Becoming Chris Kamalski

"There's a Writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us" ~Don Miller

Tag: Preferring Paralyzation

Is It Really Possible To Live In Mental Victory?

(A weekly portion of a book I am slowly writing entitled “Preferring Paralyzation,” which I hope to publish in some form in 2012!)

I want to deny watching Grey’s Anatomy, let alone often identifying with various characters on the adult soap opera to the point that I wonder if Shonda Rhimes is stealing from some secret journal that I forget writing. A few seasons ago, Cristina Yang, an uber-talented surgeon with a penchant for self-destructive behavior in her personal life (HA! I’ve just described myself, most people in their 20’s, and every single character on Greys!), was talking her best friend, Meredith Grey, through yet another personal crisis when she remarked, “Being aware of your crap and overcoming your crap are two very different things.”

Pause TIVO with the emerging realization something profound has just been said. Shake head in the ridiculous of my life imitating a soap opera, or vice-versa. Rewind, suddenly aware that I am no longer passing the time with a TV drama, rather, the Spirit has spoken, breaking into the stupor that is my reality.

A similar experience took place a few weeks ago on my morning run. Shaking off the previous night’s slumber as my feed stumble forward, enjoying the bustle that is life within the South African capital, I observe life moving all around me. Africans catching taxi minibuses to work, haggling over a piece of fruit from the corner street vendor, all the while greeting each other with a sense of communal unity that still unnerves my deeply individualistic tendencies, I often find myself floating through the streets, a ghost temporarily residing among a people who understand relationship far more profoundly than I.

In this midst of this run, I suddenly remember that I am listening to Beth Moore speak to 20,000 + university students at the most recent Passion Conference. As if my awareness and the Spirit’s timing suddenly step together into the same stride, I hear Beth thunder “Is it really possible to live in mental victory?” Pause iPod in similar manner, thunderstruck at the rhetorical question that I often struggle to answer myself. Anticipating that she will move forward content to simply let this question linger, I am surprised when she breathes, then answers her own question.

Of course, Moore says, although most of us life in a manner that witnesses to the contrary. Not only is it possible to live in sustained, consistent, increasingly powerful mental victory, but there is an accompanying freedom that the Spirit intends to become normative to the point that I come to know it as basic to life in Jesus. She then proceeds to quote a familiar, yet misapplied Scripture: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Pretense is “an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true.” Digging into the Latin root, as any good word nerd does (:-)), pretense carries the root definition of “one who pretends,” as if claiming to be someone who we are not in our core. In this light, the Corinthians passage is profoundly illuminative in describing the fight that is on my hands to achieve the freedom that my mind so desperately wants, yet rarely experiences in the course of a normal day. Contextually, Paul builds a cadence throughout this passage that describes the contrarian weapons by which we arm ourselves, a fight completely different from the manner in which the world escalates conflict. Central to his argument is the reality that the battlefield is not actual physical ground (nor one’s family or friends, as he articulates in another epistle), but rather the landscape of the mind that Christ has freed, yet we have to claim as His.

Yet we have to claim as His.

That is the entirety of the challenge, and in a short phrase, the journey we walk into life with Christ. It is our responsibility, through partnership with and empowerment by the Spirit, to demolish arguments and every false claim that goes on the offense against the way of God, which leads to life, peace, freedom and joy. False pretensions arm themselves against one’s knowledge of God, attacking the battlefield of the mind in an attempt to circumvent a life of responsive action in the reality of the freedom Jesus promises us.

The language of these short verses is stunning in its subject matter as well: “We demolish arguments and every pretension.” “We take captive every thought.” “We will be ready to punish every act of disobedience.” Paul builds his case for our participation as not merely the passive recipient of Jesus’ restorative work in our lives, nor as submissive assistants to the Spirit’s control of our actions, but rather as co-laborers with the power of Christ flowing through us. It really is up to us…if we live in the reality that the person of Christ dwells within, and through me. The burden of responsibility falls squarely on our shoulders to claim, believe, deny, believe again, and gradually live into the reality that Jesus already knows…which is that we are free in Him!

Oh how deeply I have lived, remain in, and expect Jesus to do the hard work for me. To be clear, I am not speaking of the salvific work of redemption, cleansing, and restoration Jesus accomplished on my behalf while suffocating to death on a Roman cross. Rather, I am growing in the realization that as Jesus defeated death and then stepped fully back into life, resurrected completely, so must I.

Mental victory is not only possible…it’s the only path forward for all who walk with Jesus throughout life. It’s our new norm. It’s the foundation on which we stand, the new landscape that fills our mind. The journey of transformation I now trod forward in rehearses the freedom that has already been promised to me. In other words, “sanctification rehearses salvation,” (John Coe). I am practicing what is already mine!

The Chicken + The Egg.

(A weekly portion of a book I am slowly writing entitled “Preferring Paralyzation,” which I hope to publish in some form in 2012!)

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Re-telling the winding story of my engagement to Maxie this past week to a close friend, I found myself marveling at this thought: Which came first, the reality that I was about to ask a South African woman to marry me, a seven-year journey culminating in the turn of a doorknob, or the story that initiated this action to the point that I found myself standing in front of said door?

Seven months prior to getting engaged I scribbled this feeble thought in my journal, the first peek into a reality I have come to know fully this past week: I want to be married by the end of 2011 to Sarah Magdalene Van Der Merwe. Next to this bold declaration lays a classic qualification of my fearful mind, in which I comment to myself that “I want to feel what it is like to risk and to step out in the largest thing that I want.” Below this declaration and the back-pedaling that quickly followed it was a series of phrases that sketched out our wedding day: Bulb lights hanging from wires, a spontaneous dance party filled with laughter and the voices of children singing, Chris Brown’s catchy lyric (“I gotta feelin’…that tonight’s gonna be a good night…” ) floating through the deepening night sky as if magic were all around us. As I imagined this fantasy playing out with my wife and I spinning over a dance floor, tears flooded my eyes and I knew in my heart of hearts that marriage to Maxie was what I most deeply wanted.

Yet I was so far away from that moment. How does a story flickering through my mind’s eye become reality? I remember at that moment purposing to pursue Maxie in small ways as I never before had, deciding to give her 11 images that depicted our relational journey as our 11-month anniversary approached.

Donald Miller couldn’t be more accurate when he writes “A general rule in creating stories is that characters don’t want to change. They must be forced to change” (A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, p. 100). I forced myself towards change that evening by simply penning the words “I want to be married by the end of 2011 to Sarah Magdalene Van Der Merwe.” As I stared at those words in my journal, it’s as if they suddenly came to life. My question then shifted from a doubt-filled, fear-ridden fantasy of “Do I have what it takes to marry the woman I love?” to “How do I move forward with small steps towards marrying the woman I love?” A subtle difference, no doubt, but in reality, the entire ball game turned as I began to walk forward in momentum towards the change I wanted to see become the reality of my life.

A few days later I gave Maxie her anniversary present, filling her room with images from our relationship. Strangely enough, they told a far different story than the one that often remained stuck in my head. Scenes of laughter, intimacy, silliness, romance, shared adventure…in short, the stuff that fleshes out the sort of marriage we all deeply desire to find with our spouse. Flipping through the photos with a sense of nostalgia, reminiscing about different moments in our relationship, reality was undeniable: We loved each other deeply, and were walking together in a shared story that wasn’t supposed to end!

People are afraid to choose a better story, because though their current situation might be bad, at least it’s a bad story they are familiar with. So they stay” (Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, p. 101). Standing in front of Maxie’s bedroom door early one Saturday morning, moments before I was going to kneel before her, asking for her hand in marriage, I felt that old sense of fear try and rise once more in my soul. What if the reality I am choosing, that I so deeply want, is actually a fantasy I am creating? What if I am meant to linger in the familiarity of a bad story, remaining comfortable in the presence of such long-term ‘thought friends,’ albeit terrible ones at that? Fear and paralyzation have proven to be safer than the risk inherent in actually living one’s life in reality, stopping me from creating the small scenes that coalesce into the life I so deeply desire to live.

Gazing over Maxie’s living room once more, a sea of warm candlelight flickering over the petals of fresh flowers, I chuckled to myself at how completely a story I had created was becoming real. Reality was merging with fantasy, and I was no longer content in the safe confines of my mind. I turned the door knob to Maxie’s bedroom door, walked inside, and gave her my storyboard.

It was time to choose life.