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.
- 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.
Many friends have read and processed and given feedback on my previous article, “All Chances Gone. No Beagle Puppy“. They have also extended to me much love and support, for which I am very grateful.
I too have read and reread, edited a bit here and there as something such as this, put out there for public consumption should be painstakingly authored. I have reread and processed, and taken into account much of the feedback and advice, and even exhortations I have received from others.
I do after all, ponder.
I came to the conclusion that I was still being manipulated and controlled… by my own fears. Was I frightened of a emotional bugbear blown out of all proportion over the years even if that bugbear may prove, in fact, to be realistic in some ways?
I was giving him too much power… where he has none.
I was letting fear be justification for not doing what I truly wished to do, forgoing two opportunities, one of which will never come again, and the other which may never be offered to me again.
The first opportunity is that of being able to say ‘goodbye’ and tell my father that I loved him in every way left open to me, and those ways fiercely. Perhaps it is selfish, and I don’t know if I have a need or not yet, but I would very much not like to realize down the road that I have need for this closure. I acknowledge that time might dampen some feelings and allow other feelings to have primacy and with those, find only regret at having made a mistake.
The second is to see family that I dearly love and have had little opportunity to be close to. The lack of closeness was my own fault. I was so withdrawn into a shell of protection that I self-denied myself one of the best gifts I have and ever will have been given. The association was too strong. Again, I think this was driven by a sort of fear. I spoke of regrets above. This regret already exists and is far greater than I anticipate the other might ever be if I again let those fears control me.
Time marches relentlessly onward and I have already lost much opportunity as now age and disease, and its thieving nature may have already robbed (No, my hurt and foolishness did the robbing, alas.) me of what I most desire. I could easily spend a lot of effort and hatred toward myself for this foolishness, but it is pointless and I must act on the lesson of giving the grace I give others to myself.
I don’t know about Beagle Puppies. That scenario, with time and temperance, seems less likely, but I do acknowledge it is still a possible reality. I honestly don’t how to handle it if those fears are realized. I only know that I cannot let those fears dictate what I do.
I had for a few days tried to pass the responsibility for how I handled those fears off onto the shoulders of my father. That is nonsense. He can do nothing to me, then or now, and he cannot ‘make’ me fearful. Only I have that responsibility. It’s past time I owned that. Another opportunity for self-grace in that I think that trying to pass the responsibility was an inevitable part of the process, but that grace only has meaning if I also admit it was wrong and chose to do that which is right.
I could wish that Beagle Puppies played no role. Such lament is useless, self-indulgent, and wasteful. I could lament that Beagle Puppies -ever- played a role, -ever- were a ‘thing’, but lamentations do not alter. Lament only hinders one from progressing forward if maintained longer than is appropriate and healthy.
I will, from this point redefine Beagle Puppy to mean only something that I very much love. I will discard that other definition in a box of useless things destined for eventual annihilation in furnace inferno. There is one Beagle Puppy like no other. He slumbers on the apex of his dwelling… when he’s not patrolling the skies over France, keeping them safe from the menace of Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen. He admirably serves as perpetual shortstop and never lets a ground ball past in formal and pickup-games. He did once make a failed bid to forcibly replace Charlie Brown as team manager, but we will speak only of his successes here.
I had more loved images than would make sense in-line in a post already pushing those limits, so here are the remainder:
A follow-up article has been added here: Facing Fears – My Father’s Passing
All the chances I might have had to finally figure out how to forgive and reconnect with my father, and hopefully, lead him back to a saving relationship with Christ from his jaded atheism ended five days ago.
A relative searched out my contact information and let me know last night that my father was discovered by police on a requested wellness check. They estimate he passed away four days previous.
A lot of mixed emotions. There is remorse for my failure and inability; remorse for times when I became righteously angry at his (continuing) mistreatment of my mother, my sister, and myself. There is regret that he seemed a textbook Sociopath that might have never been reached by any efforts of forgiveness and reaching out. There is prayer that God gives grace to those who may have their free will compromised, through no fault of their own, by mental damage/illness. The remorse is mostly quiet remorse and it may grow more intense as God works on my heart, but I can’t see how I could have done anything much different than I did.
I am glad that he is no longer able to affect my mother and myself. My sister has been beyond his grasp since passing away at the beginning of 2005. Glad, but I did not wish him dead. I wished him all the life it took to come back to God in humility as a supplicant, and then, perhaps, a life remainder of quiet peace. Not the false peace of a sociopath unable to know of troublesome things, but of one who knows, knows he is forgiven through no act of his own, and who is able to accept that forgiveness and wrap it around himself like a comforting blanket.
If there were to be a funeral service as nearby as Kearney, Nebraska, and had I a surfeit of time and money, I would very much like to attend, and tell him that I loved him in every way that was left open to me and that I hope that in spite of my failure to reach him that he is somehow covered under Grace.
My mother suggested that I should attend for another reason, and one which, even the possibility of would make me chose not to attend even were I able. She suggested that I might get a Beagle Puppy, and since I am trying to find a way to pay for Nursing School, that it would be a very wonderful blessing to have a Beagle Puppy. I cannot stomach the idea of one more controlling manipulation, one more carrot and stick, one more act of twistedness being done to me.
Briefly, as a child, perhaps 6 years old I had been given a copy of the American Kennel Club’s Dog Breeds Book because I was nuts about anything/everything ‘dog’. I loved its bright yellow cover (my favorite colour then) and all the black and white photos of different breeds. I had poured over it like other boys pour over baseball cards memorizing stats, or in this case, characteristics, classifications, temperaments, grooming needs, and so on. I had paper-clipped pages for different breeds and honestly, I would have liked to have all of them, or even just one of them. There was one at the time that stood out among the rest and that might have met my father’s stringent requirements of an acceptable dog. It wasn’t Benji, Benji after all being a shelter dog of mysterious heritage. It wasn’t my present day loves, Shih-Tzus (I don’t think we’d yet doggy-sat me mum’s boss’ Roxy and knew Shih-Tzu joy) and Border Collies (They weren’t even recognized by the AKC at the time and more’s the pity they ever were). It wasn’t a Samoyed or an Alaskan Malamutes like my beloved (ok, she belonged to my sister Allison, but she lived with me for several years) Nikki. The page I came back to over and over; the page with two paperclips and a third big one on the few full-colour pages in the center, was the Beagle. I wanted this small scrappy smart trim little dog who just looked like it had a heart bursting with love for a little boy. Constant “Beagle Puppy” desire followed but gained no traction with my parents… or rather with my Dad who must control everything.
Mayhaps not so briefly. My parents were active in the church I had grown up in as bible-study leaders, youth ministry helpers, and as drivers for the church van. It happened that the youth group decided to go on an outing to the almost-better-than-Disneyland-way-better-than-Six-Flags Knott’s Berry Farm. It also happened that the day of the trip was my 8th or 9th birthday. When we reached the park I was given the ‘choice’ of going around the day with my father, or with my mother. How can you make a wrong choice when there’s no real choice at all. My mother made such things fun and exciting. My dad complained and groused about the price of food which he would never have purchased anyways. Mum would get small treats when she could but as she really didn’t have much of ‘her own money’ (her nurse’s salary was taken and controlled by my father), even those occasions were rare. He criticized and belittled everything. He condescended upon everyone, especially international workers and visitors. There was no fun with my Dad, no joy. He refused to ride any roller-coasters (some of the best were at KBF, The Corkscrew, Montezooma’s Revenge, etc), and my mum was a roller-coaster-nut. I went with my mum. Later in the day we reconvened at a covered picnic area and there was a surprise birthday cake and party waiting. It could not have possibly been a more perfect day and would have stood in my childhood as one of maybe 3 or 4 actual happy memories (Meeting Benji(Benjean) and her trainer was one, a certain Day at Angeles Crest Christian Camp was another).
It’s not. It’s not one of those. It was one of the other kind of days of which there were so many, and this the one that still hurts the most. As we were leaving the park and getting back in the van and I was nursing the fireball candies (They had to last. Whenever would they come again?) my mother had disobeyed my father and bought for me, my father took me aside. He pulled out his wallet and from that took a clipping from the classified section of the L.A. Times. I still remember the smudged newsprint attempt at including a photo of a litter of Beagle puppies and their mum… a little hard to make out in pure black & white process. My dad told me that he had planned, if I were to come with him for the day, for us to leave the park while others were enjoying the rides and attractions and to go and pick out a puppy from the litter, but as I had went with my mom, I would be getting no puppy. Not today. Not ever. I don’t remember how I reacted beyond sitting at the back of the bus for the long trip back to central LA with a forgotten fireball burning a hole through my cheek as I neither felt nor tasted it, crying, being embarrassed and thinking that I just didn’t want to continue. I -think- it was around this time that I tried and failed to commit suicide with my dad’s .22 auto that I had no idea how to charge or un-safe. I couldn’t bear the thought of my ‘mistake’ and that it would have ‘forever’ effects. To children, ‘forever’ means ‘ever after’, not ‘until circumstances one day change’. I didn’t think in terms of ‘unfair’ because I had never known ‘fair’. I had had so much fun with my mum, and I should have had fun with my mum, but I didn’t realize I was unwittingly making or breaking some Faustian bargain at the time. I didn’t want to be alone with my father, not before, not that day, not ever, and because of it my ‘mistake’, there would never be a puppy to replace Rascal and Samson who had both passed away long before I even got to really know them. I would never have a puppy. I don’t remember anything after that until my mother moved us out of his house. It’s all blanked out. I think I shut down. I think I was crushed beyond caring about anything at all.
Could he really be that twisted so as to do it again? Could he put some stipulation in his will where I would be ‘rewarded’ for making the ‘right’ wrong decision and punished for making the ‘wrong’ right decision. Nobody could possibly do something that heinous, could they?
I don’t want a Beagle Puppy. I don’t ever want a Beagle Puppy from him. I don’t want to miss his funeral, but I very much wish I had been able to miss that birthday at Knotts Berry Farm.
The answer is, “Yes, he could.”. Money has always been his go-to method to control and hurt or bless (not altruistically, but for the returns it brought him) people in his life.
My answer is, “No, I cannot. I Will not.” Today I would say, “I Shan’t.” but it just doesn’t seem as appropriate here. I will find some other way, like everyone else, to take care of Nursing School and other needful things, and the harder it is, the it will be all the worthier for the difficulty.
I hope he’s been granted grace and understanding for the difficulties of his own childhood and for the mental derangement(s) he suffered.
I feel free. Freedom that being half a nation away could never bring. Free of that nagging worry that he could still find some way to hurt my mother or less likely, myself. I wouldn’t have traded his life for that freedom, but the equation was not of my making.
I suppose I am finally free to change my last name to something that doesn’t hurt because now doing so won’t hurt him. I wonder at even bothering to wait, but I know it was in the hopes of reaching him for Christ. Would that I could embrace the wonderful Cepelness that was a small part of my life, my Uncle Al and Aunt Carol and all their kids and their kid’s kiddos, and a fair bit of good Cepelness back in Nebraska, but put together, all represent a drop of joy in an ocean of hurt.
The mission trip to the Ukraine is back on (tentatively) for this summer, this time at more of a safe remove from Putin’s aggression.
Today I’m very excited to go to my third or fourth Bariatric appointment since starting taking Belviq. I’d really not lost any weight for the past 6 months or so that I’ve been taking it. I thought I’d noticed a difference in cravings, but not significantly so, and even that did not last. On my last visit the doc told me that it would only work if I cut out processed carbs and refined sugars. I thought, “That will be the day.”
Today I will go in 25 lbs lighter than the last visit. Only 35 lbs remain to reach the go/no-go goal of 240 lbs.
The convenience of prepared food pretty much means processed carbs and refined sugars. I realized something I already knew about myself… a diet never works. Bad days undo a dozen good days. The only thing that works for me is an exclusion diet… forcing me to buy ingredients and prepare food… essentially making all my choices for myself before I’m in the situation of being hungry, tired, and in a hurry and apt to go get something on the run. So… out with processed carbs, all gluten, all refined sugars, and uncooked milk (That keeps my love of Chex cereal in chex, sorry, I meant ‘check’). In with lots of protein and some rice and limited potato. I began this new lifestyle on October 30.
It’s been great for the most part. It has also had a secondary benefit and a secondary motivation. Anytime I spend money it’s with the thought of, “I want to be married.” Which to me means, I have to get a handle on debt and learn to better live within my means. Not buying fast-food once or twice a day and a big (diet, caffeine-free) fountain soda every day eases so much load on my finances and gives me so much motivation not to fudge the rules. That thought also pertains to my weight as well. I don’t think I have the right to bind myself to another if I’m not doing everything to stay healthy for ‘us’ and for any children. It’s a mantra, “I want to be married. I want to be a father. I want to be of use to God.”
This makes 41 lbs lost since Oct 6, 2015.
I had hoped to be to 270 by Jan 1 and that’s still possible. I really thought I’d never see (feel) 270 lbs again. I have vague memories of the last time, exercising with the Berrys, working hard, and how much better I felt. Going back several years to my times fasting and praying as a desperate alternative to suicide after Raina left, I remember hitting 250 lbs and being stunned at how much better I felt. I hadn’t seen 250 lbs since getting sick in Ireland and coming back 10 lbs heavier (and then never looking back from there) to the sedentary depression of the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.
I’m very encouraged. Nuvigil has helped a lot in all facets of life. I’m more active and more productive and more positive because I’m more active/productive and can think more clearly.
- 250 lbs – June 2003 after returning from the Green Isle. I’ve never since been below this weight.
- 240 lbs – the weight I had pretty much maintained for several years before visiting Ireland in early 2003.
- 238 lbs – the weight I was the day of my wedding. I fit into my suit though I still felt huge and constricted.
- 210 lbs – I hit this weight shortly (and briefly) before my friendship with Raina began. I had done another exclusion/poverty diet and my life had been going well. I fit into a 2x shirt and I couldn’t even remember when I had done that… High School perhaps? My goodness but did it feel so very marvelous.
- 170 lbs – I think I could be content here, in the normal BMI range, just below the overweight range. My cardiologist said I would have to lose more, but he was an arrogant ass who argued with me for half an hour and trotted out his degrees and accolades insisting that I’d never lower my cholesterol with behavior modification and that I -must- slave myself to use of a statin drug drug for the rest of my life. I proved him wrong in a year and I think 170 lbs would be a lovely reasonable weight provided some of it is lean muscle.
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.
What a wonderful wonderful word.
How boring a world lacking…
It took the imagination of Creator God to give us serendipity. I can imagine the thought process…
Ok, I’ve created beauty, I’ve created time and physics, I’ve created creatures, I’ve created Australia and a bunch of creatures just to confuse them and let then know the holy importance of whimsy. I’ve invented chance and probability. I’ve invented consequence and coincidence and I will be amused at watching them try to puzzle out which is which. I’ve created all the emotions of the Heart, good and bad, and I’ve given them the ability to know and understand heroism and the choice to choose to be heroic, and know and understand villainy and given them the choice not to be villains. I’ve covered everything. I even created the word “susurrous” and when they’re ready, I’ll let one of them use it and think himself the word’s progenitor. But there’s one thing missing… A situation. An experience. Something that may be recognized after the fact, but cannot be manufactured, anticipated or repeated in exactly the same way more than once. Serendipity. I will give them serendipity. I can share my imagination with them in the tiniest portions and watch it grab them and carry them along to places they otherwise would not have gone and be delighted at their delight. Yes. Serendipity. That’s the final gift, the composer’s last and most endearing invention on the theme, the conductor’s final flourish of the baton before setting it down and stepping back from the podium.
I’ve had occasion recently to ponder, not the concept, but the word “Love”, and how truly troublesome it can be especially if it is divorced† from the objective standard given us by God and seen in His character throughout scripture.
Lewis penned an entire book titled, “The Four Loves” to try to add some clarity to this carelessly used word by examining the Greek Language’s use of four different words to differentiate between unconditional unmerited love such as God pours out upon us, familial love; an almost obligatory and instinctual love we have little say in unless we are damaged or seek to suppress or corrupt it, brotherly love and affection, and erotic desire (born from some mixture of the other three, one hopes.)
It is to be hoped, nay expected, that when two people vow to inextricably tie their lives together that it is based strongly on the first three with delicious anticipation of the fourth, and that at the time of giving oneself to another that the concept, the definition, is one shared and understood by both. If this a priori is not true than all my following ponderings are so much rubbish, or at best only true a posteriori in select cases.
How is it if one or both come to alter their definition/conception away from that originating point, even into something they both might have assigned the term ‘hatred’ to if asked back at that genesis.
The problem arises from the same word being used to describe very different things with both members believing their description to be the true definition of ‘love’. How can two such people ever hope to communicate and understand one another? If one is stuck with their original conception of ‘love’ and ‘hatred’, how can any accord ever be reached with another whose concepts have altered?
What one sees as love, the other sees as the most egregious hatred. There can be no accord between them. The plea, “tell me that you believed I always loved you” is in reality a plea to, “please join me in acceptance of my new foreign definition and then realize that I have ‘believed, within that definition’ that I have always loved you.” I don’t think that can ever happen, even if one desires to love the wayward as God loves His waywards.
It’s like asking the person (or indeed, God) to please change the fundamental makeup of their nature without understanding that, even were that possible, that to make such a change would render them no longer the person they were and are, and therein lies the rub. There is the unresolvable paradox. If that person were to change thus, the wayward would come to feel towards them contempt and derision. Whatever remnants they still possessed of the original genesis of love would be turned to vapor, a noxious poisonous vapor.
The cliché is “Apples and Oranges” and though cliché, no less true. If one asks the other to give them an apple expecting to receive a eccentrically-shaped red-coloured fruit and they are instead given an orange-coloured nearly perfectly spherically-shaped fruit. The receiver will not believe they have received the requested apple, but something different and not desired. The giver however will believe that they have fulfilled the request for an apple and never understand why the receiver can not, will not appreciate their gifting. They will contest the definition of ‘Apple’ and in hurt and desperation will escalate their rhetoric to even greater levels of hurt given. One will lament that this simple expected thing cannot be given and the other lament that nothing they give the asker will satisfy unless it meets the asker’s (long since discarded by the giver) qualifications of ‘red-coloured’, ‘eccentrically shaped’, ‘core in the middle’. Both will experience great hurt.
I wanted to tie in a quote from the movie rendering of Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust”, in which the fallen star Yvaine pours out her heart to her beloved which a witch has bespelled to be a tiny adorable dormouse, thinking and believing that he can in no way understand her. It’s so well said and is simple and amusing honesty when she says that love‡ is, “unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing”. Her final, “Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.”, I think highlights best why “When Love is Not”, both are miserable beyond all reckoning.
You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn’t true. I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate… It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves… You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and… What I’m trying to say, Tristan is… I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange – no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.
† this is equally true of the concept and definition of Marriage.
‡ I do not agree with Yvaine on a few crucial points. She seems to be echoing romantic Platoistic nonsense that suggests that there is a true love, a destiny, a thing for which one’s own choices and actions are largely meaningless. Love is -always- a choice in all its guises, even στοργή which may, by choice, be amplified or depressed.
I can count on two hands examples I’ve seen in my own life. They are what I aspire to for myself. Almost without exception, they are men (and women) who have made God the head of their marriage.
This, of course, flies in the face of feminist claptrap, and I make no apologies. Any nonsense that makes less of a Daughter of Eve in silly pursuit of making her ‘equal’ is to be laughably discarded. I hope that they themselves find someone who considers them of far more worth than ever he does himself, and who likewise makes no apologies.
Most men may never reach this standard, but may be content if like a standard in battle, it goes ever before him displaying his colours and character, as much reminder to himself as caution to those ahead.
For some reason, beyond my ken, this KHOD comic was listed in the marshwiggle.org site statistics for yesterday. I adore KHOD. How very apropos. Here, Spencer’s father is showing his standard to his son and teaching him to yearn for a similar standard of his own.
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]
If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.
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.”
A friend sent me a photo today, of a bunch of redheaded girls in school uniforms and woolen pullovers and their ponies on a sparse beach under an overcast day with the chill ocean wind blowing hair, manes and fetlocks and breakers rolling up on the sandy shore. ***
It has every amiable quality of what I and my Lost Beloved would call a Very Irish Day… of our favorite days in Ireland that combined what we called Snuggle Weather with crisp clean scent, the smell of the ocean, the cool moisture of the air (but never damp), the overcast sky, and so much beauty that gave the feeling of a very High Dynamic Range photo.
Such was our first day in Ireland when we pulled into the car park of the Rocky View Farmhouse B&B in Fanore, Co Clare. We were greeted by a little short-haired cat that despite the cool wind was almost painfully warm to the touch who insisted on being thoroughly pet with a little pepper-box grinder churning away in its throat.
We get a couple of Very Irish Days with the changing of the seasons here in Missouri. They always leave me yearning and nostalgic. Until a few years ago I was still able to greet them in my scratchy Aran wool cardigan and wool driving cap. Years before that we would tell one another that it was a Very Irish Day and hold one another and just smell and feel for a brief while. I confess, I always smelled the day through the scent of her hair in my face.
I’m very grateful to have these little occurrences every so often, though in truth they now feel like something that happened to someone else. It feels like I experience them at second-hand, vicariously through some other. I think maybe that is for the best. I think that in this way God gives me a way to re-experience the joy while buffering any sorrow that might still be lingering in closets I thought well swept out.
*** Not so very different from the precocious school children on the Aran Islands who wanted to play tinwhistle with me and pet our Whin and exclaim, “Oh, and isn’t he gorgeous! Has he had his nuuuts?”. Fortunately by this time we had heard this exact statement made dozens of times across both the Republic and Northern Ireland, and I was able to answer, “Thank you. He’s a she and yes, she’s had her kibble this morning.”
We’ve gotten news that after two years of ceasefire, hostilities and shelling have resumed in the region we were going to work to rebuild and that it’s a flack-jacket only area.
I’ve been up and down in weight with illness, daily full-body hives allergic reactions and trying to get trips in with Uber. Last weigh in was 288 which is twelve wonderfully absent burdens. Oh to be Bunyan’s Christian and to lay -that- burden down at the cross along with my pack, my heavy-load.
This will be the last post unless the situation changes. I’m still working on my health and weight with the hope that the opportunity will again present. It’s one of those easy times to say with complete confidence, that if God wants it to happen, He’ll do what needs doing.
Now to turn my attention to the upcoming 5th Annual Men’s retreat. Last year’s was fantastic in every way, but the stress and worry completely did me in. I resolved to start planning this year’s before even leaving the site. This year I have marketing handled. Instead of mailing each of 7 churches a PDF, we printed 1/4 pg professional fliers to send to each pastor. Because Staples made a mistake we ended up getting -both- sides in colour and they look absolutely fantastic (thank you Staples. You moved mountains.) I still have half my marketing budget remaining and firm confirmation that the regional head will chivy the individual churches into sending their men (He’s the guest speaker after all *chuckle*). I feel relaxed and optimistic. It’s great working with Pastors Ed & Adam to put something together that I trust will bless -hard-.
Making slow progress towards the goal with only 8lbs since my last post. I had some setbacks for two weeks with health (requiring steroids) that have thankfully been remedied and I’m back on track following those two weeks. I don’t know if it’s actually possible to reach the goal in time for the trip which is now tentatively scheduled to begin in mid June.
The original cost estimate of $1,500 had risen to $2,000 and that caused concern because I don’t want to use the scholarships the church is providing. I decided to trust instead of worry and soon after started driving for Uber and am already more than ¼ of the way to that goal and I hope to be able to contribute -to- the scholarship fund. I can drive as little or as much as I want so it’s all a matter of pushing to make it happen.
Still praying to know if this is the right thing to do.
Many steps forward, a few steps back, but still making progress. I was down to 292 as of last Friday but the weekend was difficult. Back on track as of yesterday (well, Sunday afternoon really) and 5 lbs down. It hasn’t been too difficult. Protein in the a.m., Oatmeal for lunch, leaving only the evening hours to battle with.
Energy has been sapped for exercise but I still managed to reach goals most days. The Fitbit food tracking is both great and frustrating, but for the first time I have a intake tracker that I can make work for me for most things and I anticipate that I’ll remain diligent in using it for that reason.
It looked for a while like the chances of my being able to go to on the Ukraine mission trip might be nil and a lot of my ‘goal’ motivation was depressed. What was once a 6-person trip with -maybe- 1 or 2 open slots has now expanded to accommodate all who would like to go and serve. Finances seemed like another limiting factor but I received an estimate last evening that was about a third of what I expected and there will be some scholarships available. I am strengthened in my resolve to press on towards the goal!
I have been using Duo Lingo to try to bring back a nearly completely lost two semesters (10 hours) of College Russian. I had forgotten how much I loved, and how difficult I found this language.
Still praying for answers and a heart to hear if my desire to go meshes with His desire.
So begins a journey that I hope ends in the Ukraine. I cannot join my church’s mission team and be an asset at 300.bs and a BMI of 43 with bouts of Chronic Fatigue pulling me down unexpectedly. I’m hopeful that with prayer and a goal and accountability, that I can achieve returning to a weight I last saw in 2000 when I joined Tiger Christian Life on a mission trip to Honduras.
Guy Winch http://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene
Cathy Downen http://www.agapechristiancounselingservices.org/dont-worry-be-happy/
Synonyms Examples Word Origin
verb (used without object), ruminated, ruminating.
to chew the cud, as a ruminant.
to meditate or muse; ponder.
verb (used with object), ruminated, ruminating.
to chew again or over and over.
to meditate on; ponder.
As Timon and Pumbaa say, “It’s a wonderful phrase.” Well no, they say -not- ruminating, “Hakuna matata” is a wonderful phrase.
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:
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.
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.