6th Commandment: Do not Murder
This command seems really straightforward. So what is murder? It is one person killing another in cold blood—usually for selfish reasons (so not as a soldier in war, etc.). In our (American) society, it is a crime often punishable by death—especially when it is intentional. What was meant in ancient times? In Jesus’ time? And what does that mean for us today?
OT: Exodus 21:12 and Leviticus 24:17…point out the seriousness of the offense. Genesis 4:3-13…the first murder. Look at God’s mercy! He knew what Cain was about to do and instructed him how to overcome his selfish desire to kill his brother. God gave Cain a way out and still showed mercy after he failed. It is not as though God’s character has changed. Exodus 21:28-29…Not working to prevent harm to someone is the same as murder.
Every person is without excuse because we have God’s law and His attributes have been clearly seen from the beginning (Romans 1:18-20).
Jesus’ teaching: Matthew 5:21-26; Matthew 6:14-15
1 John 3:13-17…here, John is not only talking about emotions/feeling of hatred, but also an apathy towards others’ needs. If we are not going to help them when it is in our ability, it is the same as murder—just letting them die!
James 1:19-20…be slow to speak and quick to hear. Don’t let anger get any hold on you. In other words, be proactive and seek to be a better doer of God’s word (vs 21-22), the “word of truth.” (vs 18). In the broader context, James is speaking of trials and suffering which we as Christians have to face. We will be hated by some people, but don’t let how this world treats us anger us.
The 5th Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.
Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”
Observations: This is the first command which speaks to how we should relate to other people. The first four speak to how we should relate to God. The rest of the commandments which follow speak to our relations with other people. This seems to be a transitional and pivotal verse. This spoken to OT Israel was a command with a promise: that their days in the promised land would be prolonged. Why is this significant?
When it is restated to the people in Deuteronomy, another aspect is added: “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you” (vs 16). The converse must also be true: if they would not honor their mothers and fathers then it would not go well with them.
-Leviticus 26:3-13…speaks of all of God’s commandments. Follow them, blessings flow
-Exodus 21:15…strike your parent, stoned to death
-Deuteronomy 21:18-21…stubborn, free-loading son should be put to death
God’s people are to take this commandment seriously! It is dishonoring to parents not to listen to them and to take advantage of their provision, not working when able to.
-Proverbs 23:22—it is not just when we are children that we should listen to our parents. As long as they are living, we should honor them by listening to them.
-Proverbs 1:7-8—Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. What follows then is listening to your parents and living a life in accordance with their teaching (they are not always there to help you make every decision). This highlights another truth about the importance of honoring parents. God has set parents up as authority figures in our lives to take care of us, and ultimately point us to HIM.
-These verses in Proverbs also speak to implications for parents. They should be seeking to teach their children to honor God. If a parent is telling you to do something which does not honor God, then we should not do it. Deuteronomy 6:7—responsibility to teach children falls on parents. Ephesians 6:4—bring children up in the fear of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1-3—Paul cites the 5th commandment in his exhortation to the church. We should obey our parents “in the Lord.” Those who will equip us to do battle: Ephesians 6:10-17. There may be a time when someone other than our biological parents serves as a spiritual parent to us. We should heed these peoples’ instruction.
The command as given in Exodus spoke of the result of honoring one’s mother and father: a good life in the promised land.
Our promise is the same, but of a heavenly land: Hebrews 12:14, 25-29 “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord…See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.” Pursuing peace with our parents would mean honoring them—listening and heeding the wisdom and instruction, especially as it pertains to following the Lord. It will go well with us as long as we are looking for the unshakeable kingdom of God.
Honoring our parents is ultimately honoring God, our Father.
He honored His earthly parents his whole life: Luke 2:51; John 19:26 (made sure Mary was taken care of)
He honored His heavenly father: John 5:19-24. The way for us to receive eternal life is to honor Jesus. This is what parents should be teaching us; what we should be teaching our children.
4th Commandment: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”
—“Remember” is a key word here. What should we remember? We are to remember that the LORD made everything in six days and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, we should work 6 days and rest one day. Note: it does not say which day should be the day of rest, just the number of days. Our modern idea of weeks was not established at that time, as we follow the Gregorian calendar.
—Another important observation: I should rest, but I should not make anyone or anything work on my behalf. The point is for God’s people to take time to enjoy communion with Him, and not worry about worldly pursuits.
—The LORD did two things: blessed the sabbath and made it holy. Looking at the Genesis account can shed some light on the significance of this.
Genesis 1:31-2:3—Was God actually tired? No! He wanted to take time to enjoy His “very good” creation, particularly the climax of His creation, mankind, who was created in His image and likeness. This was the blessing. To be holy means to be set apart for a purpose. God actually stopped doing everything so He could set apart time to enjoy fellowship with His children.
Deuteronomy 5:15—REMEMBER: freedom from slavery, or hard work/suffering. Sabbath was given as a time to remember God’s deliverance.
Exodus 31:12-17—Sabbath is a “sign for all generations.” God was refreshed—shows us we need to be refreshed continually in our relationship with our Creator.
Isaiah 58:13-14—the sabbath is a pattern for the way to live our life all the time: “desisting from your own ways, seeking your own pleasure, speaking your own word."
1 John 5:3—God’s commands are not burdensome. Rest in His work. (like in the Garden—everything was provided)
Matthew 12:1-12—It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. The question is, “Is it God’s work?” Really, that is what we should be asking ourselves all the time.
Hosea 6:6-7—The sabbath is about knowing God and being loyal to Him. This should be all the time.
Mark 2:27—Sabbath was made for man. A pattern for us to enjoy God’s blessing as we submit to Him. Man cannot actually follow the sabbath to the “T,” as man was not made for sabbath. Jesus fulfills the sabbath in that He is our way back to fellowship with God.
Romans 14:5-8—The actual day doesn’t matter. What matters is that every day we recognize we belong to God.
Hebrews 4:1-3, “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”
-Verse1—Promised Land (Hebrews 3:14-19)
-Verse 2—Caleb and Joshua preached the good news (Numbers 13:27-30). The people could not enter God’s rest because they did not have faith
-Verse 3—Those in belief have entered rest. Rest is walking by faith; dumping my plans.
—vss. 4-6—Some people did not enter the Promised Land because of disobedience
—vss. 7-9—entering the promised land was a foreshadowing of Sabbath rest to come
-10-12—Resting from my works means I am always seeking to be obedient to God, whose will is made clear through His word. How can we be resting in God without letting His word search us and change us?
The 4th commandment is “keep the Sabbath holy.” This means no work. What is work? When it comes down to it, we could classify breathing as work because we have to exert an effort. The purpose of the commandment is to show us we can’t keep it. If I keep this commandment by any effort I exert, I’ve already broken it. All commandments are only doable by faith.
IMPORTANCE OF REMEMBERING: God created us to enjoy fellowship/rest with him through faith; He freed us from slavery to our own ways and burdensome work (sin and death); and one day we will fully enter His rest. Let’s be intentional about seeking the LORD by letting go of our ways.
3rd Commandment: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7)
NASB says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…”
It is important to note that LORD is the translation of God’s proper name YHWH. (pronounced “Yahweh”). The second translation makes a little clearer what this command means. We have actually been given the name of the LORD, as His chosen people. He is our unique, all-powerful, supreme, Creator God, and He has expectations for His creation. What is the significance of this?
God’s correction given through the prophet Isaiah is a clear example:
Isaiah 43:1-7. “I have called you by name: you are Mine!” Not only have we been created by Him, but also, just as He did for Jacob—>Israel, He is forming us for His glory (vs. 7). We have been given a new name—a new identity—by the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Sadly, the nation of Israel largely did not treasure this. Vss. 22-24—they “became weary of [Him].”
Jesus’ exhortation: Mark 8:34-38, “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
—To deny self and carry one’s cross means submitting my whole self—mind, body, spirit—to the Lord Himself. Therefore, instead of being ashamed, boldly proclaim the gospel and share God’s word in this “adulterous and sinful generation” which so desperately needs Him! His glory is the ultimate goal—the most exciting thing to me should be when previous unbelievers turn to the LORD and glorify His name. I can’t call myself a Christian and not carry out this mission—that would be taking the Lord’s name in vain!
James’ exhortation: James 1:26-27, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” The only opinion and viewpoint/sight which should matter to me is that of my Heavenly Father. Some people talk a good talk, but have no actions to back it up--stay unstained by the world, caring about those who can’t repay. Only one secure in their identity as a child of God can do this. Letting myself be corrupted by the world is taking God’s name in vain.
Paul’s exhortation: Philippians 1:27—2:4, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” As a Christian, I am a steward of the gospel of Christ—having taken on His identity. Now, to not take this name in vain, some things are expected. Don’t be alarmed at opposition/suffering/conflict. Be unified with other believers in mind and spirit, experiencing fellowship with God Himself through the Spirit, evidenced by our love for one another. Other people should be more important to me than my own interests.
How seriously do I take my identity as a child of GOD? Is all this true of my life right now?
2nd Commandment: You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations fo those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6)
God gives the commandment, and He also gives reasoning: His character and possible outcomes of a person’s choice.
Command: Don’t make idols or likenesses of created things—don’t worship or serve anything except God.
God’s character: He is a jealous God
Outcome of disobedience: Iniquity of fathers affects the lives of generations after them
Outcome of obedience: God shows His lovingkindness to those who love Him and keep His commandments (sidenote: this verse equates worshiping and serving something with loving)
Observation: God’s command of what not to worship or serve is actually pretty broad/all-encompassing. He not just says “idols” but also any likeness of anything in existence, basically. When His people in ancient times thought of idols they would have thought of pagan images of supposed deities. Essentially, people have the ability to worship and serve anything they please. This is idolatry.
Psalm 135:15-18—Idol worship was rampant in OT times. These idols were actually in the image of people and other creatures, crafted from various materials. Those who make them will become like them—senseless! Really, man is just dust—rearranged dirt—and it is the Lord who gives us life (Psalm 103:14-18…God is loving and wants to share His life with us; Genesis 2:7—man formed from dirt, and GOD breathed life into him)
What about today? We don’t see the same kind of idols today.
Romans 1:28-32…People do whatever they feel is right. They are their own idol—self-worship.
Matthew 6:24—Jesus says one cannot serve God and wealth. If you love one, you’ll hate the other. If you are devoted to one, you’ll despise the other. Here, the word “wealth” is translated from the Aramaic word “mammon” which is wealth personified as an object of worship. So it is not necessarily bad to have certain things, but where is my heart? (Matt. 6:21). Remember, God is a jealous God. He is fully deserving of our devotion and love. Logically, based on this verse, I should hate and despise wealth. In other words, let’s be content. Seek God’s kingdom —the Lord Himself—and we’ll have everything we need (Matthew 6:31-34; Psalm 23:1)
The next couple weeks, I will be posting devotionals and studies on the Ten Commandments. Right here is a study on the 1st commandment.
The Ten Commandments—What do they mean for us today, as Christians?
The giving of the ten commandments, having been given to Moses by God are here relayed to God’s people, Israel. Exodus 20:1-17,
“And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
1st Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
It is important to note that right before this, God reminded the people who He is and what He had done for them, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
He was their deliverer and redeemer who had given them not only freedom, but plunder to go along with it (Exodus 12:36), one day to enter the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 6:6-8; 3:17). They were supposed to recognize that everything actually belongs to God (cf Haggai 2:8) and they were to honor Him from their wealth which He had given—and had yet to give. They were leaving the midst of a pagan nation, Egypt, to eventually enter the promised land, where they would have to drive out still more pagan nations. What pressure they must have faced—and succumbed to from time to time. Exodus 32—the golden calf. They used the gold which the Lord had given them as plunder from the Egyptians to make an idol. They forgot so quickly! They did not have their minds set on the right things.
The nature of a man has not changed through the centuries. Only how our sinful nature materially manifests changes.
The New Testament points this out.
Romans 1:18-25—people served created things rather than the Creator. People wanted to glorify themselves (vs 21-23). That created things can give us life is a lie (vs. 25).
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy in Matthew 22 . See Deuteronomy 6:1-12—Obey, enjoy relationship with God the Lord, their Creator; enjoy prosperity in a land they did not earn; BE CAREFUL NOT TO FORGET.
“But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” “ —Matthew 22:35-40
Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. Key word: ALL. I can’t have split attention, motives, or goals. My purpose is to love God and love others as He loves them. God wants to redeem His creation—that has been His plan for His creation since the Garden of Eden.
The question is, do I have split attention, motives or goals or am I loving God with all my being? If my devotion is split, then I am putting something before God—making something else into a god.
The message from Deuteronomy 6:1-12 is also for us today:
-Enjoy relationship with God, our Creator—Colossians 1:15-20
-Obey Christ. Colossians 1:18—Christ should have first place in everything.
-BE CAREFUL NOT TO FORGET. —James 1:22-25…Look intently and seek to be changed by God’s word.
-Enjoy prosperity I did not earn—Partaking in the life of Christ. John 15:1-8…Fruit: proof of Christ’s life. We’ll have everything we need—whatever we ask in Jesus’ name.
Lord’s Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29…Partaking in a worthy manner is partaking in, thereby proclaiming the Lord’s death. John 15:9-17…True love is acting on the attitude of being willing to lay down one’s life for others.
quick review from last week (vss. 18-27)--Suffering according to God’s will proves we are spiritual, children of God.
In the following verses, Paul builds on that:
—God is actually the one causing/allowing our suffering, and it is for our good—the good of those who love Him and love His purpose for them (the question is, “Do I?!”)
—God foreknew who would love Him and heed His call—these are the ones predestined to become conformed to Christ’s image (again, that is a suffering!)
—“brethren”…now we are in God’s family
God sees every man’s life from beginning to end before they are born. All are called, but not all listen and answer. God’s call is, “ I have a gift for you—new life. Just forsake the worthless one you have now.” God is justified in offering this life because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Those “justified” are the ones who receive this gift by faith. Now to hold onto it! At the end of their earthly life, the justified will then be glorified with Christ.
God is doing everything in His power so we will receive, hold onto, and fully experience His gift of life. All we have to do is love Him.
vss. 31-39 Describe how to love God. It is all about mindset.
vs 31. Know that no-one can take away my true life
vs 32. God will give us everything we need (nobody else can)
vs 33-34. Nobody except God can judge the value of our new life. Jesus is interceding for us that we would hold onto it.
vs 35-39. Through Christ, we overwhelmingly conquer everything that sets itself up against His love—within or outside ourselves
It can be concluded: Christ’s love is the most powerful force in existence. Eternal life is certain.
Colossians 3:1-4—Set my mind on it
John 15:9-17…Just abide. Hold onto Christ’s love no matter what, so that when the Father sees us, He sees Jesus and is pleased.
This post is meant to be read with a Bible in your hand. I recommend reading the scriptures for yourself as you follow along.
Suffering according to God’s will proves we are His children.
vs. 18a “sufferings of this present time”—everything we experience now, right?
18b. “not worthy to be compared to the glory yet to be revealed, “glory of the children”
19-21. Creation longing for revealing of the sons of God, as it will be set free from slavery to corruption—>futility
22. Creation groans, suffers pains of childbirth
23. We, having the Spirit, also groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies
24-25…we can’t see it yet, so we need perseverance
26-27…the Spirit helps us in our weakness to pray (and live) in accordance to God’s will
Sufferings are opportunities to be proven spiritual—children of God.
Marks of a spiritual Christian
1 Peter 4:12-13—rejoicing in the midst of suffering…REWARD: See God’s glory
1 Corinthians 13:8-13—uncompromising in faith, hope and love…REWARD: fully know God
Revelation 21:1-8—Overcome. Don’t succumb again to cowardice, unbelief, immorality, idolatry, dishonesty…REWARD: experience eternal life in God’s presence. No more suffering, pain, sadness, thirst, hunger. Complete satisfaction.
Lord’s supper: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26—“proclaim the Lord’s death”—Am I willing to suffer as Jesus did? “until He comes”—is that all I am looking forward to? If the answer to both those questions is, “yes,” then I can partake with a good conscience, not eating and drinking condemnation to myself.
Let this be the year in which the meaning of life comes into much clearer focus.
(Yes, the pun came to mind first, but please read this with minute humorous undertones, as none are really intended)
These are my personal reflections which I hope you will also find useful. Feel free to share.
I understand that when people reflect about the meaning or purpose of one's own life, many different approaches occur. Some really take time and dig deep. Others don't feel they have time. They want to keep it simple because they have work to do. Every person falls along a spectrum. I can identify with both approaches. This is an attempt to state simply the deeper meaning of my own life, as it pertains to: relationships, community, health, career, and achievement. The goal of my writing is to build on the foundational observations of life; interpreting the meaning, motives, or purposes behind each; and applying my understanding of those to affect positive change in others' lives and my own life.
It is safe to say that I would be nowhere without my personal relationships--that is why I would like to address this first. Two aspects of relationship-building particularly resonate with me right now: intentionality and transparency. Every relationship is important--even those I don't think of on a daily basis. I'm at a time in my life when my family is more spread out, geographically, than we have ever been. Making the most of the time we have together is of upmost importance. First, we have to be very intentional about setting time aside to be with one another. This takes sacrifice. However, just being together isn't enough. We also have to choose how we interact with one another while we are together. People can be in the same room but be completely disengaged with the potential for bonding and communion. This is where transparency comes in. I am finding the more vulnerable I make myself--letting my faults and struggles be made known--the more likely I am to receive the respect, love and support every person so desperately needs (whether they admit it or not). I have to let go of my pride. The most important human relationship to nurture is the one I have with my wife. The longer we have been married, the more I realize the beauty of the design of marriage: we are two very unique people with sets of traits, skills, interests, abilities, goals, and dreams. Even so, we are one person; that is, we are meant to be one in purpose, one in mission, one in a very real--shared--life. Every little thing I do affects Allison, and everything she does affects me. This takes a mutual commitment to lay down our lives for one another. The problem with me is I tend toward selfishness. The selfishness which not only manifests as material concerns but also a hesitancy to communicate everything with her. This includes my goals for our life together, desires for our family, and also simply how I am feeling and thinking about things.
Essentially, I am coming to realize that we are not our own. When we were engaged almost 10 years ago, we went through marriage counseling with our pastor and his wife. We met for several weeks, but two words still stand out to me as the best advice I have ever gotten regarding marriage: SHARE EVERYTHING.
I think that very sound advice can be generalized to most other relationships, though with a measure of discretion. (Nobody except God--and perhaps myself--will ever know me better than my wife!) Allison and I now have 3 kids who are growing faster than either of us is comfortable with. As they mature, certain bumps in the road--accompanied by unexpected joy--happen which sometimes throw us for a loop. Sometimes we don't respond the way we should, but we are truly trying to take hold of the fact that we are called to raise, teach, nurture, and discipline our own kids. We know that is a calling because these three gifts have been so graciously given us.
As a public school music teacher, I have witnessed too many families who do not have this vision. It is hard on the kids. I as their teacher have to be very intentional about getting to know them. I also have to be transparent so they can learn to trust me as a person and a facilitator of their learning.
As personal relationships are strengthened, community can be built. Everyone is an individual and has something to share. My job as a music teacher is really a calling to see the potential in people, help draw it out, and facilitate the sharing process wherein each individual finds their place in the community of music-makers. I constantly have to exercise my creativity in not only demonstrating and teaching the music, but also in facilitating the discovery process. As an introvert, this can be taxing on particularly my emotional energy, but it is well worth the effort! I love seeing my kids enjoy working as part of a team to achieve something very worthwhile and fun.
If I was honest with myself, I have to admit I do not always have fun in my work. Challenges which oftentimes seem beyond my ability to overcome present themselves. These challenges, largely due to what I perceive as a culture shift, come by way of organizational changes, student misbehaviors, miscommunication, and my own areas for growth. All of these are amplified by some health issues which over the last few years have eroded my self-confidence. I have epilepsy. In 2017, I had brain surgery to correct my condition. For two years, I was seizure-free, but I had an absence seizure at school this last August at the beginning of the school year. Allison drives me to and from school every day. Don't get me wrong, it's great spending extra time with her and the kids (and she likes the routine to start the homeschool day with the kids), but I'm sure you can imagine the inconvenience of not having the same measure of independence. I have also been experiencing hearing loss since 2012. This year, it has gotten measurably worse--even in what was my "good" ear. The most frustrating thing is that nobody can pinpoint exactly why and how I am experiencing this hearing loss. I tried a couple different types of hearing aids, and nothing has helped.
A music teacher who can't hear! I experience frustration daily. The only way to get through each day is to optimistically adapt, experiment, and hope. Some days I do better than others. The best days are those in which student leaders become empowered and I can just get out of the way and let the music happen. I think I have been too "product" focused. The creative process is key. That is when people discover who they are.
This leads me to my culminating point in answering the question, "what is the purpose of life?" Of everything I could focus on this year, the most important thing to think about is what kind of person I want to be.
I think a good metaphor for life is a running race course. In High School, I ran cross country--a sport in which you compete as a part of a team against other teams, always trying to come out on top at the end of the 5k. I realize now the real battle was against the course obstacles, the environmental elements, my own fitness, and my mental resilience. Even runners on other teams could help me run my best race as I paced off them and got a shot of adrenaline with each one I passed. In the end, all that matters is that runners finish, HAVING RUN HIS OR HER BEST RACE.
So it is in life. There will always be challenges in building and maintaining relationships; finding and contributing to a wholesome community; growing in skills relevant to my career path; and balancing it all in faith. When the end comes, I want to be found faithful, having not compromised anything--especially relationships--for the quick, easy, selfish path. So what is the prize at the end of this race called "life?" What I want to see is the completion of a perfecting process:
"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Now, I'll end with a Star Wars quote. (Don't worry, I don't think this is much of a spoiler). In the newest film, one of the characters recounts events from Return of the Jedi, "We had each other. That's how we won."
When the odds seem impossible in any situation, let's not forget we have each other. This is my 2020 vision: Nobody can go it alone. Let's not try. Let's not leave anyone--family, friends, students, coworkers, strangers on the street--to carry the burden of preserving their own life. I'm determined to be an overcomer. What that is going to take is moving beyond my self-pity, pride, and selfishness and being faithful to my calling with the strength God provides.
Let's not build ourselves up or tear others down for selfish gain. Let's work together to overcome this world with faith, hope and love.