Just idling, unfortunately.
I am a man who takes pride in my ashamedness, and loves my self-hated. I think silently to myself, how better than those consumer Christians am I with my self-awareness and good doctrine? Surely God prefers me, the guilt-ridden servant, over the comfortable, self-loving and cheery imitation!
I think I am better than them, I am sorry to admit, and I think I am better than you if you might be the type that I would categorize as a consumer Christian or benefits-only believer. It is only by God’s underserved and arguably unwanted grace upon me that I painfully see my likeness to the Pharisee who boasts in his righteousness over the tax collector (Luke 18:11-12).
Smooth as try to pray, I shout too often by my my works:
Look at me, Father! See my humility! See how I hate myself! Oh, how I hate myself even more than you must, Father. Comfort me, Lord, as I expect you must surely desire, for I have tricked you into feeling sorry for me.
Like a child, I mope in my misery, persecuting myself so that you will only have pity on me. Pity that I will deserve not because you are gracious and not because of your work on the cross, but because I have earned it. I have earned your favor and your grace by condemning myself more harshly than I deserve, and I have robbed you of any opportunity to reveal to me an inadequacy of mine by developing a habit of pridefully exposing my pride. Or so I think.
I am unrepentant, Father, and I trust too often not in the cross, but in the pity I hope to have manufactured within You. How better am I than those who accept themselves as you have received them.
Even now, I hope that you, my reader, might be impressed with me. I hope that you will admire my self-awareness and humble-looking position.
Truthfully though, I am free from condemnation. Much as my flesh may foolishly prefer it, I do not get what I deserve, praise God. The truth is that what goes around doesn’t even usually come around, and what I put out does not dictate what I receive. I am neither better nor worse than you, brother/sister, but am by God’s grace level with all whom have fallen short, which is to say all.
I resist grace, like I resist good food and water for cheap and inferior substitutes.
I hope that you will relate where we are relatable, and forgive me for where I have stood over you. If you are inclined to think I am too hard on myself, may I invite you to consider that it may be because you prefer a god who only comforts and never challenges; who is far more interested in your happiness than your holiness. And, if you relate closely with me, may I invite you to consider that you are not justified by your guilt. This I say knowing that you, like I, might now feel tempted to feel guilty for having felt guilty.
Praise God for truth that refines, albeit uncomfortable.
Men set things right
There’s a fight scene in the movie, Tron: Legacy (2010) that I really like. Daft Punk provides the music.
The part I enjoy most is when Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the maker and creator of the movie’s digital environment, enters the room. In the middle of the fight, the camera cuts to a tight shot of the floor, onto which a person steps and places their hand, stopping everything.
The lights go out, the music dies and the chaos of the scene stops. Then, the camera reveals the identity of the arriving character.
To a revitalized beat rises a man dressed in glowing robe; the maker and creator, without whom nothing could have come to be. The entire room feels the impact of his presence and authority. His power is effectual; his strength undeniable.
The religious parallel is obvious.
Frankly, I get chills thinking about it, not because the cinematography is awesome, though it is, but because of what that scene provides as an illustration for. That is, the return of our Creator and his ability to immediately settle the storms of this world.
Christ brings order to chaos.
I try to imagine what the day when Christ returns might be like, knowing full well that my mind likely does not possess the ability. I envision his return to this world creating a boom that would reverberate through every bone of my body; in every molecule and mountain; in every mind, heart and soul in such a way that would move us in a way as we had never been moved before. For as meek and modest as was his first arrival to us, so shall his might be when he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
I imagine that if it were possible to feel an impact not merely in our bodies but in our souls, the day Christ lays his hand to the earth and silences all things, that we might hear the slow crescendo of praise emerging from rocks and trees, as every knee bows and evil is not merely ended, but undone–that will be the day, indeed.
Of course, this creates within me both a sense of awe and fear. On one hand, how wonderful it will be for the Creator to return! And yet in the same moment, wretched man that I am, who am I to think that I will maintain any posture other than sprawled out upon my face pleading for mercy when that day comes?
But this of course is what makes Christ the Christ. He is the anchor. He is the cornerstone. He is the firm foundation upon which homes and lives ought to be built, lest they crumble and be swept away.
In the same way, this seems to be what Christians are called to be, and I would say men most of all. Anchors; rocks; unwavering lampposts that remain firm in their position and helpful to the wandering passersby, of which there are many. This is what it means to be in the likeness of Christ. This is what it means to be a man.
It should be a pleasant thing when Dad comes home. A sigh of relief ought to be breathed when a man who knows his wife, cares for his children and protects his home returns from his time away. This seems rarely the case, though.
More often, dads–if they’re even present–come home to rolled eyes and untameable chaos. Respect is a joke because kids rarely understand the need for their father’s protection. Wives are more often annoyed by their husbands than they are satisfied, and while men once returned from long voyages in which risk and adventure provided for stories to tell, now we return from offices and traffic with meeting notes and policy updates.
Then of course may be the worst case scenario; the father who returns home and brings not order but chaos himself, because he lives in chaos. Dad’s drunk or angry or both and his return brings not relief but dismay. The respect he demands depends not on love but fear, and his unharnessed brokenness breaks those he loves.
To men and myself
Whether father, son, boyfriend, husband, employer or employee, you are a man and as such have the opportunity and perhaps the responsibility to provide as the anchor in your environment. This is not to say that a woman cannot do the same. Many women provide calmness within storms, and there is certainly something very comforting about a woman’s touch, be it upon her child or her lover.
That said, there seems to be something sacred about safe male authority, of which Western culture knows very few examples of anymore. Despite the popularity of feminism and egalitarianism, I no less firmly believe that women by and large crave safe male authority. Good fathers, steadfast husbands and solid men are all too few, and if I’m honest with you, I’d have to admit that I’m not nearly the example I’d like to be, or that my daughter needs me to be.
Men also require safe men. Boys need men to become men instead of aged boys, and broken men need slightly less broken men to help them re-anchor. Every man and woman needs Christ, whether we know it or not, and all of us long for him whether we realize him to be the object of our truest desires or not.
I encourage you, as I hope you will encourage me, to take a deep breath and settle into the unwavering truth of Christ. If you are in chaos–if the wind is blowing hard and the sea is rocking violently, remember. Please remember who you are, in whom you are, and who it is that lives in and through you. And if you do not know, then seek the truth and come to know. Read Romans. Read Mark. Read some stuff at Desiring God.
If you are not in chaos, maybe you should seek it out. The world is not short on turmoil, and if you are grounded in Christ it may be time to both test your foundation and help those adrift by entering into uncertain waters. Christ commissioned his men not to be comfortable, but to be purposeful.
Because he is the order. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the Creator of all things, seen and unseen, and his hand upon our souls can bring peace everlasting.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – God (John 14:27, ESV)
I divorced my wife yesterday.
I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it.
I hope my motivation for writing this is more for the sake of figuring that out than for the sake of obtaining the kind of attention typically associated with personal drama, though I’m willing to admit that may be part of it. Attention is my drug, and that’s aggravating because I’ve always had negative judgments about those who seemingly make poor choice after poor choice for the sake of satisfying what seems like a subconscious craving for attention, even if unfavorable. It just seems juvenile and destructive to light one’s own home on fire in hopes that the neighbors will notice.
But then there is something very humbling about finding common ground with those whom I have long thought poorly of.
“Do you believe your marriage to be irretrievably broken?”
I took a second to answer the judge. It seemed an important enough question not to answer too quickly. Seated before a figure of authority, this time alone, and this time without family and friends watching, but instead only a few strangers seated in the empty pews behind me, I wanted to question the judge’s definition of “irretrievable.”
After all, isn’t God capable of anything? Might it not be the will of God for this marriage to be redeemed? How then should I know what may or may not happen? Certainly it’s possible, maybe not by my efforts alone, but if God were to decree it, who am I to say that it cannot be? If I can learn to trust entirely in Him for my peace and satisfaction; if time goes by; if hearts soften; if wounds become less fresh; and if she not only permitted, but desired to come to table with me; would it be inconceivable? Impossible?
I should hope not.
After all, more broken than this marriage am I, wretched man that I am. But is God not capable of taking me, broken as I am, and redeeming me? Can he not retrieve me?
I should hope he can. And I should hope he has.
I wanted to say that I did not know. Maybe? So far as I can see? But that’s not why I went to court. That’s not why I took the day off, submitted the appropriate papers and got my ass out of bed on time. I went to court to be divorced, and I’m intelligent enough to realize that this question is not being asked of me so that I might make it into an elongated introspective moment. It’s being asked so that I can say what I need to say for us to proceed. So, with the same words with which I began my marriage, I ended it.
For now. Maybe forever. Probably forever. I’m certainly not holding my breath waiting for the phone to ring. But then, if I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know that it’d be a wise choice for her, or any woman, to seek me as I am right now.
The truth I don’t want you to know is that I’m not ready. I’m not ready for a new relationship. I’m not ready for her to come back, extremely unlikely as it is, and I’m not ready to lead anything or anyone in any meaningful direction. I’m talented, capable and well-versed in the truth, but I’m also broken as fuck.
Not because I’ve been broken, even though this shit is pretty heartbreaking. That’s not what I’m talking about, though. I’m talking about the type of broken that I’ve been since birth. I’m talking about sinfully broken. I’m talking about the type of brokenness that tempts me to rely on attention for value and women for strength.
Truth: I will never be perfect. I will never be without sin or fault. I can however be better than I currently am, and if nothing good has or will come from this very trying period, may it be that my eyes have been opened to the ways in which I lack.
Ten years ago I would have told you that I was a Marine, and that was (is) true. At that time though, I did not have the perspective to know or admit that my Marine-hood was not everything. Today, I understand that while military service may be noble, it is not eternal, and thus it is not as important as I once thought.
Five years ago I would have told you that I was a married Christian man, and that too would have appeared, if not been true. She wore a ring. We went to church. We even volunteered occasionally. But today, I can see things I did not then.
I’m not implying that we weren’t married. We were. Whether or not we, or I, was Christian is difficult to say. It’s much easier to follow Christ when you’re having sex with your spouse, the bills are paid and the people at church like you. What I am trying to say is that the rock upon which I built my home, my marriage and my family had not until recently been load-tested.
Now, it has. And we didn’t fair so well.
Much of that is my responsibility. How much or how little as compared to her is irrelevant and unhelpful to measure. What is helpful is the truth, painful as it has been to see. And the truth is that I’m not as infallible as I thought. I don’t trust God as much as I thought I did, and that even if I could convince any and every pretty young thing to notice me, confide in me, and entrust herself fully to me, the truth is that I’m not sure she or they would be wise to. I’m not God, and much as I would like to be, I don’t give everlasting life to those who fully entrust themselves to me. I disappoint. I slip up. I forget, and I waver on my promises.
Yes, that may be human, but I’m not admitting these things because I want your comfort or sympathy. I’m admitting them because they are true, and because it is when I forget these truths that I am tempted to lead a woman to think that I am worthy of placing her ultimate hope in, when in reality the best thing I can hope to be, whether for a friend, a coworker, my wife or my daughter, is a stable, steadfast, compassionate, faithful and resolved pointer toward God.
On my best day, the things you might appreciate most about me, be they my undivided attention, sincere concern or sense of safety are at best only glimpses of who God is and what he has made available to us, and my momentary impersonation may be comforting, but it is not eternal.
I know people try to celebrate divorce. We paint it as freedom and chain-breaking and all sorts of other things. I think that’s called coping.
It sucks. Maybe it would be less crappy if I believed marriage only to be a temporary union of two people for the sake of making both parties more happy than they might be alone, in which case it would make perfect sense for the marriage to dissolve if either or both parties merely felt unhappy. But I believe marriage to be more than that.
I believe marriage to be a reflection of who God is and more specifically, an illustration of the relationship between Christ and his church. For this reason, I feel sad, not because I am suffering through a divorce, though I am, but because I have failed something bigger than myself. Something more important than myself.
I’ve failed marriage, and in so doing I feel like I’ve failed you. I had the opportunity to show you, oh family member, friend or stranger, that marriage can be a beautiful thing. I had the chance to show you how Christ loves his church and how the church can trust Christ as its leader, lover, provider, protector, etc. I had the chance to provide order to chaos, both at the micro level in my own home, and in a larger context, through my marriage in a very screwed up world.
I feel like God handed me a very useful tool, and in my complacency and immaturity, I dropped it. I dropped it and I broke it, and for as best as I can tell, it’s broken for good. If it can be fixed, I’ll be amazed. If God should ever hand me another tool, I might laugh, because as I sit here today, the simple truth is that I do not deserve to be entrusted with anything more. Certainly, I would like to convince you that I am a leader, a man of integrity and a great asset for your team, mission or whatever. But truthfully, my record shows me as one equally prone to success as to failure, and no amount of military service or church volunteering can undo the havoc I have wrecked in that woman’s heart.
If you don’t believe me, ask her.
I don’t have much to say besides that I am sorry. I do not expect you to ever trust me again. I do not expect you to ever share a meal with me again. You’re right to be angry, and much as I hate to say it, you were probably right to leave.
Thank you for taking care of our daughter. I’m sure it is not easy. I don’t know much about what you are doing or with whom you are spending your time lately. I just encourage you, as you have often encouraged others, to make wise choices. Wiser choices than I have made, at least.
Remember to change the oil. Park in legal parking spots. Continue to forgive your mother, and please remind our daughter that her father loves her, and that God loves her only more.
I will always be grateful for our better days. In your many moments of splendor, you were a wonderful, patient, and forgiving wife. I’m sorry I did not love you better.
Too many lies
There once was a girl who lived by the shore,
Whose Mommy told her they were quite poor.
The Mommy was afraid that they’d be in need
So she lied and deceived and grew lost in her greed.
As time went by, the little girl grew,
Increasing in beauty and all that she knew.
She loved her mommy but felt angry inside
Because Mommy used people and quite often lied.
It was bad when Mommy exchanged truth for wealth,
But it was sad when Mommy lied to herself.
She told lies so good, she believed her own
Until they became her only friends in a lonely home.
The little girl swore she’d never know this life,
So she found a boy and became a wife.
She made friends and a family in a lovely town,
And had her own little girl whom she’d never put down.
Then one day this Mommy had a bad day,
She knew neither what she could do or could say.
Angry and worried, she gave up her goal.
She used people and lied for the sake of control.
And when all seemed done, it seemed she’d won,
When really she’d only shown that she too could run.
Conflict and pain were never dealt with head-on,
Not as a child and not as a mom.
Now Daddy’s no saint; he has his own lies,
He forgets how little the world satisfies.
But he dreams of the day when all is made right,
On that day when we’ll kneel before an unapproachable light.
So for now another little girl grows down by the shore
Apart from a Daddy who could not love her more,
A Daddy who’ll someday look into her eyes,
And apologize because, “Your Mommy and I just believed too many lies.”
“What’s the word?”
In the Marine Corps, we had this thing called “word.” Basically, word was pertinent information. It was what you needed to know to move forward with your day and with your government-owned life.
It was a coveted thing because word was not typically made available to everyone first-hand from our Commander, by whom it was issued. Rather, word had to be passed from one echelon to the next, from top to bottom.
“What’s the word,” was a common question in the barracks where Marines might spend hours standing by (waiting) to receive it. For reasons I still don’t understand, it often took a long time to obtain word and pass it to everyone. Bureaucracy, I suppose. There was word of the day, weekend word, etc. Word was what you needed to start your week or be freed on a Friday afternoon.
This concept still exists in communities and circles I am a part of now, except that as a Christian we believe God has not only given us word, but THE word. Made flesh. And it is abundantly available to all.
Unfortunately, unlike new believers in China and Rwanda, American believers like myself largely take the word for granted. Our Bibles are dusty and our Commander is, at best, a counselor, whose orders have been misunderstood as advice to be considered rather than unquestionably obeyed.
In the Corps we heeded word because we feared the consequences of deviating from it. In Christ, deviation from the word is not without consequences, in this life and the next, but unlike in the Corps, the word of God exists not merely to control us. It exists to give us life, that we may share it. Pass it along. Not because we have to, but because we get to.
“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”
At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.
Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord…
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Women aren’t stupid, nor are they all the same, so what works for one woman might not work for all or even most, but there are some characteristics and practices that seem to appeal to more women than not.
Confidence, not cockiness, helps. Symptoms of confidence include good posture, an assured speaking voice, and a healthy level of eye contact. You want to speak and carry yourself as one who knows what he wants and is willing to take a risk in order to obtain it. You want your mission to be clear, and you want to be clearly committed to it.
Listening is a means of value-giving. Just as, if not more important than what you say is how you listen and how you respond, verbally and non-verbally to a woman when she responds to your advance. Listen not merely to hear words. Listen in order to give value. Again, use eye-contact and make sure you are facing her from a distance that is not awkwardly far but not intimidatingly close. Close enough to put your hand on her shoulder but not close enough to hug her. Remember: the purpose of your listening is not only to hear what is being said but to communicate your appreciation for what she is saying. Value her, beginning with her words.
Smile, not like a dork, but like one who is genuinely happy to be interacting with a beautiful woman. Smile like you know she likes you. Unfold your arms. Use simple hand gestures, and let your hands face up more than down. Up is inviting and offering. Down is controlling and oppressive. Make a clear offer for her to respond to. Ambiguity is not your friend. Give her something to either say yes or no to. Instead of asking for her number, offer to contact her. It’s less risky to offer her your number, but it is not her responsibility to reach out to you. You are the initiator. You are the driver. Act as such.
This is not easy to communicate non-verbally, but this is what you’re going for, maybe more than anything. More than most women want an attractive man, they want a safe man. Physical attractiveness at its best is only a means of getting noticed by a species that is much less visually stimulated than it is emotionally hungry. Women want to feel protected, and while many a man will spend countless hours at the gym working to make himself appear as one who could defend his woman against an attacker in a dark alleyway, the truth is that if you can muster the balls to approach her, you’ll get much further in a relationship with her if you can demonstrate yourself as one in whom she can entrust herself and her emotions. In other words, while it’s good to be able to protect her from an attacker, you’ll more often need to know how to safeguard the outpouring of her emotions.
Can she share herself with you? Can you hear what she is most ashamed of, uncertain of, and insecure about, and still love and accept her exactly as she is? Can you be vulnerable with her, and she with you, such that your iniquities lean against one another in a supportive way rather than a corrosive way? Maybe you can carry her through a door, but can you carry on together through uneasy times? Can you care about her when she doesn’t care about herself? When she doesn’t care about you?
If you can, you may not be merely picking up a woman. You may be cherishing her. But then, that’s how you attract a woman. The ability and desire to cherish is attractive.
The truth is that the best way to attract a woman is to reflect the man of Christ. Be confident. Know who you are. Know why you are here. Give of yourself in such a way that says, ‘I value you more than my own well-being.’ Welcome her. Invite her. Be safe for her. Provide, protect, and pray for her.
It is He after all that she and all of us long for, whether we know it or not. It is He that satisfies our souls, and He that she requires, as do you. Consequently, the better you know Him, the better you might reflect Him, the better you might love her, and the more she might desire you; keeping in mind that Christ was crucified by the church He loved. And loves.
It is of course in the process of coming to know Him better that I hope that you might see the absolute ridiculousness of using the example of Christ to lure a woman into bed. No greater evidence of your depravity, and thus need for Christ, may exist other than in your willingness to use Him as a pickup line; as a means to your selfish ends.
Certainly, is not good for man to be alone, but it’s also not good to use women as if they were created by our Father merely for the sake of validating our false understanding of what it means to be a man. I’m sorry to say I’ve been guilty of this.
So do her a favor: point her to Him, and if and when you are both oriented upon Him, then point her to the alter. And then to the room. Because only then, when you are free to be who you were created to be, and free to have sex in the context it was created to be known in, will you be free. Going through the motions of intimacy without doing so in the safe container that God gave us to enjoy it within is no more wise or enjoyable than it would be to create a warm, crackling fire on the living room carpet, in front of the fireplace. You will do more harm than good, and fail to understand the wonderfulness of fire–or sex–in its rightful place. You will only know a cheap and destructive substitute.
It’s not what you should want. It’s what you already most want, even if don’t realize it yet.
Unfiltered and unedited thoughts addressing the question: How can we know God is God? While making a sandwich.
Dealing with stuff you don’t want to deal with
Sometimes life sucks
In these moments, or months, or years, we run to that which we trust most. We run to that which we believe will give us comfort. We run to that which we believe will help us to cope with the pain, frustration, anger, and suckiness of our situation.
These things that we trust can take on a few different forms. Maybe you look for solace in a bottle. Maybe you look for peace in a paycheck. Maybe you trade your life for attention because you think you’d rather be dead than unnoticed.
Whatever it is, the shitty reality is that none of these things–none of these worldly coping mechanisms is enough. Eventually, they all fall apart and leave us still wanting. Still insecure and unsure. Still desperate for comfort.
But knowing that isn’t enough. You can read these words, and maybe even believe them to be true in your mind, but until your false savior fails you so hard that you stop giving it your trust, your hope, and your life, you’ll keep doing it. You’ll keep placing the tremendous weight of your broken identity onto the weak shoulders of a woman, a man, a substance, an employer or a kid until it hurts enough that you stop.
My encouragement to you
If you still find yourself trusting in anything other than Christ, pray that it fails you. Pray that it fails you sooner than later so that you can start trusting in He who can and has carried the weight of your iniquity. Pray that your false savior disappoints you so profoundly that you forever remember why it is unworthy of your trust.
And, if you have already experienced this pain and disappointment and know not where to go with your burdens, frustration, anger, questions, grief, stress and aggravation–pray. Pray to God your Father and our Creator that he remind you who he is what he has done. Remember that this life is temporary, and that ultimately, all will be made right. Everything will be okay.
I don’t like to dwell on shitty situations. I like to get through messiness quickly. If I could be on the phone with a tow truck driver before the air bag finished deploying, I would be. But sometimes, and only sometimes, it’s better to stay in the suck for a while. I’m not advocating for victim-mentality or woe-is-me moments, and I’m not saying you should make an award-winning pity post every time you have a bad day. #cantkeepmedown
I am saying that sometimes it’s wise to stay in the suck, especially if you had some responsibility in causing it, and if staying in it helps you to see your responsibility well enough to keep you from causing a similar kind of suck in the future.
Know this: you are not alone. You are not uncared for, and you are not the sum of your failures. It will get better, and it will be okay. Trust Him and Him alone.