By: Bill Wattenbarger, PhD
If Scripture were to be reduced to a single sentence, I would choose, “God is real and does stuff.”
Because God is real he must be taken seriously. While jewelry in a box is real, God is not jewelry nor is He in a box. God is alive and well, everywhere and always. His reality is not something we decide. He does not exist because we say so. God exists even if we do not. And if God does not exist, neither do we.
Now, that sounds so very philosophical but it is fundamental. What makes the reality of God so compelling is that He is endlessly busy, everywhere and always. God knows what is happening and chooses to be involved by His own rules.
Sin comes in a thousand forms but there is only one God and the answer to our brokenness is always Jesus Christ. We all get lost in a wilderness where only God can find us and from which only God can lead us. How is it that we get into the Wilderness in the first place?
It comes down to self-centeredness, not to be confused with selfishness. Consider: whatever is in the center of one’s thinking, feeling, desiring and choosing determines the meaning, the purpose and the value of everything else. The problem is that this focus on things near to us can be subtle and seem innocuous or even noble. Family, career, church, finances, entertainment, righteousness, security and any number of other categories for preoccupation can hold our centers. Make your own list of categories. It does not much matter whether the things in the center are good or bad. Lust, pleasure, greed, notoriety and power will do just as well. Make a category for religiosity. That works too.
For the sake of this exercise, pick one of these areas which come closest to being the most important thing in your life. That thing occupies your center and determines the rest. For example, place family in the center and work becomes about provision for the family, security is about the family’s safety, entertainment is chosen or declined with the family in mind, church becomes an extension of the family, and so on.
Continue the exercise. Move things in and out of the center and examine what happens to the meaning, purpose and value of everything else. When the job is in the center, family must make way, spouses settle for free-time, church becomes incidental and recreation just does not happen. With drugs, alcohol or video addiction at the center, everything is an interruption and interruptions are resented. Under the influence, jobs are lost, children abused, spouses accused and church mocked. (Surely we Christians know that Jesus should be at our Center, but hold that one out for now. It is important to first grasp the worldly view.)
Now augment the exercise. The mis-centered life is challenging enough when it is just personal, but what happens when it becomes interpersonal? It gets harder when others are involved. When two lives have different centers, differences in meanings, purposes and values result. This generates the conflicts which fracture relationships. Choices run afoul, feelings are hurt and arguments ensue.
“She doesn’t get it. My business requires long hours and pays the bills. I get no respect.”
“He just doesn’t care. Sure, he works hard but I and the kids need him here.”
“He doesn’t love me anymore. I work hard for nothing and he treats me like an employee.”
“After a day’s work I’m entitled to stop for a drink or two. Work is stressful and I need to relax.”
“We never go anywhere or do anything together.”
“Mom! I just want to text my Facebook friends.”
“My old man didn’t take anything off me. I expect the same from our son.”
And my favorite, “The Bible says the wife and children are supposed to do as I tell them” – which it doesn’t.
The modern secular answer is to “get everybody on the same page.” We talk, cajole, beseech, coerce and compromise. Somebody leads and others follow. We develop mission statements, build teams to achieve common purposes and identify shared values. Sometimes, we give up, accepting our torment as the norm.
We might turn to the Christian disciplines for help. Focusing on Bible study, prayer meetings and service at church may help but they can be a greater danger! We can learn scriptures and miss the revelation. We can assuage our loneliness in church fellowship and never connect. We can get some satisfaction in sustaining our service out of duty. We can pray without refreshing. These disciplines might actually serve to insulate us from what God is doing.
The only real alternative is to surrender our centers to the God who is real and does stuff. The Holy Spirit is the “common page” that unifies everything. Scripture is inspired. His thoughts inform ours. His feelings fashion ours. His desires become ours. Our wills conform to His. When God leads from within, mission becomes co-mission. Spouses are partners. Jesus is the leader and we are disciples. Together we are the body of Christ and we work as one with those others whom God has called.
Centering on God not only aligns our personal lives, but it aligns our shared lives – our marriages, families, workplaces, churches and communities.
Bill Wattenbarger joined the Joy House team in May of 2015 to work in the Counseling Center. He provides biblical, Christian and pastoral counseling services to those who are hurting, confused or overwhelmed. He earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Florida and a Doctoral degree in Counseling from the University of Georgia. The Joy House Counseling Center exists for the purpose of providing a faith-based option for residents of the Highway 575/ 515 corridor who seek guidance with life’s problems. We have locations in Pickens, Gilmer and Cherokee Counties with fees based on income and ability to pay. We offer counseling to all ages, from 7 to 70, with professional services to a wide variety of individuals, families and their needs. Contact our Counseling Center via phone at 678-452-2037 for more information.