In which I attempt to use writing to clarify my thoughts, but NOT to get caught up in the very act of writing or become full of myself with thinking that my writing is great enough for millions of people to appreciate and read.
In which I actually jot thoughts down and constantly revise the structure of this document with the intention of NOT creating a document that anyone else but me would want to read. With that said, I may disclose very personal things in this document for my eyes only. I can never know who might read this, with the Internet being far from private, but I can at least offer a warning that my efforts are to be frank with myself so I can face my issues head on to resolve them once and for all.
The order of things I need to do:
pray constantly (ongoing)
cease losing my temper
cease impure thoughts and behavior
I need to get to work.
I used to find some of my happiest moments in life were spent in church, when I was little and we went to other churches besides the one in Kearney. The church in Kearney probably did more to kill my love of Christianity and church in general than I ever cared to admit. I never felt close to God there. It was a church constructed like any other small town business or farm building during the 1970s-90s (maybe the present) in the Midwest. Aluminum, cheap, ugly. The power of the church was supposed to be in the Pentecostal pastor’s message. His charisma. His zeal for Jesus. I felt closer to God when we went to even a more well-constructed Assembly of God church (AoG was a very similar denomination in beliefs and practice to our church–with praying in tongues, getting slain in the spirit, having a rock band and an overhead instead of a choir and hymnals, etc) while on vacation (my mom usually sought out an AoG church on vacation because she could rely on the pastor’s message being similar to the one at the Kearney church).
There was something more to it than that, though.
I go to a pretty traditional, Protestant old-timey sort of church now, and I don’t feel that close to God most Sundays. The people at this church seem to be caught up in socializing with each other and squeezing in as little time with God as possible.
I think the people at the church in Kearney were more caught up in proving to themselves and each other just how filled with the Holy Spirit they were, that they may have missed actually listening to God and entering into a reverent state. I can’t speak for anyone there, but that’s what it seemed like a lot of the Sundays that we went. The more you waved your hands around and shouted and spoke in tongues and were willing to let the pastor knock you over during the altar call the more filled with the Holy Ghost you were.
And I think maybe Jesus was okay with all of that, but for a quiet, introspective person, the deep, contemplative search for the still small voice seemed to be drowned out by a lot of activity.
On Scout Sunday, we would go visit the churches of fellow scouts. Since my church was so far away from the town we lived in, I never had to invite my fellow scouts from Methodist, Christian, Baptist and Catholic churches to go there. I always enjoyed Sundays at any of those churches more than Sundays at my own church.
I graduated from high school with a very warped sense of what it meant to be Christian vs. cool. I have spent the better part of twenty years extricating myself from the idea that people who do worldly things are all extremely ant-Christian and people who are Christian are radically separated from doing worldly things — if they go to church and do worldly things, like watch R rated movies and enjoy Harry Potter books, then they really aren’t as validly Christian as they could/should be — at least that was my mom’s way of thinking about it.
Catholics were idol worshipers. Mainline Protestants weren’t filled with the Holy Spirit, and therefore, not as “saved” and in as much of a relationship with Christ as those who went to Pentecostal churches. Assembly of God was okay, but radically spirit-filled churches were better. Every charlatan hawking healing on TBN was worth watching. Never mind the private jets and questionable tactics that saw only those without visible health problems up on stage.
I know I shouldn’t be faulting my mom too much for how she thought and believed. She is gone, and she was mentally and spiritually damaged, I think, from the broken home she grew up in. But, I can’t completely ignore it either, since it has had such an impact on my worldview and how I approach friendships and relationships with others.
I can’t say for sure, but I wonder if a lot of my anger issues come from my inability to understand what the proper response is in a given situation. It always feels like I get taken advantage of when I try to be a live and let live sort of hippie guy, and refuse to get angry about anything. Of course, I’ve rarely let Jesus be a part of these experiments.
The toughest thing for me to do is to combine a program of radical personal development and change with being completely dedicated toward having a constant relationship with Christ. I can easily find myself becoming a health nut, or caught up in reading motivational and business books, or I can find myself caught up in the Bible, and books written by religious people, but I am making a life out of carefully avoiding combining my personal development with my relationship with Christ.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with being spirit-filled, and only the Lord knows whether or not someone speaking in tongues or laying on of hands is having a valid experience with the Holy Spirit. But for me, I don’t think I can approach something like that until I get things right with God and Jesus. I need to have a steady relationship with Jesus before I start trying to ask for extra gifts of the spirit.
And I think that’s why that Kearney church was so harmful to me as a kid. I was anxious and eager to be spirit-filled like my mom, but I didn’t really understand what having a relationship with God and Jesus meant. Just the mere act of being filled with an overwhelming sense of love for humanity and being able to clearly see when a small act of charity should be performed to help someone out — that to me seems like the kind of gifts that would go a lot further in this world than babbling in tongues, repeating a few of the same syllables. I could be wrong, and I don’t want anyone reading this one day to think I am an authority on any of these things. I simply know that I have too many issues and too many things to get squared away with God and Jesus before I can assume to be someone holy enough to deserve great gifts of the Spirit.
I need to stop considering career possibilities just because they offer the promise of easy money for doing what I’ve always been doing. I can take these jobs in a pinch if I need them to support my family, but I am tired of doing them and feeling that I am very far away from living out God’s purpose for my life.
I need to identify what God’s purpose is for my life.
Since I am a terrible sinner, and can’t directly know the will of God, I can at least start to put together a picture of what my calling is based on what I feel has intrinsically made my soul happy.
Number one, I want to serve God and not mammon. I want to help others, especially those less fortunate. I am a married man with a small child. I am limited in the kinds of things I can pursue because of this. Going to work at a non-profit that is bereft of God is not an option. I’ve already attempted this. Going to work at a non-profit where I am willing to do anything just to be there, including work that is not intrinsic to directly helping others, is something I’ve already tried.
I like reading about history, archaeology but especially like reading about spiritual things when they are made accessible like in the writings of Thomas Merton. I think being a scholar might be an option but I don’t think this would directly serve the Lord like directly helping people would.
I also prefer reading Catholic writers, old and new, and find myself caring more about what the Pope says than what my own pastor says. I actually have little or no idea what goes on at the upper levels of the Presbyterian church. But, the apparent options available in the Catholic church for a married man are all volunteer-based with a few exceptions. To be a priest, I would have to go to an Episcopalian seminary and then convert to Catholicism–which seems like a pretty cheap and insincere thing to do.
I’ve started reading more about Permanent Deacons–which appears to be the closest thing to a priest that I could become if I were to join the Catholic church.
I need to do these things for at least 6 months before I can consider that I have obtained anything approaching a true calling — and that I haven’t just been letting another romantic vision fill my head.
If I were to join the Catholic church, I would have to re-enter an RCIA program starting in September that runs through Easter of the following year. I would have to at least make an effort to convince A that this would be a healthy thing for both of us, but not expect her to convert with me.
Obviously, I need to continue to pray unceasingly to discern what I should do next, and attempt to truly arrive at something that looks like a calling. What if God has simply called me to stay at home and take care of L, and give him the pieces of his education he won’t receive in school?
I need to only spend some amount of time on books and the Internet — these are things that can turn one’s head every which way. You start to surround yourself with the knowledge that feels good at the time and build something that deceptively resembles a “true path” while making all kinds of rationalizations to yourself for why this was indeed the path God had designed for you all along. Think of attempting to become an EMT or a mathematician, or any number of interests and pursuits now mostly forgotten.
These were all ultimately pursuits that took me away from God.
Family requires a certain amount of attention, but family is not to be worshiped or ultimately seen as a substitute for a relationship with Christ. That said, there is really nothing I should be pursuing that I allow to get in the way of my relationship with Christ.
If it means that my family and I can’t go on as many vacations, or I can’t own as many new gadgets or go out and eat as much, then that shouldn’t be an issue. Now, of course, if A loses her job and I need to work to support my family, that is another matter altogether.
But, when it comes to even reading religious books, if I become more caught up in the act of exploring a text and obsessing over attaining more knowledge, then I need to put the books aside and refocus my attention on my relationship with Christ.
My relationship with Christ should take me where it will. It ultimate should determine which church I end up at. I do want to be more involved in the church, but I am unsure of how to go about it. However, if God guides me down a path that sees me stay at First Pres and gets me more involved there, then I shouldn’t shun it just because it doesn’t fit with any sort of vision I personally concocted.
I feel sometimes like maybe God has been helping me stay out of getting too mixed up in a worldly career, no matter how hard I tried to do it. There is always a spectacular blowout that ends my effort to get somewhere with the so-called career I was pursuing, and I often quietly find myself back in a “web bitch” or “button pusher” role somewhere, meekly taking orders and carrying them out while other people are the managers, the creatives, the strategists. And, then, over time, I start to resent my humble role again, and lust after power and money. Not for their own sake, but for the sake of proving to family and friends that I am as every bit as capable of having a grownup’s sort of career as anyone else. That as I push into my 40s, I am doing something fitting for a 40-year old man.
God never fails to show me just how far I’ve allowed myself to get from anything that looks like a true spiritual path.
The reason for pursuing a vocation that is closer to God has a lot to do with the things I’ve held closest to my heart that I’ve never allowed others to see. My friend K mocked me mercilessly when he saw I was reading a book about Buddhism. He wasn’t a very good friend choice, obviously, and he was the result of my adolescent quest to acquire friends based on how cool they thought I was. K occasionally posts something on Facebook that tells me he hasn’t grown a bit since he was 19.
Meanwhile, I’ve always tried to find a spiritual angle to all of the awful things I did, even if I didn’t communicate this to anyone around me. Getting drunk or taking drugs had to be about more than just having a good time. I wanted to momentarily alter my psyche to have a moment of greater connectivity with the Universe. Less self-destructive activities like travel and going to art museums were very much the same sort of thing. How am I having an experience here that allows me to see something bigger than just what that experience or thing is in the physical world?
As I’ve gotten older, these kinds of experiences have come less and less. For one, I’ve spent too much time around people who are put off by any sort of mystical talk. They find it to be hogwash and even some so-called Christians appear to be content to keep Christ back at the church for Sunday school and funerals. And maybe that’s okay. Not everyone needs to be on a path that is spiritually oriented. But I do, and I have become poorer and poorer every year that I’ve allowed myself to be as purely materialistically oriented as possible.
And this too is probably a great source of my anger. Knowing that I am missing out on something akin to a birthright. Remembering mystical experiences from my adolescence and college, and wondering where the capacity to have them has gone.
I have to stop getting angry. I have to stop allowing myself to give in to my filthy lust and particpate in activity that is destructive to my soul.
My body is a temple, and it is hard to see this since that has become such a cliche.
I don’t want to walk the path of unrighteousness.
I don’t want to get caught up in books and forget about Jesus. I want to feel like I am getting better every single day. I don’t want to go through three months of being righteous and then six months of being worldly. I am tired of cycling through this stuff and getting nowhere.
I want friends. I want a lot of friends, but I want a lot of the right friends. I want righteous friends who love Jesus. I am tired of making friends with atheists and other haters of Christ. I want people to look in my eyes and see the love of Christ and not be scared away. I am tired of running people off. My heart hurts so much with loneliness and yearning for community. I feel sometimes like I have already been cut off from Christ, but I know that this is just the devil talking. I know that if I were cut off from Christ, I wouldn’t be blessed the way that I am.
I know I can’t ever make friends until I clean up some of the issues that I have. People see into my soul, and maybe they see more correctly than I give them credit for. They see all of the anger and perverted lust. They see the impure thoughts and the desire to get away from them because I don’t want to slow down and take the time to listen to whatever it is that they are interested in. Even when I feel like I am in my most humble and pure state, and truly believe that I just want to make friends and have absolutely no ulterior motives whatsoever, I scare people away. And I know that I do this because they can see me for how I really am.
Number 1, I need to constantly seek Christ in everything I do. If I can’t do this, then I am lost. Two, I need to seek purity in my intentions and actions as well as my thoughts and words. If I can’t seek purity, then I am lost. Surely, I am very far away from purity today, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be seeking it.
A list of moments where I felt the awe of the Spirit or maybe God/Jesus:
New York and San Francisco travels. Believe it or not, in these cities that are the highest per capita of people who no longer believe in God, I felt the presence of God more than Bible-belt cities or maybe even Rome. I don’t think that God was in the ultra-modern buildings or in the uber-wealthy and purveyors of high fashion. I don’t think he was in much of the modern art made after Newman and Rothko attempted to make spiritual modern art. He was in the faces of the people who were less glamorous, and trying to eke out a living in such environments that are so hostile to the poor. He was in the older architecture and churches where the founders of the cities were faithful. He was in the changes in weather, and certainly in the natural spaces like parks and down by the ocean. Perhaps God was felt the most in these cities because it was so much easier to see him juxtaposed against those things which were created to only glorify Man and the love of money.
Being alone or with a dog in the early mornings before the streets are filled with motorists or the trails are filled with cyclists and noisy teenagers. This is a little more obvious–God is to be felt in spaces he created. But, many times God was not felt in these spaces when someone human joined me and we chatted the entire time, or my mind was too full of cares about my finances or job.
Of course, all of the other natural spaces I’ve visited, especially the places I went to as a kid for summer vacation and scouts. But almost always, the best moments were when I finally got away from other people, even if ever-so-briefly. Which seems like a terrible thing, because I want my growing relationship with Christ to include community. But, I’ve never really made that many friends at church. Aside from meeting my wife and the few people who sort of acted like friends at CPC, I’ve never made friends within the church. I missed that boat by avoiding church in college and going to the church in Kearney that was mostly bereft of kids my age.
These moments were not often spent in the pursuit of God and things spiritual, at least not directly. I could (and have) stated that my life, even at its worst, has been an effort to find a deeper and more spiritual meaning in what I am doing. But, what is astonishing to me, is just how much of God does shine through when you aren’t particularly looking for him. And, if you try to chase the high by pursuing things in a worldly manner–like spending more time in art museums and reading about art history and painting because you had a sense of the soul and touch of the divine when you went to the art museum–you end up at dead ends, basically committing idol worship. But, if you start to see that there really is some kind of underlying source to everything that you encounter that has that significant, overarching feeling of being extraordinarily good beyond any mere day-to-day burst of euphoria or joy, then you start to try to trace where all these extraordinarily good moments come from. And, that’s when you stumble upon these moments where, if you spend time contemplating the greatness of God and Jesus as creators of infinite worlds of wonderful things, and you spend as much time focused on this aspect of our Lord as you did on books and ideas about earthly things, you start to become amazingly filled with this powerful life force that can’t seem to be even remotely matched by taking drugs or traveling or hiking in nature.
Back in my days of wanting to impress anybody and everybody, I started reading John Irving because my ex-roommate (who I scared off through my awful behavior, of course) had mentioned him to me. And, within one of the books, Hotel New Hampshire I think, there is the character of Coach Iowa Bob who tells his nephew or grandson (can’t remember which) to “get obsessed and stay obsessed.”
And that phrase has rang in my ears ever since I read it. Only, every single thing or person or idea or job, or anything for which I’ve attempted to get obsessed and stay obsessed has ultimately either proved to be a dead end, a disappointment, or I’ve reached a moment where I had the sinking feeling that I was committing some kind of idol worship. Even before I was really into being a Christian at all I would give up on that thing I was obsessed with, because it felt incredibly limiting and unhealthy to become so obsessed with one thing. Now, of course, if I’d managed to get obsessed and stay obsessed with, say, creative fiction or art history or computers or math or cooking, or really any subject, I would eventually have turned it into a career of some kind and hopefully have set myself up to be the subject matter expert and thought leader in that field of study or professional endeavor.
And yet, no matter how close I really was with the Lord at the time, I somehow knew that I was being dishonest to myself. That at the end of the day, that thing was “just not me.” Sure, it felt good and fun to try on the idea of becoming a writer or guitarist or techie or salesman or whatever, but I always reached my limit where I knew if I kept going with my obsession, I would pass the point of no return and actually sacrifice some key aspect of my identity to a profession that was “just not me.”
And so, even if I am nowhere near feeling comfortable about saying I know the will of God for my life–since I am still such a terrible sinner and I have spent so many years running in the opposite direction from God–I can with some degree of certainty say that God has left inside of me a detector that really does let me know whether or not a thing actually is me or not.
I can state that there have been a lot of areas of study and professional efforts that carried some aspect of what that “ultimate me thing” is. Perhaps all of them. But, I can also recall many times, including when I was hanging out with a bunch of anti-Christians who made fun of Jesus and church and Christians, that I started to get this yearning to be in a church somewhere. I had visions of a timeless Church beyond maybe any single church there is, but one that was probably Catholic or Episcopalian, and it was dark outside, and autumn or winter, and perhaps it was raining or snowing.
And, the heart wrenching darkness that comes every single year when the time changes and the days naturally get shorter was not felt inside of this church. The church was probably not especially well lit or heated. Someone who was simply seeking light could have walked on down the street and found a diner or coffee shop that was more brightly lit up and much more toasty. But, inside my imaginary Church, there was light and heat from a source beyond anything humans were producing, unless you count the warmth of fellowship, community and shared adoration of the Spirit.
I think perhaps my Church was probably an amalgamation of the more traditional churches I attended in childhood, along with ones I’d seen in movies or shows. The people were all welcoming, and every member of the church thought of it as a second home. They could pop in with their kids on almost any night of the week and find some activity going on. Kids felt free to run down halls and enter spaces that they might have gotten yelled at for entering, were they in certain churches or in certain people’s homes. But, this church was a home away from home, and nobody seemed to mind. The children were the very human pulse of the church.
Adults at this church might seem to some outsiders as being cold and unfriendly, but they were caught up in being reverent. The space of worship was a space to center yourself with your heart, spirit, God and the Church space that was filled with the Spirit. If you were in the least bit a spiritual person, you felt just as inclined to shut your mouth and only open it to sing and pray with the rest of the congregation.
Now, of course, this church doesn’t exist. I found pieces of it at the churches I tried in Austin, and ultimately landed at the Presbyterian church without necessarily finding it to be exactly what I was looking for. Maybe my Church is a glimpse of what it will be like to worship for all of eternity in the Kingdom to come. I don’t know.
I found a lot of the contemplative reverence and the sense of holy space in the journals of Thomas Merton. When he wasn’t complaining about his Abbot, or being too much of an intellectual, he was extremely good at making you feel like you were right there with him in the monastery on a rainy Kentucky spring afternoon.
All of this is to say that I’ve started to imagine in my mind what it would be like to piece together all of the really great moments where I had a touch of the divine, or at least a taste of the sublime. Where, I removed all that was evil, bad, heartbreaking and simply crass, bureaucratic, boring, and part of the territory of being an adult in a culture that seems to prefer the cheap thrills and highs one gets from material things and ephemeral activities.
And, I start to catch glimpses of how the goodness of God flows into our world and sustains it and us, even as we turn our backs and pretend all that is wonderful just spontaneously evolved with no higher intelligence. I start to really feel like a life force that is more than my breath and blood is flowing through me. And, I know that it is.
And, the more I think about these things and how having a continued association with them in this life could best take place, I see myself back at my Church. I’m not sure if I am a pastor, or simply a very active member. For me, my trip to Rome was one that has seeped into my deepest soul marrow more and more each passing year. When we went to Rome and walked around, I wasn’t overly awed or inspired every time we entered a cathedral. But, at the same time, I felt like I was entering a place more like home every single time than any other place I’ve entered, including my own house. I also wanted to take the mystery and beauty of the cathedrals of Rome home with me in some way, and I suppose the way that I chose was as good as any–I sought out employment and a living space that was probably as far from Roman cathedrals as it could get. I didn’t attempt to pretend that the little Presbyterian church in Waco was going to take the place of the Roman cathedral.
And, the feeling of the sublime or divine as it were started to penetrate with each passing year that saw me getting further away from that trip.
I went into churches in Charleston, and some in San Francisco. I sometimes felt the presence of the Lord and sometimes didn’t. Looking at pictures from the trip to Rome might help a little, or watching videos on YouTube about Roman cathedrals– but these were all mostly ways to kind of trigger and reorient something I’d experienced on a subconscious level that I didn’t understand at the time.
I think that it is easy to go to the local church every Sunday or almost every Sunday and have the attitude of getting a refill on Jesus stuff. You are getting a little low, and your attempts at prayer and Bible reading aren’t cutting it, and so you go expecting to extract something out of the stained glass, the organ, the hymnals, the choir, the pastor, etc. And instead, you walk away feeling like you got very little out of it. Part of this is probably due to the fact that my current church sees a lot of people who seem to be more interested in engaging with each other, rather than God. Part of this is my own selfishness, where I am too often expecting to get something out of the church without giving anything in return.
Naturally, I will repeat myself. Many times over I will repeat myself. This is due to the fact that the most important lessons should be re-learned and if they become habit, they should still be re-learned, since habit is an unreliable thing to depend on.
Speaking of habit, I thought a lot about habits this morning as I ran. The thoughts that were springing up inside my head seemed to be of a certain kind that I’d grown accustomed to over many years, and they were most obvious while running. This is partly due to the fact that running encourages a kind of rhythm of breathing and movement of self, which naturally translates into a state of mind that seeks out repetition as well. So, over many years of actively running almost every day, I’ve come to depend upon an almost comforting kind of habit of seeking out others in my head to judge and critique.
The tendency to judge and critique others is almost automatic, and it doesn’t only happen when I run, but I think running reinforces this tendency due to the need for mental rhythm described above as well as the habitual choice for the kinds of thoughts while running to be those thoughts that see me looking outward at people and entities like companies and governments and offering critiques.
Imagine having this kind of thinking mature and reinforce itself over decades until it is almost impossible to get out of. This is what I’m up against.
I am only beginning to become aware of just how prevalent it is in my nature to think in terms of how others could be doing better, often to the point of spinning out of control in an intense, uncontrollable sort of anger toward the people or entities for not being and doing better. Fortunately, almost all of this anger has taken place when I am alone or with my dog, but a few times it has happened at work, and the last time it happened last Monday was one time too many. I knew that if I stuck around after that, I would have the CEO yelling at me and I would have seen the people whose trust I worked so hard to gain being incapable of ever listening to me as anything other than a straight up jerk of a boss who gives orders they have to follow.
The tendency toward immediate critique of others is not necessarily born out of a desire to control or manipulate them, nor do I see myself yelling at them uncontrollably when I start to think about how they could improve. It’s always more of a case where the critical, problem-solving side of my mind seeks a problem to solve, and it’s far easier to see other people’s problems and the potential solutions for those problems than to see my own.
It’s not that I don’t know what my primary issues are. But, it’s more convenient to think that I have these issues under control, that I am “good enough, mostly, the way that I am,” and that my main issues are giant behemoths that “if only people understood and spent a day in my shoes, they would know why I keep these things at bay instead of outright fixing them.” I added quotes to indicate the kind of thinking that goes on in my head if one of my own problems happens to enter my thoughts while I am running or otherwise caught up in this thought pattern of needing to critique everything in site.
Now, it might also be easier to say that Jesus explained this already a couple of times, ie, how to get the beam out of your own eye before you go trying to remove the mote from your neighbor’s eye, and he who is without sin can cast the first stone. But, even this can become an easy thing to gloss over without much thought. These are things from the Bible everyone knows to the point that they have become like cliches, if not completely cliches.
For me, it is much more of a challenge and hard, sober thing to realize that in some ways, I have not resolved my issues of lust and anger to anything more than perhaps a slight degree. In other ways, I think I might have been even a little better back when I was a heavier sinner in college who had no interest whatsoever in Christianity. Back then, I think I was completely oblivious to the fact that I even had anger issues and quite content to be filled with lust. Of course, that was not a sustaining way to be–either for the sake of going to Heaven or even just for the sake of being successful in society as a professional after school.
But, the underlying thought process that has more or less remained the same since then has always been one of “well, I am mostly a good person, and my issues are no worse than anyone else’s, so I don’t understand why I am constantly scaring people off and can’t seem to make any friends.”
Now, I am not saying that latent anger issues by themselves presented me from making friends–but, I do think the attitude of not wanting to examine the unsavory parts of myself that closely is the attitude that has in a big way helped to determine my lack of success in life with making friends and finding my true calling. The bigger issue is probably still the fact that I’ve never been completely honest with myself about who I am, and people can usually detect that kind of disconnect in a person pretty easily.
While on the inside, my true self, free of the anger and lust, might actually have been a quiet-but-decent churchgoing fellow who studied for the clergy or some bland profession like accounting, my false self was busy proclaiming to everyone that I was actually a punk rocker and a rebel and a free spirit, artsy type. So, most of the free spirits I encountered could see through my facade, and most of the churchy people I encountered wanted nothing to do with someone who liked to make fun of the things of the Lord and presented himself as a mostly douchey mess trying to be a punk rock rebel.
I will never forget the night that I had decided to stay at home by myself and be completely sober, immersed in meditating and reading books and writing, and my friend K showed up to get drunk and play loud music with me, and I was so at peace with myself and he point blank told me that he hated the person he saw in front of him and would never even attempt to make friends with that kind of person. I wasn’t in a pissy mood or anything, but I was tired of playing the fool.
I played to fool a lot during those years to cover up the hyper-judgmental side of myself. The hyper-judgmental side of myself, if given a proper outlet and attention to fix, probably would have eventually helped me develop into much more of a grownup who saw through all of the bullshit my so-called friends were mixed up in–filthy, raunchy movies and bands that really weren’t that good.
After seeking so many times to get rid of all of those people who could only like me if I was being foolish, I think the hyper-judgmental part of me started to get louder and louder, until I could have days where every single thing someone did was open to me asking (mostly on the inside, thankfully) why that person was doing whatever it was they were doing. And that’s the key here. An ordinarily helpful barometer that prevents someone from going through life as a child had gotten out of control to the point where I couldn’t see straight enough to not critique every single thing every single person around me was doing. And naturally, very little of this hyper-judgmental self was applied inwardly. When it was, it was always to do as described above–paint my issues with such a broad brush that they were simply insurmountable and therefore any critique of them was pointless.
When attempting to address a problem, the common responses are:
I’ve already tried to solve this problem many times over with no luck. Therefore, the problem is unsolvable. At best, it is manageable.
I am just this way and I can’t change. If I was any other way, I would have changed by now.
How many different self-help books and other books can I buy to become distracted and not address the problem?
What problem? The problem is with other people, not me.
Look at all of the people who are committing sins far worse than mine. Now I feel much better.
Sure I have faith in God and Jesus, but I just don’t think they are listening to me on this.
Maybe God and Jesus meant for me to be this way, in spite of the fact that I am clearly sinning and breaking two of the ten commandments as Jesus described it (ie, murder and lust of the heart).
I will set up an elaborate exercise and journaling regime, and by virtue of constantly trying to work and write about the problem, I will simply burn it out of me.
I will attempt to trace the problem back to its origins and likely end up blaming Mommy/Daddy/Teachers/old classmates/siblings for my problem.
Just one more time. Or, it will feel better to sin than avoid sin.
There are probably more.
The only way to turn this around is to begin constantly repeating that:
The problem(s) can’t be solved without constant prayer for God’s help. Constant means constant, not once or twice a day, or during my half-hearted attempt to beg for forgiveness of my sins after I have let the problem(s) get the better of me. If I can’t maintain faith that God can and will solve my problems, then I shouldn’t bother having any faith in God at all.
The problem(s) can and will be solved in my lifetime, given 1. This is non-negotiable. I will not die with these problems still unresolved.
I can’t do the Lord’s will in my professional life, and I really can’t move forward as a grown-up, and I can’t ever find myself with a community and some friends, until I solve the problem(s). This includes any and all attempts to solve other peoples’ problems. Not one single thought should be devoted to “he/she should…” until I’ve solved my own problem(s). To the point of the calling/next professional step, I should be problems-free for at least six months before I even consider taking that step.
While I may never know exactly the origin of these problems, they will never go away by blaming people past and present in my life for the problems. Trying to solve the problems by seeking the origin always ends in a dead end and almost always ends with blaming other people for the problems.
The process of solving the problems may not feel good. I may backslide, but backsliding is not an excuse to give up completely, even temporarily. In fact, it probably won’t feel good and there will be days (especially with the impure thoughts/lust/m problem) that it will seem like it would have felt better to give in to sin.
I must seek out novel solutions, but I shouldn’t let these become distractions. If exercising more or reading a new self help book might help a little, then great, but it shouldn’t become the focal point. Solving the problems is the focal point.
The bottom line is, I used to think that I was almost completely sin-free prior to about the age of 12 when I learned how to give in to impure thoughts in terrible ways. I used to think that my descent into serious sin was gradual up until about the age of twenty, and then it escalated and tapered off, and I’ve been trying to return to my original purity ever since.
The truth is, I was a clever sinner at a very young age, though I was still a child and probably can only held partly responsible for the demos I let in during those years. The truth is, I have sinned a lot from a very young age, and sinned in any number of ways, but I have been mostly contrite and repentant for my sins with the exception of times where I only half-heartedly tossed off a prayer for forgiveness.
The really amazing truth is, I could actually die one day as a man who is much less of a sinner than any other day of my life–perhaps I was born with original sin or sin from a past life, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is so. But, I should be moving to a greater state of righteousness and glory within the fellowship of Christ, not looking back on some idyllic chapter of life that never really was. I should be striving to be someone much better than I ever could have imagined, not the same old me, minus the proclivity to sin via anger and lust. The latter approach is simply a “good enough” kind of place to get to, and it should not be good enough for me.
Now, it is perhaps what I should be striving to get to during the rest of the year and the short term, and I can see it as a stepping stone to something much more amazing — but, I shouldn’t ever think that I can simply stop at a “good enough” place of righteousness. The fact is, that unless God has some other plan for me, and doesn’t intend for me to live much longer, I could die being every bit as righteous and holy as some of the great saintly people I’ve read about. Of course, none of it would happen without God’s help, and none of the glory would be mine.
I can see how this could prove to be a dangerous line of thinking, for the ego. I could easily find myself in a place of going back to thinking I am better than everyone and taking credit for all of the glory of my righteousness for myself. But, I could also see how a “good enough” kind of thinking could cause me to never fully realize the true potential that God has had in mind for me.