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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!”
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
2 Timothy 1:7 NLTFor God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Controlling the Unpredictable – The Power of Promising“
Christianity Today Jan. 1983
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.”
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
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].
- You must get counsel before pursuing a relationship
- Physical attraction should not factor into your interest in another person
- Only marry a Christian
- Don’t date until you’re ready to get married
- Don’t kiss until your wedding day
- Husbands must bring home the bacon
- Wives must stay home and take care of the kids
- You must be out of debt to get married
- You must be convinced that this is the person you’re going to marry if you want to date them
- You must be content to be single and not looking for a mate
- You must be sexually pure before marriage
- You must be a mature Christian before you get married
- You must be able to make and keep a budget before getting married
- You must “like” and evaluate a potential spouse for at least a year before talking to them about your feelings
- Men must pursue and women must wait
- You must be completely objective in your evaluation of a potential spouse
- Your life vision and direction needs to be identical for a potential relationship to work
- Men must talk to a woman’s father before asking her out on a date
- You must guard your heart from any attachment
- 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.
- First determine if the source is external or internal.
- Question. Do not blindly accept.
- Respect leadership, but do not assume that they infallibly lead in all things.
- Pray. For guidance and wisdom. Pray for confirmation or invalidation.
- Test all against scripture.
- Avoid extremes. Seek to grow towards the ideals of paradigms, but never to achieve them entirely.
- Be on the lookout for statements made in the absolute.
- Be on guard against generalizations too vast in scope.
- 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.
- Be wary of emotional states that lead to self-imposed ‘shoulds’.
- The more I am certain, the more uncertain I should probably be.
- Does a conclusion eliminate hope, condemn holy desire, or affirm helplessnes? If so, it’s doubtful it’s from God.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be willing to learn from someone less knowledgeable than myself.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sunscreen good. No sunscreen bad. Rest of advice based on years of Jedi teaching experience, yes?
- 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
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.”
“A man cannot convince a woman that he is the right man, he must instead simply be the right man and give her the opportunity to convince herself.”
We men try very hard to be at our best and to show women the best truth of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with this as long as it’s honest; however, if honest, need we to make such effort? It is difficult to separate our anxious desire for her to love and value us from our desire for her know us on the deepest level and judge for herself.
I think we essentially argue with her cautions and fears and wisdom to see a truth we believe, but which she does not yet believe she has sufficient cause to credit. Not aloud do we argue. We try to anticipate objections and fears and present ourselves as the experiential counterargument. If consciously done and to bad purpose, this may be regarded as an attempt to manipulate. Nothing of value or strength may be built atop a foundation of manipulation.
If any of what we do is different than what we normally do in the course of our daily lives, then it is likely unwise. We present to her the man we desire to be, not the true man on which she may depend.
When, in the normal course, it becomes evident that she has come to opposite conclusion, we may, in desperation or fear, try to move the argument into speech, at which point any potential for the future is likely quashed.
One may convince another through argument or even deliberate demonstration, but that conviction will not stand when, inevitably, we fail to to entirely be the best of ourselves. This breeds only feelings of betrayal, anger, and disgust towards the one who pushed the other to come ’round to their own way of thinking.
Instead a woman must see things her way and in her own timing, without feeling pressured or manipulated. Any conclusions she draws must be her own based on her own observation and experience. That conviction then may stand when small challenges present themselves.
She must see us at the times we are not prepared for her to see us. She must see us when we are struggling without having awareness that she is watching, to overcome our sinful selves in a sinful world. This means acting natural both when she is and when she is not around.
Therefore, we as men need to just be the right man, not just for her, but for God, for ourselves and for always. She may reach her own conclusions that she likes and appreciates what she sees, and so might desire deeper relationship with us; commitment shared between the two of us. She may not. If she does not, nothing else we may do may bring her to these strong convictions no matter how convicted we ourselves are.
From that seed is the true potential that only seemed present in the fertile ground.
This article needs a complete rewrite.
In rereading I can see that I really did seem to be making that idea the focus.
I am reminded of the Chief of the Duffers and his supportive chorus of underlings in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
My attempts to explain that the focal point of the article was supposed to be the Telling vs. Being, not the what you are or are not telling or being were not enough to override that original impression.
I tried to use an analogy, but even that was unsuccessful, so it seems a rewrite is in order. That analogy follows.
I’m a fan of Subaru and Toyota cars, so I used one as the focus. I said something along these lines:
Imagine that you’ve gone to a car dealership having researched vehicles, reviews, ratings, cost of ownership/maintenance figures, and awards. You have a very clear idea that you want a Subaru Forester 2008 Gen 2.5 X L.L. Bean edition, and you know which two of the nine available paint/interior options would thrill you.
At the lot you are met by a salesman who half-listens to what you say you’re looking for and then asks to show you a newer and more expensive Honda CRV.
You explain that you like the CRV, but you’ve done your research and thought about it and you want the Forester.
Instead of changing his tack, he instead tells you what is wrong with your choice and why the CRV, even though a goodly bit more than you had budgeted is a better choice. He too cites awards and reviews and ratings, and little facts about both vehicles that make you vaguely suspicious and untrusting, wondering if he’s being straight with you. You’ve been lied to in the past, cheated and are determined not to be led astray again or drop your well constructed and needed guards.
He’s persistent and first leaves you confused and then thinking that maybe your research failed to make you aware of the problems inherent with a Forester and indeed all Subaru vehicles. Maybe you hadn’t really given Honda a fair viewing. Eventually, against your better judgement and in spite of your safeguards, you let him talk you into the Honda and you purchase it.
You start from the lot with some confidence, but soon your decision does not sit right with you, especially because you ended up having to make loan payments much greater than you had budgeted for.
Immediately you start noticing little annoyances… little things that are different than what you had fallen in love with in the Forester. Things that are missing or that don’t work the same. The ride isn’t what you were anticipating experiencing in the advanced AWD vehicle. You quickly grow disenchanted. You begin to have a mild dread at looking at the vehicle, getting in, starting it up. Some of the things you wanted the Forester for are just not possible in the CRV.
Finances are tight, and always looking up at you from your budget is that larger than planned for loan payment which is making the budget tight.
Inevitably something breaks down, or there is a recall. You think to yourself, “The Subaru is much more reliable, and their repair shop is so much better to deal with after the sale than the Honda shop has shown itself to be. Even if a break-down is a reasonable expectation, you hold it against Honda as evidence that their entire brand is rubbish. Not like a Subaru.
You get to the point that you can’t wait until you’ve paid down the loan and can sell it and get your deposit and some of the payments back and buy a vehicle you do like. Looking at your budget, you realize that you’re going to have to keep irritating driving this vehicle for a long long while yet. In researching market values you see that your CRV has held none of its value so you’re upside down and won’t get enough from selling it to even make the large down-payment you like to make when purchasing a vehicle.
You try to remind yourself that it was your decision and so you make the best of it, but you resent having to do so. You’ll “never be going back to that dealership again, and that’s for certain!” You’re a good steward and believe that you have to accept the consequences for your bad choices and can’t just dump the car and get another. You can’t help but badmouth Honda even though you know deep down that they’re actually pretty good cars.
Now imagine the opposite. Your salesperson listens and doesn’t have that vehicle but makes some calls and finds one they can get in soon. He affirms your choice and commends your research and good thinking. It takes a few days longer, but you end up driving off the lot with no misgivings about the planned-for very little bit you had to finance.
Immediately you keep falling more deeply in love with the features, design, amenities and performance that have met or exceeded your most hopeful expectations. When things inevitably need repair, you take it in course and view the cost and the service you receive with a lot more accepting and forgiving attitude. You tell others about your ‘baby’ and how great Subaru vehicles are and that they should consider becoming a Suba-nut like yourself.
You enjoy driving the thing. All the needs you expected to have have are met and the ones you wanted but weren’t possible with the Forester, well, you knew that going in and you had made the decision that it was still the vehicle for you.
When you eventually drive it into the ground, long past when it was still as comfortable and still met your needs. You love that car. You almost want to bury it in the back 40 and keep the hood ornament emblem on your keychain instead of selling it for scrap.
The above analogy breaks down somewhat. Marriages aren’t to be sold and traded like cars. We don’t get to trade-in when things are difficult or less than we had hoped for down the line. We as men need to quit trying to be car salesmen.
I don’t know that it clarifies the thing. The idea here is that even if the salesperson was honest and didn’t misrepresent things, the choice to buy the CRV is one you were talked into, not one you’d really have come to on your own in the absence of high-pressure outside influence. You feel that if the CRV was just ‘being’ all those things, you might have chosen it yourself instead of being pressured by someone who was ‘telling’ you to trust his conclusions and to make a decision you were not happy with.
I have $1,000 in savings as an emergency fund that I may raid if support raising doesn’t cover it. I’m very grateful to my cousins Jerry & Tracy Cepel in California for a very kind gift out of the blue that has eased many strains and worries.
The only things standing in the way of going and rebuilding houses in Ukraine and getting to know her wonderful people and perhaps share my love for Christ with them at this point are my weight/health, the cantankerous heart of a despicable man that would aggress against the freedom of his peaceful and kind neighbors, and the possibility that I won’t be able to arrange the time off of work.
But I rejoice! I’m 271.5 lbs, and since technically I started this effort at 303 lbs, that’s halfway! 270 lbs is still the milestone that my fingers are reaching and scrabbling to grasp, but I need, right now, to appreciate the milestone I have reached and hold onto it tightly for a moment before stumbling onward.
If the goal is 60 for Ukraine well, then… I’m MORE than halfway. Halfway is a wonderful place to be. 33 lbs lighter is a wonderful place to feel. With that gift from my cousin I resolved to mend a lack in my wardrobe, a lack of any formal or semi-formal wear for job interviews, church, weddings, funerals, nice meals out, nights at the symphony, charity banquets for My Life Clinic, et. al., … What had been impossible at 300 lbs, let alone 316 lbs has become almost easily possible in the low 270s.
I feel better. I’m more confident. I feel as though I’ve matured, making deliberate choices instead of lamenting having to make do with the best I can do when a nice occasion rolls around; wearing what’s appropriate instead of ‘the best that I have’ when going to an interview. I could attend my father’s visitation and grave-side honors feeling I wasn’t dishonoring him. I’ve done some hard work and a great deal of self-denial to get here and that feels like maturity too.
The biggest gift from the weightloss, on an emotional level is that, as I have chosen to put myself out there, seeking relationship with some beautiful Daughter of Eve or another, that I am more comfortable in myself. Fretting about not wanting to saddle her with an obese person whose health might be uncertain. Fretting with not being able to respect or stand myself when I need to love what it is that I’m asking someone else to love. Fretting that she’s seeing me and judging me and has contempt for me as a man when most likely she is only seeing that I understand her and make her feel loved, cared for, cherished… and that I make her laugh and that we experience and share joy in companionship. Fretting that desires for parenthood would be selfish if I cannot play and interact with kiddos. It has given me the confidence to know that I -can- do this. Gone is that long dark teatime of the soul when I knew I simply could not, or when I would try but always fail.
God blesses. It’s like He, the omni-potent one is im-potent -not- to bless. God blesses.
I take a bewildered look around and find that I, a 42 year old man who’s clearly failing fast, am a brand spankin’ new student at University. When did they start letting all these children into higher-learning? $108 to rent a textbook for 6–8 weeks? Praying for strength as a somewhat frightening new adventure commences.
They’re all using these little flat pocket televisions without an aerial. They seem to think nothing of getting fingerprints all over them.