Flying Blind

But flying all the same

Tag: despair

“Depression” – Lying label that doesn’t mean what it says.

“I”m depressed?” I think to myself riding down the road, radio up, singing like the world is my stage surrounded by cars that arranged their day just to be in my presence.

“No way.” I think to myself as the sun’s warmth soaks into my shoulders and the chilly air brushes my face.

“I can’t hear you, I’ve never heard you, I won’t ever hear you, and I don’t want to hear you.” I hear in my head as the question I asked is answered.

“I don’t matter, I never mattered, and I don’t need to be here anymore.” I retort as the music turns into agonized noise, the sun bakes persistently, and the wind screams in my face.

It happens that fast. Life is good. Everything is right in my life. The smallest, most insignificant thing creeps out of some corner in my life and the lights go out. The fuse is blown and I can’t find my way to the fresh air.

I’ve started thinking about people like leaves on a tree. Leaves flourish on all sides, limbs radiating from the trunk, life flowing into each of them. As the prevailing east wind approaches, as is its steady habit, the leaves on the north and south side get a little sideways, the east leaves press securely and confidently into the trunk, completely ambivalent to the breeze. Those west leaves, though, cling for dear fragile life to the limb as the gale pulls them from the trunk, away from the circle of life.

What’s wrong with those western leaves? Good question! You’ve gotta know, those west leaves are depressed. The same substance as all the other leaves but because of their context, they are more susceptible to blowing away.

This is how I’ve been thinking about depression. I don’t live constantly under a dark cloud of hopelessness. I live on that side of the line, but the cloud is often far from me. I know there are others who live even further across the line than I do, and that cloud is often much nearer to them. When the wind blows, those of us normal, healthy people with a disposition towards depression get more quickly covered with the clouds.

What I find problematic with the diagnosis known as “Depression” is that the term fits the minutes and moments but not necessarily the major movements of life. When I am low, I am depressed. When I am low, I am very much in a hole of sorts, a depression in the surface of life, a pebble in the divot on the green. Those are depressive moments, those are times when I am fully covered by what the word means, says, and feels… I am depressed. All of the other times though, when I am living my normal melancholic life, I may feel more sad than the “normal” person, but I am not in the hole. I can laugh, connect with friends, enjoy life, and rest in the warm embrace of love… and I’m still diagnosed as depressed. In these moments, the word doesn’t fit.

When I’m down, it helps me understand that there is a legitimate process at work in my head, that I need to work in one direction to climb from the hole, instead of working in so many directions taking guesses at why I feel the way I feel. The label creates a target and gives me the ability to set up some lifelines before falling in, and some rigging to help me get out.

When I’m up, every time I take a pill, I am reminded that I am depressed, and that is when the label becomes an ill-fitting collar, has me on a leash, and invites me into a hole of hopelessness. Then there is Shakespeare, looking me in the eye, saying something about a rose that, by any other name, would smell so sweet. This thing in my head, this diagnosis, by any other name, would still be so depressing.

My Kids Are More Mature Than Me

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?”

Answer:

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

Call It What It Is… Fail

Fail

I don’t know if ever I have come across a word as painful, demoralizing, or heavy to me as this one.

Fail

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…

 

My Wife’s Encouraging Letter to Friends in the Midst of Porn

 

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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.

Anyway…

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!

Much love,

Jessica

Vulnerable Much?

Vulnerable, Wounded, and Broken

It seems as though I often get into conversations with people that are very similar to other conversations I have had with other folks recently.  Maybe it is because the people I spend my time with are all going through the same things in their lives (doubtful), or maybe it is because I see some things I my life and as I address these things in my life, I get to talking about it with other people.

One of the conversations that I seem to be having kind of often is about vulnerability, woundedness, and brokenness.

What is vulnerability?  It is being exposed.  Being open to something or someone which could cause me pain.

I just wrote about my sense of confidence and when I reread what I wrote, I saw a theme.  I saw that I did not want people to really see who I am because then they would not respect me… would not accept me.  In essence, I saw that I try to NOT be vulnerable.  I try to ensure that I am NOT open to other people, I do not want to put myself in a position which would allow somebody else to cause me pain of any kind.

I have come to realize over the last few years that this life of hiding who I am in order to protect me has caused me to shut my family out of my life.  My own kids, who love and adore me, have been placed on the outside of my boundaries.  As I got really good at being dependable, confident, and bold, I became good at hiding my fear, lack of confidence, and feelings of uncertainty.  When I started to hide who I was, I thought those who loved me would still be able to know me.  The real me.

I was wrong.

It seems to me now that I am great at building walls, but cannot put a door or a window in a wall to save my life.  Nobody can get to me because I won’t let them, even though I really want them to.  Boy oh boy am I NOT vulnerable!  LOL… who am I kidding.

Even in my “unvulnerability”, I was still being hurt, and the more I hurt, the thicker I made the walls.

I have recently started tearing them down.

As the bricks of my fortress came crashing to the ground, I felt really relieved.  I smelled the fresh air of love from my wife and kids, I saw the blue skies of genuine acceptance from my teammates, I walked free!

It was only a matter of time before I ended up hurt again.  I was faced with a dilemma… everything in me wanted to run and hide.  I was good at it.  I had mastered the art of running and hiding but making it look like I was still leading, still in control, still handling business.  I decided instead to just be hurt.  Which led me to really consider the words Broken and Wounded.

I know they are very similar.  I know that some people will tell me that there really is no difference.  I know that some people will tell me that I have the definitions backwards.

Wounded is what I was, and still am to an extent.  Wounded is not good.  Wounded is bleeding out on a battlefield, riddled with bullet holes.  Wounded is sitting in my house, hiding from life because I am dying and don’t know what to do about it.  Wounded is being hurt by people, hearing what they say, and believing them, right or wrong, internalizing what they have said to me, and choosing to react to life based on the effects of these hurtful things.

Broken is what I am, and what I really want to be.  Broken is a result of living life.  Riding a bicycle and falling, breaking an arm.  Broken is being hurt by what other people say to me and acknowledging that it hurts.  Broken is receiving the pain in me from my own actions towards others and realizing that I have inflicted wounds so deep.  Broken is acknowledging my weakness and my pain, hearing what is said to me, observing the worthless things that I do, but rejecting that any of that makes me who I am and instead, choosing to live out of a deeper sense of identity.  Wounded vs Broken is like this…

 

I am worthless

because I have a broken arm

and so I cannot complete these tasks

or fulfill these expectations.

 

VS

 

I am not worthless

because I have a broken arm,

I am just not capable of performing these tasks right now

    or fulfilling these expectations placed on me at this time.

The thing that I realize about being vulnerable is that it lets me be broken.  Building walls around me keeps me wounded.

Wounded is dying…

Broken is healing…

There is a lot more to say on this topic, but I need to go home and see my kids… I need to leave my fortress…

Are you broken or are you wounded?

Are you vulnerable or are you hiding?

And how have you moved from one to the other?

(If you don’t mind me asking)

I’ma Burn This Jungle to the Ground part 2

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.

dark mountain

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?

 

I’ma Burn This Jungle to the Ground part 1

I stood on the edge of a pristine beach.  My heart was broken within me.  All the hope I had ever known had just been flushed from my soul.  While other people rested at the waters edge upon the warm, sugary sand, I stood lost in a numbing,  bitter pain.  As the confusion faded and I began to realize clearly the position I was in, my pain became anger.  Anger became Rage.

And I decided the best choice I had was to burn the jungle to the ground.

I have been a Christian for a long time.  I have taught lessons, led studies, and hosted discussions.  I have given advice and counselled those who were looking for help.  I have read and studied so much and memorized entire books of the Bible.  I have spent entire backpacking trips focussed on prayer.

And I have collapsed to a point of suicidal hopelessness when it was all said and done.

The only analogy that I could come up with during this dark night of the soul was about me walking through a jungle all my life.  Surviving as best as I could.  I had been told at one point that on the other side of this massive jungle there is a magnificent city.  Paradise.  Rest.  Gumbo and cold beer.  As I encountered other folks cutting through the vines and brush, I would tell them about this restful paradise.  I would encourage them to keep pressing into the jungle.  I would help them sharpen their machetes and coach them as they started swinging again.  I was making my way to the clear meadow with warm sunshine and a bath, and I was encouraging and leading others to the same.

Can you imagine the way I felt when, all of a sudden, I could see the edge of the jungle.  I picked up my pace and feverishly hacked and slashed through the vines to get to the clearing.  As I got closer and closer the sound of water grew louder and louder.  Like a bowling ball striking the pins, I came bursting out of the jungle and onto the beach.

There was no city.

The very thing which I had set as my life’s goal had been washed away.  I had been deceived.  My life had no purpose.  I could not keep doing what I was doing because I had come out of the jungle.  Go back in?  Not hardly!!  That place is full of hard work to survive and I knew there was no point in pressing on.  There was nothing for me to press on towards.

I had never even heard of the beach and swimming was not a skill ever discussed in the jungle.  What I needed to do was communicate to everybody else that they were living a lie.  A sham.  The most effective way to do that is to light a match and watch the whole thing go up in smoke.

So I did.

Burn It Down

I would go for a run each day during work and I would cross busy roads without ever looking for traffic.  I would chant over and over again that my life was worthless and death would be better.  I did not care if I got hit by a car.  Getting hit by a car would have been an improvement.

I told my wife to take our kids and move back in with her parents.  I told her it would be better for them to not be near me.  I explained to her that I was about to put an end to life as I knew it and that she really did not want to be there for that.

I told the group of people who met in my house for a Bible Study that I was a sinking ship.  I could not tell them with any confidence that God existed.  I was sensitive to the fact that they cared about their beliefs and I did not want to cause them such turmoil and pain.  I encouraged them to leave, seek spiritual guidance elsewhere, and stay as far from me as possible.  I was full of poison.

I was hit by the bumper of no car.

My wife refused to take my kids and leave.

The men and women who had trusted me to teach and lead them in their faith risked their sanity and remained faithful to me.

So I was stuck.  Sitting on a beach.  I lit my match, I started a small fire, I warned the people to take a step back, and they just sat and watched.

Then the fire went out.

And I just sat…

Since there was nothing else to do but sit, I started to think.  Thinking can be dangerous.  My dad told me years ago that a mind is a terrible thing.  (We did not have many deep conversations growing up, but that one was a life changer for me.)

What if the goal of my life was wrong?  What if I had misunderstood who I was or been misled in the early years of my travels?  What if my entire perspective were wrong?

So I sat still and started rethinking my paradigm.

I could not be an atheist because of some of the things I had already heard and seen.  Just like there are some things in the world that are hard for a Christian to explain, and things within the Bible that are hard to reconcile with other things in the Bible, so also are there some things in the world that are hard for Atheists to explain, some things in life that are hard to reconcile to a belief without God.  So I maintained faith in a higher power.

I have read and studied a wide variety of religious writings which lead me to believe in a monotheistic God.  After getting to that point, it was easy for me to reaffirm my belief in the God of the Bible.

But this left me with a dilemma…

I believed this before and it led me to a beach instead of a city.

In order for this Jesus to be real, and for me to have been let down as I had been, then perhaps the Jesus that exists is not the Jesus that I knew.  Is it possible to be a Christian, pray to Jesus, read His word, and still not really know him?   Or to know Him but miss a really significant part of who He is?

 

 

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