The other night I rode with a friend to Sonic, a restaurant home to the South's delectable delicacies in fast-food form.  As we pulled up to make our order, I noticed one of my students outside.  I knew she worked at Sonic, and have seen her there before.  But tonight she was
outside on a semi-chilly evening holding a cigarette, talking with another employee; a forty-something year old man also smoking a cigarette.

Knowing already a little about this girl's past, immediately I hurt for her, but was angry at the man.  This girl has been through so much, I thought.  She doesn't need a cigarette - she needs God's love.  My thoughts toward the man were anger.  Why doesn't this forty year old man get a real job and stop flirting with high schoolers who work at Sonic?  What a creep....  Suddenly, something inside me remembered the scene in Rocky when Rocky walks over to a young girl on the street corner, takes the cigarette out of her mouth, and walks her home, telling her she is worth more than that.  I wanted to do the same.  But I didn't.

Rocky on the street corner in Rocky I.  (Image courtesy of Rocky movie, United Artists.)

The next day at school I talked with the girl.  She assured me that the forty year old Sonic employee (who was actually the manager) meant no harm in smoking with her, an eighteen year old high school senior.  Still, my thoughts were a mixture of anger and compassion.  And then the thoughts shifted to myself, as well they should: Jordan, you should have done what Rocky did.  You could have taken the time to get out of your car and reach out in loving conversation - the way Jesus would have done.

The last month has been filled with spiritual unrest and turmoil for me.  I have felt a huge disconnect between God and myself, a brick wall, of sorts, blocking my prayers from Him.  I tried powering through it; reading my Bible, praying, and memorizing Scripture even when my heart wasn't in it.  But nothing was working.  I was willing to dismiss it as a time of drought, which all Christians experience during times of growth and refinement, but then today a Christian co-worker offered me this advice: "You must have sin in your life.  Ask God to convict you."  And so I did.

Within four hours I had my answer: I am not giving God all of me.  I am giving Him part of me, part of my love, part of my focus, part of my devotion - but I am witholding the other part of me for what I want to do.  I am also relying on my own strength and abilities rather than relying on God fully.  Finally, tonight, as I reflect on my experience at the Sonic drive-up and Rocky, I am very much aware that God needs all of me - my love, my time, my future plans, my trust.  And He needs it yet again.

I have given God all of me many times in my Christian life, but I somehow manage to always steal part of it back.  Then I give Him it all back again, and the cycle continues.

Tonight, I realized that if I want to be a man of God and have the strength to challenge wrong-doing and evil, then I must give Him all of me.  I cannot do anything good and long-lasting on my own strength (John 15:5, Psalm 16:2).  It is impossible (Luke 18:27, Philippians 4:13).  If I want to be a man, then I must give God all of who I am.

That, then, is the meaning of the 2014 theme God gave me twelve days ago: Death.  I still haven't died.  I still haven't rid myself of my selfishness and given my life fully and completely to Him.  I am holding on to my future plans of moving back to Wisconsin.  I am searching high and low for a woman that meets my expectations.  I am spending a lot of time at work trying to do too much.  But in it all, I have forgotten that God holds my future and that by trusting in Him, everything will come to pass perfectly.

I desire to be a man of strength, courage, boldness, righteousness, and perseverance.  But I cannot be any of those things in my own strength (I Corinthians 9:24-27).  I must sacrificially die on the altar of self.  Then I must give my dead self over to God.  And then He will resurrect in me a life that is beyond anything I can even hope for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

In closing, a few days ago I listened to an interview between Dr. James Dobson and the late Ken Hutcherson.  (Here is the link to the interview.)  Mr. Hutcherson was a middle linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks and later a pastor, a man bold and courageous, unafraid as a roaring lion.  I want to have that boldness and courage he had.  I want to carry the torch he left for me and other men to pick up and carry forward.

Ken Hutcherson was a spiritual giant.  He was taken home to Heaven on December 18, 2013.  (Image courtesy of http://thestranger.com.)

But it is only after I die and release my life to Jesus - as Mr. Hutcherson and so many other men have done before me and are doing right now - that I can be strong enough to love (I John 3:18) even those that smoke cigarettes outside a Sonic in Tennessee.  I cannot control the sinner's sin, but I can control my actions toward the sinner.  This action should always be rendered in love.

I hope that you can read the passion in the words I wrote.  Then again, these words may not be meant for you; they are undoubtedly for me.  Even as I wrote this, God brought me literally on my face before Him, asking to be resurrected in new life to be used by Him and for His purposes.


My prayer: Lord, I don't ask you to take all of me; I give you all of me.