Category Archives: Theology of Everything

When to Brag

Is your product so good that all the other competitors are criminals for selling such an inferior offering?

Is your service so good that your customers wonder what they ever did without you?

Is your work so good that your boss wants you to work on every project, even though your peers do a passable job?

If that were the case: if what you had to offer was undeniably better than your competition, wouldn’t you have an obligation to share it? If you knew what you had to offer could help the hurting, solve critical business problems, or make someone’s life better, wouldn’t you feel a compulsion to share it?

When you get to that point, where you feel like it would be doing people a disservice not to tell them about what you have to offer… That’s the point where you start advertising, promoting and sharing.

Share with them. Not because it’s in your best interest, but because it’s in theirs.

The advertising message that is motivated by, “Here, you need this, it will truly help you,” is much different than the one motivated by “Here, you need this, it will truly help me.”

For the believer, that’s our motivation at work to sell our product, advertise our service, and yes – sometimes talk ourselves up to our bosses (gasp). Not because it’s in our best interest, but because it’s in theirs.

And this, friends, is why Christian’s can be the best at marketing, advertising and promotion. Because we are experienced at having something far better than what’s on offer everywhere else. We’re already keenly aware of what it means to be compelled to share something good with others.

I don’t care if it’s the Gospel, or a toothpaste, or a restaurant, or a widget… or if it’s a dance number, a song, a blog post, or a painting. The believer knows what it means to say, “Here. Try this. Your world would be better if you had it.”

Hey! Asking you to sign up for the email list is hard to do. Personally, it feels like unwanted self promotion. But the truth is that subscribers frequently tell me they are encouraged by the emails they receive. So here I am promoting email signups (hopefully) for your good. Maybe you agree. So... are you a subscriber? Enter your email below and click "Subscribe" to receive a weekly reminder that your work matters to God.


The way you see it

There’s this new thing going around the internet right now. It’s this big color controversy about a dress. You’ve probably never seen it. (hahaha just kidding of course you’ve seen it… it’s been everywhere.)

Anyways, this dress.

thedress-obvious

It’s just a dress.

But this picture of the dress.

thedress

People can’t agree what the color looks like. The internet is collectively losing its mind over this thing.

After seeing the picture, some people say it’s blue and black, some people say it’s white and gold. The people that say it’s white and gold don’t say that just because they feel like being contrarian. They SEE IT as white and gold. Same thing for people in the blue and black camp.

Maybe you see it one way or maybe you see it the other.

But here’s the thing – that dress is actually a specific color. Right? I mean, we live in a world where most things actually are a specific color (because light and pigment and refraction and eyes and rods and cones.)

Let me work this out for you: There is a dress of a specific color. The picture we have of that dress does an ambiguous job of representing that color. We see the ambiguous picture and our minds go, “Oh. I know what that is!” And that’s what we see.

The colors on the screen are the same for everyone. (A fact. Not up for argument.) It’s our perspective that makes the difference in what we think those colors are. (Obviously up for argument.) Two people can stand side by side, looking at the same picture, and see two different things.

But don’t miss this – the dress IS a specific set of colors. That’s not up for debate. It’s how we see those colors – how we interpret those colors and make meaning of them in our minds – that has spurred this fiasco. Tracking with me?

And that reality – that our perception of something determines what we believe to be true about it – is on display every day.

Here, I’ll prove it in two sentences: One time, I totaled my car. It turns out that totaling my car is one of the top three best events of my entire life. No joke.

Many people could easily say, “But you totaled your car! That’s terrible!”

Those people would be wrong. That event, while hard at the time, was far and away one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It seemed subjective at the time. It wasn’t.

Let’s look for some other examples. Let’s take a quiz. If you are a believer, which of the following events are good and which are bad? (Spoiler alert: if you’re a believer, they are all going to be good.)

  1. You get passed up on a promotion you deserve.
  2. You ace a presentation.
  3. You are late to work because of unexpected traffic.
  4. Your company goes out of business.
  5. You don’t get a job you applied for.

(Answers: 1.Good 2.Good 3.Good 4.Good 5.Good)

If you are a believer, everything (everything) everything is ultimately for your good.

You may not understand it. It might be painful. You may perceive it as bad. Heck, from a worldly perspective it might actually be bad. But for you, ultimately, it’s for good. That’s a promise from God himself.

And it’s just like the dress.

Like we did for the dress, let’s work this out together: There is an event and it has a specific meaning and purpose. Our picture of that event does an ambiguous or misleading job of representing the true purpose. We see the ambiguous situation and our minds go, “Oh. I know what this is!” And that’s what we experience.

The truth though, is that if you are a believer, every experience you have is for your good. (A fact. Not up for argument.) It’s your perspective that makes the difference in what you perceive the experience to mean. (Everyone will have an opinion. Many people will debate it.) Two people can experience the same thing and conclude it as either good or bad.

But don’t miss this – the experience HAS a specific meaning and purpose. That’s not up for debate.

It’s for your good.

This doesn’t mean everything you go through will feel good or be easy. But knowing that it’s all ultimately for your good allows you to rest easy and can give you massive peace if you let it.

Trusting that all things are for your good allows you to do crazy things like give thanks in all circumstances even if you find yourself like Corrie Ten Boom did: surrounded by fleas in a Holocaust work camp.

You can do crazy things like that when you start seeing the world for what it is: for your good. Everything in your life has an actual provable purpose, just like the dress is an actual provable color.

What would be different if you believed that?

The Function of Struggle

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
-CR Snyder

People really hate math class. They love to say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used calculus.” But you never hear people say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used the knowledge that Genghis Khan died in 1227 AD.” Why is that? It’s weird. Especially since math is everywhere. Even in suffering and struggle.

My mom is a math teacher, and the other day she was commenting to me how she appreciates that algebra math students are now instructed to solve a function rather than just solve for a variable.

For her, f(x)=1+x^2 > y=1+x^2. (Don’t worry, all the math in this post is made up and unnecessary to understanding the main point. It is fun though, to find a Gospel application even for algebraic notation.)

At first, this made no sense to me. It’s all the same, right? It’s just a semantic difference. Swap y for f(x) for z for the word banana… it’s all just a representation of a variable right?

But no, she said. Functions are different than variables. Once you solve a function, you can apply it to any number set, or combine it with any other function. Functions become building blocks that can be combined, transformed, modified and shifted. They are much more than an individual variable, they are a single component in a broader tapestry of understanding the world around us. And it’s not just math. Functions are everywhere and can be applied to anything. Once you start thinking with functions, you can better understand almost any causal relationship.

CR Snyder (who I don’t know… obvi) didn’t know I had that conversation with my mom. He did, however, give us an interesting function to test our theory with.

So: If hope is a function of struggle, what are its properties? What are its components? How do we get from struggle to hope? How do we define the struggle function? (What does “function of” mean?)

Multiple choice tests taught me that it’s always easier to work backwards (and that’s the only thing), so let’s start with the product. What is hope a direct function of?

Hope is a function of character.

Brene Brown describes hope this way: “Hope is not an emotion, but a cognitive behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when we have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.” That cognitive behavioral process could be described as your character. After all, who you are… what your character is… is just a combination of all the different behavioral processes you exhibit. (That’s as clinical as it gets… stick with me.)

Hope is not an emotion. Hope is a function of character.

hope = hope(character(x))

Or: more character leads to more hope.

Character is a function of endurance.

We have a useful start, but remember we can modify functions, we can combine them and transform them. So what is character a function of? Endurance.

Endurance is the ability to continue through discomfort. Research shows that the best distance runners in the world have a higher pain tolerance than the average person, but not a higher pain threshold. That means they feel pain at the same point but don’t succumb to it as quickly as you or I. They have trained themselves to be able to endure.

Which sounds a lot like this function which produces character right? Things in our lives will hurt, they will be uncomfortable, but in enduring (and in properly addressing and dealing with those issues) we build character. The ability to do it again tomorrow, but better. We’re distance runners building our endurance.

character = character(endurance(x))

Or: more endurance leads to more character.

Endurance is a function of struggle.

Maybe you saw this when we were talking about building endurance, but you can’t have endurance if there is nothing to endure. I mean, by definition, endurance implies pain or discomfort. The Google definition for endurance is, “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” The without giving way part is interesting because it implies a control or effort being exerted. A resistance to the pain being presented.

There is no endurance without struggle.

endurance = endurance(struggle(x))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance.

And with that, we have all we need to make our proof:

hope = hope(character(endurance(struggle(x)))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance leads to more character leads to more hope.

CR Snyder’s logic was right, but it wasn’t complete. Hope is a function of struggle, but what is struggle a function of? What sets this whole chain reaction in motion?

Struggling is a function of suffering.

Endurance is “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” It’s the ability to prolong your struggle, which can only be brought about by struggling. We can only struggle in the face of pain. In the face of suffering. I mean, try to struggle while comfortable on a beach with a tiki drink in your hand. Just as we cannot build endurance without first struggling. We cannot struggle without first suffering.

struggling=struggle(suffering(x))

hope = hope(suffering(x))

Or: more suffering leads to more hope.

Solving the suffering function gives us hope.

And are we surprised?

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

All of this is to say that in a non-intuitive way, your suffering today is a gift. The losses and difficulties are building in you a hope for the one who will not disappoint you. Tomorrow might not be brighter than today, but there is coming a day that will be much much brighter.

Take a minute to think about a struggle you have had. What is something you struggle with at work? Can you feel traces of endurance building up? Can you see shadows of your character strengthening? Do you find even the smallest amount of hope where previously there was none?

Now, what’s a hard or painful thing you could do at work today? What is a pain or suffering to struggle against? Start struggling.