Category: heaven


Earlier, I wrote about how I was afraid that becoming a teenager would turn me into a rebel and make me fight with my parents.  That didn’t happen.  But my thinking did change.  Looking back, I think that was when I first started dealing with “the voice.”

It was a voice that would remind me of all the times I had messed up, when I had looked silly, when I had hurt someone’s feelings.  Being reminded of a mistake felt like reliving it– even years later, I would look back and shudder about the smallest misunderstandings.

It was a voice that told me to pause before speaking up, reaching out, or taking action.  What if I made a mistake?  Better to stay silent and hidden.

It was a voice that told me whenever something bad happened, to assume it was my fault.  “I’m sorry.”  I felt like I needed to apologize for everything– it probably was my fault somehow.

It was a voice that told me to compare myself to others and that I wasn’t ready for the challenges ahead– I didn’t know how to drive (or want to learn how), I didn’t have a job, I didn’t like to go out with friends, I’d never had a girlfriend, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I graduated.  And before I knew it, it would be too late to learn.

I want to be clear about this– when I talk about hearing a “voice,” I don’t mean the sort of voice that a person with schizophrenia might deal with, where you can’t tell for sure if what you’re hearing is a real sound or coming from your mind.  (Also, I know almost nothing about schizophrenia aside from the fictionalized portrayal of it in the movie A Beautiful Mind, so my concept of it may not be very accurate.)

See, I knew that the critical voice that plagued me came from my own mind.  It was my own voice, the voice of my fears.  As I said in an earlier post, part of growing up was that I became more aware of other people, and of their awareness of me.  And that caused me to be more careful about what I did and said.  But my rule-oriented mind took it to the extreme.  And it tended to create a vicious cycle, because the more I hid from potential failure and embarrassment, the more I feared that I was leaving myself unprepared for the world by not trying.

To greater and lesser degrees, every day since then became a fight against that voice in my head– usually subtle, but sometimes exhausting.  I could fight it by distraction, or by applying myself to a task that I really enjoyed.  Better still, I could fight it with other voices– the voice of God’s Word telling me that I was forgiven, my sins had been paid for, and God was in control of my future.  The voice of the Holy Spirit assuring me that I was a beloved child of God, and the voices of my family echoing that same unconditional love.

One of the greatest things about God is that he is so near.  I don’t have to make a journey to talk with him.  I don’t have to go through a series of mental exercises to make my thoughts acceptable to him.  He is as close as my own thoughts at all times.  Just by remembering that he is there, I can turn any time of distress and doubting into a prayer.  This didn’t make the struggle go away, but it meant I never had to struggle alone.

Hopefully this post makes some sense; I don’t intend for it to be a “woe is me” post.  I’m trying to be honest about how I see my life and development.  My next post will be on something more fun and less serious.

I’ll finish with a couple of quotes from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis that hint at how this struggle will end.  If you’re not familiar with The Screwtape Letters, they are written as a collection of letters from a demon named Screwtape, whose nephew Wormwood is assigned as the tempter for a young man.  These sections come from the last letter, in which we learn that the young man was killed in a bombing raid, and Wormwood has failed in his task:

“How well I know what happened at the instant when they snatched him from you!  There was a sudden clearing of his eyes (was there not?) as he saw you for the first time, and recognised the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer.

Just think (and let it be the beginning of your agony) what he felt at that moment; as if a scab had fallen from an old sore, as if he were emerging from a hideous, shell-like tetter, as if he shuffled off for good and all a defiled, wet, clinging garment.”

And:

“Defeated, out-manœuvred fool! Did you mark how naturally—as if he’d been born for it—the earthborn vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous?

“I know what the creature was saying to itself! ‘Yes. Of course. It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottle-neck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?’

“As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it!—that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange.

“He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not ‘Who are you?’ but ‘So it was you all the time.’

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Each day, I get an e-mail from Matthew Henry, a preacher who lived in England from 1662-1714.  Well, actually, the e-mails are based on a book Mr. Henry wrote, A Method for Prayer.

You can talk to God about anything that’s on your mind– and that’s probably the way I pray most often.  Sometimes I barely use words.  But I sometimes forget about the things God has said in the Bible about who he is and what he desires for those he loves.

That’s what Matthew Henry’s book is about– the “method” is really praying straight from the Bible.  In fact, most of the book is made up of passages from Scripture organized by topic and worded as prayers.  My Mom suggested that I sign up at the website that sends out the daily e-mails; it gives me something to think and pray about each morning, and over the course of a year, it covers the whole book.

To be honest, I don’t do a good job of keeping up with the prayers; some days I don’t stop to read the e-mails, and other days I just skim them.  But they have been helpful to me.

There was one I got a few days ago that really stuck in my mind:

Pray for Grace to Bring God’s Truth to your Memory

To help my memory, that the truths of God may be ready to me whenever I have occasion to use them.

Lord, let your Spirit teach me all things and bring to my remembrance all that you have said to me, (John 14:26) that the word of Christ may dwell richly in me in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. (Colossians 3:16)

Lord, grant that I may pay much closer attention to what I have heard, lest I drift away from it; (Hebrews 2:1) and may I hold fast to the word that has been preached to me, and not believe in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:2)

Lord, make me ready and competent in the Scriptures, (Acts 18:24) that I may be competent, equipped for every good work; (2 Timothy 3:17) and, being well trained for the kingdom of heaven, may I, like a good master of a house, bring out of my treasure what is new and what is old. (Matthew 13:52)

I need God’s grace to keep from forgetting things I have learned to be true!  It’s kind of scary to think that my own memories could become unreliable, but the fact is that I know it has happened.  I can grow through some experience, realize that I can trust God a little bit more, but with time, my memory will fade.  I might find some other way to explain what happened, a way that doesn’t involve trusting God.  I might feel like I am at a dead end, because I don’t remember that God has led me through what looked like dead ends before.

The great thing, though, is that God knows this about me, and he has promised not to give up on me even if I forget.  Praying God’s own words back to him from the Bible helps me to remember that this is something God cares about.  God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, is praying this on my behalf right now.  And when I set my mind on those things, I am copying Christ.

Each day, I get an e-mail from Matthew Henry, a preacher who lived in England

from 1662-1714.  Well, actually, the e-mails are based on a book Mr. Henry

wrote, A Method for Prayer.

You can talk to God about anything that’s on your mind– and that’s probably the

way I pray most often.  Sometimes I barely use words.  But I sometimes forget

about the things God has said in the Bible about who he is and what he desires

for those he loves.

That’s what Matthew Henry’s book is about– the “method” is really praying

straight from the Bible.  In fact, most of the book is made up of passages from

Scripture organized by topic and worded as prayers.  My Mom suggested that I

sign up at the website that sends out the daily e-mails; it gives me something

to think and pray about each morning, and over the course of a year, it covers

the whole book.

To be honest, I don’t do a good job of keeping up with the prayers; some days I

don’t stop to read the e-mails, and other days I just skim them.  But they have

been helpful to me.

There was one I got a few days ago that really stuck in my mind:

Pray for Grace to Bring God’s Truth to your Memory

To help my memory, that the truths of God may be ready to me whenever I have

occasion to use them.

Lord, let your Spirit teach me all things and bring to my remembrance all that

you have said to me, John 14:26(ESV) that the word of Christ may dwell richly in

me in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Colossians 3:16(ESV)

Lord, grant that I may pay much closer attention to what I have heard, lest

I drift away from it; Hebrews 2:1(ESV) and may I hold fast to the word that has

been preached to me, and not believe in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:2(ESV)

Lord, make me ready and competent in the Scriptures, Acts 18:24(ESV) that I

may be competent, equipped for every good work; 2 Timothy 3:17(ESV) and, being

well trained for the kingdom of heaven, may I, like a good master of a house,

bring out of my treasure what is new and what is old. Matthew 13:52(ESV)

I need God’s grace to keep from forgetting things I have learned to be true!

It’s kind of scary to think that my own memories could become unreliable, but

the fact is that I know it has happened.  I can grow through some experience, realize that I can trust God a little bit more, but with time, my memory will fade.  I might find some other way to explain what happened, a way that doesn’t involve trusting God.  I might feel like I am at a dead end, because I don’t remember that God has led me through what looked like dead ends before.

The great thing, though, is that God knows this about me, and he has promised not to give up on me even if I forget.  Praying God’s own words back to him from the Bible helps me to remember that this is something God cares about.  God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, is praying this on my behalf right now.  And when I set my mind on those things, I am copying Christ.

I feel like my thoughts are just tumbling around over and over in my head right now.  I spend way too much time listening to my own thoughts, but it’s kind of hard to get away from them, you know?

Since I can’t untangle what I’m thinking about now, I figured I would try to go back and continue something I was writing about a while ago, a response to reading Tim Keller’s book, Prodigal God.  Since my church is currently working through another of Keller’s books during adult Sunday school, some of these issues have continued to be on my mind from time to time.

As I said in my earlier post, Keller sees the two brothers in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son as representing two basic ways that people relate to God.  The younger brother rebels against his father very openly by breaking all of the rules.  The older brother keeps all of the rules, but in the end, his refusal to honor his father and come into the party shows that his obedience has really been rebellion all along.  Just like the younger brother, he wants the father’s riches but not the father himself.  In fact, at the end of the parable, the younger son is restored, but the older son’s outcome is left hanging:

“Although the sons are both wrong and both loved, the story does not end on the same note for each.  Why does Jesus construct the story so that one of them is saved, restored to a right relationship with the fathe, and one of them is not?  (At least, not before the story ends.)  It may be that Jesus is trying to say that while both forms of the self-salvation project are equally wrong, each one is not equally dangerous. […]

Because the elder brother is more blind to what is going on, being an elder-brother Pharisee is a more spiritually desperate condition.”

This is the scariest thing about the story for me– the idea that you can be deceived your whole life, thinking you are in a right relationship with God, only to find in the end that you have missed it totally.  It may not be a logical reaction to a character in a parable, but as I read Keller’s statements about the older brother, I find myself trying to defend him, asking if it is fair to judge him by one statement he made in anger.  The older brother says,

“Look!  All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.  Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

Not only do these words condemn the elder brother just as surely as the younger brother’s actions did– they also reveal all of the elder brother’s obedience throughout his life to have been selfish and worthless.  It’s very scary.  Will I some day come to a point that reveals my faith in God was empty?

I am really at Jesus’ mercy.  It is not the strength of my faith that saves me– if Jesus were not upholding me every step of the way, I would have no hope.  One of the things about Jesus that can be both comforting and scary at the same time is that he knows the weaknesses of our hearts.

Once, a rich young ruler came to Jesus.  Like the elder brother in the parable, he thought that he had kept all of the rules perfectly.  Still, he wanted to be certain.  He asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  You would think that for something like eternal life, no matter what Jesus told him to do, he would at least try to do it.  But Jesus said, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  And the man went away sad, because he was very wealthy.

That was all it took to make the rich young ruler give up on eternal life.  I’m sure there are things Jesus could say to me that would make me give up– I am not that strong.  If he wanted to, he could make me walk away.  But thankfully, he is merciful, and he has promised to keep me through to the end.  It may seem precarious from my point of view, but in fact, Jesus’ grace is the surest thing there is to rely on.

I have lots more to say about Keller’s book– the frustrating thing is that it seems to cause me to doubt, and I have to keep reminding myself that my salvation is because of what Jesus did, not anything I did.  Maybe that’s what it’s meant to do?  I don’t know.

It’s been a few days since I posted anything, but this time it’s not because I can’t think of anything to post. I stumbled across a website full of simple yet creative ideas for video games, and since then I’ve been working on coming up with my own idea for a video game. (I don’t want to tell you too much about it yet because it’s still in a very early stage of planning.)

When I get an idea for a project like this that really captures my imagination, it can seem like there’s not enough time in the day to read and think about it. There’s a cartoon I saw in a magazine many years ago that I have always really related to: A mom and dad are watching the New Year’s Eve celebration on TV, and their little boy is standing in the room with a wagon full of toys and a frustrated expression on his face. “But I’m not finished with THIS year!” he says.

Will I finish this project? Honestly, chances of that are very slim. I usually get to a point where I run out of ideas and have to put an unfinished project aside; sometimes I will come back to it much later after a period of not thinking about it and find I have some fresh ideas.

Sometimes I think that when I get to heaven, one of the first things I’ll want to do is finish all of the projects I have from throughout my life. (The first one would probably have something to do with traffic lights and road maps.) Time would no longer be a limitation keeping me from exploring, thinking, and building.

But I know that’s probably a pretty silly thing to think of doing first in heaven. Maybe the things to do there will be so amazing that I’ll forget all about the video games I thought of making long ago and be seized by ideas that are so wonderful and exciting that I can’t even imagine them now.