Only God Knows…

I don’t understand it and the more that I try to understand it, the more that it baffles my mind and causes confusion in my life.

This is not a theological post. This is not a post to start an argument. This is not a blog where I desire to convince someone of the “John Calvin” view of God or the opposing viewpoint. This is also not a post where I claim to be any sort of bible scholar (God knows I am anything but that.) With all of those caveats…

Only God knows why this year happened. But God knows. I don’t know why this went the way it did. The latter part of this year has been some of the best months of my life, more at peace, enjoying the company of my family, and working hard doing something that I enjoy, day in and day out. I don’t think for a minute that I deserve any of that. I know what I deserve and am thankful that God knows why all has happened the way that it did. Only God knows why I have continued to pursue sobriety.

And he cares. He seems to be really at work in the world around me, and I am recognizing that in new, profound, and simple ways. One of my kids prayed with my awhile back and is learning, with me, the art and practice of being grateful. This particular child always desires what they don’t have, much as I have for the majority of my life. The antidote to that selfishness, seems to me, is gratefulness. But only God knows for sure.

Only God knows why I needed to walk through 10 years of trying to be someone I wasn’t as a ‘leader’ in the local church and as a ‘catalyst’ for change. Only God knows why it seems he had called me to things that were never completed or realized. Only God knows these things, but at least he knows. God doesn’t seem to be without reason. He seems to be precise, calculated and measured in his action in my life and in those around me. Only God knows why I have experienced great success and great failure. Only God knows why I have met the people that I have met and enjoyed relationships, in love and in pain. The bible seems to indicate God knows all things. And for so long, that has been a theological truth I have wrestled with. How could God know all things, and yet give a man a choice to accept a gift of salvation? Those two things don’t work together. It has baffled me for years, and in my quest to be ‘right’ around the issue, to be well studied, to be articulate, I lost the very reason that I now believe the bible points out that God knows all things. He can be trusted. He is worthy because he is God, to be trusted. While my life may be in shambles, desperate and perilous, God knows the reason. I don’t know how he created the world, and set it in motion, and authored the future, but I do know at this moment, He knows. And that is worth being grateful for.

I have tons of choices each and every day. I’m not a human-robot as some of my reformed friends would imply. I know that. And God knows that. He may have even authored this to be true. I don’t understand it and the more that I try to understand it, the more that it baffles my mind and causes confusion in my life. But God knows how it all works and asks me to trust him in that. God knows how he has created, orchestrated, and formed his world. God knows all things. I don’t and that’s a good thing.

I’m learning to trust God. It’s something I have been learning for the past several months and will continue to learn probably for the rest of my life. But I am learning. I have given many people the answer to ‘have faith. Just trust that God will work it out.’ What I have discovered is that I have immense trouble actually doing that. Only God knows why. But I’m currently resting in that reality. One day at a time. Gratefulness and trust continue to grow.

Maybe someday I’ll understand how God works. Maybe someday a scholar or a theologian will set me straight. You may want to set me straight now! You may be saying “this guy is on the precipice of shaky faith or has gone into deep dark waters of relativity.’ I may be in the waters of relativity, but for the first time in a very long time, I have lived in that relativity. I have the freedom to ask difficult questions and receive difficult answers. I have the freedom to not know all the answers, or win an argument. I have the freedom to be me, in spite of me. And I have the freedom to not take myself to seriously when it matters the most. Only God knows this is probably for the best.

Today, One Year Ago

Facebook is an amazing tool, hobby, and experience for the most part. It allows me to connect with people that I otherwise would not know, it helps the family business thrive and offers advertising opportunities, and it gives freedom to communicate with people, all from the little blue facebook app on my phone. Sure, there are probably thousands of things that you can critique about facebook, how it tends to build platforms, or allows for people to do and say things that they otherwise might not do, in reality.  Recently, I have decided that facebook has one glaring downside that I am learning to cope with.

Each day, when I open up my facebook app, the second picture is often the “On this Day” and then it gives me pictures that I took and uploaded as well as whatever I had captioned the photo as. There are pictures from when I first started my facebook career in 2004 when facebook really was just a college campus phenomena and there are pictures from ‘a year ago today.’ As I look through my ‘memories’ as facebook calls them, alot of my pictures are of my family, happy, content, ‘perfect’, at least in the pictures. But I know that is not reality. I know that behind the scenes, a year ago today, things were chaotic and out of control. I know that my relationship with my wife and kids was disintegrating and becoming hopeless and daunting. I know that my sinful habits of drinking in the background remained and that my anxiety and depression were about to rear their ugly head in ways that I had never experienced. I know now what I would have to walk through. Looking at these pictures gives me a sense of guilt, sadness, and weight. But memories are also made to remind us. Remind us that what we experienced is not worth going back to again, reminders of people that would be best to avoid, reminders of how not to live ones life. I have alot of good memories in my lifetime and those are not captured on facebook to their fullest extent. But many of the images, the updates, and the notes that I have posted throughout the years bring me back to great memories, a great past, and give hope for a wonderfully broken future.

There are few things in life that are more troubling than regret. I can’t change what I have done in the past and can only determine what I will do in the future. Still, regret has a way of making it’s way into my mind consistently, constantly. Asking the questions of ‘what if?’ and ‘should of’ and ‘could of’. They are invalid questions because the past is unchangeable. It is what it was and there is nothing that I can do to do it differently. As I stop to reminisce about the past, I am often reminded that the future me doesn’t have to look back on today with regret. The future me can look back on this season of life, as difficult as it is, and decide that the memories that I am experiencing these days are good memories. Life is pretty good, mostly because I am choosing joy each day instead of the pursuit of selfishness and self destruction.

Memories are clearly helpful and hurtful. But they are memories that I have. I wouldn’t be where I am today, without them. I’ll keep going, one day at a time.

Describing “The Addict.”

Growing up, my dad would often say, “Moderation in all things.” I apparently utterly misunderstood him, and decided that I would try the lifestyle of moderation in ‘nothing.’

I recently had a discussion with a gentlemen at a meeting who was visiting as a nursing student. The hospital training system sends them from time to time to meetings to understand what the program is about and ‘how it works.’ The nursing student remarked that he assumed a lot of things when it came to recovery and active addiction. He assumed that most of the people that were in recovery were a certain economic class, a certain race, and a certain ‘type’ of person. What he found at the meetings that he was attending for the completion of his program was very different than his assumptions.

Working the steps in AA is a difficult process and one that is truly for those that want to confront their past, their character flaws, or their mistakes. The more addicts that I meet, the more convinced I am that we are people that are addicted to perfectionism, to a commonality, known as self judgement. We are generally people who work hard, love our families, and desire the best for our kids. Most addicts that I have come in contact with, including myself, never wanted to find themselves where they are at today, but for whatever reason, they did. In active recovery, the character flaws are chipped away. They are continually challenged and broken down to the point that one is forced to say that they are not perfect, either in their own eyes or the eyes of others. Discovering what addicts do to ‘show perfect’ or even ‘be perfect’ may lead to discovery of one’s self. And as the famous line goes, “Know Thyself” may be applicable here. Addicts can begin to know themselves, and are oftentimes shameful or guilty about their own past actions or current realities. In active addiction, before recovery begins addicts attempt to cover that shame and guilt by medicating and that can take a lot of different forms, described in summary below.

A true addict can be a person with a huge personality. In some ways, one does not get to experience the full personality of the addict, until they are encapsulated in their addiction. You hear people talk regularly about feeling good when they drink, or how they can be social when they drink something, or maybe that someone has a better day when they drink a cup of coffee. I continue to learn that the addiction to whatever it is that is my vice is only a suppression to my personality. We all have a personality, and it is made to be seen, enjoyed, and interacted by with others. It’s not something to hide, and in and of itself is amoral. Suppression of a personality is probably rooted in the human desire to show others that they are not as bad as they know that they are. Regardless of how you think the world was created, there is an early story from a tradition that says that God told his creation to not eat one fruit…and that creation (Adam and Eve) at of the fruit. Then they hid. In the world of addiction, we hide. We hide our actions, our personalities, our relationships, our assets, the fissures in our character, and we are unwilling to let anyone step in and declare that maybe we are wrong. Adam and Eve certainly weren’t willing. As God was walking in the garden, he asked why the hid. They immediately played the blame game, which is too easy to do as an addict.

Being addicted to one’s image can take on alot of forms. It can take on the form of physical perfection which results in someone managing their physical attributes in a way that becomes unhealthy. I’ve been there. I lost a bunch of weight in college, due to running and eating right, but when I stopped doing those things, I gained weight. I wanted to control the weight, so I would be seen as perfect and so would manage my weight in unhealthy ways. This caused me to self judge even more, causing more guilt and shame in the background of an already clouded life and perception.

Addiction to self image (because of low self esteem) can take the form of working hard, and minimizing mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, but when I am minimizing them or placing blame on someone or something else for MY mistake, I am reinforcing the idea that somehow I need to show as perfect for others. I need to be clearly performing at a high level for those around me, and so the addict will tend to highlight the positive parts of their character traits (and there are plenty of those, within each human being.) I have been learning to simply own the mistakes that I make and move forward. At my job, in my home, with my relationships, and even in conversations with myself, I have to own things that I don’t do correctly, perfectly, or just simply make a poor decision.

Overworking, or becoming addicted to perfectionism in the workplace can lead to unhealthy lifestyle management, lack of balance, and a general burnout with people that continue down this road. Growing up, my dad would often quote the bible when he would say, “Moderation in all things.” I think I may have misunderstood him completely, and decided that I would try the lifestyle of moderation in ‘nothing.’

Addicts wrestle with the age of social media image. I have found that they tend to show what is happening that is positive and uplifting and celebrated in their social media accounts, giving the illusion that all is well. As a Pastor, there was even pressure to make sure that I posted certain types of posts, kept certain types of posts hidden, and to make sure that the image of the church was never in doubt. This led me personally to a false dichotomy of my own life. I wanted so badly for the church to be a place where authenticity and transparency thrived, but the very entity in which I sought honesty within became the entity that controlled the thought and verbal process by which I could express my pain. When one works for an organization, it is probably best to monitor what is placed on social media to reflect well on the organization, but the temptation of the addict is to overexert energy into painting a picture that is simply an illusion of life. There have been multiple instances where I posted something to a social media account, believing that others would develop a positive perception of me. Instead of being honest with myself and reality, I needed others to affirm my dilusion.

Addicts become dependent. On others, on alcohol, drugs, narcotics, opioids. But the part that is least talked about when it comes to dependency is the idea that someone is dependent upon another for human satisfaction and fulfillment. This is often termed ‘co-dependency’ in the psychoanalysis world and people that have far bigger brains than I, have study it religiously. When someone maintains and inappropriate bond with a person because it causes them pleasure, they are not living in a human relationship that is healthy. When one person takes and the other person constantly gives, it’s not a relationship that is worth continuing. There is give and take in relationship, and then there is a unique place for grace, when someone messes up. An addict tends to do most of the taking (personally, I did), because of the selfishness that I lived in and the ‘me only’ thinking that landed me squarely in trouble.

The addict often takes on a false humility. This is hard to describe, because generally we think of humility as a good trait. Motives matter within humility, but there is not a single person who can judge the motives of another. We don’t understand or know what all of the motivations of an action or an attitude of another person are. And that’s probably a good thing, or we would be set to the point of total pessimism, because of the nature of humanity. False humility happens because an individual is good at what they do and they receive honor and praises for it. When they realize that if they deflect the honor and praise, more of the ‘feel goods’ come, they begin to deflect with the motivation to receive more. This can lead to an internal pride, at the very least, and can become full blown narcissistic in a mature stage.

The addict may take on a sense of self righteousness. This also didn’t mix well with being a Pastor at a local church. Generally speaking, Christians are fairly judgemental in their approach to others. I was judgemental with people that weren’t Christians, even though they didn’t need to act like Christians (as they were not) and therefore became conceited and thinking of myself above others. This led to lost opportunity for relationship and an arrogance within me that ultimately leads to disaster. Often, the worst judgement of others is actually the addicts core character flaw. It’s easy to see in others what you know true in your own life. Jesus describes taking the log out of your own eye before removing the speck from your own. Maybe there is some truth to that. When I can see the speck in another’s human character, there may be a more looming issue in my own life that I am either unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge. I believe that this happens a lot with Pastors who have ‘moral failures’ (Which is a dumb term, because all pastors have moral failings…They are human). As a story begins to develop about a Pastor caught in an affair or sexual misconduct, a Pastor wrapped up on alcoholism, or a Pastor unwilling to acknowledge plurality of leadership, we often look back and see with our 20/20 vision that the Pastor was often verbally judgemental regarding the issue that they struggled with and failed to overcome. The only antidote to removing the log from one’s eye is to invite others to chip away at that log, before it becomes a solid barrier between yourself and the rest of the world.

Like most articles that I read that declare that “You may be a _______ if you _______, “ You may have thought to yourself as you read the above statements about an addict, that maybe you yourself are an addict. Addicts aren’t special people, they are regular people dealing with life on life’s terms over and over again, just like a non addict. Or maybe it’s just that humanity was birthed in addiction, and at some level, all of us are addicts in our own way. Regardless, character flaws can be chipped away at, with visibility of the reality that exists below the illusion that we tend to try and create for ourselves and others.

Spiritual Adoption (Adoption Awareness Month)

Adoption is a wonderful concept and action. It is beautiful. But with adoption comes a host of questions. Doubts. Insecurities. Identity issues. Trust issues. It’s complex.

November is ‘Adoption Awareness Month’ focused on the need for foster care, and ultimately adoption. While I most definitely appreciate the focused efforts of those that acknowledge the need to care for our kids (and continue to join them in that), I also have deep tensions when it comes to this month’s focus. I’m not an expert on the subject of adoption or scripture or really anything, nor do I want to be. But Adoption and Fostering is a part of my journey in a couple of different ways, and part of my recovery, in ways that I am not yet fully aware of.

While working with teenagers in a local church I decided to embark on a book venture I never completed. I decided I would write about the development of a child as it related to spiritual development. I began reading everything (I was especially interested in Fowler’s theory, As Rose Ann Karesh summarizes) that I could get my hands on, regarding the subject because somehow, in some way, the idea that we progress as a child and progress spiritually work hand in hand. At least that was my premise. I ended writing that book after realizing the vast nature of the project. I also flirted with  contemplating ‘adoption’ as a spiritual concept.

I was taught from an early age that adoption was a good thing. I’m adopted, and that’s a good thing. I was taught that God was “loving” but was also taught that being adopted by God was important and that it represented the means of living forever with God. Within that belief, I was taught that if I was not adopted by God, I would go to hell for all eternity. Seemingly, there is dissonance between the idea that God is ‘loving’ and sending people to Hell. In no way do I want to argue the validity of heaven or hell, because I personally see that to be a clear truth in scripture, rather, I want to specifically share my own thoughts as it relates to this dissonance.

My premise as I write currently is: adoption is a great choice, a good concept, a complex decision and undertaking, and a difficult spiritual concept for those that have been adopted or adopted a child themselves. I’ll try to address each of these in the following words, but the reality is that people a lot smarter than me have numerous scholarly and smart things to say about the subject.

A Great Choice

For those that make the decision to adopt a child into their home, however young or old that child might be, it’s a great choice. Our culture (at least in North America) has made adoption a badge of not being able to bear children, although statistically, those that adopt are not always those that cannot have children biologically. Those that are unable to conceive do choose adoption more than those with the ability to conceive, but there is a stigma associated with adoption that may not be completely accurate. Often, when I am having a discussion with a friend or acquaintance, I am reminded of this stigma. There is often a question regarding whether or not I have other children and how old they are. The assumption is often that those other children are also adopted. In my case, they are not. In many cases, and sometimes in painful cases, all the children in the family are adopted. Whether one is infertile or fertile does not diminish that adoption is a great choice for adoptive parents to make. And there is a great need for adoption in our country and world, as there are millions of children that do need a loving home and environment to grow up in.

It’s a great choice for the mother of a child to make when determining the future of her child. I’ve never been faced with the hardship that it must be to adopt a child away from me, but I would imagine it is extremely painful for all involved. I have watched a mom give a child to adoption, because she loved her child in amazing ways and wanted the best for that child. But I also recognize that it wasn’t easy. It was a great choice, but one that was one of the hardest that a woman could ever make.

It’s a great choice politically speaking. I’m not overly political but the issue of adoption is close to my soul, so when politicians start talking about adoption or put into place laws or other actions supporting adoption, I am ecstatic. Barack Obama (regardless of what you think of him overall) did a great job of supporting those in the adoption journey through tax reform. There were other taxes that I did pay that I would prefer not to have paid but the help that I received when adopting, from a financial standpoint, was substantial. It’s a great choice for the government to come alongside adoption and do anything and everything that can be done to both promote and support it. Anytime our governing officials take the welfare of a child into account, it’s a good thing.

But adopted children don’t get a choice. It’s not a great choice for them, because there is no choice at all. And to some degree, this is a great thing in and of itself. Can you imagine if we gave children under the age of 18 the choice of who their parents would be? We would live in far worse chaos then we already do! In all seriousness, generally speaking, adoption is a great choice made for the welfare of the child. Barring some psychotic, sick, or demented adoptive parenting, most children that are adopted are loved, and cared for by their adoptive parents.

A Good Concept

Making sure that the next generation is cared for and that child rearing is a priority is a good concept. It is a concept that cultures and generations have held for a long time. We find families caring for one another in almost every historical account within any culture, religions, creation story, and mythical stories. Caring for children has always been on the forefront of humanity, probably because there is an internal drive within humanity to keep the kids alive, to continue the lineage and race of humans. At its simplest level, it’s what God meant when he told Adam and Eve to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ or why Mormons are encouraged to have children or why Catholic folks are discouraged from reproductive limitation. We want our kids to grow up, succeed and live a life that reproduces more children. If you ever meet a grandparent with ‘great-great-great’ grandchildren, you can see the pride in their eyes as they discuss how many offspring and family that they have. It’s a good thing to have many kids and raise them successfully.

It’s also a good thing that adoption has been around since the very inception of life, whenever that might have been. When a child needed a parent or a caretaker, there is always an example where that is provided in history and throughout stories that we find (scripture is replete with familial homilies and narratives, for instance.) We want all children, regardless of who their biology says that they are a part of, to both survive and thrive.

But adoption is a complex decision and undertaking.

We adopted our youngest child and that was a complex decision because we knew that it would have a significant impact on our family dynamic. Just as the decision to have another biological child is sure to have implications on a family, so it is to add another child whether by birth or by adoption. It’s difficult and it causes tensions to rise, relationships to spar, and all of the issues that seemed small before, to loom within a family.

The first time that I had the opportunity to hold our new daughter, there was a unique and special bond that formed. We were both experiencing adoption in our own ways and I saw the story unfold in front of me that I resonated with, even if only in thought process. I obviously don’t remember my own adoption, as I was an infant in the process, but I still resonated with our daughters reality.

My biological children were the first people on earth (that I had met) that were related to me, via genetic makeup. That was a new and amazing experience. And then with our adopted daughter, I experienced another relation to me, but it was experiences shared, not DNA given. The decision was complex and at times painful, but our adopted daughter has become part of our lives just as our other children are. There isn’t favoritism, there isn’t a singling out of either adopted or biological child, there is just extreme love for all of the.

We have experienced relationship with our daughter’s biological mother. She is an amazing young woman that has been through so much, and has come so far. While I wouldn’t wish what she has been through on anyone, I know that she has conquered much in her life, the past few years. She has been a great mom from afar to our youngest. I have often wondered how complex it must be for her. To be far away from a daughter that she doesn’t know, to work through the trauma that is associated with giving a child to adoption, both of those things must be so heavy, so complicated. And I am so grateful that she chose us, to our adopt her biological daughter. As complicated and difficult as it was, we are forever grateful for the opportunity to raise our youngest, and we don’t ever want to take that for granted.

Our daughter will have a lot of questions. She will have a lot of concerns, both spoken and unspoken (though she currently shares her mind more often than not…) and she will have to grapple with the reality that she is an adopted child. She knows, even at a young age, that she is adopted and we try to celebrate that fact. She is already very interested in the concept of what a family is and loves her brother and sister. She is fascinated with the idea of being with family and is a cuddle bug. But I know for her it will be complex, complicated, and sometimes, quite confusing. I know from both research and experience, that it is a difficult task of self identification and discovery of identity.

We are teaching our daughter to know who God is and know God personally. She is open to learning and understanding simple concepts, with the very smart brain God has given her. However, I know that the prevalent theme in both scripture and in church doctrine, regarding adoption, is going to be a difficult spiritual concept. Those that are far smarter than me and that study these things day in and day out point out that children that are adopted struggle in various ways to the idea that God ‘adopts’ them. There are many different theories of why this may be the case and I suppose you can read about each of these theories in the many books that are written on the subject, but I thought I would just share my own wrestling, as a case study.

At a very basic level, in Christianity, one learns that God loves them. John 3:16 is a verse that many people have memorized and even those that are not part of the pop culture of christianity would know the verse.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son…”

For an adopted child, this is pretty close to home. Why would God give his only child? How does that show love for his Son? These are questions that are probably more internal than external and for me, may have been present even in my subconscious. I have always been and will forever be thankful that Jesus was willing to live a human life and die on a cross, but really struggle to understand how it was ‘loving’ that God would give his Son, for folks that were otherwise destined to defeat as a human race. I know me. And I have seen enough in human nature to know that giving my children away for someone else’s well being would be insane!

In adoption, often the reason that the child is adopted is because the biological family ultimately loves that child enough to give them a home that will be best for them. Even if a child is taken by the state and then given to the state to be adopted, the child’s wellbeing is the reason that these decisions are made. We want our children to succeed. The concept that God would give his child is both ostentatious and mind blowing. 1 Corinthians 1 talks about the struggle that I have with Paul’s authorship when he writes that ‘the message of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing.’ The easy answer for those that seek to understand God is to ‘have faith.’ But sometimes, oftentimes for me, that is an easy answer, but not a complete answer. It’s also not an easy answer to live. I don’t trust most people, including myself, and so to have faith that God, the great Father, would give up his Son, seems like foolishness to me. But what do I know? God is God, and the mystery of God is just that…A mystery!

So, I choose to live with the tension within the concept that God both gave up his ‘one and only Son’ and then chose to adopt humanity, if they chose to follow him. I’m not God and don’t want to be (well sometimes, I do, but that would end poorly for everyone involved!) The issue of adoption in the bible is further complicated by the cultural norms that existed for adoption when this is referenced by Paul several different places in the New Testament.

In 1984, Scottish Law Professor Francis Lyall published a study of the “Legal Metaphors in the Epistles (Slaves, Citizens, Sons, Zondervan) and pointed out several different concepts within adoption that Paul’s readership would have understood because of Roman reign and rule during that time period. Here is what Lyall concludes in his dissertation of adoption in scripture.

  • First, we have to recognize that there was no Jewish concept of adoption. If a parent was unable to care for a child, whether by death or otherwise, the immediate family was responsible for that child (brother, brother in law, or otherwise.) With this in mind we find that Paul is referencing “Roman” adoption or a Greek paradigm.

 

  • Romans had a very different idea of adoption than what we as Americans immediately think of when we process adoption.

As Ellen Mady rightly points out in her discussion of a similar subject,

“In ancient Rome, adoption had a powerful meaning. When a child was born biologically, the parents had the option of disowning the child for a variety of reasons. The relationship, therefore, was not necessarily desired by the parent, nor permanent.

 

Not so, however, if a child was adopted. In Rome, adopting a child meant:

 

  • That child was freely chosen by the parents, desired by the parents.
  • That child would be a permanent part of the family; parents couldn’t disown a child they adopted.

 

An adopted child received a new identity. Any prior commitments, responsibilities and debts were erased. New rights and responsibilities were taken on. Also, in ancient Rome, the concept of inheritance was part of life, not something that began at death. Being adopted made someone an heir to their father, joint-sharers in all his possessions and fully united to him.”

There was a punishment for those that would go back on their word as it related to adopting a child, sometimes resulting in death by the government in horrific fashion. Adoption was a very legal process, and one that was not for the faint of heart (but had great benefit to the family that was adopting as they received special government treatment). In Roman culture, there seems to be a very clear connection between familial bonds and adoption. There was first a legal contract, and then the adoptive parents were ‘forced’ to parent that child in a way that was deemed as loving.

I don’t know that I have really understood the cultural concepts of Roman adoption (nor am I an expert now), so I have always lensed God’s adoption of humanity through my own ‘experience’, questions, and doubts. It’s not the ‘right’ way to process scripture, and until recently, I had simply suppressed the compulsion to really seek to understand my own heart and mind as it relates to this subject.

Paul is describing a very legal obligation, a contract of sorts, that God engages in, when he adopts us as His kids. When Paul writes about adoption, he is NOT making a statement about God’s love, primarily. Instead he is making a statement about the legality of our ‘purchase.’ When adoption is referenced, often slavery is an accompanying metaphor that is used. Slavery was not a positive thing, at least for the slave (unless they had a fair master) and is certainly not a positive in our current culture, and so these were problematic pairings, for my small mind.

It has only been in the past few months that I have been able to somewhat reconcile God’s love apart from the legal contract that he had to make, with the ‘giving’ of his Son. Had Paul been writing today, I wonder if he would have instead focused on a different ‘legal contract’ such as the contracts between governments, or even the contract that many people make with their banks to pay a mortgage. The example that Paul is giving is providing evidence that God has ‘paid the contract in full’ with other places in scripture that reinforce God’s love for us AND his only Son. Jesus himself talks to the Father and declares his love for the Father, and his Father’s love for him. Adoption by God is not devoid of love. Giving of God’s only Son is not devoid of God’s love for the Son and does not show us that God loves humans more than his own Son. His love transcends that of my small mind. And for that I am grateful.

I do want to follow God’s example by being a good Father to my kids. God was  and is a good Father to his Son, a good Father to his human kids, and a good master of his slaves from a legal perspective. And then in a very relational and personal way, he loves each of his kids, Jesus and humanity, well beyond our understanding.

Adoption is a wonderful concept and action. It is beautiful. But with adoption comes a host of questions. Doubts. Insecurities. Identity issues. Trust issues. It’s complex.

 

Step 1: Acknowledgment of Chaos

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” –Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous

There are very few things in life more terrifying than not being in control, at least for me. Psychologists agree, generally that control is a human desire and need.  I want to always have a handle on the future, a tight control of the past, and very rarely live in the present. I am a planner, one who wants to make sure that in 3 years, in 10 years, in 20 years, I find myself and others in the place that I think we should be. Within addiction, the irony is that we want more control over our emotions, our feelings, and the parts of us that no one sees, but we give up control of the things on the external. I gave up control of my financial situation, gave up control of relationships, gave up control of my job, and that of my family. I sacrificed the external to remain ‘in control’ of the things that were internal to me. Those became near and dear to my heart, instead of the things that actually mattered. My secrets began to consume me.

I knew that my life was becoming unmanageable the first time that I couldn’t remember the night before. The first blackout that I experienced, I swore off any drinking of alcohol, because it left me feeling guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, and frankly, out of control completely. I wasn’t sure what I had just experienced and couldn’t remember certain things about the evening before. I knew that that was completely unmanageable. As the disease progressed, I couldn’t manage the issue of drinking internally any more and began to put myself in situations where I would do damage to relationships if I was ‘found out.’ I was ironically, still, all about control.

The hardest part about step one is not the recognition of the lack of manageability, instead, it is the admission of the inability to have power over the situation. At least that was for me. I had always had ‘power’ over my actions. I always had ‘power’ over my future. I always had ‘power’ when it came to a career, schooling, relationships, and, well, you name it. I never had a drinking problem, until I did. And it was at that point life became unmanageable. The indication of powerlessness is the lack of manageability, and that is what I first had to admit. That I lacked the power to do this ‘on my own.’ The more isolated I become the more desperate I became to control the situation. The more isolated I wanted to become, the more lonely the landscape of life seemed to appear.

I recently took in a Netflix special. “Six Days” is about the bombing of the embassy in the U.K. in 1980. A negotiator takes up the mantle of peace after 6 young men take over the embassy and threaten to kill the hostages, if they are not granted their wishes. The psychology of a hostage situation is something that I resonate with. The more alone that the perpetrators became, the more desperate they would become to reach the demands of those around them, thus giving up control of the hostages. Unfortunately, they didn’t give up control and ended up having to be eradicated by the Special Forces unit. During one of the scenes, a commanding officer says, “They have become desperate, and they will either kill all of those involved, or they will admit defeat.” I resonated with this. I became destined to ‘kill all of those involved’ or admit defeat. I wasn’t going to kill anyone, in fact, I’m a pacifist at heart so killing is not something I ever considered. But I would begin putting relationships to rest, one by one, so that no one could get close enough to know the truths that were underneath the surface. When this started happening, manageability was out the window.

As I sat in my bed, in a nightgown that the the hospital had provided me, and waited for the nurse to come in to welcome me to my new room in the psych ward, I’ll never forget the denial that existed within me. “If I could just get out of here, I can manage this drinking thing, and move on with my life. If I just simply drink once in a while in moderation, it will be fine.” I was in complete and utter denial of the situation that was in front of me, thus rending me out of control and lacking any sense of management. The nurse came in and began to ask me questions about my feelings. I wasn’t really in any mood to discuss my feelings, in fact, I’m sure that I was quite curt and gruff with the middle-aged woman who would become the nighttime annoyance over the next few days, waking me up to take my blood pressure and ask me if I had any thoughts of hurting myself. On Day 4 of my stay at the luxurious mental health facility, that same nurse came in and sat down. With care in her eyes and tenderness in her voice, she asked me if I was ready to admit that I was powerless over this alcohol thing. She sat patiently as I determined whether I was really powerless or whether I could manipulate this situation further. I managed to say, “Yes.” And in that moment, all control, all power, all grasp of this lie that I was living, fell away. I knew that I needed others to help me. I knew that others needed to be let into the world that I was covering, hiding, protecting. I knew that I needed to cut back the layers of pain, emotional turmoil, and the self medicating-guilt inducing- lifestyle that I was living in. I had to go deeper emotionally then just recognizing the bi-product of anxiety and depression. I had to begin to examine the root cause of my anxiety and depression. I was terrified of what I would uncover.

All of our lives are unmanageable, whether we are addicts or not. There are parts of each of our lives that we cannot control, and to do so would prove to be futile. Addicts are not special in their experience with powerlessness and unmanageability. The only difference between an addicts way of life and a non-addicts way of life is that non-addicts can cope well with life on life’s terms. Addicts cope as well, but in a way that does complete and utter destruction in the world that they live in. It’s a slow fade, for many addicts, and then one day it seems to all catch up with that addict. I know that for me, it was a slow fade over many years when I wasn’t even drinking, that led me to a point of utter chaos in my life.

I do admit that I am powerless over alcohol. Just like I cannot ‘control’ people’s response to the things I do or am, I cannot control the alcoholic consumption that I choose to have. This is not an excuse, in fact, it allows me to give myself permission and control to rather make choices before I ever have a sip of alcohol to never start in the first place. I know that once I drink, I won’t stop. I admit that alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful, and is most certainly better at those things than I am. Alcohol consumption is ‘amoral’ but when it becomes a way of life, and something that captures the heart and soul of the individual, it’s time to admit defeat. Admit power loss, and come to terms with life, on life’s terms.

My life was unmanageable before I started drinking. My life was unmanageable during my time drinking. My life will be unmanageable for the foreseeable future until I am dead. But I will retain the power of choice of alcohol. Whether to start drinking or not, is a choice, and it is something I choose. Once I start, I am powerless over my enemy. Loneliness, isolation, depression, anxiety, and destruction follow when I choose to drink to deal.

I admit that I am powerless over alcohol and I choose to admit that my life is unmanageable. At some level, that brings a sense of relief. I don’t have to control everything. I don’t have to get the ‘right’ reactions from others. I don’t have to find fulfillment in things that don’t matter. And I can work through my own pain, peeling back layer upon layer, to make sure that I am dealing with core issues, rather than trying to medicate for pain. Step one is for all people at some level. For me, it was the key to moving forward. It took me a year and a half to get to the point where I could admit. Once I did, there was a newness of life that I found. A freedom, if you will, in the present.

So I keep living a day at a time. One day at a time. Powerless, Unmanageable, but at peace.

 

Time to Resume.

I took some time away from writing. To reflect, to seek clarity, to make sure my head was on straight, and to make sure that I was writing for the right reasons.

I have always enjoyed writing, even from an early age. I have enjoyed using words to help others understand concepts, theology, structures and systems, and seeing the benefit of a product. Being a writer is something I’ve always aspired to. It’s something that I have and probably always will dream about. It’s something that helps me find solace in the midst of adversity and chaos as it is a ‘centering’ activity. As I type, or write using a pen, I am able to reflect the thoughts in my head in a clear, black and white way. I am able to see what is happening in the jumbled mess that is my brain, and I am able to sort through the things that are being processed. Writing causes a person to slow down, to think about what they are saying, to reflect on what they have said, and be contemplative about what they are going to say in the future. Writing forces me to understand the concepts that I am writing about with great clarity and precision because as I write, I know that I will eventually have to read my own writing again.

The fear of what others think and say has caused me to stop writing more times than I care to admit. Probably a far greater issue that I struggle with is the fear of others opinions in general and this bleeds over into the arena of writing. The reader is always evaluating, always searching for the heart and soul of the author, and trying to connect with the content that they are absorbing. When I read, I tend to be evaluative in the content, because I am spending valuable time reading the material that is in front of me. I know the types of books, articles, and blogs that I enjoy consuming, and when a reading doesn’t match my consumer grading, then I tend to leave that book or blog or article. I tend to read things that I disagree with because that is how I often learn, but then evaluate the actual communication within the words. I would wager that there are others that read articles, blogs, and books that are in agreement with their theological position or political affiliation, and I have met many of them. Those that only read their prerogative are generally those that are fearful of what an opposing view might do for them. I have lived a portion of my life in this world as well. Currently, whether I agree or not with the article, there is still an evaluation of communication, almost subconsciously.

So, since I don’t care to admit it, I admit it. The fear of others opinions caused me to stop writing for the past season. I quit typing, quit penning, and quit thinking about the dream that is inside of me of being able to communicate through the writing of a blog or a book. I gave up on helping others through reading and writing regarding the things that I have or am learning. I gave up on others because I couldn’t please everyone. I quit.

I was reminded this last week during a meeting that I attended that quitting is not a great way to cope with anything, and to quit something admits defeat. I have chosen to be defeated by others’ opinion. I have chosen to be frozen in fear, not knowing how to navigate the waters of turmoil and criticism. I have chosen to let others’ have control in my heart and spirit, instead of living a life of freedom and focus. This is not a character flaw that is contained within writing. It is a character flaw that inhabits most of my life and has for a very long time. It’s a character flaw that allows me to place blame on others, for actions that I take, instead of claiming for my own response to those around me and their opinions. It’s a flaw. And it’s hard to overcome. There are people that have developed a tough ‘shell’ as it relates to others opinions about them. They have figured out how to let things ‘roll of their back.’ They have understood how to make the choice to not let people control their emotions or actions. I have long envied this type of person because I desire to live a life that allows others to say and do whatever they want and it not affect my own life or emotion. There is a phrase that we say often to our kids.

“You worry about You.”

And that is what I must actively choose to do each and every day. Certainly, I worry about my family, finances, faith, and others. But I must actively choose to not worry about the opinions of those that surround me and instead be careful to listen to the truth about me, from me and God. I cannot rely on others to ‘hold me up’ or carry my weight because that often leads to let-down and disappointment. I also know myself well enough that I will let myself down. As noted in previous blogs and chapters, this is an area that I must actively work hard to allow for. I’m not perfect. You might be. But I’m not.

Recently, I’ve started to meditate on a couple of lines from the bible.

The first verse troubles me. And the second verse troubles me because of the first verse.

Matthew 5:48 – Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness ” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

It’s troubling because I know I won’t attain the first, and I really don’t want to admit the second.

I don’t know that I want to ‘boast’ in my weakness, but certainly, admission needs to be a regular part of my everyday life, or I become overly critical of myself and take myself far too seriously. It’s hard to be imperfect, as a perfectionist, or at least hard to be perfect when you want everyone else to think you are. I’m not perfect. In fact, I am pretty hard pressed to find a day when I don’t make a mistake or multiple mistakes in a row. Admitting those mistakes allows me the freedom to drown out the opinions and ever nagging judgment of others. It allows me the space to be at peace with who I am, and regard the opinions of others as just. Opinions. Everyone has them, and there are no opinions that should debilitate a person.

I’m actively choosing to move forward carefully and with consideration for honesty, consistency, and imperfection. Each day is a battle to not succumb to humanities opinion of something I did or didn’t do. Each day is a battle to admit imperfection and then own it. As I have grown up, just a bit more than I was yesterday, I have a growing sense of freedom and peace, navigating the difficult waters of life, that we all face. I’ll keep writing. And keep pursuing the things that are between my ears, and acknowledge the ostentatious missteps that I am sure to makealong the way.

Joe

“Joe. My name is Joe. I’ve been here 8 days, and they want to kick me out tomorrow. I have a condition that I can’t get medicine for, and before they know it, I’ll either be dead or back in here.”

I knew I wouldn’t mind if they kicked me out the next day. I was ready to move on, move forward from this nightmare. But Joe was fearful. His voice trembled as he described his life outside his walls of this confinement. He told stories of having it all, being a contractor making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, working construction and then owning a construction company; married with three kids, and living in a modest ½ million dollar home. “I’m 71 now.

That was a different life, 36 years ago.” Joe was 35 when he first started drinking regularly. He had hurt his arm in an accident and to ease the pain, he had found alcohol seemed to help the pain while also being socially acceptable. His wife of 12 years continued to scold him for drinking too much at times, and eventually she left him alone, in the house of his dreams.

He sold his construction business and moved to Florida. And then drank; for 36 years. His kids had graduated and gone, and this was a blur of a time for Joe. He couldn’t recall the times he had attended graduation ceremonies, weddings, or anything that was normally a landmark moment in a person’s life.

Joe had been admitted to the mental health psychiatric center because he had tried to commit suicide. Alone and in pain, he found solace in the fact that he could leave behind his pain, guilt, shame, remorse, and lonely existence. He swore that when he got out, he was going to figure out, this time for good. Clearly, Joe was not in good shape. He had long been on workman’s compensation and disability, and had been in and out of homeless shelters for years.

I’ll never forget watching midday television one afternoon with Joe. As we sat there, he gruffly asked if I was married. “Yes. I’m married.” I replied with some question in my voice, because at that particular moment I was married, but wasn’t sure how frail that reality was, moving forward. Joe leaned in, across the table with the most intense eyes an old man has given me, probably in my entire life, and said something that haunts me and motivates me all the same.

“When you get out, take advantage of a second chance. Don’t f*** this up and lose everything. You’ve only started to lose your future and you can turn that around.”

And with that, he sat back in the uncomfortable chair and took in the rest of “Judge Judy.” I was taken back. He had told me his story and it had eerily resonated with me. Similar ages, similar life situations, similar pains, and aches and emotional scarring. He had come to the crossroads and the intersection 36 years ago, and had chosen to go down the gravel road of selfishness, self-seeking, and what seemed to be an easier and softer way than living life on life’s terms. He had shut people out of his life, out of his pain, and out of his existence only to find at the end of the day, he had to live with himself. He didn’t like himself very much and so he had made it his goal to rid the world of himself.

The last day that I was at the mental health center, Joe gave me his phone number on a little piece of paper. He folded it up in a square and told me to call him, when I got out, and when I landed somewhere. I forgot about the little piece of paper until about a month after this exchange when I found it in a pocket, in the jeans that I was sporting at the hospital. Memories came flooding back to me, and I knew something had to be different. I didn’t want to end up a 71-year-old man, with a crazy story of living life in a blur, trying to end it all by any means possible. I didn’t want to look back on my life and tell a 35-year-old kid not to screw this up, like I had done. I wanted to choose a different road. One with twists and turns, bumps and valleys, mountains, and rivers. I didn’t want to live a flat life void of emotion, relationships, and joy. I could deal with the pain, as long as I could live life to its’ fullest potential.

I tried to call Joe, the day that I found his number. HIs number was disconnected and no longer in service. Joe was, and is, an angel of hope whom I encountered. I don’t know that I’ll ever see Joe again, but I think of him often. During the times when I descend into a difficult valley or peak a mountaintop, I remember him looking at me, with intensity, desire, and earnestness, and saying “Get it right the second time around, son.” And then we watched another episode of Judge Judy.

*Names in this post are not actual names of people represented to protect the anonymity of those that were involved. Joe, if you ever read this, please know that you saved one man’s life in that clinic.

My Affair.

I’m married and have been for 13 years. I love my wife, care deeply about her, and want to spend the rest of my life with her.

I made myself a promise early in marriage that I would never cheat on my wife with any other person. This was for many good reasons, and those reasons still remain true today. What I didn’t anticipate in our marriage were the affairs that could be had that were outside of relationships with other people. Here is an excerpt from a letter to my recently ended affair that I wrote just a few short months go.

This is not a love letter. This is a letter letting you know how I am redefining our relationship. I can remember the day that we had our “defining the relationship” discussion together. You didn’t say much, and I remember thinking to myself that I could take advantage of you for my own self gain. If you weren’t going to respond to my advances, then I would keep advancing. It was a night in the winter, and my stress level was high. You were at the store, and I knew exactly where I would find you. I had determined that you would be mine tonight, preplanned and prepared. I drove to the store, got the milk and eggs that I needed to pick up for the next day’s festivities, and on my way home, try as I might, I could not help but go visit you in the store. I walked in and found your brown body, with red lipstick and immediately knew that I had to have you. I took advantage of the fact that you were ‘cheap’ and that I would only have you a little bit, and then stop, knowing that this advancement in our relationship could do damage to the relationship with my wife, who was unaware at the time that I was pursuing you. I opened the door for you and you sat on the seat next to me, begging me to touch you. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had never touched you before, at least not with this intention in mind. It was too scary, I could lose too much, I would be thrown out of the community of faith that I was apart of for having this love affair, I could lose the only means of livelihood I had in that community of faith. And yet, I reached across the glovebox in between you and I and grabbed your neck. I pulled you close to me. Our lips met. Euphoria swept over me and you gave me a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach. You beckoned me to drink deeply from your lips and I kept going, forgetting the stress and anxiety from the life that I was living. You seemed to momentarily take the pain from me and replaced my level of anxiety and doubt with hopefulness, passion, and a sense of a potential new reality.

In the midst of the affair, it seemed amazing. But she always let me down, time after time. Here’s another excerpt from ‘the aftermath.’

And so I went looking for you. All of you. And I found you. Right where you always were. I paid my dues, cheap, and left caressing your neck. I left thinking about the fake life that you and I were living, about all the ways that you destroyed my family, work, friends, and material possessions. The way that you stole the character traits that I and others treasured and invited me into a life of darkness and despair, away from anxiety, away from pain…But what you brought me to was so much more. I was angry with you. I pulled off to the side of the road and I opened the window. I gazed at you, and you had a dull look back at me. I couldn’t seem to find your life, your energy that you provided, the euphoria that you had once caused within me. And because I had earlier tried to kill myself, I looked at you, and gave you the one thing that you had not yet taken from me…my life. I didn’t intend that you take my life. I didn’t intend that you could have all of me. But there I was taking all of you, drinking you deeply, and fully. It was a vengeful moment. I wanted to take from you all that you had taken from me. And I did. And you left me right where you left me each and every time that you seduced me. Asleep. Alone. Anxious. And in trouble.

For me, the affair wasn’t a human relationship. But it was more powerful, more cunning, and left me breathless, empty and drained. I am reminded of these things daily as I continue to take one day at a time.

What Do YOU want?

I have had to grow up, and will continue that growth process until I can’t any longer. I still want the same two things.

  1. I want to be healthy.
  2. I want to know the God of my understanding.

It was the end of the “winter of hell.” The hell that had become my life, and current reality. Questions had been posed to me and I needed to answer them. For me. Not for others or how others would want me to answer them, for that would be how I arrived in this situation to begin with.

“What is it that YOU want?” Two of my closest friends asked me the question, within days of each other. It’s as if they had been talking. “It’s not enough for me to want something for you. It’s not enough for me to desire for you to be someone that you don’t want to be. It’s not enough for you to try and be someone for someone else anymore.” Both of my friends were honestly asking me, neither of them wanting something fake or manufactured. They honestly wanted me to figure it out for me instead of trying to figure it out for everyone else.

I heard these words.

I understood that I needed to determine who I wanted to be.

I needed to make a determination on desires, on abilities, on futures, and on the situation that I found myself in. What did I want? I wasn’t sure.

I knew that I didn’t want what I had found myself to be. I knew that I didn’t like me and I knew that the way I was living, a life of least resistance,  would end in a catastrophic moment.

I leaned into the question, and began asking questions of myself.

Did I want to be alone (This is an honest question that I believe most introverts wrestle with)? Did I want to be alive (This is probably a question that more people have then I ever realized)? Did I want the life of an addict, always going back to the same things that drove me insane in the first place? Did I want to be a person that focused on the things that inhibited me from being me? Or did I want to be me and be okay with that? What did that even mean?

So many questions posed and most them were posed within my own head. Some of them came out in conversation with a dear friend of mine, who had many years of experience ahead of me. Some of them came out in writing. Some of them came out in my own emotion, and inability to control the emotion.

So many questions have yet to be answered. And yet, in a stunning beautiful array of current and ongoing reality, I began and continue a journey of discovery.

I can remember in college people telling me that I was going to ‘find myself’ or that I would ‘own my own faith’ or that I would have a ‘spiritual awakening.’ Unfortunately mine didn’t come until well after college. I’m grateful. I’m thankful that it finally did come and is still coming. I am finding joy in the little things. Finding joy in the present moments is something that I have never really known. I have always focused on the future, trying to manipulate situations around me to achieve the success that I somehow craved. There were times when I didn’t really know who I was, in fact, there were very few times that I knew who I was. I understand that now to some degree. And each day is another day to understand that more and more. To understand who I am and to understand who I want to become are two very important things in my current reality. I am very focused. But not focused on the future realities that could exist, rather, I am trying to focus on the current reality that does exist. For if I am to focus on the future reality that could exist, I will rob myself of being me, in the present moment. I will never find comfort in my own skin, and I will lack the joy needed in life to sustain life, love, and relationships.

I went fishing with my son recently. We haven’t fished much the past couple of years, mostly because I have been too focused on myself to really find joy in the idea and act of sitting by a dirty midwest pond and catching smelly catfish. But that is me. It’s one of the things that I have loved doing since I was a young child. I can remember being excited about the next time that I got to go to the pond. There was freedom at the pond. The water was mysterious, and unpredictable, and yet, it was always there. It was always present. It was always waiting for me to step up beside it and find peace hearing the waves lap against the shore. I love catching fish. But even more than that, I love the focus that fishing brings. I have a singular focus when I cast my lure into the weeds, hoping that a ‘lunker’ as my son and I call them, will snatch the lure and run. Each cast provides a new hope. And then a new reality. Either there is a fish on the end of my line at the end of the cast, or there isn’t. Either way, I get to be at the pond. And I get to be at the pond with my son, alive, joyful, and in conversation with one of the brightest kids I know.

There are many past conversations that I remember vividly, that I can recount with complete accuracy, as I have the ability to recall conversations with clarity (Which is also a curse because I often play them back, assign motives to what people say, and concoct a reality in my own head that may not actually exist). There are so many meetings, discussions, dialogues, monologues, and emotive statements that I dare say I would not care to forget. Pain is something that I choose to entertain, but some of these discussions happened to me, not because of me, and for those I am now grateful because they have made me into the person that I am becoming. All of the experiences, whether good, bad, ugly or otherwise, mold us and shape us into who we are, what we believe, and why we exist. The discussions, conversations, pain, sorrow, victories, and accomplishments, all play into the current moment. This is one of the reasons I choose joy, in my current moment, rather than find all of the reasons that I should be angry, confused, mad, or otherwise blaming.

I discuss many of these conversations elsewhere, but for the purposes of this particular journal, I remember a conversation with a friend of mine in early March. I was still angry, broken, confused, and trying to figure out which way was up. I knew which way was down because I had been to the edge and back of the bottom of the barrel. I had experienced a depth of life that I never, ever want to go back to. I asked this friend of mine what I needed to be doing to figure out how to climb out of the darkness that had surrounded me.

He said to me, “You are going to grow up in the next few months and years. And you are going to discover life that you have never known. Life that will find you, that you don’t have to manufacture, and a life that will bring immense joy.” At the time, I scoffed. I didn’t let on that I was somewhat irritated with his implication that I somehow was a child. I should have probably at least let on that I was mildly irritated but at the time, I wasn’t sharing emotion with anyone, except to show anger to the world.

Who was he to say I was a child? I was grown up. I was an adult. I made my own decisions and I would continue to do so. As I journeyed along over the next few months, I did find myself growing up. In my core, I have been a small child for so long. I made the choice to live life a certain way, always reliant on others for direction, as a child is reliant on their parents for food, clothing, and shelter. I have always relied on the accolades of those around me to continue to motivate me. I have always relied upon my personality to get me out of difficult situations. But I found myself growing up. I began to limit my ‘approval rating’ from others, and began to see myself as autonomous. I began to understand what it meant to take care of myself, not just in the feeding and clothing of myself, although those things are very important, but in the area of self care and management. I began to sort through the things in my head and could make determinations on whether they were based in reality, facts, or emotion. I began to become level headed enough that I could make rational decisions without fear of reprisal, anger, irritation, disappointment, or approval of those that were around me. I began to see myself as independent from others, where I had always been dependent.


Growing up has downsides as Peter Pan pointed out years ago in the book, movie, and retelling of the fable. Growing up means that you have responsibility. Growing up means that you have obligations. Growing up means that you get to work for the things that you want. Growing up means that you have to determine what you actually want. And I have been in that mode of operation for a few months now. I know these things to be true, and have begun to experience the benefits of growing up as well as the downsides.

The benefits outweigh the downsides easily. There is an ease to my mind that I have not known before. I am able to sleep well at night, and wake up refreshed in the morning, and at a normal hour.. I’m able to be both physically and emotionally present with my kids, family, and people around me. I am able to find joy in the small things and look at each day, with a newness and gratefulness. Growing up is a challenge, but as it is happening, is a joy to behold and experience. I see life through my kids eyes again, but with the lens of an adult. I am one that has determined who he is, and who he will become.  

So, what do I want? There are just a couple things that I decided upon, way back at the end of the ‘winter of hell.’ I determined that I wanted just two things.

  1. I wanted to get healthy.
  2. I wanted to know the God of my understanding.

These two statement are packed full of all sorts of growing pains–pains that I have only begun to experience, but necessary, nonetheless. They are packed full of joy, excitement, and impatience. I want these things to be true today. Right now. It’s probably human nature, but certainly my nature to want things quickly. I wanted things well before I was ready to have them, and the same is true in the ‘growing up’ sense. It takes time for maturity to become a reality. It takes time for a child to become a man. It takes time for those that are around that man to understand who he is and what makes him tick, especially when that person has been unsure of himself for so long. “Patience is a virtue” they say. My impatience with life has led me to a place where I have had to develop virtue. I had to develop patience at some level (and that will be an ongoing thing until I die!). I had to experience an independence from those vices that kept me from experiencing who I needed to be, who I wanted to be, and really who I had always been. I have had to find me and be ‘okay in my own skin.’

I have had to grow up, and will continue that growth process until I can’t any longer. I still want the same two things.

  1. I want to be healthy.
  2. I want to know the God of my understanding.

Neither is completed, and I know that these things take a lifetime to experience. But I know that I have clear direction and clear marks of who I am, who I want to become, and how I want to get to these places. People are always going to be part of the equation, but people don’t dictate my growing up. They don’t dictate me being a child. The “approval rating” of others means less to me today than it did yesterday, because I know that I am loved by God. And I know that I am loved by my family, friends, and others. Love is alot of things (and I write about that elsewhere) but one of the things that I have learned as I journey through adolescence, is that ‘love is something that cannot be earned, kept, or lost. When one loves another, that continues, regardless of the circumstances.

As C.S. Lewis says To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.”

Thanks to my friends, who asked me the same question…Just a few days apart.

Confidential Confidence

I lacked confidence, in almost everything that I was said to be good at. I lacked confidence in my faith, lacked confidence in my abilities, and lacked confidence in my potential. Confidentially, or, maybe better said, privately, I knew that I would let everyone down.

Throughout my adult life, I have lacked the confidence that is necessary to navigate through life’s unmanageable terms. I navigated okay for many years, relying on the praise of others to get me through tough times, hard times, and good times. I reveled in the glories of being a young professional who was successful at the very beginning of his career. I reveled in success. One of the people that I have had the privilege of getting to know the past several months, an influential businessman, was telling me that ‘success can be more baffling than failure, for we think that success defines us. Not so: Failure defines us. When we fail our character shows as well as our confidence. I believe there are three types of confidence. First, there is the confidence which is born from the word of God. It is a confidence on which we can build our house and the gates of hell will not prevail. It is a confidence on which we can rely. Second, there is the confidence that we have in ourselves. It is called self confidence. Thirdly, there is the confidence that comes from others who build us up and we believe them. It is a false confidence. It is like a vapor that disappears with the slightest breeze. Like I said, I tended toward the third one. Others would be my barometer for ‘success’ for so many years. I am left to think about and wonder what might have happened had I simply been confident in the way that I was wired. Would I have had the flame of success and then the flash in the pan career? Or would I have been able to go long term?

During recovery, I think I went through some of the most difficult and stress inducing exercises that I could have encountered. I changed jobs. I was apart from my family. I changed jobs again. I made new friends and tried to patch things with old ones. I dealt with some things at my job that were stress inducing. And it was during these difficult, hard to explain times that I developed some level of confidence. I hesitate to share my confidence with you, the reader, because I know that confidence can lead to deceit of oneself. I know that if I become arrogantly confident, I am right back to the place where I was…Confidentially void of confidence. Isn’t that really arrogance at its’ finest? To believe that everything that others say about you is always true? I was arrogant in my ways and, as a human, probably will always be to some extent.

Confidence has been bred in me, the past several months. I know that it takes a track record to claim experience, but right now, in this moment, I can be confident that I have overcome some difficult things without coping in ways that are destructive to me or to others. I can go somewhere in my car and not be completely consumed with my thoughts. I can lay down at night and fear not the evening that will encapsulate me with no sleep. I have confidence.

My job is an area that I have sought identity placement from before.

I have shrugged off that idea, that my job defines me. I enjoy what I have the privilege of doing, and I enjoy the folks that I get to work with. And I’m good at it. Not because others say that I am good at it, but because I know that I am. This allows me to work gratefully and to enjoy the work that is happening around me, even when it doesn’t go ‘my way.’

Early on, separated from my family and trying to discover both who I was and what I was, one of my dear friends (whom I discuss in earlier writing) instilled in me small confidences. He would gently say things that would help me talk to myself in a way that was both gentle and forgiving. He would remind me that I needed to move forward and whatever happened in the future, stay the course. He would remind me that I was to continue to plod ahead, and let the chips fall where they may. Most of the lack of confidence that I have been plagued with in the past is simply a response to the inability to control the future and outcomes. I knew that I could not do so, and yet, I was desperate to try. I knew that my abilities were not God’s, and yet, I desperately wanted to accomplish what only God can. My motives were sometimes pure (as a human can be) and sometimes they were selfish (more often than not) but I wanted to dictate an outcome that would be one of success, accolades, and influence. What I have found is that I can only control me, within an outcome that will happen. Whatever happens to me, I get to respond to. How I respond is one of the more important thoughts that I need to process. I need to respond to those that would reject me for whatever reason with gentleness and grace.

I need to respond to those that may not have a clue what to do with me, with the same gentleness and grace. I have to develop the confidence in these responses. I am hardwired and well practiced to simply live for the glory and renown of what others think about me instead of having confidence in my own ability to make good choices, to find peace in the midst of turmoil, and to be okay with the present moment. Rewiring ones brain can be difficult, if you have practiced something for so long, so opposite of the hoped for behavior.

Are you confident? Maybe you are confident in a confidential way and that is awesome. You and I were created to work and be successful. Part of that success is failure and our response to it. Confidence is stoked when we are able to move through the valleys, celebrate the peaks, and live in the mundane of life that is in between. I know that I am growing in confidence each day and that I will never arrive. And that’s a good thing, as long as I am making progress daily. A lack of confidence was a poison to my soul, and over time, I began to wither and rot, because I wasn’t grounded in God or who I was. It’s different now. It’s still changing, still morphing, but at least it’s different.