Newbridge Blog

Inside Out

When I was a kid, my family refused to get cable TV (this was back when "cable" was a couple dozen extra channels on which I could watch reruns of MacGyver). Instead, we had a pair of large TV antennae in our attic- one VHF, one UHF (remember that?). When something special was due to be on TV, my dad would go up to the attic and slowly move the antenna while one of us kids stayed downstairs in front of the TV with a walkie-talkie, waiting for the image to appear out of the static, and then clear. "A little more, a little more, wait, that's good! Nope, too far!"

We spend a significant fraction of our life searching and tweaking. Turning the antennae of our surroundings hoping a picture will emerge, and the static and lines will disappear as the signal clears. We change majors, move across the country, rush into new relationships and out of old ones, dye our hair, buy things, sell things, embrace religion, leave religion, change churches, change boyfriends, change careers, change addresses, upgrade our circle of acquaintances, go on medication, get off medication, find a therapist, find a different therapist, quit going to a therapist, take up new hobbies and abandon old ones, go out on Friday, stop going out, lose 20 pounds, work harder, work smarter, make New Years' resolutions, and as many other things as anyone could think of or try.

Most people who have been around life for awhile would agree that yes, some experimentation is good, especially when you’re younger, if for no other reason than to gain some experience and perspective in life and to discover what combination of circumstances and environment works best for you.

But what if you’re always on the run, always reacting to the present and trying to change your reality? Especially when the same issues, the same discontent, the same frustration, and the same reactions continue to surface time and time again, in every situation. And something else, someone else, God, life, fate, is always to blame for the drama and unhappiness. For friends and onlookers, this becomes frustrating, fruitless, even tragic to watch.

There's an old saying "Wherever you go, there you are." In every change, every new thing you encounter, every old one you revisit, every joy, every hardship, there is one common factor: You. Perhaps it's not others. Perhaps it's not your surroundings. Maybe it's not something else's fault, or someone else's fault. Perhaps you haven't been wronged and dealt an unfair hand as much as you've forgotten how to live.

If you are not a Christian, changing this becomes largely an exercise in self-help. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s a lot like trying to fix your car while you’re driving down the highway at 60 miles per hour- it’s possible, but it’s really tricky, there’s a limited amount you can do, and there’s the chance that you’ll run off the road in the process. But if you ARE a Christian, there’s good news- we learn from the pages of the Bible that this shift is a natural path for each of us in response to what God has done in our lives: In Romans 12:2, the writer, the Apostle Paul says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world (the old way), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (the new way). THEN, you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…” Once you make the shift, the picture becomes clear!

If changing everything else has failed, perhaps it's time to turn inward to the one common denominator, the one that in reality, we each have the most ability to control and influence. You. Maybe it's time to leave the attic and stop messing with the antenna if the picture is okay, and watch the show. Stop tweaking, embrace responsibility with humility, and take a deep breath. It's a new day, and it's yours.

We Are, He Is

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This week, I became a new dad. In fact, I'm writing this from the hospital room where my Christopher Michael is finally sleeping. My wife Grace is too, having long deserved a moment of rest. The room is finally quiet except for his occasional coo, the lights are low, the street lamps outside filter through the window. It's a sacred moment.

I have finally experienced what so many new parents have told me about over the years- the great mystery of how you can instantly fall madly in love with a wiggly, screaming bundle who's just been pulled from his mother, and who you literally just met. A bundle who's allowed me only a few hours of fitful sleep in the last two days, and who will only add to that deficit as the next months go by. And yet, I would give anything for him. He hasn't proved himself to me or performed to meet any standard. He hasn't walked a long path of relationship with me, I barely yet know him. He hasn't struggled and strived to please me in any way, and yet, I've never been more pleased in my entire life than when I hold his tiny frame close to my heart.

He has done precisely nothing to earn my love, my sacrifice, and yet, I willingly and gladly will pour my life out for him. Not because of his ability, not because he can offer me anything tangible in return, not even because of his behavior. But because of who he is- my son, because of who I am- his dad, and because of the relationship between us that is cemented simply because of the mere existence of those two profound ideas. I will never forget the moment when I first heard his tiny cry in the air conditioned chill of a hospital delivery room at 5:27 am. I'm not sure that minute will ever again pass on my clock without it drawing me back to that early August morning.

My best friend, who is also a pastor, said "fatherhood will forever change your understanding of God's love for you." I am only at the beginning of that journey, and yet I am so certain he is right. Because it already has.

The Bible repeatedly talks about this concept- that God sees us- those who He has called to himself- as His sons and daughters- adopted, chosen. Not in any way because of our merit, or performance, or potential, but simply because we are- his children, and because He is- father. A relationship forever forged in a moment, and one available to all who would come and believe. The Apostle Paul- a conflicted individual if there ever was one, given his legalistic, sordid past as a persecutor and murderer of the very same people he later found himself one of, kicks off his letter to the church at Ephesus literally marveling at the thought that this is possible, and true.

But unfortunately, we who are Christians so often attempt to graduate ourselves from this mysterious, miraculous truth. We strive, we perform, we prove. We demand others do the same, and we point fingers at those who do not, fingers backed by piteously little credibility. We are known in the world for this. This, rather than the beautiful story of a love not our own, is often our unfortunate legacy. Because we like control. It is our frequent god. But control is a terrible taskmaster which demands our souls. And in so doing, we abandon the mystery, the miracle, that there IS love so pure, there IS grace so good and so free, and that it was never about those other things anyway except that we allow ourselves to be scooped up, screaming, scared, shaking, out of control, into the arms of a Father- God- who remembers the moment of our first cry. Who loves us beyond measure simply because we are, and because He is. May this draw us back again and again, and may it forever change us, just as it's changing me.

Posted by Michael Hoddy with