Archives For relationships

Why Resolutions Fail

Erik Cooper —  January 12, 2011 — 1 Comment

Let’s face it, most of our New Year’s resolutions have the staying power of a Pauly Shore movie.  Some of us have already quit. The rest of us are seriously thinking about it. Stats say only 8% will survive.

The noble promises of painting something new and beautiful on the blank canvas of a New Year make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but they’re rarely matched by a true inward transformation. So they shrivel and die on the guilt-ridden pile of unsustainability (usually around January 30).  Maybe next year.

If we made socially honest New Year’s resolutions, the list would probably look something like this:

In 2011 I resolve to…

  1. Buy Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace book and put it on my coffee table
  2. Attach the LA Fitness membership card to my keychain (and show it for free chick-fil-a sandwiches on Wednesdays!)
  3. Fan more socially conscious Facebook pages (social networking has made it so easy to seem like I care)
  4. Retweet more spiritually sounding Twitter follows (Rick Warren is a solid retweet. So is Mark Batterson.)
  5. Write “stop drinking so much” on the pages of my personal journal
  6. Fill out all the columns on my online budget form (and maybe next year I’ll even find the resolve to implement it)
  7. Write more endearing, vulnerable blog posts about helping my wife more with the laundry

Let’s face it, we love the outward overture. The declaration. The noble desire. The appearance of change.

Rarely are we willing to pay the cost that leads to true transformation.

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist had a few strong words for some people who thought noble overtures trumped transformational reality:

“Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin!” -Mat. 3:7-8 MSG

It’s your life that must change, not your skin.

Yet we continue to sprinkle little droplets of resolutions on the surface, expecting them to clean up messes that are hidden deep down inside. It just doesn’t work.

Beyond simple behavior change resolutions, what needs to be transformed at the core of your life in 2011?  That’s the only kind of change that has any kind of staying power.  And here’s the bonus: If you’re willing, Jesus is just waiting to do the work in you.

“[Jesus] will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.” – Matthew 3:11 MSG

And that’s a change that will last past next Tuesday.

Lonely is at Least Safe

Erik Cooper —  November 29, 2010 — 3 Comments

You must risk what you fear the most, to gain what you long for the most.

It’s a truth any entrepreneur understands. But it’s reality for all of us.  Risk to gain. I’m especially awakening to this in the area of relationships.  Even my closest ones.

We all long for deep connection.  To know and be known. It’s hard-wired into our DNA, evident since Adam and Eve walked naked in the Garden of Eden.  Man was created to be real, exposed, authentic (“I’m out there, Jerry, and I’m loving every minute of it!”).

With each other.

With God.

But sin created a gap, and like Adam and Eve we cover up.  The essence of our true selves still (somewhat) there, but shrouded to expose only the “acceptable” parts. The partial me.  The pieces I want you to see.

Because the rest brings shame. The rest becomes a target for judgment and ridicule. And who can blame us? We have a history of destroying one another through exposed weakness. So stay covered.  Stay hidden. Lonely is at least safe.

And therein lies the risk.

You long to be known as you really are. In all your weaknesses. All your insecurities. All your fears. That’s a risk, and risk means it may not work out like you planned.  In fact, it may not work out at all.

But are you willing to risk what you fear the most, to gain what you long for the most?

Don't Miss The Point

Erik Cooper —  September 15, 2010 — Leave a comment

Healthy human connections are a vital part of developing a relationship with God.  We need people. We need the Church. We weren’t designed to live life alone. (Acts 2:42-47)

But it’s possible to be connected. To make friends.  To build your entire social network around the life of the Church. To pursue and cultivate solid, Christian community.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Knowledge of God’s Word is imperative for living a life of worship to the Creator.  The Word is truth. It’s our lifeline.  It’s living and breathing, able to transform. (Heb. 4:12)

But it’s possible to ingest a bazillion sermons.  To devour every Christian leadership book.  To fill our minds with endless volumes of spiritual information. To memorize countless Scriptures.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.

God’s people are concerned for the poor. They have a heart for justice.  To take on oppression.  To make a tangible difference in their communities, their cities, and the world around them.  It’s a Scriptural mandate, and the natural outflow of a heart truly transformed by God. (Is. 58:6-9, Mat. 25:31-46).

But it’s possible to volunteer.  To serve.  To raise awareness.  To take action against injustice.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Community. Knowledge. Justice. Without Jesus, these noble goals can end up leading to a lot of self-gratification and self-righteousness.

But as the outflow of an honest pursuit of Christ, they become powerful. Meaningful. The cultivation of true relationship with God, and the fruit of an undeniable connection to the Vine. (Luke 13:6-8)

So what’s your goal? Relationships?  Knowledge?  Social activism?  Great.

Just don’t miss the point.  It’s movement towards Jesus that matters?

“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)

Fifteen Years Ago

Erik Cooper —  July 29, 2010 — 11 Comments

Fifteen years ago today, I woke up early and went for a jog.  I’m not a runner (and wasn’t then either), but it seemed to be the most logical way to unload some of the nervous energy pulsating through my veins.  After all, I was getting married in a few short hours.

It wasn’t the anxiety of losing my manly independence, or the question of whether I was committing my life to the right woman. In retrospect, I think I feared my ability to become the man she needed me to be. A husband.

I don’t know that I’ve arrived, but I do know one thing:  If I had it all to do over again, I would still choose her.

We’re far from perfect. We disagree, irritate each other, communicate poorly, act like broken humans.  All the things other married couples do.  But love is where we’ve made our home. And love miraculously devours a multitude of dysfunction and self-centeredness.

And from that love, the most beautiful things have emerged. A life, a home, three beautiful children, (a handful of irritating little dogs), and a willingness to follow the voice of God on some of the strangest and most risk-filled adventures.

After 15 years, I couldn’t love her more. Her wisdom and ingenuity.  Her faith in God (and somehow in me).  Her willingness to sit through bad action movies and (sometimes) even pretend she likes them.  Her commitment to our children.  Her ability to give up security for the sake of obedience to God’s voice.

But most of all, I’m grateful that every morning when I wake up, she still chooses to be there.

I’m the luckiest man alive.

Not just because we made it 15 years.  Because these first 15 are just a small sign of what’s yet to come.

I love you Mandy.  If I could do it all over again, I’d still choose you.

Happy anniversary.

Goodbye Maddie

Erik Cooper —  June 23, 2010 — 6 Comments

If God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), then He’s certainly taken up residence in our house today.

Yesterday, our neighbors of 10 years loaded a truck and relocated 8 hours away to southern Missouri, victims of a recession-driven job loss here in Indy.  I know I know, lots of neighbors move.  But aboard that giant truck was their 13 year old daughter, who over the last decade felt like she had become ours as well.

Maddie went everywhere with us. Came in and out of the house without knocking.  And even though our families are from starkly different faith traditions, she became an older sister to my kids.  None of them remember life before Maddie.

Now she’s gone.

Skype calls and text messaging will never replace the beauty of proximity, and now an empty two-story house sits as a constant reminder that we never really were in control of this life anyway.

Holding my sobbing little girl yesterday afternoon was an all-too-real incarnation of this harsh reality:

Directly or indirectly, relationships will hurt you.

The pain is raw.  And like a candle that has been extinguished, the temptation is to let the wax get hard, to coat over and encapsulate our vulnerabilities so we never feel this way again.  To stop loving.  Because with love comes the potential for great pain.

It’s easier to stop caring. To stop entrusting.  To stop pursuing.  To stop risking.

To stop living.

When we instinctively avoid our pain, we unknowingly compress our joy.  We don’t just stop feeling the hurt, we stop feeling at all. We become calloused.  Hollow.  Lifeless.  We think it’s safer there among the “dead.” And that’s a battle I’m not willing to let my children lose.

So goodbye Maddie.  Whether our lives are separated by a wooden privacy fence or 500 miles of interstate highway, you’ll always be a part of our family.  The joy of your presence was more than worth the pain of your absence.

Today we willingly embrace them both.