Strange Confessions: I am petrified that I am being forced into a position to make another wrong choice in my life, as well as the fact that I think it might be God working in me for another major transition ahead.
Since I’ve been a Christian there have been some decisions in my life regarding a major purchase or job change or how we raise our children that I attempted to listen to what God would want me to do, but ended up feeling the pressure of a deadline or dissatisfaction or I just plain didn’t have the patience to wait for a clear picture. So I found myself in many peculiar positions of getting what I thought I wanted, yet it turned out to somehow be a cosmic joke played on me with added strain added to reveal the impertinence of my actions. I won’t go into it all now, because A: I’m not sure if I’ve already told you about some of these situations I’ve put myself in, and number 2: the stories behind these decisions is not the point.
My point is that these last two sermons I have absorbed these past two weeks have revealed in me the perilous point I now find myself in. I did not write at all week last week because of a funk I’ve been under. Let me just say it outright: I’ve been selfishly depressed.
The Perspectives course I have been taking, which started out grand, has rusted the gears in my mind because of the view I hold of myself. Who am I, that I could possibly begin a journey that would lead myself and my family to a point of excitedly getting to experience a culture that would be both a challenge and a blessing, to share our lives with people outside of the framework of our own wearisome culture? That is my thoughts my friends. Yes, don’t start convincing me of the argument that God uses the weak and the foolish and the blind, for I know all that. It is my Performance Record that gets in the way.
Work has been the other great “sign” or “challenge” or “prompt” that has given me the idea that things are pushing me to another change. Yet is it just me being more and more dissatisfied with work that I want to leave or quit or even get fired just so I have an excuse that it really was God pushing me? I really do believe that the way things are going at work, things are going to quickly come to a head and a decision is going to have to be made about what are we going to do next. Then I look at my Performance Record, and I see that maybe things aren’t as light at the end of the tunnel as they seem.
My 16-year-old daughter has been driving more and more lately, and she is very unsettled in the way it is so difficult in planning for her to work some, earning extra money for the college degree she is planning on and we have outright told her there is nothing for her from us in that regard. I failed out of the high school all my family went to, lost the grant I had in college due to selfishly staring at my navel through the drug-induced haze pouring through my mouth, couldn’t do well enough at the community college to strive and push myself into the betterment of who I always thought I could be. Then I jump from job to job, not climbing any corporate ladder I always convinced myself wasn’t for me and find myself in a managerial/design position I knew was a home run, but is drowning in the excess of poor communication and a series of managers not close enough to delve into the whys and hows of the complexities I have tried to convince them of, but find that every issue I bring up is my fault and my problem to handle, because after all, didn’t I take a class for that? I want to provide to my children the means to succeed if not the funds, but it seems that the mists of my poor Performance Record is finally catching up with me, and is convincing me that it is too late to do anything about it.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the sermon recently had something to do with a performance record of sorts. We have gotten into a series on Galatians, and last week was about the “Reversed” gospel. There were people going to the territory of Galatia convincing the new Christians that there were things they had to do to earn God’s favor. There were 4 points or acid tests that summed up the focus of the sermon, things that we had to take and see if they were true in our lives, to see if we were following a “reversed” gospel:
- Fear of man: Who am I trying to impress? Where do I gain my approval, acceptance and security from?
- Internal Power: God called you. Are you forgetting that when God speaks, action follows? Whose power are you relying on?
- Illumination: Do you truly understand what the gospel is? Where are you gaining your understanding?
- Relationship: Are you delving deeper into a relationship with the one who saved you, or abandoning it because it is a duty to serve Him, and not a delight?
When he spoke about who I am trying to impress or gain approval, acceptance, security from, I thought I don’t care about what other people think about me… but that isn’t true. I either want people to know me better from reading what I write and approving of it or, I dismiss them altogether if there is any semblance of rejection. I realize that even as people gain what they need from other men, avoiding them so that you don’t have to face rejection is another way of saying you thirst for man’s approval and not God. Sometimes it is even the case when you feel superior and reject all others as dumb or uneducated or filthy, that you might not be giving people the opportunity to reject you, and thus, you respect the opinion of man… in a roundabout subconscious sort of way.
My Performance Record is terrible in this instance.
And thus, we come to it. Yesterday’s sermon also had 4 points. We looked at the question of how do we really know if we’ve been converted. The four points in this instance were:
- Performance Record: Are you concerned more with what you are doing than who you are?
- View of God: Are we putting our idea of who God is and putting against what we see in the Bible, or are we accepting the change of view in revelation of Him. If God is a god we have created in our hearts than that god cannot change who we fundamentally are. We will always struggle with our “mistakes” rather than our sins. Paul understood that God would never become a man, that God would never cease the sacrificial system. When Jesus came to Paul, he asked the question that held it all for him, “Who are you Lord?”
- Relationship with Christ: There is no try in Christianity, there is just be one. Our failures don’t make us who we are, our relationship with the one who declared, “it is FINISHED” makes us who we are, and we should start behaving like we believe it is done instead of always trying to please Him.
- Who gets the glory? Are you taking the credit for what God has done in your life? It is the man who understands the Weight of His Glory who has been converted.
Understanding the concept of the Performance Record really resonated with me.
Our entire society is based around the concept of what we’ve done, and we believe it is the same with God. God reveals our performance record in the sermon on the mount. Have we killed anyone? No. But have you hated or gossiped about someone? Have you committed adultery? No. But those who have looked upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. And it is about our heart, right? Not our actions. All of us have sinned and there is that chasm that separates us from Him. I look at the performance record of my life and it is the failures that are glaringly obvious. It overshadows all. Light should light up the darkness, but the darkness of failure seeps in like an oily smoke, distorting the view of all the successes, the things that should be my focus. Oh, what a terrible, tortuous thing it is to compare ourselves with others. To see friends and family going past me, the weight of failure keeping my eyes downcast, only seeing the shadows that could have been. I need a Scrooge or a George Bailey moment to see the light… no, I need a God moment everyday. I need a wonderful wife moment, a beautiful children moment, an incredible fellowship group moment, a home with a roof moment. Woe to the weeds of life that are so tall and out-of-place that the eye is drawn there, and this change that is just over the horizon makes my sorrowful performance record give weight to all the doubt, fear, hatred, dismay, discouragement and failure that is the past.
LORD, take this weight from me. Work in my life and through your word and through your people to renew the hope I know is just under the surface, waiting to sprout again. Bring about the reminder of a life that is eternal with You right now. The weight of weariness I see in the world everyday is not reflecting your glory, it is the beauty life in your people who I need to reflect on. The thoughtfulness of my wife, the joy of my children, the concern of a friend. You are in them all, reflecting the things I need to see. I know this weight is a lie. You are the truth, You are the Way, You lead me to comfort and peace. I take over and lead to failure and sorrow and You stand apart, waiting for me to look up into Your face. I love You for showing this truth to me in the way You have given me. Thank You for Your Spirit, alive and living in me. Show me Your way, that I may walk with You, and be where You are, no matter where that is. Thank You God, Thank You!
Strange Confessions: I would much rather have a conversation, or hang out with those of the 6-18 year-old set. Adults make me very uncomfortable, and I seriously don’t make it easy for them to talk to me.
Since I became a Christian, I have always known that I have been blessed with the ability to relate with those of the younger type. Back in Utah I would try to recruit people to become an AWANA leader. One of the answers that really surprised me was, “Kids really intimidate me.” I’d stand there, shocked and amused, wondering how in the world kids could expose these people’s insecurities in such a way. Kids are the most honest people on the planet: they have nothing to hide, and they say what is on their mind. It has always been so refreshing to me, to not have to interpret what they are saying, whether or not they have some agenda, or are just trying to make me feel better. I have even had kids tell me that I am fat. It was annoying, but they told me the truth, as they saw it. I enjoy any time I can hang out with kids, finding out about them, playing with them, teaching them, learning from them. It has been a little different here in West Plains, but, you get right down to it, and kids are the same everywhere. I’ve held some pride in this gift and have given God the glory for it. I’ve always believed it was a blessing. Until last week… when I started to question my motivations for avoiding adults.
I’ve talked about in previous posts about another church family joining with the one we have recently become a part of, and now there are lots of kids in our congregation. Lots of new names to learn. Lots of new friends to find out about. Another commitment I’ve made, when we have joined here, is for me to be more involved in people’s lives. You know, the iron sharpening iron deal, the relationship with peers, the making myself available for discipleship, the being an integral part of our congregation. Essentially, being the hands and feet of our Lord here on earth. I know, I know… perhaps part of that is having a great relationship with the children in the church. But, last week, I annoyed myself.
Before I explain about the crazy thoughts that went on in my head last week, I want to explain again, one of the many purposes of this blog: I write, to find out about myself. I get the idea in my head that I want to tell you something, something short and sweet. But, my brain works out things as I type, and I need to discover something that my subconscious keeps tap-tap-tapping away at my conscious part of the brain about. I need to understand this thing, and I need you to understand this thing too. I started this blog knowing that not many people would actually read this, and that is fine, so when I say “reader” or refer to “you” it just may be me that I am talking about. Well, whatever. I am a strange one, and I’ve never attempted to hide it. So, onward…
We have been having meals after services every week. It has been a chance to share a meal with those who have heard the same sermon we all just listened to, and to discuss our thoughts on it, sharing our lives, concerns and praises. I get my plate, look around the room and pick a spot that looks the most comfortable. The most comfortable is usually a table not full yet, but has people at it who can talk well and are already involved in conversation. I can sit, maybe answer a, “How are you doing?” question or two, but then I just blend in. I’m like camouflage: hidden among my surroundings, keeping the attention away from me. I am a professional conversation divertée: ask me a question, I’ll answer mildly, then ask the person next to me something a bit deeper, transferring attention with ease. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s not that I don’t want to really know people, or let them know me, it’s just that the standard situations we make to figure these things out are incompatible to my personality. Give me a pool table and a pitcher of beer and I’m a go! Set-up a game night where it goes deep into the night, to reveal Mr. Goofy-pants, and we’ve bonded. Take a hike on a strenuous trail together, friends for life… well, for a time: a good time I promise, maybe.
I suppose I had some more to say before I got to what happened last week. Remember? It’s about writing, about finding out more about me… Hmmm… sounds a bit narcissistic, no? Oh well, that was addressed in the last post. Whatever.
There is a lot more kids at church now than there was a few weeks ago, and they go out to play when they quickly eat up their meal. Since there are so many now, some might get in a bit of “trouble” out there. I’ve decided to make myself an adult chaperone. I go out and watch them, organize plays, have a bit of fun myself, talk to them, know them. It felt a bit like an excuse. It is a bit of an excuse. It is so much easier, so much more comfortable, so much more fun; to be with the youngins. My wife even asked me, “Are you ever going to be in with the adults?”
One of the reasons we came to West Plains, is because our life was “easier”, more comfortable in Salt Lake City. We only really knew, I mean, really knew that, was a few years of living here. Now, here I am choosing the easier, comfortable, fun way. Instead of the hard, uncomfortable, work that I need to do, to be the Christian God is calling me to be now; I’m taking the easy, wide road.
And I did it again this week. In fact, a couple of guys came out today to talk to me. They asked me how I was doing, what is going on… I gave the easy answers. I’m feeling a bit ashamed. One of them was the pastor, or head elder, (I still don’t know what to call him), I was about to tell him my thoughts, then my wife came out… probably to save me from some embarrassing statements on my part. I have to get out of this position. But, I have to admit that I don’t really know how to do it. Do I tell them this whole bit? Well, not the “whole” bit, but just my difficulty. I’m feeling like… no, I shouldn’t. I’m not like normal men. So I shouldn’t think that something that separates me from the others would be the thing that binds us. I appreciate where we are now, I just don’t know how to move on.
I have a very fulfilling relationship with the small group I have been a part of for the last couple of years. It has been only the last few months where I have truly been able to open up. Sometimes I believe I’m sharing myself deeply, but for myself, it might have been what I believe they may have wanted to hear. Which may account for some of the depression and lack of desire to attend for the first year or so. I protect myself by being open to the point of driving people away. I see that now… as I write. I do not want to be this way anymore. It is too fake for me. No, nevermind… I am moving beyond this, slowly.
One thing I do know, is that God knows what I need to do. He will lead me and guide me. I thank God that He is on my side, He is even on their side. I know there is no superficiality in their dealings with each other, I want it to be that way for me. Perhaps I do need to be a bit open about what I think, just limit it until things get… easier.
But not too easy.
Matthew 9:36 “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”
Being a sheep can be very wearisome. And, in the second half of my youth I had discovered new ways to stray as far as I could from my future, true shepherd. I had found many wolves to follow, to be a part of, to give my life over to. I had no purpose, no path lit up guiding me, showing me the way. My parents never forced me to finish anything. I failed at school, sports, music. Whatever was attempted was never important enough to see through. So those things never became important, never became purpose. Yet because of what I learned growing up Catholic, I knew there was a God. Perhaps He wasn’t impressed by the ceremony of Mass. Maybe, He wanted us to find out for ourselves the way we should go. I had heard many things about how drugs opened up parts of our mind we never even use. This was the way for me to go, to figure out a prime purpose. I had always believed myself to be destined for some amazing purpose. I had narrowed them down to two choices: to be abducted by aliens, or be in prison my whole life. Some picks, eh? But, drugs offered me so much more.
I started in with the cool kid in elementary school: smoking weed before baseball practice in 6th grade. Moving on to hanging out at the mall, carrying paraphernalia, getting busted. High school was well met with more divergent groups, leading me further astray from school, from family, from what was decent and right of my moral learning in the private schools I’d attended. They were all seeking some way to escape from lameness or to be badder or it was just who they were. I was seeking a purpose, seeking solutions, trying to expand my knowledge, in very many ways to escape from what I saw as a hopeless life leading to abduction, imprisonment, death, or worse: priesthood.
Failing out of Judge Memorial High was a conundrum of the highest proportions. I had failed where everyone else in my immediate and extended family had succeeded. The connection with this Catholicism was broken. My God was gone from me. He no longer had this hold on me that kept the slightest check on my behavior. Yet, where was He, why had He allowed myself to go this deep, this far away from Him? Maybe I needed it. My parents were definitely upset, but it didn’t seem as earth shattering as I thought it was supposed to be. It was some sort of release. I had more freedom. To go where no one else in my family had gone: public school. (I believe part of my parents attitude was relief: JMCH was expensive, and sending four children there was quite a drain on their meager finances.)
I began at Brighton High School meeting a friend from St. Vincent: Kenneth F. He was a slight outsider at St. Vincent; people thought he was dirty and shaggy. He was called the Bushman. I don’t know why he left, I liked him, but forgot about him when he was gone. He only went to school there to about the 6th grade. It’s strange how people disappear in our lives. I didn’t think about him for years, and now here he was, needing a friend as much as I did. The experiment in expanding understanding continued in new and unusual ways. This was soon a part of who I was, my identity. We’d get high before, during and after school. His mother had rented a room to someone who turned out to be a drug dealer. We’d break into his room and steal stuff. He’d have weed and mushrooms. Getting high and staying high was my main goal this year, this single year I had with Kenneth. It was marked with drinking, with wandering the neighborhood at night, with climbing the nearby mountains in the frozeness of night, but we didn’t care. We had no feeling. We were getting rid of feeling. No discussions, no learning, no building, or growing occurred this year. All memories fade from this time. It was all a frenzy of acquiring and consuming. Then Kenneth moved to Maine.
In this time I soon started perfecting the art of my depression. All depression is, is the art of self gratifying inwardness. At least it was for me. With Kenneth gone and not much drugs to be had, all I had, was myself. I had no God. He had deserted me. I went from full awareness of filling my time with a friend in need of me as much as I was of him, and the drugs and alcohol that kept us laughing, ignoring what I sought through the beginnings of drugs, to complete awareness of what a failure and how lost I truly was. My time in high school continued, with a friend here or there that provided me what I needed, never continuing the pursuit of meaning, of purpose. I got drugs or alcohol from them or my brother. My brother saw what was going on inside me, at least I think he might have gotten a glimpse, but he had his own life to lead.
Going to Utah State University, entering into the Forestry department, didn’t help matters much. When I was in high school, the mountains were my true escape. I would go up there with the intention of getting high, then feeling all paranoid and getting depressed, I’d go home and seek solace with food. It was the times that I went hiking, without any drugs, that I truly felt something fit, that I belonged there. I filed it away in the lock-box of my selfish brain, not really knowing what to do with it. What could I do with it? What purpose did it fulfill? Besides solitude, it gave me some exercise, some challenge. But, to fulfill what? It wasn’t until the college choices came up that I thought, I like hiking, I like the mountains. Maybe Forestry is what I ought to get into. Besides, USU was some distance from Salt Lake City, but not too far. So, I went. Deeper in to self I dived. I needed people, yet no one needed me. I was disillusioned by the Forestry department, I was depressed and isolated in the dorms. I went to the place where I could find people: the Fraternity my brother was a part of. It was a brotherhood, right? So, I did what I knew. I took drugs when I could find them, drank whenever it was offered and isolated myself in my room. Here all sense of purpose was gone. My main focus was finding something to eat, someplace to sleep, and get away from all the failure in my mind that I knew this was headed toward.
No part of this University experience was right. It was the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong people, the wrong me. College was not a gateway to a brighter future for me. It was a confused place of darkness and mockery. Where people pretended like they cared, then they left you lost, alone, depressed, directionless.
From the 6th grade to a few years after losing my grant at Utah State University, I was so deeply involved in who I was, I had forgotten there was a world outside. Year after year grew more wearisome then the past one. My mind was scattered and I needed guidance. I needed purpose. I needed God in my life. And this is where Part 3 will take up. Hope comes home at last.
Luke 15:4-7 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lay sit on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
- My Life, My Testimony: Part 1 (strangerinrebellion.wordpress.com)
He walked down the dark, dank smelling hall, seeing the light coming in through cracks of the awkwardly leaning door that was ahead of him. As he reached it, he gingerly lifted his hand to caress its cold hard surface. The padlock that was always there was gone, the hasp oddly twisted. Flakes of metal paint was coming away from dents slightly marking the surface. The bending twisted dent angled up toward the hinge on the other side, exposing grey metal, looking like some strange, rusted canyon of the future. He pushed the door open hearing a kink in the movement only felt from badly fitted doors. Outside sat two of his brothers, not by blood, but by the bonds of fraternal consensus found at universities. These guys frightened him in a way. They seemed so much older, so sure of themselves, so knowing, like they could see into him, his thoughts and especially his fears. That is what he was afraid of; that people would discover his fear, and expose it, laughing as it flopped there on the dirty ground, wet with beer, dust and food particles never swept up. The fear that his heart would be exposed and it would be stomped, uncaring into the ground. Although it was more than that. It was that no one would want to see his heart; take it into themselves, cherish it and share their heart with him. He’d been so transparent all his life and never really understood those reasons. It would be something he would never see until the time that he would give God his heart, and God would share it with him. But before that happened he would have to reveal it to a family who would always be there for him and then he would truly start to trust. Truly ready to believe in a God who would never leave, unlike his father who left at the worst possible time. Is there ever a good time?
“You just about got through there,” one of his brothers said with a laugh in his voice.
“Yeah, just a couple more kicks and you would have been free. We probably would have never found you.” They looked at each other and laughed. They didn’t know how right that statement was. He had spent most of his life trying to kick down doors forever blocking his path. Why did he choose this hall, when there were so many other, much easier ways out? Although he never tried as hard as he did last night. Last night was different. He had such hopes and dreams for last night, only to be dashed to the beer drenched floor.
He had come to this fraternity only because his brother was a member. It was his first year of college and things weren’t turning out like he expected them to. He was so dishearteningly lonely, hungry, and unconcerned. So much of what this experience was turning out to be mattered so little anymore. His first quarter he had an 8 am class, then one at noon and rounding out the day one at 3 pm. It confined him, that schedule did. He started missing his 3 o’clock classes. Eventually he couldn’t work his way out of bed for the early one very much either. The consequences of missing classes weren’t showing themselves. He’ll see them eventually for sure, but not until the end of the year, when he has nothing to show for the year up here. But, he did feel it. He felt it in his loneliness, his despair at realizing what a foolish choice his major was. They were all jerks. They thought themselves so much better than they were, even before the whole environmental thing took hold in its manic way that it did in the ’90s. Perhaps that is just what he saw though. He knew he could never succeed, for he’d never been driven to. The given-up guitar lessons, the tortuous basketball games, the fear that there were better, much better baseball players than him: so why go on with… anything. Then there were the girls. Even at a young age he wanted someone exclusively to dedicate conversations and time with. But, there was always someone better, so why try.
He was in the semi-real world now. This University, this Institution of higher learning. How did he even get here. He’d proven himself unreliable in elementary and high school. But he had made it, although he was scared and lonely. His brother was the only one he knew, who was with him from the beginning. He went to him and where he was. He got in only because he was Little Mayo. Little Mayo always to his bigger sisters friends and his big brothers friends. It seemed that even his little sister had it more together than him. He felt sorry for himself. That was a trick his father always would use, his mother would always remind him. He would never realize that feeling sorry for himself would never work, until years later, when he would become a different man.
But now is where he lived. As he always did. There was past and there was future. Past bright and fun and adventurous and friends. The future: misty and grey, only echos of his father’s mismanagement of his job, his marriage, his children, his legacy. His life was like walking down a dark hall, only there is no light indicating a door, only knowing for sure that when he reached the end he would have to completely turn around and go back. Go back down paths the opposite way that he didn’t enjoy the first time.
“I don’t even remember going down the hall to the door,” he said to the brothers, unsure about whether he was being funny or not.
“Well, you’re going to have to pay for that door.” Uncomfortable tightness worked it’s way through his stomach as one of his “brothers” eyed him with anger and maybe a bit of disappointment. This is all wrong, he thought. Yesterday was supposed to be his time. It was planned long ago. He had even picked out the song they were going to dance to. “Prove My Love” by the Violent Femmes: it was perfect! Great beat, good message, especially for what they were going to do, and they could all mouth the words. Then they’d wind it all up with R.E.M.s “White Tornado”. He had to prepare to do this though. He was going to be no slouch when it came to getting up the courage to get on that stage. He started drinking in the early afternoon. All afternoon he would walk up and down the halls, excitedly chatting up the brothers, for what could… no would happen! An hour or so before the show, he walked by one guy’s door and glanced in. What exactly was going on here? he wondered. The brother was bending over something, looked up sideways at him and gleefully asked, “Wanna try some?” “Sure,” he said, and walked in the room and closed the door.
Later, their dance was awesome, although he couldn’t see a thing because he had to take his glasses off, because they were all wearing Ray-Ban style sunglasses, and he was basically blind. But he could feel people and see faces cheering. Oh this was going so swimmingly!
Then the clean-up. Had to clear the floor for the real party. He was wearing his good ole stand-by moccasin type slipper shoes, and the floor was a bit wet. He never really got his footing out on the floor. He kept falling down, flat on his face. Frustration began building inside of him and anger on top of that. A monster was about to be released he never knew existed. Although not green and never twice the size of his true form, it was just as fearsome and unholy as any monster born through sin, rage and unmet expectations. He was looking up, glasses never put back on, and saw only blurry, laughing faces. Holding to themselves the cups of unbridled liquid courage so cursing him now in his combined illicitness and ineffectiveness, they were curling it around their arm protectively as if they could ward off the demon slowly changing form on the floor at their feet.
GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE! he raged within himself, dealing blow after blow of furiously aimed kicks to an innocent heavy metal door. He finally felt four men tear him away from the door and drag him down the hall to his bed, and proceeded to sit on him. Oh the seething explosive force he was using against his prison guards, that captured him as he almost made his escape. Okay! okay! it was getting hard to breathe for him, “I’m fine! I’m calm, I’ve calmed down.”
There was doubt and hesitation in their eyes as they slowly released him. Free! He lashed out at the window above him and heard and felt the satisfying crash of glass as it rained down on him, his bed, everyone. They grabbed him again. Held him surely until they knew it was over, but it was gone. Once the window shattered the spell was broken the monster was gone, and he broke down and cried. Wailed his sorrow, his fear, his angst and anguish. Until there was one left in the room with him. This one shared his own doubts, fears,… suicide attempts, foolish as they were. This here was a brother! A com padre. Oh if only Little Mayo knew. People just don’t open up and let you in the let you in to their true self. No. This discussion was too much for the one left with him, and leave he did. Perhaps he saw the folly of his ways in this young newbie. Maybe he turned around and dedicated his last years there to studies, seeing how near he came to giving himself to someone. That may have been unacceptable. He never talked to the younger one, the little Mayo again that year. Just for that night. He fixed it just for that night.
But, like one trained to know that there is someone out there to give your heart to, he kept to travelling the sad and lonely, the fearful and dark paths of this world, trusting that there was someone who never gave up, even after all the let downs. The embarrassment of knowing you’ve given so much and that the other wasn’t real, wasn’t true. He would though, wear his glasses a little bit tighter to his face from now on, hoping to see a little more clearly than before. For that day would come and he wanted to be full witness to it. That night when demons were released in more than one way, he would hold to his heart, until the time of release, so that he could realize that what he had hoped for all His life was there all along. The Creator was there all along, knowing that these things would have to be gone through in the proper time. Knowing that even though he wasn’t His at the time, he was still securely in His hand. Somehow he knew the Savior was there. He could never put it to words, but how else was he to explain that he still went on, of failure after failure after failure. God knew he would need to remember so he can give hope, that he can see it in other’s eyes when all but a glimmer was gone. Like a light at the end of a dark hall, the door someday for someone will be pushed open easily, because of the experience he had that day. He would also never receive someone’s heart and turn his back, no never. For the world had turned it’s back on His Son in the darkest time. People will always hurt him. But as far as he was concerned and as far as God would allow and remind him, he would never… betray a trust… given to him.
You know, I talk the big talk, but I don’t walk the big walk. I tell everyone how much we need each other, how little we become when we don’t share our lives with each other. But when it comes right down to it, I listen and absorb who Satan tells me I am, when I walk in the front door of that church, or sit down at my computer at work, or come home from work after another day of expectations unfulfilled. A really good friend tells me to say, “Yes, you’re right I am, but by the grace of God, I am…” and tell him what the bible really says about who I am. That I am a child of God, that I am redeemed, that I am united with the Holy Spirit, that I am a member of His Body, that I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, that I am significant and who I was doesn’t matter about who I am now. But it is such a habit, that I see the waves building and I know it’s coming in but sometimes it’s comfortable to just let the waves come over me and wash me away, and not struggle back to the beach and safety and security in His arms.
I have a friend who has been experiencing this for so much longer and with such severity, that he is unable to function with people and isolates himself. We had a fellowship group at our home tonight and he was missing. His wife said he was in one of his “moods” again. I was really wanting to see him because it has been three weeks since I have. He has been out of town and I was eager to talk about his trip. I hurt for him. I myself did not want to meet with the group tonight either. In fact it is almost every Tuesday when work is almost over and I sigh heavily in anticipation for the night ahead. I just want to go home and lay around. That is why we have this at our house. Because it forces me to, at least try to be social. It has been getting easier with this group though, for I know they love me and accept me and feel for me and encourage me to go beyond what I always feel. Just a few months ago I would sit there and say to myself the whole time, “Don’t let anything show on your face. Don’t say anything because it won’t matter. Just sit there and get through it and then they’ll be gone and you can go to bed.” But, I don’t do that anymore. By the grace of God I have humbled myself in their presence, in HIS presence, and know that I must let go of my own selfish wants to get away from people and embrace them. Thank God, thank God, THANK GOD!
I have not conquered my depression, for that is the time it will say, “Oh yeah!? You think you can get on without me? Well, we shall see. We shall see indeed.” No, this is a week to week, day to day, hour to hour struggle I face. With the struggles I have been facing at work, I am told to praise Him in these times. For He has given me the opportunity to trust in him more. In those instances my group tells me to praise Him, and I do try. But that is very hard. You can feel that struggle within, “No! I am not blessed.” “Yes you are, I praise Him for my friends” “Of which they are very few and far between, and do they really care?” “Of course they care, they Know me. I praise You for my family.” “Of which you are not a very good provider. You never had any direction. How do you get by month to month.” “God gives us exactly what we need. I praise You for giving me mercy, grace and salvation; everything I need.” Then the flesh comes back and work gets harder and expectations are ridiculous and, “How can I do any of this!?”
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
1 Samuel 23:14
David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.
1 Kings 5:4
But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster.
They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.
But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
1 Corinthians 1:27
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
2 Timothy 2:9
for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.
Thanks, Lysa TerKeurst for this list of “But God”s. We need to really remember these. I will be studying these for the next week or so to keep me grounded in who I am in Christ.
God may I glorify you in my life knowing that I can not do this by giving in to self. Humble me my God, and give me your grace that I may live for you.
~Stranger on this world, looking forward to the day I see Him face to face.
Today we had to teach Sunday School to Kindergartners because the regular teachers were unavailable. I have, in the past, been thankful for my God given gift to share with, talk with and enjoy teaching and being with children. Ever since living in West Plains I’ve wondered if God is showing me that what I have felt previously has been pride instead of thankfulness. You see, I just don’t seem to get along with the children as I did when I lived in Salt Lake City. Sure I did have my challenges then, but there was a sense of reward when there was a breakthrough with these difficult children, and there usually was one. Here though, I meet roadblocks in every path I take toward using the gift I believe God has given me.
So today one of the boys called me fat, and he wouldn’t let it go. I know I’m not the skinniest person around, but I’m not as bad as I could be. I have also had kids call me fat at other times and places before this. But this kid kept bringing it up. I was pleased when a couple of the kids said that wasn’t very nice. Near the end he did it again. I was done. So I easily spiraled myself down into the comfortable yet frustrating mode of depression. I shut myself down.
It wasn’t the fact that someone was calling me fat or even the age of this person, but the fact that I know the parents. My wife and I were in a class with the parents. This class was very, very segregated between those who have lived in West Plains all their life, and those who didn’t. There weren’t enough seats on the West Plains natives side, so these people came and sat behind us. You must understand that I am not the most social person around, but at this point in my life I had resolved to be more so. Because that is how we are to be as Christians, right? After all the world will know us be our love and that can’t happen if we don’t deny self and struggle against barriers self-imposed for our own “security”. Anyway, I introduced myself and tried to chat them up a bit. After a comfortable time, I suppose for them, they got up and went to their side of the room. They may not have intended rudeness, but how else am I supposed to read that. These people in this class were young, 20-30 years younger than us, and my wife and I thought that as being more mature Christians we could share something with them. What we weren’t prepared for was the segregation.
One thing we have found out about living here was that people are friendly, they’ll smile, ask after you, maybe even sit at the same table with you at a church function. One thing they don’t do is ask you into their homes. The number of houses we have been in I could count on one hand. Maybe with an extra digit or two added on, but we have had a sort of falling out with some people we know, and there has been a feeling of being shunned since then, being ignored by people we closely associated with them. You know the drill, you’re still “friends” with them on Facebook, so you see pictures of all the events you use to go to, but are no longer welcome.
Anyway, this whole feeling of bitterness can overwhelm you at times when you see others doing things you’d enjoy but they don’t care. From birthday parties, to movies, to softball teams, you express interest but are cast aside. Anyway, you fight it, and are thankful for the friends you do have, and you fight it. But then one of their kids come along and call you fat the whole time in class, and you think, does my kid act like this when I’m not looking? Do these people realize the kind of stuff they do? Should they be told? This is where it begins: as a child. You see your parents behavior and you mimic them. I don’t know, maybe I am just sensitive and think too much. But I gave into the thoughts and the hopelessness that all these people who may claim to know the love of Christ, but don’t display it in their own or toward their children, it hurts.
I can fight it though. With God’s help of course. I’ve got to realize that people are not going to be as sensitive as I, as spiritual as I, as struggling with injustice as I. Then I read books like “Living Waters” by Brother Yun, and I read about the love he had for the brethren in China, and how he came to the west and sees how Christ doesn’t make much difference our lives. I can’t blame them. I believe this country needs more persecution of the saints for us to grow stronger. Am I wrong?
I end this with a plead: know Christ, know the Church, get involved in others lives. You only know as much as what you share and what others share with you, at least in the spiritual sense, I believe. Know me through my posts, and let me know you.