Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where did all the facial tissue go?

There is a Puffs kleenex box in my office that has been there since I started at First Baptist almost eight months ago. Most normal people would not give a kleenex box much thought but I have never been one to think myself normal. I don’t use kleenex because when I get a stuffy nose I just wipe it on my sleeve or if I don’t have a sleeve I wipe the snot on my hand and then wipe my hand on the inside of my pocket. It’s not that I don’t like kleenex or that I don’t value it as a better alternative than my sleeve or jean pocket. It’s just that I don’t ever remember that the box is there. When I was growing up we didn’t use kleenex. We used toilet paper because it was already over abundant in our house. I think that’s why I don’t remember that I have the box.

I only mention this because despite the fact that I don’t use it, the box of kleenex is half empty. This is why I gave the kleenex box a second thought (did you know that when you type the word kleenex Microsoft Word automatically capitalizes it? It is really annoying because I don’t want it capitalized because I am not promoting one type of facial tissue over another.) I started to think about where all the kleenex went and started to discover that I only used it when I had a spill in my office as if it were made for the same purpose as its brother the paper towel. One time I spilled an entire can of Mountain Dew on my desk because I was trying to reach a twenty dollar bill that someone had dropped behind my desk. My desk phone is still sticky from the incident. I think I use a third of the kleenex in that box to clean up that one spill.

When you teach a lot everything that happens in your life becomes an illustration for something else that happens in your life. This half empty kleenex box is a great illustration of my current life situation. I have been really tired lately. More so than usual. I get up every morning to lift weights at 6:00 am. And usually I get up with minimal effort but in the last week or so it has been like getting out of a tar pit wearing a weighted vest that is strapped to the bottom of the tar pit…meaning it has been really hard to get out of bed. I have been catching myself fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon like an old man waiting to die. My wife and I both value rest. We try to get close to 8 hours of sleep as often as possible. I get exercise. I eat three meals a day. So why am I so tired? I felt like I was running on half empty. It doesn’t make sense.

At least it didn’t make sense until I saw that half empty box of kleenex. I was being emptied by things that slip past my mind like they don’t even exist. I was tired because things you don’t normally think would make you tired were in fact making me tired. I using my resources to do normal everyday things just like a normal runny nose depletes the source of kleenex. But just like forgotten spills and grease stains from old pizza cut my supply of tissues in half so too did some invisible vacuum suck the energy out of me. When I gave that box of tissues a second thought I also gave my last couple of weeks a second thought. What was making me so tired?

I discovered four things were draining me. Three are real and one I made up. First I found that I was just going through the motions. I woke up, worked out, went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched TV, and went to bed. How boring is that? When your life is a chore, you can’t help but be tired. I wasn’t really living life. I just existed. I was working, but I wasn’t really fulfilling my purpose. My life had for a moment tuned into just a day filled with moments instead of a day filled with opportunities to enjoy what God has created.

Second, I was burdened by a weight that wasn’t just mine to bear. Well, actually several weights. I have been teaching a relationship series at church and some of the research was just wearing me out. The amount of kids in Middle School who are having sex, addicted to pornography, and considering taking their own life just makes me sick (and tired). I have also been talking with some students who are struggling with stealing, homosexuality and drugs. So while I thought I was resting my mind was actually going a million miles an hour. I was working like an ant trying to plug a giant hole in the Hoover dam with a grain of rice. I tried to conceive ways to solve all the problems of the world when I really should have just handed my heavy load of to God and let him carry it.

Third, I found out that my cats were sneaking into my room at night and sticking a straw between my third and fourth rib and literally draining my energy. Yes cats know how to use straws and yes your pocket of energy is located between your third and fourth rib.

Finally, I found that lack of community was draining me. I don’t know if you have ever noticed but when you are tired you tend to avoid people and keep to yourself. This actually makes you more tired. God created us to be social beings. When Adam was alone in the garden of Eden God created him a helper in Eve. God himself is a social being and lives in perfect community with himself. (Which I know sounds impossible but it’s a lot easier I think when you are three persons in one.) He created us so that we could also enjoy community with him and with others. I was tired because I was keeping to myself. I wasn’t sharing. Being selfish makes you really tired.
So what did I do? I filled that kleenex box back up. First, I started living instead of existing. I ask God to help me take advantage of every opportunity I was given. I went outside and ran just so I could enjoy the Sun. Second, I hit golf balls. Everyone needs to unwind sometimes. I think this is especially true in ministry. If you let your head get to full of the problems going on around your head will explode. Hitting golf balls is a really good way to empty your mind and relax because you get so frustrated with how bad you are at golf that you forget about the rest of the stuff you are dealing with. While I hit golf balls I sang old hymns and quoted scripture out loud to remind myself that God is my rest. God is my source and my strength. When I am tired and weak, he is strongest and most glorified.

Third, to take care of my lack of community I went to the local skate park and hung out with guys who wore jeans with a lot of holes in them and smelled like the only shower they had taken all week was in a cloud of weed smoke and a splash of whiskey. I like those guys because they are real. They don’t try to impress you with how righteous they act. I like to hang out at the skate park because I think if Jesus was born today instead of 2000 years ago he probably would have hung out with skateboarders who smelled like weed and their girlfriends instead of tax collectors and prostitutes because they really need Jesus. That’s just my opinion though.

Finally, I took all the straws in my house and destroyed them so my the devil cats can’t puncture my rib cage anymore. I was tired because I was taking myself too seriously and had lost focus of what life is all about. What is draining you? Sometimes it takes a half empty box of kleenex or a random blog about a half empty box of Kleenex to get us back on track. That’s my life illustration for today. Thanks for reading!

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