Pipes, People Reading and Broken Controllers

I love pipes. Not PVC or organ pipes, I mean tobacco pipes. There’s just something about them that attracts me.  Maybe its the distinct and wonderful smell that hits you whenever I walk into a pipe store, or maybe it’s the almost ritualistic and methodical way that they are cleaned and packed and maintained, maybe it’s the way the smoke looks as it drifts off aimlessly into the sky, carried by whatever breeze is coming through, or maybe it’s the way you feel more intelligent, civilized, and contemplative whenever you’re using one, harking back to images of MacArthur, Sherlock Holmes, Emerson, Hemingway, C.S. Lewis, Tennyson, or even Tolkien, sitting and gazing into the distance deep in thought and relaxation, whatever it is, I just like them. I’ve had some of the most deep and meaningful conversations while sitting around a fire enjoying a pipe. I tend to attribute this to the relaxing quality they seem to bring out, or maybe it’s because its one of those things that requires time and slowing down, who knows. The point I’m making is that when the pipes come out, some meaningful discussion or deep introspection is bound to happen.

I’m a obsessive over-thinker and people reader. Many people have told me this, and I’m keenly aware of it. Over-thinking things can often lead to some pretty negative conclusions, depending on your point of view towards the world, and being able to read people can be a very humbling or even discouraging experience. So often when I talk to people I can tell by their faces and their eyes that they don’t believe half of what they are saying. They’re not really doing good, their parents aren’t really doing well, and the situation they’re in isn’t as peachy as everyone thinks. Real genuine honesty is really hard to come by these days, and often when we do experience it we’re so taken aback by it that we don’t know how to react. It’s a slightly frightening thing to realize that this person really means everything that they are saying.  Reading people has often led to disappointment. I’ve been able to see within 10 minutes of a conversation that the person across from me has no real interest in exploring the notion of having a real relationship with me, and that’s a sad thing to be able to know. But on the other hand it’s made me appreciate the few who are honest, and the few who do genuinely seem to care, it’s allowed me to filter out the falsehoods. Over-thinking because of what I’m reading is a dangerous thing. I often play out 5 different outcomes based on what is being presented to me, be it either truth or fiction, and more often than not I think myself into a corner and find myself suddenly surrounded with worries or stresses that really do not matter. Cutting through the jungle of unimportant stress and worry is hard. What I’m trying to get at is the concept of control.

I can’t control hardly anything if I really get down to it. I can control when I put one foot in front of the other sure, but if my leg gets injured that control gets taken away. I can control when I point my finger, but if I lost my hand then I’d be giving the world a “nubs up”, and those aren’t nearly is fun. We honestly only have control because God allows us to have the very little that we have. It’s like we’re playing a video game and the controller keeps shorting out; we’re only allowed to do so much. And too often we think that the thing we have been given is control over ourselves. If we try to do anything on our own under our own self-control we’re going to fail every time. You can’t make yourself hate doing drugs, you can’t make yourself hate the way you treat other people, you can’t will yourself to hate looking at things on the internet that you shouldn’t, you can’t will yourself to stop lying, and you can’t make yourself want to start loving unconditionally, the world doesn’t work that way. You can’t give yourself negative feelings about your actions, because our sin nature is too corrupt to reach a unselfish conclusion on its own. Conviction doesn’t come from us, it comes from God. And conviction is God’s way of yanking us back to reality and saying “Dude, you really have no control over this… I do. Now I think you should stop this and let go and move on”. Telling a kid to have self-control and to behave well is only effective if they think they’re going to get something in return, and when that happens the entire attitude behind self control becomes self serving. God desires for our motivations to be pointed towards him first. And he desires to do things with us, hand in hand. The Christian faith isn’t you running alone and God’s waiting at the finish line. He’s there right beside you the whole time, whispering in your ear and telling you to get up whenever you fall flat on your face, and he has infinite compassion and patience, because we do that falling thing a lot. God wants us to be relational to him. If he wanted to be totally uninvolved in our spirit and lives he would have just tossed Adam in the Garden and watched him like a rat in a cage. But he instead walked with Adam side by side. Thats what he wants.

I’ve had to ask myself a lot of questions lately: Am I transparent with people? Do I really try to like people when I first meet them? Am I giving up control and letting God lead me all the time? The answer is that I’m working on it, and in reality I’m never going to reach that finish line here on this planet. I’m only going to be doing all those things 100% all the time whenever this body is long in the ground. But I have the hope that just by my heart being pointed toward the things of God as often as possible, that God is more than willing to take my hand and help me along, and that will make this world all the more bearable till I’m finally through with it. That’s the hope that letting go gives me.

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