The older I have gotten the more reactive I become to injustice. When I see clips from new stories, watch movies or read articles informing me of others being treated as property, a statistic or worse less than human my eyes begin to tear and my heart hurts in ways I don’t know that I can fully express.
In some ways I often think to myself, what would a white, 40 something privileged male know about injustice? I may not have gone through what a person of color deals with. A person living with a disability or mental illness. A woman trying to fight her way to be treated as equal by her male counterparts. Someone who chooses to make their home on the streets. Individuals who struggle trying to define who they are, who or what they love and if they are who God created them to be.
While I may not be able to identify with all of that. I know what it is to be marginalized. To be considered less than, to not be wanted or welcome. Told you are wrong, you are a mistake, the world is better without you. Your voice doesn’t matter and how you live your life is wrong. I understand what it means to not be allowed certain places. To get stared down with looks that could kill. To hear the whispers and comments flung at you as you walk by. To have fists raised and threats made behind it. It experience fear, to feel the sting of a punch, kick or slap. To be spit upon. To watch and wonder will it ever end? Is there anyone out there who will help me?
I grew up in a small town and was an outcast. I didn’t fit in and I was reminded of it daily. I sought out safety in the church. God was love and his people would be about love. This is where I would fit in and be accepted and welcomed. Surprisingly, it was no different. Over years I began to feel marginalized once again because I didn’t fall into line with others ways of how God operates. Church culture dictated what made people Christians. You were judged if you didn’t do it a specific way, somehow others got to dictate how, when and why things were done and this was the way it was for everyone. When you failed to do it the way you were expected you were an outcast. Here we are today in 2014 and this still continues.
Yes I am angry, I am tired of this. I am tired of the way it has been and the way it continues to be. I am tired of being told to let it go, to come to my senses and realize how harmful my words are. That I don’t really mean what I am saying or actually what I must mean is _______. No my words are carefully crafted and purposeful.
I have never marched or protested. I read and listen to stories from those that have and I fully believe had I lived in the 60’s I would have joined them. That’s not the times I have grown up in, but I do have a voice and I intent to use it. In fact, I have and will continue to teach my kids to stand up for what is wrong, use their voices. If someone isn’t able to defend themselves or stand up for themselves, be their voice. Our voice is what we have and we need to use it. We live in different times and our words are powerful. Words can make a difference.
I want things different for my kids, for the future. I am tired of people being marginalized in all areas, particularly the church because someone continues to be a bully and dictate what it means to follow Jesus. I am tired of there being no safe places for others. I am tired of seeing my friends turn and walk away. I’ve been in this place and come to walking away from all of it.
I want to fully experience and give love that accepts, welcomes and embraces. Love that change people’s lives. I want that love to be poured out on others. I want people to be seen as human. To realize they have value and worth, their stories to be heard. To know that whatever you have done, it doesn’t matter, you are precious and you by seeing you, hearing you and acknowledging you, my life is better for it.
I grew up having a great sense the world wasn’t safe. Living in a small town and having everyone know everything about you and use it against you; one quickly learns you aren’t safe. In my mind the only safe place for me was church. The building in which people gathered together was somehow sacred. I heard and read of the love Jesus spoke of. I heard adults speaking of what we were called to do. Jesus was calling us to come and lay down our burdens, find rest and feel love. In an idyllic world that would be how it really is. Yet we live in a world comprised of broken people who operate out of their messy lives.
The church is not a safe place. In fact from my experience and many others it is often times a place where you can be destroyed, annihilated and really discover just how cruel people can be. For whatever reason love is quickly forgotten, following rules, conformity is most important and anyone who questions anything is a heretic. Others decide how things operate and the rest of us fall in line or there is no place for us. What was done 100 years ago is still the way we operate today.
Somehow we put the real life issues of others in boxes/categories. Some are ok such as lust, greed or lying while others are never to be spoken of. The world we live in isn’t simple and the issues people struggle with leave them wondering where do they go? Where do they get to experience the love Christ speaks of, the safe place where they can be ok to talk? Why are those places so few and far between, yet the church preaches love and acceptance?
What about the issues of doubting your faith, doubting you believe the bible to be truth or doubting you believe in God? Doubting everything is as we have been told. What about people who have had abortions? Involvement in prostitution, people who have mental illnesses, disabilities or are homeless. How about rapists, sex offenders or addicts? Convicted felons, people struggling with sexuality or divorced individuals. What about folks whose kids want nothing to do with church or don’t believe in God? How about the color of our skin, the value of women and how our cultural heritage plays into what we believe.
If you have ever been a part of a church community, these are all taboo subjects no one wants to talk about. These are considered by some to be the very worst sins and something we just don’t want part of our gathering or that couldn’t be a part of church, because somehow this just isn’t right. The bible warns us of these types and to associate with any of this means we associate with the wickedest of individuals and we will become like them.
We fail to talk about the real issues. We skirt around them because either we aren’t sure how we feel or it might be too close to home and we have an emotional charge behind it. It could also be because the older you get you are supposed to have it figured out. We feel free to share what we think but often we fail to see the person behind those issues. Blanket statements are made. We quickly marginalize folks and the safe places begin to disappear.
The older I get the more refreshing I find it is when people are honest and share what is really on their hearts. The buck the system and begin to talk about taboo subjects. Their share their hearts and in those moments I get to peer into their lives and better understand where they are coming from. I have struggled with lots of issues in my life and had hoped I would find love, acceptance and safety, yet I found the opposite. To begin to believe one way fits for all of us is insane. We are all different; we all have different life experiences that cause us to view life through a variety of lenses.
If we are all so different how can we be so hard and callous? My story is unlike anyone else’s. Yet my story speaks of a lot of things and you can’t put me in a box and say this is what you need to make it better. I need folks who listen, who ask questions and who really demonstrate love, even when they don’t agree or get it. I fully believe we all want to have those things as well. It’s time for those of us that seek out Jesus to change our ways, apologize for how we have created a culture that feels unsafe to ask questions or be real. It’s time to come along side others, listen and respond in the truest sense of love. Put ourselves in their place and ask ourselves, “What would I want if I was dealing with this?”
I’ve spent the majority of my life around Christians, mostly people who practice religion and call it Christianity. They speak Christianese and only those who are part of all of this seem to understand what it means. As a result of this I have been to the point of turning my back on all that I know and walking away from it all. I am more than a little sick and tired of what I hear being spoken and how I should do things, what is ok for my kids and what it means to be a Christian.
Religion seeks to place rules and restrictions on us for how we are to operate and live our lives. It places a lot of guilt and expectations on us that make it less than desirable to want to have anything to do with God. The sad part is that I have been part of this. I continued to perpetuate most of it and looking back I see how much damage I have done in promoting this and not promoting the truth.
I’ve been taught that if someone wasn’t saved, they were wicked, immoral and destined for hell. My mission was to survey those around me, have a conversation and attempt to get them to say a “sinner’s prayer” so that I could be assured I had got them saved. The pressure to convert and get others saved always felt more like a pyramid scheme to me. I never really did well at it. My preference was to judge people, thinking if you don’t believe the same way I can’t associate with you. Of course there are other ways to get people saved – invite them to your church, going door to door or standing on a corner holding a sign and telling others to repent. The greatest problem with all of these is that none of this allows us to build relationships with people, they are just a notch on our belt.
Men’s roles were defined in terms of leadership. Men were supposed to be the ones running and leading everything. Women could not teach or lead, except for children that was an acceptable role for them. Women were to hold no other roles in church because they were supposed to quietly sit in the back. If a woman was held a role as a Pastor, that was a church to avoid. Yet my observance was women in church were leading and taking care of things. Many of the men I saw had no interest and often just sat there. The look on their faces said more than they did.
When it comes to raising our kids there a tremendous amount of pressure placed on you. Homeschooling was always a good idea – you didn’t want your children around other kids from the world, they might cause them to do things they shouldn’t. It was better to isolate them and make sure you watch and control every more they made. If you didn’t want to home school you should somehow find a way to send them to a Christian school, because it the lesser of the two evils and you can be proud knowing all the kids at a Christian school are morally sound.
I learned that girls were responsible for causing boys to lust because of the way they dressed and it was their responsibility to dress modestly so that didn’t allow boys to lust. If girls were comfortable in their bodies, dressing and feeling good no responsibility fell on the boys, it was all because a girl was dressing in a way that would provoke them, she was being an immoral temptress.
At home we needed to be very careful of what TV/movies we allow our children to watch. There are Christian websites that will give you all the details about movies and you should check those before you allow them to watch something. Christian music is the only acceptable form of music to allow in your house. Music that isn’t classified as Christian only will places ideas in your child’s head.
Once your kids are born you need to take them to church, get them dedicated, baptized and have them in a kid’s program. As they get older they should take part in the youth group. All of these things will help in aiding your child on the right path and making sound decisions. If all else fails, at youth group have them sign a purity pact and reinforce if they were to walk out the door tonight and died are they sure of where they are going. If they have any doubt they need to get saved.
The pressure to live this kind of life continuously day after day has become more than I can take. I have struggled for years with much of this and believing this was the way it was meant to be. I’ve argued with so many folks on why and yet I just choose to follow along believing this is what we do. I have made excuses to get out of doing many things because it feels so wrong. Essentially it has moved me farther away from God. It has pushed me to the point of throwing up my hands and saying forget about it. I want nothing more to do with any of this. None of this is real, it is all a façade.
I am sick of speaking a language no one else understands. It doesn’t transcend to common everyday language. If I speak Christianese to my neighbors or people I work with, mostly they have no idea what I am saying, or if they do, it only drives a wedge between us. I am tired of people using this language to speak to me when things aren’t great and I am struggling in my life. Please stop with all your religious dogma and just speak to me as another human.
I’m tired of thinking of others as projects who need to get saved. Saved from what? I need saving daily. My life isn’t so pretty and polished, I need help every single day. I refuse to see others as projects, I see them as people who have the same needs I do. I see them as human beings who need to be related to on a human level. To listen, empathize, hold, cry with and process with. I see them needing love more than needing to be told what they are doing wrong or where they are destined for.
I’m raising 4 daughters and each one is unique and different. As they grow and mature into beautiful women I have had to stop and seriously think about all the rules I placed upon them before. Rules that make them feel bad about themselves and their bodies. What it means to be a woman and to be loved for who you are and how you were made. Rule that allow them to express themselves and explore who they are and what God has in store for them. You better believe if they ever want to lead or run something I will be supporting them wholeheartedly. They have helped me redefine what women’s roles can and should be.
In raising my kids it is often difficult to tell them to not listen to certain types of music or watch TV/movies both my wife and I enjoy. We are intelligent adults who has always been in touch with each one our kids and can decide what is ok for them. Since we are the ones investing our lives in them daily, I know what is ok and what isn’t ok for my kids, because I know based on ongoing discussions where they are coming from.
The last year has been a place of struggle for me. Walking away or believing there has got to be something different from the religion I have struggled falling into line and doing because it’s what we do as Christians. I see that what I have taken part of is religion and I was really good at it. What I have yet to experience is the freedom of love. I’ve tried to just love others for a long time, but it’s been veiled by religion and the struggle remained. It was easier to tell others how to live their lives rather than living life with them. I didn’t really have to get my hands dirty in telling others how to live their life.
Yes I do know that those religious Christians that I am talking about need the same love I can give easily to those outside the church, but it needs to stop. It continues to become increasingly more difficult to love you when you continue to do these things. You push people away, you’ve pushed me away. If love comes from God then let love guide you, let love allow you to not see others as projects but people who need you as much as you need them. Let love be the reason you live and breathe and nothing less. Speak in a way we all can relate to, stop using a language Jesus didn’t even speak. In case you wonder what I am talking about, allow this video to help you.
Love is a great concept and yet extremely difficult for me to grasp. I suck at being a husband. I am a much better father. I have hurt my wife with my words and my actions in profound ways and yet through it all she has never left my side. The fact that my wife loves me despite my flaws leaves me speechless. On the other hand when it comes to the love my wife has for me, I never question it. I am secure in it, it has stood the test of time and when everything else in my life seems to be failing, it is the one thing I can take solace in. Some would say I don’t deserve that kind of love and you are right. I honestly don’t.
I didn’t grow up in an environment with love oozing all around. Hugs, affirmations and being told I love you was often difficult to find. When not at home I was reminded by others how I didn’t fit in, wasn’t wanted and the world would be better off without me in it. At some point in my life after years of hearing this it didn’t take long for me to believe it. I began doubting and wondering if anyone really loved me, including my parents. Trying to take my life was the last time I ever heard my Dad actually say he loved me; that was 30 years ago.
Most of my adult life has been spent seeking validation in all I do to feel accepted and loved by others. I don’t really believe that people love me. I have struggled believing God could even love me. My hope was put into the church and believing that I would be accepted and loved within the church because that was what they spoke of. Sadly, over the years I came to understand that there really was no difference between the world and people of the church. Everyone talks about love, but so few actually live it out.
I have been an addict to approval. I have sought the approval of others through bad relationships. I have sold my soul to the devil to gain acceptance. The insecurity that rages from within has taken me down paths that had nothing to do with love, instead false validation and hollow words. To hear I was a good father, a great husband, a manly man, skilled boss, or amazing friend were the things that I longed to hear. As much as I wanted to hear these words to actually have someone say them, I could only down play them and toss them to the side, because it was false. To actually have a person tell me they care and love me was only a way to sound good and appease me, at the heart of it, their words were empty and no one really meant that.
At one point I felt like God actually loved me. When I pressed into the church as a safe place where I would be loved, it only reinforced what others said and my belief God would actually love me faded into me doing all the right things to make God love me. Unable to accept the words from others, God couldn’t love me. God wasn’t real and there was nothing left for me. If what I was doing wasn’t good enough for others, it would never be good enough for God and he couldn’t love me anymore than anyone else.
The shift begins in my mind, if I am no good, than it is better for others if they aren’t around me. It would be better for me to push others out of my life and away so that I don’t have to risk being told I don’t belong, I am unloveable or not good enough. I begin to check out, disconnect and disengage from the world. I want everyone to leave me alone and just let me be. Essentially I choose to believe the messages I have been given and I can’t see any different.
Right now I am holding out hope that I will experience love in a different way. I got to hang out with my friend Aaron the other night and when he talked about God he talked in a way I had never heard that actually made me stop and think about it. So I am thinking about it. I have decided to push into love rather than seeking things that aren’t part of it. I am asking God to show love in ways I can understand and comprehend – tangible ways, that speak deeply to my soul. I have a belief that I can capture the truth of love through relationships with others and in community. The essence of true love will be revealed if I stop pushing others away.
In the last 3 weeks my 16-year-old daughter has lost some important people in her life. Her best friend she has had since Kindergarten and spent time with lost her mom suddenly. She left behind her 16-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. This woman was like a second mom to my daughter. Last night we found out one of my daughter’s other best friends who was 16, committed suicide on Sunday evening.
My heart is full of grief. It hurts with a pain I don’t know how to describe. Realizing as a parent what it would be like if I lost my wife and how that would deeply impact each of my children, let alone my life. It brought to light all the things my daughter’s friend will do now and not be able to share with her mom. I am also quickly reminded how losing a child is something none of us can truly comprehend, yet this girl’s mom now has to begin to move forward without her daughter.
Learning of the suicide of her friend, reminds me of my journey down that road. I remember freshman year – dealing with the shame of being sexually abused by family members, trying daily to survive being hit, punched and kicked. I never fought back I let them hit me; I wasn’t worth more than a punching bag. For me it was worse hearing the words coming forth reminding me I was a no one, unwanted, I was never going to be accepted and nothing anyone said or did would make it better. I had begun shutting down little by little over the years, isolating and living with an enormous sense of fear that became a harsh reality during a Homecoming game. A couple of guys decided during half time to throw me into the dumpster, pouring garbage over me as both kids and parents walked by laughing or acting as if nothing was going on. That was it for me. It set in my mind that I was worthless, God had made a mistake and I was better off dead. For some time I had seriously been contemplating suicide – bringing my Dad’s gun to school and blowing my brains out in front of everyone during lunch or else blowing up the truck I drove just as everyone was leaving school. Now it seemed I had no choice. I went home wrote a note and made the final plans. What was to be my last day, I left a note in my locker, finished school and went home and took the bottle of pills. I called a girl to say goodbye and for whatever reason she sensed something was wrong and ended up getting me help. On my way to the hospital the only thing I remember was the song on the radio Broken Wing by Mr. Mister.
My daughter’s friend felt the only way to deal with her pain was to end it. No one seemed to notice or understand something more was going on for her. I sigh knowing we will never see her again. She will never spend another weekend with us. I will never wave to her again as I drop off my daughter at school. She will not fulfill her dreams or experience all life has to offer and I sob and shed tears of grief for this.
I despise death. I hate how it hurts my heart and those I love. I remember watching my grandparents when I was young and being scared of death. A fear of it took over me and I couldn’t shake it. I watched as their bodies aged and they looked horrible and death took its toll. Death doesn’t care about anything except taking life. This is the reality we live in. Death has extended its reaches to my job, snatched away my friends and it takes the lives of children whom I have held dear and cared for as much as my own.
As a 16-year-old, my daughter has only begun to understand how horrific death is. I can’t hold her enough, shed tears with her or tell her it is going to be ok. She now knows differently. It is probably one of the things I hate most about being a parent, is trying to make sense of this, when it just doesn’t.
Death is coming, it’s coming for all of us and I hope as it makes its way into our lives we have others who will just be there, hold us, cry with us and let us know we are there for them. There is no right way to deal with death, even someone like myself who is stoic most of the time has been reduced to tears in dealing with death infiltrating our lives.
For the last 25+ years I have heavily involved myself within the church. I have served in various positions as well as held positions of leadership. If I wasn’t in church on Sunday morning listening to a sermon I was in a Sunday school class, or at some other event during the week, learning what it meant to be a Christian and follow God.
I’ve been told that reading my bible and praying I would understand God more, I could have healing and a break through with things that had strong holds over me.
I’ve been taught what music I could listen to or what movies were acceptable. How drinking, dancing and gambling are wicked and to be refrained from.
Cussing was allowing unwholesome talk to come out of my mouth and that wasn’t Godly.
Dress up and wearing my best clothes to church on Sunday, because we were giving God our best. Make sure you dress modestly you don’t want to cause a brother or sister to stumble and shorts aren’t allowed on Sunday mornings.
Despite how things look on the outside or if your life is falling apart, when you arrive at church on Sunday morning, put your best face on and hold it together, you don’t want to give off a bad impression to others.
Being part of a church plant means you don’t go to an Elton John or Barry Manilow concert, what kind of message are you sending people?
A real man is one who is Christ-like, has his house in order (meaning he says how things are going to go in his home, directs his wife on what she is supposed to do and makes sure his kids are behaving and being good little boys and girls). Men work outside the home and earn the money while women stay at home and take care of the kids. God ordained these roles for us. Men are called to be leaders and we should be leading everything within the church. It is my responsibility to get my children saved and be cautious of what I allow them to be around or exposed for fear they will take the wrong path, that path depends on who is telling you it.
I am to be very cautious and suspicious of anyone outside the church because they will cause me to be tempted to do things which I shouldn’t. I should not talk to strangers or associate with the likes of drug dealers, prostitutes, religious denominations that aren’t Christian, homeless and mentally ill, people with tattoos and piercings, as well as gays and lesbians. God forbid my children should ever turn into one of them. I should also not do business or in any way shape or form be around or in places you would find those types of people.
It is my job to go into my place of work, my neighborhood and other places in the world, because I have all the answers and it is my job to insure people say some prayer so I can get them saved and begin a new life. I am a white male and I have the keys to making their life better. I know what you need and all you need to do is listen and do exactly what I tell you. Everyone is in need of saving.
By doing all of this, speaking and being like Jesus, my life would be good. I would be an example to others, I would be happy and content in my life and know that God was pleased with me and on the day I breathed my last I would hear well done good and faithful servant.
I have listened, I have done all I have been told and now as I am in my 40’s my life doesn’t match up to what I was told. I am struggling to believe any of it, let alone believe in this God and what we I was told about him. I have forced myself to construct a life for my wife and kids around this that has left me empty, lonely and angry. All I have learned through most of this is that God operates in terms of religion and rules and if you just do it this way, your life will be right.
As I read the words of Jesus, I see very little of this matching up with his words. I am at a place where none of this makes any sense to me and I can’t believe I allowed myself to be indoctrinated into this. I look and see how I have tried to make my life into something hoping and praying God would love me and be proud of me. Yet no matter what I have done it has never been good enough and I have completely disappointed God and others. I have operated and done things in an attempt to get other to love me, accept me and think I have all the answers. All the while feeling as though I am unlovable and worthless. I have nothing to offer anyone.
The last year I have spent being part of a home church as well as engaging in conversations with other who have challenged my whole belief system and I am at a place I have never been in my life. The foundation for which I once established my whole life and existence no longer exists.
If I drop the f-bomb, drink or even over-indulge. Watch an R rated movie, allow my wife to make decisions and allow my kids to go to a concert by Lady Gaga or Ke$sha. Talking and engaging in conversations with people others would consider evil or wicked. Bridging gaps in my neighborhood by forming relationships rather than telling them they need to get saved. None of those make me a bad person or will cause God to love me less. That just doesn’t make sense.
The ridiculousnous of other’s views and commentaries on how I should create this life around Jesus has only done more harm than good. I am having to rebuild all of it to make sense. To create a foundation on which to stand. It is tiring and a place I absolutely hate. I would like to throw in the towel and give up, yet I continue to be drawn back to Jesus. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough or read my Bible enough, yet I still want to believe that God would love me even if I hadn’t done that.
I don’t have the answers and it is hard enough for me to figure out my life. My life is far from perfect and to try to make it appear any other ways is disingenuous. What I need is others who are willing to walk with me, sit down and have discussions with me and listen as I ask question upon question. I’m stopping from doing anymore to try to prove to God and everyone else that I am worthy and loveable. I can’t operate like that any longer.
What it comes down to for me is tearing away anything that is not real for my life and doesn’t match up with what I know it my heart is real. If God is about love, than I have yet to really understand that and grasp what it truly means. For those who are willing to help me through conversations deconstruct all this and rebuild it on what it means to follow Jesus than I will truly have experience God’s love. To tear down all of this means my world falls apart for a while, and I am trusting that as I deconstruct this throughout the next year, I will actually find a life that matches up with what I believe deep inside and looks nothing like what the church told me.
Many times it seems like it is easier to withdraw, pull back and just shut the world out. At times it is indeed wise to spend some time alone – clear your head, recharge and process what is going on around us. That is the times when it is wise and allows for us to have a break so we can engage with the world once again.
I would say I am a deep processor and I spend a lot of time in my head. I get lost in the questions of why, in fact I pretty much question everything. My love of psychology and wanting to figure out how things tick has a lot to do with me constantly being in my head. I want to better understand others, figure out where they are coming from, why they do the things they do and what makes them tick. I love exploring the family dynamics. Trying to understand creation, God’s existence and how we are all connected. Why music stirs my soul. Much of what I think about has to do with trying to figure myself out. At the core what do I truly believe and is that lived out or do I just give lip service. What was God thinking when he created me. By the time my head hits the pillow at night, I am mentally exhausted and yet so many times my mind just continues to process as I drift off to sleep.
I remember when I was younger being shut down and shut out and withdrawing. I spent most of my youth in that place. It became easier to withdraw and stay inside my head than risking actually speaking or sharing my thoughts. As I got older I began to realize how important it was to use our voices and to never allow anyone to silence my voice.
Deep inside of me I love being engaged with others. Developing deep relationships has generally filled that void. The world is incredibly vast and fascinating. Life is worth living and so much has yet to be explored or understood and I want to be a part of it. I love hearing stories, talking and just listening to the world around me. I thrive and am energized by this.
Many times as I reflect on conversations and encounters – comments made, feedback given and I feel like a failure. My life is a mess and I am nowhere near where I think I should be. I begin to believe it is better I disappear and remove myself from the world. Ultimately what I have lived for doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things and it would be better if I wasn’t part. As a Freshman in high school dealing with rejection, physical and sexual abuse, names thrown my way I felt the only way out for me was to kill myself. God has made a mistake and for the benefit of others I should end it all. I have never been back to that place of despair, but often those feelings still remain.
When I fail as a husband, father, and friend or in other areas of my life I am really hard on myself. The bars I have set for myself I fail to meet. When life seems to be a mess, isolation begins to take hold. I begin pulling away and withdrawing as a means of keeping myself safe and believing no one cares, no one understand and no one will miss me. I have to get through this on my own. I can’t be burdening others with this, they have their own problems. It is just better for me to keep this to myself.
This last year for whatever reason, it hit me. Isolation is something I turn to; when it is the time I need community most. Instead of cutting others off, withdrawing and pulling away it is in those times when I need to draw close to others. Depression and suicide seem to be the places to go if we truly feel no one cares and it just doesn’t matter. I don’t believe any of us were meant to walk through life on our own, it is a journey and we need others to walk the paths with us. Opening up, sharing and revealing what is really on our hearts is scary stuff, true community means we are loved and accepted – the good and bad and we get to explore it together.
Ultimately I would do anything for anyone else. I am willing go to the ends of the earth for others. I will be their when everyone else has turned their backs on you. I will be the person you can call no matter what. I will leave a light on and a door open for you. I believe in these things because ultimately these are the things I want.
I wouldn’t say there has ever been anything particularly special about me. Growing up, I wasn’t involved a lot of sports or break any records. I wasn’t on a list for my grades and wasn’t part of the gifted and talented program like other kids. As much as I hoped and wanted to be one of the popular kids, that just wasn’t going to happen. I was a nobody.
However, despite being nobody – I did have a reputation. I was poor white trailer trash. I wore clothes and hand me downs from Goodwill and Kmart. I was one of those kids nobody wanted to be around and was always chosen last for activities. I was the one everyone talked about and had nothing good to say. Instead of talking about me in hushed tones or whispers people just said it to my face. For some I was a punching bag. Ultimately, I was reminded over and over how I didn’t fit in, wasn’t wanted and didn’t belong. So yes I did get attention, but no in ways I wanted.
In high school I had developed a life plan and was pretty much following it, up until I started having kids. It was then I really began to take a look around me. I had friends who had hobbies and interests and yet I hadn’t really found anything I enjoyed or wanted to take part of. Most folks, who knew me, didn’t think I was capable of doing much, outside of being a husband and father, I often got the sense from others I appeared helpless. Living in Portland opened up a lot of opportunities for me to explore different parts of myself and find the things I was good at.
As my wife and I became involved in church I saw this as a safe place where I could begin to explore my dreams and was refreshed to learn God wanted me to achieve those dreams. I began taking on responsibility, leading groups, creating events and working hard to make sure things went well. Despite others thinking I couldn’t do much, growing up on a farm I learned what hard work was and I was determined to prove all the naysayers wrong. No one was ever going to say of me that I wasn’t hard-working and dedicated to what I did.
I heard messages repeated time and again – “Whatever we do, do it as if we are doing it for God. To God be the glory. Everything we do is about God and giving him the credit”. I was told by some not to ever take credit. It would look vain of me and I wouldn’t go very far. It was always better to not be concerned with getting any rewards but just being happy to do it, because you were working for something far greater than yourself.
Over time I watched as others publicly got and took credit for what they did. I seethed with bitterness and anger, wondering why they were so special and got the attention. Didn’t I deserve acknowledgement for what I have done. Quickly I reminded myself, I was just being vain and needed to remember who I was doing this for in the first place. The few times others wanted to publicly acknowledge me, in fear of being vain I down played it and told them, thank you but I am not interested .
Over time I would watch as others continued to get affirmation for what they had done and I just kept my anger buried inside. Reminding myself each time it is wrong for me not to rejoice and be happy for what they have done. They deserve it. I would ask myself are you trying to get attention? Do you have the right motives and heart? You are just being vain and you need to stop.
Here is where the rub comes in. While I understand vanity can go to extremes. We need to hear we are doing a good job. We need to hear words of encouragement and affirmation. It isn’t vanity to want to know that serving and giving of your time is for nothing. I have given years of my life to things because I wanted to and knew it was the right things to do. I’ve also had a great desire to be acknowledged and feeling like you can’t take credit or have to downplay it because you are being vain, is wrong. I believe we all have been given different gifts and ways to express ourselves that are unique and that should be celebrated. The fact we are all different and express ourselves differently is in and of itself quite amazing. Now granted not everyone can be a star or needs to get a medal. However, we all can use our voices to show others they are appreciated.
20 years have come and gone. While my wife and I were dating, attending a church and were part of a College and Career group that was ready for some changes. A question was posed to the group if anyone was interested in taking over the leadership of the group. Not really knowing what I was getting myself into I volunteered. As simple as that I was now leading a group of others to move closer in relationship to Jesus. Was I qualified – hell no. I hadn’t even read the entire Bible at that point, I wasn’t quite sure if I was a pre or post tribulation proponent. All I knew was that I believed I could lead a group.
As I took on that role and a variety of others, it was apparent no one was going to train me or teach me, I was on my own to figure it out, however elders in the church oversaw what I was doing and felt it was their duty to let me know when I wasn’t living up to their expectations or standards. Thus began my entry into leadership within the church and where I would spend the next 20 years leading others.
Part of what I learned was by observing how other leaders in the church read and interpret what scripture really meant. Ensuring roles of men and women were clearly defined. Supporting a Christian subculture – (WWJD, Christian music and other apparel), getting children to pray a canned prayer as well as ensuring the high school students knew if they walked out that door tonight and didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, they were going straight to hell.
I learned all the Christianese I will ever care to speak. I can get you saved through all the right words and actions and I can pray a prayer like no one’s business. I can do all of these things for 2 main reasons – 1) I was told over and over how it should be done the correct way. 2) People were providing me with prophetic messages from God telling me I was going to do some amazing things. Foolishly I believed everything I was told within the church, because after all this was the church and the very place where I never thought to question. I took what they said at face value and believed with all my heart they were helping guide and direct my steps. For the first time in my life someone was actually speaking words from God that no one had ever dared say to me.
This energized, charged and motivated me for years to come. Looking back now I believe I have been living a lie for many years as a result. I turned into a machine for Jesus. I became a robot and operated for years out of my own energy. I wasn’t ever satisfied and was always wanting more. I created events and activities to gain attention as well as make a name for myself and prove to others I was this man God had placed a calling on. I could throw together something in a matter of minutes and ready to move lives because this was my calling.
I couldn’t rest, I was always thinking, creating and trying to find ways to do things bigger and better. Everything I did was about this calling. As years passed I honed my skills and abilities and I what to do and I was going to get it done. I had the dream, the vision and the qualifications to make this happen. I was the one God has chosen.
I have no motivation left in me. I am burned out on events, activities and projects. In fact I am burned out on church, religion and events. Very little moves me anymore. I can’t move forward like this any longer. My life needs simplicity and so I am stepping down from everything and taking a year off. My heart won’t allow me to do this anymore. At times lately I have questioned if I am more like the tin man and believe in fact I probably have been for many years, but just going through the motions.
I have operated in the context of believing God had a calling on my life. I honestly don’t know if and at what point my desire overtook this calling. It has been so long now and I just don’t know. I don’t know about this calling or belief and wonder if it was true or just what I wanted to hear and went with it. I have no clue what God has in my future. I do know that I have to rest, I have to stop and let it all go, take a break and begin to understand who I am. Go back to the basics and learn what it means to operate out of love.