Pride and Entitlement

I’ve been reflecting on a podcast I listened to the other night about how entitlement and pride can make us miserable and incapable of joy. I tried summarizing what I took from it, but I think it’s said best in this quote:

“A joyous life receives everything as a gift. A miserable life is that which looks at everything and says, ‘I’m owed this.’”

-Tim Keller

If you always think you deserve something, you will either say, “That’s fair, it’s my right to receive this,” or “that’s not fair, I deserve better.” By thinking this way, it’s impossible to be aware of the grace you are given while being humbled by it. No one can understand grace if they think they deserve the things they don’t.

“Pride is a way of justifying to yourself the control you have over your life. The only way to justify this is to constantly say, ‘I’m owed this.’ Pride makes you walk into a room and look around and ask, ‘Are these the kind of people I want to be with? Are these the kind of people who will enhance who I want to be seen as?’ It destroys your humanity. It makes you ask, ‘Are they weeping with me? Are they rejoicing with me?’ Pride makes you miserable because you become so absorbed in yourself that you can’t notice someone else who is weeping.”

Hope for the Apathetic

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Amanda and Rachel Trafford at the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona // Source: Instagram

This week, I was writing an entry on self-focus and how it can be destructive. I was getting off topic when I was putting it together, and I’ll probably post it sometime in the future. For now, I wanted to write on what I’ve been dealing with lately: apathy.

There aren’t too many blog posts out there about apathy because it’s not simple to resolve effectively within the length of an article. Apathy can be complex. Ironically, the person who doesn’t care won’t always care enough to find a way out.

I doubt that many people who deal with apathy even recognize it as apathy. Instead, it’s interpreted as a casual “I don’t care” mentality that’s become so accepted in our culture that we don’t give it a second thought. Apathy is often a lie of contentment. It is hopelessness disguised as underwhelming disinterest.

I’ve misinterpreted a lot of my own “easy-going-ness” as patience. It’s not that I was great at being patient, it’s that I didn’t care about waiting. I thought being patient was easy, but it turns out what’s easy is being indifferent, to not invest any passion or care into something.

In an article posted on Desiring God, Paul Maxwell wrote, “‘I don’t care’ has become a parasite on something much more forceful: ‘That doesn’t matter.’ Recently, apathy has thrown off its garments of unrespectability and taken the judgment seat of cultural prestige. ‘I’m not motivated’ has been replaced with a bigger philosophical gun: ‘I’m not persuaded it’s worth caring about.’

Last year around this time, one of my lungs collapsed. When I felt the pain in my chest, I had an idea of what happened. I’d heard about collapsed lungs before and that they were pretty common for my age.

I don’t know why I didn’t panic when the doctor at the ER told me I would need a procedure in a few moments from then where I’d be stabbed in the side with a tube. I barely remember being scared. That wasn’t courage, and I don’t even think it was shock.

I wondered why I didn’t care that my lung collapsed. Why didn’t I mind staying at the hospital for three weeks? Why wasn’t I scared that I would soon need surgery, which prior had always been my biggest fear?

In retrospect, I realized apathy was a defense mechanism. I didn’t allow myself to care. It wasn’t that everything was happening all at once and I couldn’t process anything, it’s that I didn’t want to care. I learned there was no risk in not caring, so I withdrew from the situation.

I reasoned with myself, knowing a collapsed lung being treated immediately wasn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things. I acknowledged that the classes I was missing, some of which I’d have to drop, weren’t that enjoyable anyway. I was also in a long-distance relationship at the time and I knew being in the hospital couldn’t take time away from it.

That might sound like optimism, but it’s not like I was happy to be stuck in a room unable to breathe normally. I didn’t think myself into a place of positivity and contentment, but of emptiness and carelessness. Apathy was the easiest way out.

I shouldn’t have done what I did. The decision to not care and avoid risk is cowardly, even when it’s easy to sympathize with. It can cause you to not have a say in whether you care or not about other things in the future. This is what’s happened to me.

When fear turns into carelessness, it should be taken as a warning for your soul’s well-being.

During seasons of apathy when everything feels irrelevant, there is one thing that I need to be reminded can’t lose its importance: eternal truth that transcends every temporary situation.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…

Hebrews 6:19-20

Christian hope is different from other kinds of hope. Instead of looking ahead for things to get better, we’re told to look to Christ. We aren’t told to look inside ourselves and pursue the thing that makes us happy, which if you’re apathetic isn’t really an option. We aren’t told to remember that life gets easier, but instead to look to a person who lived and suffered for our hope. Because of His life and His sacrifice, we don’t have to be constrained to our brokenness, to guilt or shame or depression or emptiness or imperfection.

If our identity is found in the blood of Jesus, then carelessness doesn’t have the final say in defining us. He is greater than a feeling, or a lack of feeling. Jesus is greater than our fleeting passions and our discouraged plans.

An anchor is also needed to keep a vessel from discomfort, for even if it is not wrecked, it would be a wretched thing to be driven here and there… Unhappy is he who is the creature of external influences, flying along in the breeze. We require an anchor to hold us so that we may abide in peace, and find rest unto our souls.”

-Charles Spurgeon, a sermon titled “The Anchor” (May 21, 1876)

A life lived for Christ is one of love, and it is worth more than a life of indifference. This is why apathy doesn’t have the capacity to last forever, even if it seems like it does when we examine our circumstance. When Jesus is at the forefront of your life, apathy is too weak to last. Focusing on your situation by itself can only lead to blindness.

What we need to do is step back, and remember that Jesus didn’t live and die for us so that we would be stuck in the same place forever, not feeling as though we have the capacity to carry out His plan. Jesus not only died for those who hated Him, but also for those who didn’t care about Him. Jesus died for those who watched as He suffered on the cross, not mourning His death.

His resurrection is a promise that He will not let us have hardened hearts forever. Because He rose again, prayers for joy are not in vain. To think we won’t change is to not trust Him. In reality, we are being made more like Christ. We are being molded by the redeemer of infinite grace.

If we feel as though our lives have ended and our passion has run out entirely, we need to realize that we aren’t looking in the right direction.

We need to look to Him.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Psalm 51:12

Fight Club: A Cautionary Tale

Recently, my film adaption class studied Fight Club and for my final paper, I wrote about how the world that Chuck Palahniuk depicts in his novel is a Biblical take on American culture. If you haven’t seen Fight Club, my essay might be confusing. (It also spoils the movie.) I recommend watching it if you haven’t before or rewatching it if you don’t remember the themes. I didn’t realize how layered it was until I saw it a second time. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy it!


Fight Club Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Giving Up)

David Fincher’s Fight Club explores the depravity and internal hopelessness of man’s nature with themes of idolatry, control, and purpose through a narrative that resembles the Christian worldview. There are several allusions to the Bible throughout the film and novel alike. Chuck Palahniuk wrote an extremely anti-humanitarian story, depicting the fallenness of man.

However, he seems to mock the concept that mankind can be redeemed, making the statement that Tyler Durden, a Jesus-like figure, is only a figment of the narrator’s imagination and an extension of who he wishes he could be. Palahniuk’s novel could be called a cautionary tale for people who strive for more in life than the mundane, but depend on themselves as a solution.

While it is a negative portrayal of humanity, Fight Club displays a multitude of truths, providing social commentary and insight to our quest for purpose. Palahniuk writes about how our longing for more than indoor lives can lead us to focus heavily on ourselves, contrasting man’s search for identity with man’s search for God. The film ends with an honest realization in the narrator’s “giving up” that American culture denies in self-help books and an emphasis on therapy: we can’t save ourselves from ourselves.

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The unnamed narrator exchanges his life of comfort offered to him in materialism for a newfound god in his ideal self, Tyler Durden. It is ironic that the narrator’s personal idol is a subject of his idolatry, and that Tyler and him turn out to be the same person. He has been looking to himself for answers all along, indicating a reason why he hasn’t found any new, long-lasting solutions to living a worthy life. The narrator doesn’t want to risk anything, and decides to trust in himself, hence the line “in Tyler we trust,” clearly replacing God with his alter ego.

In the end, the narrator must surrender and give up his life regardless of what he has built in fight club, realizing he can’t even trust himself as he watches how his actions have destroyed everything around him, literally.

In the film, Tyler says, “Self-improvement is masturbation. Now, self-destruction…” According to him, trying to be a better person is purely an act of ego, a way to show people how polite or caring you can be, almost as a way to outshine others. It’s a different kind of fight club. The Protestant view of Christianity believes that good works can’t offer salvation or holiness because our sinfulness against God is too great. Overlapping with the Biblical truth that no one can be purely good, Tyler knows that it is an impossible task to become a perfect person. It’s an insincere and self-gratifying waste of time as seen in the stories about the pharisees.

However, self-destruction as an effort to discover the truth of someone’s heart is honorable and brave, because the answer as we learn later on is discomforting and grim. “Tyler says I’m nowhere near hitting the bottom, yet. And if I don’t fall all the way, I can’t be saved. Jesus did it with his crucifixion thing” (Palahniuk, 70). This “hitting the bottom” would be the narrator facing the uncomfortable answer that we are sinful and can’t work towards salvation. Until the narrator understands this truth, he can’t be “free” as he goes onto say. To do so, he first has to leave the things he cherishes, such as the furniture he’s bought overtime from the Ikea catalogues. He must abandon the life he had so that he can grow into something greater than he’s known, an idea similar to what Jesus tells those who want to follow him in the Bible. As it is written in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In order for Tyler to become truer to who he really is, he has to sacrifice a life that he realizes isn’t heading anywhere. This isn’t much to be asked of him since his apartment blew up and everything he’s known is no longer in existence.

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Given no choice but to leave the ashes of his old self behind, the narrator moves into Tyler’s place, an abandoned house with rotting walls and weak floorboards. His new home is symbolic of who he is at heart, representing the narrator’s growth. Accepting the reality of man’s nature is the first step to finding meaning in it. This could also be applied to a person’s conversion to Christianity. In any paradigm shift, a realization about the world acts as a foundation for more knowledge to be built upon. Many testimonies of faith begin with a belief that the world is broken and can’t help itself in becoming better. As Tyler says, “‘It’s only after you’ve lost everything… That you’re free to do anything’” (70). We’re given freedom when we aren’t attached to the things we put too much worth in that consequently harm us. This truth is also seen in scripture as those who follow Jesus are told to abandon the lives they previously had, leaving distractions and idols in the past.

Tyler’s removal of identities from those in fight club by collecting driver licenses parallels Jesus renaming his disciples following their conversions. In the Bible, Simon is renamed to Peter and Saul is renamed to Paul. This theme of rebirth is evident throughout Fight Club, as the nameless narrator, who is given a name in the end, talks about death and the resurrection. The death of Christ on the cross represents a renewal of those who believe in him, releasing them from the blinding confines of sin and doubt. This is how Christians are given new identities, and similarly do those who join fight club break away from their old lifestyles.

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Conversion in Fight Club is also seen in “waking up.” Early on in the film, the narrator asks himself, “If you wake up at a different time in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?” The narrator is caught between living and dying as he struggles with insomnia. Once he gets past his problem of going to sleep, he begins to take ahold of his life. He has woken up from a life without ambition and not long after, he becomes Tyler Durden.

Just as followers of Christ are told to set an example and represent their faith in the world, Tyler sends members of fight club on missions in Project Mayhem to make a difference in society. As a way to “save the world,” they have to destroy it, much like they have destroyed themselves, to reveal humanity for what it truly is. Christian evangelism is unlike other religions’ evangelism as it doesn’t intend to convert people, but instead to “plant a seed” of the gospel in the minds of others. It isn’t to make new Christians, but to bring an awareness of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Project Mayhem intends to do something similar in revolutionizing the world by changing our view of it.

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At this time in the film, Tyler has vanished and rumors of what happened to him have spread. The narrator searches for Tyler and while traveling notices there are more fight clubs forming with the legend of Tyler being passed on. The good news of Tyler Durden and fight club is being told to the nations, just as Christianity spread after the resurrection of Jesus.

It could be interpreted that beneath the narrator’s search for meaning is a pursuit of happiness. The American dream doesn’t hold up in his worldview, and he is looking for something that fulfills the void he has experienced in Ikea catalogues and 9-5 workdays. The narrator recognizes his need for a new narrative that defies the one the culture abides by. The inclusion of faith throughout Fight Club makes sense as Christianity offers answers accompanied by peace to those who believe, both of which the narrator is chasing after.

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C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “All that we call human history — money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery — is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” The narrator’s lack of happiness in his materialism fits with his disregard of faith. He abuses the church’s support groups by attending them so that he can be relieved of a burden.

His attempts to control his life can be traced back to how he lives in constant criticism of the world. It isn’t until he is told to “let go” by Tyler that he experiences contentment. By letting go, he sees things for what they are, not what he assumed they were out of an arrogant angst.

In the narrator’s death, he is humbled as he lays down the pride he was clinging to. It is much like a deathbed conversion when a person begins to understand the implications of dying and has no choice but to accept the very thing they had rejected throughout their life: faith — a worldview that requires people to rely on something apart from themselves.

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Providence > Coincidence

Yesterday, I saw two Moonie cult members evangelize to a girl on campus for about ten minutes, so I prayed they would hear the truth. I recently told myself that if I ever saw them talking to someone and they traded numbers, I would go and warn that person about their beliefs. After she walked away, I went over to her and asked what they were talking about so I could explain who they were. This was my first time going up to anyone afterwards, and it turned out I recognized her. I hadn’t spoken to her before, but I knew her face from church. It was crazy because I’ve never met anyone from church who goes to my college. It’s more than a thirty minute drive from campus. I asked her what she was talking about with them, because I was worried they were getting through to someone. She said she was sharing the gospel.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

-Isaiah 40:8

God transcends what we call “coincidence.” He is always at work. His providence and sovereignty is never-ending.

As I write this, I’m sitting outside a coffee shop in LA. Earlier, a guy came over to me because he saw me reading my Bible, and it turned out he’s involved with a church I heard about that just started nearby. He also knew some people who go to the church I attend. God has been doing this to me a lot lately. Friends from classes have had genuine faith. A group project meeting turned into a discussion about Christianity and God after a girl mentioned she had a Bible study that night. A favorite teacher of mine from middle school has expressed interest in my Facebook posts about Christ.

Glory be to God in the highest.

“In friendship, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another… the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting — any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work.”

-C. S. Lewis

Love and Apathy

A friend and I used to talk often about how we thought the opposite of love is indifference and not hate. For someone to be resentful of another person, they must’ve first loved or cared enough to get to that point. I recently realized “indifference” is a polite way of saying it. The opposite of love is apathy. The reverse of caring is not caring. A hard heart contrasts a compassionate one.

“Did I hate him, then? Indeed, I believe so. A love like that can grow to be nine-tenths hatred and still call itself love.”
-C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

We become apathetic when we forget. We get so used to the things that excite us that they lose their value. Apathy can be inevitable, unless you don’t focus too much on the wrong things. If we keep our minds on what we’ve been promised, we will never forget the coming reward that is greater than anything the world can offer. We will never lose our hope if we are reminded of an eternal joy that radically outweighs temporary happiness.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 3:14

Idolizing Life

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My Tumblr’s archive is full of aspects of living that I’ve put more worth in than I should have.

One of the biggest idols in our culture is the same one that’s easiest to justify. People tend to recognize the cost of putting too much value in the wrong things like their appearance or a relationship, but what we often emphasize above everything is life itself.

We think it’s okay to put such importance into living adventurously, because shouldn’t we take advantage of our opportunities and live the most satisfying life we can?

Even subliminally, we think it’s okay to put so much value in how we live. This is a reflection of an exaggerated self-worth. We’re told that we’re entitled to experience something more than “the simple life.” The world tells us that we deserve more than the mundane.

But if we put so much importance in our experiences, we’re basically saying that the point of life is simply to enjoy life.

According to this way of thinking, life has to make you happy for it to be worth enduring. In order for our time to matter, life has to look like a movie. You have to be active as the main character and everything that happens has to impact you in some way. We have to be in control and affect other people because otherwise our efforts are meaningless.

By putting our lives on this scale, we devalue ourselves while losing our authenticity. We don’t need to live up to these standards. If we don’t have the career we went to school for in a decade, it’s okay. In the end, our jobs and our accomplishments don’t define us and neither do our shortcomings or our limitations.

Living is about more than succeeding like the hero at the end of a story. Life is more than a character arc.

I am grateful to live for God and not for myself. I am thankful that by His grace, He stood in our place. Through believing in Jesus, I have been redefined by Him.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

-Proverbs 19:21

I remember the discouragement I felt in my freshman year of high school when a faculty member gave a presentation on the universities everyone would be going to after graduation. “You only live once, so you have to make this matter,” she said to the class. Knowing that I would eventually go to community college, I couldn’t look forward to living in a dorm room or a college town.

When I started going to PCC, I couldn’t help but be envious of everyone who had been posting sentimental statuses about moving away for school. I had lost out on an experience that I was told I was entitled to.

Except, I wasn’t entitled to the “university experience” any more than I was entitled to the “community college experience.” (Yes, we’re all entitled to an education, but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

After I realized that we don’t have to rely on our stories to define us, I started to understand that I don’t have to feel loss for not attending a university right after high school. Life isn’t about our experiences. It’s about the One who gives us experiences.

In Him, disappointments lose credibility.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

-Romans 8:28

The devil’s greatest temptation is in trying to convince us that we’ve missed out on something good, which can lead us to doubting the goodness of God. He wants us to doubt the character of the One who gives us meaning. Satan wants us to forfeit our purpose.

This is exactly what happened in the garden when Adam and Eve didn’t understand why God restricted them of the tree. The serpent questioned what God had said, and caused them to doubt His goodness. From their perspective, it seemed like God had withheld something good. The devil made Adam and Eve doubt the love and the trustworthiness of their Father who made them.

Instead of choosing and listening to their Creator, they abused creation by taking fruit from the forbidden tree. We do this when we choose our own way of living and trust our own judgement instead of choosing God and listening to what He wants for us.

If a friend bought an AMC gift card and gave it to you to hold onto so you could watch a movie together, it’s implied they want to hang out. It only makes sense that you use the gift card with them, and it’s hoped that your intent is to be with them more than it is to just watch a movie.

God wants us to enjoy life, but not apart from Him and not more than Him. We’ve all neglected His grace, but there is no true, long-lasting happiness that can be found without Christ. Our attempts at finding satisfaction or meaning in the world can never compare to the kingdom we have been brought into.

Not too long ago, one of my friends sent me a quote from the testimony of a former atheist in The Reason for God.

“While sitting in a coffee shop reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, I put down the book and wrote in my notebook, ‘the evidence surrounding the claims of Christianity is simply overwhelming.’ I realized that my achievements were ultimately unsatisfying, the approval of man is fleeting, that a carpe diem life lived solely for adventure is just a form of narcissism and idolatry. And so I became a believer in Christ.”

Relying on God

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(Like I rely on my glasses.)

I’ve been reading Mark lately, and this morning I read the two passages where Jesus says, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (10:13-16) and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (17-31).

I hadn’t read them both in one sitting before and I can’t remember hearing them preached together. I didn’t realize they go hand in hand.

After Jesus says that you must receive the kingdom like a child, there is an example that follows. A “rich young man” decides to keep the kingdom he’s built for himself rather than give it up as Jesus asks of him. The man wants to keep what he knows instead of trading it for something he’s simply told is better. He doesn’t trust that Christ, that love, is worth it.

I grew up being taught that “receiving the kingdom like a child” refers to child-like faith, and is a simple, almost naive, unquestioning acceptance of the gospel, and there is some truth in that. However, in these verses about the rich man who’s self-dependent, a straightforward acceptance of the gospel isn’t all we’re being shown. It’s a reliance on God.

When I read passages about sin or lostness, I look for a connection between them and the forbidden tree in the garden. The thing that causes the rich man to not follow Jesus is the sacrifice of his money and possessions because he idolizes what he owns, but it goes deeper than that. His need for these things derives from a pride and independence. He won’t rely on Jesus because he thinks he can rely on himself.

When Adam and Eve decided to pick fruit from the tree they were told not to go to, it was the result of their own discernment. Instead of trusting God, they trusted themselves and depended on their own judgement to guide them. They didn’t think they needed a father.

To receive the kingdom like a child is to rely on God wholeheartedly. As a child depends on their parents for a home and their meals, we are told to trust and depend on our creator in everything. The kingdom will be inherited by those who accept that they need Christ.

And he said to him, “Teacher, all these (the Ten Commandments) I have kept from my youth.”And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:20-22)

I’m not sure if the man actually knows he hasn’t kept all the commandments perfectly when he says he has, but either way, Jesus looks at him and loves him by continuing to offer the man a way to heaven. It’s an especially powerful detail if the man is intentionally lying to Jesus, because even in the moment he’s being dishonest, he’s still given grace.

After the rich man leaves, Jesus says to those around him that it’s easier for a “camel to go through the eye of a needle” than for a man who values the things of the world to follow him. To this, they ask, “Then who will be saved?” Jesus wants them to ask this, and replies, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

We’re like children, we can’t save ourselves. He has to do it for us, and he does.

This is foreshadowing what Jesus will do to pay the price of our turning against God throughout our lives. None of us have ever relied on God as we should. He’s loved us but we’ve done everything but love Him in return. We are given this ability to know and be forgiven by Him through the Son’s death on the cross.

Being “saved” or being “reborn” is the result of a person seeing and taking in the truth, and being changed by it. Regeneration is leaving the things you idolize and give an extreme amount of worth to for the only One who should have such value. Like Tim Keller has said, the solution to idolatry is “putting your loves in the right order.” It wouldn’t be right for a workaholic to put their job before their family.

In every testimony, there’s a decision made between Christ and pride. In this story, that pride came from the man’s wealth. If he followed Jesus, he would have forfeited himself and gained Christ in the process, receiving the kingdom like a child in becoming dependent on his Father.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (10:29-31)