Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: 30 for 30 (page 1 of 5)

Wrapping it Up

The 30 for 30 series has been fun. It gave me something to blog about for a little while. I thought I’d post an index of all the things I wrote on for future reference or in case you missed some.

So here is the complete list: 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday

Patience Compels Patience

A baby me

Writing this series and looking back over many of the things I’ve learned has made me realize something: I am a slow learner. I simply, truly, honestly cannot believe that even knowing the grace of God, it has taken me so long to know such small growth.

When I speak of being a slow learner, I don’t mean that I’m unintelligent, I mean that even what I do know I often have yet to learn in the sense of applying truth and being changed by it.

That, it seems, is impossible to rush. Yet this questions plagues me: How could it be that I still live the way I do when I know the things I know?

How long will God be patient with me? Will his patience eventually, finally, just give out?

As always, the gospel speaks comfort. The gospel takes this truth and gives me positive direction moving forward so that I am not left in despair. CJ Mahaney, in a message to pastors, recently quoted JI Packer:

Appreciate the patience of God. Think how he has borne with you, and still bears with you, when so much in your life is unworthy of him and you have so richly deserved his rejection. Learn to marvel at his patience, and seek grace to imitate it in your dealings with others; and try not to try his patience any more.

To this, CJ adds:

“Think how has borne with you, and still bears with you, when so much in your life is unworthy of him.” When you’re 56, you appreciate a statement like this more than when you were 25. I appreciated God’s patience then; I just appreciate it more now. He has patiently borne with me for 31 more years. My wife, my children, and the men I serve with in ministry know how true it is: there is so much of my life that is unworthy of him.

That rings true for me. I’ve seen that. I’ve seen the patience of God. I’ve gloried in it. My life, literally, depends on it. Now, heaven forbid, that I would ever be impatient with others. I need to hear what CJ says:

When I am impatient with others, I have temporarily lost sight of God’s patience with me. At the root of my impatience is self-righteousness and pride. Daily remembering God’s patience with me protects my soul from sinful impatience with others.

Having had this season to reflect on God’s grace in my life and his patience with me in protecting me and keeping me and bearing with me these 30 years, I pray that I would be patient with others. I pray that I would never for a moment be impatient at the slow growth of those around me. I pray that I would never be frustrated with them more than I’m frustrated at myself. I pray that I would love with a longsuffering love that hopes all things and patiently waits for God’s power to bring change.

But I know I’ll fail. I’m a slow learner. I’ll forget his patience with me and I’ll get impatient with you. And when I do I’ll need to experience his patience with me again. I’m so thankful for his gospel-patience. It’s my only hope.

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** This concludes the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday. Thanks for joining on the journey! **

30 Random Things About Me

  1. I like ice cream — more than you.
  2. I am a Habs fan (translation for non-hockey fans: I am a champion).
  3. I am a closet geek. I love technology and gadgets of all shapes and sizes. Of course I’m too dumb to actually understand the technology, but I love it when smart people explain it to me.
  4. I cry at weird times. I’ve tried for 30 years to figure it out. No explanation.
  5. I like country music. I also like reggae. And classical. And folk. I really like folk. And I used to be in a punk band. Basically my mood determines musical preference at any given moment.
  6. My middle name is Luke. People always ask for some reason.
  7. When I was a baby I threw up at the kitchen table so much that I made my uncle move all the way across the continent to get away from me (Toronto to California!).
  8. If becoming a pastor didn’t work out I thought at one point about becoming a funeral director.
  9. If I had to choose an alternative life path now I’d choose something academic, I think. I’d love to be a professor at a seminary. Scholarly journals give me abnormal amounts of glee.
  10. I love languages. Sometimes I randomly speak French to my wife… but she still loves me anyway.
  11. Despite my love of languages, I still haven’t finished taking the Hebrew I need to complete my Master’s. Sigh…
  12. I can think of nowhere in the world I would rather live than Canada.
  13. I’m not certain, but I think I’m probably, most likely, the most indecisive person you’ve ever met.
  14. I actually enjoy horrible jokes. Puns and Bible jokes are awesome.
  15. I really like nature. But not camping.
  16. I don’t like seafood one bit. Or pickles. Or olives.
  17. Drinks fill me with inappropriate amounts of joy. Most of my favourite tastes are drinks.
  18. I have a really big mouth. Literally. It’s very large. I can fit a lot of food in there. And a lot of foot, for that matter.
  19. I sleep too heavily. I’m so hard to wake up that Stacey actually prefers when I pull all-nighters. She feels safer that way.
  20. I’m a homebody. I can think of very few things in life that I would rather do than spend time with my family. No humans on this planet give me more joy than my wife and my girls.
  21. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for my brother, Ryan. He was a brother and father and friend to me through all my younger years. It’s impossible to explain how much that has meant.
  22. I get my looks from my mom’s side of the family. My dad is half-black, but I’m pretty pastey.
  23. My nana (‘Super Nana’ to my kids) is the world’s greatest grandmother. My heart aches when I think about how much I miss my grandad. I owe the life that I have to them in many respects.
  24. My mom doesn’t feel it, but she’s the strongest woman I know. I’ve always looked up to her and always will.
  25. I’ve loved studying and thinking about friendship over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever really been a good friend.
  26. I think I can count on two hands the number of times in my life I’ve really, truly prayed.
  27. I think I’m an extrovert trapped in an introvert’s body.
  28. I truly do not understand the way my heart works. At all.
  29. I have never been more convinced that my heart is absolutely infested with pride that is visible to everyone but me. But if you point it out to me, I’ll get angry about it.
  30. I have always hated talking about myself. This post took an excruciatingly painful act of discipline to write. I simply cannot believe anyone would read it.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

The Pendulum Drives Everything

A pendulum

The pendulum drives everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but most things.

What we perceive to be an excess in one direction drives us to correct the balance by moving in the other direction. Over and over and over. I’ve seen this in other people and I’ve seen it in myself.

The more we run from doctrinal error that we see in others, the more likely we are to fall into the opposite error ourselves. An over-the-top notion of male headship leads to the rise of feminism. An over-emphasis on the sovereignty of God leads to open theism. A preacher who makes a huge deal out of minor issues will eventually find that people stop listening to the things which actually are important. If my friends discipline their kids too much, I want to bring balance to the universe by letting my kids run wild.

For every wrong over-emphasis there is an equal and opposite corresponding over-emphasis in the other direction. More often than not when I have made a theological move it has been as much about moving away from something I perceived to be wrong as it is moving toward something I perceived to be right. That’s not entirely wrong, but I think it does warrant caution.

It has made me want to move slower and ask more questions.

  • Is the content of the position really erroneous or has it just been given inappropriate weight?
  • If I am moving from an extreme position, am I moving to an extreme position? Is there a middle-ground?
  • What is good in the position I’m rejecting that I stand to lose?
  • If I’m rejecting something because I feel like I don’t like it, why do I feel like that?
  • Who am I following? Are they prone to unnecessary extremes?
  • Does the measure of my passion for this issue reflect the Bible’s passion for and clarity on this issue?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting old and mellow. But it seems to me that if we’re always moving between extremes, we’re probably passing the truth somewhere in the middle every time. And if I’m just always stuck on the same extreme, I’m probably always just as far away from the truth as I was before.

The trick, I think, is to be pulled to truth like a magnet to its pole rather than to be pulled away from extremes to opposite extremes. Easy to say, harder to live.

I pray that God, by his grace, would allow me to cultivate a deep enough longing for truth in my heart that I would pursue truth out of an ever-increasingly-pure and purified mind that is willing to be wrong, willing to change, willing to believe what I may not like at first, and willing to stay put even when it seems like it would be nicer to change camps.

And I also pray that he would give me friends who observe me carefully and tell me when I’m just over-reacting.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

The Myth of the Perfect ________

There was a time when I thought a lot about what I won’t be like ‘when I get older’. In my younger years I would look at my parents or older people in my church and see all the ways I wouldn’t be like them. In Bible college and seminary I often thought (if no consciously, then subconsciously) about how so many pastors had compromised and failed and how there were no excuses for them being the way they were. I wasn’t going to be like them.

‘When I’m a husband / pastor / father / homeowner / (fill in the blank), I will do it differently…’.

Underlying thoughts like that is a failure, I’ve learned, to recognize the fallenness of the world. There’s a myth being perpetrated by the devil and the world — a myth gladly accepted and amplified by my sin nature — that I, unlike every human, will do it right. It’s a temptation for young people everywhere and it is one of the reasons why I think people wait longer to get married, to settle in a career, to have children, etc. The myth is this: If you look hard enough and wait long enough, you find the perfect spouse. You, unlike your friends, can find the perfect car. The perfect house. The perfect ________.

Though far from perfect, thankfully, our house is in better shape than this one.

But here’s the thing: no wife is perfect. No husband is perfect. No house, car, job, or anything else is perfect. It’s all broken. This side of the new creation, everything will fail us and disappoint us.

But quite apart from being a discouragement (though it may sound depressing), I’ve found it to be actually quite freeing. As soon as I realized that it is ‘okay’ for my house to not be perfect, I didn’t need to it justify me any more. When I stop and remember that it’s ‘okay’ for my family to not be perfect, it frees me from comparisons and the desires to compare and compete. For those still looking for a husband / wife, it is freeing to know that no matter how long you wait and how carefully you choose, you’ll still get a fixer-upper of a spouse. That’s life.

What’s been so freeing for me in this is that it gives me the ability to just simply enjoy things for what they are. I can enjoy my wife without worrying about how to ‘fix’ her flaws (which more often than not are my fault anyway). I can enjoy my house without worrying about making it ‘perfect’ (since it will never get there anyway).

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that we don’t pray and labour for God’s perfect kingdom to come and to work in this world. It doesn’t mean that we don’t strive to be holy as he is holy. It doesn’t mean that I don’t labour to wash my bride with the pure water of the word (or accept challenges and corrections from her). It doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard to raise my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. But realizing that the notion perfection of anything this side of glory is a myth is freeing when I feel the pressure to perform or achieve up to a standard I simply can’t attain.

All this also helps me to appreciate my parents and those older in the faith as well. They haven’t attained perfection, and some of the flaws I observed were accurate. But now I understand and feel a little bit more of why they’re not perfect… because I’ve seen it in myself and in my world.

I hope that as I age I continue to find balance between striving for perfection and finding perfect rest in the perfection to come. When I find this balance, I find it enables me to, as someone has said, ‘work like an Arminian and sleep like a Calvinist.’ I like that.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

The Myth of Rest

This morning I woke up tired. Yesterday I woke up tired. The day before that… well, you get the idea.

But it didn’t used to be like this. I remember the day. It was sometime near the beginning of my second year of seminary. We had been through a move, renovations, pregnancy, having our first daughter, and me starting a new job at the church, all within the past year. I was taking a full course-load at TBS (including languages) and working near full-time at the church with a newborn at home. The year before I had taken about 1.5 times the full course-load because I wanted to get a running start. It was a good thing I did.

I woke up that morning and I was tired, frustrated, and angry. The world seemed at that moment, dark (because it was… it was before 6am in a basement apartment in the winter in Canada) and hopeless. I was drained. While my spirits weren’t necessarily broken, my body was, and my mind was too. I wanted to give up. There just simply wasn’t enough time to get everything done. I knew there was no stopping, and there would be no catching up any time soon. What I didn’t realize then was that there would be no catching up from that point on… probably for good.

There’s never enough time for sleep. Never enough time to finish all my jobs. Never enough time to stop and rest.

Vacations have come and gone and seasons have been busier than others, but overall I’m still tired. One daughter has turned into three, our basement apartment turned into one house (with lots of renovations) and then another house, part-time pastoring turned into full-time pastoring and church-planting, and I’ve gotten older. Life has not slowed down. I don’t think it will.

Being tired used to scare me. It used to paralyse me. It used to make me panic and wonder, ‘when will I ever get the rest I need?!’ Now I try, on my better days, to remember that the tiredness and lack-of-rest that I feel is part of being in this fallen creation. It is a result of sin. But it won’t last forever. In the New Heavens and the New Earth I will know the rest for which I was created. I’ll sleep then.

In the mean time, I’m thankful for the gospel of Jesus which speaks to weary, performance-worn people.

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Thankfully, though the work is hard this side of eternity, Jesus promises true rest in the life to come. And in the meantime he gives grace and provides strength. And he lets us feel our tiredness and our weakness for our good. After all, I must remember that there is only one who does not sleep or slumber. And my tiredness serves to remind me daily that I’m not that one.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

The Birth of Longing

There was a time when I used to think, ‘I hope Jesus comes back… but not until…’ and then I’d fill in the blank with something I really hoped to do in this life. That seems like a long time ago now. Somewhere along the way over these 30 years I have realized that the joys of this life (even the pure and the good ones) are mere shadows of the reality for which we were created.

Everything here is a shadow, a testimony, a teaser, pointing us to the greater reality of unfettered freedom and unadulterated pleasure in uncompromisingly personal relationship with the one who created us for himself. We were not created for this broken world. Everything here that gives joy points us forward to the fulfilment of that longing on the day when we will fully know, even as we are fully known.

Mountains, oceans, valleys, magnificent animals, music, poetry, the climax of a narrative, the unfolding of a mystery, the moment of learning, relationships, husbandry, fatherhood, church membership, passing seasons of beautiful intimacy with brothers and sisters in Christ, intangible and inexpressible moments of close communion with the Triune God; all of it has functioned to one end: to create in me the birth of longing. Longing for the day when it will not end. Longing for the day when the feeling won’t pass the very moment you realize it’s there. Longing for the uninterrupted gaze and the unending contemplation of the One who is Beauty and Wisdom and Joy and Life.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”
— C.S. Lewis (Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold)

Cottage Sunset

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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