Sometimes I feel like this crawfish, wandering too far from the ditch into the dangers of asphalt and vehicle tires. But like this crawfish I put up my claws and face the world with feeble threats. I boldly face that which could easily destroy me, perhaps a little too boldly.
Life hurts. It’s full of dangers and very real attacks. Anything can plow into us and knock us down. Pretty much every one of us has suffered this year. Some of us have been completely knocked down, some are still standing, but barely.
Sometimes we are blessed enough to have a hand reach out, pick us up, and put us back in the safety of the water. We might pinch at it, we might struggle, but eventually we find ourselves at peace. We can breathe again and settle into safety.
Don’t resist those helps.
Life is too crazy and too dangerous to resist the help and care of others. Even if they don’t solve our problems, they can give us comfort through them. Never underestimate the power of companionship or simple kindness from the hands and mouth of another.
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11b-13
A few months ago a sermon on these verses whacked me over my head.
Contentment eluded me for my entire life. I had spent years familiar with these verses but never finding the meaning. Here was someone (Paul) saying he had learned to be content in every circumstance.
Wait. What? How? How was Paul content when he was low, hungry, and in need? Was he bluffing?
I could understand his contentment in plenty. I was frequently quite settled when things were going well, but when times were hard I freaked out, often disastrously.
What was Paul’s secret?
We often hear that last verse quoted as though it were some kind of good luck charm. But “I can do all things” isn’t pertaining to some feat of strength or passing a test. In context it’s so much more.
The secret to Paul’s contentment was his faith in Christ. Instead of depending on his ever changing circumstances for his peace he depended on the solid foundation of Jesus. Jesus never changes. There is no fluctuation in the love of Christ, unlike the other things we put our faith in.
A lifetime doesn’t seem to be enough to grasp this concept. Even though I tried to be content in Christ as all good Christians should be, I didn’t see my idols. For many years I was plagued by anxiety because this or that wasn’t right in my life. I experienced long periods of want. Instead of trusting God and being content, I allowed these periods to devour me. Anxiety and fear ran my life.
Only recently did I discover that I made idols out of so many things. And everything failed me one way or another. Instead of rightly seeing the things I had and desired to have as gifts from God, I made them into demands. When I didn’t get my demands, I became a poster child of discontent. This discontentment then proceeded to destroy many of those good gifts.
It took losing the most important thing in my life (my biggest idol) to show me the power of my idols. It took months of floundering and grasping for that idol to wake me up. I had depended on something temporal, something delicate. When it broke and went away, it almost broke me.
I was drowning but those verses hit me like a lifebouy. Paul depended on Christ, and Paul made it through excruciating suffering. Not only was I made aware that what I had lost was an idol, but I realized that all of those things which had driven my anxiety were idols as well: financial security, steady employment, well behaved kids, a clean house, sex, intimacy, friendships, my pride, etc. All of these things had failed me at times and because I had depended on them I was always left staggering.
Christ never fails. He never gives up on me. He never stops loving me. Even when I run towards my idols He always pulls me back into the fold. When I lean on Him I am never left staggering. It took going through hell to teach me this, but when I started to grasp it I felt a peace like I never have before.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt or have days of discouragement and discontent. I am still going through this trial. I am still suffering. At times I feel like a train is sitting on my chest. It’s hell. I still want to restore what was lost (it is a good thing in and of itself, when properly esteemed). But I am content. Christ is sovereign, God is working for my good and His glory. I don’t have to flail or kick against His Providence because I know it is perfect.
When I am lonely or struggling with thoughts of suicide (I am ashamed to even admit this) or wasting away in pain I can call on Him and He restores peace to my soul. I can read His word and find comfort in His promises, as well as instruction on how to handle difficult people and circumstances. I can know that no matter what happens to me I am secure in my salvation. I may suffer and even die, but my eternity is secure.
Perhaps “I can do all things” means “I can endure all things”. No matter what God gives or takes away in His Providence, we can be sure that if we (like Paul) rest in Him we will endure. If we call on Him when in trial or despair we can find real comfort. When we obey His law and trust in His word we can handle any circumstance that comes our way.
It was either that or: “Love: The Deadly Choice”. You’re welcome.
This isn’t actually that post. While writing and re-writing that post I realized my perspective was off. I was writing about unrequited love but my definitions were off.
I assumed that loving someone and getting nothing in return was a destructive force on one’s well-being. But as I was editing away, I realized that true love has no expectations on its object. When we love someone and expect something in return we aren’t actually loving them.
If we get hurt when they don’t return the favor, were we really loving them unconditionally? Or were we merely looking for a tit for a tat?
Loving someone means dispensing with most of our expectations and loving them simply for them, not what they do for us. Expectations lead to disappointment and disappointment leads to bitterness. When one falls prey to bitterness it is nearly impossible to love. It is best to leave most expectations out of the relationship. Take care of your own actions and don’t place such a premium on the actions of your beloved.
This doesn’t mean that all expectations are wrong. One should have reasonable expectations that the one she loves will fulfill things he gave his word on: vows, promises, agreements on daily living arrangements, and others. However, even when those promises are unfulfilled, she ought to fulfill her own. It was her vow and agreement also.
Perhaps this is when unrequited love does become deadly. One must kill pride and the desire to demand what is owed by covenant. One must choose to love because it is what he or she promised. One puts to death one’s own pride and desire for retaliation and instead chooses to love his or her beloved because that was the promise made: to love until death.
Loving someone like this requires us to forgive when we are wronged, either by omission or by commission. Forgiveness is not an easy thing. Allowing someone back in who betrayed trust or withheld promised benefits means opening ourselves up to the possibility of having our love hurt again. As Christians however, we must forgive because Christ has forgiven us. Christ forgave our debt to God, and unless we want to end up like the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, we have to learn how to forgive debts from others.
And as Christ restored our standing with God we should strive as much as possible to restore the standing of one who has hurt us. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us, therefore we should emulate His love and forgiveness, even when our flesh tells us otherwise.
So, as the song asks, what is love?
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
If that is love, what is not love?
When we impatiently push our beloved to change, we fail to love.
When we are unkind in our words and deeds, we fail to love.
When we hold ourselves in too high an esteem, pushing down our beloved, we fail to love.
When we insist on our own way and put a prerequisite on our affection, we are failing to love.
When we resent our beloved or grow irritated at their failures towards us, we are failing to love.
When we allow evil into the relationship, we fail to love.
When we fail to bear with their weaknesses, think them liars, give up on them, or decide we just can’t handle their failures anymore, we fail to love.
When we quit loving, we have to ask whether we really ever loved at all.
Love is an action. It is a constant choice we make to put others above ourselves. Even though our motives for loving others should not be to gain something in return, it is helpful to understand that sometimes our love will not be returned. Sometimes we are spurned by those we elevate.
This is why promising to love someone is a risky choice. We risk the destruction of our happiness and comfort if that love is not returned.
None of us love perfectly. We all fail to love at one point or many. Knowing this, we should certainly sympathize with those closest to us. They will fail us and we will fail them.
I’ve never thought that way. Sure, I will sit around and waste time. I will neglect my responsibilities and fixate on some unimportant project. I may even stare at a screen for several hours chasing Wikipedia trails or harvesting endless memes.
But is that time for myself?
That’s just settling. Or being irresponsible. Irresponsible if I’m not doing what I should. Settling if I’m not doing what truly makes me happy.
I don’t enjoy spinning my wheels. There has to be an end product to most of my activities. It could be as simple as a clean room. Yes, I do take joy in cleaning, much of the time. Call me crazy.
But some “activities” have no lasting effect. Some things have to be enjoyed for their own sake. Some things can be undertaken even if the end result isn’t exactly what you hoped for. You still gained experience with whatever it is.
Though I have been fairly absent from this site I assure you that I have been productive. Mainly I have been keeping up with my other page, posting every single painting I have ever done. Doing that with a commentary on each one is no small feat.
I’ve also been writing in my “journal” more. Writing by hand tends to slow one down and force him to focus and think about each word (not to mention spelling without a crutch). Most of that will never see the light of day on here. No one may ever read it, it may never help me be productive on this page, but at least it helped me through the difficulties of life for a time.
There is a certain temptation to air all my dirty laundry here. This could easily become just a public diary to gripe about my struggles. But personal matters are often best kept personal, especially when they involve others. So I have tended to stay away from here, just so I don’t fall prey to that temptation.
Honestly, “time for myself” is often just as simple as sitting down and writing out a train of thought that’s been bugging me. Clearing my head and organizing thoughts on a page is frequently all I need to do to relieve the stress of my day.
Never underestimate the number of people who love you and care about you. Even if you don’t hear from them often they are still there in the background somewhere occasionally thinking about you and praying for you and silently cheering you on. I can’t even count the number of people who randomly pop into my head any given day or week who I do this for. I’m bad at reaching out for fear of inconveniencing people, but I promise you are still remembered.
I totally name these posts what I do because I can’t think of anything else to call them. I suppose they are a mish-mash of ideas so the name is apt.
Second thoughts suck. Third and fourth thoughts suck even more.
Spending time with bohemian creative people always gets my wheels turning. I’m still not sure if they are turning in a good way or a bad way. I suppose if they result in some creative endeavor I can consider it good. If they just result in existential crisis… Well…
If you are anywhere in the Jacksonville/Orange Park area tomorrow you ought to come out to our yardsale. We had a small amount of success today, Saturday should be a cakewalk.
An interesting thing happens when spouses reunite. Everything else kinda goes by the wayside. Emotions are stirred. Physical desires flare up. Stories are exchanged. Jokes are made. The outside world disappears for a bit.
It’s like a honeymoon every time. Except our honeymoon was awful. But that’s a story for another day.
I had plans. I was going to take a bunch of pictures of Albuquerque. I was going to make posts. Life was going to keep going as usual. Ha! Yeah right. Once that woman comes into view nothing else exists.
I’ve mentioned before that if you ever stop seeing posts to suspect that I died two weeks ago. I used to be two weeks ahead on this thing. Lately it’s been seat of my pants! So don’t worry, I’m not dead. I’ve just been distracted.
Maybe the rest of this week will be normal.
What’s this “normal” anyway?
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There is a reason God gave us a day to worship Him. There is great refreshment in meeting with the Saints and raising your voices together in worship. Not to mention the wisdom that comes from those who have been living this life for a lot longer than you have. I need those consistent reminders that I am not sovereign and that despite my feelings to the contrary I am well taken of.
I lied. I like how yesterday’s painting came out. But it’s oil, so it takes forever to dry. And it’s too big for my scanner. So no one will ever see it.
This week is going to drag on forever. I know I have said before that absence isn’t a big deal. Well. This time it definitely has been.
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“You literally just dated and married someone from middle/ high school and stayed together?”
Yep. That’s exactly what happened.
Having that pointed out made me realize just how complicated life really is. Especially the finding and keeping a mate part.
I was blessed to meet a girl at the beginning of high school who simply latched on and never let go. One of my fondest memories of our early relationship was when I took her hand to lead her through a crowd and she stayed attached for hours afterwards. She literally would not let go of me. I asked her to go out with me fully expecting her to get over me within a month or so. Nope. She was mine and there was no changing it.
That certainly makes it sound easy doesn’t it? I mean, compared to the majority of people our experience was pretty simple. One girlfriend (unless you count that one for two weeks in 8th grade) and one boyfriend (unless you count that one in kindergarten). No breakups or heartaches, no chasing and wondering, no getting attached to someone who wasn’t interested. Compared to the norm we are freaks of nature.
But it wasn’t easy.
Starting out together thatyoung created all sorts of headaches others avoid. It didn’t take very long to realize that we wanted to be together forever. But since “everyone thinks that about their high school sweetheart” no one believed us. We got engaged in secret and wracked our brains about ways to make it happen. Elopement was not completely off the table, folks.
And temptation… There is a reason the Bible says to get married if you burn with passion. When you are young and truly in love there is a strong passion for physical connection. “True love waits” is a silly slogan. True love commits and becomes one flesh as soon as possible.
It wasn’t easy after marriage either. Being young and immature (though you think yourselves quite wise) makes living with another sinner difficult.
We didn’t have the typical surprises many people experience after marriage. With nearly six years literally growing up together there really weren’t any secrets or skeletons or odd habits we didn’t know about.
No, our difficulties came because we read the wrong books and listened to the wrong advice and took the wrong pills. The first months of our marriage were hell. We had a foundation in the many years together, but the walls built in those first months was full of cracks and holes.
It took a while to get our footing. It took longer to gain any sense of success in our marriage.
How’d we make it work?
Well, first off, divorce is not an option. It has never been a part of our vocabulary. Even during the times when one of us (or both) wants to leave “divorce” is not a word we ever use.
Loads of patience is the second. Love is not love without patience. That may mean waiting a loooong time for a change in your spouse. It may mean years of gentle nudging in the right direction (not nagging, nagging is impatient) before you see a result. It may mean bearing infirmities much longer than you would like. Patience does pay off though. In the long run you find that you can bear more and you love each other more.
Third, a big helping of stubbornness. I won’t let her go. And she won’t let me go. By golly we made this commitment, we are going to keep it! There is no one else that I want, so I am going to selfishly cling to her with all my might. If something I do is hurting her I’m going to work on myself to change it. Because I want her. And she is one thing in my life that I actually have. Nothing else that I want ever seems to happen, so I will hold tightly to the one that has happened.
We were blessed to meet so young (and cursed) but there is no reason why you can’t be blessed to meet someone later in life.
You just have to grab them and not let go.
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According to this woman we should get married not for love but for what the other person brings to the table. We should marry for the network, for the community that we can build, and for the wealth that we can acquire from the marriage.
Basically she says the most important question to ask when considering marriage is “What can he/she do for me?”
While I do agree we should not be jumping into marriage just because our feelings tell us to, I doubt she has thought through the rest of her argument.
Just as feelings fade, so do networks, so does wealth, so does the ability to build. What is she going to do if her man gets hurt and can’t provide what she’s expecting from him? What happens if his business ventures fail or his friends leave him? What happens when they are old and just can’t build anymore?
What is she bringing to the table?
True love is not just feelings and fluff. True love is desiring to serve the other person no matter what. True love doesn’t ask “what is he bringing me?” but instead asks “what am I bringing to him?”
We should get married for true love.
In the long run it is true love that builds a family and a community. True love builds wealth in more than just materials. While it is true that sometimes you don’t like each other, true love endures even the most dull periods of feelings.
I get what she’s trying to say. Don’t marry a loser. If the person you have fluttery feelings for can’t hold onto a job or friends or even family, they may not be ready for the responsibility of marriage. Maybe you should move on if you are ready for marriage.
But should you only consider what the other person can do for you? No. Life is too short and volitile to get married for security and stability. What people bring into a relationship will change over time. What you should be asking is “What am I bringing right now that we can use to build a life together?”
If that answer is “not much” or “I don’t know” you might want to reconsider.