The tension of dependence vs. independence – How my worldview and career blend together

So false alarm…that is NOT going to be the name of this site. I’m choosing a different name, and the next good idea (of which, I have so few when it comes to naming) will result in another name change, for now. (I’m very open to suggestions!)

 

However, the reason I wanted to make this one blog post so centrally important is because, on some weird level, this one blog post is going to explain……..me. The way I see things. The way I do things. This blog post is going to explain two very core values of mine as to how I see the world. If you want to understand how I see the world (I know, I know, everybody ever wants to know how Carson Clews sees the world.) (I promise that was sarcasm, not arrogance), this blog post is basically handing you those “glasses” that I wear, in a sense.

 

First things first, I am an evangelical Christian, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. My purpose in life is to glorify God. When I successfully act like Jesus, I want people to know who Jesus is and that His Spirit lives in me. When I fail to act like Jesus, I want people to know who He is and the grace He approaches me with when I fail.

 

Secondly, my chosen career, something I’m pretty passionate about: I am a taekwondo instructor with the ATA, and I really love martial arts and therefore I really want to teach people who also love martial arts.

 

Those two elements explain the direction I want my life to go.

 

Big sidenote: “What about your wife and kids, Carson? How dare you not mention them in the direction your life is going? I mean, I understand the Jesus being more important thing but are you saying that your career is more important than your wife and family?”

No. I buy into John Eldridge’s (author of “Wild at Heart”) teaching that my wife is my companion on this adventure. My wife is not the adventure itself.

But this is a sidenote here, so I will cover this in better detail in a separate blog post.

 

So I love Jesus, and I also love teaching martial arts.

Does anybody see a contradiction in those two, however? If you look right at the surface, you’ll see this one: “Didn’t Jesus teach people to turn the other cheek? Where does self-defense get into that?”

I will cover that one later, because there is a much deeper contradiction between those two.

 

What does God want me to be about?

Let’s keep Christianity as simple as possible: Anybody in a deistic faith (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.) basically wants to do what God wants them to do. However, they believe different things about what God wants them to do.

Amongst themselves, I wouldn’t say that Christians widely disagree on what God wants…however, I would say that Christians seem to emphasize different things. Does God want me not to smoke? Does God want sexual purity? Does God want my church attendance?

Any Christian knows that what gets us in the door is faith. God wants us to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. However, it is very easy for us to forget that faith is not just what gets us in the door, but how we are supposed to live our whole lives.

At first, we figure that faith means “belief”. But soon we learn that this definition is incomplete. The book of James teaches us that faith without works is dead. Yet, we also hear stories of Pharisees who did MANY actions in order to secure God’s nod of approval…and they didn’t get it. So God didn’t want just “belief.” He also doesn’t want just “actions”.

So we find a synonym for faith that fits the biblical examples given: Trust.

Or let us use another word: Dependence. If the trapeze artist is not willing to fall into the net, his actions reveal that he does not trust the net.

What God wants from me, in a nutshell, is for me to depend on him. And to teach others to do the same. Everything else He wants from me falls into that umbrella. And anything I do in which I don’t depend on Him is out of bounds concerning what He wants from me.

 

What is martial arts about?

Most people automatically say “self-defense!” But that’s too narrow. Most people know that there is more to martial arts than self-defense. But can all that martial arts is about be “rolled up” into one concept?

Actually, yes. Yes it can. In fact, before I was in taekwondo, this was one of the questions on the Instructor Certification test:

“What is the endgoal of all martial arts training?”

The answer? “To create an independent human being.” Every single thing that martial arts teaches can be tied into that one concept.

Will a person be okay if they cannot defend themselves? Yes…my daughter Alsea is doing just fine, and she doesn’t know self-defense. But that’s because we are here, ready to protect her. She cannot protect herself.

I, personally, do not have a gun. Fortunately, other people, police and military, are protecting me. Someone will be okay as long as someone else is ready to defend them. But what happens when we need to defend ourselves?

Will a person be okay if they are not self-disciplined? Yes…as long as there is someone there to discipline them. As long as mommy is there to get them out of bed and get them to school. But martial arts is meant to take those people and make them self-disciplined. To teach them self-defense. To build their self-confidence, as opposed to them needing to find their self-esteem in the eyes of others.

 

So now, we’ve found our contradiction:

  1. God wants me to be dependent on Him. (See Judges 7…the battle with the Midianites is a prime example of that. Emphasis on verse 2)
  2. Martial Arts training wants me to learn to be independent, and to teach others to do the same.

 

…so my whole mission in life, my whole direction, is a contradiction.
…or is it?

 

Continued next post

Freedom from Freedom: Theological Freedom (Part 2 – Does everybody want to be God?)

As we mentioned last post, Jesus Christ wants you to be His slave. Do you like that? Or do you dislike that? Why?

 

We’ll come back to that later. For now, let’s get to the meat of this post.

 

Everybody wants to be God…or do they?

Christians believe and teach this: Everybody has, as part of their sinful nature, a desire to be like God. We want to be God.

However, if you walk up to an atheist or an agnostic and you say “You, sir, want to be God!” then they will say “No, I don’t.” And then the appropriate response is “Yes, you do,” followed by “no, I don’t.”

Now, for us in the first place to make assumptions as to what is in someone else’s head is the height of arrogance, and one of the fastest ways to lose any sort of credibility in the topic we are teaching about. When Liberals say “Conservatives think blah blah blah” and when Conservatives say “Liberals think blah blah blah,” they lose their ability to persuade. Words like these only incite people who already agree with them anyway.

However, if God says it, that is a different story. Because…

Prov 15:11 (NLT)

Even the depths of Death and Destruction are known by the LORD. How much more does he know the human heart!

And even if someone is not a Christian…I personally don’t know anyone who believes in God, but doesn’t believe that God is all-knowing.

So let’s go back to the scenario with the unthinking, tactless Christian and the Atheist.

Christian says “You want to be God!” The Atheist says “No, I don’t!” How can this be? As I see it, the following are the only options.

  1. The Atheist is lying.
  2. The Christian knows God said it, but God is wrong (not likely. Again, if God exists, then it’s safe to assume He is all-knowing.)
  3. The Christian thinks God said it, but God didn’t (This actually happens a lot).
  4. The Atheist does want to be God, but he doesn’t think he does. He misunderstands what the Christian is saying. (Which I blame on the Christian for not explaining his point)

 

And personally, I believe the answer is option D, although I do need to explore option C for a little bit.

 

Did God really say that everyone wants to be God?

For you Bible nerds out there who like long words that no one would ever use except for Bible scholars, we get to jump into some hamartiology (the study of sin) for a little bit.

Scripturally, I know of no time where God all out says “Every single one of you wants to be God.” So here’s where we get this idea from.

  1. Eve, when she went for the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (when sin first entered humanity, Genesis chapter 3). One of the primary temptations was the desire to become like God. The serpent (Satan) repeated what God had already told her, but Scripture also tells us that the desire to become like God was part of the equation for her.
  2. The following Scripture is written for the King of Babylon during the time of Isaiah, but many Christians believe it to be talking about Satan himself.

Isaiah 14:12-14 (NIV)

How you have fallen from heaven,

O morning star, son of the dawn!

You have been cast down to the earth,

you who once laid low the nations!

13 You said in your heart,

“I will ascend to heaven;

I will raise my throne

above the stars of God;

I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,

on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.  

14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.”
Christians believe that Satan tempts us to sin.

(Side-tangent: I believe that this can be true, sometimes, but it’s not something to be dwelt upon. Usually, I am perfectly capable of messing up all on my own, with no help from Satan. I also believe that Satan is not omni-present, and therefore he can only be in one place at once. So, he’s not going to be tempting me and then tempting someone else at the same time. Now, he’s got spiritual forces that do his bidding, however, He who is in me, Jesus Christ, is greater that Satan Himself. So how much more true with Satan’s workforce? The end point: When I mess up, there is no one to blame but myself.)

If Satan tempts us to sin, and if this is what motivates our sinful side, then one might assume that our sinful side wants this for ourselves. If Satan wants to be God, then our sinful side wants to be God.

  1. c) Throughout history, the desire to be worshipped like God has been seen. Consider Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians. Consider the Roman emperors. And man, am I only naming a few.
  2. d) There is an interesting word in Hebrew to watch out for…the word “Hillel”. Hillel means to exalt, to lift up. The word Hillel always appears in a negative context when talking about people or idols, but it has two positive contexts. 1) Exalting God (Consider “Hallelujah”, “Hallel” exalt, “lu” = a suffix meaning that the subject is “we”, and “jah” = short for Yahweh ,God’s covenant name. “Hallelujah” means “We exalt Yahweh.”), and 2) When God “hillels”/lifts up/exalts people who serve Him.

So the Old Testament sets itself against those who exalt themselves, but praises those who exalt God, promising that God will also exalt them.

 

So this is another area where although God doesn’t explicitly say that every single person wants to be like God, it certainly seems strongly implied that this desire is a notable component of the sinful nature.

 

So why do I think the answer is D?

 

The Atheist, the Agnostic, and by the way, the Christian, too, all have a desire to be God. But they often fail to identify it. Observe:

 

Tactless Christian: “You want to be God!”

Atheist/Agnostic: “No, I don’t. I’m not really interested in controlling what’s going on in someone else’s life or being everywhere at once or any of that stuff that I think God does. I mainly just want to be in control of my own life and make my own decisions about what is right and what is wrong.

 

We desire, as individuals and as a collective society, to be the masters of our own destiny. Most of us do not want to be everybody else’s God…(although a few throughout history, and a few today, do.) We mainly want to be our own God, and be in charge of our own lives.

 

In fact, if you aren’t a Christian, I suspect that you aren’t too offended by my words right now. I suspect that you are thinking, “Yes. That’s exactly what I want.” Am I right? Am I wrong?

 

If you are a Christian, however, I suspect that you are struggling. You desire to be God, but you know you aren’t supposed to. Either that, or you love the idea of God as presented to you, but the idea of Him calling you to let go of the wheel is pretty unnerving, and rather arrogant of Him.

 

God is calling you to give up your freedom and be His slave. Is that desirable or undesirable to you?

Freedom from Freedom: Scheduling Freedom (part 2)

So last blog post in this series (which was ages ago…July 18th, to be exact. I am typing this one the night of November 3rd. Yeah. It’s been a while), we talked about the similarities between time and money, and how the “Freedom from Freedom” theory applies.

 

In review, the theory is simple: We often, nay, always, find freedom when we go the exact opposite direction. When we exercise too much freedom, we often lose it.

We explored how this concept applied to sex.
We explored how this concept applied to money.

Now, we continue to explore how this concept applies to time. Let’s copy and paste a quick review of the similarities and differences with time and money.

Similarities:

  1. Time can be exchanged for money (e.g. Picking up extra hours at work, taking on an extra part-time job, or doing a one-time thing for money).
  2. Money can be exchanged for time (e.g. Hiring someone to do something so that you don’t have to, or paying a babysitter so that you don’t have to spend time taking care of the kid.)
  3. Opportunity cost: Just like money, we have to choose what to spend our time on, and choose what NOT to spend our time on. If I have $60, I cannot buy both the new Splinter Cell AND another new controller. I spend it on one or the other. Likewise, if I have 2 hours, I cannot spend 2 hours with my friend AND play spend 2 hours on a date with my wife.

Differences:

 

  1. Unlike money, every single one of us gets the same amount of time per day, and days per week.
  2. Unlike money, once we spend time, we cannot get it back.

 

So returning to our concept…how does the “Freedom from Freedom” concept apply to our time?

 

Time is invested. If we sacrifice time now to do things we don’t want to do, we can gain time later (this concept is VERY closely tied in to money). If we do not sacrifice time now, we lose time later.

 

For me, the story looked like this. I did not do homework in middle school or high school very much. I filled my time with work, church, and video games.

Now, if I was pursuing the “school” track, that would’ve bit me. If you would’ve asked me what I wanted to do, like any other 15 year old boy, I would’ve wanted to play video games all day. And I mean all day.

Imagine…the freedom to play video games all day, all week. Man. What a freedom that would be. However, two problems arise.

  1. Video games, although fun, do not have a “payoff.” This is not an example of time invested, but time spent.
  2. For me, personally, if I spend an entire day playing video games (and remember, I really enjoy video games), then I do look back on that day and feel the depression of a wasted day. The feeling is very similar to buyer’s remorse.

So, like anyone else, I “spent” some time (one might say “wasted,” but I do not entirely agree), and I “invested” some time. I invested a lot of my time into Taekwondo. I wanted to make sure that I knew as much curriculum as I could, backwards and forwards, inside and out. That investment of time paid off. But I will talk about that later. I invested a lot of my time into church. I invested some of my time into reading my Bible and learning about Jesus.

Now, being younger, I wasn’t really thinking about how I was investing my time. I was just, you know, living life. However, a difficult decision came up when I was 14.

 

I was offered a job at the Taekwondo school.

 

Now, for those of you who know me as your Taekwondo instructor, you can laugh about this one with me: I actually never had the goal to become an instructor. Never crossed my mind. However, I knew all the forms and the one-step sparring combinations. I had memorized all the weapons material and joint manipulation and pressure points and everything. So I ended up helping with classes on a volunteer basis (This was before ATA had even invented their brand new “Junior Leadership Program”). But I was there three days a week, for less than two hours a night. So when I was offered a job at the Taekwondo school, I got ready to say “no.”

Why? Because I didn’t want to teach? (I was already teaching.) No, it was really for this reason: “If I say yes, I have to be at the school for four hours. That’s, like, forever.”

Well, as the story goes, my instructor is a confident person who was quite hard to say no to. And to this day, I’m glad I didn’t say “no.” Because the reason I would’ve said “no” would’ve been to protect my free time.

Which I would’ve used to play video games, hang out with friends, and play more video games.

 

Fast forward: Because I made that decision, I am now starting to experience some freedom in scheduling…but not a ton. Because if I spend too much time as “free time,” I won’t be at the school enough to build good relationships with students, new and old. I won’t be able to generate enough income to pay the bills AND enable my wife to stay at home.

 

That’s me…but what about you?

Some people took a similar track, in a different career. I know people who slaved their days away to become doctors or lawyers, but now that they have landed a higher paying job, they have the freedom to…a) work many hours and make lots of money, or b) work regular hours and make good money.

To summarize, slaving their time away early set them up to have more freedom later.

I also know people who spent too much time “spending” their time rather than investing it. They avoided that job that worked too many hours to protect their social life. They wanted to be “freed up” to do stuff, but that freedom didn’t last forever. They, like me, chose video games over homework, but they didn’t luck out like I did with the taekwondo thing. And their entry into the adult world was difficult.

And I think that each of us finds ourselves somewhere on that spectrum. My darling, beautiful wife is way more on the “productive” side of the spectrum. She dislikes wasting time. I cannot, despite my best efforts, get her into video games. She does, however, enjoy watching TV on Hulu and Netflix. However, just the other day, she was telling me about how many shows on Hulu she is simply not going to watch NOT BECAUSE the show wasn’t interesting to her, but because she only had enough time to watch a certain number of shows.

Some of you spend a little more time watching TV than I do, and a little less time “investing” into things. But that little less “investing” is still plenty enough to make sure that you can enjoy your future.

Some of you spend less time than I do on recreational things, and you invest more time bettering your future. And it will pay off, and you know that.

 

Back to me…

For me, a time investment that would “buy me back” time in the future would look like this:

  1. Bettering my instruction and business skills at Taekwondo. If I can keep more students and clientele by making fewer mistakes, I could spend less time replacing lost students and lost income.
  2. Training staff and instructors. If someone else can do what I do, then we can either have two of us doing the same thing (thereby doubling the output) or I take a break while they accomplish the task. Either way is good…but the point is that time “invested” buys me the “freedom” to choose one of those two options.
  3. Financial investment. If I did not have to sacrifice “time” for “money,” then I have now bought back a certain “freedom” to spend time how I choose.

 

Now, one thing I want to cover, especially if you are one of my taekwondo students reading this. I love teaching taekwondo. If I had enough money to retire without working, if I didn’t HAVE to teach because I already had enough money and could do whatever I wanted, I would still teach. I would not run away to some tropical island and laze away my days. I would not camp out in my room and play video games forever.

 

What I would probably do in that scenario is teach about four days a week, do a little more ministry for teenagers in the name of Christ (because although I love taekwondo, I love Jesus more), and spend more time with family. If I wasted a whole day with video games, I would look back on that day feeling kinda sick, thinking “man…what do I have to show for that day?”

 

That’s what I would do. Investing my time now could mean buying the freedom to do that later. Playing too many video games now will definitely NOT result in that later.

 

What would you do…if you had complete and total freedom with your time? Just curious…

 

Disclaimer: Some wisely make present sacrifices for future gains…and some wisely make present decisions at the expense of the future. “Wisely, Carson?” Yes. I mean that.

You see, unlike the present, the future is not guaranteed for us. So in consideration of this fact, we must remember: BOTH extremes are bad. Woe to the person who sacrifices his present for a future he never sees. Woe to the person who destroys his future by freely squandering all his time on the present.

I believe that it is good to invest into the future, but I must never fall into the “I will serve God later” trap. The “I will give to God when I make more money” trap. We will never feel like we have enough time. We will never feel like we have enough money. Let us give God the proper portion of what we DO have.