For this post, I decided to include passages from two entries. 16 years ago, I wrote this in my journal:
I had a good day today rejoicing in the Lord and in hard work. But I was tested later and I didn’t do too well. I cut the electric fence with the weedeater and I couldn’t splice the lines so I went to get more wire, but on the way back I drove through another cross fence, pulling it and the ones around it down. I ended up spending one or two hours running around fixing fences. I knew at the time it was one of the Lord’s pop quizzes, but I still allowed myself to become stressed and frustrated.
Well, tomorrow’s another opportunity to live for the Lord, rejoice in and glorify Him and suffer for Him. And I don’t even really suffer. I’m so spoiled. I’ve wondered at times whether it’s a blessing or not to live in such a rich country. My mind is always so jumbled and full of garbage and confusing thoughts. I need to clear my mind and make room for the Lord to be there at every moment. Maybe I’m crazy, but I need more suffering in my life. I have it too easy.
— August 17th, 1999
I did well walking with the Lord today (that is, compared to most days). I didn’t eat a thing all day until dinner and through work and all. I was tempted a lot, but I really felt close to the Lord and got some quality praying done. I think it got worse when I decided I was gonna go ahead and eat dinner. Originally I was gonna fast all day long and at some point this afternoon I decided I would go ahead and eat this evening because I need strength to work, but that’s silly. There were slaves who worked hard all day and got a slice or two of bread a day or less!
Looking back I wish I would’ve stuck to the plan. As soon as I decided I would eat I started looking forward to dinner too much. I wasn’t as Christ-focused and I started acting like my old self again. I was impatient and irritable and I wasn’t as interested in God’s Word as I should always be. Interesting. From now I want to do like my pastor said last night. Everyday I will read nothing but the Bible until the Spirit has spoken to me through it. Of course! Every Christian should do this! We take His Word for granted. It’s all in there!
— August 19th, 1999
Dear Former Self,
If only you could hear yourself. Pop quizzes? Do you really think God caused you to cut the fence with the weedeater and drive through the cross fence? I get that it was an opportunity to practice being patient, but God isn’t behind every little thing that happens to you (or anything that happens, for that matter). Sometimes shit happens and you just have to deal with it.
You said, “Maybe I’m crazy, but I need more suffering in my life.” You know what? You are crazy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that you appreciate how good you have it. I think everyone should regularly spend some time reflecting on how luxurious modern life is compared to the old days before electric lights and indoor toilets. So by all means, spend more time learning how things used to be. But there’s no need to “suffer for Christ.” Just keep trying to appreciate what you have.
When you said, “I need to clear my mind and make room for the Lord to be there at every moment,” what exactly did you mean? It’s not possible to think about God every second of every day. Or do you mean that when there’s nothing in particular on your mind, you should start thinking about God again by default? What a waste of mental energy. You may as well spend your time thinking about dragons and unicorns. At least the people who think about those things know it’s just entertainment.
By the way, you do need to eat so you can have strength at work. Yes, there were slaves who somehow survived on very little food, but you know what those slaves would have done if they were freed and had access to more food? They would have eaten it! Again, it’s great that you’re learning to appreciate how good you have it compared to most people throughout history, but you don’t have to torture yourself. The irony is that if you had eaten lunch, you wouldn’t have been so impatient and irritable.
And finally, I can’t say I approve of this idea to “read nothing but the Bible until the Spirit has spoken.” How will you know when the Spirit has spoken? If you come across a passage you find interesting, isn’t it possible that it’s just interesting and that there’s nothing supernatural behind it? If you find a verse that seems relevant to you, isn’t it possible that you’re just reading more into it than is there (like with horoscopes)?
You seem very eager to assume God is behind every little thing that happens in your life, and I think I know why: it makes life more interesting. When you think the creator of the universe–the same being from those ancient tales–is intervening in your daily life, it can be very exciting. But you’re just fooling yourself. Human beings have a tendency to search for meaningful patterns everywhere. It’s a cognitive error known as patternicity, and you’re falling for it hook, line and sinker. What you’re seeing as intervention by God is just your brain playing tricks on you.
You think reading the Bible will change your life? I’ll tell you what will really change your life: Reading a psychology textbook.
— Matt, January 10th, 2016
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.