1 Mar 2013

Keeping yourself broken?

Submitted by theshovel
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The following is an email dialog I had with a new friend in March 2013.

Hello Jim, I’ve been reading your various articles for around six weeks now, usually in the twilight hours. I love the Q & A section; every answer that you give is the exact same message wrapped with a different ribbon. Anyway, here is my question:

How do you keep yourself “broken”, in the sense that you forsake the law and live through the life of Jesus Christ within you? The idea of freedom in Christ is so simple; Intellectually, I have no problem understanding it. When I’ve put off the graveclothes, I feel foolish for ever being confused in the first place. During these times, I’d even jot down relevant notes and verses that I could read later if I ever felt like I was drawing away from God. Eventually, though, I’d slide back into my old life and sins, and when I’d read those notes and verses, they’d seem almost meaningless, not carrying near the weight that they did when I was living in Christ. My heart hardens, and I find myself filled with apathy and resentment, even though, intellectully, I understand that those feelings are a direct result of living apart from Christ.

I guess I’m just wondering how to build on the stone instead of the sand. Why is that I can fall asleep content in Christ and wake up feeling more apathetic than Rush Limbaugh during the Democratic primaries? Is it a matter of practice or motivation? Would it help to connect with other Christians, or is there a fundamental truth that I’m missing here? I’m not very good at explaining what I feel, but I hope I did it well enough here. It’s been a long time since I’ve shared anything with another brother in Christ. Regardless of your answer, it feels good to finally put these things out there.
- Nick (3/1/2013)

Hello my dear brother Nick! It is good to hear from you.

I love the Q & A section; every answer that you give is the exact same message wrapped with a different ribbon.

I think you’re on to me! LOL. Yeah, that’s my secret. :)

How do you keep yourself “broken”, in the sense that you forsake the law and live through the life of Jesus Christ within you?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t try to keep myself broken. Back in the mid-90s, I was accused of being too “up” and needed to be more broken. What a criticism, eh? :) Pseudo-spirituality is the way I see that whole spin on the Christian life. Now of course, I don’t hear you suggesting that, as you did explain it much differently. However, I’m wondering if you might not be negatively influenced by the sense that others refer to in the pushing of the concept of staying broken. It comes from David, and at that time, he was speaking as a man under Law, in full awareness of his sins, asking God to forgive him.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalms 51:17 (NASB)

You are not a sinner with a heart of stone, and yet you perceive yourself that way. It sounds as if you pretty much expect yourself to fall back into sin and to become apathetic. I like how you specify that you understand freedom in Christ intellectually. I think God may just be teaching you what it is to understand it in a real and living way, rather than just as a fact. The truth is that we all have to deal with our false perceptions and beliefs; in other words, the stuff that’s really going on inside our heads that drives us through so much of our waking and sleeping hours. And it is this uncovering that seems so painful as we go through it. It convinces us that we are far from the one who we can’t get away from. Your heart needs to be convinced of this, just as mine has been … and continually is being convinced.

I can tell you that everything is not “up” with me all the time, although, I’ve also come to learn that I can still be up in the most odd way even when things are very down. It has been through times such as what you’ve been going through that I have come to realize that his life is not found in this world, nor in the things I’ve often imagined it to be.

It can be a very good thing to connect with other believers, for there can be much encouragement in the sharing of hearts (even when the heart of the other may not see true freedom). And please feel free to write back. We can continue this. :)
Jim

Heh, I bet I’m more glad to hear from you :)

You wrote: “Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t try to keep myself broken”

This makes sense. When the Jews took more manna than they needed to survive, it rotted. Whenever the spirit of God grants me peace, I’m so desperate to not lose it that I end up losing it anyway.

You’re saying that my pain is self-inflicted by the false perceptions that I have of myself. One of my favorite books is Chamber’s “My Utmost for His Highest”. One of Chamber’s most passionate arguments is that we should strip ourselves of everything, offering to God nothing else but our mere existence; our individuality, experiences, and emotions are useless to the almighty God. I was rather surprised by this, as I was under the impression that those three things are what “drives us through so much of our waking and sleeping hours”.

So, I’m curious, what do you think of that? When David asked for forgiveness, was he “stripping himself of himself”? Did he become a one of God’s chosen by simply convincing himself that he was trying too hard?

Thank you for talking with me. I tried talking to my mom about this, but she just tells me I should go to church more.

- Nick (3/01/2013)

Hello again my brother!

I’m only familiar with bits and pieces from Chamber’s book, most of it from a brother who would read one of the daily devotionals to me from time to time that excited him. Although I heard some things that were encouraging, I can’t say that I’m a big fan. That quote from Chambers, to me, seems to engender the attempt to keep oneself broken. I mean, what is this “mere existence” that we are supposed to be offering to God? And then, just imagine the futility of trying to strip ourselves of our individuality, our experiences, and our emotions when we’re filled with so many false perceptions of who or what we really are. Although the natural mind builds its identity upon its own individuality, experience, and emotions, are we then to assume that we have to somehow rid ourselves of it all as if it is inherently evil … or that it is useless to God? Just because there is nothing in those things upon which we can stand has no bearing upon the usefulness that may come about through it all. I think it’s all a setup for a roller-coaster ride.

Regarding David, I haven’t considered how that might play out. I can tell you that attempting to mimic yourself after his spirituality would be a mistake. :) He knew he was missing something, and he could only express a desire to experience the true blessedness of forgiveness apart from the Law. That’s why he longed for the deliverance God would eventually bring in the one who was to come.

Thoughts? :)
Jim

So, I’m curious about the image you had of me in your head when you read my first e-mail. My faith is weak (or not propertly utilized, I should say), and I’m desperate for a strategy to keep myself “up”. When I read your previous reply, it confused me and I didn’t know what your were trying to say.

However, after some thought, I wondered, “Does this whole dialogue with Jim exemplify my problem?” Am I so deperate for something that my mind can comprehend that I’ve dismissed the possiblity that my mind is incapable of comprehending God?

You mentioned twice that “attempting” to keep yourself broken is a bad thing. Are the answers I’m seeking “attempting”?

I’m 21, by the way. I don’t know if my age would affect anything, bit it might be relevant.

- Nick (3/4/2013)

Hello my dear friend Nick!

The image I had of you? That of a dear friend and brother who is struggling, one with whom I relate. For yes, I knew that you were very young — about the same age I was when I was in Bible College. And in responding to you, I was reminded of some of my own struggles. Those were some difficult, and yet, very wonderful years for me. I don’t look back on them with any regret, not one bit. My experiences were valuable, but I don’t merely chalk up my life at that time as a learning process, for Christ was working mightily in me in the midst of it all, through it all, because of it all. Sometimes I have cringed at some of the things I went through, some of the thoughts and struggles and doubts I had, and even some of the thrills I experienced. I was being groomed as an evangelist, and I took it all very seriously. I thought — no, I expected — that I might even become a pastor with my own church, or at least a youth minister with a huge evangelistic and music ministry. I was sure that my music would eventually be played and my songs sung by Christians all over the world. It had been already happening wherever I had the opportunity to play. I had stepped out with the conviction that it was all for God. And you know what? It was. Sure, I had a head full of false perceptions of myself, my world, and my God … but I also was experiencing his life in the midst. I just wasn’t prepared for the reality that most of the real stuff was happening in spite of my attempts to make it happen as I thought it should. And although I have wondered how things could be different, I wouldn’t change it.

I picture you as one who sees the truth of Christ behind everything I’ve written. And that is huge. Why? Because some people can read my stuff and dismiss it based upon a few specific comments without seeing the life behind all of it, but I know that his life is the only reason you value what I say. You are seeing Christ, and I can remember what that did to me and how it changed everything. Of course, it destroyed what I had perceived as having been valuable, that’s for sure. But at the same time, the true value that was in my heart was becoming more and more of a reality. I know that you have been attempting to make this life happen for you just as I had … and still do try from time to time. I have been and am constantly being reminded that I’ve been down that road and already know where it goes.

However, after some thought, I wondered, “Does this whole dialogue with Jim exemplify my problem?” Am I so deperate for something that my mind can comprehend that I’ve dismissed the possiblity that my mind is incapable of comprehending God?

What a wonderful realization to come to! Dialogging really helps to express many things you aren’t consciously aware of. It can uncover the reasoning that’s behind everything, and yet it gets buried under everything else. By the way, I wouldn’t describe those attempts to keep yourself broken as being bad things, but more as futile things. To recognize futility is never bad for us, for it keeps demanding that there is nothing else for us but Christ and him crucified. :)
Jim

When I was nine or ten, I decided to rebuild my favorite Lego: Luke’s X-Wing. I lugged out my big box of Legos and over several painstaking hours, I had found and re-assembled all the parts for the X-Wing. Literally, right after I finished, my little sister ran into the living room and accidentally stepped on it. I was mortified; in an instant, the creation I’d spent so long building was shattered into a hundred pieces.

It’s difficult to accept that this identity that I’ve spent so many hours trying to perfect is completely useless in getting me what I really want. As you said, seeing Christ destroys what you deem as valuable. I value my identity, but the road to God is through Christ, not through anything I currently possess.

This had been more… painful than I expected. Having everything written out like this feels different. But hey, you need surgery to get better, right?

Thank you so much, Jim. I appreciate your encouragement and your perspective. While its painful, I feel clarity. It’s not a dull hopelessness anymore.

- Nick (3/8/2013)

My dear brother Nick,

My heart is encouraged to hear back from you, for it is pure joy to hear you tell of the simple recognition that nothing but Christ can bring you to God. I wasn’t sure how it would hit you, but the pain you’re experiencing is more valuable than anything in this world. Clarity is wonderful … especially when it offsets that dull hopelessness. Please keep in touch. Don’t hesitate to contact me, okay?

Jim

Jim, I have really enjoyed our conversation up to this point. I have a ton of questions; at this point I’m just trying to sort through which one’s are relevant. It’d be great to keep an open dialogue, if you’re up for it. -Nick (3/9/2013)

I’m up for it, my friend!
Jim

Alright then :)

How did you empty yourself of all of the false perceptions? I want so badly to just give up my own efforts and let God mold my mind, but society doesn’t encourage that at all. Society frowns upon “insecurity”, yet, in my eyes, people who are “secure” are just people who have found a reality to accept, regardless of how ridiculous it can get. I want to be secure in the reality of Jesus Christ, but that mindset forces me to admit to everybody that I’m a screw-up and that my worth is in the life of Christ gifted to me.

I’ll give you an example: My boss has been somewhat of a mentor to me. Today, I met with one of his friends because I wanted to ask him questions about economics. He was a Christian, but he ended up encouraging me to follow my youthful wanderlust and experience the world. Moreover, he said that I was rather intelligent, and that I would be very successful if I chose to leave Idaho and pursue a career elsewhere. It all sounded so appealing, but why should I care about my own desires if they are products of the flesh, thus being inherently empty? Does that make any sense?

-Nick (3/11/2013)

Hello Nicholas!

How did you empty yourself of all of the false perceptions?

I think you’re assuming that all my false perceptions are gone. No, they keep popping up to be shot down by the overwhelming reality of the new creation in Christ. And this is a good thing. I am never given any grounds upon which to stand on that which is dead and worthless. Somehow, you’re so convinced that you’re not letting God mold your mind … and yet, it’s happening right now through this. What you’ve written in that first paragraph is filled with the wisdom of God, and it would undermine most of that which falsely names itself after Christ. Give up your own efforts? Hey, he’s actively working in you to see what all those efforts are made of. My friend, the lack of confidence you’re feeling is a good thing, for you are in the process of having those false hopes crumble before your eyes. The confidence that is building in you comes from a place that needs no validation from those old perceptions. You’re going to often feel as if you have nothing on which to anchor yourself. How could it be otherwise?

Do you remember the story in John 9 about the blind man Jesus healed? It’s a good picture of the true confidence that grows in the midst of the world in which we live. That man was in the process of discovering that those who could see according to the eyes of the flesh were truly blind. He knew nothing except that Jesus had given him sight. Ironically, this know-nothing man so confounded the religious elite that they had no recourse but to ostracize him. I’m sure it felt as if something was all wrong for that man, but the truth was that everything had finally become right-sided.

I’m curious as to what you said to your boss and his friends that would have them encourage you to go out and experience the world?
Jim

I read and re-read everything you said, and I get it. I’m living up to my own image, and I fail. How is a blind man supposed to describe a sunrise if he’s never seen one? I try to fulfill my own expectations of “spirituality”, and, of course, I always come up short, because God isn’t going to help me fulfill my own expectations. He’s going to fulfill his.

You wrote: “I’m curious as to what you said to your boss and his friends that would have them encourage you to go out and experience the world? “

Jim, have you ever felt that you affected those around you more so than others? Like, if somebody whines and complains, then they can generally get away without doing a whole lot of damage, but if you whine and complain, then you seem you completely ruin the day of everybody around you? However, if you’re happy, then you seem to make others around you happy as well? And yet, you try to sustain this Life inside you with a pathetic human endurance that can barely keep you going, much less others.

-Nick (3/14/2013)

Hello again, Nick

A blind man who’s had his eyes opened would have great difficulty coping with most of what he sees, especially when he attempts to reconcile it with his former perceptions. Never let those former perceptions define what it is that you now see.
As your questions about how you affect those around you were posed as an answer to what I asked, are you saying that the suggestion to go out and see the world was based upon how you affected your boss’ friend? And yes, I am aware that some people seem to affect those around them more so than others might. Of course, that’s often quite relative. I’m imagining that you often express your desires to get out of Idaho and see other places and that they probably came out quite clearly to your boss’ friend. I don’t know, maybe your desires to get out and see the world are nothing more than the product of youthful dissatisfaction, but then again, maybe not. Don’t try to dissect everything as if you can figure out what God wants you to do (or not to do) by process of elimination. God will continue his work in you whether you stay in Idaho or whether you leave, for the real treasure goes with you wherever you are.

Jim

I’m sorry, Jim, I shouldn’t be vague with you. You’re willing to help me, and I don’t even answer your questions…

Here’s what happened: I got a new job about six months ago working in a prison as a teacher. When I started, I really liked it. I still do, but it has really changed my perspective on people. See, in prison, every inmate I meet is the nicest guy. However, when I turn my back, I can catch him on camera lying, cheating, stealing, and manipulating, purely because the biggest consequence is a few days in segregation. Most all staff, including my boss, would tell me that, “Well, they’re inmates and that’s what they do.” I can’t help but look at this behavior as just a true manifestation of the human condition in an environment where punishment doesn’t get much worse. I feel like the whole experience has been a mirror; I read the last four verses in the first chapter of Romans and now I can’t seem to find someplace in my life not tainted by some impure motivation, and it scares me. I feel like my life has become so un-salvageable that my only hope is to leave it behind and go somewhere else.

That won’t fix it, though. You’re right, I shouldn’t try to dissect and figure everything out. I wanted to because I knew that I couldn’t serve God unless I did it willingly, and I wasn’t willing. I think you hit it right on the head. I’m trying to reconcile my former relationship with God through my former perceptions, but he no longer accepts those because he’s given me more knowledge than I had before.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

That verse really didn’t mean much to me when I first read it. But, I guess when I confessed everything here I remembered it. It’s hard not to give credit to God when you feel so pathetic and devoid of goodness. It’s so hard to admit that when you’re so used to trying to look good before others.

Again, I’m sorry, Jim. I’m learning almost much from my own responses as I’m learning from yours.

- Nick (3/16/2013)

And you’re sorry for this? My friend, I read what you just wrote with pure joy, for I am witnessing the work of God as it is moving within you! Don’t forget, you’re writing to a guy who doesn’t seem to answer half the questions people send him, so do you think I really care if you don’t seem to answer my questions? You’ve been telling me about the things that are on your heart and mind. I figured you might eventually get around to a few more details as you sorted things out.

Just like you, I have learned as much (or perhaps more) from my own responses. I’ll bet you even talk to yourself. Over the years, people have noticed me talking to myself, and of course, they’ll often question me about it. I’ve heard the quip many times, “Well, as long as you don’t answer yourself back, you’re okay!” To which I will gladly admit to answering myself back because I usually get good answers. You see, I know who I’m really talking to. :)

I can well imagine what it’s like having a job where people lie to your face so convincingly. I haven’t worked at a prison, but I’ve visited prisons over the years; some, as a ministry endeavor, but many times having to visit a family member who has been in and out of the prison system too many times to count.

Believe me, I know what it is to hear one lie after another spoken with such sincerity that it breaks your heart to question it. But you’re coming to see as well as I have that the illusion of sincerity in the world is all around us, for it drives those who belong to it. And we did belong to it at one time, but we have been set free from it in Christ. We can still feel as if we’re bound to that world, but we are not. We are encouraged by the mind of this world to examine ourselves accordingly, especially by the religious world that would have you use the Bible to do so. Just don’t forget that the same man who wrote those verses in Romans 1 also wrote that he no longer examined himself and that he was no longer conscious of anything against himself.

But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NASB)

This is the nature of the confidence that is right now working within you as it is causing your former confidence to crumble before your eyes. How else do you imagine we can come to say that we no longer have confidence in the flesh unless we know full well what it is to have lived according to it and then have it fall apart when we ran back to it for comfort? To know that you no longer have confidence in that which the whole world lives by is a miraculous work of God. I am watching that take place within you through our correspondence. And here is what else I am witnessing in you:

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. Titus 1:15 (NASB)

Yes, we are the pure, and no, it is not by our own doing. You are in the midst of a perfect learning ground, and you are going to experience so many things that would convince you that you are not what God has made you. Don’t forget how it is that you are seeing what you are seeing.

Jim

Hello Jim,

I guess my apology was unnecessary. You’ve showed me what you truly care about, and I knew you weren’t going to be offended. Still, I can be pretty dull sometimes when I interact with people.

When I first started working at the prison, I was in a trial stage where I worked with both male and female inmates (I work exclusively with men, now). When I was around the women, I’m sure I met several who were in the same situation that your daughter is; they had parents who loved and visited them, but in class I saw that they still clung to their past behaviors. Being a objective staff member, it was easy for me to distance and separate myself from their “self-destructive and manipulative” behaviors, but it fascinated me how differently the family members approached those same behaviors. There was a line I heard out of a video game that I’ve always liked: “The lines between good and evil blur when we look at people we know”. Your daughter is blessed to have a father who is filled with the life of Jesus; her choices are completely her own, and are not influenced by some fluky standard of human morality that is imposed on her.

Of course, if I can excuse the behaviors of those I love, how much more will I excuse my own behaviors? That was the one nagging point that I couldn’t shake out of my head. I have a great relationship with my parents, but when I would discuss my ideas on Christianity with them, it would usually spark an uncomfortable debate. I would focus on my destitution as a sinner and how that impacted my motivation to serve the Lord (or kill it, rather). They would respond by saying I was being too self-centered, and that if I focused on my salvation and serving others, that everything would turn out okay. After one of these arguments, I typed a question (I don’t remember what it was) into Google, and the Shovel came up first. After reading a few articles, I remember thinking, “This is exactly what I’ve been trying to tell my parents!” Of course, I failed miserably at explaining it to them, which made me realize that I was missing something. That brought me to this point.
That verse that you posted from Corinthians 4 was perfect:

“But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself…”
By itself, this sounds very selfish, and I couldn’t explain it to others even thought I believed it. Paul qualified it beautifully, though:
“…yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”

I’m glad you are so consistent with your terminology: You keep saying that “My former confidence is breaking down before my eyes”. Sometimes I need people to say things three or four times before I finally get it. It starting to become pretty exciting to think about not having to run back to my earthly comforts to find peace. I’m not going to say that my heart is completely renovated, but I do feel like my focus is shifting.

Do you think that maintaining confidence in God rather than myself is a matter of effort? I mean, do you wake up every morning and set time aside to pray and commune with God? I feel like if I need to force myself to do it, then I’m not seeing it right.
You wrote: “I’ll bet you even talk to yourself. Over the years, people have noticed me talking to myself, and of course, they’ll often question me about it.”

I laughed when you wrote this. I talk to myself all the time. When I was younger, my mom caught me all the time talking to myself. She’d give me a strange look and ask me who I was talking to. I’d usually lie and say I was talking to the dog or the cat. Nowadays, I’m free to talk to myself, but I have never thought of it as talking to the Lord. That’s an interesting perspective.

- Nick (3/18/2013)

Hello my brother Nick,

You talking about your parents’ reaction to you reminds me of my own clash with mine. I grew up in a Lutheran household, and when I told my parents that I was going to enroll in an independent Bible College they both reacted quite strongly. My mom absolutely flew off the handle. I mean, she started pontificating with a preachiness I had not encountered from her up to that time. I had spoken of assurance of salvation, and she was arguing against it with a vengeance. My dad was adding in a few statements, but nothing like my mom. I ended up shutting myself in the bathroom while both of them kept on. I was devastated, as all I could perceive was that my mom and dad were going to hell. My dad came to the door and asked one last question: “What about the unforgivable sin?” I stayed in there until they calmed down. So yeah, I definitely relate to you on that whole thing.

Do you think that maintaining confidence in God rather than myself is a matter of effort? I mean, do you wake up every morning and set time aside to pray and commune with God? I feel like if I need to force myself to do it, then I’m not seeing it right.

From my Bible College days, that’s how I saw it. I remember even having written a few songs about it. I don’t really have any kind of a program or rigid schedule. For a while, I thought that even making a schedule would mean an effort on my part — and of course, it can be — but we schedule all kinds of things that are not efforts but are simply things we don’t want to miss. We can even turn the NOT making of a schedule into a law. And I think that happens with a lot of people who are trying to live not according to works. My confidence in God has come both through praying and not praying. Oftentimes, my efforts to make it happen have been the very thing that wakes me up to the reality of his grace. I guess what I’m saying is that while it is a good thing to realize that you cannot make his life happen, you don’t have to be afraid of planning or scheduling or getting together …. because he is the one who works through all things.

Jim

Hey again Jim,

It’s been a surreal experience to get older. More and more I see my parents as regular people who have faults and false perceptions just like me. I think you had a much more intense experience, but similar to mine. You tried to pour out your feelings and thoughts to the people who raised you and they panicked. For me, it shattered the image that my parents could do no wrong. I felt really alone; I’m on a path that I know leads to a grand place, but I’m the only one who thinks that; nobody I love is there to help me find this grand place.

I’m kind of glad that you didn’t respond immediately. It gave me some time to think about everything you’ve said. Every day, I wake up and try to find answers to stuff. I want to know why the earth rotates in the direction that it does, or why the sky is blue. I can find the answers easily, and I understand them; that has always been how my world has worked. Then, I read about Jesus who tells me all sorts of things; I need to know what they mean, and how I should feel about them. I search and search, but I never find an answer that I like (or that seems to make any difference). As I search, I just seem to feel less and less, until there no feeling at all. I think that there is one answer that will make it all better.

But… you don’t have an answer for me, do you? God hasn’t shown you anymore than he’s shown me. I need to wake up and instead of looking for answers, just close my eyes and smile. As you said, God is with me whether I believe it or not, and asking him to explain my circumstances in life is arrogant and futile. If I have faith, then I shouldn’t need an explanation.

“Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it”

Is this more or less the realization you’ve come to?
- Nick (3/25/2013)

I figured it out. I know where I screwed up.

Grace-based freedom from the law feels right. I try to work this out in my own life, as you have, and it hasn’t worked. Several days ago, and inmate called me “A cocky S.O.B.” and as inappropriate as it was, he was right.

I go to college, talk stocks with my boss, read opinion articles about current events. I care about these things because they seem “smart” to me. I’ve fallen for the allure of man’s wisdom. All this time, I’ve looked to “smart” people for advice thinking I myself am “smart”. Yet, in this whole experience the only person whose words have actually had any wisdom is yours.

Those “smart” people that I’ve respected all had one thing in common; they all look down upon those who don’t meet their standards (inmates), and will complain and write articles all day to make it known. My boss and his friends are telling me “You’re better than he is, Nick”, but the little insight God has blessed me with says, “Nick, you’re not any better than he is”. If my hearts wants to believe both sides, of course it’s going to make me miserable.

That’s the beautiful simplicity of Jesus Christ, and what you wanted to show me. You care nothing about man’s wisdom, which takes care of so many worries in this life. People say I’m “going places” and tell me I’m a “good” person, but that’s the biggest crock that I’ve ever, ever bought into in my life. I’m a kid whose arrogance and ambition has led me to misery, and I cry out to God, asking him to help me feel better while I act in ways that heap dirt upon his name.

I have no more questions, Jim. I know exactly what happened. It’s my fault, but there was one person who I let affect my thinking too much, and it cost me. I’m going to apologize to the Lord, and start from square one; hopefully I’ll be blessed enough to show this person the truth of Jesus Christ, because I know that he is very unhappy right now. Thank you, again, for talking with me. If you ever have any questions about Idaho, let me know :) I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you a bit.
Yeah, I’m know that feeling guilty is not what God wants. Still, it’s frustrating that I need to be told something over and over before it finally sticks.

- Nick (3/28/2013)

My dialog with Nick was very encouraging, and I didn’t hear back from him until July with the following:

Hello Jim,

I e-mailed you a few months back, requesting a “how-to” for genuine faith in Jesus Christ. I was very frustrated and I was hoping that you would provide that “aha” moment that I’d sought after ever since I’d uncovered the reality of my true nature. I’d read many of your articles, but despite the fact that I agreed with everything you said, it didn’t seem to slide any of the puzzle pieces into place.

However, I’ve since discovered and listened to dozens of the Shovel audios. I don’t really know how it happened, but I understand now. When I e-mailed you, I was hoping that the little bit of spiritual insight that I had was leading me to some unknown truth that would fix my thinking. Now I know; I can’t fix my thinking, I can only accept the gift of God’s thinking.

On that note, I started asking my girlfriend a few questions about God. I found out that she believed in God, but she had never understood scriptures and she didn’t really know what to think. I asked if I could listen to a Shovel audio with her, and she agreed. We talked about it, and she was very frustrated, as I was, because initially she couldn’t understand what you and Adam were saying. I explained it the best I could and afterwards made sure that she knew I wasn’t pushing my beliefs on her and that she was free to do what she wished. A few weeks ago, however, I was surprised to see that she had fallen asleep listening to a Shovel audio. The next day, I asked her what she thought of them, and her response was, “I like the way that Adam and Jim make me think”. I was quick to point out that it was the way that God thinks, and that you and Adam are merely gifting your understanding of it to us. I think she’s finally starting to get it. Even though she has a very new life in Christ, I’m excited that I can share this life with somebody else.

At any rate, I just wanted to thank you. This reality in Christ has completely changed how I view the world, and for the first time I’m compelled and unafraid to share Him with others. Please tell Adam that I’m very thankful for him as well. I know that the both of you are only doing what God has inspired you to do, but nevertheless I’m very glad that He did.

- Nick (7/19/2013)

Hello my dear friend Nick! :)

I have often thought of you and wondered how you were doing, and I can tell you that receiving a letter like this really makes my day. I just read it to my wife, and she was quite touched by it as well. All I can say is, Wow! … and thank you for telling me about how everything you know and see has been changed by the reality of Christ. :)

Do you mind if I post this somewhere on the website? And I can leave your name out, if you’d prefer. Let me know.

Jim :)

No, I don’t mind, and it doesn’t matter if you use my name. I’m very glad that it had a positive impact on you and your wife; I’m starting to see why you’ve devoted so much time toward the Shovel. I see all the dead in me, and there’s tremendous joy to know that Jesus has given me life. It’s really hard to see all the dead in the world, however, and not feel sorry for those who don’t have Christ. It’s makes me appreciate seeing another accept true freedom that much more.

- Nick (7/22/2013)

New Testament: 

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Random Shovelquote: Cannot make this life happen (view all shovelquotes)

I guess what I’m saying is that while it is a good thing to realize that you cannot make his life happen, you don’t have to be afraid of planning or scheduling or getting together …. because he is the one who works through all things. source