If I knew precisely what Jesus wanted me to do, would I actually do it? Perhaps I am really still too scared to find out. What if I met Jesus in a vision or dream, knew it was him, and he told me to leave behind my family to live in some place like Iraq trying to convert people to Christianity? Or, less dramatic, he told me to forget about seminary and pick up my family and move them to Philly’s worst neighborhoods and start a ministry there.
If I manage to work my mind into a state where I feel all warm and gushy and Jesus-y, and start getting excited about knowing and doing only holy things and not doing much thinking for myself, I am soon disappointed to find that it is likely not the case that Jesus wants me to completely give up my brain for the sake of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is much harder to understand than the pain and disaster that comes from moving in the completely opposite direction, and only spending time with God now and then in church.
It seems like there is a terrifying learning curve for me to simply become my true self. Not my true Self as in some grand, Buddhist or New Agey sort of way–where I tap into a universal consciousness and lose my ego to all and One. I am talking about the me I was built to be before I allowed too much of the devil and a will to please others run my life.
Who knows who my friends in school would have been? I am guessing that at least by college, they wouldn’t have been the dorm gang I joined. But, beyond this, how can I possibly rectify decades of bad social training? There are no simple analogies or answers for this one. An analogy like a Honda trying to be a Corvette doesn’t cut it. Every time I try to re-ignite the “me” of social media, I am bombarded with all of the old drinking and dorm friends. They always seem to want something from me that I just can’t give them. They weren’t the ones who were being phony–or, maybe they were, but that’s hardly for me to discern. Judging from the fact that most of them seem to be little changed over the course of time, I would have to say that I was the one who was playing at being someone I was not.
Really, I’ve written about a lot of this–what I need to figure out is how to be a different sort of person than the person I have been. I need to be intensely watchful, like a hawk, of all of the bad behavior patterns rising up within me. But, how can I do this if I haven’t set out to define myself for who it is I should be? The ability to pick at myself and critique and know what ISN’T supposed to be there is endless. Yet, what of what should be there?
It is easy enough to say that I need to trust Jesus to fix those things that I am powerless to change, but I honestly don’t know how this can actually work. I have cried out to Jesus many times to heal me of some of my worst soul sickness, to help me, and I often do not feel the least bit like I have unburdened myself and will be getting help from a higher power. I have certainly spent even more time trying to figure out how to fix myself on my own without any help, but I think I’ve exhausted all of those options as well, short of flagellation of the flesh.
Oddly enough, I can somehow still manage to cobble together in my mind a plan that looks new and get excited about it, but plans like that never last.
I think that instead of having a neat, linear path of development for my whole self, that can be measured up against other people who are the same age as me, there are tiny little pieces of self that remain stunted in their growth. These pieces are smaller than even divisions around, say, the spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, etc. selves. These pieces are more like: how should I act and speak when I am in this X,Y,Z situation? What is good and right when faced with a difficult ethical or moral dilemma?
Such pieces are often like little monsters that rear their ugly heads if you try to awaken them and sort them out. You mostly repress them, put them to sleep, and come up with some sort of auto-pilot way of being that gets you by and helps you not have to deal with things like how angry you might get when someone shuts you down in a group conversation setting. The act of trying to meet and deal with many of them when you are also trying to simply live a decent life into your middle age can be like walking a tightrope on fire.
Some people will strongly urge you to not even bother with addressing those pieces of you that never grew up quite right. “Fake it until you make it,” they say, “work toward something good that draws you toward it.” This makes a lot of sense until you find yourself behaving badly because an unsuspecting coworker or friend has triggered and awakened a sleeping dog you worked so hard to keep asleep. Like anything else, there has to be balance in your approach to a thing, I suppose.
Except, I also crave some kind of radical change. I always have. I have memories of being in the fifth grade and creating highly ambitious schedules of mental and physical development for myself, where every hour of my summer was mapped out to maximize the betterment of myself. And, I have memories of repeating this kind of schedule-making into my thirties before giving up. It never works, because things always come up that you want to do or have to do that weren’t on the schedule, and the things you swore you’d force yourself to do rarely get done with any staying power unless you are being motivated by the promise of, say, a beautiful woman’s attention.
My motivation today has more to do with not ending up like my dad, who went into a kind of fat hibernation throughout his forties and fifties, ballooning up to almost 300 lbs, while smoking a lot and drinking a little. I guess my mom’s several bouts with cancer made him change for the most part. He realized he’d be dead by sixty if he kept up the non-regimen of getting fatter and fatter.
Now, I have this noticeable belly and side fat that annoys the shit out of me. I go out and run for about forty minutes, and then I don’t want to run again for a week or more. I stop drinking until life drives me crazy. I get my weight back down to about 200, and then it just kind of stays at that. When I biked and ran like crazy, I had gotten my weight down to 175, but I would be delighted with 190. Not for any other reason than just to not look like I am on my way to becoming like so many dudes I see around here in Waco, waving their enormous guts with pride like they probably waved their dicks back in high school. I sincerely believe these dudes are proud of being slightly on the obese side–a mark of having found some kind of work that doesn’t require them to get in real physical shape, even if it is some kind of manual labor. Running out in the heat, hitting the gym, that’s for women, boys and metrosexual men–says they. But, really, they just can’t face the enormous uphill battle that is involved with getting your ass in shape after 40. However, they have no problem eating like they are 20. I am getting to be a lot like them because I am comfortable in my marriage and exercise is a ferocious amount of work and pain that didn’t seem to be there when I was 20.