But I Guess I Wasn’t Worth What I Would Cost Her

Andrew Peterson: The Coral Castle — Carried Along

I don’t need her love to love her all I can.

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

I don’t hold with hav­ing heroes or hero wor­ship. That said, there are two liv­ing peo­ple whom I admire so very deeply for var­i­ous rea­sons that I have to be vig­i­lant in not allow­ing admi­ra­tion to become pedestal-build­ing. One such indi­vid­ual is Dr. Ravi Zacharias (recent events trou­ble me, but they. don’t leave me angry or dis­il­lu­sioned. Rather, I am hum­bled by the real­iza­tion that, ”There, but for the grace of God, go I.”, and that even those who gen­uine­ly love and serve God strug­gle with the sin inher­i­tance we all share.), and the oth­er is Andrew Peter­son.

I’ve spent the last two years being told by the impor­tant peo­ple in my life that I’m crazy. Of those who love and sup­port me, I’ve felt that no one has real­ly under­stood my heart and thoughts. Then I dis­cov­er this song writ­ten by my favorite singer/songwriter; an amaz­ing artist, book author, and sin­cere and ded­i­cat­ed ser­vant of God… He under­stands. Some­one under­stands. At least one per­son under­stands.

I don’t need her love to love her all I can.

That said, those telling me that I’m crazy or a fool were quite cor­rect. I wouldn’t lis­ten. I dis­count­ed their feed­back, not so much because I doubt­ed them, but because of the, nec­es­sary at the time, and awful and so very painful now, stealth nature of pro­ceed­ings. They weren’t “In the know.” Well, OK, yes, and because I doubt­ed them and thought their hearts informed by the taint of this sin­ful world; a world so infect­ed that healthy and God-hon­or­ing appear alien and for­eign. See what I did there? I claimed to be on the side of the angels and con­signed every­one else, even (espe­cial­ly) those poor mis­guid­ed fools who dis­agreed with me, to be unknow­ing­ly agents of The Zeit­geist, the Spir­it of the Age. Down that path lies, if not mad­ness, then cer­tain­ly noth­ing but unful­fill­ment, com­pound­ing sor­rows, and repet­i­tive painful lessons.

Things still do not, for me, process cor­rect­ly and com­plete­ly, and so leave me ever ill at ease. Imag­ine striv­ing and expend­ing all ones’ resources to reach a des­ti­na­tion only to have some kind-heart­ed per­son make the obser­va­tion, far far down the road, that you’ve been hold­ing the map upside down from the out­set. I bounce between cer­tain­ty and self-doubt. Admit­ting error means not only acknowl­edg­ing being in the wrong, but also accept­ing that the ter­ri­ble ter­ri­ble loss will for­ev­er and unchang­ing­ly be so. I still can’t entire­ly let go of this belief which I held. Cow­ardice? Sor­row? I fear that I am the one who mis­ap­pre­hends real­i­ty and I ques­tion my own fac­ul­ties. How much more or less than a few vow­els and con­so­nants sep­a­rate lover from lunatic?

So much pride in what I thought my abil­i­ty to appre­hend and per­ceive the heart of oth­ers. How is it that I, so very emo­tion­al­ly stunt­ed and dam­aged; trained by a sociopath to emu­late a sociopath; hav­ing made a decades delayed start at com­pas­sion and empa­thy; delude myself so unre­served­ly?

Per­haps the song speaks of a mad­man. If so, then I am that mad­man.

I don’t need her love to love her all I can.

Per­haps in this sit­u­a­tion, ‘lov­ing all one can’ means accep­tance of fail­ure, of fool­ish­ness, of error, and vol­un­tar­i­ly incar­cer­a­tion of an organ harm­ful to oth­ers. “If lov­ing is wrong, then I don’t to be right.” becomes the mean­ing­less mag­pie cry iden­ti­fy­ing a self­ish and unkind heart.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Softer

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mer­cies and God of all com­fort, who com­forts us in all our afflic­tion so that we will be able to com­fort those who are in any afflic­tion with the com­fort with which we our­selves are com­fort­ed by God. For just as the suf­fer­ings of Christ are ours in abun­dance, so also our com­fort is abun­dant through Christ. But if we are afflict­ed, it is for your com­fort and sal­va­tion; or if we are com­fort­ed, it is for your com­fort, which is effec­tive in the patient endur­ing of the same suf­fer­ings which we also suf­fer; and our hope for you is firm­ly ground­ed, know­ing that as you are shar­ers of our suf­fer­ings, so also you are shar­ers of our com­fort.
2 Corinthi­ans 1:3–7 NASB

When Love Doesn’t Matter and Never Shall

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

This shall be a work in progress for a while. I’ve not band­width and shan’t for a while. How­ev­er, I wish to get the thoughts out before I lose them.

I’m com­ing to re-rec­og­nize the obvi­ous.

Wak­ing dream of fail­ing to dis­suade Rain from her hor­ri­ble pur­pose.

Ravi or Ray Com­fort, HAVE “nobody has ever been argued into the king­dom”. Nobody has every been argued back into love once they’ve estab­lished a fic­tion­al per­spec­tive of the past.

I can do noth­ing.

I have no choice but to accept.

I’m no stranger to hav­ing the past, espe­cial­ly the parts that mat­ter most to joy and the heart, torn and man­gled and made poi­son. Bit­ter awful poi­son. And no choice giv­en, no chance of appeal. Like Socrates, I am made to drink.

I noticed some­thing over the last few days. My heart is grow­ing cold to rela­tion­ships almost across the spec­trum of my life. A part of me knows that this is just hideous­ly awful but the rest of me is just glad of the respite and doesn’t want God, or scrip­ture, or church fam­i­ly to inter­fere. That part just wants to dou­ble-down on nurs­ing and turn my back on the remain­der.

Reconnecting a Disconnect?

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

A ques­tion has been on my mind a great deal late­ly, and for all my pon­der­ing, I am no clos­er to an answer. Tru­ly, I sort of took a jab at it and real­ized a very short time lat­er how absolute­ly fool­ish the rea­son­ing behind that jab was… it made good log­ic sense, as long as I set aside my aware­ness of the emo­tion­al side of things. In oth­er words, no sense at all.

The ques­tion is, how do you make the obser­va­tion to some­one of, “I get what you’re say­ing in the here-and-now, but it is com­plete­ly at odds with what you did and said in the before-now.”

I’m begin­ning to believe that the answer is, “You don’t.” If some­one has care­ful­ly con­struct­ed an alter­nate reality/belief, or has pick-and-choose-en which infor­ma­tion to retain, to give focus to, and to empha­sis, and which to treat as incon­se­quen­tial, dis­count­able, per­haps even for­get­table, they’ve done it to relieve emotional/mental dis­com­fort.

As bad­ly as I want, for myself (and I tell myself for them as well), doing so is self­ish and unlov­ing. I think that pret­ty well changes the ques­tion of “How To?” to a res­o­lu­tion of telling myself, “You Can­not, regard­less of the effect upon you!”

It doesn’t mat­ter how con­vict­ed I am. It doesn’t mat­ter how much it hurts. It doesn’t mat­ter if it feels ‘unfair’ or like a wrong which needs right­ing, or like the real­i­ty of the uni­verse has gone all off-kil­ter and spun into the nuclear coro­na of a gas giant. If I claim to love, then I must also act in love.

And. I must pray for strength and resolve to over­come self­ish­ness and weak­ness when the hurt and temp­ta­tion begin to bet­ter my weak-man.

Nursing School Update — Aced Chem. Treading Physiology Water

Health and heart strug­gles con­tin­ue, but I did pull an A in Chem. Phys­i­ol­o­gy is prov­ing a bit of a strug­gle, just get­ting every­ing done.

The late sum­mer ses­sion I will be tak­ing Phys­i­ol­o­gy & Lab, and Nurs­ing 209 in the ear­ly fall ses­sion before tak­ing the TEAS VI exam a cou­ple of times before apply­ing to the Nurs­ing Pro­gram for the March 2019 cohort.

Nursing School Update — Resuming with Chem 109

So after an extra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult year of health and heart, I will be resum­ing my nurs­ing degree track with Chem 109: Chem­istry for Health Pro­fes­sion­als on Tues­day, May 1st. I’m look­ing for­ward to it with equal parts antic­i­pa­tion and trep­i­da­tion.

The late sum­mer ses­sion I will be tak­ing Phys­i­ol­o­gy & Lab, and the ear­ly fall ses­sion will round out all of my pre­req­ui­sites need­ed before tak­ing the TEAS VII exam and apply­ing to the Nurs­ing Pro­gram.

Ear­ly spring ses­sion will be my first oppor­tu­ni­ty to take Nurs 209 the intro­duc­to­ry course with clin­i­cals. I haven’t yet fig­ured out how I’m to pay for that and keep a job as the clin­i­cals are dur­ing day­time hours. Pray­ing for wis­dom.

Laid Up On Da Green

The Driftwood Rule
If you plan to go beach­comb­ing, a word about a local cus­tom. It’s not a law, as such, but you’ll cause severe offence if you break the rule that says you can only pick up drift­wood and oth­er flot­sam if it’s lying below the high­est tide mark. Any­thing ‘laid up on da [the] green’, as they say, has been put there by some­one else and they’ll be back for it some day so please leave it alone. Con­sid­er­ing the val­ue of drift­wood in a large­ly tree­less arch­i­pel­ago, the fact that this rule is uni­ver­sal­ly observed says some­thing about the hon­esty of the islanders. — Shetland.org

Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Shetland (TV series)There’s a BBC crime ser­i­al on Net­flix by name of Shet­land, and it’s mak­ing me dream again on that part of the world. That nature. Those peo­ple. The stark beau­ty. The ever-present wind, the sun, and the rain. It reminds me much of the beach in Fanor, Co Clare in the Bur­ren at Rock­yview Farm­house. The peo­ple and the things they con­sid­er cus­tom­ary that strangers like meself find endear­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing. Just now, “The Drift­wood Rule”.

I nev­er want­ed to leave Ire­land. Nev­er want­ed to leave the north­ern coast, or the Arran Islands, which Shet­land puts me in mind of. Real­ly, any part of Ire­land except­ing the indus­tri­al­ized agri­cul­ture areas of North­ern Ire­land. It’s love­ly to be able to immerse myself for a brief peri­od of time while watch­ing.

C’ello. Nice tae meetcha.

I’m lov­ing lit­tle serendip­i­tous hap­pen­ings and try­ing to hold onto them as teth­ers to this life… try­ing with delib­er­a­tion not to let them slip by unno­ticed, unre­marked. As such I want to relate the serendip­i­ty before expla­na­tive back­ground. I’m chuffed and a lit­tle bewil­dered.

This morn­ing in the last 10 min­utes of Sun­day wor­ship prac­tice it was decid­ed that I should have a go at play­ing a cel­lo part for the spe­cial music dur­ing the offer­ing. I was delight­ed and a bit ter­ri­fied (though sur­pris­ing­ly not trou­bled by jit­ters). We played a song I’ve long want­ed us to play, Your Glo­ry as per­formed by All Sons & Daugh­ters and I was priv­i­leged to join the beau­ti­ful piano, gui­tar and drums of Ingrid, Adam, and Stephen, and beau­ti­ful (Dur­ing prac­tice, beau­ti­ful. On stage, I’m not cer­tain I heard them at all.) vocals of the first two and our Glyn hold­ing down the low end of the vocal spec­trum.

I’m hon­est­ly not cer­tain how good it sound­ed, but it felt good and it did seem peo­ple were wor­ship­ing, and sev­er­al were delib­er­ate in giv­ing affir­ma­tions after­ward.

So, to the back­sto­ry. I’ve always loved the cel­lo. I feel it has a phys­i­cal res­o­nance with the human body that allows it to touch and pen­e­trate and stim­u­late and com­fort where oth­er instru­ments do not. That said, in all my oth­er musi­cal affec­tions, the cel­lo has always felt a bit beyond grasp. I’ve had Great High­land Bag­pipes. I’ve built a prac­tice set of Uil­leann Pipes. I have three ear­ly sys­tem flutes, two of which for cer­tain were built in the 1800s. I’ve got­ten to own and have enor­mous plea­sure from all sorts of whis­tles, recorders, gui­tars, ban­jos, a con­certi­na, man­dolins, a vio­lin, a Bodhrán, a Glock­en­spiel, pianos, clar­inets, and a bouzou­ki.

At uni­ver­si­ty, I stud­ied flute and bas­soon and played in com­mu­ni­ty ensem­bles. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for ensem­ble work, I’ve always strug­gled with get­ting lost, con­fused, and mud­dled if play­ing any­thing not hold­ing the core shape of the melody.

For some rea­son, the cel­lo seemed beyond grasp of my sil­ly hobbyist’s desires to make music with all the beau­ti­ful clever con­trap­tions that have caught my fan­cy.

Then, a cou­ple of years ago some­thing very unfor­tu­nate hap­pened. A good friend and musi­cal men­tor passed away sud­den­ly leav­ing the church bereft of a bass play­er to lay foun­da­tion and har­mon­i­cal­ly under­pin the melod­ic tex­ture of the oth­er instru­ments. Also, by serendip­i­ty, a young man of our church had moved on to dif­fer­ent mis­sion­al adven­tures, leav­ing behind a beau­ti­ful Ibanez 5-string elec­tric bass, and every time I’ve inquired if he want­ed it back, he has respond­ed by say­ing, “If it’s being used to fur­ther the king­dom, I think it prob­a­bly where God wants it.”

I start­ed teach­ing myself to play the thing while sit­ting at the sound­booth dur­ing wor­ship prac­tices, with­out much hope of being able do the har­mon­ic thing where I’ve always tend­ed towards the melod­ic. It turned out to be sur­pris­ing­ly easy and fun and not the bug­bear I’ve always made it… I want dots on a page, not Alpha­bet fig­ur­ings. I fear the abstract and cling to the con­crete.

I do love the bass and it’s growl­ing per­cus­sive some­times smooth voic­ings, but it put me back in mind of yearn­ing for the beau­ty and res­o­nance of the cel­lo. Each year I would attend our asso­ci­a­tion of church­es’ Faith­walk­ers Mid-west con­fer­ence and be joy­ful­ly trans­port­ed when Lucas Shogren of Clocks & Clouds would lay down his bass and pick up the cel­lo. As the bass began to seem with­in my reach it seemed to draw the cel­lo along with it. If I could teach myself to fill a role on one instru­ment, per­haps I could do the same on one very sim­i­lar in many respects.

I did not think to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to try as cel­los are very dear and I could nev­er jus­ti­fy the ini­tial out­lay just to jour­ney down a road a piece to see how I got on. I talked to friends about look­ing for one, but only in a vague wish­ful way. Enter Face­book Mar­ket­place. I try not to look so that I don’t find a bunch of things I didn’t know I need to have. In one of my rare moments of weak­ness, I found what looked to be a beau­ti­ful used full-sized cel­lo here in town when I hap­pened also to have a few unbud­get­ed kopeks rat­tling around in my pock­et. It seemed a rather low price for a love­ly stu­dent-mod­el instru­ment in a very good hard-side rolling case with not much more than a small f-hole crack to pro­voke con­cern. I felt bad about talk­ing the own­er down to a price I could afford, but which prob­a­bly could not have pur­chased the case new.

Of course, I quick­ly found it to be unplayable with a tun­ing peg that had no affec­tion for the peg­box to which it should adhere, and a bridge that was placed nowhere near where it should be and had been inex­pert­ly carved to use­less­ness so that if the bridge were to be posi­tioned cor­rect­ly, the strings would lay on the fin­ger­board. I had to find a skilled luthi­er and save my shekels (They seem to hold val­ue bet­ter than do kopeks) for a while to engage him to stop the crack, replace the peg with one stout enough to stick prop­er­ly, and carve a new bridge.

I got the work done but life intrud­ed for a cou­ple of months, and I nev­er got a chance to get the thing out and play with her now that she was a playable instru­ment. It’s been grow­ing on my mind for a while that I need to put down the bass gui­tar, which is fun and relax­ing to play, and start the hard work of the neo­phyte learn­er. Halfway through this last prac­tice I remem­bered that deter­mi­na­tion and got my lit­tle girl out and tuned her. She tuned. Right away, things were look­ing up *chuck­le*. I start­ed fig­ur­ing out where notes make their home. I had hoped that I would have this under my fin­gers some­what con­sid­er­ing that the Man­dolin, Vio­lin, and my Bouzou­ki are all tuned to GDAE. Nae. A bit of a men­tal rearrange­ment as the cel­lo lives a per­fect fifth below but doesn’t quite make it to the low B I love on the Bass. In the mid­dle of the song they were prac­tic­ing, they asked me if I was going to play with them Sun­day morn­ing for the spe­cial. I thought they were havin’ a go, as this was pret­ty much the first time I’d done more than fight to tune and saw out a few scales.

This morn­ing dur­ing prac­tice, things real­ly sort of clicked into place. One of my friends on the stage has told me in the past that she val­ues bold­ness so I decid­ed that I could either stay silent and won­der and wish, or be bold and risk doing poor­ly. Risk was reward­ed. As vague and wish­ful as the cel­lo has always seemed, and as sur­re­al as play­ing it dur­ing wor­ship felt, this morn­ing it was made sol­id.

The poten­tial was made sol­id. Before me lies a good deal of work and frus­tra­tion; to pull from var­i­ous sources to try to learn good tech­nique and not prac­tice in poor habits that will hold me back fur­ther on. Before me lies the invest­ment to make as famil­iar and com­fort­able, the notes of first-posi­tion of the cel­lo as they have become on the bass, and to build a tool­box of tech­niques and orna­ments to add rich­ness and vari­ety.

My goal is fea­si­ble. I want only to do what I’ve been doing with bass, but do it with an instru­ment that makes me want to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hold my breath and weep. I want to use this instru­ment and ask God to use me as His instru­ment as we seek to wor­ship and facil­i­tate the wor­ship of oth­ers in our fam­i­ly.

What it Means to Fall in Love

With­in this Chris­t­ian vision of mar­riage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at anoth­er per­son and get a glimpse of what God is cre­at­ing, and to say, “I see who God is mak­ing you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to part­ner with you and God in the jour­ney you are tak­ing to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your mag­nif­i­cence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”

— Tim­o­thy Keller, The Mean­ing of Mar­riage, Ch 4, pg 121

Bound to Fulfillment

With­out being for­giv­en, released from the con­se­quences of what we have done, our capac­i­ty to act would, as it were, be con­fined to one sin­gle deed from which we could nev­er recov­er; we would remain the vic­tims of its con­se­quences for­ev­er, not unlike the sorcerer’s appren­tice who lacked the mag­ic for­mu­la to break the spell. With­out being bound to the ful­fill­ment of promis­es, we would nev­er be able to keep our iden­ti­ties; we would be con­demned to wan­der help­less­ly and with­out direc­tion in the dark­ness of each man’s lone­ly heart, caught in its con­tra­dic­tions and equiv­o­cal­i­ties, a dark­ness which only the light shed over the pub­lic realm through the pres­ence of oth­ers, who con­firm the iden­ti­ty between the one who promis­es and the one who ful­fills, can dis­pel. Both fac­ul­ties, there­fore, depend on plu­ral­i­ty, on the pres­ence and act­ing of oth­ers, for no one can for­give him­self and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to him­self; for­giv­ing and promis­ing enact­ed in soli­tude or iso­la­tion remain with­out real­i­ty and can sig­ni­fy no more than a role played before one’s self. [empha­sis mine]

— Han­nah Arendt, The Human Con­di­tion, 2nd ed., pg 237

The Wounds We Carry

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

Many peo­ple come to mar­riage hav­ing been seri­ous­ly hurt by par­ents, lovers, or for­mer spous­es. I am not talk­ing about par­ents who phys­i­cal­ly or sex­u­al­ly abuse their chil­dren. I’m talk­ing of the more wide­spread expe­ri­ences of cold and indif­fer­ent par­ents or of ver­bal­ly abu­sive par­ents who know how to pun­ish chil­dren emo­tion­al­ly. Then there are the dat­ing rela­tion­ships or for­mer mar­riages in with the oth­er par­ty wrong and betrayed you. All of these expe­ri­ences can make it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to trust the oth­er sex, while at the same time fill­ing you with deep doubts about your judg­ment and char­ac­ter. “Wound­ed­ness” is com­pound­ed self-doubt and guilt, resent­ment and dis­il­lu­sion­ment.

— Tim­o­thy Keller, The Mean­ing of Mar­riage, Ch 3, pgs 60–61

I let myself be crip­pled by this for about sev­en years… my own voice com­pound­ed with the schiz­o­phrenic lies and dis­tor­tions of she who sought, with great suc­cess for a time, to under­mine every decent thing I’ve ever been or done.

…extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to trust the oth­er sex, while at the same time fill­ing you with deep doubts about your judg­ment and character…self-doubt and guilt, resent­ment and dis­il­lu­sion­ment.
Even know­ing the voice was one of psy­chosis and hatred, didn’t stop it from wound­ing me more deeply than I could have imag­ined, wound­ing ever deep­er time and time again. I would be filled with those deep doubts about my judg­ment and char­ac­ter. I would despair of ever hav­ing a future, and I would allow axes of utter non­sense to fell my tree-of-self-aware­ness.

I am so very grate­ful, not just for the heal­ing God has giv­en me, but espe­cial­ly for the pro­tec­tion and reas­sur­ance against such attacks. I had thought to nev­er again be sub­ject­ed to such attacks until a let­ter arrived a cou­ple of months ago. This new pack­et of hatred sought to go back to the utter begin­ning of our love affair, well before mat­ri­mo­ny, and paint over great beau­ty with foul and rot­ted pig­ments of self­ish­ness and wicked­ness. Instead of felling me for a time, it became one more rein­forc­ing arti­fact to add to a pile of cor­re­spon­dence which my spir­i­tu­al and psy­cho­log­i­cal advis­ers agree show a descent into mad­ness.

It pro­duced deep sor­row, but sor­row is not at all the same bun­ny of which Tim speaks. You can­not des­per­ate­ly and deeply love some­one, what­ev­er the cir­cum­stances, and not ache for them and the pain, unhap­pi­ness, and poi­son of hatred they con­tin­ue to imbibe.

I won’t say that I’ve grown com­plete­ly immune, and to be hon­est I do not want to become so. Satan does find those very occa­sion­al low­est points to charge one of his tempters with whis­per­ing into my ears tired old lies and doubts. I am glad I am not entire­ly immune sim­ply because the hubris of immu­ni­ty would be an utter lack of hum­ble­ness and fail­ure to see myself rela­tion­al­ly as fall­en man in need of Christ. If I became that, I might tru­ly begin to be the mon­ster she describes. I think Spur­geon said it best when he said, “Broth­er, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” All the more rea­son to sur­round myself with friends and spir­i­tu­al lead­ers who know me well and hold me ever account­able. Instead, I think it leaves me clear to see those issues with my char­ac­ter and judg­ment that still mer­it large allo­ca­tions of prayer and effort.

God brings joy in the morn­ing.

Psalm 30, HCSB 1 I will exalt You, Lord, because You have lift­ed me up and have not allowed my ene­mies to tri­umph over me. 2 Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. 3 Lord, You brought me up from She­ol; You spared me from among those going down to the Pit. 4 Sing to the Lord, you His faith­ful ones, and praise His holy name. 5 For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a life­time. Weep­ing may spend the night, but there is joy in the morn­ing. 6 When I was secure, I said, “I will nev­er be shak­en.” 7 Lord, when You showed Your favor, You made me stand like a strong moun­tain; when You hid Your face, I was ter­ri­fied. 8 Lord, I called to You; I sought favor from my Lord: 9 “What gain is there in my death, in my descend­ing to the Pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it pro­claim Your truth? 10 Lord, lis­ten and be gra­cious to me; Lord, be my helper.” 11 You turned my lament into danc­ing; You removed my sack­cloth and clothed me with glad­ness, 12 so that I can sing to You and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise You for­ev­er.

I’ve explored only of the wound­ing caused by adult rela­tion­ships. So long since has God healed me from the first type of wound­ing Tim dis­cuss­es, that I near­ly for­got to touch on the sub­ject. Learn­ing some cru­cial truths resolved my fear of being mar­ried and of being a father to chil­dren such that they no longer seem jus­ti­fi­able con­cerns. I remain vig­i­lant but no longer par­a­lyzed.

I have learned to tru­ly love, to affirm, to serve, to sac­ri­fice, to place the pre­rog­a­tive of anoth­er above my own and to take joy in doing so. I am not my father. I will nev­er vis­it upon a beloved wife or child the ter­rors vis­it­ed upon me; the fear of which kept me from believ­ing I had any right to love and be loved. I will have my own unique blind­ness­es and short­com­ings, but nev­er those and nev­er lack­ing the love and humil­i­ty that keeps me from real­iz­ing (yes, after prompt­ing and time per­haps) that these blind­ness­es and short­com­ings exist.

I like­wise real­ized is that even were there some ‘demon’ hold­ing license to lurk with­in me, a fear I once very much held [knowl­edge of which was used by anoth­er as impo­tent firey dart which fail to wound], I do not exist in a vac­u­um. I will nev­er be sep­a­rat­ed from peo­ple who know me and who have been giv­en leave to look deeply into my life and sift and seek and con­front.

Most impor­tant of all con­sid­er­a­tions is that my deal-break­er-if-lack­ing cri­te­ria for a future beloved is a deep, abid­ing love of Jesus Christ com­bined with a sharp intel­lect, a heart of love and wis­dom, and the courage to be bold. A mar­riage is not one per­son per­form­ing solo, but two per­sons act­ing in sweet and sacred con­cert with one anoth­er.

2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
For God has not giv­en us a spir­it of fear and timid­i­ty, but of pow­er, love, and self-dis­ci­pline.
If one mem­ber begins to play off-piste and ignores the direc­tion of the Con­duc­tor Almighty, the music quick­ly sours and the part­ner in error must cor­rect if sweet­ness is to again be achieved.

I am no longer slave to a heart of fear on this, or this, or this account.

The Proper Study of God’s Elect is God

It has been said by some­one that “the prop­er study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equal­ly true that the prop­er study of God’s elect is God; the prop­er study of a Chris­t­ian is the God­head. The high­est sci­ence, the lofti­est spec­u­la­tion, the might­i­est phi­los­o­phy, which can ever engage the atten­tion of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the per­son, the work, the doings, and the exis­tence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is some­thing exceed­ing­ly improv­ing to the mind in a con­tem­pla­tion of the Divin­i­ty. It is a sub­ject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immen­si­ty; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infin­i­ty. Oth­er sub­jects we can com­pass and grap­ple with; in them we feel a kind of self-con­tent, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this mas­ter sci­ence, find­ing that our plumbline can­not sound its depth, and that our eagle eye can­not see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn excla­ma­tion, “I am but of yes­ter­day, and know noth­ing.” No sub­ject of con­tem­pla­tion will tend more to hum­ble the mind, than thoughts of God…

But while the sub­ject hum­bles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larg­er mind than the man who sim­ply plods around this nar­row globe… The most excel­lent study for expand­ing the soul, is the sci­ence of Christ, and Him cru­ci­fied, and the knowl­edge of the God­head in the glo­ri­ous Trin­i­ty. Noth­ing will so enlarge the intel­lect, noth­ing so mag­ni­fy the whale soul of man, as a devout, earnest, con­tin­ued inves­ti­ga­tion of the great sub­ject of the Deity.

And, whilst hum­bling and expand­ing, this sub­ject is emi­nent­ly con­so­la­to­ry. Oh, there is, in con­tem­plat­ing Christ, a balm for every wound; in mus­ing on the Father, there is a qui­etus for every grief; and in the influ­ence of the Holy Ghost, there is a bal­sam for every sore. Would you lose your sor­row? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge your­self in the Godhead’s deep­est sea; be lost in his immen­si­ty; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invig­o­rat­ed. I know noth­ing which can so com­fort the soul; so calm the swelling bil­lows of sor­row and grief; so speak peace to the winds of tri­al, as a devout mus­ing upon the sub­ject of the God­head. It is to that sub­ject that I invite you this morn­ing.

— Charles Had­don Spur­geon, Jan­u­ary 7th, 1855

Hearts of Withheld Respect of Less Concern Than Hearts of Withheld Love?

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

There seems to be a strange dis­con­nect between our val­u­a­tion and per­cep­tion of Love and our val­u­a­tion and per­cep­tion of Respect. We’ve learned much about authen­tic love over the past cou­ple of decades. Cer­tain wis­dom (God-based) on the sub­ject has emerged and come to the fore in attempt counter cer­tain world-dom that seems per­va­sive. So, now, we echo state­ments like “Love is a Choice” and ideas express­ing that gen­uine love is unselfish and sac­ri­fi­cial, putting anoth­er first even though they may not seem, to some, to be wor­thy or deserv­ing. Anoth­er way of look­ing at the “wor­thy or deserv­ing state­ment” is to say that one holds expec­ta­tions, which, real­is­tic or oth­er­wise are or are not being met. Part of “Love is a Choice” is choos­ing to real­ize that one’s expec­ta­tions might be unrea­son­able, over­ly high, or, not to put too fine a point on it, unlov­ing.

Respect, how­ev­er, seems to be regard­ed very much dif­fer­ent­ly by these same peo­ple. Real­ly, when you get down to it, how can respect be any dif­fer­ent? Respect is a choice. Respect is less depen­dent on the per­son one is or is not respect­ing, and more depen­dent on the barom­e­ters and expec­ta­tions we impose upon oth­ers. How often has some­one said, “I can love this per­son but I could nev­er respect them.”? It sounds a lit­tle schiz­o­phrenic to me, and I’m cer­tain that I’ve said the same on more than one occa­sion. Cog­ni­tive dis­so­nant much? I need to take a good hard look at myself and see if I’m not talk­ing non­sense.

Myself, I would be dev­as­tat­ed to think of myself as an unlov­ing and uncom­pas­sion­ate per­son. I would lose sleep over it and be dis­traught if I, or worse, oth­ers, failed to see me as lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate. In times past, I think I would have expe­ri­enced very lit­tle dis­com­fort were I accused of being pos­sess­ing a heart of dis­re­spect.

I would prob­a­bly feel and maybe express that I am com­plete­ly jus­ti­fied in depriv­ing anoth­er of my respect because of some fault I per­ceive that per­son to hold. Well insu­lat­ed by my jus­ti­fi­ca­tions, I would prob­a­bly nev­er even stop to con­sid­er if my heart of dis­re­spect might be sin­ful, dis­obe­di­ent, in need of repen­tance, and deserv­ing of effort to change just as much as would an unlov­ing heart.

I think that if I’m reluc­tant to self-exam­ine in this area, it is because I’m will­ing to make a show of sur­ren­der­ing on the very easy; the unlov­ing heart, pro­vid­ed I can use it as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to hold out on the very dif­fi­cult; the heart of judge­men­tal dis­re­spect.

Should not I; should not any­one, be just as anx­ious to come-clean and work to cor­rect one as we are the oth­er?

Know­ing I pos­sessed an unlov­ing heart would cause me to hurt, then reflect, then fret and pon­der [hope­ful­ly stop­ping short of use­less rumi­na­tion], to seek the help of a coun­selor, to sub­mit in account­abil­i­ty to those I trust to chal­lenge me and dis­ci­ple me to change. I would yearn to roadmap a solu­tion and then per­se­vere to com­ple­tion.

I think my cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance would maybe push me not to see a heart of dis­re­spect as any­thing like the same kind of bun­ny.

We can just choose to keep the cold heart and mind that can­not [or refus­es to] give to anoth­er a quan­ti­ty of respect one min­im greater than the oth­er has ‘earned’ or ‘mer­it­ed’. We can con­tin­ue to won­der per­plexed­ly why, despite our accu­mu­la­tion of gold foil stars for hav­ing lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate hearts, the kind of lov­ing rela­tion­ships with oth­ers we yearn for con­tin­ue elude us.

I want to begin apply­ing the same ἀγάπη love stan­dard to my respect stan­dard.

Grace is unmer­it­ed favor. Noth­ing more, and cer­tain­ly, noth­ing less.

I want to be as grace-giv­ing with respect as I seek to be with love.

I want to be as heart­bro­ken by my pos­sess­ing a dis­re­spect­ing heart as I would be pos­sess­ing an unlov­ing heart.

I think back to my child­hood and I see now clear­ly, that a par­ent may cov­er up a twist­ed heart of self­ish abuse in their own minds by lav­ish­ing ‘love’ and pro­claim­ing to all who will lis­ten, what a lov­ing par­ent they are… all the while, shred­ding their child’s heart with con­stant unre­lent­ing meat-grinder scalpels of with­held respect or expressed con­tempt and dis­ap­point­ment.

My father may have been cor­rect every time he con­temp­tu­ous­ly expressed how I failed to meet even the base expec­ta­tions a child should meet, and how worth­less I was. [ He was entire­ly incor­rect. ] Even if he had been cor­rect, his goal was nev­er to make me a bet­ter boy, a bet­ter per­son, a bet­ter future man. That which I have accom­plished in those areas, I have had to do entire­ly on my own under the hos­tile rain of his dis­cour­age­ment. This I have done in spite of know­ing that I would nev­er earn his favor. He believed him­self jus­ti­fied in with­hold­ing respect. He is now beyond all capac­i­ty to give. Per­haps he always had been.

When I vis­it­ed my father in Bran­son dur­ing my fresh­man year in high school, he even told me that he had been try­ing to par­ent me using Dob­son­ian “Tough Love” and that if he had got­ten it wrong, it wasn’t for lack of try­ing. By his next words, he proved that lack of try­ing fig­ured strong­ly into things. Had he tru­ly read “Love Must be Tough” (The book in which Dr. Dob­son coined the term “Tough Love” before giv­ing it to the world as his last­ing lega­cy to mis­quote and mis­use), as he claimed to have done, he might have known that the book was writ­ten to help and encour­age the hus­bands and wives of spous­es who refuse to repent of and turn from sins such as ver­bal, phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and sex­u­al abuse, and infi­deli­ty.

Imag­ine name­drop­ping Dob­son as scape­goat for all the pain one inflicts on anoth­er. Paul might well respond, “μη γενοιτο”. My father was cer­tain­ly not alone in hav­ing made the attempt.

I think it is clear, going for­ward, that when we see these lit­tle ten­den­cies in our­selves to inflict upon oth­ers, that which was inflict­ed upon us, our heart’s cry should be a des­per­a­tion to do what­ev­er must be done to rem­e­dy. Once brought to our aware­ness, the absolute very last thing we may allow our­selves is excuse and self-per­mis­sion to con­tin­ue liv­ing life in this man­ner. We must counter our hearts of non-respect as strong­ly as we must hearts of unlove.

To acknowl­edge and then make excus­es or pass respon­si­bil­i­ty and not make des­per­ate effort to change is addi­tion­al retroac­tive abuse to the child we were, a vis­i­ta­tion of the abuse we suf­fered as chil­dren upon our adult selves, and of course, abuse of those God has put into our lives for us to, serv­ing as His proxy, show­er with His love and His respect.

The best response I could have ever made to my father was not to fight him, not to hate him, not to resent him, and cer­tain­ly not to try to show him that he was wrong and that he should repent. The best response is to instead to make cer­tain that I become the healed and impen­e­tra­ble wall through which his influ­ence is nev­er again per­mit­ted to vis­it hurt on anoth­er.

We are instru­ments capa­ble of serv­ing as proxy for anoth­er.

Do we allow our­selves to be used as the tools of those who have hurt us, or do we offer our­selves up to the Heav­en­ly Father who loved and sac­ri­ficed all to save us?

This sub­ject has been an ongo­ing pon­der for approach­ing a year. To this point, I’ve not had the courage to say what it was that gelled pon­der into a need to write this arti­cle.

Con­fes­sion. Con­tri­tion. ὁμολογέω/homologéō.

Recent­ly I have been in a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple I very much love and very much respect (as Emmer­son Eggrichs would say, “Peo­ple of basic good will”) have done some things I regard as need­ing remedy/redress. I try not to put peo­ple on pedestals any­more, but it’s more of a strug­gle with folks I very much do love and respect who are in a posi­tion of author­i­ty. I think that the fact of their being just as human as the next guy engen­ders in me feel­ings of betray­al, which is unfair and ridicu­lous on my part. Rather, I hurt for a good­ly while refus­ing to remem­ber that they are fal­li­ble per­sons of good will with their own fears and hangups and foibles. In my hurt, I hurt back and feel jus­ti­fied doing it.

I am respon­si­ble for not just what I do with such knowl­edge, feel­ings, sit­u­a­tions, but how I do it.

Emmer­son exclaimed in a ver­bal con­flict with his wife Sarah, “You know you can be right, but you can be wrong at the top of your voice.. I’ve always had an inkling of what he meant, but I think I under­stand his mean­ing bet­ter now.

Some­times it’s much less about feel­ing respect than treat­ing anoth­er with respect.

A friend point­ed out to me while I was doing it that I was clear­ly dis­traught and maybe should find anoth­er time, venue, and method.

I felt jus­ti­fied based on the oth­er person’s action and my hurt, so I con­tin­ued unheed­ing.

It’s dif­fi­cult. My mind is still think­ing up ways I could have bet­ter used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dev­as­tate resis­tance and dri­ve home what I per­ceived as real­i­ty.

Mean­while, my heart is break­ing, and all these thoughts on respect are crush­ing me down.

My heart is telling me that respect… true respect… would be to not speak from my hurt… would be to make effort and fig­ure out how to accom­plish what I feel is apoc­a­lyp­ti­cal­ly impor­tant, but in a way that did not give voice to a heart of dis­re­spect. These folks are cer­tain­ly worth it. I’m worth it. Christ is wor­thy of all and infi­nite­ly more.

I don’t know that I’m capa­ble. It seems an entire­ly impos­si­ble task. It seems that by the time I fig­ure out how to accom­plish it, it may be too late for real-world events.

Respect means try­ing in spite of all that. Respect means turn­ing to God to be strong where I am new­born blind-kit­ten weak.

And Then There Was One: Goodbye My Little Thistlepants

This­tle­downe start­ed seiz­ing ear­ly Wednes­day morn­ing. MU Vet Emer­gency got him sta­bi­lized and able to come home with anti-seizure meds and pred­nisone for his extreme hyper­glycemia. My room­mate woke me at 2am this morn­ing to let me know This­tle had been act­ing strange for a half hour. A half-hour lat­er after try­ing to give This­tle hon­ey and cool his hyper­ther­mia with cool water, Dwight, my room­mate was kind enough to take This­tle back to MU Emer­gency (I was not able to func­tion after an ear­li­er mas­sive dose of Tra­zodone). They were unable to cool him, bring his blood-sug­ar back up or stop the seizures. He was hap­py and healthy two days ago… a lit­tle dynamo of sweet play­ful affec­tion­ate fun that when­ev­er I sat down on the couch to work for a while would glom onto my leg and take a nap, con­tent to be in close con­tact and to be stroked occa­sion­al­ly.

On the phone, before I start­ed sob­bing, still talk­ing through with the doc­tor (who lat­er start­ed sob­bing her­self) how hope­less the sit­u­a­tion was, Hawthorne in the oth­er room start­ed grief howl­ing for the first time in his life. He knew the lit­tle broth­er he’d come into the world with and had been insep­a­ra­ble from for his entire life was leav­ing him.

Nursing School Update — Approaching Roadblock

Class­es at Colum­bia Col­lege have been absolute­ly fan­tas­tic, as I work to earn the sci­ence cred­its lacked by my Bach­e­lor of Arts degree in Com­put­er Sci­ence. I’ve now tak­en Pre-chem and Clin­i­cal Micro­bi­ol­o­gy with lab in-seat in the evenings and have achieved sol­id A’s in both.

Alas, nei­ther A counts towards the Sci­ence GPA that will be eval­u­at­ed in con­junc­tion with my even­tu­al per­for­mance on the ATI TEAS VI exam, but they are good indi­ca­tor, that, with the prop­er accom­mo­da­tions, as well as increased matu­ri­ty, I can per­form well in aca­d­e­m­ic pur­suits.

This ses­sion I am reluc­tant­ly tak­ing a 3 hr course in Med­ical Ter­mi­nol­o­gy that won’t count towards either the Asso­ciates in Nurs­ing or BSN in order to meet min­i­mum enroll­ment hours for my finan­cial aid pack­age. I have hopes that it at least will be ben­e­fi­cial in future cours­es, though a great deal of it is review.

Fol­low­ing this course my progress will be at a stand­still until I can fig­ure out a way to pay for school. I’ve exact­ly one year of course­work remain­ing (course sched­ule per­mit­ting) before I would be ready to apply to the Nurs­ing pro­gram. I’ve reached the aggre­gate lim­it for sub­si­dized fed­er­al loans (and I had hoped not to accrue more debt for this). My attempts to find full-time employ­ment with Colum­bia Col­lege which would yield the ben­e­fits of a full tuition waiv­er have so far proven unsuc­cess­ful, but thank­ful­ly my exist­ing employ­ment, due to end July 31, has been extend­ed for anoth­er full year, so I am secure… if not able to advance my degree pur­suit.

I am decid­ing to treat this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to try to get cre­ative and to be care­ful with my bud­get to see if I can­not man­u­fac­ture a way to con­tin­ue… like­ly not in the fall, but per­haps in the spring semes­ter.

Pray­ing and trust­ing God. Very grate­ful for what I’ve been giv­en so far and for the pro­vi­sions and oppor­tu­ni­ties. So aware of how blessed I am.

The only way to overcome the unpredictability of your future is the power of promising

When we make a promise we take it on our fee­ble wills to keep a future ren­dezvous with some­one in cir­cum­stances we can­not pos­si­bly pre­dict. We take it on our­selves to cre­ate our future with some­one else no mat­ter what fate or des­tiny may have in store. This is almost ulti­mate free­dom.

When I make a promise, I bear wit­ness that my future with you is not locked into a bion­ic beam by which I was stuck with the fate­ful com­bi­na­tions of X’s and Y’s in the hand I was dealt out of my par­ents’ genet­ic deck.

When I make a promise, I tes­ti­fy that I was not rout­ed along some unal­ter­able itin­er­ary by the psy­chic con­di­tion­ing vis­it­ed on me by my slight­ly wacky par­ents.

When I make a promise I declare that my future with peo­ple who depend on me is not pre­de­ter­mined by the mixed-up cul­ture of my ten­der years.

I am not fat­ed, I am not deter­mined, I am not a lump of human dough whipped into shape by the con­tin­gent rein­force­ment and aver­sive con­di­tion­ing of my past. I know as well as the next per­son that I can­not cre­ate my life de novo; I am well aware that much of what I am and what I do is a gift or a curse from my past. But when I make a promise to any­one I rise above all the con­di­tion­ing that lim­its me.

— Lewis Bene­dic­tus Smedes (1921 — 2002)
“Con­trol­ling the Unpre­dictable – The Pow­er of Promis­ing“
Chris­tian­i­ty Today Jan. 1983

I’m an Absolute Clod.

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

by Thomas Phillips, oil on can­vas, 1807
The Clod and the Peb­ble
“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for anoth­er gives its ease,
And builds a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.“So sung a lit­tle Clod of Clay
Trod­den with the cattle’s feet,
But a Peb­ble of the brook
War­bled out these metres meet:

Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind anoth­er to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

William Blake (1757 — 1827)
I announced at a meal with friends last evening that I was a dirt clod. They love me, so as expect­ed they object­ed. I asked them, “Well, would it be bet­ter to be a peb­ble in a brook? Which would you rather be?” The expect­ed answer. I asked, “Why a peb­ble?” I was answered, “Well, a peb­ble in a beau­ti­ful brook with the clean water flow­ing over me would be much bet­ter than a hunk of dirt.“This was the lead-in I hoped for because I want­ed to read for them a poem I’d nev­er come across before, one that sang out my own feel­ings and beliefs on love. I’d nev­er come across it before because I always assumed Blake, Shelly, Keats, Wordsworth, and all the oth­er Eng­lish Roman­tic poets to be a bit inac­ces­si­ble, and I find forced Roman­ti­cism to be rather off­putting. Even works of the great Rab­bie Burns, the Bard of Ayr­shire, which I desired to read, while beau­ti­ful and the fod­der for many a love­ly heart-cap­tur­ing tune, was still, beyond the dialect strug­gles, dif­fi­cult and a bit unre­lat­able. Assump­tions make for bad out­comes for you and for some fel­low by the fam­i­ly name of Ump­tion. I’m not going to run out and buy a tome; I real­ly have to much to read on my list for the next three life­times, but I will be more open to the expe­ri­ence by hap­pen­stance and serendip­i­ty.

Blake’s “And builds a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.” mea­sures well against my top stan­dard as it seems a phrase I would expect from C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, or the lyric gift­ings of Andrew Peter­son.

This par­tic­u­lar serendip­i­ty occurred as I trav­eled to that love­ly meal shared with friends. I was again lis­ten­ing to what I am cer­tain is the absolute best book on under­stand­ing true covenan­tal and joy­ful mar­riage I’ve ever found, and I doubt the like of my ever find­ing one bet­ter. A recent dis­cov­ery, I’m on my fourth lis­ten and still find­ing lit­tle pre­cious gems. My phys­i­cal copy of “The Mean­ing of Mar­riage” by pas­tor Tim­o­thy Keller will join books by Lewis, Eggerichs, and Kreeft in a place of hon­or upon my book­shelf once I’m done fill­ing it’s mar­gins with anno­ta­tions from the heart.

Keller through­out illus­trates that the covenant of Mar­riage as pre­scribed by God; love through com­pan­ion­ship, ser­vice, and self-sac­ri­fice, bears pre­cious lit­tle resem­blance to the post­mod­ern social-human­ist me-cen­tred mar­riage that is so per­va­sive today. One would expect that God need not check the box labeled, “Sub­sti­tu­tions not per­mit­ted.” or “Dis­pense as pre­scribed.”

Tru­ly, it seems that through­out his­to­ry, mankind, even the Israelites, God’s Cho­sen Peo­ple, have cho­sen designs that devi­ate great­ly in crit­i­cal respects and suf­fer great­ly for the devi­a­tion. When Christ clar­i­fies that the adul­tery of the Ten Com­mand­ments takes place in the heart, mind, and eyes as much as in the bed­room; when He rebukes the reli­gious lead­ers argu­ing over divorce telling them that God grant­ed divorce to them only due to the hard­ness of their hearts we doubt not that the curse on rela­tion­ship that fell upon us through Adam and Eve was doing its painful work then amongst the Isre­alites as ter­ri­bly as it does for all of us today.

A fall­en world pro­duces only high­ly imper­fect repli­cas of the arche­type. Under­stand­ing the arche­type helps to shore up weak­ness­es, cor­rect tran­scrip­tion errors, and repair imper­fec­tions one pair of hearts at a time, and I think that is what Keller has done here in pro­vid­ing such under­stand­ing. He dis­cuss­es and then sweeps away the world’s rub­bish and then expounds upon and makes acces­si­ble and under­stand­able… and most impor­tant­ly, desir­able God’s great­est gift and bless­ing to His chil­dren avail­able, to us this side of heav­en. He shines ray of bright light daz­zling The Shad­ow­lands. He teach­es the only method capa­ble of build­ing a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.

I am a clod. A joy­ful clod of clay in full aware­ness of God’s bless­ings, not a peb­ble lulled by the end­less mind­less tune­less music of the rill pass­ing over me, bom­bard­ed by beau­ty, less­en­ing appre­ci­a­tion until I val­ue it not.

This view of mar­riage and our­selves is some­what alle­gor­i­cal of God’s love for us. We clods of clay don’t mer­it a sec­ond glance.

  • I am The Stone the Builders Reject­ed – Psalm 118:22
  • I am the Lost Sheep that would have been far eas­i­er to aban­don. – Luke 15:1–7
  • I am the Prodi­gal Son rebel­lious yet beat­en, all con­ceiv­able worth removed before being redeemed. – Luke 15:11–32
  • I am the clay in the Potter’s hands – Jere­mi­ah 18:1–6
  • I am the Wid­ow of no sta­tion, ostra­cized as a woman of for­eign descent made valu­able by my Kins­man Redeemer. – Ruth 1–4
  • I am the Lost Coin. – Luke 15:8–10

The Potential Destructiveness of Should

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

I’ve come to pon­der if the word should, whether from inside, or imposed by the out­side, might have the poten­tial to be very destruc­tive. When the word is used, most often it may be trans­lat­ed to read, “[You/I] do not mea­sure up.” How good are our pro­tec­tions against false ‘shoulds’? Do we let oth­ers impose a stan­dard upon us with­out con­sid­er­ing the valid­i­ty of and author­i­ty behind the ‘should’. Worse still do we stop and ques­tion our self-imposed ‘shoulds’?

This is an area in which we should exer­cise the most dis­cern­ment, and yet, con­sis­tent­ly for myself and oth­ers it seems to be the area where we prac­tice dis­cern­ment the least. We keep poor defens­es against the ene­my with­out and seem­ing­ly reserve no mar­gin of safe­ty from the sup­posed ally with­in.

An excel­lent Faith­walk­ers Sem­i­nar titled “All You Need is Love: The Sim­ple Path to Mar­riage” plant­ed some seeds that may only now four months lat­er to be sprout­ing. They lured us in by promis­ing us a method­ol­o­gy that coun­ters the last 25 years of Chris­t­ian dog­ma on dat­ing and rela­tion­ships. Some­thing dif­fer­ent, and some­thing far less com­plex, oner­ous, and dic­ta­to­r­i­al. A breath of fresh air maybe, right?

Here’s the sem­i­nar descrip­tion:

Thou­sands of books, sem­i­nars, and coun­sel­ing ses­sions have been spent on try­ing to fig­ure out exact­ly what you need to get mar­ried. I think the path to mar­riage is a lot sim­pler than it is often made out to be. Of course sim­ple doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean easy, but let’s get togeth­er and talk through the Bib­li­cal prin­ci­ples of love that pro­vide a sim­ple path to mar­riage.

Pas­tor Paul John­son opened the sem­i­nar [LISTEN] by hand­ing us a 20 item list of all the great chest­nuts of rules and advice that we’ve all been told by youth lead­ers, pas­tors, and our Chris­t­ian men­tors about seek­ing rela­tion­ship. They asked us to clas­si­fy each one as either 1) a com­mand, 2) a prin­ci­ple, or 3) a pref­er­ence. I’ll list them here; a whole list of exter­nal­ly imposed [musts/shoulds].

  1. You must get coun­sel before pur­su­ing a rela­tion­ship
  2. Phys­i­cal attrac­tion should not fac­tor into your inter­est in anoth­er per­son
  3. Only mar­ry a Chris­t­ian
  4. Don’t date until you’re ready to get mar­ried
  5. Don’t kiss until your wed­ding day
  6. Hus­bands must bring home the bacon
  7. Wives must stay home and take care of the kids
  8. You must be out of debt to get mar­ried
  9. You must be con­vinced that this is the per­son you’re going to mar­ry if you want to date them
  10. You must be con­tent to be sin­gle and not look­ing for a mate
  11. You must be sex­u­al­ly pure before mar­riage
  12. You must be a mature Chris­t­ian before you get mar­ried
  13. You must be able to make and keep a bud­get before get­ting mar­ried
  14. You must “like” and eval­u­ate a poten­tial spouse for at least a year before talk­ing to them about your feel­ings
  15. Men must pur­sue and women must wait
  16. You must be com­plete­ly objec­tive in your eval­u­a­tion of a poten­tial spouse
  17. Your life vision and direc­tion needs to be iden­ti­cal for a poten­tial rela­tion­ship to work
  18. Men must talk to a woman’s father before ask­ing her out on a date
  19. You must guard your heart from any attach­ment
  20. You must have con­vic­tions on birth con­trol before dat­ing

S’wha? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that last one. Per­haps they made it up to round out an even twen­ty items.

Two I think? Yes, two. Two of those are bib­li­cal com­mands. All of the rest fall into the cat­e­gories of good prin­ci­ples (one may read Proverbs for that), and pref­er­ences. We have all expe­ri­enced those who give advice and instruc­tion (whether solicit­ed or not) with the atti­tude of you [should/must]. They tend to be rather legal­is­tic about it and they suf­fer no dis­cus­sion or dis­agree­ment. Ques­tions are shamed to silence by being called sin­ful. Unwill­ing­ness to let go of some­thing is respond­ed to with accu­sa­tions that the some­thing has become an idol. Prin­ci­ple becomes Com­mand and well, Pref­er­ence too in most cas­es.

An long­stand­ing irri­tant to me has been the care­less and thought­less use of the admo­ni­tion “Guard your heart?” or the chal­lenge, “Are you guard­ing your heart?”. A help­ful phrase turned mantra instead does harm. I some­times have the hyper­bol­ic image in my mind of a mar­ried youth pas­tor telling a young man on his first and ill-con­sid­ered for­ay into love to “Guard your heart.” who, even though the young man has matured and has his eyes set on find­ing a God­ly com­pan­ion for the road of life, is thought­less­ly chas­tised each suc­ces­sive time to “Guard his heart.” Played out to the ridicu­lous end, the sce­nario changes venue to a nurs­ing home where the no longer young man, bach­e­lor his entire life, shows inter­est in a wid­ow on the same ward, only to be told by sign lan­guage to up the vol­ume on his hear­ing aid by his cur­mud­geon of a youth pas­tor so that he may hear his youth pastor’s admon­ish­ment to “Guard Your Heart.”

The sem­i­nar leader point­ed out that the bible gives us a word for peo­ple like that who do those types of things: Phar­isees. As bad as these out­ward Phar­isees are, they often pale in com­par­i­son to the Phar­isee many of us keep inside of our­selves.

I know that in my own life I impose ridicu­lous, some­times impos­si­ble ‘shoulds’ on myself. My arro­gant Phar­isee also then decides for oth­ers that since I fail those stan­dards oth­ers must be pro­tect­ed from me for their own good. They real­ly must be allowed no say in the mat­ter.

So how do we guard against the out­ward and inward Phar­isee? I’m only the rud­est novice in this new dis­ci­pline, and as such, I only have a list of things I am test­ing out for pos­si­ble inclu­sion in a per­son­al how-to list.

  1. First deter­mine if the source is exter­nal or inter­nal.
  2. Ques­tion. Do not blind­ly accept.
  3. Respect lead­er­ship, but do not assume that they infal­li­bly lead in all things.
  4. Pray. For guid­ance and wis­dom. Pray for con­fir­ma­tion or inval­i­da­tion.
  5. Test all against scrip­ture.
  6. Avoid extremes. Seek to grow towards the ideals of par­a­digms, but nev­er to achieve them entire­ly.
  7. Be on the look­out for state­ments made in the absolute.
  8. Be on guard against gen­er­al­iza­tions too vast in scope.
  9. Be high­ly self-skep­ti­cal of any­thing moti­vat­ed and craft­ed inter­nal­ly; most espe­cial­ly if much inter­nal thought and debate over a long peri­od of time has led to unortho­dox con­clu­sions.
  10. Be wary of emo­tion­al states that lead to self-imposed ‘shoulds’.
  11. The more I am cer­tain, the more uncer­tain I should prob­a­bly be.
  12. Does a con­clu­sion elim­i­nate hope, con­demn holy desire, or affirm help­lessnes? If so, it’s doubt­ful it’s from God.
  13. Be alert to the reac­tions of oth­ers when I share my think­ing and con­clu­sions… if they start look­ing at me fun­ny, I should weigh care­ful­ly all respons­es and not assume I’m right.
  14. If it’s a per­son­al ‘should’ that I’d nev­er sug­gest oth­ers adopt, Be afwaid. Be vewy afwaid! Is my dou­ble-stan­dard born of arro­gant pride and con­tempt for another’s ‘low stan­dard’? Am I hold­ing myself to an unrea­son­able impos­si­ble stan­dard that great­ly dif­fers from the one I mea­sure against oth­ers.
  15. Be will­ing to learn from some­one less knowl­edge­able than myself.
  16. If I’m reluc­tant to solic­it the opin­ions of oth­ers or to seek guid­ance then it’s an espe­cial­ly good time to take Elmer Fudd’s advice to heart. The greater the reluc­tance, the greater the like­li­hood that I NEED an exter­nal gut-check.
  17. Stop uni­lat­er­al­ly decid­ing things for oth­ers. Stop steal­ing from them the right to make up their own mind, to take their own risks, to explore a pos­si­bil­i­ty that excites or intrigues them! Acknowl­edge and respect their wis­dom and hon­or their right to test and weigh and decide for them­selves. Do not hold con­tempt if they reach con­clu­sions dis­sim­i­lar to mine. They may well be the wis­er and have a bet­ter under­stand­ing. Be will­ing to let them make mis­takes … This is per­haps one of the things for which my friends gave me great­est grace and patience, because I kept mak­ing these uni­lat­er­al deci­sions and con­clu­sions that I must not, or am sup­posed to not ever seek a new beloved for the rest of my days. This was the time peri­od where my excel­lent Chris­t­ian coun­selor Brad­ly Roark told me that “Per­haps you need to let some­one who is less knowl­edge­able than you teach you about love.” I thought it pro­found at the time, but as usu­al, I failed to real­ly grok his full mean­ing. That came with the full­ness of time and more hard lessons. Far more pro­found than I orig­i­nal­ly kenned, and far far far more hum­bling. Learn­ing that I can be a very well-edu­cat­ed idiot has been so very free­ing.
  18. If I am self-deny­ing myself some poten­tial bless­ing due to some self-imposed rule or stan­dard I can nev­er achieve, and if it’s a stan­dard or denial God might not be will­ing to back me up on and hasn’t been explic­it about in scrip­ture, I must remind myself that God is a lov­ing non-dic­ta­to­r­i­al par­ent who loves our free-will, who gave us the bible not as a rule­book, but as a fence around a lush green pas­ture, keep­ing us in the good, and away from the bad.
  19. Do not take the bit in my mouth and run. Do not wear blind­ers. Do not stick fin­gers in my ears and yell out obscur­ing noise like a brat­ty child.
  20. Sun­screen good. No sun­screen bad. Rest of advice based on years of Jedi teach­ing expe­ri­ence, yes?
  21. I did men­tion ‘pray’, yes?

Over sev­er­al years, and under the guid­ance of Chap­lain and beloved friend Bart Lar­son, with some rein­force­ment from my pas­tor at church, I have tried in my com­mu­ni­ca­tion to replace “you state­ments” with “I state­ments” and most impor­tant­ly the “you should state­ments.” Like­wise I have been try­ing not to use hyper­bole like “always” and “nev­er”. I’ve tried to put in check a ten­den­cy when excit­ed to care­less­ly use superla­tives, sweep­ing gen­er­al­iza­tions, and exag­ger­a­tion. Need­less­ly to say, despite try­ing a mil­lion times, I always always fail and nev­er ever suc­ceed in efforts not to use the very most egre­gious exag­ger­a­tions and worst hyper­bole. Actu­al­ly, it’s a process and I’ve made so much won­der­ful progress down that road. I still slip from time to time, or for­get and grow care­less. Suc­cess has been very reward­ing as it has allowed friend­ships to go deep­er and pre­vent­ed much offence that leads to argu­ment. I’m grate­ful to both of these men

I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, com­ing back from the fire; limp­ing, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been say­ing is quite right, I shouldn’t won­der. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Sup­pose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan him­self. Sup­pose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more impor­tant than the real ones.

Sup­pose this black pit of a king­dom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pret­ty poor one. And that’s a fun­ny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies mak­ing up a game, if you’re right. But four babies play­ing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hol­low. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narn­ian as I can even if there isn’t any Nar­nia. So, thank­ing you kind­ly for our sup­per, if these two gen­tle­men and the young lady are ready, we’re leav­ing your court at once and set­ting out in the dark to spend our lives look­ing for Over­land. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Sil­ver Chair
If it is dis­agree­able in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for your­selves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the Riv­er, or the gods of the Amor­ites in whose land you are liv­ing; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
— Joshua 24:15 NASB

Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

Work in progress as I read the book.

I’m not cer­tain what brought this book to my atten­tion but mar­riage is at the fore­most of my per­son­al inter­ests, most espe­cial­ly God­ly mar­riage, and many years have giv­en me a deep respect for the teach­ings of Tim Keller.

I’m 23rds of the way in and I’m rethink­ing how I need to write this review. There is sim­ply too much out­stand­ing con­tent in each chap­ter to cite even a por­tion it all.

I’m absolute­ly lov­ing this book as one of the best I have read in a long long while. I often think peo­ple find my views and ideas on mar­riage to be a lit­tle archa­ic if not strange. It’s very affirm­ing to read a man such as Tim Kel­lar not only shar­ing many of those ideas but expound­ing upon them in a much more eru­dite man­ner. The man fre­quent­ly, I mean very fre­quent­ly, cites the wis­dom of C. S. Lewis and pref­aces it with an expla­na­tion of ‘why’ that far out­strips the one I’ve been giv­ing my pas­tors and arm­chair the­olo­gians for decades. Same rea­sons, far bet­ter spo­ken.

Introduction

Society’s idea of a Soul­mate: A per­fect­ly com­pat­able match

…we quick­ly came to see that we shared the secret thread that C.S. Lewis says is the thing that turns peo­ple into close friends, or more…

You may have noticed that the books you real­ly love are bound togeth­er a secret thread. You know very well what is the com­mon qual­i­ty that makes you love them; but you can­not put it into words. Are not all life­long friend­ships born at the moment when at last you meet anoth­er human being who has some inkling of that some­thing which you were born desir­ing? — C. S. Lewis