Hours spent at breakfast with my oldest daughter… 90 (or so)
Dollars spent on donuts, coffee, hot choclate, pancakes, and muffins… $1170.00
Moments of significant depth and connection from one soul to another… 1
Totally Worth It!!
I have been taking my oldest daughter to breakfast once a month for at least 6 years now. I have only missed the Sunday morning breakfast dates with her when I have been away from home. I started these 1 on 1 breakfasts with each of my kids in hopes that we would develop an emotional connection early in their lives. If we can develop these early connections, then when they are in the midst of the teenage years, we will have a foundation in our relationship in order to have good conversations about some of those hard teenage conversations… you know…
I have written my ideas about connecting with my oldest daughter before. I call her my little sweetpea.
This last Sunday we went about our normal routine. We got up and walked to our local Dunkin Donuts, paid for breakfast and coffee, then walked to Church. All in all about a mile and a half.
When we got to the Church, we sat down on one of the rail ties that is used to delineate the parking areas. Makes for a pretty good little bench. She got to go to a friends house on Saturday for a few hours and she loved it. I was asking her questions and just “following the emotion” in what she was saying which lead us to talk about her and being shy. I learned several things that morning.
1) She told me she is shy because other people are so nice to her and she doesn’t know how to say Thank You. We talked about this one and what she is really saying is that she feels as though she cannot repay people for being so nice to her, and that if she cannot repay their kindness to her, they will stop being kind.
2) She thinks that she has nice stuff, but not as nice as other peoples stuff, and when these other people see the kind of stuff that she has, they will think that she is not a good girl and that is why she does not have nice stuff.
I expected to hear her tell me that she thinks people will think she is ugly, mean, stinky, boring, etc. I was ready to tell her what I think about her regarding those things. I was a bit blown away when I heard that she is afraid that she cannot repay the debt of kindness and grace that others have given her. Before rooting around in this though, I decided to just keep asking questions and helping her put into words what she was feeling.
I asked her if somebody she knew told her that her stuff was not as nice as theirs or that she was not as nice as them. (I think “nice” is a bad word but that is what she was saying… I’ll write about that later.) She immediately… as in with no pause or break to think about it… tells me that she was picking blackberries with a little girl from our neighborhood in Washington along with a couple other kids. This other girl announced to the rest of the kids that when she starts making a clicking sound with her mouth, they should hold her hands behind her back. This sound, she said, was a warning that she was about to go get a knife from her house and cut the head off of my little sweetpea.
I remembered this incident. I remembered having to intervene with these 2 little girls in the past. They both had little attitudes while playing together and I would get on to both of them from time time. I also remember seeing a very manipulative and mean spirit from this other girl. I figured it was just little girl attitude, just like mine has sometimes, and didn’t worry about it. It is good for my kids to face those kinds of people so that they can learn how to interact with folks who aren’t all sunshine and butterflies.
The rest of the conversation went swimmingly.
She ended up sitting on my lap, we talked for a while after that and then went into the gym to play a pool ball shuffleboard kind of game.
I felt great because I was able to intervene in my daughter’s life early on in order to root out some of the damage done to her little soul and to affirm that she really is a good and sweet girl.
I felt great because, after 6 years of breakfasts in which I sat thinking about the rest of my day, wiping syrup off of little hands and cinnamon and sugar off of little dresses, drinking coffee from fast food chain cups, wondering if there is a better way to lay these foundations, wondering if I should have started these breakfasts a little bit later… a bridge was built into her heart upon a solid foundation… of donuts and coffee, pancakes and chocolate milk.
emotional security, fatherhood, joy, kids, parenting
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
(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
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.
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?
despair, hopeless, joy, purpose, suicide, value