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

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?

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.

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.

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

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

Christmas 2008

2008 was the year I des­per­ate­ly clung to Christ­mas while sob­bing. This was the year I did all of our tra­di­tions alone, mis­er­able but not know­ing what else to do. Sob­bing and hold­ing the pups and telling them that their mom­my would be back know­ing I was try­ing to con­vince myself and fail­ing to con­vince any of us. Feel­ing like a child who had some­thing done to them, some­thing they had no capac­i­ty to under­stand, unable to see any­thing oth­er than the hurt and unable to believe such hurt was pos­si­ble. Won­der­ing if it would get worse, or eas­i­er, if it would ever stop, or if there had ever been a real­i­ty with­out the pain… All before, even the mas­sive pain of Christ­mases in child­hood seemed like a self-delud­ing fan­ta­sy made up to try to dis­tract from the only thing I could ever, would ever, had ever known.

God was there. Through God, Bart Lar­son was there. Greg Cranston was there or soon would be.

It is 2016 and I have cho­sen for the first time to put up a Christ­mas tree. A gift­ed tree and many essen­tial bits giv­en by friends who love me, whom God had put there to make Christ­mas 2008 look like a dread­ful long-ago night­mare, the David and Sarah Cranstons, the Col­in and Bar­bara Smi­aleks, the Dwights, the Cindys, the Boltons, all the peo­ple of Val­ley View, The Berrys, the Elder Cranstons and me mum Kay who has been grow­ing in wis­dom and inner strength and become able to coun­sel back.

I will put up trees each year and will hang, like del­i­cate heir­loom glass orna­ments, more names on each bough.

There will be a time when it’s not only my hands doing the hang­ing, but those with slen­der more del­i­cate fin­gers than mine, and more del­i­cate slen­der hands to join in years fol­low­ing. We will hang names until the boughs creak under the weight and I will feel only grat­i­tude for the Christ­mas Tree of 2008 for mak­ing me know what else is pos­si­ble so that I might nev­er take for grant­ed that which is.

At the top we will illu­mi­nate one name, bright, above all, encom­pass­ing all, mak­ing all pos­si­ble. Like a bril­liant star will sit the name of Jesus Christ.

God ain’t got no taste

RichMullinsHeadshot

“One of the rea­sons I love the bible is because the humans in the bible are not very refined. They’re pret­ty goofy if you want to know the whole truth about it. And I remem­ber when I was a kid and peo­ple would always say, you know… ’cause I was always one of those typ­i­cal depressed ado­les­cent types, I wrote poet­ry and stuff. It’s how morose I was as a kid and peo­ple would go around say­ing, “Cheer up man, because God loves you.” And I would always say, “Big deal. God loves every­body. That don’t make me spe­cial. That just proves that God ain’t got no taste.” And I don’t think He does. Thank God! Cause God takes the junk of our lives and He makes the great­est art out of it and if He was cul­tured; if He was as civ­i­lized as most Chris­t­ian peo­ple wish He was, He would be use­less to Chris­tian­i­ty… but God is a wild man. And I hope that in the course of your life you encounter him. But let me warn you, you got­ta ‘hang on for dear life’… or ‘let go for dear life’, maybe is bet­ter.”
— Rich Mullins, in a live per­for­mance of Some­times by Step

And he lifts up his arms in a blessing; For being born again

I walked out the door this morn­ing and was checked hard by a moist cold wind that smelled so fresh and clean that I had lit­tle choice but to stand still, feel, smell, and then praise God for His bless­ings. Praise Him for sea­sons that turn and turn again and days so in-your-face awe­some that even should you be con­sumed with inter­nal­ized dol­drums or busy think­ing those work-a-day thoughts, they will gob­s­mack you with beau­ty and plea­sure.
RichMullinsHeadshot
And the wrens have returned, and are nest­ing;
In the hol­low of that oak, where his heart once had been.
And he lifts up his arms in a bless­ing, for being born again.

— Rich Mullins, The Col­or Green, A Litur­gy
a Lega­cy, & a Raga­muf­fin Band

Can Goofiness and Manliness Coexist?

I real­ized that while I have many Quo­ta­tion­al Pon­der­ings entries, the Per­son­al Pon­der­ings cat­e­go­ry has regret­tably not seen much use. I attribute this to my inter­nal con­flict with the belief that oth­er peo­ple have things of sig­nif­i­cance to relate and I have not. To rem­e­dy, here’s a pon­der that I have been con­sid­er­ing late­ly:

In see­ing the goofy things I share and like on social media, I begin to won­der if a sen­si­ble woman could love such a man. Yes, I’m cer­tain that it is pos­si­ble, but is it improb­a­ble?”

I think the answer is a sol­id “it may be so”.

So, is that goofi­ness “who one is as a per­son”, or is it “how one choos­es to be as a per­son”, and if the lat­ter, should not one make the choice to be oth­er­wise at some point? Is there some mys­te­ri­ous bal­ance one needs must strike, and how can one pos­si­bly know that there is and what that bal­ance looks like? Can one mature from being a man-child yet some­how remain a unabashed fan of ani­mat­ed movies like How to Train Your Drag­on and Mon­sters Inc., Hayao Miyaza­ki and Stu­dio Ghi­b­li, and goofy goofy Doc­tor Who?

Fur­ther, when does eccen­tric cross the line into odd­i­ty; say, if one has pos­si­bly knit­ted a 16′ long scarf in emu­la­tion of Tom Brown’s fourth iter­a­tion of The Doc­tor, has a bar­ri­er been irre­triev­ably breached?

C.S. Lewis warns against fill­ing to our lives with habits, hob­bies, inter­ests, and lux­u­ries as a way to guard one’s life and heart against risk­ing love and so to try to fill the void. Are we choos­ing those things over the pos­si­ble joy and ful­fill­ment of shar­ing one’s life, heart, and being with anoth­er? Are we men choos­ing to be a child and in so choos­ing to for­go the dream of ever rais­ing a child (chil­dren)?

More­over, are we mak­ing the same awful mis­take in our rela­tion­ship with our Sav­ior Jesus Christ; with our lov­ing Heav­en­ly Father? What awe­some and impor­tant thing is it that we are choos­ing to give up if such is so?

I have mar­ried friends who appear to have found and struck that bal­ance and I look up to them as exem­plars. They how­ev­er, fig­ured out that bal­ance much ear­li­er in life. Is there an age at which it becomes too late and one must live with the con­se­quences of one’s ill-con­sid­ered choic­es.

Pon­der, pon­der pon­der.

Zen Pen­cils has craft­ed a won­der­ful com­ic to illus­trate what C.S. Lewis says on this sub­ject of hearts, hob­bies and lux­u­ries. [Orig­i­nal here]

zenpencils-toloveanything-hearthobbies-cslewis

Clive Staples Lewis

“To love at all is to be vul­ner­a­ble. Love any­thing, and your heart will cer­tain­ly be wrung and pos­si­bly be bro­ken. If you want to make sure of keep­ing it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an ani­mal. Wrap it care­ful­ly round with hob­bies and lit­tle lux­u­ries; avoid all entan­gle­ments; lock it up safe in the cas­ket or cof­fin of your self­ish­ness. But in that cas­ket — safe, dark, motion­less, air­less — it will change. It will not be bro­ken; it will become unbreak­able, impen­e­tra­ble, irre­deemable. The alter­na­tive to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damna­tion. The only place out­side of Heav­en where you can be per­fect­ly safe from all the dan­gers and per­tur­ba­tions of love is Hell.”
— Clive Sta­ples Lewis, The Four Loves

If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.

andrewpeterson
“So it’s a good ques­tion, and I’m not sure I know how to answer it, but today I think He did it that way in the are­na of his­to­ry and time and place because our hearts can only grasp His love if we’re told it in a sto­ry. Some­one said, ‘If you want some­one to know the truth, you tell them. If you want some­one to love the truth, tell them a sto­ry.’ Since God is after our hearts… since He knows the only way for those hearts to work prop­er­ly is to exist in the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence of His love. He laid down his life to tell us a sto­ry.”
— Andrew Peter­son in answer his wife’s won­der­ing
why the hor­ror of the Cru­ci­fix­ion had to hap­pen.
“He Gave Us Sto­ries”, Ref­or­ma­tion Bible Col­lege,
2013 Fall Con­fer­ence, Cre­ation & Re-Cre­ation.


Go back to time­code 34:45 to hear his guid­ing idea behind writ­ing The Wingfeath­er Saga. He had a vision of who the main char­ac­ter Jan­ner Igi­by was and who he was to become and that it could only be accom­plished through con­flict. “The only way for Jan­ner Igi­by to become that per­son was for me to ruin his life. To send him on an adven­ture that would cause him pain. To strip him of every­thing that was famil­iar. To bring him to a point where he could not see the light at the end of the tun­nel. And now, at the end of my sto­ry I keep think­ing about how my whole point, my whole goal at the end of this epic tale I’m try­ing to tell is to make the dark­ness seem so great that it’s insur­mount­able. To make it so that the main char­ac­ters in my sto­ry are on the brink of giv­ing up hope, so that at the very last moment, I can lift the veil, and blow their minds and they can see that there was some­thing stronger than all the dark­ness.”

Reading Narnia to Your Children

Andrew Peterson - On reading the Chronicles of Narnia to his boys
“I read the Nar­nia books to my sons when they were lit­tle boys and I cried the whole way through. I don’t know how many of you guys have read those books to your kids. It’s one thing to read the Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia as a boy. It’s anoth­er thing to read them as a man to your chil­dren and I just wept my way through those books.”
I too tear up through­out read­ing the Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia. I strug­gle not to weep upon lis­ten­ing to him say these things as he describes my own dream for father­hood. I rejoice that there are oth­er men out there doing exact­ly that and ful­fill­ing that self­same dream. This only serves to revive all the same feel­ings I had upon first becom­ing acquaint­ed with Andrew Peter­son through the below video, Fam­i­ly Man. Not every­one has their dreams ful­filled. I am glad that some do. I am grate­ful that God gives com­fort and con­tent­ment even to those who do not.

Paralyzed with Awe at the Power of Prayer

Peter Kreeft

“I strong­ly sus­pect that if we saw all the dif­fer­ence even the tini­est of our prayers make, and all the peo­ple those lit­tle prayers were des­tined to affect, and all the con­se­quences of those prayers down through the cen­turies, we would be so par­a­lyzed with awe at the pow­er of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.”
— Peter Kreeft, Pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy, Boston Col­lege

Lost Beloved

This morn­ing, as I prayed ask­ing God to bless Raina, ful­fill her, give her hap­pi­ness, heal if heal­ing is need­ed, and seek her if seek­ing is need­ed, I real­ized that I referred to to her as my Lost Beloved. It got me think­ing and I real­ized that I have been using this epi­thet for a cou­ple of months now as God has grant­ed much heal­ing of heart.

I real­ized that I haven’t giv­en up on God’s abil­i­ty to restore my mar­riage, I’ve just turned the whole thing over to Him, and what­ev­er He decides to do will be the best and most ful­fill­ing out­come, whether that means a restored mar­riage, a new mar­riage, or liv­ing out a remain­ing life­time of sin­gle­ness.

I believe I’ve final­ly decid­ed to stop being crip­pled and bro­ken. I’ve come to the point of cast­ing off the crush­ing bur­den I’ve car­ried for so long.

Three years ago, near­ly to the day, I com­posed a poem as part of the heal­ing and deal­ing process:

Boxed it All Up and Put it Away for Good
BoxOnTheShelf-CleanedUp-130x130

No longer strewn across my life, men­tal dross to trip and fall.
Reminders of the long ago, hang not upon each wall.

Gath­ered in a card­board box, packed and ordered well.
Flaps fold­ed in and inter­locked, form cor­ru­gat­ed shell.

Place upon a stor­age shelf, away from thought and mind.
Dis­card­ed not, dis­turb­ing not, from now till end of time.

That was a nec­es­sary step then to cope and func­tion because I -was- crip­pled and bro­ken and I was trip­ping and falling and injur­ing myself over and over.

I’ve had the box open once since then and I think that too was nec­es­sary to bring me to the point where I am now, at Peace. The re-open­ing was recent and I didn’t beat myself up because I gave myself the grace to grieve again as part of the heal­ing process. Now I real­ize that I wasn’t griev­ing as I had in the past, and I wasn’t trip­ping; I was say­ing farewell.

Farewell not just to my Lost Beloved, but to all of my hopes, bro­ken promis­es (the ones I broke as well), lost hap­pi­ness and bro­ken dreams, all tied to her in con­nec­tion, and around my neck as a mill­stone.

I’ve said farewell and I’ve found des­per­ate­ly sought after peace which I had nev­er hoped to find. I didn’t believe it pos­si­ble. I think I’m ready to close that box and this time, seal it shut with tape. I may one day throw the box away, but I don’t by any means wish to for­get what had been up until 7+ years ago the best and most reward­ing por­tion of my life.

I’m open now to new best and most reward­ing por­tions.

My fin­ger is now unadorned.

She is lost, to me. I have found myself, and only by God’s lov­ing grace. I don’t know what’s next, if any­thing, and for now, I’m not fussed. I like it here. It’s so much bet­ter than where I have been pre­vi­ous­ly.

Ugly Moral Portrait

Charles Spurgeon
Broth­er, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you false­ly on some point, yet be sat­is­fied, for if he knew you bet­ter he might change the accu­sa­tion, and you would be no gain­er by the cor­rec­tion. If you have your moral por­trait paint­ed, and it is ugly, be sat­is­fied; for it only needs a few black­er touch­es, and it would be still near­er the truth.
— Charles Had­don Spur­geon, ser­mon, “David Danc­ing before the Ark because of His Elec­tion” in The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Taber­na­cle Pul­pit Ser­mons, vol. 35.

Courage and Kindness | writingmymelody

Source: Courage and Kind­ness | writ­ingmymelody

My own jour­ney has been a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and Nice has been a nec­es­sary step, but only because my start­ing place was Mean. My father*, manip­u­la­tive, mean-heart­ed, con­trol­ling, and crit­i­cal, raised me to be a car­bon copy of him­self in my think­ing and atti­tudes. Until I was res­cued from his con­trol, my basic oper­at­ing sys­tem was Mean, Con­de­scend­ing, and Hurt­ful.

Res­cued at some­thing like 10 years old, it took many years away from his influ­ence before I began to have an inkling that things were wrong. I was Mean, even towards my res­cuers. My inkling was no stronger than know­ing that there were some peo­ple in my life that I real­ly liked and admired who were dif­fer­ent from all I knew and I knew that they were dif­fer­ent some­how in ways I could not com­pre­hend.

It was not until I was in res­i­den­tial treat­ment at Char­ter Hos­pi­tal my fresh­man year in high school that a group-ther­a­py leader named Dar­rel final­ly got through to me. He was one of those dif­fer­ent peo­ple and I think it took my first admir­ing him, for the cri­sis event that soon fol­lowed to have an impact on my arro­gant, legal­is­tic, self­ish, con­de­scend­ing, and mean heart. Indeed it took that admi­ra­tion for there to be a Cri­sis Event at all.

In a group ther­a­py ses­sion, I was being my usu­al charm­ing argu­men­ta­tive com­bat­ive con­de­scend­ing-self when Dar­rel braked hard and brought the con­ver­sa­tion to a screech­ing halt and said, “You know some­thing Chris­t­ian? I just real­ized. You real­ly ARE an A**hole.” When I got back to my room after the expect­ed tantrum of “You can’t say that to me!” had run its course, the cri­sis began and it left me bro­ken and floored.

I thank God for putting Dar­rel, and anoth­er per­son who’s kind heart and love for God has saved my life over and over the past cou­ple of decades, Bart Lar­son, Chap­lain, Pho­tog­ra­ph­er and Artist and at the time Chap­lain for the ado­les­cent unit at Char­ter Hos­pi­tal. (This next to the author of the blog post I reblogged) [You’ve like­ly seen his name on the pic­tures that used to line the walls at Life Spring and still do at Val­ley View.] He coun­seled me then. He res­cued me from demon­ic spir­i­tu­al attack. He coun­selled me after. He did our pre­mar­i­tal coun­sel­ing. He tag-teamed our wed­ding with Pas­tor John Drage of The Rock. He helped us through mis­car­riage and pain and 6+ years of fail­ing to re-con­ceive and my lost beloved’s health issues with PCOS, autoim­mune night­mares and celi­ac dis­ease. He helped us as our mar­riage fell apart and helped me after she left and kept me from end­ing my life many times as I griev­ed and griev­ed. He even helped me fix things and pro­fes­sion­al­ly paint our mar­riage home to get it ready for forced sale from the divorce. All qui­et­ly and kind­ly and unas­sum­ing. He has nev­er stopped help­ing me and pour­ing out to me God’s kind­ness (mod­el­ing it to me).

Along the long road from Mean to where I am now, which on good days, is leagues and leagues down the path towards Kind­ness, there was a nec­es­sary inter­me­di­ary step, or rather whole long sec­tion of the path. Nice­ness. It start­ed clum­si­ly and inept­ly and most espe­cial­ly, delib­er­ate­ly. I didn’t under­stand Kind­ness, I only knew the effects of kind­ness, upon me, from oth­ers. I had to make very con­scious delib­er­ate deci­sions to ‘Be Nice’ where all my life my BIOS, my Firmware, my autopi­lot had been ‘Be Mean’.

Good days. Bad days. Good encoun­ters. Bad encoun­ters. Start­ing with far more bad than good until final­ly the bad became ‘the old man’ who stayed buried most of the time. He’s still not dead, but he’s not enjoy­ing the sun­shine and fresh air any longer and the guard I’ve set on his prison is usu­al­ly very dili­gent.

Being Nice opened me up to being able to learn and come to a deep and intu­itive under­stand­ing of the kind­ness of these peo­ple in my life, and through them, the kind­ness of Christ who ruled their lives. It gave me feel­ings of suc­cess (and self-for­give­ness/­grace/ac­cep­tance) instead of self-loathing, and encour­aged me to keep fight­ing to move from Nice to Kind. It taught me to move my life­long rela­tion­ship with Christ from see­ing Him from a legal­is­tic and truth per­spec­tive to a rela­tion­ship of rec­og­niz­ing His kind­ness and lov­ing Him for it and learn­ing to tem­per Truth with Grace (as is best exem­pli­fied in Randy Alcorn’s “The Grace & Truth Para­dox”).

I’m not Kind yet. I am kind-of Kind. I am Kind-er. I have times where kind­ness is my auto-pilot and love is the lift that keeps my plane aloft. Much of my ROM BIOS/Firmware has been flashed with new base instruc­tions.

Going from Mean, through Nice, to Kind, has been every bit a “Fake it ’till you make It.” jour­ney.

Much of the dif­fer­ence between Kind and Nice has been the jour­ney from delib­er­ate and forced to nat­ur­al, heart­felt, and sin­cere.

* none of this can be sep­a­rat­ed from the lessons of Total For­give­ness as taught by R.T. Kendall. Total For­give­ness par­al­lels this idea ‘nice until kind’ in a strong way in that the process of Total For­give­ness is a dai­ly deci­sion to for­give. That prac­tice will con­tin­ue dai­ly for a life­time unless God even­tu­al­ly heals you to the point where you no longer need to decide each day because you have total­ly for­giv­en them.

One of the steps towards Total For­give­ness has been to real­ize that he would prob­a­bly be com­plete­ly bewil­dered and pos­si­bly very hurt that I see things this way. Real­iz­ing that has been one of the first steps towards extend­ing him true grace. He’s no more and no less a sin­ful fall­en lump than I am. We’re both raga­muffins, but only I’ve been giv­en the bless­ing of real­iz­ing it.