Are we sure we understand the concept of "big things for Christ"?Read More
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.
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.
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 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)
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.
A mirror is a place we use to examine ourselves to see if we're prepared to go out, to see whether or not we look decent, be sure the hair is laying right or that you don't still have tomato sauce on your face from that delectable lasagna. It's also a place where we a lot of things wrong with us, question ourselves, and often times can be a source of negative self image (or pride on the flip side, if we're unwilling to see the important flaws).
I've never really been 100% confident in the way I look. I'm always asking for advice on different clothing, different hair. It may be that way because I used to be ridiculed for my face, for my slender figure (which isn't typically a man's desire, but hey, that's the way I'm built naturally). It doesn't help that I'm susceptible to the occasional anxiety attack. I don't know whether they are a result of the ridicule or if the ridicule I used to face simply exacerbated the anxiety that may have surfaced eventually.
About a week ago, I suffered one of these attacks. This one was triggered by my tendency to base my feelings about my relationship with God on my ability to make good choices and also to abstain from sins that are particularly tempting to me. When I have an anxiety attack, the worst symptom I experience is the racing thoughts. They just don't stop. They are many. They are negative. They are violent. The are self-deprecating. They are scary. They are also false. Even if there is something wrong with you, they are false and scary because they destroy.
... But why? Why do these thoughts happen? If God is good, why do I have the spirit of fear? Either one of two things must be true: either God is not good, or someone else gave me the spirit of fear. So I remembered something that I should not have let become trapped in a dark, unregulated corner of my mind: the enemy comes to destroy. Jesus comes to give life! So I prayed, "Lord, protect me from demons, protect me from the enemy."
The racing thoughts dissipated immediately.
I'm nothing special, but sometimes, the enemy tries to put us in a place where we think we're worthless because we're sinners. Jesus begs to differ. He died and lives for us. He knows what we need when we need it, so when we as His adopted and highly dysfunctional kids are scared and need Him, He will step in and say, "Child, I love you, and I will keep you safe from the enemy." I needed to remember that. I needed to be reminded that the One who's in me is greater than the one that is in the world. At that moment, I needed a miracle, and I wanted Him, my heavenly Father, back.
So since then, I've had this thing where I write on mirrors with dry erase marker. I write my sins, insecurities, and my remedy. There's something powerful about that to me. Maybe the words over my reflection help me to see myself in the context of Christ's love and truth. By doing what He did a week ago, He gave me a reason to give back into His Spirit and fight the spirit of fear in Jesus' name, because even though I'd never lost the reasons or lost my faith, I lost my fight and gained some doubts and baggage. But praise God that He is greater than any anxiety and greater than anything I see in the mirror.
The included video is fan-made, from the film X-Men: First Class. I thought it to be particularly relevant. If you've watched the movie, you know the setup. If you haven't, watch it. It's worth renting/purchase in my own opinion. The scene I'm dropping you into shows you Erik (aka Magneto) drowning in an attempt to take revenge on the people who wronged him and his family as a child. Because he held onto their submarine with such determination to sink it, he couldn't hold himself above water. That's when Charles Xavier (aka Professor X) tries to reach out to him telepathically (oh, wait, this movie is about mutants, which I didn't mention). The phrase he used that always jumped out at me was, "Calm your mind."
Revenge meant so much to him that he was willing to die to administer it. To Charles, however, the life of this complete stranger meant more. Somewhere along the way today, I realized how well this scene represents this passage in the Bible. Matthew 16:24-27 has this to say to all of us: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.'"
Magneto was willing to die for a revenge that would never have brought him peace in his life. In relating that scene to these words of Jesus, I realize that there are things that without thinking I sometimes seek out in life with a level of precedence that may not bode very well for my soul. I don't say that we should never seek out things in life, but the real question is whether or not they can save us and whether or not they will bring us the truest definition of peace like what Jesus can bring when we follow Him with priority above all else. After all, just like with Erik, that moment of revenge (or whatever good or bad thing you desire) would have only been for a moment. He thought he was alone, and so do we many time, but we are not alone. Jesus goes before us.
Do you think you're alone? Have you been hunting for things that cannot truly bring you peace? What are you willing to risk/lose to acquire those things? What is it that makes it difficult to "calm your mind"?
(CLICK HERE to jump directly to the scene, or watch the full video below.)
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.