One thing that’s both at times incredibly beautiful and incredibly terrifying about life for most of us in America is how much personal freedom we have to place our priorities in any order that we see fit. The sheer wealth of possible directions to take can be paralyzing. Continue reading “That’s My Prerogative”
I was only thirteen when my father died.
Old enough to have memories of him, still too young to have a wealth of time invested. On that day, I remember an anger I had no idea what to do with. Or at least that’s what the emotional roller coaster I was captive on usually settled on.
I honestly don’t recall a lot about myself before the day he passed away.
I do remember spending nearly every recess period made available to me proving to others that I could run faster than them. Except the girls. I would bet them that they couldn’t catch up to me and kiss me. I’d then somehow run out of steam just behind the big tree where the teachers couldn’t see. I feel like that trick must’ve worked a hundred times. The actual number is probably far smaller.
I do remember hanging around in my backyard, probably saving the world as I climbed all over our swing set, listening to Adventures in Odyssey on my little portable radio. I’m certain that I struck fear into any would be invader with the way I’d come flying out of the slide with an impressive array of kicks and punches towards imaginary foes.
I remember being able to read bigger words faster, and with better comprehension, than pretty much every other kid. Which made me pretty successful when it came to Pizza Hut’s Book It Program. The only problem was that somehow my younger self didn’t care for pizza. I have no idea what I was thinking. My mother didn’t complain. I got to read, she got free pizza.
One thing I’ll always remember from right after my dad died was what my Grandpa Reed said to me. He was sitting in my dad’s chair by the front door when he told me that, “you’re the man of the house now.” I’m not sure that I even replied to that. I do know that those words were sharp. I remember being swiftly angry at the idea, then a weird feeling that may have been the concern of it being true weighing on me. How could I accept this role? And even if I could, what would that even mean?
I didn’t ever bring up what he’d said to me around anyone else for a long time. But as I look back, I know that it affected me. Seeing myself now as a man while barely a teenager, I had to stick to what I thought I knew. Because if the rules I knew weren’t true, then I had nothing else to hold on to. That part of my identity was fragile. Without my dad around, I didn’t have a lot of up close examples of what it meant to truly be a man. And with that, not a lot of intimate knowledge on how to be the other roles a man should be. A big brother. A friend. An uncle. A loving husband.
There are many, many ways in which I’ve failed at all of those roles at different times. And I’m learning more and more that my previous views on exactly what failing meant need a lot of updating. Because I’ve failed in large and small ways. But I’m not really aiming at listing all the ways in which I’ve gone wrong. Or even to explain away my mistakes as anything other than being the fault of my own. Instead this post is more just me sifting through a mix of emotions swirling in me, though this time for a different reason than that day so many years ago.
Over the years it’s become apparent as I’ve learned to be open to seeing it, that God did grace my life with men who could speak life into me. Men who had valuable lessons to teach me about what being a man really means. About grace, forgiveness, temperance, kindness, and love. Sometimes it’s still pretty hard for me to even accept that I could use some help, let alone absorb the lessons. But I’m grateful that even my stubbornness doesn’t always outpace the lesson as it comes my way. I am more certain now that there’s so much I’m uncertain about. I am glad for that perspective. That uncertainty looms large as I now continue in this life without one of the men who has meant more to me than I’d ever really known how to say, not being a part of it any longer.
This part should be the whole point and yet this is the part that I have no idea how to write. The prevailing feeling is probably one of confusion. But spikes of uglier stuff are there too. Even an excited curiosity for the future and joy for the good fortune for a loved one are both mixed in there. Eventually, I know that these things will come into focus, and I will know that God uses all things for my good.
I am more equipped to handle rough patches now. I’m not sure that I could quite call myself content through all circumstances but I can at least see where Paul is coming from. Still, unlike the younger versions of myself, I’m well aware of the benefits of growing in knowledge and wisdom. I seek out ways to improve by gathering insight from those farther along than I am. And right now I can’t help but lament losing a close relationship with someone who wanted to see that same growth in me. I do desire someone who could check me when I need it, or pray with me, or just show me how love is lived. But it’s not something I just toss an ad out for on Craigslist. And I’m not really sure the best way to find that.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned from the long term and short term mentors I’ve had, it’s that my Father is always there with me. I guess I’m now just praying He’ll send someone along to make it a little easier. Sometimes I feel like I’m still just that scared thirteen year old, facing life’s problems headlong without any real shot at taking them on myself.
To be honest, I’m not really sure I know the answer.
It’s something that I wrestle with constantly. Love is somehow contained in a four letter word in the English language. But definitions, interpretations, and motivations give the concept a lot heavier feel than simply saying the word out loud.
I know I say an awful lot how often I loved others for how it made me feel. I expressed myself in a way that was very demonstrable. I liked knowing that others knew I showed off in big or creative ways. But does acknowledging that out loud keep me from living with that same prideful spirit? Do I really separate myself from my past or do I find a level of comfort of distancing myself from feelings that I still cling to?
I talk about how the revival of my soul has changed my entire outlook on the Bible. That meeting Jesus almost thirty years into life after growing up in church as drawn me to real change. And I know I don’t lie when I say that. But I wrestle with how that translates into how I serve those around me. I believe the greatest act of love to ever be displayed was God’s son Jesus taking my blame on the cross. Where does my service come into my story? While I don’t think that love is always that drastic, I believe that there is a personal cost to that kind of investment. Investing in another parts of myself. I wonder if what I have is true.
Do I love you enough to be truthful and still gentle?
Do I love you enough to hold you accountable? About how I let you treat me? To call you out when the spirit calls me to?
Do I love you past emotion? Am I a slave to circumstance or do I intentionally regard you with a heart that is patient, kind, gentle, and with self control?
Do I love you in a way that speaks encouraging words and inspires love towards others? If we disagree, do I still seek to do so peaceably? When I’m wrong, do I humbly seek forgiveness? Do I freely give it even when you don’t ask?
Do I love you enough to get out of my own way? Do try to take the time to see things from your perspective? Can I speak to you without thinking about what the situation can do for me?
Do I love you enough to let you go?
Do I provoke you in Godly works?
Do I stay put when you need it?
Do I give you room to grow?
Do I celebrate you? Do I realize that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made and do I let you know that I do?
I wonder if I really appreciate the God given chance to know you. The opportunity to see how exactly my life can serve, cherish, and compliment yours and not in what way your life can accentuate the details in mine.
I don’t look to ever have these questions fully answered. I think when I find myself prayerfully striving to find myself loving well in the story that God let me be a part of is where I’m growing into a man whose love is meaningful.
At bible study last Thursday, my pastor asked me about the passage that we’d been reading. In John 1, Andrew and another disciple were with John as Jesus walked past them and John proclaimed Him to be the Lamb of God. The two immediately followed Jesus and He then turned to ask them what they were seeking. This was the question that my pastor asked me. What was I seeking? I wasn’t able to answer the question. I wasn’t sure what I was even being asked at first. Continue reading “What Am I Looking For?”
There has been a prayer that’s been on my heart lately as my church approaches its official launch date as Christway on September 14th. There have been a lot of things I’m hoping for as the date approaches. But one prayer more than anything else. I hope we as a local church body don’t get in the way. That people don’t see us working against each other but caring for each other with a God given love. That we work together fluidly so that visitors don’t see the systems at work but are impacted with a fresh welcome.
John 13:34-35 from the ESV says,
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This really impacted me the first time I read it during bible study. At first I was thinking about how easy it would be love those closest to us. Afterall, our neighbors don’t have any ties for us to cling to. But I think about how the better you know someone, the more chance they have to push your buttons. You learn their quirks and faults. And you don’t just see them a little bit. Disagreements rise up. Just like a family. But like a family that loves well, we can put on display the love shown to us by our Father. This is what I’m praying for.
I woke up this morning. That’s a pretty big deal. Sometimes I can operate in a mode of unthankfulness, but today it was sharp in my mind that this day was a blessing. I texted out to a few buddies, wanting to share the hope of the new day but I felt like it would be good to spread that more.
A new day means another chance. Another chance to take the next right step. If I’m being honest, I’ve lived too much of life focusing on the problems at hand, too scared or too full of self pity to simply do the next right thing. Dreams aren’t realized in a day. And failures litter our yesterdays. But as believers, we don’t have to live from the identity of those failures.
2 Corinthians 4
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke”, we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[c] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 5
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Today is a new day. You can grow in hope and live outside of your past fears, failures, and regrets. You can embrace the opportunity to love others courageously and speak with a boldness that comes from the identity of being beloved. You are new. Now let’s live that.
Essentially my entire childhood was spent in church. We went as a family and often. Religiously, if you’ll pardon the word choice. I remember watching X Files when I was young and then finding out I would be no longer able to watch it as it had switched to Sunday nights. I was devastated.
I remember trying to memorize the books of the bible better than the other kids to show off. I remember singing along to old hymns that I didn’t always understand. I remember wearing stuffy shirts that my mom thought I looked good in.
What I didn’t remember, was the time I was baptized. I have a faint memory if being downstairs of the church with my father, changing into the baptismal clothes. I’m really glad that I have that. With him passing fairly early on in my life, I’m thankful for anything I can connect back to that his love was on display. I don’t remember how old I was either. While I’m sure I was eager to have that day come, I was too young to have that choice be one that held any weight to me.
I wanted to step forward in my faith in a way that showed my personal decision. I wanted to do it for me. To make an intentional decision to put preferences aside. I didn’t want that nagging voice to keep up, questioning whether my original action was really volitional. My personal growth in the past year and a half has been leading here. I needed this. But I hope that as I share my story of God’s redeeming grace in my life, this day ends up being not just for me. That others can see a man who’s willing to tell Jesus yes. A man stuck after years of religion. A man who found himself deeply rooted in sin. A man extremely grateful to be loved.