Have you ever noticed that what you focus on becomes all-consuming? That what's in your mind can become something to obsess over?
If you don't believe me just remember what it feels like to be ‘hangry’. If you get very hungry and irritable, you know that you’re driven to find food and that drive won’t be satisfied until you have some food in your stomach.
Here's another example. Think of when you were a child or a teenager and wanted something really badly. Did that become an obsession for you? I can recall how I irritated my parents into getting me a toy robot that turned out to be very underwhelming. Or how I finally got permission to play first-person shooters and to watch movies like Terminator and The Matrix. Or when I started dating in defiance of whether my parents wanted me to or not.
Mother’s Day—a day where the strongest people on earth finally get some of the recognition they deserve. Moms do so much that tend to go unnoticed or at least unacknowledged. While we’re too busy caught up in our own, sometimes selfish lives, they are always there… praying for you, loving you unconditionally, and just being someone who you can always run back to if something went wrong. Of course I can’t say this for ALL moms out there. But this very true for mine.
I am my mother’s favorite child, although she may not ever admit it out loud because that may cause some sibling rivalry and she doesn’t want to hurt my sister’s feelings. But it’s like an unspoken truth. (If you couldn’t tell, I would definitely be classified as a momma’s boy).
Fast forward three years and I thought maybe I needed some help to learn to like myself. So, my mom took me to a therapist. I'll never forget that encounter. My family must have thought this was something really serious because everybody seemed to think the price of the session was worth it. When your family is struggling financially, paying for a session of talk therapy is a big deal. Anyway, I walked into the cold room filled with diplomas on the wall that were supposed to reassure me that he was qualified enough to help me. But, it only made me feel more intimidated and inadequate. We couldn't speak the same language. His self-assured, polished voice telling me I felt pity for myself did not connect with my shaky, insecure voice. He simply did not come across as warm or empathetic. I didn't feel he understood me. So I left and never went back. However, to be fair to the man, he did share a story with me that I still remember to this day. He said, “Liciane, you're like a person who's walking down a path, falls into a hole and keeps refusing to use help to get out. You're waiting to figure out a way out on your own but fail to realize that, while you can help many people out of the hole, you cannot help yourself on your own because your hand will not reach far enough without help.” I remember thinking it made a lot of sense. I needed help out of the hole. Just not from him.
Has anyone thought someone was waving at you, only to realize that it was definitely not the case? I certainly have! Let me tell y’all (friends, this word is fast becoming one of my favorites, even as a transplant from the north) all about it, since I’m sure some of you have also had a similar experience and can sympathize. Me being me, I was in a hurry running into the local Starbucks before school one morning, and thought I glimpsed one of my middle school students from aftercare waving excitedly at me from her table. I waved excitedly back, only to realize with slow dawning horror that my 'pre-coffee' brain had incorrectly recognized this student, and a) it was not my favorite student from aftercare, and b) she was definitely waving at her friend behind me. Man, I was embarrassed, and I booked it out of there as fast as I could.
Perhaps some of you have felt this way about church—we learn quickly in our culture that there are many messages to be tuned out and to swipe away from. So perhaps, if we feel that the message of the sermon isn’t geared towards us, then we hightail it out of church, or more frequently, we zone out what we don’t think is being sent our way from on high and if we don’t perceive it as being legitimately addressed to us. Or, maybe we don’t agree with the message from the gospel, and we decide it’s one of many messages that we can choose to receive or not. The truth is, ultimately, Jesus is greater than all the other messages we receive on a daily basis, and we need to slow down and listen.
One of the central beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus is the one, true God revealed to us. Colossians 1:15 says “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.” In other words, he is all-powerful and greater than literally everything. That is a remarkable and revolutionary belief. However, as Pastor Jeff said on Sunday, for many of us it can be easy to lose sight of this belief and why it matters.
In Roman times, most religions, including those in the Middle East and Mediterranean (except Judaism), were polytheistic- meaning that people thought there were many different, more or less equally valid, gods. They also believed these gods were not all-powerful. In fact, they also thought that their many gods were flawed, emotional, and almost human (but immortal and with powers) and that they didn't especially care a lot about saving mortals.
Jesus promises that there will be good and bad times in everyone’s lives. He said so in Matthew 5:45 - “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” But, He also promises in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
So, there will be ups and downs for all of us, but we can know that we have God’s grace no matter our condition. However, many times when we do find ourselves in a bad spot, we may be afraid to ask for help or may blame ourselves—turning a bad situation into a long-term prison.