Normally I’m a person that’s quick to try to see the big picture of things. I don’t often get hung up on one particular bad period or bad situation because I know, deep down, that God’s up to something. People often comment about how lax I am about everything, and truthfully, that’s why. I see no point in getting worked up over things that, 1) I have no control over, and 2) Are probably being done for a very good reason well outside of my sphere of understanding.
I don’t know why, but it’s always come naturally to me. So when I say that, right now, I feel like I’m at my wit’s end, I want you to know exactly what I mean.
What do you do when your heart is breaking so badly for someone that you want nothing more than to support them, but supporting them would mean contradicting your faith in Christ?
My family life was never quite normal. My parents parted ways when I was 10, and have both since remarried. However, due to some serious issues from his past creeping back up on him, my dad was recently admitted to and released from a rehabilitation clinic. Although I was sad he fell so far to have to wind up in a place like that, I have never been prouder of him. Seeing him become man after God’s heart and God’s will has been one of the most encouraging things I’ve seen in my brief 26 years here. I am proud to call him my dad, and I love him with all my heart.
However, as far as he’s come, everything isn’t all peaches. Although I certainly don’t know all the details, I do know that his wife has had an incredibly hard time understanding and dealing with his addiction, and it’s really torn them apart over the past half year. And now, they’re facing a divorce.
If you aren’t familiar with what it’s like living with an addiction, think of it like a way to not deal with real life. Anytime you have to do something, have to make a decision, have to go to work, have to deal with people, or anything other than what you would do in paradise, your first instinct is to run to your addiction. Problems pile up quickly because they choose to ignore real life and indulge in a substance or behavior that gratifies them instantly and helps ease the stress and pain.
As you can imagine, overcoming a pattern like this takes an indescribable amount of self-discipline and immeasurable amount of support and patience from loved ones. So, with that in mind, I can easily see why their marriage is suffering.
I want my dad to continue to keep his life in order. He has come so far since last year. He has made new friends who share his struggle and support him. He attends meetings and talks to others regularly to continue learning. He’s even started reading the Bible and pursuing God, which is something I never thought I’d be able to share with my dad.
But, for whatever reason, he feels that his marriage is dragging him down instead of building him up. And with that in mind, I want nothing more than to support him and tell him to make every sacrifice he needs to in order to keep from falling back into the pit he’d fallen into last year.
But on the other hand, I’ve come to see God’s answer for marital issues is rarely, if ever, divorce. That’s not a topic I think I need to give much thought to, because it’s pretty clearly stated throughout the Bible.
What do I do? How do I encourage my dad to continue to seek God and keep his life in order when I don’t, at my core, support what he’s about to do? How can I say that I think he SHOULD get a divorce, even though I believe it’s not the right answer? Could I even justify urging a brother in Christ to something that I firmly believe is sinful if it meant preventing a multitude of future sins?
So, yea, any words of wisdom are sure welcome… *sigh*
I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much about myself in one time period as when I briefly saw a Christian counselor back in late 2008. I initially went because I had a horrible relationship with my mother at the time (which has gotten back on track, thank God). But, in working through that issue with my mom, I ended up spending a session with my counselor talking about communication levels.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, I’ll do my own paraphrase (they exist in many formats, but they’re all similar):
Superficial – The things we say that we put basically no thought or intentions into. The “Hi, how are you?” and “Good, how are you?” that you hear 900 times a day in the elevator at work.
Factual – Basically like your Facebook or Twitter status. After the superficial level, we’ll often move to things like “So what’s new?” or “How is your job going?” Again, very little thought is required at this level of interaction.
Evaluative – This is where a person starts to become defined to another. We can share our opinions, goals, dreams, desires, etc. Normally, agreement at this level is the basis for the start of a friendship, and disagreement, vice versa.
Emotional – If two people are comfortable sharing opinions with one another, even if they don’t necessarily agree on all points, they may be more comfortable moving further and sharing emotions with one another. Typically, women move to this level much more easily than men.
Communal – The level at which two people are so emotionally intertwined that they actually feel the emotions of the other with mutual intensity. Ideally, this is the level at which married couples would communicate.
I loved talking about these. Having these variable definitions of communication between people allowed me to get a better understanding of the relationship I had with EVERYONE in my life. From the coworker who only ever discusses weather and politics, down to the MySpace pen-pal who knows the deepest, darkest voids of my heart. And having those things in mind, I was able to see more clearly why the relationships existed as they did. I loved learning about how we tend to match communication levels with people, and how we tend to seek out people who will easily move to the level at which we’re most comfortable talking.
However, I was particularly interested in those relationships that somehow managed to cross the level at which I was genetically predisposed to remain: Evaluative.
So, out of curiosity, I asked my counselor what enabled people to move from Evaluative communication to Emotional communication. And consequently, from Emotional to Communal. His answer is something that has profoundly impacted my relationship with God ever since:
And like that, my relationships with my closest friends, as well as my relationship with Jesus, were put into a sharply-focused perspective. Frequency, it’s that simple. We learn to trust our closest friends through frequency of sharing our opinions, thoughts, emotions, feelings, etc. When we share those things on those deeper levels with people everyday, it comes more naturally to us.
And suddenly, I realized why I felt so distant from God sometimes. How often was I making time for him? And to what level of communication was I going?
What is your relationship with God like? Is it one in which you might have a casual thought or two about him once a week or so? Is your Bible reading a quick thumb through that never really sinks in? Is your prayer life on the level of thanking God for the same things you thank him for every time (ie: you don’t even think about it)?
Or, are you in a communal relationship with God? Do you frequently talk to God about every thought or feeling that crosses your mind or heart, no matter how painful or discouraging it may be? When you read his word, do you give it your utmost attention and earnestly seek to understand what God is saying to you? When you pray, are you reaching down deep to the things that your heart desires most, and trusting God to make good on those prayers?
So, as I may have previously mentioned, I’m not the hugest fan of uncensored public forums on the internet in which any uneducated Joe Schmoe can get on his soapbox. But of course, it’s that same freedom that lets me do this each week, so I’ll live and let live I guess… :)
But, earlier this week, a friend of mine sent me a link to an article about how less and less of the country is identifying itself as “Christian” in the traditional sense and how the people drawn to religion-less organizations like [some] mega-churches is absolutely skyrocketing. On one hand, I totally identified with the article. I sure didn’t grow up a Christian, and what initially drew me to Christ wasn’t the fact that taking my hat off to pray made sense, or that I just had this inkling that I was more holy for doing some obscure version of pew-aerobics during the sermon, but the simple fact that Christ was the epitome of love laid down for others.
But, on the other hand, I clicked the red X in the corner of the window with a heavy dose of dismay. Because see, I couldn’t help but read a few of the comments left by anonymous internet pirates at the bottom of the page - the kind of comments that make you glad that the people can’t see your face when you read them.
Rather than talking about the topic of the article, the comments quickly deteriorated into debates about the validity of Christianity as a whole. Which, as a minor aside, I LOVE [loathe] when a single person thinks he or she has the logic and mental capability to refute our entire history of religious tradition and thought. The notion that one person knows better than hundreds of religious scholars who have influenced the way we approach Christ today is simply the pinnacle of DUH!
Anyway, back on topic…
Despite my dry heaving, I couldn’t help but notice that a majority of the comments were aimed at things like the timeframe in which God created the universe, how God first created man, and [this is my favorite] a rabid rejection of Christianity on the sole basis that God making Eve from Adam’s rib was too difficult to grasp. The people arguing against Christianity were focusing so intently on the miraculous and unimaginable things that God did that they never even bothered to say a single word about Jesus himself.
And, with that, I couldn’t help but wonder…
What are we doing so wrong that the unbelieving world only sees God’s magic tricks? At what point did we stop communicating the simple fact that Christ was HUMAN? To everyone who doesn’t know Jesus, are we just silly people who want to believe in a God who can snap his almighty fingers and answer our misguided prayers? Why don’t people get that it’s about Jesus, and nothing else?
I mean, from a purely argumentative standpoint, we can debate whether the story of Adam and Eve was literal or allegorical until we’re blue in the face. But at the end of the day, despite the fact that none of us will ever know if we’re right or wrong, will it ultimately make what Jesus said or did untrue? I mean, let’s say God didn’t actually make Adam from the dust of the earth, Eve from his rib, or a garden for them to live in. Let’s say that God never actually spoke to Abraham commanding him to sacrifice his son, or that Moses’ parting of the sea was nothing more than a timely gust of wind. Is our faith in Jesus totally bunk based on those things?
But, back in the bigger picture, why are those things the subject of so much debate, and why is Jesus so often left out of the picture as if he was just an accessory in the grand scheme of the Bible? It seems that people need to be able to grasp the concept of God having superhuman powers before they will even consider the fact that Jesus may, in fact, have been who he said he was. And to an extent, that’s so silly. That would be like me demanding that a person explain all of his quirks, personality traits, habits, and opinions before I decide whether or not we can be friends. But, in reality, it’s often the opposite, right? We befriend people, and the parts of them that may have been tough to stomach in the beginning tend to fade into the background. Why is it not that way with God and Jesus?
As with so many other things in life, I don’t know the right answer. I really wish I did, but I don’t. I know that when people ask me about my faith, I’m going to talk about Jesus’ model for our lives and how it’s nothing but awe-inspiring. I’m going to talk about how his limitless endurance in everything he did inspires me to be a better man. And I’ll definitely say that my life is a million times better now than it was when I tried to get all the answers on my own.
From there, I can only hope and pray that my conversation partner managed to see the point of it all.
Hey everybody, Justin here.
All that to say, recently I came across a site that I've really been digging and have started to use it to communicate to our Team Leaders on weekly basis. The site is TokBox.com and it's really sharp. Amongst other things, it allows for group chat rooms and individual video chats. (Oh yeah, it's a regular instant messaging service as well.) Check out my page here.
Today I do not have any real thoughts to offer so please allow me to just share a little of my current adventure with God. I am in the midst of quite a wrestling match with Him.
To say the least, I have been under spiritual attack the past few weeks as you can tell from my blog last week. In many ways I am still in the midst of a dark storm feeling really lost, but the past few days I have been full of joy. The turnaround came later in the evening on Ash Wednesday just after I wrote my last blog called “The Eye of the Storm”.
During this season of Lent I gave up a very significant love of mine. (Please know I am not writing about this to brag about myself and my only intention is to encourage you with what God is doing in my life through these 6 weeks.) I really did not even like the idea of a fast at first. I’ll even admit the motive at first was to please someone else and it really was not for me. It has not been easy and I struggle every day with temptations to break the fast. But wow...my eyes have been opened and now I realize how much I actually needed this time to focus on God.
Feeling lost, I’ve been asking God where should I go, what should I do, who am I to be and who is the one to be next me. Those really seem to be surface level questions, but I want to have more passion in life, more meaning, and more fulfillment. I am really wrestling with Him right now on an even deeper level: I’m asking Him what is my purpose here and now. Trust me...I don’t just get down on my hands and knees and pray like a good little Christian kid. I wrestle with God and I actually get frustrated and angry with Him sometimes.
Now before I go any further I will say I know the Christian cliché answer is my purpose is to love and serve God and bring glory to Him in all that I do. I have heard that answer from Christian circles all my life. And all I want to say to them right now is...really? Is it really that simple? I feel really lost in so many ways right now and that answer just does not seem to be enough. I need something more...something more tangible...something more real. Maybe that is the answer and I just need to discover that for myself (which may be what God is wanting to teach me right now), but I’ll be honest and say I don’t like that answer right now.
I’ve started reading Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life book for the first time. I know the book has been around for years now, but in the past it has actually been something I have tried to avoid reading. However, it seems to fit perfectly with what I am searching for right now since it is based on a 40 day schedule of asking God questions about one’s purpose. I'll give it a try anyways. Through the book and many other things God has been teaching me some amazing things even in just this first week. I certainly don’t have any answers yet, but I am excited to see what God has in store for me in the weeks ahead.
Help me out. Tell me...what is your purpose in life? What motivates you to get up day in and day out?
I guess that given most of the unintelligible drivel you can find in the public sector of the internet, it shouldn’t surprise me that a website like this exists. But, nonetheless, I find myself pretty discouraged by it.
When did we become so sad that we needed an entire website devoted to the most depressing, miserable, unfortunate, and even heartbreaking moments of our lives? Furthermore, given that the aforementioned moments are undesirable, why would we want to share them with others in such a way that they’re allowed to judge whether or not we were justified in saying “F my life!” or if we’re just whiners?
Yes, we all have bad moments, and a lot of us have pretty significant problems that we’d rather not laugh about. But wow, is that really all the basis we have with which to connect with each other anymore? Can you imagine if every conversation you had were only about drivers cutting you off, a waitress spilling hot coffee on your lap, or getting fired from a job for stealing food they were going to throw out anyway?
Personally, I’m quite tired of the negativity in the air as it is. The economy, the skeptics about our new president, tax season, winter being too cold, gas prices slowly rising again. It seems like so much of our media and daily conversation is comprised of nothing more than a finely-focused lens on depressing issues and just general complaining.
What if there was a website that did the opposite? How encouraging would it be to read about selfless, humble, honest, loving people improving the lives of those around them and asking nothing in return for it? Would you like to open your email each morning to read stories about how a stranger behind you at Starbucks paid for your drink when you forgot your money in the car? I know I sure would.
How about Bless My Life instead? http://bmylife.com/ It can work twofold as a way of saying “God, be my life,” and as a way to say, “Bless my life!” by focusing on the blessings you have (even though they may seem few) amidst all the things you’d rather not deal with.
Honestly, if someone out there is familiar enough with web page development and at all interested in pursuing something like this, I’d be first in line to help get this site started.