Giving Up: Coming to Terms with No Longer Trying

Trying too hard not to try.

No.

Working too much at not working?

What I’m endeavoring [how many words in the Thesaurus can I find for attempt] to accomplish is to not work like I can accomplish what I want to accomplish.

Nope, that sounds wrong, too.

Here’s the problem. I have this desire at the very core of who I am, to matter, to do something worthwhile in the world. It’s the manifestation of wanting to be well liked, I think. You see, if I do something so amazing, people will have to stop and look to say, “Wow! What a guy, he has done something. I wish I could’ve done that”.

The problem is Jesus.

Jesus, for those of you not familiar with Him, was this great guy who did the biggest thing possible. Not only did He live a perfect life, loving all sorts of people along the way, but He also died for a crime He didn’t commit to break down a barrier between God and man. He accomplished something by dying, that men everywhere had been attempting for centuries, for millennia. Then He came back to life, as the piece de resistance. 

This is why I can’t be great, because what could top that?

Now, I’m sure you’re saying that I’m setting myself up to an achievable standard. I’d agree, but to me how can you say anything else is great when  such eminence (fancy word for greatness) exists?

Nothing I do can compare.

But I can try, and try I do, but you know what? When you stand next to perfection, everything looks shoddy.

What’s worse, He wants me to be great too, that’s the whole purpose behind the amazing life He lived, so that I could live similarly. But, as I have said, I cannot do it. He must do it for me, He must set me up and I have to in turn trust Him for this to happen. If I get my ruddy fists on it and try my might, it will only amount to dust.

I have a desire to be worthwhile to the world, to make some difference. I have to stop trying and start trusting.

This little rant came about from a recent rerevelation. I made up this word to signify that I have had this revelation multiple times and try as I might, I always forget it, if I don’t consistently remind myself. I believe I am a pretty skilled individual and I know I have certain talents. One of my biggest strengths is my aptitude for learning. I absorb information very quickly and I am able to typically understand it well, just as fast (apparently not in this life lesson, though; I digress). I also believe I am charismatic or charming. Having these skill sets it may be a wonder that I have never gotten a job that I was interviewed in.

Looking at my work record, none of my work opportunities came from a traditional: application, call/check to show interest, interview and follow up call. I find this odd knowing my mother worked so long in Human Resources and knew well what companies looked for and how to be hired. The only jobs I have worked have had miraculous circumstances, whether it be knowing well a senior level boss, being hired off an application, being hired living a state away, being chosen for a more desired role over the one I applied for, etc. All of my work life has been miraculous at the start. In fact, many of the opportunities I have had I did nothing to warrant receiving them. The places, the roles that I have pursued and did deserve, I did not get.

It would be a wonder why, after looking at these patterns, I’d try at all.

The voices in my head. The voices telling me that nothing is owed to me and that I must work to achieve or earn anything. The same voice that tallies gifts from friends, money from strangers, and favors from loved ones, tallies to pay back eventually. I haven’t had a difficult life, but one of the lessons I have known a long time is you need to work to achieve a goal.

While I am learning that the world is not always so black and white in that way I am still trying to reconcile this idea. I am trying to do enough good to outweigh the good, or even just meet the weight of the good done that I don’t deserve. To even try and earn the grace given to me. But Paul is very clear that you cannot earn a gift, and grace is a gift.(Ephesians 2)

I think God is expanding that viewpoint for me, but I’m scared, and this is where it gets ridiculous; I am worried that if I finally come to terms with the free grace of God, how much He wants to give to His children, then people would think I am not doing as much as I ought to. I am worried about what people think. I am worried that I will live my life with so much freedom, expecting my God to do so many amazing things in my life, that people will call me crazy and delusional. That I will be seen as lazy and living off the gifts, the bleeding hearts of others, that I can’t manage life on my own.

Here’s the rub, it’s true. I can’t. I wasn’t meant to. Neither are you!

I will never be great, I was never meant to. It’s hard to let that die, that image of being worthwhile. Jesus will always outshadow me, and the more I live in the freedom He provides the more attention He’ll get for it. People will see how little I am doing and as a result see how much He is. That’s what life is all about.

I can’t handle life. God can. If I admit this, allow Him to run the course, life is easy. I no longer have to try. I’ll just take each day in and walk it out.

So…I guess that’s it. I’m giving up. I am done trying.

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You’re Wrong, I think

I have a problem with the concept of safe spaces.

I’ve been toying around with this idea for a while. Letting these ideas ruminate. I didn’t want to share my thoughts if I was feeling particularly incensed about something. I tend to neglect someone’s perspective or feelings. when I’m upset or angry. My next move was to share following the conference I served at last week, I’ll share more on that later. The turning point was yesterday when my anxiety spiked again for no reason, well a reason I can’t quite pin down.

Safe Spaces. From what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Safe spaces are places where people can feel free to express themselves without disagreement. Now, as long as I am not vastly misunderstanding the premise, I have a problem with this in practicality and conception.

We live in a world of many different people each with their own identity and thought processes. That’s honestly one of the most beautiful aspects of humanity, or so I believe and have been told. When we are all different that means we will not all agree. One could argue that the existence of difference does not necessitate conflict. How can you tell me you have conviction in your beliefs and thoughts if it once does not ever cause you to come into some conflict?

You only need to look at the current political climate here in the USA to see how contentious disagreement can be, how differences can cause dividing lines. While it is nice to say that everyone should live in disagreement and not contention, I think it is a pipe dream, unrealistic and like I mentioned it means that people show little or no conviction. A personal observation on the polarization of the country: as long as we keep vilifying people based on information provided by those who are paid according to sensationalism, we will never see eye to eye.

Safe Spaces. While it would make life easier to have a “safe space” where only my opinions are shared, where everyone acquiesces to my particular frame of mind, it would severely limit me, my life, and in turn my world around me. More than just unrealistic, safe spaces lead to lives stunted, growth in egoism and as a result partisan factions. In fact, I’ll say that “safe spaces” are mini fascist communities.

Before you grab the pitchfork, think about it. All those novels and movies about dystopian societies feature similar narratives: sameness. No one like’s the sameness that is imposes on them, but if all conflict is stymied, then those with differing opinions to the popular thought are silenced.

Conflict on the other hand provides opportunities to learn, to see a situation in a perspective distinct from your own. Conflict brings a challenge that either helps you fortify the way you see a situation or amends it. There are so many metaphorical examples in nature that reveal this to be true. When a smith forges he (or she) uses intense heat and force to bend metal to the shape that is desired. Diamonds require heat and pressure to form. Purity in gold comes through heat and time. People are refined by conflict, if they allow it.

A bird will never learn to fly if it never leaves the nest. A caterpillar will never become a butterfly if it does not endure metamorphosis. I will never become stronger if I do not push my limits. I could never learn to swim if I left the shallow end.

We are refined in fire if we allow it.

No, conflict doesn’t feel good and oftentimes it requires time, but the things in life that are “worth it” need both. Our active participation allows the difficulty to change us for the better, whether that means our perspective is changed or strengthened. We have to be willing to face the difficulty and walk through it.

Well, I suppose this is unfair to just say “I walk through difficulty and grow every time” when in fact every time I face conflict on my own I buckle under the pressure. You see, I cheat. I depend on someone that is capable of so much more than I am able and He does the heavy lifting making sure I know I’m not alone in the conflict.

Last week I served at a rather large Church conference in Brooklyn New York at the Barclays Center. I was put in a role in which I was not prepared. My experience going in was on a much smaller scale, so this was beyond my skill or ability. And you know what, I soared. I felt, in an indescribable way, that I did well, despite the circumstances. I could regale you of the pressures of trying to seat about 5,000 (one night nearly 8,000) people in a venue within 30 minutes with very specific instructions, leading others who lead others, listing out every struggle from lack of sleep and food to rude and inconsiderate guests, but it would pale in comparison to the experience of it.

I was out of my depth, but I came out with stronger skills and intuition. While I believe anyone and everyone can grow in their lives, in character, in whatever way by being open to risk and trying, I believe I was able to make great strides because I had someone bigger than me helping me along.

But this is why safe spaces are harmful, we are not allowed to be tempered by fire.

Yesterday was a difficult day. It would have been nice to shut myself up and demand that no one require anything of me, but that is not realistic. We live in a world of people and responsibilities and we cannot run from them to shelter our precious psyches and personal comforts. I was forced to face life, to face my difficult situation and I’m still breathing. The circumstances haven’t changed but I have to allow myself to be tempered.

Now, to those who have serious psychological maladies (self-proscribed or clinically diagnosed) I believe the same is true for those. In my own experience, when I give into the anxieties, when I shelter myself from the world, there is no improvement, perhaps a slight abatement, but now growth or progress. (Now is when I would get told I don’t understand, or my struggle obviously couldn’t have been awful enough or else I wouldn’t say such. My challenge is twofold: 1. Using your logic, you cannot tell me what I have experienced is not significant 2. Before you get defensive take a moment and process my thought before disagreeing. I don’t have a problem if you disagree, I may be wrong, but please listen to what I have to say before you shout).

A safe space.

Now, I’ve hinted at how I cheat, now I will give you the full breakdown. If you immediately disagree, you have understood nothing, and there is nothing that I can say to change that. I hope one day, you will be able to digest someone’s words without immediately disregarding them.

My safe place. Jesus. It may sound cliche, but it’s real. I am not always so good at going to Him, but I am getting better. You see, in the Bible, He promises that His burden is light (Mt. 11:28-10). Now that doesn’t mean we get to disregard the conflict, that we ignore it. Contrarily, there are many times when Jesus says life will be difficult, but if we walk with Him, if we seek Him, if we talk to Him, cry out to Him, trust Him, argue with Him, find rest in Him, then we can face the furnace and come out stronger. I cannot face most conflict alone. I need God there with me every step reminding me who He is, who I am and that these situations just mean I am being refined, becoming better.

I believe Jesus is the best and final solution to life’s troubles and I will tell you that, but I will also listen. How else can I grow?

Intimacy Scares Me

and let me tell you why.

The concept is fine. The practical is terrifying.

That you would willingly yield up a part of yourself for others to know, and for some individuals you’d gradually share more of you.

Is there a point to intimacy, a point where you’re known so much and so deeply that there is nothing else? Is there a bottom to this well?

I’ve been mulling on this idea for a while now. I believe that if there is a bottom, it’s so deep it’s not quantifiable. I think on these things because I am coming up into to familiar territory in the patterns of my life. I am coming to the point where an edge is coming and I don’t know what comes next.

Perhaps another ponder: Is there a depth to myself that I am not aware of consciously? Could there be parts of me that I don’t know but perhaps others know?

Back to the edge.

I am feeling a certain kind of way, a way that I feel every so often. I am living life, doing well, facing difficulties, sometimes feeling victorious and sometimes not. I am living life walking with God, doing my thing (well trying to do His thing as best as I can) and I come to this place where it feels like I am standing in front of a door. Now, I know I am meant to walk through the door, but I am uncertain of what I will find on the other side, and I feel slightly anxious, or rather slightly apprehensive. What could be next?

I recognize these feelings when I have been praying a lot for something, but then it’s like something in me refuses to hear a response, or I find myself distracting myself with either trivial or negative habits. It’s like a weird comfort habit. I read my Bible, but I try not to pause and reflect too long on any passage. I worship, or rather I sing songs. It’s as if I take a moment to tell God that He’s already gotten rather intimate in my life and I’m not sure if we should go further, perhaps just be good acquaintances.

I feel as though I am beginning to sound like a terrible Christian. Please bear with my candid ramblings (if you are even reading this, perhaps this is just a method of processing).

Today, as I was lifting my hands in worship, I felt this overwhelming feeling as if the Holy Spirit came up and embraced me. I realized it felt slightly uncomfortable, but it was so nice.

God created me, and you for that matter, to be in relationship with you, to get to know me (you) in a proverbial sense. I mean, He knows everything about us, as He made us, but He wants to go through the process of getting to know us, of living the ups and downs of life with us. In that process, He wishes for us to get to know Him. His character. His love.

This scares me. This makes me uncomfortable.

I believe I have some unsavory quirks, some annoyances, limitations, asinine hangups. I am uncomfortable with Him wanting to know me because of this. I am uncomfortable with this because I’ve gotten used to my hang ups, the things that comfort me, but are harmful to me and others.

Because that’s the thing of it. When we grow closer and more intimate with God, when we allow Him in the spaces He’s already aware of (and doesn’t love any less because of) we allow His character to be present in front of us. And when we are exposed to Him, to His character, His love, we cannot remain unchanged. We begin to look like Him.

There’s this part in “The Chronicles of Narnia” book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where after a character, Eustace, has become a dragon due to his greed and he sits in front of Aslan ashamed at what he’s become, remorseful for how he has acted. In one of my favorite passages in a book, Aslan tells Eustace to pull off his scales, to which Eustace attempts, dismally. After no success, Aslan says it must be Him to do it, that only Aslan had the power. When Aslan does begin to pull off the scales he tears them out with His claws, Eustace reels from the pain while exulting in his transformation. In this moment, C.S. Lewis paints a picture of what God does with us, tearing away our brokenness, which while hurting leads to healing.

I tell people all the time that sometimes we need to be in places of discomfort to grow and become better. Perhaps I should take my own advice, plus I’m pretty sure it’s going to be better than anything I could think of or imagine.

It’s time for the next thing,