Photo Credit: gravityoflife.blogspot.com
I am often inspired by Erwin McManus of Mosaic LA and I have decided to share out some of the lessons I learn from him with you. Sometime in 2012 Erwin gave a series of talks called Artisan: create a life, and over time these talks keep opening me up to the possibilities of stepping into the life we were meant to live. I have posted notes from the first two talks here and here and this is the third talk in the series. You can subscribe to the mosaic podcasts and listen for yourself and glean some more insights.
The whole journey started with a conversation themed Soul: the essence of art. Life is a work of art therefore, everyone is an artist. The most significant work of art that we will ever create is that of our lives, and in the end, the life we end up creating is one that is reflective of the health of our souls. Thus, before we begin to create our greatest work of art, we have to allow God to begin creating in our souls his greatest work of art: The person we were created to be so as to live the life we were intended to be.
It all begins with the health of our souls and it is here where we should place our greatest focus.
The second conversation is themed Voice: the narrative that guides. We are all trying to find our unique selves though somewhere along that quest we give up and become an echo of what others say of us and the environment that shaped us. To truly craft a life that is a work of art, we must take the responsibility of defining the dominant voices that guide us and in turn invite God to be the singular most influential voice that guides our life story.
Interpretation: the translation of life is a process of taking that unique inward voice of who we are and expressing it outwardly. One of the stories from the Scriptures that has a lot to teach us on this process is the story of Job. Job is a noble man, doing his best to live a good life. A conversation takes place in eternity between God and the devil concerning Job where the devil claims that Job only loves God due to all the benefits life has brought on him. God allows satan to take all that Job has but not to touch him. In one swift stroke Job loses all he owned including his children. He is left with only his wife. He does not give up on God.
Satan later claims that Job only loves God because he is of perfect health; that he loves himself so much. God allows satan to afflict his health but not kill him. Job suffers from painful sores from the sole of his feet to the top of his head. Job is definitely going through the darkest moment of his life!
In Job 2:11-3:26, the story picks up where all these incidents have just happened to Job. Three of his friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar come to console him and then Job begins to interpret all that is unfolding in his life. In fact, what follows in the book of Job are 40 chapters on interpretation of life.
The central question is how can you explain your pain? The greatest challenge we ever face in life is to make sense of our lives. It may be very hard to understand the conversation going on in eternity behind Job’s back. Why was this decided on Job? Did he really need to go through this test yet he truly was devoted to God?
One of the thoughts we can pick up is that the book of Job acknowledges that everything in life does’t all go well even when we live well. Job acknowledges the reality of suffering in the lives of those who are trying to live well. We should not interpret life falsely as to eliminate suffering from the lives of those of faith!
Have you ever suffered even when you were close to God?
What we find in the book of Job is that the power of Job’s connection to God was not that it spared him from pain, but that it gave him the capacity, the power and the wisdom to interpret that pain then translate it to life.
If you’ve never lost anything, you’ve never aspired greatly enough. If you’ve never had pain in your life, it is because you’ve never loved anything. The more deeply you love, the more deeply you can be hurt.
The people who are not interesting in life are those who have not experienced loss or pain. The other kind of people who are not interesting are those who have experienced loss or pain and that is all they know and live by. They wallow in their pain and loss.
The most interesting people in life are those who have experienced loss, pain and suffering in life and worked their way through it and risen above it and still have a translation of life that brings beauty, meaning and hope to the world!
What happens in our lives are our experiences and we have no control over them. In fact to control our experiences is to limit our life and what God wants to do in us.
What has happened to you is your experiences. Your interpretation happens when you begin to explain why it happened to you. That is why two people can go through the same experience and come out differently; because of how they interpret the experience.
Here are three questions that are the context of how we interpret life:
- How do you understand who God is?
- How do you understand who you are?
- How do you understand the world?
What you do with your experiences is the beginning of finding your voice.
Much of who you become through those experiences is the interpretation of life. Job had no control over what would happen in his life but he never lost control over how he would respond to those experiences.
You are not your experiences but you are how you respond to those experiences and your voice becomes your interpretation of those experiences into life.
What you learn from those experiences is how you translate the human story into these experiences. How those experiences change you is what transformation is all about.
As the narrative of Job comes to a conclusion we learn a lot from the way Job approached his experiences.
My ears have heard you but now my eyes have seen you.
What Job found in his pain and loss is a deeper intimacy with God that had previously eluded him. However the translation of life from Job’s friends did not bring honour to God.
Sometimes life doesn’t make sense because it is a snapshot of a bigger story that God is writing. Job teaches us that we should not give up especially when we are seeing life through our small filter of experiences; before the final chapter is written.
The experienced self is the sum total of all that has happened in our lives. The remembered self is how we remember our experiences – our translation. It is our remembered self that most influences our lives.
Job had his fair share of dark and painful experiences as well as blessed and joyous experiences. He chose to remember that God is good!
The more we give ourselves to life and to others the more we open ourselves up for disappointment. That is why we have to focus on the good, beautiful and true in life.
May we be the artisan translators of the human experience so as to bring hope, beauty and meaning to the world.
How does this conversation challenge you to live differently today?