say I know grace, but the evidence seldom displays itself.  So do I really know it?  Don't get me wrong, I know the theology.  I know the verses and the ways they should affect me.  I've taught the lessons and prayed the prayers, but living in its reality escapes me most days.

         Which brings us to identifying the problem, most days I miss out on living in the life Jesus has given me.  In the pursuit of being good, personal righteousness has become my idol.  When I read the verse, For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.  I don't think Well I need to live dependently on his grace then! Instead, I'm prone think, Maybe I can do that. 

         A couple of people in the last couple months have said to me, if only you could see how much Jesus loves you Drew, the striving, the anxiety that flits in and out of each day couldn't hold you.  Well, I want that.  I do.  I pray for that in the middle of the night and randomly through the day.  When I read the Bible sometimes it hits me, and I'm overwhelmed by its truth, and other times the book seems boring or completing my homework seems like a more important task at the moment.  Why can't I just get it?

         Timothy Keller, in his book The Reason for God, explains that people avoid Jesus in two different ways.  One, some people simply reject his grace, they avoid His Lordship in their lives, and choose instead just to live however they want.  Two, other people avoid Jesus by avoiding sin.  When people (and I think I've often fit in this category) strive their hardest to avoid sin, often they also are simultaneously avoiding Jesus being their savior.   Even if they know they aren't saved by their works, they still build their identity and evaluate their relationship with God based on their track record of righteousness.   We are modern day pharisees who have perfected a religion based on Christianity.  As Keller writes, "We [pharisees] struggle for a sense of worth, purpose, and distinctiveness, but it is based on conditions that we can achieve, and that are always slipping away from us."  He goes on to say:
  "Despite all their legal righteousness, then, Pharisees have lives that are, if anything, more driven by the despair of sin.  They build their sense of worth on their moral or spiritual performance, as a kind of resume to present before God and the world.  The moral and spiritual standards are all religions are very high, and Pharisees know deep down that they are not living up to those standards.  They are not praying as often as they should.  They are not loving and serving their neighbor as much as they should.  They are not keeping their inner thoughts as pure as they should.  The resulting internal anxiety, insecurity, and irritability will often be much greater than anything experienced by the irreligious."
When I read that I needed to put the book down.  Dang.  He was almost too right on.  Each of his words seemed like they were picked out for me.  However, To borrow a lyric:

"I don't want to live that way."

      The alternative to this is a life of freedom under the acknowledgment of how much Jesus loves you.  How do you discover how much Jesus loves you though? How do you let it sink in?  Rushing through your blood stream, filling your lungs, and changing your marrow.  Letting each day be transformed by it.  Do you sit and wait for it?  What road do I need to be on, or how often do I need to read the Bible?  Cognitively, I know He loves me... like actually loves me. It is locked in my head. I mutter about it when I'm falling asleep and I talk about it alot.  And there's definitely been times in my life when I've not only felt it, but the reality of it woke me up with a smile in the morning.  But most days I don't feel it, and I'm not sure how much it changes the way I live. 

        Does the fact that I don't always feel His love mean I've forgotten it, or that I never really had it to begin with?  I've struggled with this question a lot.  The answer I've come to is No, I don't think so. I think we discover how much Jesus loves us by walking out in faith.  If the Bible is true, then His love is already there being sung over us and I just need to walk in reality daily.  That statement seems so ethereal though!  What specifically does walking in his love mean for what I do tonight or tomorrow morning?  I don't really know.  I know that I want to wake up and instead of confessing how much a better job I'm want do following Jesus today, I want to bask in His love.  I want to be loved and love Him. But all the practicalities I'm not really sure. I feel like it all comes down to this question though.  Discovering and living in the reality of how much Jesus loves me, despite what I can offer, seems more important than all those hours and days I've spent in conversations about community, leadership, missions, or even about how we can best follow Him.  It seems more important than everything.  All my thoughts, accomplishments, and efforts are nothing in comparison.

Because if He loves me, if what the Bible says is true...  I don't know.  Jesus. The cross. Me?  My eyes are threatening to cry as I write this.  My brain hurts just thinking about it.  My heart hurts wishing for it.  If He loves me...

        Right now though.... It's late. I'm tired.  It has been a long day.  So I guess I just want to end this post saying Come Lord Jesus.  And if anyone reading this can identify with any part of these ramblings, I encourage you to join me on this journey! Let us share our questions and our insights.  Just so you know, I don't think it will necessarily be a journey to a far off land, and it won't involve some sort of remarkable intellectual ascent.  It just involves learning to walk in the love that's already been spoken over us.  Learning what we already have.  Discovering Who we can have.  Abandoning lives of fear, inadequacy, and striving, in order to explore what what it would be like to be adopted into God's family. God's family!  It changes everything.  To be told, Of course you're can't be good enough, but I love you. That's crazy.  Join me though!  I don't know the way, but I'm certain its the right path.  I'm willing to bet on it. 

Through the darkness, addictions, and questions that are sure to loom ahead, I think this will be the most beautiful journey.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quick Update

Dear team (aka the people who read this),

We've been doing pretty good with this updates lately.  I write one summarizing what I've been up to. Then sometimes I write one about my latest thoughts or questions.  Thus, before I write another one about the stuff I've been processing, I wanted to give a brief update about what's happening.

First, my friend Aimee introduced me to a game called SpikeBall.  Its kinda like volleyball.   As you might surmise, I really enjoy it, and playing it helps me feel better about the fact that I've only been able to play soccer once while I've been here (tragic, I know.) This is a picture of us playing outside....

Second, this last weekend I moved in with an Ecuadorian family!  In my Ecuadorian family I have an older brother David (he's 29) and a Mama.   It is pretty much the chillest family you can imagine.  Most of the time I'm either home alone or just hanging out and eating with one of them.  I'll be living with them for the next month or so.  Most things about my semester changed when I came to live with them. For example, I now have at least an hour commute everyday to my internship site or to my classes.  Also, I've started to eat better again and will probably gain back the couple pounds I've lost. 

For real.  This family is just more evidence about how the Lord continues to provide for and bless me!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Two Questions (aka the I Don't Know post)

I realize I haven't really been praying for what the next step in my life is, so I've started to try to do that. (Good idea right?) In these times of prayer, two questions keep presenting themselves.  The first is a reactionary question to Matthew 10:39:

What does it mean for me to lose my life? 

For me.  To lose my life. What would that mean?  My possessions don't mean that much to me (I mean I like them), but could it mean giving up friends and family? Would that ever mean to say goodbye to the ones I love, or to give up my dreams and potential for the sake of seemingly menial things. Maybe. On a related note, I ask myself "How am I like the young rich ruler?"  What excuse would I want to give Jesus if right now He showed up and said come follow me? I don't know! I'm not sure what excuse would attempt to come flying out of my mouth, and not knowing is not comforting:  for whether or not we know what it would be, I think we all have our excuses we would want to give Jesus.  Jesus, just let me finish this before I do that.  Jesus, I'll follow you, but only if I can still be relatively comfortable, I mean, I promise I won't ask for that much.   Jesus, I'm totally on board, but can we share that wheel? I've just got some ideas as well that I wouldn't want you to miss.

The second question I have comes from the idea that God wants to give us the desires of our hearts.  Correspondingly, I ask:

What are the desires of my heart?

 This is a simple answer  "I don't know".   I don't know what is would mean for me to lose my life.  And I don't know the desires of my heart.  Most days I think I have lost the ability to dream in anything short of abstract conceptions.  Most days I'm a stranger to my own heart.  Conditioned (by myself and others) to follow duty over desires, my heart no longer surges with specific visions, only general principles I can vaguely imagine myself embodying.  It's weird.  I want to have a dream, and I long to know how I might live in the Kingdom, how I can join in with what God is doing, and how I can use my head, heart, and hands.


On a slightly different, but obviously related note, isn't it crazy that these two questions aren't mutually exclusive?  God wants, but does not need, our sacrifices.  In fact, He often uses our sacrifices to turn around and bless us more.  So as much as I search myself for answers and insights, I recognize that finding them falls a distant second to knowing Jesus.  Jesus Christ the risen one, the lover and maker of that heart I don't even know.  Together with the Father and the Holy Spirit He promises to finish what He starts and to lead me through this crazy thing called life!  So while I continue wrestling and asking these questions, I can also chill, He's got it. 

(Although, if you know the answer to these questions for me, feel free to share!)

Monday, October 1, 2012

There and Back Again

For all practical purposes there is no rhythm to this semester.  After finishing our Spanish crash course on Wednesday, my group packed it up and took a four day trip to Misahualli (a small town five hours away, located smack dab in the jungle).   On the way there, we stopped and explored one of the biggest caves in Ecuador.  Now imagine the following scene.  There is a dense forest with a with a cave.  The pitch black cave has a river that runs through it, and at one point the underground river has a waterfall.  In the waterfall, our guide showed us a hole through which one could dive, swim down fifteen feet or so of a slightly twisting tunnel all to grab a rock from the bottom.  It was terrifying thing to picture doing what our guide was talking about, so when I found myself being the gringo who said,   "Sure yeah I'll go for it.  Just going down until I reach the end right?" I think I slightly surprised myself.  I went for it though, and it was just as freaky as I imagined it being.  Still when I came back up, I held a rock in my hand. 

While we were in the jungle town of Misahualli, we learned about Youth World's understanding of short term mission trips (based on mutual reciprocal blessing and partnering with local Christians), put on a day long VBS, played basketball, played soccer (!), and helped finish some woodwork on a house.  (Note:  I didn't bring my camera on this trip, so atypically all of the pictures on this post were taken by other people.)

Yo y mi amigo nuevo

We all made some animal masks

In case your interested: we saw a multitude of bullet ants while we were in Misahualli.  Bullet ants, or paraponera, are over an inch long and have received their names for their bites, which supposedly can be as painful as getting shot and cause over 24 hours of uncontrollable seizures.  If these facts have peaked your curiosity at all, you should look up how bullet ants are utilized in initiation rites of the Satere-Mawe people of Brazil.  Crazy stuff!

Before leaving the jungle, we went and played at a waterfall.  It was really fun to rockclimb, laugh, and cliff jump (Don't worry Mom, there was substantially more water than there appears to be in the picture).  The bus ride back consisted of rain, cliffs, car sickness, and a couple rounds of Mafia. 

Today, I began teaching english at a school called San Francisco at Quito.  In the morning I have two elementary classes and in the afternoon I have two middle school classes.  When I arrived at the school this morning, I had no clue where to go or really what I was doing.  So, after wondering around for a while and asking the same people multiple questions, I found the teacher I was supposed to help.  She immediately gave me the following orders: talk to the kids in English.  Problem: the kids don't really speak English, so what ensued was an hour of Drew smiling, nodding, and asking what is your favorite color twenty different ways.  At lunch I was ready to quit.  For real.  I literally walked over and hung out by the exit door while trying to figure out how to get another internship placement without inconveniencing everybody involved.  The break was short however, so before I knew it I was heading apprehensively to my even longer afternoon classes.  They went great though!  I had a different teacher who handed me a book with the day's lesson plans.  She even remained engaged during the whole lessons, helping trouble shoot a couple of confusing exercises and generally just encouraging me with little smiles and nods.   As a result, the day ended up being mostly in the positive.  Below is a picture of me on my first day of school as a teacher.

Something to munch on as I leave.  A couple of days ago I was given the opportunity to switch internships, but I have come to a realization: more than my 16+ years of education, a degree, spanish classes, random trainings, and whatever else I have worked so hard on in an attempt to equip myself for life and ministry, in Quito, it is my ability to speak English that might be the most valuable thing I can offer people.  English.  I could be in an internship where I could feel more gratification or get to know people on a more personal level.  I could work in an orphanage or with a Compassion International project down here.  But it might just be that the best way I can actually serve for this next season is by asking what a kid's favorite color is twenty different ways.  I am uncomfortable with this reality, somewhat frustrated, and certainly humbled, yet I rejoice.  To God I ask "knock me down, and build you up."