Archives For affirmation

It almost goes without saying that to affirm–to embrace–one thing is to implicitly deny another. There are only so many hours in one day, and we are but human; thus, we can’t do everything.

What we do get to do is choose. This, or that. If we choose this, chances are we can’t also do that (maybe we can, but usually not well). The funny thing is that we always seem to manage to find the time to do the things we love. Whether that’s writing, sculpting, painting, exercising, reading, praying…

The list is endless.

But because we love that thing, we are disciplined, and choose this instead of that.

We decide what our priorities are, and invest accordingly.

For myself, I’m in a season where getting up, and going to the gym, is important to me. It means that I don’t have time for morning writing for instance. However, I think that my fitness journey may indeed one day provide ample blog fodder.

The equation may be different for you, and that’s okay. What’s important is to:

Choose

Commit

Stay focused

Be disciplined

And show up

The rest is up to you.

Choose you this day.

Too Much to Ask?

randomlychad  —  April 22, 2014 — 3 Comments

If the other day I wrote of love being more than they have to give, today I’d like to address the other side of that coin. Namely, how growing up with a marked lack of intimacy creates questions, and puts burdens on others they were not meant to bear. For you see, nature (and here I mean human nature) abhors a vacuum. If we don’t get the mother love and/or the father love we need in our formative years, we look to other people, to tbings, to substances to fill that void.

We put burdens on spouses, and friends, that were simply not meant to bear.

If the questions:

“Daddy, do you love me?” and

“Do have what it takes?”

“Am I pretty?” (in the case of a little girl)

Are met with stony silence, or outright hostility, we naturally question our worth. The inference is that we don’t have what it takes, and we will do what we can to find it. They are all questions asking the same thing:

Am I valuable to you?

If the message is that we’re not, then we’ll go looking. And it’s often a fruitless, and heartbreaking, search for identity. As a husband, and as a man, say that I go to my wife: I’m not going to  get the affirmation of I’m looking for. Because she is a woman, and masculinity is something which is imparted. Besides which, having coming from a broken home, who is role model? My dad, with his philandering? Is that how a woman is to be treated? He took his question to the woman–and still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Just a string of affairs, and two divorces.

And several disappointed kids.

The cycle of dysfunction set him up to fail, and that is the legacy he has handed down. I have learned I can’t look to him. Yes, looking to God is the answer.

But…

Other than His Word, the Bible, God is largely silent in today’s world. It’s not like we can sit down with Him and have a face-to-face conversation. Oh, sure, we can have a heart-to-heart via prayer. And we know He loves us–the cross proves it. But sometimes we want arms, we need our daddy’s love. Let’s face it our hearts are fickle: when we don’t get what we think we need from:

God

We turn to people

And when people likewise let us down

We turn to things

But the things never satisfy

Leaving us longing for more.

It’s a recursive loop, like a serpent devouring its own tail. It’s nuts to be so needy, but growing up without those loves needs met leaves one very vulnerable to getting on this affirmation treadmill.

Because enough just never is enough.

And I know Jesus is the answer. I just don’t know how. My heart is fickle, and wants to go full on Children of Israel:

At least I knew Egypt, but like song by Sara Groves says, “Those places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned. And those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned.”

Maybe it’s a trust issue, you know? Maybe you and I know that God loves us. But maybe we’re just not to sure about his people? Or we view Him like we view our earthly fathers? I just wish He would show up more often and help me make sense of my messy heart.

Is that too much to ask?

What do you think?

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Donald Miller, My Secret, and a Huge Comment Fail
On September 28th of this year, Donald Miller posted an excellent article to his blog called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell the Church. It’s a meditation on the attitude of the church regarding not only the issue of homosexuality, but also of the pervasive culture of the “cover-it-up-sweep-it-under-the-carpet-that-doesn’t-happen-here” crowd. Emboldened by the post itself, and the frank discussions it engendered, on page two of the comments, I replied to another commenter with the following:
I was exposed to porn at the age of 9, had my own subscription to Playboy at 10, or 11, and because my mom—bless her heart—thought it was all just healthy curiosity, I was allowed to continue deeper into it. (In her defense, my folks divorced right as I entered the teen years, and she worked a lot to hold onto the house). Playboy progressed to Penthouse, Penthouse to Oui, to Hustler, to Swank, to videos. I had centerfolds on my bedroom wall, and my brother lost friends because of them. Never did my mom, or her boyfriend, even try to take them down. For my 18th birthday, she bought alcohol and rented pornos. Real healthy upbringing, right? So, no, I was not being ironic.”
Phew! For me, that was a huge admission to make on a blog as well trafficked as Mr. Miller’s. But the past is the past—I can’t change it. I’m not proud of it, but if not exactly ashamed of it anymore, it still had a weird hold on me. As they say in the church, all that’s “under the blood.” It’s forgiven. But it was still my secret, and that secret was shaming. In recovery circles there’s a saying: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” And this was a secret that I’d carried for most of my life. One that the devil, my flesh, what have you would trot out at inopportune times—times of stress, conflict, exhaustion. So I laid my cards on the table there in those comments. This was so liberating, it felt so good to get that weight off my chest, I went further:
Don, if you’re ever interested, I would be willing to contribute a guest post on the dangers of parental uninvolvement, and how it contributed to my struggles with porn. Just writing that makes me queasy, but I think my testimony could be a blessing. Thanks for your consideration.”
I’m not sure that I actually expected to hear back from him, but at least it was out there. I felt like I had done what I was supposed, had confessed my secret. And I suppose, secretly at least, I was hoping that I’d hear from him. I also need to confess something else: lately, Donald Miller has become one of my heroes. His books–Blue Like Jazz, Searching For God Knows What, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Father Fiction–had really blessed me, revolutionized my relationship with the Lord. So I guess maybe I wanted to repay him somehow, bless him, and others, in return by being honest about my struggles. Realistically, the chances of him opening his blog, and thus his reputation, to me were (in my mind) slim to none. Which, when I checked my Twitter feed on September 29th, made this all the more surprising:
Emailing you sooooon!”
Because it appeared in the public timeline, I asked him about it (not really, but yes, actually, hoping that it was for me):
Was that supposed to be a DM?”
Yep that was supposed to be a dm. But I’ll email you too. Sooon.”
Even if that first tweet wasn’t intended for me, the second most certainly was. The fanboy in me went “Squee! Don Miller’s gonna email me!” Then it hit me—he’s going to want to see what I can do. That was a true “Oh, crap!’ moment—because I had nothing down on paper. Sure, I had mental notes, a general idea of the story I wanted to share, but nothing more. So I sat down, started journaling. The idea was to get the history in order, a basic timeline covering the key moments. The things that put me on the path to a porn addiction.
For some reason, my mind wandered back to Christmas, 1977, which was before my issues with porn began. There was just something there, something I needed to uncover. I didn’t know what it was, but I went with it. Before I tell you what I learned, I need to mention that it was around this same time that Mr. Miller posted a Fundraising Update: Creating History entry to his blog. It has to do with how the movie adaptation of Blue Like Jazz was making history by being resurrected via crowd-sourced funding. Although an amazing story, I’ll not rehash it here (currently, the amount donated sits at over $164,000—with about ten days left in the campaign). All this is germane to my story, because the day he posted, I commented:
This is truly incredible! Don, I think your story has such resonance because it echoes His larger Story so powerfully. Congratulations!”
That was September 30th. It was the next day—October 1st—that I learned the significance of Christmas, 1977.
Allow me to set the scene: I was alone in the lunchroom at work, eating, journaling, catching up on Twitter, email, and blogs that I follow—among them Mr. Miller’s. Here is what I wrote:
Christmas of 1977 was perhaps the best of my childhood in terms of the sheer volume of presents. I was eight, my brother turned four. We both received a big multicolored box, each replete with a bright red bow. There were treasures galore! For me there were Star Wars action figures, the Millennium Falcon, and a purple radio-controlled airplane. (Because I was so excited about my own haul, I’m sorry to say that I don’t recall what my brother received). Yes, the Star Wars toys were cool, and gave me hours—nay, years—of play, the crown jewel for me was the plane. And because we lived somewhere that wasn’t colder than the poles of Mars, I wanted to fly it. My dad was amenable, and I dutifully followed him across the street into the half-mile of desert that bordered our street. I don’t remember if my mom and brother came along. They may have. I only had eyes for the plane. When my dad told me he needed to show me how to operate the plane’s controls, what could I say? “Okay, daddy,” is what I probably did say. So I watched him gas up my plane, start its engine, and carefully get it aloft. He flew it around for awhile. He didn’t show me how to work the sticks, despite my pleas. I watched that plane fly high, arc across the face of the sun, and slam into the dry, hard-packed desert soil. It was shattered beyond repair, bits of purple plastic scattered across the ground. He promised me a new plane, but never delivered. Eventually, I forgot, moved onto other things. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that that plane was a metaphor for our relationship. Mine wasn’t a boulevard of broken dreams, but rather a desert lot that stood-in for a runway. That day was the beginning of the end of my childhood. That day I learned that men don’t keep their promises.”
I wrote “it wasn’t until much later that I realized that that plane was a metaphor for our relationship,” but that’s a lie. It was right then. The enormity of it, the crushing weight of it, crashing down upon me all at once, and the simple fact of being alone, probably lead to the perfect storm of fail that happened next. Recall my comment on Mr. Miller’s “Fundraising Update”:
This is truly incredible! Don, I think your story has such resonance because it echoes His larger Story so powerfully. Congratulations!”
I replied to my comment the with:
Don, please moderate the following down (pretend it’s one of those insults that you censor), it’s for your eyes only. I feel like an affirmation-seeking fool for even sharing this with you, but just please tell me that I don’t suck.
When my dad told me he needed to show me how to operate the plane’s controls, what could I say? I was 8. “Okay, daddy” is what I probably did say. So I watched him gas up my model plane, start its engine, and carefully get it aloft. He flew it around for a good long while. Despite my pleas, he didn’t show me how to work the sticks. I watched that plane fly high, arc across the face of the sun, and slam nose first into the dry, hard-packed desert soil. It was shattered beyond repair, bits of purple plastic scattered across the ground. He immediately promised me a new plane, but never delivered. Eventually, I forgot, moved on to other things. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that that plane was a metaphor for our relationship. Mine wasn’t a boulevard of broken dreams, but rather a desert lot that stood-in for a runway. That day was the beginning of the end of my childhood. That day I learned that men don’t keep their promises.”That right there, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is what you don’t do on the Internet! That is a comment fail of epic proportions. Sure, it was an authentic moment, a snapshot of where I was emotionally at the time. It was like I was that eight year-old boy again, and I was seeking the affirmation I didn’t get from my dad from Donald Miller. But it’s not his job to give me that. I have to let God father me, and find mentors in my own community. (Incidentally, building community is one of the things I hope to do with this blog. If my story resonates with just one person, then they’ll that they’re not alone). I subsequently replied to that comment with the following:
I understand that this was not the appropriate place to post this, and I apologize that it was not germane to the topic at hand. But it was an authentic moment. Let me explain: I was sitting by myself in the cafeteria journaling, processing through some stuff, and just years of crushing self-doubt just came crashing down on me. In that moment, it didn’t feel like there was anyone else to reach out to—so I wrote what you see above. I’m sorry for laying that trip on you, man. That’s not your job. I suppose I reached out in that moment because there is much in your journey that resonates with me. Where our stories diverge, if you will, is that the church was not a part of my early life, nor did I have a man who was willing or able to come along side me as a mentor. My dad checked out long before he was gone, and I have suffered the lack my entire life—but I am trying to make a better future. Thanks for your help along the way. Many blessings!”
During the intervening days, in my fanboy exuberance and quest for approval, until I came to the realization I just quoted above, I’m sorry to say that I reminded (more like pestered) Mr. Miller about the promised email. Don, if you ever read this, I’m sorry about all that. You don’t have to email me. Just the thought that you might served as the catalyst that brought me to this place, to blogging. So, in that sense, you’re responsible for this blog coming into being. You have been, and continue to be, a great teacher. The only thing I hope is that it does somebody somewhere some good somehow. Please share your stories in the comments. God bless you all!