Saturday, February 19, 2011

Goals

So a good friend of mine suggested that I write out my goals for the year. I think it's something that I hinted I would do in my last note, but I never got around to it. And the thing is, I haven't put it off for lack of time. Oh, sure, I've been busy, but I have definitely continued my habit of procrastination up here in Baltimore. I keep thinking about all the things I could be accomplishing if I simply used every minute of every day to its fullest extent. Perhaps that should be the first goal. I shouldn't waste my time on silly stuff. I have books to read, classes to attend, friends to see, jobs to apply for and a lot of other stuff to occupy my time. I could actually be quite productive if I put my mind to it.

Sometimes I feel like I don't truly belong up here. I'm still a North Carolina boy at heart. It would be foolish to quit, but at the same time, I want to want to be up here. I still have a year and a half to go and the concept of finishing well comes to mind. I don't just want to phone it in until I have my M.A. and can move back home. I want to actually enjoy my experience up here, put a lot into it so I can get a lot out of it, grow and change as a person, etc. The last one is going to require quite a bit of effort on my part. Changing isn't easy, and it doesn't happen overnight, and for an impatient person such as myself, that can be very annoying.

Perhaps another goal that goes right in line with that is that I need to take better care of myself. Oh, I don't mean in terms of the physical daily aspects of what that means. So far, I've been quite good at staying healthy, eating well, paying my rent, keeping my apartment clean, etc. But emotionally, I need to start taking time to find things I enjoy, and then actually do them. I also need to figure out what I like about myself. I think I didn't realize until I was a little more socially isolated that I got my affirmation and sense of self-worth from other people. And it's difficult to love others or have meaningful relationships if you're struggling with low self-esteem. Figuring out what is good about me is a goal.

But that actually brings up some theological questions which I was actually talking about with a different friend today. Theologically, I'm Reformed, which means I don't really believe there is anything inherently good in human beings. After all, if there was then we wouldn't need saving. And I don't believe that God predestined the elect to salvation based on their own merits, or anything inherently in them. While the upside to this is a profound sense of God's sovereignty and an assurance in one's own salvation, the downside is that I think I came out of it with some pretty low self-esteem. At least most Christians who aren't of the Reformed streak feel like God created things within them that were positive.

I'm not quite sure if I believe that. Or at the very least, I'm not really sure what those things are. When I am encouraged to write down what I like about myself, I feel like I am engaging with pride. But isn't self-hatred, or at least low self-esteem, a form of pride in itself? Where do Christians draw the line? Most folks do get affirmed in their positive traits from their friends, spouses, coworkers, etc. Is that proper? Is there a way to be affirmed and to affirm others without engaging in pride? I'd definitely be interested in responses from anyone with a theological stake in the argument, and in general, I'd appreciate prayers from folks that I can complete my goals up here. Be blessed.

7 comments:

  1. I'd like to think that, at least by God's intentions, we (humans) are all good in some way. I find it odd that God would create everything, as described in the Bible, call all these things good, and yet have some sort of reservation toward mankind. At our core, I believe we are all good. But we are corrupted.

    Imagine a beautiful painting. The artist is quite pleased with what he has created. But then a jealous observer decides to paint a big black streak over the painting. The artist knows the painting is messed up, and cannot be made perfect or beautiful again until restored. But the artist still loves the painting, because he knows what it was to begin with, and what it can be again. He doesn't throw the painting away. And even though it is visibly ruined by many eyes, deep down it is still a good and beautiful painting. We humans are the painting. God is the artist. He can bring the good back out of us.

    May you be blessed, know you are loved, know you are uniquely special in who you are, find yourself and grow into the person God would have you to become (and hopefully you'll like that person), make and meet your goals, and not beat yourself up so much. That is my prayer for you. :)

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  2. I, too, am Reformed for the most part, and that total depravity of man can be a pain.
    I kind of see it more as a universal depravity rather than a total depravity, in that every single human being is inherently evil, but still has a desire and small ability to do some good.
    I don't know really how much that does for anyone's self-esteem, but I know I take solace in the fact that we have a God who saw us in our depravity, in our rebellion, in our infidelity, and still chose us to be part of His family, and gives us worth. In fact, I feel like my Reformed beliefs kind of help me to realize the great depths that God has taken me from and redeemed me and brought me to a place of such great heights.

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  3. Interesting question! I would have thought of myself as 'Reformed' but I do believe that God delights in how he has made us, with our personality quirks and our gifts... God loves everybody, not just the believer, but based on his character I guess, not ours... Hmm.. thinking about it now and reading the other comments has given me some ideas but I'm really not sure.

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  4. Check out Romans 15:14. Paul says he is convinced that the Christians he is writing to are "full of goodness." I get total depravity, yes, but from my understanding, it doesn't mean that we are as bad as we could be; it only means we are as lost as we could be. Before we come to know Christ, we are enemies of God and alienated in our minds; after, we are His friends. When He created man, He said creation was "very good;" until then it had only been "good." And He seeks to redeem everything in us. If we're being conformed to the image of Christ, that is a very good thing, and it means we're given His righteousness, His goodness. If we're delighting ourselves in God (literally, making ourselves available to be molded by Him), He gives us the desires of our hearts. Which means we can have good desires. That doesn't mean every desire is good. Desires have to be tested: will this lead to further holiness? will this lead me and others closer to God? I think there's a great deal of freedom in that. I do think there's common grace--love in families, appreciation and creation of beauty, etc., but that still has its origin in God. Whatever is good in us is still not from us but from God.

    I struggle with this too, beating myself up with passages like Jeremiah 17:9, but I also know I John 3:20 and I Corinthians 4:3-5. We're more than just bad, bad, bad. Romans 8:21 says we have glorious freedom; Ephesians 4 says that our new man was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

    You have much to claim as a son of God. Don't take it for granted.

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  5. "You have much to claim as a son of God. Don't take it for granted."

    Thanks so much for that, Mrs. Pankhurst. Amazing blog moniker, by the way. And amazing comment. I can't say I've come to a definite conclusion about all of these things. I'm still working on it. But I have to say that it's awesome to hear so many great comments. I have the best readers ever. Thank you, Lenny, and Brandon and Jason. :)

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  6. Sorry to be late to the party. I see Mrs. Pankhurst has done pretty well in saying some of the things I'd have said.

    It seems to me that although all are born in a condition of estrangement from God (Original Sin) brought upon humanity by Adam's sin, our life is itself good, our talents are good, our intellects are good. We can and do sin with the good things God has created, but IMO that doesn't mean that created things are evil.

    I don't think it is sinful pride to recognize God's gifts to us, physically and intellectually, just as it isn't pride to recognize God's gifts of grace.

    We have to keep in mind that ontologically good is not the same as morally good.

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  7. You're welcome, Jay! I'm enjoying reading your thoughts.

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