A bad habit that has been pointed out to me (and that I’ve noticed) is that I tend to put myself down in the few sermons I’ve given. When trying to understand why I make the self-deprecatory jokes that I do, my pastor wondered if it was because that was my way of dealing with my anxiety; I think there’s actually something to that. From my perspective, I’m no worthier of delivering the sermon than the people seated in the Chinese Evangelical Free Church of Santa Barbara pews (err, chairs), and those jokes are my way of being honest about how I feel positionally before God’s people.
As of late, I’ve begun to feel quite a bit of anxiety about what lies ahead. I am planning to apply for PhD programs in philosophy, and the same feelings of unworthiness seep into the potentially fruitful (though rarely utilized) downtime I have as a grad student. Instead of making self-deprecatory jokes to a congregation, however, I internalize the sentiments and begin to feel less and less qualified to even think about applying to the programs. Just this evening, I spent 26 minutes in a wild mental scramble, looking at different culinary programs and seeing if they would be financially responsible. I ended up stepping back and reach out to my best friends in the program (you know who you are, love you both!). As the delirium faded, I woke up to the fact that maybe I was so easily pulled towards something so drastically different because it was something in which I still felt competent. The philosophical tool of “running the reductio,” as some call it, led me to see that I would likely feel the same, if not more, incompetence upon enrolling in culinary school.
And that’s when I realized that philosophy has been a gift that God has given me. I don’t mean this in the sense of God making me a gifted philosopher, but God has made me a son with gifts. Knowing the nature of my heart, He provided me with the right kind of tool to see just how deceitful the heart is above all things, and how desperately sick it is (Jer. 17:9). It’s not so much that He desires for me to master (or doctor) philosophy or become a leader in a particular subfield of it, but regardless of how things all turn out, He saw that it was a way for Him to minister and speak to me. Philosophy—though it largely has not been reassuring—can be therapeutic; the anxiety that came from feeling inadequate was remedied through the same thing I was anxious about. It led me to remember my first desire in studying it: to show, by my works, my faith in the power and reality of the Gospel.
I recently purchased a “Morning and Evening: Daily Readings by C.H. Spurgeon” devotional, and today’s morning passage said this:
You carry the cross after Him. You have blessed company; your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord. The mark of His blood-red shoulder is upon that heavy burden. ‘Tis His cross, and He goes before you as a shepherd goes before his sheep. Take up your cross daily, and follow Him.
Do not forget, also, that you bear this cross in partnership. It is the opinion of some that Simon only carried one end of the cross, and not the whole of it. That is very possible; Christ may have carried the heavier part, against the transverse beam, and Simon may have borne the lighter end. Certainly it is so with you; you do but carry the light end of the cross, Christ bore the heavier end.
And remember, though Simon had to bear the cross for a very little while, it gave him lasting honour. Even so the cross we carry is only for a little while at most, and then we shall receive the crown, the glory. Surely we should love the cross, and, instead of shrinking from it, count it very dear, when it works out for us ‘a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’.
“The world behind me, the cross before me; no turning back, no turning back.”