Adult life is not what I expected. I can’t define what it was I was looking for, but now that I’m here, I’ve been a bit surprised. For one, being an adult does not imply adult-like behavior. Next, no matter how great your eyesight was at 20, it will be worse at 40. Finally, the self image issues faced as a child haven’t really gone away.
My disillusionment with adult life was reenergized this week. In the course of conversation with a friend we each expressed a recent rough go of it. We were both wrestling the demons of fear, inadequacy, inability and smallness. The struggle was familiar. We’d been in this wrestling match before. Many times have we heard the sub-conscious shouts to give-up, tuck-tail and go home. This latest round of shouting was making us unsure, tentative, anxious and wobbly. As I wobbled, my thoughts drifted back to my growing-up years. Years of shyness and insecurity. Years of feeling…small.
Even though I’m all grown-up, at times I still feel small. Boyish, not man-ish. It’s a chronic syndrome that can be debilitating. Small feelings are like weeds in my thought life. A cold shadow on my demeanor. A fog over my marriage. An extinguisher of good parenting moments. Smallness shortens my temper while feeding emotional tiredness.
So what’s to be done when I tip toward thinking I’m small, second-rate and incapable – a little boy in a man’s body? Can I just fill my chest with air, cinch-up the boot straps and feign a John Wayne persona? Is looking big and manly the cure for small? Not really.
What I need is perspective. A reorientation that brings strength to my fragile moments. I need Someone who relates to my small with their big.
That big is God’s big. A big that engulfs, but doesn’t devour. A big that isn’t aloof or put-off by my self-centered fears. A big that is gentle, caring, comforting and available. A big that enters my small with understanding. A big that is personal, pursuing and gracious.
Here’s God, in all His bigness, entering our small.

Psalm 56:8-11

 8You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?
9Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
   This I know, that God is for me.
10In God, whose word I praise,
   in the LORD, whose word I praise,
11in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
   What can man do to me?
So much for feeling small. When I toss, turn, fret and fear God settles, holds, calms and protects. He gives me safe shelter to stand, expand and face the lies. To embrace truth. To be a man. God makes me big – not so I look big, but so He does.
I’m grateful that God is big for me. That He patiently coaxes me out of my miserable corner thinking small thoughts. That He empowers me to be bold and risky for Him. After all, when my big Father cares enough to know the stories of each tear and the angst of sleepless nights, who or what can ever tell me I’m small?

Eating Words

I’m like a coconut. Outward presentation is a bit tough, abrasive and scratchy. But inside there’s a tender sweetness that can be quite refreshing. Really. I do have a soft side. I’ve been working hard at thinning my husk and growing tastier fruit. My wife, Katrina, is very patient as she waits for more of my inner coconut. I’m thankful she tolerates my rough edges and clumsy attempts at romantic expression.

While courting, one way Katrina and I expressed our thoughts to each other was through letter writing. Separated by 500 miles, we exchanged many, many letters as I finished my electrical engineering degree. Some letters were short. Many long. Some light-hearted. Some tense. Most were giddy. A few expressed pain and frustration. All were tinged with longing. Each letter, no matter the content, is a treasure.

I still have every one of those letters. Katrina does too. Tucked away in old shoe boxes, they are irreplaceable pieces of our relationship. They capture and archive significant moments of growing closer. They’ve been read and re-read. Laughed and cried over. Stuck in Bibles. Pinned on walls. Carried in coat pockets. Folded and unfolded. Cherished and preserved.

When thinking about words and letters, this verse comes to mind: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.” (Jeremiah 15:16) The metaphor of eating words speaks deeply to me. First, I love to eat. Second, I love words, and books and writing. Eating words is a common, but negative euphemism. A forced humiliation. But in Scripture, eating words has profoundly different implications. We’re asked to ingest an offering from our Creator. To take-in the gift of divine expression. A gift of words that nourishes, strengthens and satisfies – just like food. Words that express hope, joy, pain and desire. Words that capture stories of real events and real people. Words that span the past, present and the not yet. Words that are eternal. Words we must read, and re-read. Carry in coat pockets. Laugh over. Cry over. Cherish. Revere. God’s expressions of truth and love. His letter to us.

So what am I doing with God’s words? Am I eating? Do I have a fondness for words from God like I did, and do, for Katrina’s words to me? In those college days I could hardly wait to receive another letter. The mailbox was my best friend. The course of my day was set by the receipt and reading of her words. Which begs the question: Are the course of my days presently set by God’s words?

That question blind-sided me last week as I viewed a short video about the Kimyal Tribe in Indonesia. The Kimyals are a people hungry – even ravenous – for God’s Word. Until last year, the Kimyals didn’t have God’s Word in their language. The video shows how they received the first ever complete New Testament in their language. It is amazing. The Kimyals helped me realize how the ubiquity of Bibles in our culture can numb us to the potency, value and power of the Word of God.

As a family, we watched this video – over a stack of 30 Bibles we collected from around the house. We are humbled, saddened, and challenged. Most of all we are grateful for God’s words to us and the privilege we have to feed freely on it.

I am thankful for the fresh wind that was blown in my personal reverence for God’s Word via the Kimyal people. I want an ever increasing appetite for His words. I want my soul to feast on the truth and love that comes from my Creator. To treasure His words of grace and salvation. To know more of Him through what He has spoken.
Watch the video. Then ask God to grow your appetite for His words.

Fruit Tree

Psalm 1:1a,3a – A blessed man…is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season… (my paraphrase)

I’ve been called many things. Chris. Christopher. Dad. “Hey you!” Mister. Husband. Scrub. Son. Sweetie. Kid. Boy. Punk. Friend. Jerk. Stupid. There are other special monikers I will not reveal, and some crude ones I’d like to forget.

Of all the things I’ve been called, there’s one I haven’t – but want to be. It’s a good name, but uncommon. Perhaps even weird. And to be honest, if you were to call me this name I’d be more than a little surprised and a tad bit embarrassed. But I’m OK with that.

You’ve read this far, so I’ll end the suspense. A name I would like to be called – a name I’m striving to grow into – is “fruit tree.” Yes, really.

My longing for this arboreal handle comes from Psalm 1. This Psalm touches the soul of my manhood in delicately invasive ways. Its imagery is vivid. It draws me outside myself and into a grander view. The metaphor of a tree is especially intriguing to me. Why a tree?
Well, my thoughts pour out like this: all trees start from seeds but grow with time, care and nourishment. Trees are strong, tall, majestic, stately, reliable. They withstand wind and storms. Trees offer shade, comfort, rest, and protection. They provide a place for gathering, talking, pondering, laughing, crying and loving. A place for remembering and making memories. Trees are useful – even in death.

The psalmist expands his metaphor beyond just any old tree. The blessed man is like a fruit tree. Fruit is tangible evidence of health and vitality. A sign of life. Something to be enjoyed. Fruit nourishes, replenishes, sustains and assists growth. It’s pleasant, tasty and desirable. Fruit is a seasonal offering packed with the energies of patience and persistence. It’s valuable and life-giving. Fruit bears the seeds of reproduction.

I treasure scriptural metaphors like the tree. They are deep oceans that invite exploration over and over again. Many times have I pondered this Psalm and the quality of my tree-likeness. I’m humbled and challenged when considering the quality of my fruit.

Call me what you will. My prayer and desire is that by God’s grace I will be called “fruit tree.”