Why am I awake right now? It’s 4:07 AM and adrenaline will not let my body back to sleep. It was probably a cat that woke me. Or a phone notification. Something. But now the adrenaline surges and the nausea begins. My brain will not shut up. There will be no more sleep tonight.
Why am I awake? Why am I where I am in my life right now?
Because in December 2019 I was told “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”
In March of 2020 I was abandoned and told “I’m not hurting you, you’re just hurting.”
Then I found a half empty box of condoms in her apartment. I was foolish enough to think her friends had given it as a gag gift. When I asked if there was someone else I was told “No, but if there was, this would be so much easier.” It would take me a week to break down and ask her point blank in the crassest terms if she was sleeping with anyone. She said she was sorry, but seemed more concerned that I had violated her privacy than sorrowful about her betrayal.
I’m awake because I kick myself for my naivety. I fought to keep her. I tried multiple therapists and counselors. I believed her when after four months of her abandonment she started saying I was abusive. I had to be the bad guy. There was no way she could ever be wrong.
“Even if you changed, I still wouldn’t like you.”
I’m awake because I still think in “what ifs” and wonder what went wrong. I’m awake because I know the truth. But the world sees her façade and supports her. I got off social media almost entirely because it’s mostly garbage. She blocked me shortly after she moved out. But occasionally her account pops up in my face because one of the kids leaves it up on the browser. I know the truth, but so many people are supporting her.
I can only assume they don’t know.
I can only assume they believe her story.
I can only assume what they think of me.
I was accused of “abuse”. She couldn’t give specifics. She couldn’t name times, places, actions. I was simply left reeling and questioning my own intentions. She convinced me I was a monster. What crime was I guilty of? I still don’t truly know.
How many people believe her? How many people think I’m the one who cheated? I’m the one who lied? I’m the one who left her? How many people believe I’m a controlling monster of a man?
I didn’t just lose a 20 year relationship. I have lost pretty much everything. Sure, I got to keep the house (she didn’t want it anyway), but where are my friends? Where is my church family? Where is anyone? Why does she get to have a life on social media complete with likes and comments about how cute she looks with her new man while I lie awake at 4 AM wondering why God hasn’t just killed me?
Has anyone ever loved me? Is every person just a selfish narcissist with varying degrees of skill at hiding it? Am I? Is there something wrong with me for wanting justice here? For wanting people to know the real story? Am I a sociopath? I still don’t know my sins which warranted abandonment and betrayal. A sane person would know exactly what he did wrong. A sane person would believe a woman who accuses him of abuse, because women are never wrong. Men are monsters, we all know that.
She tried to break me. She told me as much. “When I first moved out, I wondered how many men I would have to sleep with to break your love for me. Five? That seemed like a lot…” She didn’t break my love. That’s the unfortunate thing about love. True love doesn’t break. I still love her, despite what she did and continues to do. I’m just very good at being numb. I’m very good at redirecting my love to others. She didn’t want my affection, someone will.
She did break me as a person. This is why I am up at 4 AM. Two years and a new life later, I’m still sick to my stomach.
There is something exceedingly frustrating knowing both sides of a story. Watching a conflict is already heartbreaking enough without knowing all the gory details, but when you see one side and then the other, and both are guilty, it just rips out your soul.
Mediation is vital, but most don’t seek it. One side or the other refuses reconciliation, convinced that “their truth” is “the truth”. Meanwhile I stand by shaking my head at the complete fabrications I’m hearing.
Worse is when one party drops off the face of the planet, while the other lives their “best life now”. Both are secretly suffering, but neither are honest.
I’m growing weary of people. People lie. People mislead. People manipulate. People don’t forgive. All regard themselves higher than the rest. But all are fallen and disgraced. No one is above reproach, no one is innocent.
If you ever find yourself listening to one side of a conflict, stop and consider the other party. They will have their own perspective on the situation, and likely the truth is something down the middle.
And never ever ever validate someone on “their truth”. Acknowledge that they have a perspective, but understand that they have a bias.
Recently I was given a stack of writings which my great-grandfather wrote for my grandma. I love them so much I thought I would share.
This one is titled “The Punk”. I remember this being read to me as a young man of 13 or so, after I had been caught with some friends doing some non-gentlemanly things of which I will refrain from detailing. Needless to say I needed to hear this.
It’s definitely not politically correct, so if you are easily offended you might want to leave. Keep in mind that his was a different time, don’t project your modern sensitivities onto former times.
Let us begin with a sort of syllogism:
The pig is an animal. The pig is without ideals. Man is an animal. Without ideals, man is a pig.
The few ideals I have come to me from my father. He was imperfect, as we all are, but not nearly as much so as he would have been without these ideals. They were “fixed” ideas, and gave stability to his character. I learned while yet very young–without quite knowing what it was that I was learning–that, right or wrong, I could depend on my father. Nothing else could have meant quite as much to a boy. He gave me many a light thrashing, but never one I didn’t deserve. Nor were the thrashings as severe as they might have been. These thrashings were given more for the “impression” than for punishment. “Mercy is greater than justice, ” he thought. Possibly he believed that the way to make an “impression” on a boy’s mind was by way of the seat of his pants. About that I wouldn’t know, but that idea has very often occurred to me. I believe he felt that too often and severe whipping of children was a dangerous practice. Young children are creatures of impulse and learn to reason as they go along. To raise a decent child is, at best, a full-time job and but very few people are properly fitted for it. And too, it is an individual task. Production-line methods will not do, for children are individuals and require individual training. In our modern world children are much influenced by people who never give them a serious thought. I have often been surprised at some of the silliness children bring home from school. And much of this silliness does not come from other children, but from supposedly mature people–their teachers.
My father, for some reason unknown to me, seemed to be prejudiced against the word “gentleman,” and rarely used it. Possibly he wished to avoid the narrow sense in which this word is so often used–particularly by the English. Gentlemanliness was a thing not of birth or wealth, but of behavior. The blackest and most ignorant negro was a gentleman, and worthy of all respect, if he behaved like one. For your amusement I will tell a tale he told us.
Henry Clay visited my grandfather once or twice. One day while taking Clay for a tour of the field, they came to a slave working alone. As they passed, the slave lifted his palmetto hat, and my grandfather lifted his (not palmetto) in return. As they rode on Clay expressed a little surprise at this. “I will never allow so humble a man to surpass me in courtesy,” said my grandfather. As I have run across this same tale, dressed differently, in a dozen altogether places, I haven’t the slightest doubt that it was the purest “malarkey.” Somehow how this courtesy mixed with the word “slave” does not go down well. If the tale was true, I fear that my grandfather was “showing off” before this Kentuckian.
My father’s ideals were–as it appears most worthwhile ideals must be–social. Aside from earning a living, and not entirely aside even from that, the most important things were our relations with the people around us. As I set some of these ideals down, I realize that to many people of today they will appear to have been impractical, or illusory, or Quixotic, or to many young men and women, downright Sir Galahadish. But times change and so do ideas; whether for the better or the worse, each of us must decide for ourselves. Gentlemen, as my father defined the word, are fast disappearing, and it looks as though in a few years they will be museum pieces, like mummies.
A Gentleman will not:
Bully, insult, or in any way impose on those unable to defend themselves
Make a clothes-horse of himself and attract attention by strangely cut and flashily colored clothes, lest he be called a fop or a peacock. Personal adornment should be left to the ladies, with whom it is proper. Man and their clothes are like books–wise words are seldom found in rose colored bindings.
Men are physically stronger than women. This strength carries with it an obligation. The obligation is that this strength be used to aid and defend the weaker. By the weaker is meant men as well as women and children; and by strength is meant mental as well as physical strength. Women, although weaker than men, are the mothers of men. Generally, they suffer more than men, and those who raise families work harder than men. It is the duty of man to make woman’s life as easy and as pleasant as possible. It will be hard enough at best. All women should be treated with respect at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances. There are proper times and places for all things. Men must be very careful of their behavior toward women, especially in public. Anything that bears even the slightest resemblance to familiarity must be avoided. When in public with ladies, men must never speak in a loud voice or indulge in loud laughter. To do so will attract unfavorable attention to the lady. Ladies must never by spoken to across the width of a street. Unless absolutely necessary they must never be spoken to at any distance that exceeds fifteen feet. Only three things are expected of a gentleman meeting a lady on the street–to lift his hat, bow, and keep moving. The first two are not nearly as important as the last. It is the duty of a gentleman, in the absence of a lady’s own friends or relatives, to defend her against insult and injury. This rule applies to children and other weaklings as well.
When a caller comes, welcome him and see that he has a good chair. Then look around for something to offer him. The best you have will not be too good, or the least you have, too little. On a hot day, if there is nothing else, a glass of cool water will be pleasant. This small offering will add to the caller’s feelings of welcome and will help put him at ease. This is an ancient custom and, when done and received with the proper spirit, one of the finest.
The visitor under your roof is sacred, as you will be under his. We are not permitted to insult a man in our house, nor his own.
But, “Alas, how are the mighty fallen.” We go from one extreme to another. My father did not live to see what I have seen–a respectable young lady walking down the street being whistled at, barked at, howled at, and hooted at by every punk within half a mile. My father, had he lived to see this, would have done one of two things; either dropped dead with rage, or hurried after his shotgun. He would have been very certain that the young lady resented all this public sex-inspired hullabaloo, and would have regarded each whistle and cat-call as a separate insult, to be separately taken care of. But I am not nearly as certain of things as he was, for I have once or twice seen young ladies, in the midst of such din, smile, as if pleased or complimented by such a demonstration. I consider: Either this young lady is not as fine a creature as we have believed her, or she does not realize the true meaning of the bedlam created by this pack of more or less sexual degenerates. This demonstration reminds me of another I have seen. It was that of a pack of ten or a dozen male dogs following after and fighting over a female. The male dogs were certain the female was in heat. Apparently this pack of punks assume that the young lady is in the same condition.
Surely these men are not normal. Certainly no group of sane, civilized men would be thrown into such a convulsion by the mere sight of a young lady passing along the street. But–such is the punk.
We have compared the man without ideals to the pig. But we will not compare the pig with the punk. After all, the behavior of the pig is not too bad if we keep him penned up and away from the garden. We are not allowed to pen up the punk–unfortunately. For to be a punk is not a crime–only a tragedy.
I have exaggerated purpsely. I am not through with the punk, nor am I serious. Let us close on a pleasant note:
“The emblem of man should be the axe. For each man always carries one concealed somewhere about his person, and is ever seeking a chance to grind it.”
Sometimes you just have to scrap an entire blog. My original title for this was “Happiness As a Goal”. But I’ve renamed it and rewritten it. And then rewrote it again. And then renamed it again.
So here it is, after a ton of editing:
I have struggled with the concept of wants and needs for a while. God gives us everything we need, so everything we don’t have we don’t need, right? And if God doesn’t give it to us and we don’t need it, it’s sinful to want it, right?
For a long time I felt that contentment meant being completely satisfied with what you have. This means that any desire for something one doesn’t have is discontentment and therefore sinful.
This was my train of thought: It is a sin to be discontent, to be content means you don’t want anything, you are satisfied with what you have. Therefore to want is to be discontent, therefore to want is to sin. Furthermore, God gives us everything we need, if we don’t have it we don’t need it. If we don’t need it we just want it, and wanting anything is a sin.
From the last three paragraphs you can see why my life has become kind of messy. I have shoved down a lot of desires and drives mistaking them for sin. This has made me a bit of a limp noodle. If wants and desires are inherently sinful what’s the point of trying? After all, you’re going to get what you need.
But then I realized that the Bible clearly talks about wants.
“You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:2b-3
James does not condemn his audience for asking for things.
In 1 John we read this: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
One only asks for things if one wants something. Since asking is not condemned, wanting is not condemned. I was wrong to think merely having wants was sinful. God clearly wants us to want things that are in accordance with His will and to ask Him for them. Asking is encouraged, and we are to do it with confidence.
Ultimately I don’t have to feel shame or guilt for wanting things (or experiences, or good feelings). But I do have to ask the question “is this in accordance with God’s will?”
Probably the easiest way to determine this is to ask the questions “Do I want this purely for selfish gain? Does my desire ultimately serve others and/or bring glory to God?” If the answer to the first is no and the answer to the second is yes then I am free to ask and to pursue what I want.
This whole train of thought has further implications, obviously. This is me after all. I can’t keep anything too simple. Keep checking back and I will try to further expound on these thoughts in other posts as I get to them.
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Ever see a peacock strut around thinking he’s hot sh-tuff? Ever see a man doing the same thing?
Much of our culture is posturing. I don’t know why I never noticed it before. From rappers to politicians to kids on the playground, we put a lot of value in posture.
The problem is, it’s all a facade. I act tough to make the middle schoolers I drive around behave, but honestly I’m not the ogre I pretend to be. But when you’re getting stared down by three 13 year old girls, you have to out-mean-mug them to gain any semblance of respect.
Pretty much all the “urban” culture I’m exposed to daily is about posturing. Renting a Lambo for your rap video is a cliche for a reason. Being boujee is a lifestyle to so many people you’re almost weird if you aren’t. Those who can’t afford the appearances resort to physical posturing to make themselves larger than the next kid.
Social media and the blogosphere are perfect examples of posture over reality. Nothing is real online. Every post is carefully crafted to give the best impression of the poster. Even humility isn’t real online, we are too good at the humble brag.
Politicians are masters of the practice of posturing. Party squabbles are nothing but posturing. Nationalism is itself the biggest peacock. Everything in politics is about the appearance of being the bigger, badder character on the block. Get the biggest bomb, have the biggest economy, have the biggest army, anything you can do to make your homeland the biggest.
But posturing is silly. You are not that big. In fact you’re probably just as shattered and broken as the next guy. Most of the time the more extravagant the peacock the more fragile the ego. The higher the mountain the harder they fall so to speak. This applies to bullies on the bus, to politicians, and even to nations.
Perhaps the better policy is less posturing and more honesty. Perhaps we should all start admitting our weaknesses and help each other with our strengths. Perhaps we could all posture a little less and be humble instead.
But that, to the world, is preposterous…
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If you pay any attention to the modern world you’ll notice a buzzword floating around that might be a bit confusing for literalists like me. When I hear a term I pick apart it’s meaning just to be sure it’s being used correctly. Probably the most overused buzzword floating around right now is “social justice.”
Recently there was a meeting headed by John MacArthur to come up with a Christian response to the term. The group came up with a 14 part “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel”. I plan on combing through it over the next few days and give a good summary of what I agree with and disagree with. From my initial scanning I will say I am not totally sold on it.
The more I research the term the more nebulous it’s meaning. Just like the term “toxic masculinity“, the definition of the term “social justice” seems dependent on one’s political beliefs.
What’s my definition of “social justice”?
The “social” part is not hard to understand and for the most part I think people use it correctly. It’s pretty hard not to. “Social” just refers to people. The term clearly refers to how we treat people.
The “justice” part is much harder to understand.
“Justice” is defined by the Google as: “just behavior or treatment”, “the quality of being fair and reasonable”, “the administration of the law” which is somewhat helpful, if we can define “just”, “fair”, and “reasonable.”
“Just” is defined as “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair” which seems clear right? It’s also defined as “(of treatment) deserved or appropriate in the circumstances.”
So who decides what is fair? Fairness is a rather subjective thing. “Deserved” is also a relative term, especially in this day and age of entitlement nonsense.
These definitions are pretty cut and dry when speaking in legal terms. When a civil violation or a criminal action takes place fairness and a deserved retribution can usually be pretty easy to parse out. In “Social Justice” however, fairness and deserts can mean just about anything.
That leaves us with “morally right” and “appropriate in the circumstances”.
As a Christian, I have a basis for the moral treatment of others in scripture: “Treat others as I would have them treat me” “Love my neighbor” and “love my enemy”. To be socially just I must take pains to ensure I am loving those around me. Add “appropriate to the circumstances” and this becomes a slightly more difficult task.
Social justice as a Christian requires a great amount of discernment and attention to individuals. We cannot approach the subject as the pagan world does with blanket platitudes and government programs. We have to be involved with individual members of all classes, races, genders, religions, and whatnot.
To be just we must know what our neighbor deserves (love, first and foremost) in their individual circumstances. We must treat our enemies with love, understanding that they may deserve different things than our family or neighbors (again, they deserve love, but tempered with caution).
Social justice is a silly term for Christians to use. We have had the golden rule for millenia, why use such a trendy buzzword?
I’m just going to keep on treating others with love and kindness.
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Last week I discussed some of the things I do to conquer the physical aspects of anxiety. But what about the thoughts?
In order to kill bad thoughts it helps to understand the motives behind one’s thoughts. Most of my anxious thoughts stem from my severe need to be in control of all things. I am a control freak. When things are out of my control I panic. I begin to think the worst. I lose all faith and go into the selfish cocoon of anxiety.
Knowing what motivates my wrong thoughts helps in creating a strategy to defeat them.
So what do I do?
Well, I take control of the things I actually have control of. Despite my negativity, there are things I actually have some power over. Like my time, my children, and my personal space.
I make a schedule and try to stick with it, understanding that sometimes things happen that make that schedule obsolete for the moment. At the very least I follow a routine and make habits.
I work on establishing healthy boundaries with my children. Kids can be chaos incarnate, but usually only because we don’t put a foot down and make it clear what is allowed and not allowed. Discipline goes a long way towards helping calm that storm. Boundaries are important to all relationships, if there are other relationships in your life that create stress and anxiety it is likely that you need to establish some basic rules regarding it.
By personal space, I mean my house. I have control over the cleanliness and clutter of my home. Part of a good schedule and routine is taking time to organize and clean up. Visual clutter and messes are huge triggers for anxious thoughts. It took me years to figure this out, but it has made a huge difference since.
As for the things I can’t control… (which are far fewer in number than my mind will let me believe) those things get put into my prayers. Only God can control those things.
That may seem like a cop out answer, but I assure you that faith is harder than any scheduling, disciplining, or cleaning. Having faith requires catching my thoughts and correcting them. Taking every thought captive requires constantly telling myself truths to correct the lies that my mind wants to tell me. In order to do this I have to know truths, I have to study and think about truths, and I have to believe truths.
Anxiety is ultimately the antithesis of faith. Faith is ultimately the solution to anxiety.
While Moulin Rouge might have been more of a lust story than a love story it at least gave us some memorable medleys about love (and was a darn good movie).
What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me)… Love, biblically is: patient, kind, not arrogant or boastful, selfless, forgiving, truthful, strong, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and everlasting… All the things that we as sinners seem to have such a hard time being.
Why is marriage so difficult? Because we aren’t loving. As soon as we lose our patience, or distrust our spouse, or hold onto a grudge about something s/he did, we are no longer loving. As soon as we decide we would rather selfishly sit on the couch then get in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, garage, home office, or nursery and lend a hand we are no longer a loving spouse.
Why is parenting such a hardship? Because it is hard to be patient with three year old tantrums or a nine year old’s backtalk. It is hard to be kind when you have been working your fingers to the bone and your six year old demands some attention. It’s very tough as a finite creature to give endless amounts of discipline and instruction to little people.
Love is tough, it does not come naturally to most of us. Movies make it seem so easy. All you have to do is kiss and say some sweet nothings and your life will blossom with joy. Not so with reality.
In reality love is holding your pregnant wife’s hair while she loses her breakfast for the third time that day (for the record my gag reflex was too much. My wife was gracious enough to let me out of this halfway through her second pregnancy). Love is sitting down and helping your nine year old figure out her feelings or giving your six year old a much needed piggy back ride. Love is making your spouse lunch every day. Love is getting up and going to work every day (or staying at home to take care of things there) so your spouse can live out their gifts and talents (at home or in a workplace).
Love is ugly sometimes. It forces us to confront our own narcissism. It makes us crush ourselves so others may rise to greatness. Love frequently leaves us feeling spent and used. There is not always an immediate or even short term return on our investments.
But in the end (the love you take is equal to the love you make), love is worth every struggle and hardship. Every pain will be counted and rewarded.
God rewards our good deeds, and those done in love all the more.
What does your style say about you? Can someone really tell much just by what you wear or what you listen to? What do the various decorations you put on say to the world around you?
I walked into a country western store the other day. Everything in there was country, from the boots to the hats to jeans and the accessories. They even had redneck wine glasses. There was a guy in there with his son and they were both dressed to the hilt with rodeo garb. Needless to say my sandals, t-shirt, and long hair didn’t exactly fit in.
My wife works with a guy covered in tatoos. If you didn’t know him you would probably make an assumption that he has spent a bit of time in prison. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a hard worker who loves his kids.
I crossed paths with two guys in Wal-Mart who could have been drug dealers, but the well put together type. They were nothing but cordial when one of them almost ran into me. Definitely not the kind of reaction I would have expected if I had been judging them by their looks.
Even in church you meet some wiley looking characters. I grew up in a fairly well-to-do area where people dress up for church, and our church at “home” is filled with good-looking, tan, well dressed folks. It was a bit of a culture shock attending a mountain church. Mountain people live in a rough area, and they look the part. People come to church in jeans and graphic tees. They have mullets and scruffy unshaven faces. Some of them even smoke (gasp) in the parking lot. Yet they worship with sincerity and love God with all their hearts.
I love all these folks, from the tatooed characters in Wal-Mart to the well dressed folks in my home church. I may feel very conspicuous around many of them, and they may not always know how to talk to me, but every one of them is a person, created in the image of God, and worthy of love.
When we start judging people or expecting people to be just like us we risk alienating those who most need love. Christians stop spreading the Gospel. Imagine if Christ had avoided some of the people we do.
Now, this doesn’t mean we embrace sin. We shouldn’t be “inclusive” for the sake of political correctness or trying to make our church bankrolls bigger. Outright unrepentant sin should not be accepted by any true church.
But judging people by how they look and by their style is something no one should do.