You’re an introvert. You love Jesus. You love His people. But you have a problem. You have trouble forging bonds with Jesus’s people.

You’re an introvert in a strange land:

A new church.

You’ve tried so many times. Big churches, and small. Baptist, and Pentecostal. You’ve tried the:

Megachurch (bonus points for allowing anonymity, but major demerits for the crushing crowds)

Independent, non-denominational Charismatic church down the street (where the elders in their sweat-stained shirts hunched over you in prayer, imploring God for the sign of the initial indwelling)

Finally, you settle on a community church. The people seem friendly, warm, welcoming. They invite you in. You join the small group. For the first time in a long time, you let your guard down. You get real, tell folks what’s really going on inside. Peel back the hood of your sweater to let them see you. The real you.

And it happens. Again.

Just when you were feeling comfortable, when you felt like you’d found a church family, the small group falls apart. “It’s not you,” they say. It’s not you… But this isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve been down this road.

You feel suckered. You feel gut-punched, the wind knocked out of your spiritual sales. “How could this happen again,” you ask yourself? How could I be so stupid as to think this would be any different?

You want that connection, you long for a spiritual intimacy with like-minded people, but it keeps getting denied you.

Why?

Where are the real people who’ll be there for you–the ones for whom you’ll be there for, too? Will the real, true Christians please stand up (please stand up)?

So it starts again. You’re again searching for the place to call home, for the people with whom you can do life. Will you find what you’re looking for? Your heart hurts. You want to lay down, to not try. But that still, small voice keeps whispering, “There’s something more.” But you’ve heard it a thousand times before…

“What’s different this time, God?” you scream at the sky. “What’s different? Where were you last one hundred times?” you wonder.

Why is this so hard?

Why does your heart hurt so much?

Where are you, God, and where are Your people in this?

If this is your best life now, you’re saying “Check, please.” Because, stick a fork in it, you’re done.

But you don’t want to be. It doesn’t have to be this way. But you don’t know how to make it better.

There’s got to be a better way…

I have a confession to make: I’m a middle aged white guy. Appatently, this is supposed to somehow make my life easier, and/or it’s something I should feel guilty for.

Funny thing is, I born this way. I didn’t choose my parents, or my ancestry. In fact, if my mother is to believed (and why would you tell your adult child this?) my folks were actively using contraception when I was conceived. Lucky for me, this was before Roe v. Wade. But I digress.

Being white didn’t seem to automatically confer upon me some magical privileged status. I come from a home where my dad (again one those things I found out after the fact) cheated on my mom for fourteen out of their sixteen years of marriage. How’s that for a role model? Additionally, the older I got the more distant he became. He didn’t have the tools in his toolbox to see past his pain. When he finally left, I told my mom that didn’t feel like anyhting much had changed.

He was a ghost before he was gone.

Being white didn’t make growing up without a meaningful male authority figure any easier. In fact, if anything, it made it harder. I had to navigate puberty, teasing, bullying on my own. Sure, I grew up in the suburbs. My circumstances may have been more physically comfortable, but his leaving made my brother and I latchkey kids. Because my dad left, we effectively lost our mom, too. She had work two, and sometimes three, jobs just to keep us under the same roof.

But it may have been better if we had had more time together. If we had downsized, had moved to new place instead. Forged a new life together instead of trying to hold onto the old. Because it was already gone. My address may have been in the suburbs, but my upbringing was an emotional ghetto. To this day, I may well have attachment issues I’m completely unaware of. In fact, I do indeed have great difficulty making friendships, bonding, expressing my emotions.

To do this day, my relationship with my mom is strained, and with my dad nonexistent.

I don’t know the answer to all of this, but I do know growing up white didn’t give me any special privileges, open any doors, or make my life better in any way that mattered. In fact, I was forced to grow up faster, and I and my family have the price in recent years of a delayed adolescence.

I realize this may not be everyone’s experience, but it was mine–and it was altogether too real. So please don’t tell me that the mere fact of my skin color conferred upon me a better life. I might just laugh in your face if you do.

How about you? Has your skin color made you life any better, or worse? Sound off below.

To cap off our anniversary trip, my wife and I watched Dumb and Dumber To. And boy was it ever. Dumb, that is. There were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments (this depends, of course, upon your tolerance for toilet humor), but in my opinion it fell far short of the original. Which is not very far to fall at all, I guess.

Either that, or I’ve grown since the original came out twenty years ago (hint: I was twenty-five then, and I guess what I think is funny has changed). Don’t get me wrong: being a guy, fart jokes can still be funny, but a lot of what was passed off as humor in this movie was cringe-inducing. For instance, the name (spoiler warning) of Kathleen Turner’s character is Frida.

Frida Felcher <--warning unless you know, don't look that up on Urban Dictionary. Trust me on this.

Beyond that, the story was by-and-large a retread of the original:

Road trip? Check.

Homicidal companion? Check.

Girl in peril? Check?

I could go on.

Point being this: unless you're feeling uber nostalgic for the original, don't bother. There aren't even any memorable lines like "So you're saying there's a chance?" here.

Dumb and Dumber To is rated PG-13 for crude humor and language. In my view, it’s time for Harry and Lloyd to fade into the sunset.

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Today my wife and I are celebrating our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. While it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, it’s been good. It’s had its ups and downs, its victories, defeats, and disappointments. In short, its been a real relationship–one where it has been safe to know and safe to be known. My wife is a wonderful woman, full of life, love, and forgiveness. And I’ve needed every bit of it. If I were Catholic, and believed in their process of canonization, I would nominate her for sainthood.

I love you, Lisa! You’re my best friend now, forever, and always. I thank God for you everyday.

Happy anniversary!

Had A Hard Year?

randomlychad  —  November 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

Remember Friends, that much beloved ’90’s sitcom which ran for a decade? Remember the theme song?

“When it hasn’t been your day, your month, or even your year?”

Ever had a year like that? Ever had a couple of years like that? Where you go from victory to falling flat on your face? I have.

I went on a spiritual retreat a couple of years ago, and it was both literally, and figuratively, a mountaintop experience. I felt closer to God than I ever had. Apprehended Him as Father–as my Father–in ways I never had before.

That was in Summer.

And then came the Fall.

I thought I was hearing from God about the direction my family and I should go. It seemed that confirmation was around every corner. But my wife, bless her, didn’t see it that way. I wanted something for her she didn’t want for herself.

You all know how well that works out…

Then I found something out about myself which only deepened my confusion, furthered my disillusionment. While in that season of questioning whether I hearing from God, a family member let it slip that I might have been molested as a toddler. Whether it actually happened or not, it’s plausible because other family stories surrounded the purported molester.

If had been thinking clearly, I would have drawn a parallel (understanding that I’m no prophet) between myself myself and Elijah, who suffered through a season of blackest doubt after his greatest victory (over the prophets of Baal). But I wasn’t. Instead, I retreated into myself–feeling maligned, misunderstood, unappreciated.

Instead of investing energies in getting well, getting whole, I engaged in an online correspondence with a woman not my wife. Because it was safe, because there were no stakes. No one to hold me accountable. All the while telling myself that she (my wife) didn’t need to know because there was nothing going on. But the funny thing is that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” The looking forward to responses, the refreshing of my inbox, became an addiction to fill the needy beast of affirmation beating in my chest.

I was looking for validation and acceptance, and was willing to accept a substitute. Of course, as is often the case, I made more of this correspondence than did the other party. When it came to an end, it felt like I’d lost a friend.

But it was a friend I’d never really had in the first place.

The lessons here, I think, are these:

1) Setbacks will often follow victories. Be prepared for them. Decide in advance what you’re going to do.

2) There is an enemy of our souls who knows our proclivities, knows how to make the blacks look white, who knows our stories, and how to punch our buttons. It is when we are the weakest that he will pounce (like a roaring lion) the hardest.

3) Take personal responsibility. The enemy can only use what’s been undisclosed to shame and condemn us. Once it’s exposed to the light, once it’s confessed, it’s no longer a weapon in his hands. He has a vested interest in us keeping secrets, telling us that if we tell we’ll be shunned. It’s a risk, but confession is worth it.

How about you? Is there anything festering in your life that you need to confess? You don’t need to do it here, but find someone in your life–a safe person–and let them know. Confession is good for the soul.