Unfiltered and unedited thoughts addressing the question: How can we know God is God? While making a sandwich.
A woman stands alone
A red dress I remember
Though her back to me
The crowd swirls about
About her radiant glow
I join in the crowd
But try as I might
Now enveloped in lies
By which I am foolishly deceived
Dealing with stuff you don’t want to deal with
Sometimes life sucks
In these moments, or months, or years, we run to that which we trust most. We run to that which we believe will give us comfort. We run to that which we believe will help us to cope with the pain, frustration, anger, and suckiness of our situation.
These things that we trust can take on a few different forms. Maybe you look for solace in a bottle. Maybe you look for peace in a paycheck. Maybe you trade your life for attention because you think you’d rather be dead than unnoticed.
Whatever it is, the shitty reality is that none of these things–none of these worldly coping mechanisms is enough. Eventually, they all fall apart and leave us still wanting. Still insecure and unsure. Still desperate for comfort.
But knowing that isn’t enough. You can read these words, and maybe even believe them to be true in your mind, but until your false savior fails you so hard that you stop giving it your trust, your hope, and your life, you’ll keep doing it. You’ll keep placing the tremendous weight of your broken identity onto the weak shoulders of a woman, a man, a substance, an employer or a kid until it hurts enough that you stop.
My encouragement to you
If you still find yourself trusting in anything other than Christ, pray that it fails you. Pray that it fails you sooner than later so that you can start trusting in He who can and has carried the weight of your iniquity. Pray that your false savior disappoints you so profoundly that you forever remember why it is unworthy of your trust.
And, if you have already experienced this pain and disappointment and know not where to go with your burdens, frustration, anger, questions, grief, stress and aggravation–pray. Pray to God your Father and our Creator that he remind you who he is what he has done. Remember that this life is temporary, and that ultimately, all will be made right. Everything will be okay.
I don’t like to dwell on shitty situations. I like to get through messiness quickly. If I could be on the phone with a tow truck driver before the air bag finished deploying, I would be. But sometimes, and only sometimes, it’s better to stay in the suck for a while. I’m not advocating for victim-mentality or woe-is-me moments, and I’m not saying you should make an award-winning pity post every time you have a bad day. #cantkeepmedown
I am saying that sometimes it’s wise to stay in the suck, especially if you had some responsibility in causing it, and if staying in it helps you to see your responsibility well enough to keep you from causing a similar kind of suck in the future.
Know this: you are not alone. You are not uncared for, and you are not the sum of your failures. It will get better, and it will be okay. Trust Him and Him alone.
We strive unending to emulate perfection
Consider that everything he has commanded we do he has already perfectly demonstrated.
He lived as we ought live.
He gave us that we might give.
He forgave us of much that we might forgive others of relatively little.
He sought and saved us so that we too might seek and save the lost.
He spoke words that we may now speak with confidence,
and he responded to the cries of the downtrodden so that we might continue.
He served that we might serve.
He loved the we may love.
He suffered righteously that we might suffer for righteousness sake.
He submitted so that we might submit,
and he welcomed that we might welcome.
He died that we might live, but that’s why he is the Christ and we are not.
How I beg and plead He hear my prayer,
“Are you even listening!”
And how my soul shakes when given His response:
“Are you even listening?”
Woe to the man who thinks his highest worth
his ability to conquer meaningless hills
How he strives and strains to satisfy the world
Giving the life given him to lackluster thrills
The chains he wears he cannot feel
For they lie unshaken in comfortable scars
Confined to a cell of sad but certain controls
He knows not the freedom past his unshackled bars
Woe to the man who does not respond
To his maker when given eyes that can see
Woe to the man who knows his mirror too well
And still himself has yet to see
It is not you with whom I am at war,
tempting as it may be to believe,
but the lies that tear flesh from flesh and man from God;
lies by which we have both been deceived.
There is a scene in one of my favorite movies, A Goofy Movie, in which Max, a teenager, is taken much to his chagrin by his father, Goofy, to a rundown roadside attraction known as “Lester’s ‘Possom Park.” After enduring a very cringe-worthy animatronic performance in which the audience is encouraged to yodel along with Lester, Max finds himself left alone while his father explores the souvenir station.
In that unguarded moment, Max is greeted by Lester, the tall costumed opossum (think Chuck E. Cheese meets Barney the Dinosaur), who enthusiastically asks Max:
“Who’s your favorite ‘possum?”
Max, not at all interested in reciprocating Lester’s playfulness, plainly tells him:
“Don’t . . . touch me.”
Of course, this leads Lester to give Max a huge hug in hopes of cheering him up. The scene climaxes with Max slapping the opossum caricature hard enough to make his costume head spin 180 degrees to the rear, while in the same moment defiantly ordering Lester to: “Beat it, doofus!” The child entertainer staggers off into the background, unable to see, where he is taken down and dragged away by a gang of enthralled children.
It’s my favorite scene in the movie, and I think of it often in the church because I assume many men think of the pastor, and maybe even Christ himself as a Lester-like figure who is desperate for our attention and eager to give us a big, unwanted hug. Anything to get us to smile and play along.
I am grateful my pastors are not Lesters, and hilarious as the scene is, it saddens me to think of the men who mistake Christ, as I once did, for something closer to that of Lester the ‘Possum than to that of a military commander.
Christ is most certainly compassionate and hospitable, and I have no doubt that he gives the best hugs. But he is not merely an entertainer in search of our shallow affection. He is the eternal authority, and his return will not include playful yodeling.
I encourage you to watch…
When you’re forever
Today, I turn 30 years old.
I don’t have any big plans. I will be meeting with a counselor. It wasn’t something I’d planned to do on my birthday, but when I emailed him earlier this week, this was the day he said he was free. I chuckled, and then smile-sighed, much like my father does when moments of life seem too ridiculous to do anything other than laugh, smile and shake your head.
It’s probably a good way to start the next decade of life; discussing some of the things in my first three decades, and how they’ve formed my identity, whether for better or worse. I’m not excited about it, but I know it will be good for me and for others.
I was not born only once, though. I am, by God’s grace, “born again.” I don’t usually say so because I typically assume that phrase to belong to short, roundish, gregarious black women who attend Southern churches and wear sun hats, but it was the phrase that Christ used, so perhaps I should take a liking to it.
I don’t know exactly when I was born again, or saved from one eternal life into another. I sometimes feel as though I am re-saved on a continual basis, much like one might be if after having been pulled from the ocean waves, they jumped back in time and time again and were re-saved time and time again by the same patient and determined lifesaver. Such seems to be my relationship with the Christ.
Theologically speaking, I know that’s not the case. I know that salvation occurs once, and that life thereafter is a process of sanctification, or Christ-likening. But I don’t know the day I was saved, and I don’t know that I care all that much so long as I am indeed saved.
Of course, all of us are eternal beings. It’s easy to ignore this or fail to acknowledge it, even if we do call ourselves Christians because we have not seen the other side of death, and we cannot fathom what it means for anything to be eternal, let alone ourselves. We may say we’ll love someone forever, but the reality is that none of has the slightest clue what it means to do anything, let alone love, forever.
So what are birthdays to the eternal? They mean something in this life because things change as we get older. Our bodies. Our perspectives. Our abilities and our rights. Our freedoms and responsibilities. Our expectations, both of ourselves and of the world around us. Time changes these things, hopefully for the better, but not always.
I imagine things will change in Heaven, but I doubt we’ll worry much about time. Why would we? What would life be like if we did not age and we had no need to worry about time?
I realize this may sound morbid, but a part of me is delighted that I am a bit older today because it means I am a bit closer to my death, and thus closer to an eternal community with Christ. I am not entirely without him now, as I am, but I am not nearly with him as I will be when I die to this vehicle and awaken in the next.
I understand why this day is significant in this life and in this world, but I cannot help but to wonder how significant it really is if I will live forever. Will I look back on this day in 200 billion years? Will I remember it?
The other day I was listening to Ed Sheeran’s song, Shape of You. It’s catchy and I like to dance, so I was dancing in my living room and pretending to be much cooler than I am when I paused for a moment to apply some ChapStick. Feeling cool, I capped it and then decided to return it to it’s small wicker basket by tossing it from my right hand, tucked under my left arm, up and over my head, eyes fixed on the basket.
It landed, and in that moment I was Michael Jordan sinking the game winner. No one saw it besides me, and maybe my dog, Homie. And God. Maybe some bored angels.
I hope that moment is recorded. I hope I can replay moments of my life, and the lives of others, in God’s eternal living room. And I hope you will be there, too.
Jesus tells three parables about the joy of finding that which was lost. The sheep; the coin; the son.
Some have to squander what God has given them on the unfulfilling pursuits of the world in order to realize their deepest desire for the father’s love and acceptance. The prodigal son was a rich young man who was released to a life of travel and casual sex; a life undoubtedly envied by many other young men, then and now. But for whatever adventures he had or stories he would be able to tell, it wasn’t enough. The high didn’t last, and he would ultimately find himself alone and miserable.
And so it was in the chaos of his own causing, by God’s grace, that the son “came to himself,” and returned to his father. He didn’t think himself worthy to do so, but he returned hoping to be granted the most basic of provisions, like food and a place to stay.
Upon his return, the son began to apologize. Before he could finish, the father hugged him, “and they began to celebrate.” Food and a place to stay were available, but given what he had done with his inheritance, the son was not at all prepared for the warm welcome his father received him with. The son was not at all prepared for the love that was still available to him. The love of the father satisfied a longing within the son’s soul that he had not previously understood, and had until his return unsuccessfully sought to satisfy with insufficient substitutes.
I hope not.
I initially bought this domain (andrewbartosik.com) because I didn’t want anyone else to snag it before I could (it’s in high demand, I assume). But then I bought a secondary domain titled, theexhorter.com, because I didn’t want to be guilty of narcissism. I thought people would think me a douche if I handed them a card or told them about my website as if to say, “You’ll never guess what it’s called . . . it’s my name!”
So I used the exhorter as a mask to feel like a better Christian. I thought God would be more impressed with me if my glorious blog (tell your friends) wasn’t named after me, but was anonymous and entirely focused on pointing people to Him. The problem with that of course is that God isn’t so easily manipulated, and his affections for me don’t dramatically increase because I went with itsaboutGod.com instead of myname.com.
The truth is this: I am narcissistic at times. I’m less so now than I think I’ve ever been, but it exists within me, and comes out in different ways. Maybe this website is one of those ways. Maybe it’s not, but I really don’t care anymore because I just want to practice writing, and I’m tired for worrying about what people think of me. It’s slowing me down.
You don’t become a narcissist by making a website with your name on it anymore than you escape narcissism by naming your website something else. The truth is that in some ways you too are likely narcissistic and self-absorbed, and that’s okay. It’s wise to seek to be selfless, whether for the sake of living more like Christ or just being a better friend, but don’t get too caught up like I did in fretting about what other people will think of you.
Just relax and write.