"Our Constructs" by Terry Sheldon

I've been thinking lately about how we imperfect people go on a lifelong campaign to build our lives, brick by brick, by the sweat of our brows. The Lord has been showing me my life lately on such a broad scale. Don't worry, nothing has been flashing before my eyes, but it's been pretty heady stuff. I wanted to share in hopes others can relate.

I've known from the beginning of my exposure to Christianity that our value lies in eternal things, and I always knew it was a balancing act to live in that, with everything else being "added to you". I've always believed we were created to create, to be industrious - to gain good and worthwhile work, a family, good friends, a place to call home, and most of the other things we believe will make us happy. But my fallen nature invaded the party.

I hit the spiritual wall at some point and came to a place where I questioned why we do what we do. It was a classic collision of spirit vs. self. It seems the spiritual hunger within and that basic need to connect with God will always push its way to the forefront, if we are honest about our need.

Early on, during my immature courtship of God, I went forth with child-like enthusiasm. I start arranging the blocks of my life, along with some advice and training, and allocated time for everything. Or so I thought. Then the big build began. Along the way I ran into the inevitable emotional trauma from a fallen world, which tore down my personal value and invited in fear and shame.

But dutifully, I continued to build. I aspired for grand towers of accomplishment and acquisition, my version anyway. But I compared myself to others, proud that my best towers were higher and brighter than theirs, while deeply embarrassed at the ones I believed were inferior.

At some point I invited a cute redhead to help me build. But in our differences, our latent insecurities emerged, producing conflicts. It's so easy to play the blame game, and I did it well. Love was frightening because I didn't yet learn to be vulnerable to God or my wife.

As believers, our constructs sometimes include a counterfeit version of our spirituality, with a god who we believe is our sugar daddy who rewards us with prosperity and health. We expect (or even demand) answered prayers. Or the other extreme, with a father who we assume is quick to punish harshly as we inhabit our suffering (because after all, this is all our fault). I leaned toward the latter, and I lived in it well.

My pain also caused me to distrust outsiders, whether those of other faiths and politics, or other Christians who didn't quite believe the way I did. An "us vs. them" attitude brought on by stereotypes and negative assumptions invited a certain religious smugness, as it gave me a little intellectual comfort in my going-to-heaven world view.

But unable to handle the stress of it all, I knee-jerk reacted. My projects included self-protection walls that should have never been built. I compartmentalized my thoughts and actions. I created rooms of fantasy as I embraced the counterfeit, perfect for hiding shame but driving me farther away from true love. I acquired a few vices to numb the pain of the very isolation and disconnection I created.

So then the collision. THANK GOD for the collision. His strong-handed intervention is his gift. He really does understand everything about us and still continues his ever evolving plan - our completely unique redemption narrative. I think uniqueness is key because it's all ours. One size fits one. We will discover it. We have to own it. And we get to experience the peculiar beauty of it.

No, I still don't fully understand or I guess, fully agree with the idea of suffering, with how God could allow outside forces to invade our young and impressionable hearts without our consent, which sets in motion most of our personal calamity. That's one for another time, no doubt a one-on-one fireside chat as I mature. But I do know that the Apostle Paul said as we embrace trials, they will refine us and produce in us great things. The latter house will far outshine the former house. It will be spectacular, and it will fulfill our heart's deepest desires.