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.
I’ve seen you many times. Each time I actually stop to rest you appear. You come to my mind time and time again. I see you standing there, happy, filled with love and contentment – a peace unlike I know and you seem to captivate me when I look at you.
I wonder how you can be this way. The questions run through my mind – hasn’t life hurt you, haven’t you been deeply wounded, rejected, abused and considered worthless? I know I have. How can you stand there looking so peaceful after all the lies you have been fed and have to sort through to see what truth really is?
As I see you engaging with others, your whole essence is one of love, the words you speak, the look in your eyes towards others is nothing but all-inclusive, love like there is no tomorrow, I don’t care what you have done or where you have been, straight up love. Your arms are welcome and inviting as you draw others in and hug them like a hug from a parent reminding you everything will be ok. You draw no lines, you make no exceptions, and your smile is welcoming and engaging. The words falling from your lips aren’t surfacey – free from trite, tired, and worn out clichés, speaking eloquent truth and shooting straight from your heart.
As I see you in my head I am reminded that I am no where close to this. The path to you seems long, winding and distant. My heart hurts; it is tired and worn out. I am jaded and cynical. The things I have done and tried to accomplish have been done because I believed in something I was told and lacked wisdom in how to move forward. I am empty and drained. The journey I have been on has been exhausting and nothing I do or look for inspires or motivates me.
What I longed for, I have yet to truly find. I have pursued foolish endeavors and selfish gains in hopes of being noticed, accepted, and wanted and wanting to be acclaimed by others. All in hopes of finding it and none of it seems to satisfy. Deep inside I have dared to believe community, could be found in life-long relationships. I attempted to create what I secretly hoped could be – a place of belonging where at the core of who I am, I am accepted, loved and wanted. Yet rejection continues and it has left me fearful that I want and want the most I will never find. Even in the place I thought was safe has been a sad reminder I have yet to truly find it. My hope remains but continues to fade more and more over time.
Another day comes and goes and I lay my head on the pillow and close my eyes and you appear. I want to let go, scream for you to come and let me be part, but I can’t. The pain, hurt and sadness inside of me prevents me from letting go. I just hold it in. I think of how this was not supposed to be where I am at this point in my life. This doesn’t add up and it doesn’t make sense, but this is the reality of it all. I will deal with the rest later, right now I would rather keep my eyes closed and see this man who is me at some point in the future, the man I have seen for many, many years and hoped I would become. The man I believe I am supposed to be.
Where is the creator, can we see him, is he even at work? Often amidst the pain, chaos and hurt seen daily it can be difficult to find anything good. It may even be difficult to find beauty in a world that has so much death and destruction. It is so easy to take for granted the little things like breathing that is just a normal function of life.
This last year I have had to go back to really thinking and focusing on where exactly is God in my life. Part of the question asked in our gathered worship has to do with God sightings. We are asked to share where we have seen God at work around us. Often times I am at a loss and sit there listening to others share, while I think back through my week wondering where was God at work. I often think silently, why is it so difficult to think of something to share, there is plenty to share. So it challenges me.
A number of years ago I read this passage in Deuteronomy that really challenged me – 18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. Since that time I have made it a practice to always point my children back to God for all the things he has done. The things we can see, taste, hear and touch all reflect a magnificent creator and we are lucky to take part in it. It is a foreshadowing of what is to come when Jesus returns.
Last week my friend Moe wrote a piece on his blog about miracles – check it out here: http://moenyc.com/blog/2013/2/7/on-miracles It was encouraging, thought-provoking and for me tied in to the concept of God sightings I practice in my home community.
Some things I have since reflected on:
- Seeing relationships restored between family members
- Listening to my children talk about the good things they see in each other and finding something completely different from what their sibblings said.
- Watching my children sleep at night
- My neighbors remembering a homeless man in our neighborhood who passed away and speaking of the good things they remember about him
- My employees continuing to serve selflessly for 8 years, folks who society would toss and throw away, but they see value and significance in
- Friends who reach out and stay connected with me, asking questions about my soul
- The way our skin heals itself from a cut
- Having the pain and hurt in my foot, which caused me not to be able to run, suddenly vanish
- Waking up and celebrating another day that God loves on me through my wife and kids, friends and neighbors
Just as miracles still happen, God is still at work and perhaps we need to refocus the lens through which we see all of it.
It seemed as though my life would be better, it would become easier and I would have all that I could ever imagine. I just had to say those simple words. I had heard them a few times and been given multiple opportunities to come forward, say the words and have my life completely transformed.
One day I made the choice to do just that. I was sitting and listening to the man speak and decided it was time for me. So I raised my hand, went forward and repeated the words he instructed me to say. Immediately afterwards he held my hand up, let the others know what I had done and everyone clapped and shouted. Yet somehow I did not feel much different. It was a let down in some sense, I had this belief that I would immediately feel this huge difference and yet I stood there feeling nothing. I walked back to my seat and wondered if I would every feel anything different.
Life continued, I continued doing many of the same things I once had. The next 5 years or so I would sit there listening to different folks asking the same question and think back over each year, realizing I hadn’t really changed much. I probably hadn’t done it correctly and I had better do it again to be sure. Yet each time, I said the words, I felt no difference in my life.
In fact life wasn’t at all better because I said the words time and time again. I still lied and told even bigger ones. I was still being rejected and made fun of. The physical and sexual abuse still occurred and my Dad didn’t love me any more than he once had. All I knew was I wasn’t getting better, I wasn’t really changing and making better choices and the weight of that remained heavily upon me.
As I reflect back on my journey in walking with Christ I see so many areas of failure in my life. I see all the ways I haven’t changed and some of the very things I struggled with as a boy are still there to this day. In many areas I do not feel like a mature 41-year-old man.
I had this belief that following Jesus and walking with him would make life easier. I was foolish to believe my troubles would disappear, I would become a new person and I would even become wealthy. The life I have been told over and over of what it meant to follow Jesus is not how it has played out in my life.
Following Jesus doesn’t mean your troubles and problems disappear. You become wealthy and your troubles melt away. You will do something amazing and great. You will be used in ways you never imagined to rock this world. Your life will impact countless others and you will be a person others will look to as an example. No, much of this is a false gospel of what will happen when you chose to follow Jesus. Some may or have had these types of experience, mine don’t even come close.
I have chosen to follow Jesus and that has cost me. It has made me more aware of how I am as a person. It has bright to light many things buried deep within me that are ugly. It has made me see how incredibly messed up I am. Continuing to pursue my ways brought me close to death on more occasions that it should have.
There’s a battle to do what I believe Jesus is calling me to do and the battle to do my own things and quite often my will wins. My heart is for Jesus and there is nothing I want more in my life, but I also mess up every single day. I can be mean, rude and negative. I stress out about money and finances. I eat more than I should and am lazy. I deal with lust that crosses over into an addiction. I want to look good, say the right things and be well liked. I yell at my wife and kids and my home can be chaotic and out of control. I get mad at my friends when I don’t get enough attention. Yet after making the choice to follow Jesus when I was 7 years old, I have always believed based on what I was told, these things wouldn’t be a part of my life because I would be completely transformed and made into a new creation. I struggle with feeling guilty because I am not at some point I am supposed to be.
Following Jesus isn’t easy and my life has changed for the better. Jesus is at work in me daily. I have made changes in my life and I am a better person today because of him. The only reason I can say that, is because I have tried other options and nothing else provides the grace, forgiveness and love like I have in Jesus. The lie we perpetuate and believe in America is that Jesus makes all things better. While I fully believe we will have a better life, which may mean we suffer here on earth and it isn’t until heaven we get to experience a better life. I have yet to find where we are guaranteed to have a fruitful, successful life as long as we do all the right things.
I no longer by into some type of prosperity gospel or believing I am owed anything. I am thankful for what I have, the only way I have found to really allow Jesus to work in my life is by pursuing him. I don’t have a set way of doing things, each day takes a different route, but I try to come back to realizing the only way I will change is to allow him to use a variety of means to help me see my heart and his conviction to let go and allow him to work through that.
One day, I may become the person I believe I should be or maybe not. I do know that I will become what Jesus intends as I walk through the journey with him. Some days are good and some days are better left unspoken, but it ads up to me leaving behind who I have been and becoming the person Jesus wants me to be.
There is this belief and idea we have and something I have struggled to not do. We believe we hold the answers and keys to making life better for others. For whatever reason this consistently permeates our culture. As a heterosexual white male given way too many privileges I have it forever etched in my mind that I in fact do have the answers so many others need.
As long as I can remember I have heard stories of the United States entering other countries and changing their way of life to our ways, because we have the answers to what works better. I’ve listened in church to Missionaries sharing about going to other countries and turning their lives around, making significant changes so they had a better way of life. Yet the question that has always remained in my mind – so what happens when we go in change their ways and leave, have we enhanced their way of life, will it continue to sustain for the long run? If you look at our country, I can honestly say if we had all the right answers I think it would look significantly different.
There has been a shift in the last 10 – 15 years, possibly longer to focus on not going anywhere outside of our country rather focusing on less fortunate areas of the cities we live in. Church groups and others have purposely gone into areas that are perceived as run down, poor and lacking in many ways to turn it around and give them the answers they have waited for. Time and talents have been poured out to help rejuvenate these areas.
I happen to live in an area of Portland referred to as ‘Felony Flats’. Drug addiction, prostitution, homelessness, theft and murder occur around me. It’s not the prettiest area or one a lot of folks are just jonesing to move to. Diversity ranks high in many ways and yet financially we are very poor. Families struggle to survive, keep their homes or small businesses and maintain a way of life. We sit right below a very affluent community where looking at the homes and cars driven you know it is a place of wealth and affluence. Despite that, I still find beauty around me.
My wife and I were once going to be a part of church plant getting started in a neighborhood close to where we live. Searching for a home to buy in that area left us empty-handed, so we chose to increase our boundaries and we came upon the home we have been living in the last 5 years. While it will mostly likely never earn an honorable mention on the Street of Dreams, we love our house and it fits for what we need. We were aware of how this area was viewed, but it did not matter, wanted still moved here.
I am not one to want to live in areas that resemble something out of The Stepford Wives or Knots Landing. I prefer to live in eclectic and diverse areas that will most likely change me. When it comes to my kid’s education I am ok with not having to be at “the best” school. I have learned you can choose to be involved in your kids educational process and do more than just having them attend one of the “best schools”. I would prefer to build relationships with the staff and families over being pretentious, looking like we have it altogether or mocked for choosing to raise a large family.
I was in a discussion this weekend that reminded me of how I view my neighbors. Taking part in an intentional community that purposely started in this area, it often feels like we come up with outreach events for our neighborhood. At times we can distance ourselves and view it as us vs. them. We can even refer to the folks who live here in terms others might use that would be less than flattering. That conversation reminded me that not only is this their neighborhood, but it is my neighborhood. We live here, patronize businesses, take walks, enjoy the park, engage in relationships with folks and when it comes down to it, we all make up this neighborhood. It is ours. They aren’t just white trash from ‘Felony Flats’. They are my neighbors and many of them have become my friends.
My desire is and will continue to be about building relationships with others who live and work around me. I once held the mindset it was me vs. them and I could change my neighborhood because I held all the answers for what they needed. As a member of my neighborhood I see a lot of areas that I believe should be changed. To think I have the answers that will change everyone is beyond foolish.
As a member of this neighborhood the only way I can do anything is to fully enter in and see myself as a member of the neighborhood. Sharing life through sharing life stories over meals, walk in and around the neighborhood are the only way I can build relationships. As I learn from others I begin to share a common vision of what we together are capable of doing. I hope to see my neighborhood change and the brokenness that ravages disappear. Until I enter into it free from thinking I have the answers I will never truly know. The brokenness around me also helps me see my own brokenness and draws me closer to God. As I look at the ‘felony flats’ of my life it reminds me how God continues to work in me. He is the only hope of change I can offer to another.
I need to admit something. I want to say I’m sorry. As someone who believes deeply in my faith I see so much of what has been done that is wrong, hurtful, hateful and pure evil. What has been done in the name of Jesus, religion or Christianity were things that never should have been done. While I haven’t been around for all of it. I am willing to take responsibility and say we have clearly missed the mark.
Your gender, skin color, sexual orientation, religious or non-religious affiliation has caused me to feel superior to you because I am what you know to be a Christian. I am proud of that and it is with that name that I feel it is my right to tell you how it should be. How I have it all figured out and I know what is the best for you.
Yet the really sad part – for year I have stood by and allowed you to be mistreated. We wouldn’t allow you to be educated or read the words of the Scripture – we told you what we wanted you to hear. You became our property. We allowed you to be enslaved, having no rights, because we didn’t consider you a human being. We came on your land and took it away from you. We went to other lands and removed you from those lands and brought you to a new land where we forced you to assimilate to our way of doing things. On the land we claim as our own we changed your way of living and forced you to live in the confines of what was acceptable to us. You were given our scraps and leftovers, you were forced into places we would never dare enter and let to figure it out on your own.
We force you to give up your cultural heritage. Centuries and generations of proud traditions forced out. Took away your language, voices and told you how it should be. Your ways of living were wrong and now were going to be different – they were going to be our ways. What we had to offer was far greater.
We made you sit at the back of the bus, hosed you down, set up separate place for you to use the bathroom and get a drink of water. I refuse to offer you the same choices, freedoms and privileges as I have because your skin is different from mine.
I carry a sign walking up and down the street, screaming and shouting at the top of my lungs you are not wanted, you are hated and going to burn in hell. I pull verses out of the Bible, take them out of context and use it to back up what you are doing is pure evil. Protesting funerals of people who have given their life to protect the freedoms we all cherish in this country. I stand outside your parades, clubs and video shops telling you to turn or burn. I stand outside clinics and let you know that you will surely die for the choice you are about to make.
If I see you coming near me I move away, pass you by without even looking you in the eye. It’s easier to avoid and forget you are there. You don’t exist to me and really you are too lazy to get a job. You are taking my hard earned tax dollars to feed your drug addictions, feed more of your babies you keep having. You are crazy, deranged and need to be locked up, kept off the streets that are only safe when all of this garbage has been removed from them.
You know who I am, you see me on the streets, see me in the movies and on television. You know me because I am loud and boisterous and I continually tout how important it is to love others. I mean I live in a Christian country so of course I am a Christian. I speak of a love you most likely have never seen or want anything to do with.
I use your body, I lust after you and spend money to feed my insatiable lusts and desires, only keeping you enslaved in a lifestyle you don’t want.
You probably know this already, but those 10 Commandments in that courthouse I spend so much of my time fighting to keep. I have broken every one of them. Those very things that I point my fingers at and call you out on. I have done those very things myself. I just have an image to upkeep and I won’t be really accepted by my fellow Christians if I choose to be honest, because when you go into a place of worship on Sunday you will find we have our lives all together.
I am broken and a mess. I am sinful and ashamed of my actions. The sins I have committed and try to keep hidden – insecurities, judgments and garbage I spew at you are all the things I hate about myself and hope no one ever sees. You see there’s a problem I have. A gigantic plank remains lodged in my eye and needs to be removed. Yet I can’t seem to take it out, it remains and I find it easier to point out your flaws rather than deal with my own.
In your darkest moments, moments of desperation, ready to walk off the ledge, collapse from desperation I have failed to receive you with arms wide open.
I have no right to do the things I have done. I owe you an apology and I need to make things right. You see the very person who I claim to love and follow with all my heart has called me to something different. I am called to love you. See you as a whole person – with skin, a heart and soul. Listen to you and the story of your life. Help you up when you are down. Provide for your basic needs – food, clothing and shelter. I am supposed to accept you where you are at in your life. Come alongside you and walk the road together. Share a meal, have a conversation and build a relationship with you. I am asked to offer you what I have been given and let the one who offered it to me provide you with the same hope.
Allow that man to work in your life – show you what he will, speak into your soul words that you want and need to hear. Speak life into your very soul that maybe you are hearing for the very first time. All him to work in your life and allow you to let go of things that only he can convict you of. Allow him to change your heart, and use your story to share with others. Just as I was supposed to do.
I am a follower of Jesus. It is with a heavy heart that I admit to taking part in those things. I have not fully allowed the very love I speak of to change my heart. Yet I do hold deep within my very heart – faith and hope. I know others who desire to love the way Jesus calls us to. It is my hope you will experience the truest form of that love from others and it will wreck your world forever, just as it continues to wreck my life daily.
For the most part I am certain of my belief in God. I have read scripture over and over, experienced God changing my heart and watched others experience him. I’ve had moments where I am certain it could have been no one else other than God who was at work in my life. I do believe.
I’ve listened and heard others speak of him in ways I don’t know that I will ever understand or comprehend. I’ve also been told by others of how I can have a better relationship with God. Read my Bible, pray more, and get up early for quiet times and devotions. Just be quiet and listen. Practice these types of spiritual disciplines and you will really know God, you will experience him.
I often am skeptical around others telling me how to do it. I learned the hard truth long ago, just because everyone else tells you or does it a certain way doesn’t work for my life. I have never felt the need to go along with the crowd. Despite not wanting to do it the same way everyone else does, I have given many things valid efforts and yet it always comes down to not working for my life. I am left trying to apply what best fits in my life and having very few answers.
It is in being told there is a sure-fire way to do things and it not matching that often leads me to doubts. When what others tell me to do to deepen my walk with God is applied and fails, I have often been left feeling like it must be me who isn’t doing it right or else I don’t really know the God they are speaking of.
Loving others isn’t easy for me. As much as I want it to be it just isn’t. I’ve worried about this since I was a kid, what is it inside of me that does not allow me to love others. I’ve shared this, earnestly prayed about it and had others pray for me. I admit I judge people by their actions and it prevents me from really wanting to love them as I know God does. My prayer is – God help me to see everyone the way you do and love them just like you would. Yet my doubt is if I ever really will.
I struggle with some of the same sins I have since I was a kid – lust, greed and jealousy top my list. There is this belief and sense that as grown man in my 40’s I shouldn’t have those because Christ has set me free and I don’t need to take part in them anymore. I get the concept, yet it is often so much easier to go back to those things or allow those things to continue to be part of my life.
That also makes me think that my belief in that my choosing to follow Christ as a young boy was my moment of conversion and that I should be at a very different place. When I really think each day continues to bring moments of conversion for me. I make choices each day that either draw me closer to God or push me away from him. I wish more of my choices drew me closer to him and again I doubt if I really do love him the way I am supposed to.
I am supposed to have answers and say things to others who doubt – doubting their own faith and beliefs. I am obligated to offer a sense of hope and comfort. When I am asked to prayer and I don’t or I don’t want to, the right answers it always to say I will pray for you. Yet when I wrestle with my own doubts it feels disingenuous.
I really struggle with feeling like a fake or phony because much of what I believe doesn’t play out in all my actions and yet I have this strong belief that it should. This causes doubt. It’s making me re-evaluate everything. My greatest desire it to have all that I believe lived out in my actions, anything less just feels like I continue to wear masks and live a double life.
What if all the easy and pat answers I have been given when asking questions about God don’t match up? Most of my life experience tells me there are no easy answers to our questions and yet somehow it is with God? Can we just explain it all down to sin being in the world? I fall into that category – when bad things occur I simplify it down – “sin is a part of this world and that’s the reason these things happen”. But I have my doubts if it really is that simplistic.
What if I have it all wrong? If what I have believed, poured my life into isn’t really the truth. This means I am an idiot, that stupid country boy from Montana who knew nothing wasted his life following a lie. I sure don’t want that to be the true. That’s probably my greatest doubt.