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I Don't Care by Michael Nichols

Once upon a time, I found Jesus. More accurately, He found me. After spending a really long time not knowing how much I need Him, I finally saw myself for who I was, and I called out to Him in response to His call to me. That was almost seven years ago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that I didn't love, not truly. I knew that in order to love, I needed to accept His. I needed to really believe He loved me. So I did. My whole paradigm changed that day.

That doesn't mean anything else changed. I was already on a trajectory away from Him. I was on a road I didn't belong on. As an excellent Wavorly song says, "Turning around was never so hard til I found us far apart." At that point, I was really far away, heading further, and had no idea which way to turn. Imagine yourself lost on a dark night with a broken light and a broken compass, and nothing but two ears and a voice guiding you home. Even better: imagine yourself in the Millennium Falcon, crashing toward Starkiller Base, unable to pull up, not knowing the defector storm trooper was a janitor and new nothing about blowing the place up.

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I had no idea what was in store. I really didn't. I knew things would be difficult, but I had no clue of the depth of it. I don't remember being as bombarded with temptations and heartaches as when I started following Christ. Yet I don't know that I've seen more personal growth happen in me than when I started following Christ.

I'm not going to blather on about all the things that happened between 2009 and 2013. If you've read my blog before, you know. If you want to know, read it.

In one respect, I'm glad for how far I've come, but it hasn't been without cost. That cost has been my ability to care.

I don't care.

Those are three words no one wants to hear. "I don't care" is giving up. On what? Anything.

Have you been told that before? It hurts, doesn't it? Knowing that you're not seen, not heard, invisible, inconsequential.

I hate that about me, which is great because that means all hope is not lost. But right now, that's a problem. The whole reason I decided to follow Jesus was so I could love, not so I could withhold love in apathy.

I'm not sure entirely how I figured it out, but I suddenly noticed lately how much of what has been happening in my life indicates that I don't really care.

The stagnancy of my romantic relationships?

Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.

My lack of reading scriptures or praying in a meaningful way?

Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.

My isolation from people I claim to care for?

Because I didn't care about anything but my own problems.

My inability to focus long enough to do successful studio takes?

Because I didn't care about them as much as I care about the things distracting me.

My inability to loosen up?

Because I don't care enough about living healthily enough to stop obsessing over the things I want.

My jealousy?

Because I don't care about much else than what I want.

Why I don't try hard enough to change any of this?

Because I don't care to keep failing or hurting, which is, by default, keeping anything good from coming of anything I'm going through.

I don't want to run away from my issues, but I also don't want to run into a worse place. Another song, by Linkin Park this time, says, "Sometimes I think of letting go and never looking back, and never moving forward so there'd never be a past."

Relatable? Too much.

Good way to live? Not ever.

The irony of the whole thing is that we tend to stop caring because of the weight that caring becomes. But to stop caring means your heart has to stop working, and if your heart stops working, you really can't go anywhere. You collapse. You stay where you are. You die.

When you stop caring, you are dead. And it definitely feels the part. At least pain lets you know you're alive, even though it means you're fighting to stay that way. When joy happens, you know you're alive and free.

That's what I think is so powerful about the "joy of salvation" that people talk about. Not only are you alive, not only are you free, but you are now set on a path of becoming more like Christ until His coming, when everything corruptible in us will be replaced with something incorruptible, and we enter eternal life and eternal freedom, where all darkness ends and the light only grows, extending into every corner of creation. It's unstoppable. It's unstoppable good, unstoppable beauty, unstoppable life.

That's something that's actually worth caring about. When we lose sight of that, it's not hard to stop caring about things, especially the more we know about evil and hurt.

I guess that's what I've been missing. With something lasting to care about, whatever else is valuable to us, whatever else brings joy, although temporary, finally gains its true meaning. We finally have a reason to care about it.

A reason to care about him.

About her.

About anyone, anything.

But without context to something eternal, how can anything temporary have meaning?

"Our light affliction, which only lasts for a moment, is working toward an eternal glory that far outweighs anything else. That's why we look not on the things that can be seen, but the things that cannot be seen. Why? Because the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal." --Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 paraphrase mine)

Accuser Within by Michael Nichols

I've always struggled with risks. I think everyone does, though maybe not as much as others. If I know that there is something to be lost, I don't want to. Don't we all? Whether we acknowledge it consciously or not, we realize that we contain infinite value, endowed upon us by Jesus. We also experience fear when we're confronted with the possibility of loss. Everyone's looks different. Some people are afraid to take risks on career ventures. Others hate the idea of moving away and facing the unknown in that respect. My issue is with relationships, specifically the dating kind.

I'm not the only who has been hurt. I'm not the only one who has been scared. I'm not the only one who gets tripped up on words or will altogether avoid words when nothing seems sufficient enough to make enduring the fear worthwhile.

Unfortunately, inaction, in my case, has led to much, much more pain than action. You know, at least if you get shot down, you know you can change direction. And there can be a lot of reasons for being shot down other than it being, you know, your fault, something you did, something you are, heck, how you look.

But wait! How can you experience pain if you don't take a risk?

I'll tell you.

You see, it's equally as big a risk, if not bigger, to assume that something bad could come from your action, as it is to assume that something good could come from your inaction. I say this not to perpetuate the "follow your heart" mentality that has led modern day culture into a morally relativistic decadence, but holding back what's inside of you because you're afraid you might get hurt is like holding onto fire. You don't get used to it the more you hold it: you simply burn what's left of you the longer you hold it.

You're not protecting your heart by not telling people how you feel. You're actually poisoning it. You can always get back up from rejection, but you can't move past a choice you never made. I've avoided making a lot of those choices, and none of them have made living with the regret of what I might have missed any easier. I can think of a few instances in the not-so-distant past when I could have just told a person how much I cared for them, or let them see more of my real self, let go and just had fun with amazing people, but I didn't. I treated my insecurities as though they were for my benefit, like they could save me from being broken.

In reality, all I did was break myself before I let anyone else get to me.

What really eats at me is that every time, at least for the past several years, I've told myself I would stop avoiding what's inside of me, quit copping out of making the choices that I had to make. "This time" I'll say how I feel. After all, that's all I can do, right? After all, I have no control over what she does with that knowledge, right? And I haven't actually lost anything more than an idea, because until the feelings go both ways, I'm not actually "in love" with a person, right? And it's their problem if they can't get over the fact I might have feelings for them, even if I can get over them myself, right? So knowing all of that should make opening up easier, right?

I haven't. Not once.

Even as I speak these things, I realize I'm just finding more reasons to blame myself, as a dear mentor and friend recently put forth to me. And she was right. I'm not doing this for my own good, at least not anymore. Just the habit of repressing the person that God made you to be, even if you don't acknowledge that you're actually doing that, leads to the belief that God doesn't want good things for you, that you are beyond His love, His grace, a second chance, and that you might not even have any value at all.

Guess what. It's a lie. Your very existence, not to mention the whole truth and message of the gospel, is proof of that.

We all torment ourselves over something, but if it isn't making you a better person, it's not worth it. Whatever you're tormenting yourself over--and it doesn't have to be fear of rejection--isn't worth your time, your breath, your life, if it is a barricade preventing you from growing into the person God made you to be in Christ.

Easier said than done, right?

It's a good thing we have a powerful God going before us. Just trust that. Trust Him. Take a risk. Even if it doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, let Him carry you to the place He wants you to be, and trust that this place will be a beautiful one.

Change and Constancy (2): Repeat by Michael Nichols

They say you get better as you get older. Wiser, kinder... Really, you just get "er," though. You become more of what your heart desires. It's like that song that becomes stuck in your head. Even though they say you can get it out by singing it or listening to it, most times, it just gets more stuck.

I've always had trouble being myself. It can take on so many forms. I can be a jerk because I don't want you to know how much I care. I can be arrogant because I know how small I am in the scope of things. It gets really bad when I'm convinced I'm going to screw something up. I'm torn between doing anything to get out of a scenario in which I'm terrified to fail, and doing everything I can to keep what I have because of how much value I place on those things. This fear can keep me stuck in a kind of limbo--I don't quite act like myself, yet I don't quite hide myself.

The question I always come back to is simple: which is worse--being myself and living with my failures that naturally come with that, or sacrificing everything that makes me marginally unique for the sake of not making things worse? And regardless of which option my mind chooses, will my heart let me get by with that? Here's an example. I have people in my life who expect/want me to do brainy things with my career. "You should be a mathematician, or design computer applications." Yeah, that's nice. I'm a nerdy guy. I could probably do it. Thing is, I have no desire to do so, nor am I convinced that I'd be utilizing my full potential. I'd be missing something. However, I'm pursuing a career in music. Why? Because that's where my passion lies, and that's where I believe I can be the most effective and do the most good. I have my reasons for that.

What if, however, I didn't pursue a career in music? What If I chose computers or math? Well, there wouldn't be anything wrong with that besides a few things: 1) I'd be defying my conscience, 2) I'd be defying God's calling for me, 3) I'm not the same person when I'm pursuing the head over the heart, caught more in perfectionism than love.

It's never just isolated to one thing, though. This mental limbo is like gravity: it affects everything within that system, only to smaller and smaller degrees as you travel away from it. While I no longer suffer greatly from career choice limbo, I find myself very often in social limbo. I know there are some people who I can be 100% myself around without consequence (or I've just become gradually more apathetic to those consequences); but then there are others whose relationships I value so much that it terrifies me to think that I could say or do something to disintegrate us. While moving on and going separate ways seems to be the modus operandi eventually with most relationships, there are always a few that we shudder to lose. The reason for that is simply that relationships like that are rare, like diamonds in the sand: how does one manage to lose a diamond back into the sand?

So it's worth thinking about to me. Do I build walls and keep people who could come close--keep them at arms length for fear of losing them to time, or do I bite the bullet and love knowing that inevitably I'm probably going to lose them? I think I lose more by creating distance, not calming down and simply taking them in like a breath of fresh air. Still, I find myself caught in the cycle of asking myself these same questions every single time I meet someone who I know could break me, wouldn't, but life might force that breaking upon us. I'm that song, stuck in my own head, looping, repeating, and it's always the typically-brokenhearted second verse that hits me. Why can't it be the bridge? Why not listen to the turnaround?

We're all sinners. We're all liars. We're all afraid of something. Even when we finally choose to follow Jesus in His perfect love, we run into some cycle we've been stuck in since we emerged in this life. Just like open doors are meant to close, though, cycles begin to end. For me, it always comes back to a choice: live alone and lose everything, or love and learn to live fully. Option two is the beginning of the end of my cycle. What's yours?

Excuses -- Part 3: Laying Down the Crutches by Michael Nichols

By the time the night was in full swing, I didn't even want to leave the floor. Now, I wanted to make every excuse I could to stay there, to keep dancing. I didn't want to stop. Why would I want to stop? At first, I was so uncomfortable, but it didn't bother me so much.

People usually associate being uncomfortable with a bad ending. Change, however, isn't always bad -- oops! I forgot to ask: did you know that when you encounter something uncomfortable, you are bracing yourself for change? It's true, I promise. You are bracing yourself for change. Does that always mean things are going to change? No. If something does change, is it always bad? Not even! I know how to dance now -- well, a little, at least -- and I made a friend!

By the way, after that night, I started pushing the envelope more. I started taking more risks, but good risks -- the kind that you know will be worth it in the end... and I didn't want it to end. I mean that. I didn't really want that night to end, and I didn't want to lose the new vitality I had found. At the time, I didn't even consider it as an option. The unfortunate truth is that it is an option, but on the flip side, that means that I choose whether or not to give it up, and guess what! WHY SHOULD I?

We are tossed into life like groomsmen and bridesmaids on a massive, fast-paced dance floor, and why for a second should we not dance? Why shouldn't we show them all what we're made of? Why shouldn't we say what's on our minds, love without remorse, fight without despair? Why shouldn't we get out of our beds, glance but once at the crutches we've collected, then RISE AND WALK? I can guarantee you that nothing worth chasing will be found sitting down but rather running rampant, enjoying life, living and breathing the promise of God, speaking hope to the hopeless, heart to the heartless, and that if anything is sitting down, making excuses for their misery and the misery of others, that a part of them is teeming with life, ready to burst...

... so give them an excuse. :)

Rationality -- Prologue by Michael Nichols

Your world just shattered like a glass floor beneath the weight of the world that you dropped because you could not carry it alone. The only way you could have carried it this far is if someone shared the load with you. You could not have forced them to help you because they had the weight of their own world to carry. The kindness of their heart is the only thing that could have possibly persuaded them to do this with you. Surely, if they were kind enough to do that for you, you would try to do the same for them. Somewhere along the way, however, you became separated. Maybe you know how. Maybe you know why. That part doesn't really matter. At the end of the day, how or why don't matter. How and why are questions of mechanics and motive. How and why don't change anything. At the end of the day, something else keeps you awake at night. It isn't your understanding of what happened, nor is it your understanding of the purpose behind the event, nor is it your understanding of what triggered the event, be it separation, be it collision, be it good, be it harm. It isn't the cirumstances surrounding the event that plunge their claw into the tissue of your mind and soul.

Rationality. That is weapon of the beast that haunts us. Is rationality bad? No, but it can only go so far, and this is where it begins.