I am in a position right now between the Navy and my family which is pretty rough. I am handling it pretty well, but it is awfully hard. As I have told my story to a couple friends, I have heard the response,
“You are a better man than me”
I usually dismiss that phrase because I know it just isn’t true. These guys are men of character, men who would respond very similarly to how I am responding were they in my shoes.
My kids, on the other hand, really are “better” than me. I hope they stay that way.
Because I did not make it through the school I was in, I fall at the bottom of the Navy’s priority scale for selecting orders. As it turns out, the only set of orders that I am allowed to have right now are to a foreign country. I’m not upset about that. Jessica and I have wanted to take the family overseas for years. Herein lies the problem. Because the family is so large, we may have to be separated for 2 years. The orders I am taking will allow me to bring my family with me, but there are other restrictions which can cause my family to be left behind and, at this moment, there is a very real chance that they will not join me.
Can you understand the sadness, fear, turmoil, and agony which I am swirling in? It is hard stuff to say the least.
I knew I needed to tell my kids. It isn’t fair to them to have them going to the appointments and screenings and for them to feel the tension in Jessica and I and to have no idea what is going on. We have always spoken to our kids as though they are capable of understanding the life which swirls around them, and this is no exception.
I sat with my older 2 and explained to them that I may be going overseas and they will probably have to stay here. Neither of them cried. They got quiet, but didn’t even seem to get sad. I explained it again… That I AM going overseas for 2 years and they ARE NOT going with me… for 2 years… separated… without me. Again, no great emotion came out of them. I asked them,
“Are you sad at all that your dad will be gone for 2 years?”
Daughter – We are sad…
Son – Yeah… but we don’t know for sure if we will be apart or not
Daughter – … but we can trust God
Whose kids are these?
Surely not mine! Surely not the offspring of a man who walks with such uncertainty and fear upon his shoulders. Surely not the son and daughter of a man who agonizes every detail of a plan in order to ensure the best possible outcome. Surely not the kids of a man who can talk about God, Christianity, Faith, and Trust but falls hopelessly short when his back is up against a wall.
My kids are more mature than I am.
This little conversation we had, coupled with a Vacation Bible School song that they love (You Can Trust God) and play on their stereo over and over again, as well as other conversations I have had in the midst of this decision has me really pondering the goodness of God.
The congregation my wife came from regularly participates in a call and response during their Sunday morning worship. The pastor says, “God is good” and the people say “All the time”. Then the Pastor says “All the time” and the folks say “God is good”. I believe this to be true. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
But I am not a blind Christian, I don’t just check off the boxes without thinking (or feeling) about the stuff I am agreeing with and forming as a part of who I am. This is one of those moments.
I can continue to walk around under this painful cloud feeling like I am under a storm and over a barrel because I don’t know whether or not I will be separated from my family for 2 years. This is what I am doing right now. It essentially says that I do NOT believe God is good… or rather, I do NOT believe God is good ALL the time. Most of the time maybe.. A lot of the time for sure… But all the time? Do I really believe that? My thoughts and feelings right now say no.
Now y’all hold on a minute before you send me encouraging and correctional emails and messages. I know what the right answer is… and that is the point. I could swallow what I am feeling and hide it from the world (which I did for SOOO LONG) and I can give the right answer and nobody in the world would know that a Man of God has a hard time grasping the full implications of the God he follows.
Here are the hard questions in my heart. If I am separated from my family for a period of 2 years, where is God’s goodness in that? Where is God’s goodness when it comes to my kids growing and struggling with identity/purpose/value troubles and my wife is left alone to encourage them? Where is His goodness in this? For that matter, where was His goodness when Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot, Ed McCauley, and Pete Fleming were killed on Palm Beach leaving their wives and kids behind? Does God’s goodness address my desire for comfort or the feelings of security at all?
I am reminded of a verse in Romans that says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
Where is God’s goodness in the death of His Son? In the temporal perspective… I’m not seeing the goodness. With an eternal perspective, the goodness of God is realized in the redemption of mankind. In the temporal perspective, there wasn’t much good about the previously mentioned 5 men dying on a beach, but within a generation or 2 the rampant murdering and revenge killing of an entire tribe of people came to an end.
On the one hand I want to reject the idea of God’s enduring, timeless goodness in exchange for my own temporal comfort and pleasure. But I know the way that seems right in my heart will lead me to my death. I know the other hand leads down a painful road which, for some, has held certain death, but it ends with redemptive healing in the lives of others for generations to come.
I should be more careful with what I hope for… what I pray for. Though I have asked many times that God would grant me influence in the lives of men so that His kingdom will advance through my labor to many cultures for generations to come, I do not want to take the road necessary for Him to use me to that end.
I want my family to go with me. I have tears in my eyes as I finish up this post because of the pain which I feel when thinking of being separated from them.
I fear that my family will not be able to join me.
And I am resolved to bear my true character in the face of adversity with hope, trusting that the temporal pain to be experienced by my family will surely result in the realization of a theme of Scripture and Christianity…
God is good
All the time
All the time
God is Good
Just Thinking, My Story
despair, emotional security, faith, family, fatherhood, hopeless, insecurity, kids, leadership, sacrifice
I was frustrated.
I was angry.
I was moving away from Washington State. I had developed some really intimate relationships with some of the men I met up there and had started meeting with them at least once a week. I was spending close to 8 hours per man each week praying for them, studying with them, counseling them, challenging them… shepherding them.
I had prayed for a long time that God would send a replacement for me or that He would develop one of them to step in and start shepherding that little flock in my place after I left.
It didn’t happen.
A couple weeks before we left Washington, I heard that another fella who is a part of the same ministry team that I am a part of was moving into the area. I was excited to say the least. I then found out that he had no plans of connecting with our little posse… he had no plans to lead it, to shepherd it, or to even meet with it.
In my frustration, I called the head guy for our team and expressed to him my frustration. The team leader’s response was pretty simple…
This man will be working a very specific and demanding job while
in Washington and simply does not have the capacity right now to
be involved. I’m sorry.
I was dumbfounded.
He doesn’t have the capacity?
What a poor excuse!
The team leader tried to explain to me that not everybody is capable of the same amount of stress, or relational tenacity, or multitasking agility. It was so hard for me to understand. I kept thinking that if I could do it, while being a husband, a father of 4, and a Sailor, surely this fella could do it.
Fast forward a year and a half. A long, painful, cold, and dark year and a half.
I have been in school for a long time. I was dropped from my original class and placed in the class behind me… akin to repeating the 3rd grade. While going to school, I had a handful of “distractors” stack up in my personal life. To name a few, and just a few, my grandpa passed away last Thanksgiving, my brother had a tumor removed, was diagnosed with cancer, and started chemo, we went through an eviction proceeding following a long period of no income on our rental home in NC, and have been the recipients of a lawsuit threat from an employee of a real estate company.
It all finally stacked up against me. Between the rough relationships in my extended family and me feeling like I have a responsibility to mend them, the loss my family has suffered, the strained (but healing) relationships between my wife and I (and my kids and I), and the lack of local friends (because I was too busy with school, there are good people here who care about me)… I cracked.
I would sit before my open books, read the same line a hundred times, and be consumed with thoughts that I was neglecting my family. I would close my books and go see my family but my heart wasn’t there. I would hear in the back of my mind that I was wasting the taxpayers dollar, that my family is doing just fine and that I need to do what I have been chosen to do… study and do well in school so that I can go forward and do great things on behalf of the US Navy. This cycle continued until I started to feel simply paralyzed.
I would sit in front of my books and just stare at them.
I would stand in my yard with my kids playing around me and just stare at them.
I went in to take a test a couple weeks ago and failed it. I needed a 75 and I earned a 74. A weak 74 at that… tons of guessing!
This test fail triggered an academic investigation. I told the investigating board all of what was going on in my home life.
The end result?
I have been dismissed from training.
Not for a lack of trying. Not for a lack of intellectual ability. Not for a lack of time management or failure to prioritize. But for a lack of capacity.
I had in my head that being capable of succeeding was directly related to my ability to perform when the time came. I now understand that life isn’t just about performing when the time comes. There is a lot of life that happens behind the scenes, when the curtain is down and the seats are empty.
I do not live in a vacuum and I cannot continue to ask my family to wait for me. As life has gotten a little thicker, a little more tricky, I have come to understand that I do not have the capacity to do what I wanted.
I am okay with this.
I am becoming very happy with this.
I was frustrated and angry before because I had no concept of somebody knowing where the edges of their envelope existed and choosing to stay within those boundaries. I am sorry for the way that I reacted to that situation (and I will get in touch with the parties involved in order to communicate that).
I now know what it feels like to be stretched beyond my capacity and I see the damage that that causes to me and my family. I also now recognize what it feels like to approach the limit of my capabilities.
I had a friend in Washington, a man I met with from time to time who coached me as a husband, a father, and a young shepherd. He would tell me often that I needed to learn to say no. He would tell me that he was afraid that I did not know where my boundaries were and that I was on a crash course for taking on more than I should and potentially causing great harm to myself and my family.
Rob, if you are reading this, you were right! I was on that train. I was not over committed in Washington, but I quickly ran out of space out here. By the grace of GodI did not cause great harm to me or my family.
I have learned what my limits are and , more importantnly what ifeels like to reach them.
I found my max capacity and I managed to get off that train before it wrecked my life.
Thank you to all the friends and family who have supported us, encouraged us, and prayed for us as we walked through this part of our journey.
Life Updates, My Story
confusion, Discipleship, faith, family
I don’t know if ever I have come across a word as painful, demoralizing, or heavy to me as this one.
It doesn’t hurt when it is being used in the typical pop culture manner of the word, but when bestowed upon me as a reward for my actions not meeting the requisite standard… Sigh…
And fail I did.
I have had many people who care about me try to soften the blow. I have had some very encouraging people attempt to encourage me by saying things like, “If you did your best, its not a fail,” and “Your wife and kids still love you, you didn’t fail.” There were a good number of these kinds of statements being sent to me. On the one hand, I really appreciated them. They made me feel good for a moment.
On the other hand, they were frustrating to a deep level.
I felt as though the encouragement that was being given to me was a dismissal of what had happened, a denial of the facts, an enticement to live contrary to reality.
And so I write this now… I’m calling it what it is.
It is a fail.
I failed to meet the minimum requirements to move forward with my training. I failed to accumulate the required minimum number of points on a battery of patient scenarios. I failed to perform my job in a manner commensurate with the predetermined standard which was required of me. This is the simple reality and truth of the matter. There was a standard. I did not attain it. Fail.
I understand what these encouragers were communicating to me. I am not a failure. I felt like one. The weekend after I got the news, I walked around in a strange fog of disbelief.
It is humiliating. It is painful for me. I am heavy hitter, a hot runner. I have been ” they guy that gets things done” for a long time. For me to engage in something this difficult and not succeed is a foreign concept.
I spent a lot of time thinking about failure and how it is handled by the folks around me. I think we need to adjust fire.
I had some folks tell me they were sorry that I failed, that they had faith in my ability to pass, and that they hoped I would get back to the plate and start swinging again. This is the healthy approach.
We cannot redefine a word when we don’t like how it makes us feel. We do not have the ability to redefine the standards placed upon us after we have committed to the task. We do not have the luxury of walking through life sans consequences. We had better not communicate to those around us that we believe we can do these things.
I have started to wonder… how many times have I redefined something in my life, or in the lives of those around me, because the truth was too bitter to swallow. Have I looked at a friend and told him that what he was doing is healthy, appropriate, just, wise, or even “not that bad”, when in fact it is unhealthy, inappropriate, unjust, unwise, or quite frankly “bad”? Has this quickness to redefine what is offensive so that I don’t have to really deal with the source of offense stretched into my beliefs? Or rather, have my beliefs failed to stretch into my daily interactions with others to such an extent that I believe that I am the authority who decides what is a fail, a pass, wise, just, unjust, good, bad, etc., without really understanding that that is what I am doing?
I am not the one to determine a fail. I simply perform.
Those who wrote the course, set the objectives, presented the material, and evaluated my performance are the appropriate judges. It is on their shoulders to define the fail.
Likewise, it is not me who determines what is right or wrong, just or unjust, fair or unfair. I simply discern what I see.
The Author of all life is the one who wrote the course of my life, set the objectives, determined my purpose, presented me with the resources required, and is the only appropriate Judge who determines what is right or wrong, just or unjust, righteous and unrighteous, pure and holy, or sin and… well… fail.
Another thing I got to think about was my struggle with “failure.” I fought, off and on, with feeling like a failure for years. I had such a ridiculous, strict, narrow view of success that practically everything I did failed to measure up. I would recall all the things I “failed” at and would feel as though nothing I did was good enough. I really felt as though I was a failure. Interestingly enough it took a legitimate fail for me to see that I have not legitimately failed at much of anything in my past. I know it is ironic, but a couple weeks after my first fail and I am realizing how awesome I have been in this game of life! (feel free to roll your eyes)
In summary, I failed and I want to call it a fail. Calling it a fail is not the same as calling me a failure. Saying I did not fail is redefining reality and calling “bad” “good”. I am simply the one who failed. After getting the bad news, the Navy went through the required procedure and, in the end, decided to send me back to the beginning of the course with another class. I hear repeating the 8th grade isn’t so bad…
Just Thinking, Life Updates, My Story
confusion, despair, failure, fear, hopeless, insecurity
My wife and I have endured much together. I love her deeply. (You hear that babe, I said I love you, and I said it in “public”) All kidding aside…
We have been very fortunate to have friends who have loved us and helped us along the way. I have really been cancerous to my marriage in the past. Now that we are moving on through the stages of life, we have friends who are walking some of the same roads with the same pot-holes we walked before. Some of these friends turn to Jessica and I for advice. Talk about scary!! You want marriage advice from us??!!! Have we met?!!!
Porn was a pretty major part of my life and, in a lot of ways, is still a major part of my life. Though I have separated myself from the poison, we are still dealing with the effects of it in my life, as well as some of the more subtle things that drove my passion for it.
A young wife, who had just had a baby, sent us a letter last summer. Her husband has been taking steps to separate himself from this destructive habit. He asked her to check his phone, knowing that she would discover that he had been watching Porn. She lost it. She absolutely blew up. A few days later she sent a letter to Jessica and I and we sent emails, Facebook messages, and texts with the two of them for a couple weeks.
I had many talks with “Jack” and still communicate with him when I can.
What follows is a letter that Jessica sent to “Jill.” We got permission from Jack and Jill to let us post this on here after changing the names.
We do not blame Jill, or any other Jills out there, for her husbands interaction with Porn. That is in no way, shape, or form, her fault. That is Jacks… and Jack MUST deal with it. BUT… Jill’s ownership of her reactions to Jack can really set the tone for how they move through some of this stuff… or at least it did for us. I owe whatever victory I have had in the arena of Sexual purity to Jesus and to my wife as He demonstrated His love and His healing nature through her.
I am so very proud of my wife.
We post this email, just 1 in a long set of messages, to hopefully encourage any other “Jills” out there who are dealing with a weak/wounded/lost “Jack”:
I’m sorry it took me a couple of days to respond. I was going to respond last night but my internet connection wouldn’t load anything and then we had to go to bed.
First off, let me assure you, Jill, that this is not your fault and that Jack’s temptation toward or fall into porn is NOT about you, nor is it a reflection of you. I know that is hard for you to believe, and you know that I know all-to-well the insecurities that come with a post-baby body and that I know the lies that will flood your mind and heart that your imperfections are what drives Jack away. Let me tell you that is one of the ways in which Satan will defeat you and drive a wedge between the two of you. And that is all it is…pure lies. Strangely enough, God has wired our husbands to be intensely attracted to us and desiring of us even with all the changes our bodies go through. When Jack tells you that you’re beautiful or sexy, BELIEVE HIM!
That being said, all that Michael said is true, the more you approach him, the more free and willing you are with him, not only the more connection and intimacy you will have, but it helps him so much to fight the temptation to look at porn. It is much easier to click a few links on a computer than it is to think about approaching a wife who isn’t enthusiastic or is so tired or busy with household chores and children that she might reject or not notice his advances. I don’t know where you are on this. This is simply my experience and my knowledge based on discussions Michael and I have had.
I will go back and address some specific things in your message in a minute, but another thought off the top of my head… the passcodes and locks on the computer are like putting a bandaid over a gushing wound. They are a temporary fix for a deeper problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think taking any step to help Jack avoid falling prey to porn is good, but you’re only treating the symptom and not getting to the root of the problem itself, so do NOT think if passcodes are in place, that everything will be good. It won’t. The temptation and ‘need’ are still there…the temptation will likely always be there, although the severity of it may lessen as you deal with the problem.
The need for and the security that he finds in porn is a result of something else, wounds as Michael called them. Jack might not even know what those are himself. Those wounds will not heal without finding someone to walk through them with him… another man who is deeply committed to God, who is willing to love Jack and invest time and energy discipling him and uprooting the trash and cleaning out the wounds, who can communicate truth to him on an intimate heart level…not simply praying for him and sending him Bible verses. These help, but he needs more, and this is where true biblical church comes into play. This will also help Jack become the spiritual leader that you so need and crave. How can he be a spiritual leader when no one is there to show him how?
And the lady who is mentoring you should be teaching you how to be a Godly wife and mother and probing the emotions and thoughts you have regarding all of this. She should be turning you to the truths in God’s word, helping you remain grounded in your identity as a precious princess of the King in the midst of the raging storm inside of you. Encouraging you to love and respect your husband even when you can’t see how that’s possible. One of the biggest things I was told by two different godly women when we went through all that we did last year was that I HAVE to respect him. It is commanded of me by God (Ephesians 5). I know this is hard right now, but you have to respect Jack.
This should be a daily prayer of yours… not simply that God would protect Jack and help him stand against temptation and that God would make him a spiritual leader for your family, but that God would show you how to love and respect your husband today (every day), that He would guard your heart against the lies of Satan, that He would heal the wounds in both of you and bring you into greater intimacy and spiritual unity. If you do not pray through these things and ask God to change your heart, you will continue to suffer in pain and isolation from Jack.
Along these same lines, if you react out of pain, anger, and bitterness every time Jack confesses his falls to you, he will stop confessing them. He will either tell you nothing or he will lie (For the record, if you’re reading this, Jack, the lies make it so much more painful than just simply telling the truth to begin with. Trust me, as hard or humiliating as it is, up front honesty goes a long way toward healing the rift and moving past it).
Neither one of you can fight this alone, and you cannot fight this together if you let your pain drive your responses. When Jack asked you to check the history on his phone, that was a big step for him. He is inviting you into the battle with him. When you found the website and got angry and upset, it was more destructive than if you had been able to talk about it with him and forgive him for it. He is now not only fighting against porn, but he is also fighting not to hurt you. He doesn’t want to hurt you so he lies, which then hurts you more, which then shames and defeats him, which leaves him in need of healing again, which he can’t get from you because he just hurt you so badly….it’s a vicious cycle.
Forgiveness….that’s a big topic. Let me encourage you, Jill, to do a thorough study of the bible on the topic of forgiveness. Try to answer these questions…What is true forgiveness? Does a person have to apologize or change their offending behavior in order for you to forgive? What does forgiveness look like as it is lived out (in an association, friendship, brotherhood, marriage, whatever – use examples if you feel you need to)? You hear “forgive and forget”…what does that mean and what is your opinion of this term? Is forgiveness different from mercy and if so, how? What does mercy look like as it is lived out? Feel free to add any other questions or thoughts. I had to study this many years ago…I had no idea how to forgive for such deep and ongoing pain.
As far as dealing with deployment, everyone around him is gonna have a computer or phone so it would be super easy for him to borrow someone else’s to skype. That could go two ways…either he is less likely to look at porn because it’s not his device and he doesn’t want to be caught, or it could be easier to look since it’s someone else’s device and there’s no telling what’s already on it. Most units offer opportunities for communication on public use equipment…maybe not as reliable or free or frequent, but an option to look into. Frequent honest communication between the two of you, in love, no topic off limits, is a big deal. Your responses, Jill, as I mentioned earlier, will have a huge impact on this.
Having someone (mentor that I mentioned earlier) who will continue to pursue Jack as much as possible during deployment is another factor. Jack finding a guy or two to meet with and study the bible and pray on a frequent regular basis there, not like leading a bible study, but walking alongside each other and encouraging and challenging one another.
And, if you can do so without them being discovered by someone else, send him naked pictures of yourself to look at when he wants a little something. I was super uncomfortable taking them at first, but I set the timer on my camera (do NOT have someone else take them) and sent them anyway, and he really appreciated that. It gave him a release without falling into sin. You could also have Jack direct you and take pictures of you before he leaves.
Moving on to your feelings of not being loved or cherished and being overworked and unappreciated…welcome to motherhood and marriage. Not to make light of it, but I believe that every single woman struggles with this at some point. I think it comes down to just three things… laziness, miscommunication/misunderstanding, and the enemy’s lies.
It is entirely possible that Jack has simply become lazy in his interaction with you, not being deliberate in showing you love and appreciation. It is also highly likely that your feelings are being exacerbated by the feelings that have resulted from the pornography problem. Try to separate your feelings on the pornography from the rest of Jack and your interaction with him and see what you have left. The rest of it, you communicate to him, but you do so in a non-confrontational, non-condemning manner.
Here’s the thing…men and women think and communicate very differently. I, for probably years, struggled with this attitude…”Why can’t he get up and get his own drink? Why does he sit there on the computer when he sees me struggling to cook dinner and juggle kids and get the house cleaned up all at once? How can he ask me to do one more thing with everything on my plate? He doesn’t see anything I do! He doesn’t appreciate any of it!” Ten years into our marriage and four kids later, I learned through a professional counseling session that the whole time he was sitting there thinking, “Why on earth is she trying to do everything on her own? Why doesn’t she ask for help? She wants things done her way and she doesn’t want me to be a part of her world. I am just a pawn in her game of family and house.” All I had to do was ask, and it solved that problem for both of us…communication.
Asking for his help doesn’t mean you are his mother, or that you’re inferior for asking, or that he’s uncaring for not offering. Sure, it would be nice if our husbands just jumped in and did everything, but in all honesty, they’re not too sure just what we want or need from them a lot of time in regards to the baby needs or managing the household. And being that y’all haven’t been married that long and are new to the parenting thing, there’s gonna be a lot that he simply won’t see. And it’s not for lack of caring, it’s simply obliviousness or in some instances I’m sure, laziness or immaturity.
You have to communicate, and you cannot do it in an accusatory manner. Simply tell him that you need to discuss some needs and desires with him, and then lay it out in black and white. Giving him specific ways in which he can help you with Baby or the house, as well as specific things you would like for him to do in order for you to feel loved and cherished will be more helpful than just giving him a light-hearted or vague ‘I need more help and I need to feel more loved by you.’ There are even many times now when I will tell Michael, “Hey, I did this today and I want you to notice it,” or “Hey, look at this…you have to be excited about this for me! ” Then it doesn’t go unnoticed simply because what are significant things to me may not be so significant to him, and I won’t be disappointed when I get no reaction.
And don’t let the enemy slip in and cause bitterness or resentment when Jack doesn’t meet your expectations. He is human, and he will fail you. It’s just a part of being the imperfect sinners we are. Know and trust that Jack loves and cherishes you deeply, and dwell on the things you see that show you that…like the fact that he willingly met with the youth pastor, attended those meetings, and asked you to check his phone. Like how he loves on Baby or even does simple things to take care of you by taking out the trash or something like that.
If he doesn’t seem to notice your feelings, then you’ll just have to make the first step and start sharing with him. If you want a hug, ask for it. We cannot expect someone else to know what we need or want at any given time, specifically when we are wired so differently (different personalities, values, love languages, needs, priorities…). Communication…it has to be a priority.
So anyway, I wrote this mostly to Jill since you are the one who wrote us. Michael, if there is any error in my words, please let me know. Jill and Jack, we are an open book and always open for questions, discussions, etc. Feel free to respond with your thoughts, feelings, etc. on here. And please give us a call any time. My schedule is very open right now, and even if Michael is in school, he will be glad to return a call if you leave a message or text. If you want to take a vacation to the east coast sometime, our doors are always open to you and we would love to see y’all!! We love you both very very much!
I will be praying for you both. When is the next deployment?
On a side note, we are doing great as well. Michael’s class is mind-numbing and intense, but he’s a genius so he’s doing well. I am loving some downtime and finally getting the house in order and looking forward to fun times with the kids for the rest of the summer. They are all doing well, starting to make friends, and enjoying the freedom of being done with school for the year! Looking forward to hearing back from you!
Just Thinking, My Story
Addiction, Bondage, despair, faith, family, Freedom, Porn, shame, values
Like the little bubbles on the bottom of a pot of water getting bigger and bigger until a full, rolling boil is present, so was the excitement washing over me. I could hardly sleep the night before and I was finally setting out.
I know that the hands of the clock are ever moving and that there is nothing I can do to push back against them. One of my favorite admonishments from the Bible is found in Ephesians 5. When I spend some alone time meditating on this passage, I can almost hear Paul saying, “Mike, the days are evil, the clock ticks life away so make every moment count.”
I also know that there is a great demand upon my time (a major reason why this blog has fallen a bit to the wayside… I’m sorry y’all). I recognize that my kids are spending a lot less time with me than they were in Washington and that, if I plan on finishing well at this school, I must put in some long hours.
I decided to guard my weekends in order to nourish the fragile relationships I have with my kids. Most notably with my older two. I want my kids to feel like they are a part of something that I am a part of, not just tagging along. I want them to feel like they are wanted, chosen, sought after… like they belong.
I have belonged to some really amazing groups during my life and, though they are drastically different, they did have some things in common. They were exclusive (some more than others), I had to do something to be a part of it (some more than others), I had to want to be there, there was a designated purpose, and it usually cost me something. When I did the things required to be a part of these groups and demonstrated a desire to commit to their mission, helping to fulfill their purpose, I felt as though I mattered and that I belonged to the team. This is what I want my kids to feel like when they are with me and each other on an adventure.
So I started a club. I called it the Saturday Morning Adventure Club. Before I went to work on Friday morning, I wrote out 8 questions on the board for the kids to answer. I had them write down their name and birthday. They had to list their skills. They had to tell me what made a good adventure good and a bad adventure bad. They had to answer the question “How awesome is your dad?” They had to look up in a dictionary (or use other resources, like their mama) to find out what the words Koinonia and Outdoors mean, then they had to draw a picture of what they think when they hear these words.
When I got home, I called each of them into my “office” one at a time for an interview. We went over their applications in detail. One applicant does not care about adventure, but put on the application that they wanted to join the club because they liked the leader and wanted to be a part of whatever club he was leading. This one’s artwork was creative and well proportioned.
Applicant 2 decided to answer the questions in whatever random order he so desired. I could not follow his answers to save my life. I gave him double points during the interview for demonstrating his ability to “draw outside of the lines.” I admired the “I’ll answer your silly questions in my own silly way” spirit. Though his ability to follow directions was on the low side, he listed his skills in the following order… I can run fast. I’ll take it.
I made a simple little emblem for our team and am in the process of getting hats made for us. Team emblem on the front, nickname on the back. These kids do not come with me on Saturday mornings because they have to, or because it is just what we do, but because the team is going, and they are a part of the team. They have to get the gear together before the trips and they carry more than their fair share of the cleanup after the trip.
And I have started building another team!
Every Saturday morning we depart from our Team Headquarters (the garage) No Later Than 0800 (though the target departure time is 0645) and we go paddling.
That first trip was like walking on lightning for me. I love getting up early, in the calm stillness of the morning, drinking my coffee and restoring my soul before breakfast. I woke the kids up an they got the requisite gear together for the day as I double checked the straps on the canoe (loaded the night before) and made final checks of the weather. Breakfast was done, gear was inspected, packed, and loaded, and the kids were strapped in. We were off.
1 hour later I had unloaded the canoe onto the beach, put the gear bags in the bottom of the boat, and left my teammates on the shore watching the gear as I drove back to a suitable parking area. As I walked back to the rally point my mind raced. Are we ready? Is this actually going to be a good thing? What if we flip the boat or get rained on? Will my teammates, my kids, want to abandon the cause?
With great apprehension and a touch of icy fear, I pushed the canoe out into the channel…
And for the next 4 hours, Team Hitefield’s Saturday Morning Adventure Club chased horse shoe crabs and herons, watched striped bass and egrets, paddled like mad and drifted inconsolably in the wind.
I have not been in a long time as proud as I am now to be a member of a team.
So if y’all are ever up in the stillness of the morning on a Saturday before the world starts humming, go for a walk, take a kid with you (if there is one available), and post comments about your adventure!
adventure, fatherhood, joy, kids, leadership, team building
“I cannot complain about the flour… or the early mornings”
That was what she said. That is what set me free to pursue the things I enjoy and feel led to do. But did she mean it? There is no way she did because she had no idea what she was talking about… but she said it all the same.
We were riding through Key West at the time and I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was set to get out of the Navy within the year and I was really torn between going to college, becoming a cop, or trying out for SARC, Special Amphibious Recon Corpsman. I knew that I should involve my wife in this decision making process.
As we sat riding in the Jeep, we talked about my desires for the future. I would talk about being a cop and then tell her that I wanted to steer away from that. My dad was a cop for as long as I can remember. I remember how it felt to be a kid and have my dad gone so often with the strange hours and rotating schedule of a Police Officer. I remember watching my mom’s face when she would get the phone call saying daddy would not be coming home because he was standing on the side of the road taking care of a traffic accident. I remember what it felt like to know that my dad had arrested the brothers and fathers of some of the kids in my class and that I had to watch out for the retaliation against my dad that might be served to him through my broken body. It was a rough life and I did not want that for my family.
I mostly did not want that for my wife. My mom spent a lot of time raising us kids by herself. My dad would ask her how we were and he would tell her what he would like for her to do with us, but my mom was really the active one in raising us. I did not want my wife to be that “single” parent because I was gone so often.
When I shared these ideas with her, she responded by talking about a baker. She said,
“You are not the man that you are because of the job that you do, you do the job that you do because of the man that you are.”
That took a long time to sink in. She continued by explaining that she could not marry a man who enjoys the early morning, serving breakfast, and exercising his creative spirit through baking, and then complain about the early mornings, the smell of pastries, and all the dirty aprons. If she marries a baker, she has to put up with the baking.
It still took a little while for my identity to be refined and for me to understand what that meant. As I started thinking through these things, I started to question my motives for choosing my future job. What it boiled down to was pretty simple. I wanted a job where I would be required to think under stressful conditions, use my body to bring about the desired results of a task at hand, and to serve people in a manner in which they were not able to serve themselves. I wanted to protect, defend, and serve. I wanted to think, strategize, and make things happen. There does not seem to be many jobs that put such a high emphasis on intelligence, “outside of the box thinking”, and physical prowess and stamina. That kind of ruled college out. It also set Recon above getting out to be a cop.
But I was afraid that Jessica did not fully comprehend what she was asking. In my extensive wisdom, I made her watch Black Hawk Down and then go talk to some of the wives of the instructors at the Army’s dive school on Flemming Key. She spent a few days in a very somber mood. When we continued the conversation, she confirmed what she had said before.
I started looking for a bakery.
We lost everything we owned to Hurricane Wilma. While walking around a grocery store making a list of the food items we lost for the insurance claim I got a call from a friend of mine. He was a part of 3/8 (Third battalion, Eighth marine regiment, pronounced Three Eight) and they were deploying to Ramadi. He said the platoon sergeant had requested 2 Corpsmen for the deployment, and that the battalion wanted to support this decision, but had already assigned their other stellar performers to other sections. He asked if I wanted to go to Ramadi with 3/8 Scout Sniper Platoon.
I hung up the phone and talked to Jessica. The next day I started the paperwork and within 2 months had all the signatures I needed to move back to Camp Lejeune.
Right after Christmas 2005 I slid into the platoon.
I’ve been baking ever since.
Thanks Sweetie for recognizing what it meant to marry a man like me, embracing the difficulties and making the sacrifices required of you, and for not ever complaining about duty days and deployments.
Freedom, identity, marriage, sacrifice
I have typed this first paragraph several times now. I keep trying to work up a metaphor for the pain and bitterness that I carried around with me. A metaphor depicting the way that I hid this the best that I could from the people around me and how I would ignore the sore spot in my soul.
There is no metaphor that I can think of to describe this.
I would ask really good questions when I was around other people and I would tell stories and get involved with their life and their projects without ever really letting anybody else get into mine. I would share my story and my life and I would be “transparent” at the drop of a hat. The trouble is that transparency got me nowhere and I wonder if the fruit produced in the lives of others because of my “transparency” was short lived or actually fruit at all. Just like when my math teacher would work problems on her transparency sheet and the work was projected on the wall, I would keep my problem on the transparency sheet and broadcast it to an audience. They can interact with the problem as though it were projected on a wall, but I was behind the glass. I did not mean to be, I never thought about that, I did not recognize it as it happened. I just now am able to see what was going on.
I have often tried to figure out just when I started to hate myself. I never considered the idea that, should I figure out when and why I started to hate me, that I could spend some time thinking about it and praying about it and see if Jesus would redeem that part of my life. That never crossed my mind. I just wanted to understand me a little bit better.
I got a chance to go to Colorado last summer and met with a really sharp guy from Australia. This guy is really good at helping people get to the root of some of their pain. During my time with him, he had me do some ridiculous things like making a memory timeline. I had to write every memory I could think of down on a timeline, then we talked about them!
One of the memories I had occurred when I was about 10.
My brother was a really wild and rowdy kid. He is a couple years younger than I am and was a lot more aggressive than I was. He would chase me from one end of the house to the other end of the house when were toddlers. He thought it was great fun!
Life was hard for my family at this point in time. We had just moved from Missouri to Louisiana and did not have a home. Somehow my dad was able to arrange for us to live in a house way out in the country. Because we lived so far out, and my dad’s work schedule was not a 9-5, we did not see my dad much during the week. He worked hard and commuted a long way. My mom was left with the task of managing my brother and I on her own during the week.
My brother seemed to be in a serious “boundary testing” phase of his life too. He would pick at me and pick at me incessantly until I would complain to my mom and she would intervene. After one of these episodes she explained to me that my brother was going to keep pestering me until I stood up to him. She may not have said it, but I understood that what she meant was that I needed to fight my brother in order to put him in his place.
I was a good student. I was a sweet kid. I know I had a “little black cloud” that followed me around and I would get moody or upset, but all in all I remember being a really sweet child.
One day while waiting for the bus, my brother was being a pain. He was shoving me and pushing me and I kept taking it. As the bus came into view, he grabbed my backpack and threw it in the ditch. There was several inches of water in this ditch and so I ran to get my backpack before my school work was soaked. As I got near the bag, he shoved me in. I grabbed my bag and jumped out of the ditch while the bus rolled to a stop. It never crossed my mind that I had an option to go inside and get cleaned up. I simply got on the bus and went to school.
That afternoon my brother was still at it. I ran to my mom and started complaining about what he was doing. She picked up my little sister who was really young and told me not to break anything in the kitchen. She then went into another room and closed the door.
Commence Thunder Dome
I was petrified. I had wrestled and fought with my brother before, but somehow I always knew that there were limits. That if I got out of hand or he got out of hand, somebody was going to step in. Not this time. He started in on me and I remember grabbing a broom. The next memory I have is standing over him while he laid in a fetal position crying silently. I had a broom in my hand and was shaking.
I have remembered this fight for a long time. I can see it in my head, I can smell that damp kitchen, I can see the sobs coming from my brother and I can still feel the terror that I saw in his eyes as he laid there trying to protect himself from me.
This is what I did not realize until last year.
I loved my brother. I deeply loved my brother. I cared about him. I wanted to protect him. I was often called bossy because I would tell him what to do, but my heart was trying to guard him.
I would get worked up when he would get in trouble. I hated seeing him hurt and I did not like the people who caused the pain.
And here I was, standing over him, having just completed delivering the beat down of beat downs.
But it was not so simple as that. It was not simply that I hurt my brother and so I was mad at me. I hurt my brother believing that what I was doing was the right thing to do. I had been coached to engage in this manner in order to teach him a lesson and restore order in the house. What I had done in my young perspective was noble and appropriate. I was in the right. I had done the honorable thing.
But I felt so horrible seeing him like that. This is where the root of cancerous self loathing seems to have really developed good roots. I started to feel that I was incapable of doing what was good or what was right. For me to do what is noble, what is right, I would be left feeling like this. If I really were a good boy, then I would not feel so despicable for doing what was good. The only reason for me to feel this way after doing something good and noble is because I was a horribly bad and ignoble boy. No matter how good I behaved or how much people praised me, I knew deep inside that I was an agent of pain and destruction. Those were not the words that would go through my head. What I would hear often is that all I am capable of is hurting other people, letting people down, and ruining things around me.
As I thought about that memory I started to realize that in that moment, watching my brother lay there in pain, something changed deep within me. I lost a part of my innocence and started to believe deep inside that I was worthless. The rest of my life I would hear my own voice in my own head telling me that no matter what I did, my best contribution to my family would be for me to cease existing within it.
None of this was my parents fault. This wasn’t my fault. Kids are great observers and horrible interpreters. This was simply the result of me being in and reacting to a situation that was not so bueno.
And for the record. I no longer hate myself!
I’ll write about that part later.`l
And one more thing… to my brother…
I am very sorry for beating you with a broomstick.
family, fear, hate, kids, suicide
(Click here for the beginning of the story)
I just knew that I had to.
I also knew that I was a coward and that I would wait until that last minute to say anything at all.
So I committed to telling her before we left the little town she was living in.
I decided to drive from Camp Lejeune to Knoxville to go on a hay ride in the Smoky Mountains with a church group that fall. I had been sending emails back and forth with Jessica for a couple months by this time and I was really enjoying my relationship with her. The last time I was in Tennessee I heard about a hay ride through the mountains and Jessica asked if I was going to come back to town for that.
Of course not. Why would I make an 8 hour drive on a random weekend, burning my vacation days, just to sit on a hay bale and ride around the mountains looking at the leaves.
“No… I don’t think I will be coming back for that.”
Her mouth said she understood but her eyes said she wanted me to be there. My head knew it was a completely ridiculous thing to do, but my heart said I wanted to be there too.
During the month between my last trip in and the hay ride, some things started to change. I started to feel a deep affection for this girl. I started feeling a longing to know her and all her secrets. The really scary thing was that I wanted her to know my secrets.
I did not know what was going on and I was afraid of making decisions that would affect the rest of my life based on silly emotions and heart flutters. I spent some time with some friends of mine asking them a lot about relationships, affection, and the way a woman’s heart works. By the end of my time with this couple I had a pretty good idea what I needed to do.
I took some vacation time and drove to Tennessee for a hay ride. I know I know… But I wanted her. In a very legitimate and honest way. I wanted to have this girl in my life and if it cost me the last bit of cash I have in my account and some vacation time to have her then so be it.
The hay ride was awesome!
She was going to school in a little town called Cookeville. Really pretty place. I knew that I had to talk to her before we left her little college town or else I would have squandered the entire weekend. I stopped by her dorm and picked her up. I was driving an old Jeep at the time. Big tires, big engine, loud… loud, loud, loud. I was so intimidated by the task at hand that I stalled over and over again. We went to a little Mexican joint to get a bite to eat, but I wasn’t hungry. We went to a little play ground and sat on the swings. It started to get late and I did not want to be on the road much past dark, so we started to head for the interstate. As I was coming through the tight curve of the entrance ramp, I knew I was breaking my commitment to myself.
I looked over at Jessica and she was as peaceful as could be. She really enjoyed riding in my Jeep. The sun was just starting to set and the temperature was cool. I jerked the Jeep to the side of the entrance ramp and pulled to stop in the grass.
I looked at her and then back to the front. With one hand on the stick and my foot working the clutch, I said it.
“Jessica… I Love You.”
BAM!! Slammed the gas pedal to the floor, dropped the clutch like a bad habbit and threw dirt and rocks all over the place as I shot down the entrance ramp and the interstate for the next 2 hours to Knoxville. Usually the only thing I could hear on that ride was the sound of those giant knobby tires on the pavement. This time all I could hear was my own heart pumping. I felt so foolish. I also felt really good.
The hay ride that weekend really was pretty amazing. I sat next to Jessica and we had a really good time. She was the first girl to whom I had ever spoken those words outside of my family. While on the hay ride somebody else caught a candid picture of the two of us. I think it captured the moment pretty well.
She did not tell me she loved me on that trip. When I dropped her off at the end of the weekend she actually took the time to make it clear to me that she could not tell me that she loved me. I honestly did not care. I loved her and I was convinced that she was going to be mine.
A month after this trip Jessica came to Camp Lejeune for the Marine Corps ball. Is there anything more romantic than a room full of dress blues and choking Marines? I think not. After the ball we went down to the beach and went for a walk. While listening to the gently crashing waves and holding her hand walking barefoot on Onslow beach, Jessica turned to me and said it.
“Michael… I Love You”
I do not remember what I said, but what shot through my mind was a simple, emphatic, “Of course you do…”
And that was that. I took her back to the place she was staying, and then I went home. I dreamed about my life and the way it was going to look in the years ahead. I dreamed, but I did not sleep.
This is kind of the end of this part of the story. Our entire dating relationship was a long distance relationship. It moved pretty fast. From the moment I saw her to the moment we were married was roughly 1 year. We have been married for almost 10 years now.
I do not regret it a bit.
adventure, dating, joy, love
Why questions can be hard questions to answer.
As I kept looking at what was going on in my life, I started to feel an awareness that I had not yet known. I had been doing all of these Christian things, leading other believers, and submitting to Jesus for years. I talked about this life being a spiritual war and I talked about Angels and Demons. I had not spent any time thinking about the implications of this ideology.
It was almost as though I talked about these things like a peace time military talks about war. There are great examples and references to war. There is an intimate understanding of war and the stuff that goes along with it. There is no knowledge of the taste, smell, and sound of war.
I continued to sit and think.
This is why I believe Jesus allowed my life to spiral out of control like He did.
Jesus says at one point that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. He commands His disciples to pray unto the Lord of the harvest to thrust out laborers. I am a laborer. I want to be a leader of laborers. Jesus knows that His Kingdom advances. In that language, the language of an advancing Kingdom, there are strong implications. There is a King. There is a Kingdom. The Kingdom advances into new territory. This territory must be held by an enemy. Jesus wants men who labor to be prepared to lead other laborers into a hard environment as He advances against His enemies.
These leaders need to be seasoned. I remember the calm and peace that would come over me when I knew that the team leaders in my platoon were seasoned combat veterans. They were intimate with the hardships, tactics, logistics, and mission of the war in which we were engaged. They knew the pain of loss and the exuberant joy of mission success. They knew the sting of missing family and the innate passion to get back home. I knew that they had felt everything I was going through, had the same fears, had the same misgivings. I also knew that they had found a way to survive and that built a lot of trust.
I think this is what Jesus was looking for in Peter. He knew He was going to thrust Peter to the front line of the advancing kingdom and he wanted Peter to lead well and fight hard. It worked too. Peter was sifted. He was broken to a point of abandoning Jesus, abandoning his only friends, and running away from what he had come to believe. He made his exit and went back to fishing.
After a short conversation with Jesus, Peter felt encouraged, took up the task, and left his nets for the last time.
I endured such despair. I quit the mission. I told everybody around me to move on.
As I started putting these pieces in place, I got in touch with a friend named Mike. Mike had helped me walk through some hard times in the past, so I trusted him. He got me in touch with a group of counsellors in Colorado and, for 2 weeks, I got some help. We talked about my family history, my marriage, combat, and ministry.
After these trips I felt like a new man. I felt grace in my life like I had never felt before. I felt as though Jesus really had chosen me to lead. I felt a deep peace in the midst of the parts still falling down around me.
I firmly believe that Jesus has invited me to labor with Him for the long haul. I believe that Jesus has asked me to lead others as they labor with Him. I believe Jesus has chosen for me to fulfill a specific role in the Kingdom. I believe He let me struggle and flounder in order to season me.
I believe I met Jesus.
Before this encounter He was the most significant character in a story. He was the point upon which an entire religion pivots. He was something to study and talk about. He was what Christians try so hard to represent well.
After this encounter I became a significant part of His story. He is no longer the point upon which my religion pivots, He is my friend, my encourager, and coach. I do not study and talk about Him, I spend my time with Him in study and conversation. I do not have to try to represent Him well.
I simply have to follow Him and tell the truth about who He is, what He has done, and represent my story with integrity… even the ugly and hard bits.
And what about the things in which I had been misled, or misguided, or misunderstood? Well… I’m still working on those. I have taken a step back from a lot of the dogma which I used to believe. I have taken a step toward simply knowing Jesus.
I can already see a massive change in my life because of this new paradigm. My political views have changed a lot. The way I grade whether or not a ministry is successful has changed. I have become very sensitive to the hippy, liberal, college age critics of Christianity. I hear them saying things that have now started resonating deep within me. I no longer feel as though their rhetoric is an attack on me or the Church. It is a passionate plea for me to be like Jesus, as I get to know Him, instead of the dogma that goes along with Christianity.
Hopefully this demonstrates the difference…
Before this ordeal I spent a lot of time thinking about the points of Theology which were presented by Jesus in His various discourses. I completely missed His heart.
Jesus reads a scroll at one point in His life that says,
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He finished reading this and sat down making the point that this passage is talking about Him.
I have found myself being deeply moved to see captives set free. I spend more time trying to figure out how to free slaves than I spend strengthening the points of an argument.
Jesus escalated force to beast mode in order to set me free.
I am no longer motivated to argue the points of Christianity.
I am excited to sacrifice my desires in order to see grace, love, and freedom come to those who are oppressed and enslaved.
I guess you could say that I am no longer so concerned about representing the religion of Christianity…
I just want to be like Jesus.
So here I am… Standing on the beach having just broken through the jungle. I guess it is time to learn how to swim or fly above the waves!
faith, Freedom, joy, purpose
I had to take another look into this Jesus dilemma. It was my understanding of Him and what He wants that got me into this predicament.
In the years that I have been labored for His Kingdom, I had seen some really fantastic things happen in the lives of other people. I have seen a man who was abused for years by his dad call him and forgive him. I have seen a girl who was trapped in an abusive relationship find the means, the courage, and the strength in order to put an end to the abuse and abandon the relationship. I have seen young men and women work through major insecurities in their life and move on to fulfilling careers and relationships. I have seen men who were deeply wounded and responded with anger to everything become peaceful examples of calmness and joy in the midst of strife.
And that is where my problem began.
I have carried deep wounds because of past experiences. One of the easiest to talk about (easy in terms of it being a concise story, not in terms of it being emotionally easy to rehash) is a medevac I was involved with in Ramadi. I saw how my predisposition to an angry manner was exacerbated by combat and produced an uncontrollable simmering rage. As the Jesus I knew healed me, the anger was taken away, but was not replaced with peace, joy, or any such emotion. It was as though the storm had gone but the clouds persisted. I just knew that as I kept doing the things I was doing, Jesus would develop this joy, this peace within me.
It did not happen.
Then one evening while dealing with my kids, I had a flash of rage like I had not experienced in more than a year. After the blinding outburst was over, I felt as though I was not healed at all. That I had swallowed my emotions to a point of numbness, but that Jesus had not healed me at all. If I had been healed, then where did this outburst come from?
I did what I usually do in these times, I evaluated scripture and my situation to determine what happened and what needed to happen next. The Bible seemed to indicate that Jesus loves me and wants me to be healed. I felt like it was pretty clear… I was yet unhealed.
So what is Jesus’ problem?
Is He not as powerful as the Bible says? If He wants me to be healed and I am not producing the fruit that is congruent with a healed life, then He obviously cannot carry out His desires. If He is incapable of carrying out His desires, then He is not all powerful.
Is He a liar? If He says He wants me to be healed, and He is powerful enough to carry out His desire, yet I am not healed, then He must be a liar.
Am I effectively blocking what Jesus wants for me? This could have been an option, but I felt pretty certain that I had maintained my discipline and walked according to the principles of the Bible. I had given an honest, earnest attempt to comply with what I read in the Bible, I saw fruit being produced in the lives of the people who were taking my advice, and I could feel things change in my head and heart… but I was still left with this wounded heart.
Since I had come back to a belief in the Bible and the God of the Bible, this was something that had to be reconciled.
As I spiralled out of control, I remembered a verse from the Bible in which Jesus says to Peter,
“Satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I have chosen to pray for you, and when you return, strengthen your brothers.”
This was an easy verse for me to dismiss. I have seen so many Christians who start to fall apart and they run to this verse claiming that they are just being sifted. While this may be true, I have found several of them who have not opened their Bible in months, other than when sitting in a Church, and have not prayed in just as long or longer. They abandon the spiritual disciplines in their lives and then try to use this verse to explain why they feel the way they do. This has happened enough times around me that this verse lost its power, and it became more and more impotent as it became more and more cliche. Several weeks into this struggle I got to thinking about this verse again.
And then I saw a Jesus I had never seen…
The cliche part of the verse is that Satan sifts believers.
Let me make something clear. I do not think any verse of the Bible is impotent or cliche. I find that some verses are used in a very cliche manner and are often taken out of context in order either to make a Christian feel better about something in their life or to support a particular argument. Neither of these are appropriate.
The part of the verse that hit me like a brand to an unsuspecting bull was Jesus’ response. Let me put this in my own words for a minute…
“Peter… Satan wants to beat you up… I have decided to let him. I’m not abandoning you, I will be right here through the whole ordeal, but I am going to allow you to feel the pain in the fight. You will survive and when the fight is over I want you to encourage your brothers. Be ready, Peter… life in this moment is going to be rough.”
Who in the world is this Jesus and where has He been hiding? Jesus is a savior, a healer, a righteous judge, a man who got angry and flipped tables in the temple. Jesus, as far as I knew, was not an MMA coach training a young fighter, sending him into the ring against a brute of an opponent, simply to strengthen his understanding of the battle and then use him to motivate and encourage the other fighters. This Jesus is a tactician. This Jesus is a warrior.
While I knew that this was true of Him, this truth did not make its way into my heart.
Could this be? Had I just endured this garbage in my life so that Jesus could reveal another aspect of who He is to me?
Scripture proved to be true. Jesus was powerful enough to heal me. I had not blocked His power in my life. He had not lied… He did want to heal me, but He wanted me to get into a fight first.
I had misunderstood His desire for me.
But why? Why on earth would He allow me to create such caustic damage to His Kingdom in the process?
And why would He choose to sustain my life?
despair, fear, hopeless, joy, loss, pain, suicide