1st and 2nd Peter are two of my favorite books in the Bible, both for the numerous passages meant to encourage those in the darkness, but also because of strong apologetic defenses in areas like biblical inspiration and the security of one’s salvation. My pastor has been preaching through the first chapter of 2nd Peter for a few weeks now, with last week discussing more on whether or not we are increasing in crucial discipleship steps of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. (see 2 Peter 1:3-10)
To be honest, I’m decreasing in all of those areas, and the result is a depression that has been bothering me for more months than I can remember. It’s no wonder I fear failure in all my heart’s desires (cf. v.10).
My web presence has decreased because I’m shutting down. If I weren’t obligated to blog each week, I probably would have stopped months ago. Energy is limited and I’m trying to do all that I can to read and write (I’d say “in my free time” but I really just do it all the time), but my stiff neck refuses to read the Bible after my morning devotions. Something has to change, because I’m not enjoying my life. I’m overwhelmed with the fear of failure, and I don’t have the stamina to keep doing what I’m doing.
Mondays are often inspired to change my life based on the sermon I heard on Sunday. But I often don’t maintain my lofty goals. I’ve said that I wanted to spend an hour each day getting back into Greek and Hebrew, and that didn’t stick. Well, this week’s lofty goal is to read my ESV Study Bible from cover to cover, making sure to stay up to date with the lessons I teach in Sunday School.
Looks like I’ve covered “virtue” and “knowledge.”
Since graduating seminary, Bible reading has been a dismal percent of my daily reading schedule. My excuse has been that I am bored reading such familiar stories and epistles. Seminary, and all the Bible and biblical reading I did while enrolled, was one of the best times of my life, but I may have gotten burned out. Add to that a change of plans from preparing for ministry to preparing to be a novelist, and it made more sense to make the majority of my reading fiction. I still read my Bible almost everyday (and when I say almost, I honestly can’t remember the last day I didn’t read my Bible, but there might have been a couple that slipped through).
All that to say, I am desperate for a way to challenge myself without taking too much time from my fiction reading. This new plan includes reading the footnotes and introductions within the ESV Study Bible. With the jumping that our Sunday School curriculum does through the Old Testament, this may be too much for me to read to be caught up by my lesson each week, but I really enjoyed what I learned today reading through Genesis 2.
Two notes in particular that inspired me:
Gen 1:27: “So God created man in his own image…”
In the notes, it says how in the ancient Near East, “the king was the visible representative of the deity.” This struck me with memories where I was not a visible representation of my God, (i.e. knowledge enforcing virtue toward self-control). Meditating on that was nourishment to my soul, and I had true joy for most of the day. When I didn’t, I was closer in mind to the joy I had this morning.
Where the notes point to the part of 1:27, “male and female,” it says,
“Other scholars have concluded that humanity expresses God’s image in relationship, particularly in well-functioning human community, both in marriage and in wider society. Traditionally, the image has been seen as the capacities that set man apart from the other animals—ways in which humans resemble God, such as in the characteristics of reason, morality, language, a capacity for relationships governed by love and commitment, and creativity in all forms of art.”
Yes, I’m discouraged by getting story rejections and realizing that one novel isn’t exactly going to free me from my day job, but my main source of discouragement is the struggle I have in my marriage. Depression is taking its toll there, and the fear of failing in marriage is crippling at times. I’m not failing, but self-doubt sometimes tells me I’m doomed to living by myself, growing a nasty beard, and talking to pigeons .
The good news is, “if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (v.10)
As this passage says, I’m created in the image of God, which means I have the “capacity for relationships governed by love and commitment” as God does with us. This encouraged me today to increase in all the above-mentioned steps from 2nd Peter, concluding with love, so that my wife is happy and God is honored by my leadership in our marriage.
That the notes also mention “creativity in all forms of art,” is just icing on the cake. My passion for writing should be an extension of God’s image in me. Reading this today inspired me to be joyful. It was a good day (in spite of someone spoiling my NFL game). And I wrote over a thousand new words in my novel.
I’ve learned that instead of fearing failure in marriage and writing, I should fear decreasing in the above steps because then I realize what I need to work on. Saying, “I need to improve my marriage,” is too ambiguous, and therefore daunting.