“It is not death that a man should fear, but rather he should fear never beginning to live.” -Marcus Aurelius This quote from Marcus Aurelius is thought provoking and frankly quite scary, why? Because his words cut deep in the human framework. Lately, sleep has been a fight for me, there have been a lot of dreams that take place in the spiritual realm. For those that don’t know much about me, I consider myself to be a religious person, despite my imperfections and the many-a-time that I’ve wandered from the path. As a religious person, the reality of death frightens me at times, even though I believe that I am eternally secure in Gods grace. The stoics spoke of death more than most because many of us run from the fear of death itself. We try and remove the fear of death from our minds by filling our minds with more busy times. And yet, time is passing, and we are growing older with time. Have you begun to live? How do we begin to define living? Personally, in my heart of hearts I’ve felt like I haven’t begun to live. Not even come close what I want to accomplish in life. The People that I want to try and help, the legacy that my heart desires to live. We put some much time into earthly things, thinking that they will bring lasting hope and significant, but they won’t nor will they ever. There was a movie producer once, that became so addicted and driven by money, that he kept saying to himself “one more million and I’ll be happy.” Was he? No, in fact even sadder his fat was a cold and dark one. I fear the worst of what God would say to me, upon seeing him in eternity… Him asking me: “Brandon, what did you do with the time I gave you?” And my fearful response would be, “Not much my king.” “For I didn’t make the most of the time and chances given to me.”
The serenity prayer is one of my favorite prayers to recite,
God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And the wisdom to know the difference.
The prayer is simple, but one that is always there in time of need. It also can be one that serves and comforts you. The first step is the acknowledgement of God, and our need for his mercy and help. One might stumble over the reality of a higher power existing, regardless of how one believes or feels.
There will be times in life (for all of us) when we feel powerless over our circumstances, and we will most certainly seek help outside of ourselves. Even if it is from another person or group of people. In these times, we seek out hope, wisdom, truth and even serenity. It points further to the reality that as humans, we were never meant to walk alone. Hold onto this given inclination, it might point you to the greatest truth ever discovered or even your destiny might be revealed.
Things we cannot change
All of us in life are surrounded by things we cannot change, for example, one could wake up in a perfectly good mood and ready to take on the day. Despite that, however, there might be the furthest from how you woke up. In fact, if you or I are not in control of faculties, we can find ourselves absorbing their very own mood. This is written from both experience and repeated failure. There are times in life where it is easier to deal with the world around me, and others where nothing but chaos surrounds. Anxiety pounces, and depression finds a way to mix itself in.
A few things that have aided me in this, beyond saying this prayer, is slow breathing through the nose and out the mouth: Breathing in 5 seconds slow and exhaling 5 seconds slowly. Repeat this for 2-5 minutes daily. The second practice is knowing that you cannot control how people act or what they decide to do. If on the other hand, were the cause of another’s problems, then take ownership of it as much as you can. Make the amends that are needing, with the understanding that is up to them how they respond. Thirdly, pray, even if you have never prayed before. There have been times, when alone that my prayers have been screams and laments. Though, I am not proud of the fact, none the less God’s spirit has always comforted me.
The Things We Can Change
Most often the things we can change, are the same things we refuse to do. Our hearts have a God ordained way of letting us know what’s wrong and what requires fixing. Yet, we knowingly suppress the truth of what we should do. For instance, we might believe that it is time to embark on the path of our own destiny. And yet, we don’t because we’re afraid of the judgement or attitudes of others. What we are meant to do, will continually rise to the surface until we do what must be done. We might not be able to control what happens around us and to us, but we can change how we respond to them. It takes a lot of time, and grace but it is a skill set that can be improved upon.
Its also something that you will fail at, a lot, rather learn to get back up quickly and stay on course. We can change quite a lot about ourselves, we only must be able to put in the work daily. We can learn self-control, to eat better, we can shed weight or body fat, we can improve the relationship around us, we can make the environments around us look and feel better. There is so much more that can added to the list, if only we let the discover the dreams and visions that God has placed inside of us, then we will find a mode of being and a true reason to live.
A man is called to adventure when the time comes to leave the home of his mother and father, it’s echo’s the words of Genesis 2:24: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. This is the reality for most abled bodied men, parents know that the day will eventually arrive, and the father usual takes it better than the mother. The mother typically wrestles more when their son or daughter leaves home and embarks on the journey and adventure of them, because there is a fear that overcomes them, usually about the safety and well-being being of their child. Any parent that had any amount of sense to them would feel this way, even that of a rugged and strong father. Imagine if your son or daughter was born with a disability, the fear that would fill a parent then. That sense of freedom and adventure still fills them as well.
My mother and I have butted head quite a few times, one of which times was when the desire for me to attend college, away from home. She didn’t like the idea at all, in fact she shot it down and told me that the only way that attending college would be a reality, was if it was online. Her reasoning was that it would be much safer for me, and she could help should something happen to me. And as much as she shot down my desire to attend college outside of the home, the more the desire for me to fight for what I wanted came out. We had a few several heated arguments, at this time the ability to be able to control my emotions was rather difficult and thinking before the words came out of my mouth didn’t exist as a practice. My mother is a very stubborn woman in nature, and she doesn’t back down until she gets what she desires, so you can naturally see where my same attitude comes from.
My father graciously took me to tour a few college campuses in town, truthfully, which could have been any local college, but it was the size of a few colleges freaked me out and ultimately it seemed right to me to choose a very small faith-based college. After getting accepted to the college of my choosing, which was a very simple and straight forward process, came the time to pack up my things in move into my dorm. If my memory serves me correct, my mom stayed home and my dad and sister helped me move into my dorm, my mom had tears in her eyes as we were leaving. Which in a way made me feel bad, but this was something that God has called me to do, and when he commands, you execute the mission at hand. There was even uneasiness in my own heart because of the realm of “no man’s” land that awaited me. After several hours and trips back and forth from my dorm room, it was time for my family to leave. My dad tried to play it tough, but deep down, he was terrified as well.
It wasn’t as though, there were hundreds of miles from home either, literally the span of time was twenty minutes. The four and a half years that was my college experience was some of the best years of my life, but my God did learning come through hardship and even pain. One day in the cafeteria while trying to transport a cup a coffee to the table while driving my scooter, sometimes my brain didn’t connect the dots, between turning the speed down on my scooter and the hot cup of coffee held between my legs. The coffee spilled all over my lap, which was a very painful and frankly embarrassing experience. Or in a similar experience, but only dropping an entire plate of food on the ground. There isn’t another time in my life, where the struggle was so real, apart from recovering from a severe operation, but you know what? It was deeply-deeply satisfying to my soul.
This has been one of the most profound regrets of my life, was that there wasn’t room for much struggle and toil in my life. Well, why would you want struggle and toil in your life? You might ask, because you find out what you can do as a man, and when you overcome a challenge in life, you feel as though you were Samson, who killed a lion with his bare hands. Sometimes parents of children who have disabilities ask me for advice on how to raise their children, there’s no real words of inspiration, but in a frank and compassionate way, I tell them that eventually you must let your children struggle and fight. Love them yes, care for them yes, but sometimes love is letting a person experience things for themselves. This isn’t to say, that you should be careless with your child and let them do horrible dangerous actions because they’ll learn. The point is that when it comes to mastering their lives, they must know how to succeed and thrive in hard times.
Whether that’s learning how to cook, tie shoes, button up a shirt and so on. It may be difficult for a parent to stand back to hear your child to become frustrated and even cry. But when they overcome the challenge in front of them, they will gain a confidence in themselves and be ready to take on the next. There is always the reality of adaption, meaning that if something is physically out of the realm of possibility for them, because of lack of dexterity in the hands find a device that can that reality more doable. Example being, tying my own shoes was nothing something that was very doable because of the lack of dexterity in my right hand, so my sister went to a shoe store and got me some shoelaces, that you didn’t need to tie, but pull for you shoe to become tighter on my feet. In terms of buttoning my ow shirt, some buttons are far easier than others, or I’ve learned that if buying a shirt that’s dressier I’ll simply put the shirt over my head without unbuttoning the shirt all together.
There’s almost always a way to adapt to a situation in life, we only must be willing to find that solution. The plea that is in my heart for parents who have disabled children is beyond what words can possibly express. There’re are profound consequences if you do not allow your children to grow, not only will their growth be stunted in every sense of the word, but they may never get to fully embrace the dreams that God has breathed into their hearts. Worse yet, if you do not allow them to grow and move into the world in as much as they can, the chances of the developing a great amount of shame within themselves is very high. Speaking from experience, the intense shame that I’ve battled for thirty-seven years of my life has been much. Sometimes the shame was so intensifying that the longing for sleep was my only way to obtain peace. Trying to mount any sort of fight against it proved to be futile. The shame that made its home inside me, seemed like a resident that would never leave, and one that was better off accepted as reality.
The more that the attempt was made to simply shrug my shoulders, and the reality that was before me. The more unsettled my spirit became. My spirit became increasingly unsettled because on the inside of me, was the inclination that there was far more to my existence than even realized. Getting to a point where the culmination of my life’s purpose was before was a completely different story. The few things that have ever filled me with passion and fulfillment was writing, martial arts and fitness, and by the grace of God those avenues have been used to help others but not to the potential of what I believed to be right. The vision that unfolds in the sketch pad of my mind, was being a best-selling author, and helping others become healthier safer by the hundreds. It can be said that life doesn’t always work out the way we planned it. But we damn sure, should be able to take aim at the highest marker possible. It is better to aim and miss then to not have aimed at all.
Sadly, a good deal of the clients that I’ve worked with haven’t been able to take that aim either. As one that works as a fitness, nutrition, and health coach, most of my clients end up wanting to share their stories with me. The story is much of the same, they spend most of their time at home within different family dynamics. Many of them on some level of fixed income, some even have no means of transportation and or healthy amounts of in person social life. As a result, most of their mode of being is spent online via social media and other means of communication. These are in some ways, the forgotten people of society, both men and women. Meaning that they aren’t readily seen as the ones will conquer and make a difference in the world. They must fight harder to be recognized. Many of the clients that I’ve worked with over the past few years, have echoed the same feelings that their lives at times, are utterly meaningless and worthless. As though they will never get to embrace the adventure and longings that are indwelled within them. The simple way of saying it, is that they fear that they will never get the independence they long for.
The increasing difficult as a coach to inspire, share empathy and share wisdom, while fighting those realities myself is monumental. As a man, it is even more agonizing to the soul. Primally speaking the man is the one who is meant to go out and hunt. The word hunt, in this sense is used as the means to gather the things needed for survival, not only of the self but of the pack (the pack meaning family). Women largely do not select a man, who cannot go out into the wilderness of life and hunt for the betterment of the tribe. More in the nature of how they are wired, than mere coldness, though it can be portrayed that way. It can be a very difficult and taxing reality to swallow as a disabled man. It is a reality that we should come to terms with, not in a hopeless or blind acceptance, but one with increasing optimism.
The biblical figure of Abraham was 70 years old before God called him to pack up and leave all the comforts of home. He and his wife were also without children, the age of Abraham never truly stood out to me, until the moment the journey began through the bible again, my eyes saw the number of age his was and a sense of panic filled me. “what!? No God I can’t be like Abraham!” being 70 years old living with my family still, let alone with no children of my own. You see though, Abraham is the definition of the increasing optimism that was mentioned above. As Romans 4:17-19 informs us:
17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”[a] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
17 As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations[a]—in the presence of the God in whom he believed,the one who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. 18 He believed, hoping against hope, so that he became the father of many nations[b] according to what had been spoken: So will your descendants be.[c]19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered[d] his own body to be already dead (since he was about a hundred years old) and also the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
Others translation use the wording of “without weaking in his faith.” Or “against all hope. The fact is this, he never gave up even in the moments where he or his wife felt discouraged. Our own inner dispositions must be the same, so much that no matter how long it takes us to reach the destination that God has destined us for, by his grace we will get there. It bears repeating that the faith that Abraham possess, is not something that here kindled up within himself, but the faith that he has is God given. That same faith can lay dormant, I’m not attending to imply that all people have faith, but that in the grappling of our hearts can sometimes be the indication that there is something more going on. Such was the case in my own life, in the disparity and questions that weighed in me, was God himself waiting for his intended divine moment to reveal himself to me. Of all the times that was spent trying to suffocate the reality of God, it turned out to be my deepest need and longing. His love is the most sustaining reality of all life and existence. After my heart and mind were open to the revelation of Christ, there became an ever-increasing awareness of not only the gifting of how God wired me, but dreams as well. As a child the exposure to martial arts and writing came early, they were both gifts from God that needed cultivating and development over time. When academics were still very hit and miss for me, my mom gave me the ultimatum of sitting down to take a stab at writing a book or stick it out with college. Eventually, came the longing to find a wife, scripture even says that he who finds a wife finds a good thing. Yet my eyes always rolled when reading that verse after a series of failed relationships.
It’s probably taken me more time than I’d like to mature in relationships, going from chaos to wanting to seek health in the bonding of two people. (I’ll unpack more of what that means later). With every failed relationship and every year that passes, is like an artist trying to sketch an image in their mind on piece of paper, only to rip it up and throw it away. Even though the moments of wanting to ditch this specific desire in me were quite intense, God has a way of bringing the desire to mind. Even though the desire is ever present and real, the question that soon follows is how? How is this going to work? That or follow up questions of “when Lord?” or “who would be strong enough to enter my context?” Answer to these questions have a way of befalling me, but the reality that settles me is trust. We must trust that even if God is the orchestrator of salvation, he will also do so with the rest of our life and mission. No matter how long it takes, as it did with Abraham.
My past has been haunting me the last few days, or rather I should say, resurfacing. My stomach has been is shambles. A fire burning up my insides if you will. I’ve done so many stupid things in the past, the natural response is to say that we’ve all done things we regret or are not proud of. Yet when my own past come to my mind again, it has a way of making me feel like the worst, disgusting sinner alive. Life could be going smoothly, and then out of the blue a memory comes popping up. Usually a condemning state follows:
“Hey, remember when you did this and this? Yeah, you’re a real piece of ####” Then those same condemning statements, have a way of sinking down into the depths of me. Regardless of how much I try and shield them from attacking me so vigorously. So how do we begin to deal with these seeming random thoughts that come are way?
Well for one: We can Acknowledge them
What I mean is this, while it may be uncomfortable to do so. Acknowledging the thoughts is actually very useful. You can simply say, “yes that happened, and I hate that it did.” Now, the trick to acknowledging it, is also making sure that you’re not let down a spiral of inner destruction where we spend hours beating ourselves up. This of course, comes from someone that also fails at that as well.
I only share that, so people can learn from that mistake as well. It can be very difficult to find the balance, in accepting and acknowledging our sins and not completely mentally flogging ourselves. But it is needed.
Again this is not an easy route and often it requires a huge chunk of humility and letting go of ego and pride. The reason I say this, is because of the people in the world, who’s disposition is “I’d never seek forgiveness of anyone.” Which leads to its own consequences. Forgiveness is actually a pivotal role in healing and arriving at a place of peace. Forgiveness, may require actually approach the person you hurt, and seek their forgiveness. Now then, whether they grant you forgiveness or not, is not for you to decide. Perhaps, they will forgive in time. The fact and reality remains that you did your part. Forgiveness is not only good on a human to human level, but it is also good on a spiritual level as well. Knowing that God can not only forgive you of your sins, but in a great exchange gives you his righteousness. Thus, when the father God looks us, he does not see us in our sin.
Know Who You Really Are
You may have noticed, that I put a bit more emphasis on the forgiveness of God, rather than human forgiveness. Reason being is because another human, might not grant you forgiveness when asked for it. However, if a person comes to God with a contrite heart, and whole heartedly asks God for forgiveness, the beauty of the gospel is that God is not one to say no. What kind of God would he be, if he said no?
When you are forgiven in Christ, there is no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus, the old has gone and new has come. Yes, there might very well be consequences as a result of our actions. That’s merely apart of living in this world. It will in fact, take some courage to face the past and make amends if possible, the difference is, is that you will not be alone in doing so. The spirit of God will be with you at all times.
Get Your Act Together I’d like to end with this, the love and forgiveness of Christ, is not a free card to sin endlessly. No, it is a call to join the ongoing battle against the flesh and sin. It is a call to get your act together and be better than you once were. To submit the former self and way of living. It’s a chance to live for a higher calling and purpose. You don’t have to keep living as you once were, the shame of past regret does not have to define you. You can be a completely different person, with all new desires, hopes and dreams.
I’m going to try and express what living with depression feels like, and the battle that wages violently in my mind. I have long wanted to open my chest up and share the grappling match that takes place from within. My aim here is not sympathy, but rather to be candid not only for my own personal reasons but to help others as well. As that has always been my biggest goal in this life. Many times the depression that I experience inside, is like that of what person being attacked by a group of people. Completely outnumbered, and all I can do is cover up to guard myself even a little bit from the heavy blows. Often, there is a smile on my face, but that often is a mechanism to not show what’s truly going on. I’ve been smiling my whole life, so in some ways it’s my default. I’ve learned and sadly so, not to open up because then I won’t have to deal with the responses of others. People of faith have told me (over the years) that my faith is weak if I wrestle with depression, and if I go down the spiritual check list, everything should be just peachy. Little do they know how harmful statements like that are. Or “you have a good life, what could you possibly feel depressed about?”
With that line of thinking, its okay for everyone else to have bouts with depression and despair-just not me? It only makes me want to close myself off all the more. It’s painfully lonely when you feel so stuck in life, you keep spinning your wheels and feel as though you aren’t going anywhere . Similar to being stuck at the back of the line always. Often, it feels like I’m paralyzed on the inside and can’t move. And yet, each and every day, I get out of my bed and do what I’m supposed to. The dark enemy in my mind says “you better get comfy, because this is all your life will ever be, because you’ve blown it too much to get better.” And as many times as I have attempted to drive out the dark enemy, all I want to do is curl up under and blanket and not move.
A few days ago I was listening to a man, who deeply depressed, and so to attempt to get the pain to stop. He jumped off a bridge in San Francisco, by the grace of God he survived, but what he said struck me. He said that as he was falling off the bride, he instantly regretted the choice he made. He said that many people don’t want to die, they only want the pain to stop. And you know what? He’s exactly right, I have had many dark nights of the soul, I have even spent days in a hospital, and I can attribute myself resolve to stay in the fight, to God gracing me with a stubborn hope. Anne Lamott says
““Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
Going back to the analogy of being beat up by a group of people, after the beating, I lay there for a while. But eventually I find the strength to get back up. It reminds me when Neo fights the agent in one of the final scene, Neo is getting his ass handed to him, the agent thinks that he has completed his task at finally shutting neo down. And yet Neo gets back up again, the agent in a state of disbelief wonders what’s in Neo that helps him get back up. Why!? Why do you persist!?
I persist because in the depths of who I am, I know that there is something else on the darkness. In spite of such paralyzing heaviness. Christ has given me himself and he alone is my anchor in life. And even he got back up after the worst suffering imaginable. The other night, a friend reminded me that depression is not my true identity. That being a beloved child of God is, that is my truest self. As we walk, crawl and drag ourselves through the heaviness , know that you were never meant to carry your pain alone. You can cast all your pain upon Christ because he cares for you. I’m reminded of the line, in the foot poem “when you see only one pair of foot prints, it was then that he carried you.”
I don’t know when the pain will end- or that it will even stop. But I can tell you, that it is worth it, getting up each time you feel destroyed by life’s current. You never know what life could turn out to be.
Throughout history, many people, poets, pastors, theologians and even philosophers have tried to do the best that they can to make sense of suffering within the human experience. After all suffering has been with us since the beginning of time and human existence. Even though, I myself have much first hand experience with suffering, there is something inside me that hesitates. Probably because so many other thoughts of wisdom and hope have already been uttered.
Yet, I believe that holy spirit is softly whispering from within, saying “share what I have placed inside you.” So when the holy spirit commands, the obedient son or daughter must follow. One of the most frequent objections to the existence of God or any other divine figure has been the reality of suffering. Cancer, AIDS, rape, murder and suffering in all other forms all stop us in our tracks.
Why would any sort of higher power even allow suffering? That’s a very good question that we all have asked regardless of creed or background. Cerebral Palsy, was the cross I was given when I was born. If you want a full breakdown of my story, you can check out my first book The Emotional Struggle on Amazon.
With having cerebral palsy, my life has been tested with not just physical pain from surgeries and therapy. But emotional and mental pain as well. I’ve had the entire lower half of my body operated on, each other operation taking a year or more to recover from. Doctors and professionals with the realm of education, telling me that I wouldn’t amount to much because I wasn’t smart enough.
To add more to the equation, throughout my 36 of life, there have been battles against depression, anxiety and there was once an attempted suicide. Why? Because I felt so trapped in my own life circumstances, as though nothing could or would ever change. Others in the world have faced suffering far greater than even my own.
Nowhere in my life was I ever starved to death, or tortured by evil and wicked people. Which is another reason why there was a hesitation inside me to share in the first place. And yet the starkest of realities is that some of us never make it out of suffering. Not so much in the reality of suicide, but that some of us never find a way to prevail in spite of it. Some make the choice to let the weight of suffering swallow them up like a tidal wave. As mentioned above, many of us ask of the why of suffering.
The why is important, but dare I suggest that the why is not as important as the how. How are we not going to let suffering swallow us up? How are we going to come out the suffering more brighter and courageous? I will caution you (the reader) in that, if you decide to ask the how. You must also decide to follow through with whatever the how asks of you.
For example, if you discover that your how, is being able to look at years of trauma or destructive habits. Are you willing to face it all? Are you willing to endure the process of what it takes to heal and start new chapters of your life? The consequence of not doing so, means that everything in your life stays the same.
And in choosing to stay in that reality, also then means that you’re fundamentally making a choice to cling to that suffering. Reasons for that might very well be, that it’s all you know. On the other hand, some of us are far too stubborn (such as myself) and know what we should do and end up not do it. Regardless, we both are making a choice.
In processing and embarking on our how, we first need a new perspective on suffering. That may raise some eyebrows, but it’s the only option we have. We can agree that suffering sucks, it hurts and can beat the will out of us. But if we slowly started looking at the suffering in our lives differently, we might very well find that there is more to live for.
The author of the book of James in the Bible, he says to “count it all joy” when trials come our way. As humans, we scoff and even are appalled by such statements. Because there is nothing joyful about suffering on the surface. But as the author continues by saying
“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James says, in other words that suffering we endure, produces something in that. That something is steadfastness. Meaning that we are anchored in something greater than ourselves. We admit that suffering is awful but we are not destroyed by it. When the grace of God allows to become more steadfast with time, we can find that a sense of calmness fills us up. Where we don’t always have to fly off the handle because life is not going how we want it.
This true peace and steadfastness is in divine, because one could not find it anywhere else. As much as I love stoic philosophy and philosophy in general. It does not lead to true peace. In my own life, I have surveyed every world religion and even tried meditation and even believed that I would come back in my next life as some other person. The biggest problem with that rests in the reality that, you can never know if you have done enough good to outweigh the bad.
Biblical writes like James and Paul, their how is Christ himself. Christ for them, is the how to transcending the suffering and not simply running from it. But rather they can stare that suffering in the eye knowing it won’t win in the end. For James and Paul, they know that something far sweeter is at the end of suffering.
So that patiently and even joyfully endure, while living out the mission that God has set before them. Let us not forget Christ himself, Christ was sent by God the father in human likeness. In the Philippians 2:7, it says that Christ “emptied himself” interesting, what on earth might that mean? To empty comes from the Greek word Kenosis, Tony Evans has a very clear and beautiful way of explaining this, when he writes:
What does the self-emptying of Christ mean? The theological doctrine is called the kenosis, from the Greek verb meaning “to empty.” Did He empty Himself of His deity and become merely a man? No, the focus of His self-emptying is not heaven, but earth; that is, what Christ emptied Himself into. He didn’t empty out God and pour in man. Rather, He emptied all of God into man. In other words, He didn’t stop being God. He didn’t say, “Deity, I’m going to leave You in heaven and go down to become humanity.” Furthermore he writes: What Jesus did was take all of His deity and pour it into humanity so that He became much more than mere man. He became the God-man-God poured into man. Let me tell you something impor¬tant. When Jesus Christ did something about your sin and mine, He didn’t give us the leftovers. He poured all that made Him God into man so that man would have all of God. There is nothing that belonged to God that man didn’t have when Jesus emptied Himself into man.
One of the reasons that Christ came to live among us, I believe, was to show us humans that he is the answer to the human condition and suffering. Even when on the cross, Christ took all our suffering on himself. Moreover, the cross shows that even in spite of suffering still present. The cross still shows that Christ is present with us. I don’t believe I’ll ever understand why God chooses to heal some but not others, but I do believe that he has given me the greatest gift ever, himself, his love, his presence and grace. What is more amazing, is that eternity with Christ, means no more suffering and complete joy.
Until then, Christ is my how in my own journey. He is why I can give all my fear and anxiety, and instead breath in his peace. He is why I can have joy and smile in the midst of life not being as desired.
In college an area of psychology that truly intrigued me was the area of addiction, mainly how addiction rewires the human brain and changes the way human behave. I’m pretty sure what stopped me from fully pursuing the route was the amount of schooling and debt that I’d rack up at the end of all. Still, however, the area still fascinates to this day. And something that came to my attention recently was the idea “hijacker”.
That is, in simple terms it’s very much like a voice in the human brain that tells us it’s okay to go back to the things that give us comfort. It doesn’t have to be things as extreme as drugs or pornography. But it can be things as simple as food, spending money on things you don’t need, binge watching a show and so on.
The “hijacker” is the voice that says “it’s okay, go back to whatever substance it is, you’ll feel better after.” And that’s the lie, you might feel better after. But your still stuck in the same old destructive cycle. Still filled with shame, regret and feeling hopeless…
And yet we are not hopeless. Recently I heard a therapist say that the hijacker isn’t you talking. The Hijacker is the one you can feel starting to raise its voice in the certain contexts that make us want to run back to fake comfort. The apostle Paul had an extremely similar thought process in Romans 7:14-15 when he said:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
Paul understood that this wasn’t necessarily him, but something else trying to take over. And that’s the key to winning the battle. We have to start to be on watch, so when it does lurk its head up. We can notice it and quickly shut it down.
You can heal. You can overcome. But it won’t be own your own or on your own strength.
When I got accepted into college years ago, there rested inside me a fascination of the mind. Why people acted as they did and more so what happens inside the mind that sent some people into deep cycles of addiction and destructive behaviors. My degree path of choice was psychology, at first (because of my interest in addiction) I felt a calling to working in that particular area of psychology.
And yet.. For some reason, something moved me away from that specific area into a more generalized focus in psychology. And you know what? looking back, I very much regret not pursuing that path.
It probably was the amount of time and money/debt that moved me away from it. God only knows where I could be now if I jumped into addiction counseling with all my mind, heart and strength. College these days though, seems to be a total joke to me.
As being an online personal trainer and nutrition coach, the last three years. I find that much of my four year psychology degree comes out in my daily practice. To some in my life, that four year degree that I got at a small faith based college was not the best choice. But from my vantage point, that “pointless” psychology degree was the best four years of my life. I learned so much, made some really great friends and truly bloomed in my faith.
I wouldn’t trade that for anything, I truly believe that those four years of my life was the way God ordained it. I guess at this point in my life, I’m trying to figure out what the Lord would have me do with this desire and many others in my heart.
This might seem strange to some, but I could easily see myself leading recovery meetings and helping others heal and break free from the hooks of addiction. I guess in a lot of ways I can relate to those struggling with addiction myself, because I am an addict in my ways.
And you know what else?
We are all addicts. The Bible has it right (as it always has) when it says that that we are slaves to something. Something, if not God has the attention and adoration of our hearts.
Have you ever had a dream inside you, that you wanted to come true so bad? Yet no how much you pray, try to improve yourself so that the dream can happen, it actually doesn’t.. This is exactly what I have been grappling a lot with lately with God.
One of the biggest dreams of my life, is to one day meet an awesome woman and be a husband and father. And yet at 36 (nearly 37) it doesn’t look like the father part is going to happen, at least in the organic sense of the word.
Sure in this world, I could meet someone, have a small ceremony and consider adopting. However, the desire wouldn’t simply go away. And with each year that passes in my life. The bigger the desire gets. At this stage in my life though, the reality of having children the organic way seems highly unlikely.
This probably is not helping my cause much, however I’ve read a lot about the reality that fertility rates for men these days are horrible. Even in men within my age bracket. That’s pretty terrifying if I may say so myself. Which has caused me to be hyper aware of everything I’m doing, should the reality even come close to happening.
Honestly, there’s a part of me that wishes that could maybe go back and be a few years younger. Maybe make a few better choices in life and maybe have a better shot at the dream. It grieves me to see the amount of people in society, that have chosen not to bring kids into the world. I understand why, largely because our world is a different place and it’s rougher to live in.
However, in my personal opinion, I believe that being a husband and father would such an amazing blessing. Easy? Hell no, and this is the other part that is equally perplexing for me. Is that there are people in my life telling me to do the opposite of what my heart longs.
To not get married
To not have kids
and to simply accept that the kind of woman that I’d like to find. Isn’t real.
You know what I say to all of that? Those are the experiences of other people- and not my own. Ok, yes I understand that the reality that I’m hoping for is not an easy one. It never is, but here’s the deal also. When you have have have your own shit under control, it doesn’t have to be that bad. I’m speaking more in the emotional/mental and spiritual sense.
All too often I see people go into a relationship or marriage and drag their pain and experiences right into it. Unchecked. And that’s the problem, and some people just don’t realize how broken they actual are until years into the journey. If ever..
In life we can unknowingly dump our experiences and conceived notions on people, without thinking about it. Thinking that our perspective is the next best thing to the gospel of Christ. It’s not.
I also realize that as a Christian, there lies inside me the greatest hope of all the world. Not simply in only the eternity sense. Though that is highly important and utterly amazing. But also that God is a God of miracle’s. Do those always happen? Nope they don’t, but what would it say about having faith, if my faith wasn’t actually in the one person that conquered the world for me?
God told Abraham that he would have a son, and while his wife chuckled at the idea.. He didn’t shrink in faith. Zechariah and his wife had son… Even when they thought they would never have one. He and his wife even dated. But it happened for them.
See the theme here? Hope- hope against all odds. Once again, does this then mean that my wildest dreams will come true? No, but as long as air is still flowing through my body. My hope will be in God. For my hope and confidence is not even in myself but in him.
Another blogger that I frequent, who just so happens to be an orthodox Christian. He says that “only God can bring you a wife.” It might seem silly to many, even though I’m a big advocate for self improvement and being the best version of ourselves possible. It’s all up to the king. And while it is all up to the king, I will by his grace walk with him through out the peaks an valleys.
I hope give up on hope. I won’t give up on the dream.
What do you think of when it comes to words such as masculine or masculine man? For some, it might be a man who is confident, strong in body and mind, can fix things in the home and on a car. And has the ability to fend off a violent attacker. This can be seen as the traditional man/ alpha male. For others a man might be more quiet and introspective, more in touch with their emotions and artistic and quite the opposite of the traditional-alpha male. In modern times, there is a war going on between the two stances. But do we ever stop and ponder, what manhood or masculinity looks like, in light of disabled men? This is a question that I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time now, both societally and religiously for the church. Now to be fair, there are those with cerebral palsy, who are healthy and active, can take care of themselves for the most part. The biggest obstacle for me then is the issue of driving, due to my startle reflex is not something I’ve overcome yet, the difficult part of the equation is it hinders me socially. And things such as uber can be pricey after a while. Forgetting about myself, I often think about the men in the world, who aren’t able to be as active as myself, have to depend a lot on the care of others, spend a lot of time at home and very rarely get out of their homes.
Are they still not real men? Of course they are! These are men that are made in the image of God, and have immense value, dignity and purpose. The problem that I believe that these men, can very well be over looked by society and even the Church. While I do not believe that there is anything overtly malicious causing this, it grieves me non the less and I’m deeply convicted and convinced that this is an issue to brought to light and dealt with. Furthermore, if this issue grieves my soul, how must God feel about it? I believe that it grieves his heart, much more than it does mine. Most of the time, when pastors are talking about Godly men leading their families, more often than not they are speaking to able abled-bodied men. Teaching them to lead confidently and boldly, to provide for their families and pursuing the calling that God has placed on their lives. This is not wrong, and I affirm this absolutely. Yet very rarely do pastors think about what leading a family or pursing a God given calling might look life, if a men isn’t able to provide for his family, as he would desire in a physical sense. Have pastors ever really paused to consider the shame that this might leave in the soul of a man?
Everyday I talk to various men with different severities of disability, and each story echoes. Men of various ages and walks of life. Feeling that their lives are completely pointless, due to the context of their lives and being stuck at home more often than not. Moreover, they even endure the thought process of feeling worthy of love, be it by God himself or even a woman. In my daily conversations with men like myself, I make it a point to apply lessons that I have had to learn the hard way over the last few years of my life, that lead to a sense of masculinity in their own right. Though I still am in a similar context myself. The first element that I try to instill in my daily conversations with disabled men, is where their self of self and identity resides. Yes this is crucial in all men, but it is all the more important in the lives of some disabled men. It’s so important that disabled find and even lose themselves in the identity that God graciously bestows upon them. Whether they believe it or not. If not, disabled men will continually be stuck in the thought process of feeling like a burden to society and even their families. The next crucial element, after establishing a Christ centered identity is tapping into some sort of God giving calling. Whatever that may be, as I stated in the beginning, some men are more home bound, and have to depend a lot on the care of others and can’t really “work” in the sense that the world would like.
So, we have to establish of purpose and mission even if it’s glorifying God every day. There’s more that can be added. But I’d like to end with these thoughts, is it frustrating that the church doesn’t speak to the reality of masculinity among disabled members of their congregations, very little/if any? Yes- it is, it is also sad to see that very few churches have ministries dedicated to even families with special needs children. However, rather than being stuck in the downward spiral of complaining, I have accepted the calling that I believe that God has placed inside me. Even if it’s not seen as significant in the worlds eyes. It’s my goal to write one of the first books on the matter, because no longer can these men go forgotten.