This is a companion piece to my girlfriend’s posts about her pre and post surgery experiences. She told me I should write about my experiences on the other side, being the one who cared for her, and to be bluntly honest. SO….. Here I go!
I’ve seen some posts floating around calling for the gay pride flag to be banned. After all, the man who killed those reporters was gay, so his flag should be banned right?
If you believe that the flag should be banned because of this tragic incident, I have one thing to say to you.
I get your logic here. Guns don’t kill people, flags don’t kill people. You believe the Confederate flag is just a flag and banning it was stupid. Just because one racist had a few pictures with it and then he killed a bunch of people doesn’t mean it’s all bad, right?
That would be true, if you weren’t ignoring the literally thousands of other cases involving hate crimes and the Confederate flag.
The gay pride flag hasn’t been around for 150 years. It doesn’t represent a portion of the United States that frankly under today’s terms committed treason. It hasn’t been flown as the official colors by which men justify their acts of violence towards minorities. Maybe you really do believe that the flag simply represents states rights, or maybe it’s just about a very vanilla non-descript heritage of standing up to oppressive governments. I could buy that. But it doesn’t mean that anymore. You can’t try to convince me that if the South had won the war that slavery would have disappeared because the war was simply about states rights. Slavery wasn’t just a small part of those rights, it was the BIGGEST part. People who defend the flags use seem to gloss over the fact that the South did in fact support, believe in, and fight for slavery. Maybe they believe the flag was meant to represent one cause such as a states rights to govern itself, but you cannot deny that one of those rights which The South fought for was SLAVERY. The Nazi swastika didn’t always represent what it does now, but I don’t see people proudly flying it in their yards and on their shirts citing its proud heritage. Not people who integrate into all parts of society well, anyways.
As an educated American I would think that you could look past what something was SUPPOSED to mean and instead look at what it DOES mean to most people now and make your decisions based on that. You of course have every right to fly the flag if you wish. This is America after all. But don’t be surprised if there are repercussions from doing that, like becoming a pariah. As a Christian, I would certainly hope that your “proud heritage” was not more important to you than the feelings of your neighbor. This might be a bit extreme but honestly as a Christian I see no benefit to the spreading of Jesus’ gospel by flying that flag. I don’t see any benefit by flying the gay pride flag either, but the pride flag at least tries to promote love and acceptance. Whether or not those things are misplaced or not isn’t up to me to decide. The confederate flag, however, doesn’t even aspire to that much.
What’s more, Vester’s motivation for his killing spree was supposed discrimination towards himself. He believed that he had been discriminated against in the workplace as a gay black man. He said he bought a gun after the Charleston shootings. Maybe he didn’t feel safe anymore. Maybe he was insane or imagined this discrimination or maybe it was real, we don’t know. Neither would justify murder. But he certainly didn’t kill those reporters because they were heterosexual. He didn’t say he was trying to make a better America by getting rid of all non-gay people. The gay pride flags meaning and his homosexuality did not necessitate hatred or violence towards non-gay people. That was solely on him, his experiences and interpretation of actions towards him led to his decisions. Dylan Roof, on the other hand, said he was killing people in that church because he wanted to cleanse America and punish black people for mixing with white. Dylan wore that flag and committed racist crimes, as have thousands of other men before him. His racism and hatred was intricately and closely tied to the heritage and meaning that flag and the Confederate in general had for him. I certainly hope you can see the difference there.
I would also like to point out that the Confederate flag has not been “banned”. Many stores no longer sell things with it on there and it’s no longer PC to have it on you if you’re a performer or public figure, but you still have the right to fly it if you please. The flag was taken down from the state courthouse in Carolina because unlike a flag on your shirt or flying at your home that represents your own beliefs, that flag was representing AN ENTIRE STATE full of many peoples with many heritages. And while for some people that flag represented a good memory, for many it represented oppression, discrimination, and hatred. In a legal sense that flag shouldn’t have been flying in a government facility at all because it represented a rebellion to the Union of the entire nation. Flying it at the courthouse was basically like flipping the bird at the federal government, saying that the South should’ve won and things should be different. But in a communal sense that flag should’ve been taken down a long time ago, before the Charleston shooting. There are so many other instances of racism and hate crimes occurring all over the nation, crimes where men who proudly display that flag rape and murder and attack minorities and then talk about their proud heritage. I don’t think the gay pride flag should be flying at a courthouse either, but if it did, at least it wouldn’t represent murder and slavery to half the people that saw it.
So to you people who are sarcastically or seriously saying the gay pride flag should be banned, take a second away from your kindergarten homework for a second and answer this for me.
Can you in good conscience tell me that the Confederate flag has never been used as a symbol to justify oppression and hate crimes? Let’s take away the absolute there. Can you tell me it hasn’t been used in MANY crimes of hatred?
I could go look up hundreds of hate crimes and find confederate flags tied closely to the men and women who committed those crimes. They proudly wear that symbol and openly state how racist they are. I have a doubt you could find anyone who associated the gay pride flag with slavery or discrimination. And maybe racists hijacked what the meaning of the Confederate flag was supposed be, and that sucks for you. Extremists do that sometimes, ruining what’s supposed to be a good thing. If your heritage is so important, maybe it’s time to make a new symbol that doesn’t represent hatred or oppression to everyone anymore.
I get annoyed sometimes with the current state of PC culture. Everyone is so easily offended nowadays, many times about stupid things. I know your pride has been hurt by the Confederate flag no longer being socially acceptable. In this case though, it’s not about being PC. Its about being RESPECTFUL. Maybe sometimes we should not be politically correct, but we should always be respectful and considerate. The Confederate flag is no longer considered either. And if you’re honest, rallying to ban the gay pride flag has nothing to do with respecting people’s hardships or helping create a better sense of community. Getting rid of the flag at the state courthouse wasn’t some random rallying cry that people used a horrible tragedy as an excuse for their political agenda. The massacre might have helped seal the deal, but that flag shouldve come down long ago. It came down because millions had been hurting for far too long, and one man’s massively covered hate crime finally helped the nation begin to see that pain and begin taking steps to end it.
On the other hand, you using this man’s actions as a sarcastic rallying cry because you’re still sore from losing a battle to have your offensive flag taken down is frankly disgusting. People didn’t fight to have that flag removed to promote their own political agendas, they did it out of respect for the dead and for the living who still felt offended by a symbol like that flying proudly. You probably don’t even care whether the gay pride flag is banned or not, as long as you make your point. You’re using the murder of two innocent people as a platform to say “see, removing that flag didn’t matter at all, we were right, put it back up.” That is, frankly, sickening, and I pray you can be a little more sensitive.
Maybe someday the gay pride flag won’t represent a respectful cause anymore. Any symbol can change its meaning, from good to bad. But right now, I can say that while the gay pride flag might be offensive to some because they don’t believe in homosexuality, a flag that to most people represents slavery and hate should be offensive to EVERYONE. If you’re using this tragedy as a platform to state your discontent about previous choices that probably didn’t even affect you at all, you make me sick, and I hope you’ll maybe stop thinking about your hurt feelings and start thinking about the families who just lost someone dear to them.
So let’s say I’m the man who invented PB&J. Mmmm. I know how it’s supposed to be made. I invented it, right?
Then I decide I’m gonna give the ingredients to a kid and tell him how it should be made. Not gonna show him, just tell him and then leave him to do it.
I come back, to find a pile of torn bread, globs of jelly, and peanut butter all over the plate. He shows it to me and says “Here’s PB&J!”
He completely ruined what it was supposed to be. Does that change what PB&J is? What I made it to be?
What if he didn’t even use the ingredients I gave him? What if he used mustard instead of jelly? What if he added cheese? What if he threw it all out and just cooked a steak and called that PB&J?
Would that change what PB&J is, what I made it to be?
Now obviously I didn’t create PB&J, otherwise my bank account would look a bit different. My point here is, the creator of a thing gets to decide what this thing is and what is included in it. No matter what anyone else says or does, if I created it and said “Here are the rules of this creation,” those are the rules.
I’ve seen a whole bunch of people, primarily Christians, talking about gay marriage lately. One of the biggest things I see them say is “God created marriage between a man and a woman, the Supreme Court doesn’t get to decide what marriage is!” Those people aren’t wrong. God created marriage to be a certain thing, and my understanding of Scripture says that is a union between a man and a woman. However, people saying this are arguing that marriage is an institution created by God that the government should not get involved in.
What they fail to realize is that marriage in America has literally NEVER been a union only between two people and God in their lifetime. Need proof? Can you go marry someone right now legally with no one present? Without a license? The fact that I need to apply for a license (and can be denied one), that I have to be married with a witness present by a state-approved officiant, and that if things go wrong I have to get the courts involved in order to get a divorce, tells me that marriage as defined by the majority of America has ALWAYS involved the government.
Now, let’s talk about that government, shall we? Another argument against gay marriage has been that our country was founded on Christian values.
Ha. Here we go.
Our forefathers came to America to escape an oppressive leadership. Protestantism was started to escape an oppressive theocracy. The Catholic church, at the time, basically ruled everything. Told everyone exactly how to live, what to eat and buy, where to work. Religion was the law. Protestants, excluding the theological disagreements they had when studying the newly mass-printed Bible, wished to escape a government that ruled their lives. Much later they came to America with Protestant views in mind. No longer would government get to tell people how they would worship. It would not even let them tell people whether they would worship or not. Regardless of how they practiced that notion when the Constitution was written, the wording says that everyone in America had a right to freely express religion.
Despite what you may believe, our forefathers were not apostles. The Constitution is not a new New Testament. Our national legislature and judges are not deacons and elders in a national denomination, and Barack Obama is not the 43rd Pope of the American Church. They are not elected to protect the Church’s interests, enforce our morals, or spread our word for us. They are here to protect the people of this country, the minority in particular. They serve to enforce some sense of agreed-upon morality by the majority, and work to protect those who are not represented in that majority. That means that they will makes laws that protect Christians and non-Christians alike.
I’m sure this comes as a shock to some of you, but our forefathers weren’t exactly model Christians. Catholics at one time massacred millions of innocent people for their “barbaric ways” (hear: unwillingness to accept their rule or pay taxes). Our forefathers were probably good “Christian” people who went to church on Sunday and sang good Christian hymns, and then went home and beat or raped their slaves. Our country was not founded as a new haven for conservative Republican Christians. It was meant to be, or is moving toward becoming, a place of political safety and freedom for all, whether those citizens agreed on everything or not. America, Western civilization in general, is very different than most of the world in our focus on the individual and individual rights. The Consitution works to protect everyone on an individual level. While I would argue a point that Jesus wants us to be concerned about our individual salvation since no one else can save us and we can’t save anyone else, there’s something to be said about the early Christian communities and how they worked to serve and care for one another. But we do not live in that culture.
Here in America, we want personal liberties, freedom of speech and religion, freedom to bear arms, but we don’t seem to want other people to have their liberties (abortion, gay marriage) because it offends our sense of morality. So many conservatives argue against gay marriage because it offends them and their sense of what life should look like, but argue that their right to have a gun affects no one else but themselves. However, your freedom to carry a gun is something that is likely to end up with someone dead, if you ever need to use that right for its intended purpose. Trust me, I know how training for a gun license works. They tell you that you shoot to stop them, whatever that means. Usually it means you shoot to kill. Your logic says that you should be able to have a method to kill someone if necessary, but a person being able to marry another person shouldn’t be legal, even though it hurts no one other than your sense of morality. A bit hypocritical that you get your freedoms, which could end up with someone dying, but someone else doesn’t get their right which at worst offends you.
You say that making guns illegal won’t stop criminals being criminals, because it’s in their nature. If that’s the case, what makes you think that gay people not being allowed to marry will make them any less gay? After all, it’s in their nature. No law will change that.
I’m not saying I think those things are good or bad, liberties are liberties after all. But you can’t force other people outside the church to live based on your sense of morality. That’s oppression as bad as the Pharisees ever had. Jesus time on Earth was spent ministering mostly to His people, the ones within his own religion. It was rare that he ever spoke to someone who was not Jewish. The apostles did, but the language they used when speaking to non-Christians is very different than to Christians.
Its important to remember that America is NOT the church. Your political views will always be influenced by your views of religion, but that does not mean that politics are grounded in some sense of spirituality. Some pretty horrible things have been legal and morally “okay” in the sight of governments around the world (mutilation of female genitals, mass orgies, putting disobedient children to death in our own heritage!). If we followed our tradition of spiritual law, we would do some things that most people, religious or not, would find morally objectionable. These things don’t match up with Jesus’ new law anymore, and the law he brought did not always (rarely) matched up with the law of the land. He brought a new covenant of mercy and grace rather than punishment and atonement.
People seem to think that our primary job as Christians is to maintain the status quo of our entire country’s moral code. They treat America like it’s the new Israel, Gods chosen people, blessed above all others, the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. That our job as Christians is to set Jesus up as our earthly ruler, to put men and even women (gasp) in office that most closely resemble our version of what Jesus looked like and acted like. Do you realize that Jesus would never run for a public office? He was basically a homeless man who lived off of donations and possibly thru his knowledge of carpentry. In fact, Jesus openly rejected the people who tried to put him on an earthly pedestal as a political leader. The people of his age were waiting for an earthly savior to come and slay their enemies and put Jerusalem back to its former glory, reinstate the nation as rulers forever. Jesus instead said that he was there to bring a kingdom not of this world. He rarely spoke of politics; same for his apostles. They mostly only said that people should pay their taxes fairly and not cause problems for their leaders, who were there to keep order and execute the law for the interest of the people.
American Christians seem to want a theocracy in place, a president who will enforce good Christian rules on Christians, “Christians”, and non-Christians alike. Jesus resisted this idea too! The Pharisees, Saducees, and Sanhedrin were corrupt and abusive religious leaders of their day. They imposed harsh restrictions on those they “ruled” over. The thing is, Jesus never said they were wrong in their execution of the law, simply that they were guilty of ignoring their own wrongdoings and that they missed the point of it all.
Everyone is quick to point out that Jesus had the right to stone the adulterous woman, but not so quick to point out that the Pharisees had that right as well. Under the law, that woman should have been put to death. Jesus spared her by convicting her accusers of their own guilt. JESUS DID NOTHING AT THAT POINT TO SAY THE LAW WAS UNFAIR. He simply had everyone look in at themselves and know they were guilty of sin as well. The guilt of the Pharisees in this instance was not in their execution of the law at that moment, but rather their eagerness to punish another while ignoring their own guilt. Jesus didn’t accept the woman’s sins, he told her not to do them anymore. But he showed her mercy against a law that would have her put to death.
We like to imagine that we’re Jesus in this situation, but more often than not we’re the Pharisees. We either jump on the bandwagon to condemn evildoers while ignoring our own sin, or we swing to the other extreme and resist judging anyone at all for fear of our own consciences convicting us. Jesus judged this woman to be in the wrong, and then loved her anyways and spared her the punishment she deserved according to the laws of the time. Our problem as Christians is not that we judge sinners. Its that we judge sin and then condemn. We judge sinners and then we decide to give them what they “deserve”, while ignoring what we ourselves deserve. On the other hand, sometimes we choose to avoid that act of condeming otherwise. However, it is not always laziness, nor is it a lack of firm conviction when we fail to execute what we believe is God’s righteous laws. It takes a strong faith to both point out sinfulness and simultaneously resist shunning that person for it. When we recognize sin and choose to embrace that person anyways as a child of the Creator, we look more and more like Jesus. We are told to approach a sinful brother about their wrongdoing and eventually shun them if they refuse to try and change. This law does NOT apply to the people outside the church. We should never turn away from someone in need.
Let’s set up a modern day version of the adulterous woman. A bunch of Christians bring a man from their congregation to Jesus who they found out was gay and say they want to kick him out for his deviant ways. They want to socially shun him and hang him as a sinner, make an example of him and how the Church will not tolerate such sinfulness.
Jesus looks up and says “Sure, we can do that. But let me ask you each a question first. Tim, how much porn have you watched this week? Joe, how many times did you curse someone under your breath while driving to work? Bob, didn’t you tell Jim’s secret to everyone after he told you what it would do to his marriage? Sue, how much money did you spend on yourself shopping for clothes this week instead of helping out that homeless guy near your job?”
“But no, you guys are right, this man is the only one in the congregation worth tossing out since his sin can be seen easily, since it affects every aspect of his life. Your burden of not controlling how much food you eat is WAY more difficult than his. Your sin is much less concerning since its a culturally acceptable action that benefits you directly.”
Would Jesus support gay marriage, officiate or even attend a gay wedding? I don’t believe so. I can’t be sure, but I don’t believe Jesus would support gay marriage. I think he spoke out against homosexuality, even if it was only one time. I can’t say He or His apostles would ever applaud homosexuality, call it GOOD or PURE or HOLY.
But he would support gay PEOPLE. He would love them. He would recognize that most of the world was broken and not living the way God intended when He created it. He would go to a gay married couples house and eat dinner, play games or watch a movie. Hed be their friend. Pray with them and for them, sincerely care about more than just their sin but their life and hardships and normal people problems too. Hed cry with them. People would talk about Jesus supporting gay people by being friends with them, accuse him of supporting homosexuality, but hed pay no mind to that talk. Hed even defend those gay people to the masses of Christians who wanted to socially crucify them. He would let them know he didn’t agree with their lifestyle, but he wouldn’t stop being a friend. And through his love he would show them a better life. He wouldn’t be concerned about changing their lives through legislature, hed do it through a personal relationship based on love. After all, he hung out with people that the religious masses of his day thought of as unclean sinners. Whos to say they weren’t just that, unclean sinners? Jesus came to tend to the sick, not the well.
I’m not saying it’s wrong for Christians to be involved in politics. Im saying it’s wrong for Christians to try to force non-Christians to have Christian values and basically live a Christian life without their knowledge or consent by forcing legislature through that tells them how to live. This is the lazy Americans solution to getting their hands dirty actually ministering to people who need it. In some ways it’s easier to go to Africa and do mission work. This is a white savior complex that grows in us, and is popular and accepted amongst Christians and non-Christians alike as a charitable action. Churches all over will fund a trip to Africa or South America. How many do you think would fund a trip for me to go represent the Church at a gay pride parade in San Francisco? Do churches spend money supporting missionaries to go volunteer and represent that church at rallies for the LGBT community, or work to invite gay and lesbian people into their churches? If there is such a thing, I have not seen it. I’m sad to say that most of what I’ve seen from Christians in reaction to the ruling two weeks ago has been hatred and anger, or blind acceptance and total support by being swept into the flow of societal trends. I haven’t had too many one on one talks about this situation, but Facebook tells a lot of stories.
Don’t get me wrong. I applaud those missionaries going over seas to minister to our brothers and sisters in other continents. I’ve never worked that hard to show Christ to people who don’t know Him. You are completely necessary and are doing God’s work, whatever your personal intentions may be. I simply state what I’ve said, to say our overseas efforts have become far more popular and socially laudable than efforts within our own borders to minister to the fringes of society. We work hard to bring poor ethnic groups in third world countries to Jesus, and are applauded for it, and then turn around and try to make it our governments job to convert people here in America. We use our morality to obligate those not within our church to follow our rules. Does it make any sense to follow the rules of Boy Scouts if you are not a member? Should I follow Germany’s laws as an American? No, that makes no sense. Why should non-Christians follow our laws? Christians have begun to use the laws we pass as a way to oppress “sinners” without having to acknowledge that we ourselves are being hateful. Do you really think God or Jesus would be pleased to be associated with oppression and hatred? Do you think God would be more likely to have mercy on a gay person just because they aren’t allowed to marry? Do you really think you’re helping a person’s soul by preventing them legal access to something sinful? Isn’t it sin whether it’s legal or not? Do you think God or Jesus would be happy with a person living all the correct rules of Christianity because the law tells them to, but have no real relationship with God or Jesus? We have a bad enough problem within the church of people leading an empty Christian existence, following the rules but not recognizing the point of it all. It wouldn’t do any better for that to happen outside the church as well. Living as a Christ follower is not simply a checklist of rules to follow. Its an attitude, a lifestyle choice that asks us to point to the One who inspired us to live this way.
What conclusions am I trying to make here? Well, a few. Marriage as defined by God has not and never will change. Marriage as defined by the US government, however, has. We as Christians have to deal with that and recognize it is not the end of the world. Really though, has your life fallen to pieces after this law was passed? Have people invaded your home, taken your money away, killed your family? True, many people face discrimination lawsuits for standing up for their beliefs. That is unfortunate. That makes it more difficult to be a Christian, requires us to, at times, stand up for our beliefs against overwhelming opposition and even lose our possessions. However, if anything this is an opportunity for us to shine a brighter light in a greater darkness. My girlfriend pointed out a good point: maybe young gay teens will have some hope for their future to be “accepted” and will live on rather than commit suicide, as is common. Maybe gay adults won’t marry into heterosexual relationships and use families as a cover for their desires and eventually rip that family apart when the pressure of the life they’re living on the outside versus the inside is too much to bear. Maybe a less oppressive culture towards gay people will ultimately lead them to more openness to ideas that don’t agree with their own, and give them more time in life for us to show them they are loved. They can spend less time thinking of how they will need to explain themselves to others, be less afraid, and spend more time listening, which is something we ourselves could do better.
It isn’t easy to consolidate being a Christian with being American. Believe it or not, those two words are not synonymous. It is important for Christians to remember that our loyalties lie with Christ before anything else, and that any other loyalties that conflict with that one cannot be sustained. Rather than spin your wheels in the mud about this new legislature, rather than alienating an entire community of people by publicly demonizing them, maybe it’s time you quietly accept that Jesus still rules, that His word will be spread best when there is pressure against it, and that the best place to represent Christ is amongst a nation that doesn’t really know Him. It’s time to show the world what Love winning really means.
As for me, you might see me eating a PB&J with the gay couple down the street.
Sorry for the shocking title. How else would I get you to read the things I write?
There’s been some articles floating around social media lately dealing with modesty from both sides. As I’ve grown older I’ve grown more interested in this topic. I was raised in a rather Conservative atmosphere, so the “Modest is Hottest” mantra has never been far away from my mind. I’m no stranger to the thought process and reasoning that goes with this mantra; I actively took part in it. In many ways, my opinion has not changed on the issue. I prefer modesty, not just in dress but in manner.
But that’s all it is. MY OPINION. The opinion of one insignificant man, nothing more. I don’t get to decide the absolute line between modest and immodest. I don’t think any one person gets to do that. The only person who can decide whether something is modest or immodest, and then impose that opinion, is each of us, on ourselves. Only I get to decide if I am immodest, by examining my motives for acting the way I do and wearing the things I wear. Do I do it for attention? Affection? Comfort? Convenience? How can anyone but me decide that?
I firmly believe that modesty is a matter that each of us must decide within ourselves. A Romans 14 issue. And no, I don’t use that lightly. I know far too many people refer to that verse as an excuse for their behaviors, but hear me out.
Let’s examine the two extremes of the modesty debate, or what we could call the “weak” in faith and the “strong” in faith. Don’t let those words fool you or make you think that you are strong or you are weak. The point of those verses wasn’t to say one was good and one was bad; simply, that there are those whose conscience don’t permit them to partake of an activity, and those whose conscience does. When this issue is not one of “salvation”, it depends on the individuals involved to decide on the action to take.
First, the “weak” side, or the ones who choose not to partake. This extreme believes that any act that could cause lust, any outfit that could draw sexual attention, is sinful and wrong. These people believe that it is the job of each of us to choose what we wear and how we act in a way that prevents anyone from looking with lust, ever. The thing about this side is, they believe it is THEIR job to let other people know that they are wrong for wearing what they wear, rather than letting that person decide for themselves. This is the side I’ve grown up with, and at times it got out of hand. It got to a point where church members asked homeless people or new guests to leave our church building because they were not dressed appropriately, i.e. not in slacks and a tie. Translated to women, this means no sleeveless shirts or dresses, no tank-tops, nothing tight or bright. They use verses in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3 to justify this line of thought, that women ought not to wear any clothing that might draw attention to themselves, not recognizing the context of these verses whatsoever.
On the other side of the extremes are the “strong” group, or those wanting to partake. These people are the ones who argue about their rights and freedoms to a fault. They believe anyone, man or woman, has the right to wear and do whatever they wish and that it is not their fault if someone stumbles along the way. After all, we all have our freedom of choice, right? It can’t be someone else’s fault if I choose to do this or that. This side argues that the “weaker” Christians have no right to impose their beliefs and opinions on others and that by doing so THEY are sinning for being judgmental.
Neither side is right. Remember, we ARE dealing with extremists on both sides, so they can’t be completely right.
But… neither side is absolutely wrong either.
One of the things I keep hearing on the side of those who deem others immodest, is specifically directed towards men. They say that men are visual creatures, we are turned on by what we see. That we can’t help but lust when we see a pretty girl in a particularly alluring outfit. It’s just boys being boys, it’s a guy thing.
But do you know how frustrating it can get to hear men and women say that?
Women, how annoyed, nay, FURIOUS, do you get when someone assumes that you’re frustration or anger in a moment is because you are on your period? How angry are you when someone reduces your thoughts and feelings, your legitimate concerns and frustrations and serious reservations, to one big ball of uncontrollable hormones that should be dismissed? Like somehow, you are not ever allowed to be mad, unless you are on your period or pregnant, and at those times your anger is dismissed because it isn’t real, it shouldn’t be taken seriously because of whats going on with your hormones? It’s demeaning and patronizing for someone to pat you on the head and say “Poor little girl, we’re gonna ignore your legitimate feelings because we assume they’re related to your biology that you can’t help.”
I am a guy. I am turned on by what I see, and I am particularly drawn to sins of a sexual nature. I have struggled my whole life with the things I look at and the movies I watch. I am ashamed of the thoughts I have had and the things I have done and watched while I was alone. It amazes me how easily my mind can wander to things of a sexual nature, just by one image on TV or one word on the internet. I really am wired to be a sexual creature.
But guess what?
I AM NOT AN ANIMAL.
God made me the way I am, with sex drive and hormones and everything. But he also gave me free will, a mind. I can make decisions despite my feelings and drives and urges. I am not a rabbit that smells pheromones and starts mating with anything I see. I am a guy who, despite my urges and tendencies, has the ability to choose to not act on those urges. Just like women are intelligent and can be angry or frustrated without it being about their hormones, and are fully capable of being rational and making reasonable decisions despite what their biology might be telling them to do. I am fully capable of seeing a woman in yoga pants and looking away, not dwelling on those thoughts, letting it go the moment it enters my head. If I choose to dwell, to wonder about that woman’s body, THEN it becomes lust. It is then that I have committed adultery in my mind, not when the thought enters but when I let it consume me.
I don’t reduce anyone to a collection of hormones and drives that are uncontrollable. This line of thinking will inevitably lead to some pretty terrible conclusions. By this thinking, it’s okay for men to rape a woman if he feels attracted to her. After all, he can’t help it, right? It’s his biology. And in this line of thinking, women are responsible for getting raped, because “they didn’t wear appropriate, modest clothing” that prevented those thoughts from entering a man’s mind. And that is just sick and wrong to think or say.
Granted, there are those who will abuse this line of thinking for their own gain. Men who will say they can’t help themselves because they are “sex addicts”, or just a stupid man with a strong libido. There are women who will blame their horrible actions and words on “that time of month” or the fact that they are pregnant. Both of these people act like some hormones affecting their brain is a fair way to get out of the awful things they do or say. They are looking to pass off responsibility to their biology. Unfortunately it can be difficult to pick these people out and know the ones who are legitimately driven insane by the chemicals in their bodies. However, the majority of the time, society is not going to take a rapist seriously and let him go because he was driven to his actions because of his “affliction”, just like a woman will not be let go after she drowns her children in a bathtub because of her post-partum depression. Everyone has a choice, even those who have the hardest time with their urges.
I think the bottom line is that both extremes tend to pass responsibility on to another person. The weak side says it’s completely the other persons responsibility to dress appropriately to prevent anyone from lusting, and the strong side says it’s completely the other person’s responsibility to not lust or get sexual thoughts in their heads. Neither side is willing to admit responsibility for the decisions they make and how those decisions might affect anyone else.
I sincerely hope that when you dress, that you are doing it for the right reasons and that you are aware of how it will affect someone else. Having said that, I don’t get to tell you what is right or how it will affect anyone. I don’t get to decide that you are wrong, only your conscience can do that. It is NOT your responsibility to answer to me and what I want or how I feel when I see something. You don’t answer to me, or any man or woman when it comes to your soul. You answer only to God, and if you are making informed decisions for Him first and foremost, no one else can judge that. If you are the stronger in faith, your only responsibility is to not purposefully do things to cause your weaker brothers and sisters to stumble, which only you can decide. If I am the weaker in faith, it is my responsibility to not try to tell you how to live your life or to infringe on your freedoms, only to do my best to serve my Lord and choose the right path.
Everyone, stop passing off responsibility for your actions and thoughts on someone else.
Weak Christians, it is not someone else’s fault that you chose to pursue a sexual thought or to act sexually. No one forced you to do it, you made that decision. Stop telling women they can’t wear yoga pants just because you “can’t help but stare” when they do. Stop telling men they can’t go shirtless at the beach just because you get hot-and-bothered at the sight of their muscles. That’s your fault, not theirs. Rein in those thoughts and take them captive.
Strong Christians, it is not your fault that a weak Christian chooses to act or think sinfully. They will be judged for those actions. It IS your responsibility to be mindful of how you affect those around you, and recognize that you will have to give an account of each decision you made and the motives behind them. If you’re wearing yoga pants to make guys ogle, if you’re going shirtless to show off your body, recognize that you are not responsible for the choices someone makes, but the feelings you intentionally caused them to feel will follow you.
It is everyone’s job to bring about unity, not discord. Stop stepping on toes just because you “can”, and stop judging each other’s motives because you can’t or don’t bother to control yourself. If we all take responsibility for our choices, maybe we can stop arguing about things like yoga pants amongst ourselves all the time, and start talking about Jesus to the people in the world who need Him.
Psalm 22:11 – “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”
This is a confession, an apology. This is a lesson to anyone who will read and try to understand.
This is me asking for help. I don’t want anyone’s pity, I don’t want sympathy. That’s all I seem to get anymore, is people telling me they are sorry. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I want to be someone you can respect again, but I need help to get there. Pity is cheap, words are just a couple rain drops in the desert. I need a torrent, I need constant showers. I need thoughtful tending and watering, I need friends who care enough to nurse me back to what I was before, to check on me until I can be on my own again.
I recognize this will be some heavy stuff. Some readers here may not know me at all. They just followed my blog because I wrote something they agreed with awhile back. For them, I am sorry that this blog might not mean much to you, or that you don’t feel like you can help. That’s okay. This blog isn’t really meant for you. It’s not really meant for my friends either. This is meant for me, as a way to put all my cards on the table and show everyone that I’ve been bluffing this whole time. I have a crap hand and I can’t hold my own anymore.
Here we go. This is what I am now.
I am a ghost.
I don’t haunt anyone, but am myself haunted by the life I once had. I can’t seem to move on to the next life, the good things waiting for me. I’m caught in a limbo between a past I can’t stop living in, and the future that I can’t seem to face. I can only keep repeating the same things I have always done. I feel like I have unfinished business here and I just can’t let go yet.
I am a shade in the Inferno.
I am tortured by the decisions I have made, and every moment, every memory, drags me down further. I am just a shadow of my former self. There is nothing new to experience, only the memories of things that happened before, to keep me going, and they are being used up quickly. I am stale and burnt out.
I feel like my soul has left me.
I feel nothing. No anger, no true sadness, no pain, no joy, no love. It would almost be nice to feel sad, because I know how to cope with being sad. I don’t know how to fight nothingness. At best, all my senses have been dulled, and all stimulations are watered down. If I feel, it is weak and fades quickly. I try to encounter situations where I used to feel these things, praying they will awaken something in me. I want to bring the fire back. But the truth is, the spark has gone out. I am not adding fuel to a fire, or even to embers. I am simply throwing wood onto a pile and hoping a fire appears.
Not long ago, I was struggling to keep my head above water, calling out to someone, anyone, to help me. Some people noticed, and with good intentions they told me they were praying for me, and if I needed help that I should ask. I felt like the fact I was telling them I was miserable was doing exactly that, but it seems that they missed my cry for help.
My understanding side that tries to believe the best about people wanted to think these people really were praying for me, and really did want to help. But the dark, pessimistic, realistic and brutally honest side of me said that if they really were praying for me, they would think of me a lot, and if they thought of me a lot, they would be checking in on me. After all, when I think about my friends a lot, when they are on my mind, I try to chat them up, so why wouldn’t everyone else be the same way? But apparently, for everyone else, no news is good news, and so the fact that I haven’t volunteered anything new to them must mean that I am fine now.
Why wouldn’t anyone at least try to help me? It’s true, saving a drowning person is tough. I know this from experience, from my own attempts to save people who were struggling. They struggle so much that they lash out and can bring someone down with them. They fight back unintentionally against the ones trying to help, so it’s hard for friends to try against that backlash.
Or maybe some of these people legitimately didn’t know I was struggling so badly. Others might have felt they weren’t qualified somehow. Maybe they thought we weren’t good enough friends, or they didn’t know me well enough to offer help. How can you help a total stranger, right?
Some people might fall back on the excuse of, “You should have just told me upfront, how should I know if you won’t tell me? Don’t be a martyr, don’t play mind games, just SAY it.”
Still others may have simply not wanted to get their hands dirty helping someone else. Helping someone out is a messy business, and you can’t do it without immersing yourself at least a LITTLE in their mess.
Literally any of these excuses could be true… But when you’re drowning, you don’t exactly make excuses for the people standing on the shore watching you. You just hope that they will try, regardless of their qualifications or hang-ups about it.
Some people did and still do check in on me. More than once. The problem is, these people were drowning too, in their own ways. The best they could do is relate to my situation and try to tread water next to me. Misery does love company, and while it usually just tries to create company by spreading misery around, sometimes it simply attracts company that is already miserable. I appreciate the ones who checked on me, and I am grateful for them. But it seems glaringly obvious that the sick man needs a doctor, or a friend to check in on them, not just another sick man. There is a time for sharing in each other’s pain, and we are way past that time.
But that was all a while ago. I am no longer treading water. I am under the surface. I don’t have the energy to tread anymore. I’m not even holding my breath. I wish I could say I was at peace with what seems to be happening to me that I was gently letting go of it all, but that word just isn’t the right one. It seems better to say that I am simply too tired, too worn to be at peace. I’m not letting go, I’m just giving up. I am hoping someone on the surface sees the few remaining bubbles, or saw me go under, and is coming for me, but I can’t offer any help for myself anymore.
And because I have no energy at all, I have become dead weight.
People tell me that I need to reach out and ask for help, that I need to tell them what’s going on and to let them know when I need something. Clearly, they have never felt this way before, or in their rosy worlds they have forgotten what it was like in the mud pit. I mean, I love my friends. I recognize that in order to truly help me, they would need to jump down into the pit with me, into the grime and muck, and stay here awhile until we could climb out together, and I just can’t ask someone to do that for me. A friend doesn’t ask another friend to fall on a sword for them, right? I am not inclined to ask favors even when I am in the very best of moods, so why would I ask my friends to help me now when that favor will cost them more than anything they’ve done before? When you already feel like a burden to all your friends, to the world, the LAST thing you want to do is CHOOSE to be a further burden by asking for help.
No. In this situation, they would have to volunteer for it to mean anything to me, for it to do any good. That is the only way that I would know it was coming from their heart, from love, and not some sense of obligation or guilty conscience. And while someone might argue that beggars can’t be choosers, so I shouldn’t get to decide how I am helped, I would argue back that a friend shouldn’t have to beg another friend for help. In this situation I am not a beggar. I don’t want pity. I would hope people will see me as a friend, wanting to be respectable again, asking for help.
And now, the part that would really worry anyone.
I think of death, all the time. No, I don’t think of suicide. I have never been prone to hurting myself. But I do, so much of the time, wish that death would just find me already. That I wouldn’t see it coming, so I could have an excuse for why it happened. No, my life wasn’t in my hands, how could I have seen *fill in the blank* coming?
I go to sleep hoping that I will wake up in a better place. That tomorrow morning, the sun will be shining and I will FEEL it for the first time in so long. I don’t want this life to end because I am so looking forward to the next one though. I want it to be over because it sucks so bad. I want death to find me, because I no longer see life ahead. If you don’t see the next step in front of you, why would you take one?
The other night, I had an existential crisis moment that involved a small panic attack. I had talked to someone earlier that day about what they were planning to do next with their life, and they had a plan. I did not. Oh sure, I made something up on the spot, something to avoid an awkward conversation in an inappropriate situation for that talk, but I did not see myself in that future life. In fact, I couldn’t even see myself making it through the next day. Everyone says take it a day at a time, but they don’t seem to realize how awfully big a day can look when every moment is a nightmare.
And a nightmare is just what I feel like I’ve been living. A gray, lifeless nightmare. Nothing seems real, no one seems genuine. I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t see anyone I know. I look at pictures of myself and it feels like looking through someone else’s photo album. If you’ve ever watched videos of yourself when you were a baby, or heard a story of something you did as a toddler and you have no recollection of it, you have felt a mild version of what I’m feeling. Imagine yourself telling the story yourself, and remembering some of the details, but not remembering how anything felt, or what you were thinking. The memories in my mind are just a movie I saw once, not my own life.
I don’t “make decisions” anymore. Everything is 100% reflex. I have been told recently that I am a very funny and witty person, and some people might think that means that I think very quickly and come up with these things by purposeful thought. It doesn’t feel that way to me. It is just a reflex, a knee jerk reaction, albeit a very practiced and deceptively intelligent one. The fact that I can be funny is mask I put on. It’s the only way I can keep people around. People would rather be around a dishonestly happy and funny person than an honestly sad one.
The best parts of my day are when I am asleep. Because then, dreams come. Dreams where I feel, where I fight and set goals, where I lead, where everything is okay and people see me. Dreams are a place where I matter. I don’t wake up from nightmares anymore. I wake up TO them.
My tendency when I feel this way is to reach out to people I don’t know as well, who don’t know me. For some reason, it seems that people who don’t know you too well just yet are always far more interested in you than those who do already know you. My sad, horrible experience with people is that new friends are almost always better than old friends. This is outlook on life is due to my personality, my lack of trust and trouble investing in people. I tell people my story, tell them the facts, but I put no value on the things I tell people, so I don’t feel all that invested in them. If you’ve known me long, you know that right off the bat I will share some fairly heavy details about my life and I will act like those things don’t bother me, but they do.
I end up enjoying the company of new friends for a while, making people laugh, and then I cast them aside in favor of someone new that I can make laugh. I think I am really just afraid to show people what I really am. I am ashamed of who I am. I am someone with no plans, no big dreams. I am smart and witty but I take no risks. Everyone always tells me I have so much potential, that they don’t want to see me squander it, that I could do anything I want to, but the fact is I don’t WANT anything at all, and that makes me feel even worse. I don’t know where I am going.
I believe that people, even the ones who call me their close friend, will reject me if they see how lazy, unproductive, messy, and shallow I can be. I want to know people, and I want them to know me, but I feel like I can’t involve myself deeply with anyone. I am afraid they will not like what they find out, and will walk away from me. I feel like I hide myself, my true self, from even the very closest of friends that I have or have had.
So, I walk away from everyone before they can walk away from me. I leave before they can. I say “No thank you” before anything is even offered, and I quit before we ever get started. I think I do it because I want to feel some sense of control, and I would rather feel like I made the decision than have someone else make it for me. And because of this, my entire life I have missed out on so many chances for amazing friendships with wonderful people. I have isolated myself, become an island. It’s so easy to try and convince myself that my situation is because of circumstances out of my hands, but the real reason I am under the water is because I chose to go swimming alone.
I won’t bother in saying sorry IF I’ve done this to you. I will say sorry for WHEN I have done this to you. Trust me, no matter who you are, even if you are my best friend, I have done this to you. I have pushed you away, dropped you for someone new, expected you to invest in me without me investing in you. I have been a lousy friend, and I am truly, deeply ashamed of that. I am ashamed that I continue to do this to you.
I think I reach out to people I don’t know too well, especially lately, for a single reason: to convince myself that I am real. I go around feeling invisible most days, and even when I am noticed, it is by people who have been around a long time, people who are forced to notice me. Sometimes I almost feel like they are no longer real, just veteran players in my dream world. They are so ingrained in my world, and I in theirs, that they feel no need to notice me or consider me. How often do you really notice things like your front door, or your TV set? Or something more personal, like your own feet? If it’s around all the time, you just stop noticing it. I reach out to make new friends, exciting friends, simply because I want some novelty in my world.
I want to be someone’s new toy.
I want to stimulate them, and I want to in turn be stimulated with new information about their life. I want them to be excited to talk to me, see me, hang out. But my attempts to befriend someone are always coupled with a sense of desperation, and I am sure that it shows. I imagine people feel somewhat weirded out by my sudden, intense interest in their lives, and the way I talk to them as if we are already familiar. I want to say that’s just the way I am, intense and open, but in reality I think it’s more dark than that. It is not sinister, in any way. I mean no harm. But it doesn’t simply come from pure curiosity or interest either.
I desperately want validation.
I want someone to tell me I am ok, MORE than ok. That I am more than enough. And more than just hearing people tell me these things, I want them to show me that I am worth something to them. As I said before, words are cheap, easy. Sending a text, writing on a Facebook wall, is simple to do and to walk away from, as if you never did it at all. The intentions might be good, but you don’t just water a plant once and then give up.
And so now, the obvious question. Where is God in all of this, Elliott? Where does He fit in?
Herein lays the biggest guilt trip of all. Intentionally or unintentionally, people bring God into the situation, bring faith in, and imply that if I just prayed more, had more faith, did more God-stuff, that I would feel better. This in my own mind translates to, “Elliott, clearly you did something wrong or are still doing it and God is punishing you for it. If you were just a better person, if you weren’t so horrible, God would be blessing you right now.” I recognize that very few people would ever ask about my faith with this intention in mind. But very few people also go past asking how my faith is doing and saying I should involve myself more with Him.
Listen to me when I say this, and recognize that this applies to just about every depressed person out there:
QUESTIONING MY FAITH DOES NOT HELP ME GET BETTER.
No matter your intentions, no matter how you word it, my depressed negative mind will automatically translate what you say into condescending terms. Telling me all the things I should do to try and fix my relationship with God only adds burden and obligation on my conscience; it does nothing to lift the guilt and sadness I am already carrying around with me.
Two nights ago, I hit the lowest point I have been at, probably ever. Some very dark, VERY dark thoughts were intruding into my mind. I felt nearly hypnotized by them, by their simplicity. I became frightened by the fact that I couldn’t push them away. They weren’t really even intruding that hard; I just had no energy to fight.
So I cried out to God. I told Him the horrible truth, the embarrassing reality.
I have nothing to offer. I have no motivation, no desire, no energy, no strength. I am a ghost, a shade. I have been sucked dry, my bones are brittle and my heart is weak. I didn’t even bother to tell Him I couldn’t do this on my own; I simply said that I couldn’t do it at ALL. I couldn’t even offer to limp along while leaning on Jesus, or put my arm around his neck while He carries me. I am dead weight, I am broken and worthless and have nothing good about me to offer in exchange for what I need.
I told God that I needed Him to do it all for me. I didn’t make empty promises of changing my life, following His call, helping people. I straight up told God that I needed Jesus or an angel to walk into my room at that moment, and put their arm around me, and comfort me. To keep me from making decisions I couldn’t come back from. I told God I needed Him to heal me, to fix me, and that I had no way I could repay Him. I told Him I simply couldn’t take another step, that every breath I was taking felt like it might be the last one I ever took. I didn’t think the words to Him, but my heart was telling me that I was in the shadow of death, that Death and Satan were in my home with me and they were seeking me out, and my heart was crying out to God to chase the monsters away and tell me it would be okay.
Somehow, I was carried into sleep during this desperate prayer. I couldn’t say if exhaustion took over, or if God carried me to that safe place, but I made it there. And when I woke up, I was tired. I didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work. I was still miserable, still hurting. I still feel numb and empty inside. But as I finish typing this blog post, I no longer feel a malevolent presence in my home. I find my thoughts coming to me more clearly, thoughts that are finding words and flowing through my fingers. I feel less like a deflated balloon now.
I am still in the dark, but I perceive now that there is indeed a road ahead. It looks quite long. I don’t see its direction, I don’t see its length, its end, its terrain. I know none of the details about this road whatsoever. But something in me tells me it’s there. Whatever the details of the road, the fact is clear.
There is a road.
And in the dark corners of the prison I’ve built in my mind, I hear a word come floating on the air. Just a whisper, weak but still audible.
If you read all of this, thank you so much. Really. Thank you. But I need to ask a favor of you. It feels desperate to ask, because it is, so I want you to ponder it before you do anything for or say anything to me.
I need you to realize that we are God’s hands.
God guides us, has power over our lives, but we are the ones who do His work. I don’t think He randomly, whimsically blesses us with good feelings. He doesn’t cause people to go homeless or go through pain, and He doesn’t just “let” it happen either. Life happens, and He uses us to provide each other with kind words and deeds to encourage and exhort each other to get through it all. I asked God to miraculously save me from myself, but I will accept Him sending some of His children to do it too.
“Elliott, we need to leave this place looking better than when we got here.”
My mom used to say that when we would go on family picnics or church potlucks out in the park. Of course we would pick up our trash and everything when we would prepare to leave, but she wanted us to go around and pick other things up too. Garbage that wasn’t ours, that we weren’t responsible for. I think the reason she said this to us is because it helped us in going the extra mile to ensure we DEFINITELY had cleaned up everything that was our mess. Maybe she wanted to teach us responsibility and good stewardship too. After all, this park wasn’t OURS. Other people would use it after we did, and while they may never know who came before them, they would have to deal with whatever we left behind.
Lately I’ve been wondering what I want from life. The most profound thought that seems to be following my every move and every decision is that right now, I don’t want anything. ANYTHING. I have no real desire. For awhile I thought I saw something I wanted. I was excited about it, I saw a future in it. It’s gone now, but the fact is, I can’t blame that situation for the way things are now. Before I was ever in that situation, I had no idea what I wanted too. I had passing fancies and whimsies, ideas of what I would want to do with myself, but truthfully I never had anything solid in mind.
Some people grow up wanting to be teachers, or politicians, or lawyers, or astronauts. Some dream of being musicians and movie stars. Some people dream of being a parent, of being a husband or wife, and they dream of raising a family. And even when they are grown and have achieved their dream or something just as good, they dream up something new and keep working toward it.
Not me. No, I never dreamed of being an astronaut. When I was little I liked the idea of being an archaeologist or paleontologist. And yes, even at 7 years old I knew what those two were and even how to spell them. But while my fascination with dinosaurs has stuck with me, my desire to study their bones has not. Eventually I gravitated towards being an actor. I thought I was pretty funny, creative, and not all that bad at acting. But that too passed. I told myself that it was difficult to really make it big, and I just didn’t have the right look or talent to do it. After a trip to the Denver aquarium in my early high school years, I decided I wanted to be a marine biologist, or perhaps a zoologist. Maybe even a veterinarian! I have always been fascinated with animals and more specifically the ocean, so pursuing that career was ideal. However, just a single year of undergrad study changed my mind about that. I realized how much science was involved. How focused you get on minute things like genes, viruses, bacteria, DNA, and cells in general. I didn’t want to do all that mess, I just wanted to swim with dolphins and explore the ocean. It seemed that my fascination with animals was limited to an intense hobby, but not something which I would want someone to pay me to do.
At every turn, I wrestled with the idea that something I loved could become something I hated. I could be a zoologist, but I could only make money studying in particular ways and particular places. I would have to receive grants, and you only get those when the benefactor expects some kind of useful benefit from the research. How much benefit do you get from studying lions in Africa? No, the money there would be studying cells in a lab obtained from animals in the wild, poking and prodding and looking for a better diarrhea medicine. I wasn’t going to do that.
And so high school graduation came. Everyone was exciting to be done with school, to be moving on to college and careers and new life. I didn’t know what to expect when I got my diploma as I crossed the stage. Pride? Excitement? Anxiety?
The words going through my head were “… What now?”
Up until that point, I didn’t need a plan. The plan was taken care of for me. I HAD to be in school, so it was easy. Just do great at the thing someone is making you do, that you really don’t have a choice of whether to do it or not. I applied for college and treated my first year much the same way. It seemed like the logical next step after high school, after all, and I had an idea in my mind that it was what I was required to do. It wasn’t until I started supporting myself and my parents separated that my life changed and I realized that I had to make decisions for myself. I was relatively self-sufficient, and have been ever since then, but the fact is, the plan doesn’t extend that far into the future. Even when I returned to school with a new plan, of becoming a counselor and helping people, I wasn’t sure in what context I would do that.
As college graduation drew nearer, I got more afraid. More clingy to people around me, to things I had. I had no PLAN after school. Every and ANY time someone EVER asked me where I saw myself in 5 or 10 years, I would either make up a BS answer or simply say “I don’t know.” That fact drove me to find my future, find my desires, in a person that could not fulfill me. It wasn’t that they as a person were inadequate: it’s that NO PERSON is adequate. No one could tell me what I wanted, and no one could transform into what I wanted.
And so, I sit here, pondering what I want from life. What do I desire so much that it would drive me past my anxieties and fears, past all my hang-ups, and draw me towards it? What could possibly transform me from this lost person that I am, this lazy, wandering, frivolous man, into someone strong and determined, someone with direction, someone who could be respected?
This thought, for whatever reason, brought me back to something I said one night last fall, while giving a fireside devo. I was using the analogy of plants, and how our life and faith, how we find inner joy, is much like working in a garden. I mentioned how the most joyful moments I had working at my landscaping job were when I got to go plant something. How we are made with the Spirit of God in us, and how God loves to create beautiful things, so it makes sense that we too would find joy in creating beauty.
And it hit me. Like a piano falling from the sky in a Wile E Coyote cartoon, it hit me.
What I want is beauty.
So much of what I do, every day, in every interaction, every conversation, every hobby, is aimed at making something more beautiful, or orienting people towards the beauty that already exists.
I compose music, without any hope or desire to make money from it, so I can share it with people in the hopes that they recognize it as a beautiful thing. It has nothing to do with the fact that I composed it, because in some strange way I feel that the music simply presents itself to me and then flows out of me. It already exists, and I am simply an instrument that does not compose music, but rather makes music heard.
I take pictures of nature. I love taking pictures of sunsets, of storms, of flowers and random bugs, of dust storms, of the trees in the forest and animals at the zoo, of the stars and planets above us. I do not make these things beautiful, they are that way all on their own. I simply capture moments and share them with people so that they may see beauty, that they may have a piece of a moment in time where they felt happy to take with them.
I love filming things too. Whether it is capturing a moment to remember, or if it is writing a short film, I love filming things and then sharing it with others so that they may see something that is beautiful. I love sharing movies with people in the very same way, and discussing these films or TV shows with them to flesh out wonderful storylines and amazing symbols that can teach us ways to live our lives for the better.
I grow roses. My garden used to be bigger, but now I only have two rose bushes. If I had it my way I would grow 50 different kinds of roses, and I would give them away to every person I met who would take one. I see so much beauty in flowers, so much beauty that cannot be seen or duplicated anywhere else. I recognize that in the secular world, a man who likes flowers might be seen in a negative light, but I think there is nothing unmanly about appreciating, growing, and protecting the delicate beauty that is a flower.
I even write a blog. This simple thing, this random vehicle for the traffic jam of thoughts in my head to come spilling out. I like entertaining people, making them laugh and enjoy themselves. I try to talk to people every day and involve myself in their lives, in their feelings, in their ideas and hopes and dreams. I recognize how I come across many times. Creepy, persistent, annoying, maybe even pathetic. People don’t know me, and I don’t know them, so it’s very strange for them to have a stranger want to know more about them so suddenly. I hope that they realize, though, that as weird as it may seem, I have no intention of taking anything from anyone. In some ways, this blog, my persistence in speaking to people, is simply my way of trying to give them a flower. A way to hand them something beautiful that I already have, or to work with them to create something beautiful out of what seems like nothing.
My brothers and I have always been helpers. When we see someone in pain, someone in need, someone with a problem, we HAVE to help. We are COMPELLED to do it. We know that we have the ability to help many people, and we are hardwired to help people using the talents and blessings we have. Many times we even volunteer to help despite our lack of ability to. I recognize this is irresponsible, but it comes from a good place. We know that we have a responsibility to respond, when we possess the ABILITY TO RESPOND. Response + ability = responsibility. It’s just math, really.
The fact is, I want people to live beautifully. I want people to see beauty all around them, to see beauty within them, and to see the beauty that comes from above. Everything I do is a testament to that. Even since I was a kid, all I wanted to do was study and share beautiful things. In my quest to find beauty, I learn a lot, and the more I learn, the more I want to know. And the more I know, the more I want to share.
So where does that leave me? What do I want? What will I leave behind? What will be my legacy?
I want to be a professor.
I want to keep learning, and keep learning, and KEEP LEARNING, and turn around and give all of that knowledge, experience, and hopefully wisdom, to others. I want people to see the road clearly, to have a clear path, so that they worry about where they are going less and instead enjoy the journey. I want to show people how to take a deep breath, work out their problems and hangups, and discover the beautiful path that they wish to follow. I think, somehow, I’ve always known this is what I wanted. If I am to be remembered in any way, I want to be remembered as someone who was determined to make lives beautiful.
When I was born, the world was a mess. It had been that way for quite some time. In so many ways, it has steadily gotten even worse. War is rampant, freedom does not mean what it once did. The less obvious and more insidious evils of idolatry, apathy, and distraction are creeping into our lives. Christians bicker about about semantics and fight amongst each other while the poor and sick and lost suffer in the shadows.
God created this world.
He created eternal truth. What He has made is pure and beautiful, and as badly as we mess it up every day, nothing can change the fact that His love IS. BEAUTIFUL.
I intend to spend every moment, every chance I can, showing people that beauty. Showing them the beauty of creation, the beauty of love that persists, the beauty of community and communion. I intend to bring light into dark places.
I intend to leave this world looking better than when I got here.
This is tough to post, mostly because I don’t want the kind of attention this could bring. But I need to get stuff out, ya know?
Lately I’ve been feeling really… off. Blank. Each day sort of blurs into the next one. The fact that it’s March, and that we have already sprung forward… I can’t even process.
I’m going through a really rough time. I’m depressed, and I know it. I don’t want to admit it, but I know that’s what it is. Being depressed completely sucks, you know that? It’s one of those things lots of people just rolllll their eyes at and think “Ughhh. Geez. Grow up. Stop being so dramatic.” And that right there just makes everything even worse.
I am lucky enough to not only feel very deeply, but think about EVERYTHING. DEEPLY. Going into a depression REALLY sucks for me, because I think myself out of asking for help.
Right now, I feel like someone came and sliced my stomach open, and everything started to spill out. In some ways, I feel like I’m just dying. I’m trying to hold it all together, hold it all in, because it’s all I can do to keep from falling apart. It feels like some people suspect what I’m going through, and some people definitely KNOW. They see that I am wounded. But somehow I still feel like I have to go about my normal day. I still have to do everything I would normally do. I feel like everyone wants me to act normal. I think that is one of the reasons I left my most recent job after being there only a week. I knew going into it that I wouldn’t be there long, and I had a hard enough time convincing myself to go there from the job before it, but it seemed like I might be happier there. After a week, I knew how much I would hate being there. To add on to that, this job required me to sit quietly and stare at a computer screen and literally do NOTHING until the next phone call came in. No reading, no distractions. Sit up straight and wait for the next call, period. Imagine being someone who thinks too much, be dealt a serious blow, and then be told to sit in a corner and do nothing else but act happy every day. I couldn’t do it, so I left. If I was going to think and hurt all the time, I wanted it to at least be on my own terms, in the ways I wanted to do it.
But now, here I am a month later. Still hurting. And I want so badly to reach out for help, to let go of trying to hold myself together and hold it all in, and spill my guts to someone who can make it better. But I’m so scared to do that. Letting go to reach out to someone means not holding myself together anymore. I risk falling apart, spilling out. I find myself staring at my phone or at Facebook, wanting so badly to reach out and make a new friend, or talk to an old one. Maybe sharing some of the love I can give will make me better. But then I think myself out of it.
“No Elliott, you shouldn’t reach out to anyone. You don’t really have anything to talk about, not something anyone is prepared to hear. You’ve got blood on your hands, and what’s inside you is gross. No one will want to look at that, touch it. No one wants to get their hands dirty to help you out. All you can do is make small talk, act like you’re okay, and hate yourself when someone isn’t more interested in talking to you than they are. Just keep on bleeding.”
It really makes me wonder how many people we see every single day who are having that exact conversation in their heads. How many people who are going around just trying to hold it together, but feel unable or unworthy to reach out for help.
I’m at war within myself. I feel so much right now, I hurt so much. I think so often about why I’m hurting, what I can do about it. I KNOW what I can do about it, but to my mind, it would mean diving into the pain and immersing myself in it. Fully feeling it. And I really don’t know if I can do that. I continue to torture myself by thinking about it all.
And so I sit here, wounded. People see me. If they know me, they know I’m hurting, but like many people who know their friends are hurting, they expect me to reach out to them if I need help. They don’t seem to recognize how very rarely I ever ask for help even when things are great, how rarely I talk about these things, and so they assume that I don’t need anyone right now. Maybe they think it isn’t their place, that we aren’t THAT good of friends.
And then there are just so many people who don’t know me as well, who may know I am hurting or may not, and who feel it isn’t their place to reach out to me. Who might think I’m strange for wanting to strike up conversation. Who might feel I come on very strongly, or act a little too familiar with them, and it pushes them away. These people don’t recognize that the reason I’m coming on so strongly is because I feel like I’m bleeding out, like I’m drowning, and I’m looking for someone just to keep my head above the water for awhile.
It honestly does not help one bit that I initially resist all efforts for people to help out or cheer me up if they do offer. It’s offputting and it gives the wrong impression. I know why I do it. I want people to be more invested, more than just the casual “Is everything okay?” that we throw around so loosely. I want them to recognize that if they really want to help me, they aren’t messing with some splinter or a sprained ankle. There’s going to be gore, they will get dirty, and it will be gross. I want them to push past my protests, I want to know that they are really invested and more than just curious. I want to know that they will see it through to the end and won’t run for the hills once they find out what they’re getting into,
I think the hardest part of all of this is that many people continue to ask me why I don’t just pray about it, what I’m doing about my faith, why don’t I turn to God. Well let me ask you this: Would you want to meet your celebrity crush right after you had gone dumpster diving? Silly question, I know. But the purpose of the question stands. God is Almighty. He is holy and pure and awesome. And I feel absolutely filthy going to Him and asking for help.
I recognize that I feel that way even on my best days, but when I’m depressed and I am thinking and feeling more deeply than ever, approaching God feels pointless. Like sending a fan letter to Brad Pitt, asking him for a phone call on your birthday or something super personal or expensive. God obviously feels no obligation to me for anything, and my whole life I’ve believed that God only did stuff for us when we were worthy of it. You know that whole prosperity gospel thing, where God blesses you when you’re a great person? Well, as much as I hate that message, I buy into it so much in my own life. And that message is shouted loud and clear when people tell me to pray about it or call on God right now.
What they say is the a half-truth. Prayer has power, absolutely it does. But what I hear, the other side of the coin, is,
“Elliott, if you had a little more faith, none of this would be happening.”
“Elliott, if you were cleaner, BETTER, more good, God would make this better too.”
“Elliott, why haven’t you called on God yet? Obviously your lack of communication with Him has resulted in these feelings and this problem you’re having.”
“Elliott, if only you were more. If you were more, you wouldn’t feel this way.”
I’m waiting for more than directions. I’m waiting on more than a sign. I’ll bet the man who was passed by when he was mugged by robbers probably knew which direction he could go to get help. I imagine he was just too injured to go that way. He needed help. He needed God’s hands, one of His children, a good Samaritan, to pick him up and take him there. I need so much more right now than just a point in the right direction. I need someone, or many someone’s, to carry me in that direction, until I can walk on my own.
If you know me, don’t take any of this to mean that I blame anyone for how I feel, or that I’m playing a martyr to guilt someone into helping me. I don’t mean to sound that way. It’s just so hard to ask for help right now.
I guess I just hoped that it was so obvious, I wouldn’t even have to ask.