Monday, April 7, 2014

Deliberately Stepping Out Of Merimnao

Merimnao is a Greek word that means worry, cares, or anxiety.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus says that the thorns choke the word and it becomes unfruitful. In his interpretation of the parable to the disciples, he says that the thorns represent merimnao.

In the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus says, "Martha, Martha, you are careful (merimnao) and troubled about many things, but Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "Take no thought (merimnao) for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or what you shall wear."

Recently I listened to Eric Ludy's message called Hero Training, in which he explores the meaning of the word merimnao and the place it is to have in the believer's life. He gives a ringing cry for establishing one's motto to be "No merimnao!"

Through all this repetition of seeing merimnao everywhere I look, I realized that somewhere along the way, I traded in my pure and simple trust in God's provision for my life and exchanged it for merimnao. Suddenly, I felt I had to be the one to look out for myself, and if I didn't do it, no one would. I withdrew from the willingness to be spent for God's kingdom, and I said to myself, "That was fine when I was in my 20s, but not I have to figure out stuff like my housing and retirement before it's too late."

After successfully evading the rat race for the first 30 years of my life, I decided to sign myself up for it voluntarily. After seeing God provide for me time and time and time again, I suddenly looked at my life from the world's perspective and said to myself, "Wow, my resume looks really bad! I had better get into a decent career and start climbing the ladder!"

The job became so all-consuming that everything else got put on hold as I began to learn how to juggle adding 40 hours of work into the mix. All the things I felt God wanted me to do moved to the back burner. My writing, my friendships, my vision for starting a Bible Study in the local jail, the orderliness of my bedroom--all of this suffered at the expense of the job.

That was fine for the first three months or so, until I got bored. At some point in December, I sort of mentally checked out of my job. I didn't care about it any more. I couldn't bring myself to care. I would pass the time through each day, struggling with unbearable boredom, knowing I was made for more than this, and so tormented by the mind-numbing emptiness of it all that I would go out to my car at the end of the day and literally have to moan out loud three or four times in order to unburden my mind. In August, when I was penniless and didn't have a job, I considered myself to be so happy that I made the statement several times, "If happiness was an Olympic sport, I would get the gold medal." By January or February, the happiness had evaporated little by little, to the point where there have even been days recently where I would ask myself if I was depressed.

It came to a head the other day. I was fed up with being bored and I started asking myself what kind of job I could look for that would be less boring. Retail? Waiting Tables? Nope, I would be bored in three months. Administrative assistant? Nope, I would get bored there, too. Looking back over my life, I see a pattern: Whenever I am doing the world's kind of work (my job at the sporting goods store, for instance), I can stick with it for 3 months to a year, and then I get bored and move on. I have never been challenged enough in a job to keep on growing. Once the training period is over and I know how to do it, I start to shrivel up and die, and I can't stand it. Therefore, my resume looks terrible--a string of one entry-level position after another in a hodge-podge of different fields. My degree doesn't really help, either, because people are not really looking to hire a 30-something for that college grad entry-level communications job. Therefore, I am stuck in a conundrum: All the jobs that I am qualified for would make me bored out of my mind, while all the jobs that would be interesting are out of the picture because I'm not qualified.

"Okay, fine," I said to myself. "I'm just going to go study something interesting like medicine or law or engineering. Fine, I'll just go into debt. Fine--at least I won't be bored and underpaid for the rest of my life!" But as soon as I said it, I realized something: Those fields would ultimately be unfulfilling, too. It might take a little longer before I got there, but sooner or later, I would taste the same emptiness and realize I had wasted my effort for nothing.

Ultimately, the only thing that can satisfy is working for the Lord. I saw it so clearly. I have tasted of being a part of advancing God's kingdom, and it trumps all worldly pursuits. This is the one thing that I want. This is the only thing that can grab my imagination. Yet somehow I had departed from that focus, and when I did, I lost a lot of my joy. I had succumbed to the pull of merimnao, and it was choking me.

This is not to say that my merimnao was necessarily my job's fault, or that I would be opposed to working for my living. I'm not. I am thankful for the income that God has provided for me and the way He has brought this method of provision into my life at this time. However, I cannot allow that to be the source of my trust or the focus of my pursuit. If I am going to spend my life for something, I am going to spend it for what matters. I am not going to shift my focus to a lower sight and start worrying about my down payment or my 401k if it means trading in my singular gaze on the things that are God's priorities.

Therefore, I deliberately and purposely step out of the worry back into trust. God is my provider, and in His sovereign control, He is orchestrating my circumstances in a much more creative and interesting way than I ever could. I trust His leading. In stepping away from merimnao, I am stepping over a line. On one side of the line is worldly wisdom: look out for yourself; make choices that will be in your best interest; make as much money as you can. I cross to the other side of the line, where I serve the weak and vulnerable without regard to myself, and where I am willing to go all the way down to zero if need be, because I know my God is taking care of me and He will provide. I do not make my choices based on whether there will be a pay raise involved. I make my choices based on where God is leading, and I joyfully and obediently say yes.

Goodbye to merimnao. Whew, it feels good not to be choked and pricked with all those thorns.

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