Monthly Archives: March 2006

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An Ash Wednesday email: to God from Jelani

Hey Dad.

I know it’s been awhile since we’ve been in close communion. I’ve been busy, uh… doing your will, I think. Okay, that sounds bad. Lemme try that again. I’ve been busy, umm… living up to commitments I’ve made. I’m grateful that you’ve given me a chance to minister at my local church. I’m still getting used to juggling all the various relational dynamics that come with ministering with close friends and family. But still I’m grateful. It’s been a mile a minute since I’ve gotten here, and it doesn’t look like it’ll slow down any time soon.

And I’m excited about this potential job opportunity. But it’s still a few months down the road, and I don’t even know if I’m going to get it or not. And in between now and then, I just have to work. And that doesn’t seem particularly appealing to me right now, even though I know it’s what needs to be done.

I’ve been thinking alot about this whole Lent thing, being Ash Wednesday and all. I decided today that video games were the thing I needed to abstain from for awhile. I’ve actually been thinking about it for a long time. It really makes the most amount of sense. I don’t really spend very much time or money on anything else that’s not a utility bill. But the very thought was so dangerous and heretic-sounding to my flesh that I didn’t dare speak it to anyone because I really resisted the idea of being held accountable to it. But today, after the day I’ve had, I just couldn’t push it down any longer. I could tell it was where you were leading me. So I blurted it out to Holly over dinner, with no segueway or anything. Just vomited it out, and.. wouldn’t you know, I immediately felt better afterward.

Before I let my wife know about it, I was trying to figure out a way to work in a provision so that I could play this new “Christian” video game I heard about today, based on the Left Behind series. Then again, I was never a big fan of the Left Behind series, so that’s probably a bad idea on several counts.

I just found out that Tonex has retired from the music biz. I heard his interview on LA’s Radio Free KJLH.I admire Tonex for a lot of reasons, but he’s really hurt right now. I guess I’m realizing more and more how much the industry has a tendency to chew up artists and spit them out as hollow shells of their former selves. I don’t want that to happen to me. I don’t want to get a divorce. I don’t want to have to endure all that drama on a national scale with everyone scrutinizing my every move. I have enough drama just with church family and family-family. So I guess I’m grateful that you’ve been protecting me from all that, even during several seasons of my life when I was pining for it more than anything else. So thanks for coming through again on that one, Dad. I guess that’s why You’re God and I’m not.

Yet, this whole I’m-not-God thing… I have trouble with that.

Not “I have trouble with that” in the sense that I don’t agree with it (you made me, you know I’m not an idiot like that), but that I have a problem really internalizing that sometimes. I have a deep desire to be in control. I have a deep desire to maintain an air of competency, even if I’m in a difficult position. I want to act like I’m the master of my own fate. I guess it’s the responsibility thing that’s had to beaten into my head by my parents and other mentor figures throughout my life. It’s like, in my mind “being responsible” equates to “having everything under control.” I have a hard time living with the fact that sometimes there is nothing I can do but do my little part and trust God for the rest.

And it’s not even the idea itself, but rather the walking-it-out part that I struggle so much with. Because I’m fine telling people, “sure, if I trust God everything will work out fine.” But if they ask me how things going, I have to say something like, “Well… I’m in between jobs.” I can’t just come right out and say, “I don’t have a job . Do you have any good leads? My wife needs a roof over her head.” It’s the perfectionism inside me that I have to conquer if I’m going to be effective.

But that’s just it, God.

I can’t conquer it.

I need You to do it.

There’s nothing in me that will get the job done. Like Paul said in his epistle to the Romans, the stuff I don’t want to do? Yeah, I usually do that. And the stuff that I want to get done? Doesn’t quite happen.

So God, can you come through? I’m not asking in a factual sense. Of course you can. You’re God. That’s like asking if Shaq can dunk a ball, or if LeBron can get a major endorsement. But I’m asking… pleading… can you do it for me? Like… in the here and now? Can you fill me with Your Spirit and help me to keep pushing? Like that Peter Furler tune, as I lift up my hands, will you meet me here?

Because that would be awesome.

That would really make my day.

My year.

My life.

Crazy things are afoot, God.

My relationships with my spiritual mentors are changing. They’re becoming less like centralized server-based downloading, and more peer-to-peer sharing.

(Pardon the geekspeak, but again — you made me. And you made the internet. Or at the very least, you made Al Gore.)

And while I love the spiritual intimacy that I’m starting to develop, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re all just the blind leading the blind, and if you don’t lead us, we’re ALL jacked. It’s really good, and really scary, all at the same time.

I’m grateful — like a mug! — for my marriage. My wife Holly is wonderful, and yet she’s only another fallable human like me — capable of sin, of imperfection, of making mistakes. But the more I see those things in her, the more I want to hold her… help her… love her. And I think when she sees those things in me, she feels the same way. And that… is… amazing. That’s something only You could do, God.
So thanks for that.

And thanks for taking me through these inevitable life changes. Over the last few months, I’ve had the unmistakable feeling that, little by little, the ground has been crumbling underneath me. And yet, somehow, I haven’t gone under. Your hand has sustained me. And yeah, I’ve had some ups and downs. But I get the feeling that the best is yet to come. I yearn to see more of Your plan unfold. But until then, I just have to rest with the assurance that it is unfolding. Like Shamgar, I just gotta start where I am, use what I have, and do what I can.

So thanks for that. That’s a plan I can actually execute. Maybe You could use that.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the idea that You could show up and save the day with something crazy. It’s what You love to do. It’s the story of Bible, for goodness Christ’s Your sake.

And I’ve been seeing You do it all around me. So I guess if the previously cursed Red Sox and White Sox can both win the World Series in consecutive years, the Seahawks can go to the Super Bowl, and some autistic kid named “J-Mac” can score 20 points the first time he gets a chance to shoot a basketball… then anything can happen.

So thanks for helping me see You at work.

And Thanks for being God.

I’m so glad I’m not.

But thanks for mixin’ it up with me anyway.