Fasting leads to Tantrums

I am terrible at fasting. I don’t know if there’s a way to be good at it, but I definitely know I fall short of that mark. Every time I embark on a fast I realize I have the emotional maturity of a toddler after missing just one meal. For a while I rationalized why fasting wasn’t needed, after all, I can still pray and talk to God without skipping lunch. Right?

Two weeks ago I was challenged by a pastor (via his Instagram story) to fast one day a week, at least until sundown. He argued that fasting was something that Jesus did, something He tells us to do, and that it brings a focus in on what you’re praying about. Fasting also provides the added character development of foregoing pleasure, of building endurance to wait and be patient.

Knowing this discipline was something I have always struggled with I picked a day, Wednesdays. Well last week I did Thursday, but that is beside the point. I set out to hold off eating until sundown. The day progressed fairly well, I think mostly due to me spending most of the day travelling to New York from Central Pennsylvania and having slept in late. As the day drew on (mind you this was the day after the longest day of the year) I got hungry, and anxious. Last Thursday was the day I met with a potential roommate to see if the place was a right fit and whether I was a good fit for the roommate. I knew I would have a home in the City, I mean I had to, it was just a matter of it being good.

A year ago I began to get restless about where I was living. There was a lot happening and I was just ready to move out and into Manhattan. I started doing prayer walks around the Upper West Side, praying and hoping for some miraculous apartment to open up to me. I knew it would be a longer commute to the Starbucks I was working at, but I was ready to be in a new environment. As is often the case with my prayers the answer came indirectly while answering another prayer. I got a promotion.

My store manager recommended that I apply for a position as a Roaster Operator (technically it’s the machine that’s called a Coffee Roaster, I just tell the machine what to do) for the Reserve Roastery being built in Chelsea. I put it off, disregarding the opportunity. It was a different career path than what I moved to the city for in the first place, well mostly (but more on that later). Plus, I had no coffee roasting knowledge, other than it happened. A few weeks later he announced that He got the role of Operations Supervisor for the Roastery and again strongly recommended that I apply for the position. I am glad he did.

I’ve spent the last eight months learning how to roast coffee in Pennsylvania and Seattle. This opportunity has afforded me the ability for that change I was praying for, albeit not in the way I imagined. As my training drew to a close I began to think more towards housing in New York, where I would live, how I would live. I wanted to live in the Upper West Side in a studio to myself, while my promotion does have a significant pay increase, it is not Upper West Side studio level pay. In Seattle I started to get more anxious looking at different sites for places, I had wonderful friends send me recommendations as well as more sites to peruse. I had a lot to sift through and only two weeks to figure it out.

Moving to New York, even moving in New York, is not something you can plan far in advance. It’s not something you look at six months ahead, not even three months ahead. Most brokers will tell you not to even try looking until you’re within a month of your move in day. The last time I moved to the city I left on a missions trip three weeks before I had to move out not knowing where I was going to be. On that trip I met my former roommates for the first time and made a move in agreement.

Thursday, last week, I began my trek back to the city. I hadn’t eaten breakfast, nor had I eaten lunch. I determined I would meet with the potential roommate and follow it with a meal to break my fast. Life can seem overwhelming when you’re driving through Manhattan, hungry and worried where you’re going to live. I knew I would like this place, I just had this instinct that I would love the neighborhood. And part of me was bummed because I was still slightly hoping for an 11th hour UWS-Studio-apartment-in my-budget miracle, and I knew that I would love the neighborhood and want to give up on the Upper West (technically Washington Heights is just Upper Upper Upper West Side).

Throughout this housing process, I was going through this crisis of faith. Bear with me on this. I was thinking that since I prayed for an apartment in a specific neighborhood (I walked around a five block radius) and this job came miraculously God would provide the optimum apartment and it would be this great moment of glory for Him. I could say, “I prayed for this apartment, and I shouldn’t be able to afford it, but look at what He did”. So I worried that if I settled for anything less, God wouldn’t get as much glory. If I’m being honest, God’s still getting the glory, I’m just getting less, and other people won’t be as jealous of me.

I have this desire to be well liked by everyone and I want people to see that good things are still coming to me. I want people not to think, “Oh he gave up acting because he couldn’t get a part for three years”, but I want them to just be amazed at where my story is going. My vanity is at stake. Not getting the miraculous, unnecessary apartment, is a blow to my pride, not God’s glory. He still answered my prayer, and He got me a place in Manhattan with views of the Hudson and a beautiful bridge.

To be quite honest, the apartment I got is probably more what I want. It’s convenient access to the city, but feels like a slight retreat away, with some breathtaking views. I digress.

By the time I reached the potential apartment, I was hungry and anxious, not a good combo. I loved the neighborhood. I knew I would. And I really liked the apartment. The room looked big enough to house my books, there’s a washer/dryer in unit, there are lots of trees everywhere. It’s amazing. Now I just had to impress the potential roommate. I think we hit it off. Following the tour of the apartment, we went on a tour of the neighborhood, and closed off with something to drink and for me, something to eat.

I was very candid, I told him, I was interested but I would be viewing another place the following day. He responded in kind by telling me he also would be meeting with another potential roommate the next day. We agreed to confer after.

To add a little more chaos, I was driving up to Connecticut the next day to meet with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle. After viewing the awesomely located closet of a room on 80th st, I drove north. I knew I wanted the apartment in Washington Heights, I was just hoping I could eke out the competition.

I did.

In another episode of anxious Manhattan driving I was able to give the security deposit to my new roommate. I have a home.

So, back in Pennsylvania for the week packing and tidying up until I can move in. Today I am fasting. And I say this not as a pat on the back for me, or to show off how spiritual I am, but in reality to recognize how unspiritual I am, and how bad I am at fasting.

I’m hungry and cranky. It seems it has taken little time at all to forget how awesome God is, all He has done for me in dying on the cross and on top of that all He continues to do in my life. I forget these things easily because I haven’t had a sandwich.

You know that feeling when you know you’re being irrational but you can’t stop because it’s consuming your thoughts?

Me either….

But really, what I am learning over and over. God is so good and I am a petulant child that He loves anyway. He is redeeming me, rebuilding me, no matter how long it takes to wait out my temper tantrums. And He’s so patient.

I’m trying to see what’s next. I’m trying to budget better. I am trying to love people better, open up and be vulnerable. I realize over and over again that I am more worried about how people see me than I am. I panic about how people’s perceptions of me might change, and it’s funny because I don’t even know what your perceptions are…

I watched this cooking competition show and one of the contestants always seems to have it together, he makes a delicious and beautiful finished product. On one of the last episodes his dessert fell apart and he didn’t have a back up. He fell apart. One of the other competitors, was shocked and tried to reassure him. The perfectionist chef managed to put it back together. I resonated with the chef because he keeps it cool and collected until something goes wrong and he crumbles.

Fasting reminds me: I am not as cool and collected as I think I am, but God is always there for me.

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Swell

Breathe. Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe.

I’ve been here before, but it’s been a long time. I thought I was done here, done with this; I wasn’t supposed to come back to this.

Breathe.

One little thing doesn’t go your way, well and that other thing which could fall apart. Or that one thing that just consistently seems to fall apart. I’m supposed to be happy. I’m supposed to be grateful. I am grateful and I do feel happy, sometimes. Emotions ebb and flow, I tell other people this all the time.

Why does it seem different when you’re the one to ebb and flow. Waves. The tide rolls out before it rolls in.

Keep your eyes above the waves! I am not supposed to succumb to fear! I have seen so much, experienced so much, I’ve experienced miracles. I’m not supposed to let the waves bother me. I’m not supposed to be a victim of the tide. I am supposed to walk on water. I’m supposed to climb every crest, stride through the swells.

Swell. It’s swell. It is swell. It is well.

It is well.

It will be well.

I’m anxious, but…

it will be well.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

As my training in Pennsylvania draws to a close I begin to search for a new place. I was hoping to find my own place and either I am naive, currently facing a rude awakening, or to be faithful and trust God to find the perfect place. Maybe it’s a mix of both. Please pray for me, that I would have wisdom and faith bigger than a mustard seed.

This is Not what I Wanted

I can’t believe Jesus has the nerve to not give me what I want; He’s not the savior I thought He would be and yet He still calls himself good.

Growing up attending church, I consistently felt strange and uncomfortable on Palm Sunday. The Sunday before Easter Sunday, the Sunday we dressed up like first century Israelites and waved fake palm branches and shouted Hosanna while one of the guys in the church with a beard walked down the center aisle of the sanctuary (we didn’t have the budget or approval for live animals). I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the people in Jerusalem were so excited about Jesus’ arrival to turn on him five days later. Living in Southern California, I also thought it strange we didn’t just pull real palm branches down from the tree outside, but that is beside the point.

I know the story of Easter. Jesus gets betrayed by his friend, He is tortured and killed as punishment for sin, but because He was pure and didn’t deserve death, because He gave up his blameless life for the broken life, taking punishment, He broke the punishment. Jesus didn’t die. He came back to life. Some have viewed this as the first recorded incident of a zombie, but there’s no record of Him feasting on brains, so I don’t give credence in that. From my own study, I think He was alive again, with a better bod.

I digress.

Palm Sunday. Celebration. Director’s notes, “let’s have a lot of energy. This is the guy that fed five thousand, turned water to wine, brought dead people back to life. He’s the Messiah, let’s get jazzed.” So the scene is set. We’re celebrating the entrance of the King, the redeemer. Get into character. I found it extremely difficult to get into this character, finding the motivation when I thought about this same role I would play Friday night. Here I am on Sunday praising this guy and I know Friday I’ll be screaming “Crucify Him” with the rest of the extras.

Why?

Hosanna?

Let me start there.The commentary section in my Bible says that this word is transliterated to English. Transliteration is taking a word in it’s original language and spelling the same word in another language, rather than translating it, which would be to use a corresponding meaning. So, Hosanna is the Greek word used here, but it was also transliterated to Greek from Hebrew. Specifically Hosanna was the Hebrew word, meaning “Save now” found in Psalm 118:25 which was a prayer asking for deliverance from enemies, deliverance from oppression.  According to this Bible Dictionary Hosanna was part of prayer used in reference to the Passover and Feast of Tabernacles, an active prayer of gratitude and askance for salvation from oppression linking to the Exodus from Egyptian Slavery.

So, the Israelites are excited and using this prayer/praise word from their holiday tradition in reference to Jesus as the Messiah. Deliverance.

The Israelites had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Christ, the Messiah, the one to free them from oppression, and here comes this Jesus into Jerusalem the week of Passover, the week they celebrated and remembered what God did through Moses when he led them out of slavery into their promised land. As Jesus entered this town there was an expectation of deliverance, of freedom, from what, or rather from whom?

A quick google search reveals that the Romans conquered Jerusalem just under 100 years prior to this moment. While Rome is known for it’s achievements and prowess as a conquering kingdom, it’s not quite known for kindness and generosity. Some reading through the Gospel writings reveals that the general populace were not fans.

It doesn’t take a lot to figure out now why the people are so jazzed about Jesus. Redeemer. The one spoken of to take the people out of oppression. He’s their contemporary Moses. He’ll lead them out of under the thumb of Roman rule. Perhaps not a great Exodus from Jerusalem, but an ousting of military might. A would be king to replace Caesar.

What could possibly go so wrong?

Now the Roman rule allowed the people to still worship in their synagogues and follow the leadership of the religious teachers of the time, but it seems the odd government allowed for a power dichotomy from the religious rulers and the lay people (everyone else). It is the unfortunate pattern that people will use whatever is at their disposal to gain power, control over others, even something that is disguised with benign belief. There were a few individuals who were not super stoked about someone overthrowing the current regime which allowed them to wield such power.

The first story told after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is everyone’s favorite Jesus story with turning tables. Jesus is angry. He’s so incensed He causes a scene. The religious leaders have been levying their power to line the offering baskets. At Passover the people of Israel had to make a sacrifice in the temple of a pure lamb, but not everyone had a perfect lamb, so they could purchase one at the temple. Basically these offering shops were set up to abuse the poverty of the people. It perpetuated a system of economic disparity. The church remains wealthy and the people are poor. Jesus gets upset.

Okay, so off the bat Jesus is showing that things are changing. I’d assume that for the general public this is welcome, but for some of the church elites, this is problematic. Jesus also tells the story of the sheep and goats during His time in Jerusalem, another win for those in need. Jesus makes it clear that those that know Him, know His father (YHWH) are definitely caring about those in need.

So, why still did we not have Jesus as the populist King of Israel borne on the backs of the down and out itching for political reform.

John mentions a time where Jesus knowingly avoids some people because they try to force Him to be their revolutionary (John 6:15). Within the parables told between the Triumphant Entry and the Lord’s Supper, Jesus shows more of His intentions, of the specific nature of His kingdom and what the Messiah came to do. One of the most notable moments comes when some of the Teachers of the Mosaic law come to Jesus to trap Him in a bipartisan argument (Mt. 22:15-22; Mk. 12:13-17; Lk. 20:20-26). They ask Jesus if taxes should be paid to Caesar. Should the “Kingdom of God” pay fealty taxes to a conquering King? If Jesus was to say no, siding with revolutionaries, He would be committing treason. If He said yes, He was acknowledging Roman right to rule, and not the “redeemer” that people wanted.

He basically said yes and no. He called them out on their hypocrisy. The denarius was the money utilized throughout Jerusalem by Romans and Israelites alike. How could they use the common currency without themselves acknowledging Roman rule. He said, give them taxes out of the Roman currency they used. He was also cluing the people into what kind of King he was not.

I think Jesus reveals His intentions again when He is anointed in Bethany as told in Matthew and Mark. The disciples are frustrated that she would waste so much money that could be shared with the poor. Even the disciples think they know what kind of Messiah Jesus is, upturning the waste of the wealthy for the spreading of funds.

Jesus says something upsetting, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime you want.” (Mk. 14:6).

I used to think Jesus was being a little hypocritical here, uncaring about poor people. But in context with the rest of His work and words, I don’t think Jesus is saying not to help the poor, in fact far from it. I think He was actually calling out the disciples and their smug, judgment. In this moment Jesus also makes clear that though we are to help the poor (obviously should do it whenever we can) that His Kingdom is not solely about public works and infrastructure.

Hosanna!

Save us! Thank you for saving us!

Hosanna!

Jesus came to save. Messiah!

Revolutionary.

But not in the traditional sense. He’s not Che Guevara. He’s not Moses. He’s not George Washington. He’s not Cesar Chavez. He’s not William Wallace. He’s not Maximilien Robespierre. He’s not Malcolm X. He’s not Martin Luthor King Jr. He’s not Vladimir Lenin. He’s not Mahatma Gandhi. He’s not Toussaint L’Ouverture.

And historically that made people mad.

It would’ve been simpler, if He was. His death may have still been imminent, perhaps later, but it would’ve been less remembered.

He arrived the first day of the week to adulation, but He wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted to have the world change for them, but He said people had to change for the world. What’s worse, He said they couldn’t do it on their own. I think that’s what really bothers people about Jesus (I know it bothers me a lot). There’s not a five step process to save myself. I need Jesus.

That’s it. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the redeemer. Savior. Salvation. But from what? A flaw, not in the design, but in application of design. We are creatures made of physical body, mind, and a spirit. Our lives are dependent on the life force, the spirit of creator. Made for community, for love, for communion with creator. But we have to choose, that’s key in love, in relationship. There has to be freedom of choice. Which means we are free to sever ties from life, from good.

History is evidence of the choice.

If every decision we made was circumvented because it brought  us or others harm, that would not be choice. That would not be freedom. Which means for now, “the poor you will always have with you”. That means separation from good. While there is separation, a broken agreement, there cannot be communion. We can’t engage with someone we’re estranged with until someone does the work to bring unity. In this case, takes the result of separation, death, in the stead of another person. It’s like shooting up but someone else takes the kidney failure, the heart failure. We chose a high over life, and there is an effect.

Jesus did that.

So, this Sunday we celebrate His arrival. By Friday we’ll be crying for his death because He’s not what we want, and you know what, He’s definitely not what we deserve.

You know what else is crazy? He knew. He knew riding in where He was going. He went anyway.

This is why Palm Sunday makes me uncomfortable. I am in that crowd praising Jesus for being a cultural revolutionary, for upsetting the establishment, but I am also in the crowd on Friday. Angry and upset that I am not getting my way. To follow Him means I have to allow those things go. My plans. My wishes. My way. My perception that I can do it on my own. I have to allow Him to take those things with Him upon the cross. I have to admit that I should be the one with nails in my hands. I should be the one eternally separate from life, from good. And I’m angry because He loves me, does this for me willingly. He’s better than me.

I cannot save myself. I am not self-sufficient.

Once I let this go, I can live. I can rise.

Palm Sunday is a lie. It is a celebration of perception. Friday is when the lie dies. Sunday, Easter, is where truth comes to life. Throwing off the dead things that hindered me, I can run my race. I am not in control of my destiny, and I never was, but now I know the one who is and He is good.

I Give Up

hey,

it’s been a while huh? Nearly six months, right? Not much has happened.

No, wait, that’s a lie.

A lot has happened.

After fighting to get up this morning, making my french press, making breakfast, and sometime during the partaking of breakfast, I realized something: I gave up my dream again.

And it’s pretty much the best decision I made. Let me explain.

The last post I wrote was about mid-July. Probably just a few weeks later my store manager told me to apply for a job within the company. A Roaster Operator for the Willy Wonka coffee experience they are building in New York City. I brushed it off. That job couldn’t be for me. I don’t even know how to roast coffee. It would require too much and I am about to really press in with these disciplines that will show God I am serious about being faithful to Him and His calling to the city.

Two weeks later my manager told the store that he would be leaving at the New Year because he just got hired as the supervisor of operations for the Reserve Roastery (Willy Wonka coffee) and he turned to me and asked if I had submitted my application yet for an operator position. He implored me to apply. Fine, but who knows what will happen, and applying doesn’t mean I’ve taken a job.

Three days later I was on the phone with the Roastery Operations Manager. And you know the truly terrible thing? I started getting hopeful, excited, and completely full of dread. By the time my next interview came around, the interview with the Operations Supervisor (my at the time store manager and the one who insisted on my application), I was in a kerfuffle (a word which here means, stressed and excited all at once). I believed I moved to the city to join the theatre world, to act, to bring glory to God by how He took my crazy story to bring me there. Was this job turning my back on God’s plan?

Four weeks from the initial phone interview I was offered the job.

If you were to go back through some of my posts (probably my more melodramatic ones) you’ll see multiple times where God has asked me to trust Him with my dream. Where He has asked me to hand over perceivable common sense for the sake of trusting Him, believing He is the good Father who fulfills His promises. In these moments I am always reminded of a message one of my professors gave, “The Cost of Discipleship”, also consequently, the book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer of the same name. Following Jesus requires sacrifice, and without condition.

Something I find remarkable about the disciples and apostles in the Acts church is their passion for Christ and what His call looks like in their lives. They are not frequently bemoaning that they aren’t accomplishing their dreams. In fact, they just are focused on sharing Christ, of living life to bring Him glory and tell as many people about Him until His return. They have given up whatever ambition or life they had before for the sake of the gospel and they are content in that alone. Much of the historical great people of the church have the same attitude. Now, sure they all have specific desires within that paradigm: Paul wanted to preach to Romans in Rome, Luther wanted to bring the word of God to the common people, Bonhoeffer wanted to see the end of the Nazi regime in His home. I am sure there are countless others who bear a similar story, but the most notable thing is that fueling their desires is a love for Christ and a desire to be obedient whatever that looks like.

“But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22

This is my calling. Obedience, whatever that looks like.

Back to the job.

I have told a few people this already, but I have never gotten a job that I discovered and went out for. To clarify, I have never been hired for any job I found in a posting or did the proper apply, call back a week later, interview, etc. Every job I have gotten had the cards stacked in my favor, the application process was expedited or I was simply given the job. I was “given” my job at the Disney Store (I was recommended by the head honcho). I applied to work at my College’s Cafeteria, was offered a job at the coffee shop instead. I applied for an out of state Starbucks three days before moving, was interviewed and hired the first full day living there, starting work two days later. I was hired at Panera 2 hours after submitting an application. I was rehired at Starbucks after just being around the store enough (I was interviewed a year prior but there weren’t openings). This job at the Roastery feels as though it was given to me. I had an expedited application process, interviewed by the one who recommended me for the job in the first place.

I took the job.

And it was the best decision. I’ve given back my dream to God to hold. I am still working on disciplines. I am practicing piano. I do vocal warm ups, almost daily. I work on monologues a few times a week. I am practicing my Spanish. I mean I have so much free time, why waste it?

This job is one of those jobs I didn’t know I would love and be perfect for. Every day is a puzzle and when we open doors in the fall, I will be able to use my interpersonal (and stage) skills to engage customers, gushing about one of my favorite things: coffee. It’s strange because this time of “giving back” my dream I feel like I have been given another.

Looking back on this post, makes it seem to me that there is still some vanity to work out, I could not possibly compare my struggles of giving up my dream to those who gave their life for the sake of the gospel. There is a cost to following Jesus, all I’ve wanted to say is that I keep discovering how much there is to gain by being obedient and trusting His leading. If I was to hold onto this small view of where He wants to lead me, I would miss out on a lot. It’s terrifying, admitting I don’t have control, but you know what that makes it exciting.

I give up trying to do it all on my own steam.

Perhaps that’s how God does it, one day, when He sees I am ready, He’ll give me that acting gig. And I’ll get to give Him all the credit.

Not as Alone as I Think

I want to say something,  something illogical and foolish, but please bear with me. It’s been a while since I have written anything. There’s good reason for this, well no, actually it makes sense but it’s not a good reason, in fact it’s rather counter intuitive.

In the past month(s) I’ve come to realize something about me. I enjoy being around people, not ground breaking, but I need to be around people. I need to be with people I trust and I can be completely vulnerable with. The difficulty I’ve found is that though I have people around me I close myself off, in part because I worry about people’s thoughts about me, what I’m sharing, but in large part due to this feeling that I will overwhelm the people I care about with the extensive overthinking I do.

I feel as though, because I want to care for people around me who carry so much as it is, I cannot load more on their shoulders.

So the problem persists, grows, and compounds, creating an unhealthy Greg, withdrawn from the people that care for me and stewing in negative thoughts or just too many thoughts.

Foolish right?

Now, in the past to sort of “sidetrack” this issue, or for an eloquent “put together” way of expressing my internal turmoil, I blog, I write about it. (This is beyond the daily journaling I do). This way I can share a struggle, a frustration, a confusion, without true intimacy because I give it themes and metaphorical meaning, externally processing with the enigmatic wide web which includes whomever “chooses to read/hear” my stresses. Typically written blogs give an air of finality to personal struggles, like “writing about it means it’s solved, or mostly solved” which is much more manageable than unresolved conflict, which is messy.

Since I have been trying to work on friendships (or rather this is what I told myself) I didn’t want to share my struggles via blog without cluing in at least some people because then I’d get the typical former response of, “Hey I had no idea, please come to me if you ever need to talk”. I want people to know me, I need people. This is why I haven’t been blogging.

While this has been “good” I haven’t been doing my part. I haven’t been sharing.

I recently reread “Scary Close” by Donald Miller, this is now the third time reading it (I think this will become a habit). The book outlines how Don struggles with intimacy, how he’s been “performing” his whole life. He walks through his journey of discovery through his relationship patterns up until his wife. The book explores how life is meant to be shared and though it’s scary, to be known by people.

Rereading this book and a moment of clarity on a Sunday at church woke me up. My ideas culminated to a realization, I’ve been emotionally unhealthy. I realized it fully when my friend asked me why I was sitting on my own reading my Bible rather than be at lunch with my team/friends.

Reading the Bible is not the issue, in fact it’s a great thing, an essential aspect to life. It was the timing and the scenario. I timed my day in such a way that I missed lunch with my friends, in fact I didn’t miss eating, I had grabbed food on my own and then sat down to read. I told my friend as I was realizing it for myself. Because I need people to process my own thoughts with, I isolate myself when I am feeling anxious because I don’t want to overwhelm my friends with my anxieties.

I’ve been making things worse.

Last night as I was sharing with my friend an encounter I had with God this week, a moment where God was again asking me to trust Him which I was struggling to do. It was interesting though because after I shared, after I included him in my struggling and the process God was walking me through he thanked me. Not just for sharing “myself”, my process, with him, but also he was reminded of something God had spoken to him. My friend basically told me that not only should I share with people for my health but for others to learn.

Life is meant to be lived with others, to share the burdens we are not strong enough to carry on our own. To get perspective from those not within a situation, not themselves crushed by a specific anxiety. We can learn from hearing what people are processing and realize that we are not as alone as we may perceive.

Heads in the Sand

Can I speak?

No, I mean I can, but I really meant

Should I speak?

I have some conflicting ideas. On one hand, I was always told to speak your mind, express yourself, that I live in a free country and can have an opinion. In school I was rewarded for speaking up, for asking questions, for processing aloud. On the other hand, I was told that sometimes it’s better to have peace than to have my perspective shared. In this climate lately, I’ve been told explicitly and implicitly my perspective doesn’t matter, well unless my opinion reflects those who speak the loudest and most passionately now.

I also happen to carry certain identifiers that also render my opinion invalid because of the crimes of my predecessors. I’m not here to make another whiny no-one-will-listen-to-a-white-christian-male post, I’m just clarifying that lately I’ve felt less inclined to express my opinion for the fear that it will be completely disregarded, not that some (most) of the criticisms are valid. I mean it has been colonialism that have led to many of our worldly woes.

I digress.

I honestly haven’t written in a long time for a myriad of reasons. Most of them are internal. I hated repeating the whiny broken record of “Why God? It doesn’t make sense! I’m living in one of the greatest places on earth and don’t know what I’m doing. I have a dependable job with benefits that is flexible for life. I have to pay off dental bills for the fixing of my teeth. Wah”

It’s exhausting to go through the motions in and of them self to then rehash it out for others.

So my throat tightened.

My thoughts and emotions suppressed.

Left to sit.

But..

When God designed me, when he set the parameters for how I was raised, He made me to express and share. In fact I don’t function well at all if I don’t talk things out, to formulate my thoughts out loud, and hopefully with someone as a sounding board. The last few months I’ve been sick, not visibly but internally, heart sick. All the thoughts and feelings have been stewing inside and creating poison. Every now and then I release a little bit, I allow some to seep out or some of the poison lashed out, but up until about two weeks ago when I began to work on healing, I allowed poison to grow. I knew it was there but I tried to distract myself with a million little things to avoid the truth.

The thing about truth, whether personal or objective, it is good when let out, but it’s not always pretty. Towards the end of last year when I was exhausted from asking God to heal me, or bring focus, He challenged me to begin to pull away from my self medications, my distractions. I slowly began pulling them out by the root and had serious withdrawals. Most of my distractions were simple but effective (social media being king). I wouldn’t allow for a moment to go by without occupying my mind, so I began to allow myself to be bored, to not be distracted. It was awful. I was in a scary place.

I was alone, alone with my thoughts.

All those things I had not dealt with, that had lingered, now stared me down. I couldn’t face them alone, so I prayed.

Relief. Sweet relief.

I began to realize my problem, I was never able to receive healing because I was ignoring my problem, my sickness. Ignoring a knife wound and willing it away doesn’t fix it. Dressing it up in fancy wraps doesn’t mend it. Making self-deprecating jokes doesn’t heal. You’ve go to take the knife out (not immediately, in the presence of a great surgeon) and allow yourself to be patched up.

Lately, things have been getting chaotic. And ignoring it won’t help. So now I look at it and now I will process out loud. If you’ve read this far, hopefully that means you won’t readily discount my thoughts. I know my personal struggle lends nothing to my education or my perspective, but I hope it allows you to see that I am human, that I struggle and that I have some personal character.

Breathe.

The world is a messy place. You know that, I know that. It’s also a beautiful place.

It’s sick. For a long time people have liked to think otherwise, that the problem is “those people”, but the problem is those people are just like you, part of humanity, flawed, messy, and beautiful. You who argue that morality is gray, how can you say I am wrong that all humans are simultaneously capable of wonder and atrocity.

There’s healing available. Good healing. The caveat requires that we give up something of ourselves, our pride mostly. We have to all recognize how we contribute to the problem before we can figure out how to be part of the healing.

That’s the rub isn’t it though, it’s so much easier to see someone else’s problems, “Can you believe that person would say or do this thing that I abhor”, you say. They retort, “At least I don’t do that thing or think the way you do!”

Right now we have a President in the USA who is making a lot of bold moves that are scary to a lot of people. If you are not concerned with how concerned the country is, I wan’t you to ask someone why they are scared. If you are in a fever pitch with how disgusted you are, can you ask someone what fear they had that led them to their perspective? If you who scream tolerance are intolerant of another how do expect progress? If you claim to love your neighbor but won’t stop to hear their story how can you expect love to grow? Are you able to confidently accuse someone else of bias without recognizing your own limited bias?

Can I march with you if I don’t agree with everything you say or support?

Can I not march and still feel passionately?

Will you listen to what I have to say before disregarding what I have to say, without a retort ready on your lips?

What if I told you I am Pro-life and think defunding Planned Parenthood is terrible?

That I believe in the right to bear arms but I think war is deplorable.

What if I told you some of the most brilliant, open minded individuals have an accent different than yours?

I believe in empathy and understanding, but I don’t think safe spaces are a healthy solution.

Can you imagine a world, a country, a room even where people are not afraid to share their perspective for fear of being shamed or disregarded? Isn’t that what has this been about? Or has all of history just been a repeating cycle of the bullied becoming the bullies?

 

Now, this is where I become more divisive. I believe the healing we need is love. The love I refer to is not the one that is permissive, that allows children (who are still developing and need direction) to do whatever they want. (sidebar, why do we spend so much money on training and disciplining pets if we don’t care enough for our children to guide them) Not the love that is unhealthy and codependent allowing for abuses because one day someone might turn around. I mean the active, healthy good love we all need. The love that comes to us and tells us when we’re messing up but makes sure to walk alongside us when we need it. The love that gets into the ditch to help up out when we’ve slipped. The love that celebrates our victories with the most relish. The love that protects but urges us to be brave. The love that makes us our best and the most we could be.

I believe that love comes from one source. You have every freedom to disagree with my “limited” view but in my life when everything is crashing, when I am what I described above that love is God, made apparent in Jesus Christ. My attempts at good are a farce in comparison to what I have done through Him. (not ignoring all those who misuse his name and character, that is evident in their character) Jesus is my healer and the one to heal the seeping wound of this world.

 

Now you know what I think. Now I’ve just got to get better at representing Him. Although the great thing is, all I have to do is let down my guard with Him. (Which is scary). Recognize that part of me is the cause of hurt and as long as I continually go to Him I will become part of the solution.

That’s all I meant to say, I’ve gotta take my head out of the sand. I’ve gotta speak and be a part of the solution.

 

 

A Post Script for those who follow Christ as I have aforementioned. I don’t understand how we can ignore the pain and the cries of so many, even if you disagree with policy. How is the red, white, and blue greater than the Kingdom of Heaven? I thought we were not of this world? I thought we pay taxes to Caesar, honor and pray for him (or her), but we are not nationalists. We are not supposed to be Greek, Jew, Gentile but citizens of heaven? With all that how can you offer me a “but…”? I will listen, I do think the system is messed up, but never has our hope or salvation been in a political leader or policy? We cannot become pharisees, we cannot wish so badly to adopt the customs of our neighbors that we get Saul at the end of his reign, or an Absalom (at least he was of the line of David?). Why do we want a king so badly? Let’s learn from Israel’s history, not repeat it (this is not a political stance on current nation of Israel a critical view at Biblical Israel).