See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.
– Ecclesiates 7:29
This week on our Porcupine Mountains trip, I have had the chance to spend a lot of time outside and enjoying creation. We have hiked mountain trails, walked through old growth forest, crossed rivers, and swam in Lake Superior – a lot! All of this time in such a pristine environment has really made me think about what it must have been like in the Garden of Eden. I saw all of the decay and rot in the woods, and I know that man has been trudging around there for centuries, but it felt so clean and untouched. It was lush, green, and full of life! The Garden was like that, and man had been put in charge of it all.
Man was formed by God’s own hands, was given his breath from God Himself, and was even created in God’s image as a reflection of His glory! He was intended to live a life in close relationship with God, to know Him, be with Him, worship and glorify Him. Where did it all go wrong?
John Wesley eludes that a lack of contentment was a factor:
“(Adam and Eve) Were not contented with their present state, but studied new ways of making themselves more wise and happy, than God had made them.”
We still do that today. It is sad that just like us today, Adam and Eve were searching for a complete life when the fullness of that life was right there. We look for life in the transient things rather than in the sufficiency of God and who He wants to be in our lives.
I have been reading Vertical Church by James MacDonald this week, and while He wrote it in regards to the church, I am a part of the church, and this book is very easily applied to the life of an individual as well. MacDonald would probably agree that Adam and Eve were looking at their lives with a horizontal perspective rather than a vertical one. When we do that we will drift away from God. It doesn’t happen quickly, but it is a subtle shift filled with “good” things that pull us over time. Eventually we have drifted so far from God we struggle with guilt, habit, and regret that will keep us from going back.
So, what am I supposed to do about this verse? Well, I see it as a call to a Vertical life. A shift in perspective that requires a new action in life. Horizontal living is passive, but Vertical takes work! It means being purposeful. Intentional. Every moment of every day is a chance to be Vertical!
This week I have come face to face with my need to get Vertical. I see there are several areas in my life that could improve if I did get Vertical:
- My own walk with God
- My relationship with my wife and kids
- My career
- My friendships
- My church
These are all important, and that is where I have always struggled. I keep working so hard at trying to keep the right priorities that I don’t get any of them done the right way and I go horizontal. And as Solomons said at the beginning – that takes us downward. So, the first step is to see the problems with my prioritization of life events:
- Discipline – I struggle with making myself do the thing that needs to be done.
- Discernment – It is sometimes very hard to pick the right thing to be doing at any given moment. I’ll let the urgent get ahead of the important.
- Distractions – There are many things that pull at my mind. It isn’t so much that it takes me completely away from a task, but it will pull a part of me away that will keep me from doing a task to the best of my ability.
- Delight – Some of the things I have to do are just not things that I want to do. It might be that it is not fun, or that the “payoff” is negligible or so delayed that I lose heart in it.
- Doubt – Is the thing I am doing even worth doing? Does God even care? Is He going to come through on His end?
These five things that I struggle with show the horizontal thinking that I have been struggling with and how it has infiltrated just one aspect of my life – prioritization. I wish that was the only thing it had gotten into, but it’s not. I have many more of them, and some of it goes back a very long way. Evidence of it comes out in the most unlikely places, but that is a story for another time.
It all boils down to this. I am a man. I was created by God, and while I have a sinful nature, my innermost being longs for what Adam had in the garden with God. While I will never know what it is like to live as a sinless man, I can choose to not live a life with a horizontal perspective that will lead me downward in my character and away from God.
I can choose to live Vertical. I want that lifestyle! I want to think of God being at work in all aspects of my life. I want my thoughts to be on Him and how the things I do impact the Kingdom. That is my goal. All I have to do is keep looking up! Focus on Him and what He wants FROM me as well as what He wants FOR me, and seeing all of that in light of what His Son has done FOR me and Continues to do IN me and THROUGH me. It should all come back around to Him!
I hope these thoughts impacted you in the same way they impacted me. If they did, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to message me or leave a comment below. It would also be nice to encourage each other as we go Vertical!
In HIS Grip,