Memoirs Of The Broken Restored
There was a time I thought I knew what loneliness was. A time I thought I knew who God was. A time when I thought I (mostly) understood the idea of life and living. A time I thought I understood tragedy and loss. And there was this one time, not so long ago, I was sitting on the front step of my empty home. Staring mindlessly up at the setting sun. The silence inside my home; the company of the same four walls was getting a bit drab. There was at least the chirping of the birds, the bite of a mosquito, and the magnificent color-bathed sky, as the sun called it a day.
It's strange how loud silence can be. And amazing how one learns to appreciate appreciation, by being pulled out of the familiarity and comfort of everyday life. It was in those days I found God in the beauty of a sunset. He spoke to me, painted the sky for me, and comforted me in ways unspeakable by me. It was knowing He was there when no one else was. I learned to be content in my nothingness. All the while, not realizing what was happening inside of me. It will forever be mysterious to me, how sitting in the ashes of a life that once was, that will never be again, brings about a life that is more like the one I always wanted to live.
It was in those days I discovered my true self.
Identity is everything. I believe that with all certainty. I believe that under God’s amazing love for us, His next highest value for us, is helping us realize who we truly are. And what we are truly capable of. And in the discovery of our identity, there is no force in the seen, unseen, or any other realm, that can disempower us. Or steal the beauty of our being away from us. Much of the darkness in our world exists, because so many don’t know who they are. Why they are. Or for what purpose they are. If we could all have that revelation at the same time, we would see our prayers for world peace come to pass. Evil is a shadow of darkness, and darkness is a void. It is emptiness. Darkness fills the spaces of things lost, buried, undiscovered, unrealized, and empty. I have perpetuated my own forms of evil in my life. I have found ways to medicate myself, in the absence of not knowing myself.
Have you ever felt powerless, helpless, or hopeless? Ever feel like life is happening to you, instead of for you? Ever felt like the victim of your own innocence? Where you were minding your own business, doing nothing wrong, and got hit with more than bad luck? Ever ask yourself why something bad had to happen to someone you love? Or why some injustices go unpunished? Of course you have. That is life. Or at least, our limited understanding of it. I still don’t know what God was trying to say to me, when I was laying in an ICU bed, staring at the only thing I could see. The clock on the wall ticking away just a hair to slowly. But if I could fast forward it, would I want to? What does life look like when you are half dead, and the person that you came to love so much, is being buried six feet under. And you couldn’t be there to watch them throw the dirt on the casket.
I’ve been no angel though. Life will knock the teeth out of your innocence and efforts of trying to be a good person. Sometimes we have to fall, in order to rise up as something better. Why? I couldn’t tell you. There is something about being reduced to nothing, facing our worst fears, and wrestling with our demons that teaches us more about what matters, than simply living a “neat” and “clean” life. I imagine that experience looks different for everyone. It is something I try to remind myself of when I start to judge someone. I wonder what I might see, if I could see what God was doing in that person’s life instead. And yet, it’s hard to not judge when everything someone does scratches across your convictions, like nails on a chalkboard.
I don’t really care about labels. But in some ways, I suppose I see their purpose. At the very least, it feels good when the label promotes me as something I want to be known for. I used to think that was how I felt about my “Christian” label. But then things got twisted and messy. I realized that the non-Christian world was more accepting of me, than the Christian world was. As long as I didn’t intrude on it with my beliefs. But it is awfully lonely out there, when no one else understands you. I realized the Christian world offered me a comfortable and acceptable world, to enjoy the comfort of not having to be uncomfortable in my beliefs. Until my beliefs intruded upon theirs too. Or until the intrusion of their beliefs upon me, could not be accepted by me. So, I found myself not really feeling at home in either place. But then I realized that the underlying issue wasn’t the institution themselves, but rather, they both include people. People like me. Just different. So, I decided that I would take whatever label God gave me instead. Because if He says I’m something, who am I to argue with Him? And if you say I’m something, my response to you is – take it up with Him.
I’ll be thirty-six soon. Speaking of labels, I don’t feel much different than I remember at twenty-six. But everything inside of me is radically different. What have I learned in thirty-six years that is worth writing about here? I learned what it’s like to be selfish. What it’s like to live in morbid fear. Not of external things like death, safety, or losing my job. But afraid of myself. Afraid of what I wasn’t, and what I feared I may be. Worthless, not good enough, ugly, stupid, nothing special, and unworthy of true love. I learned that being good at something is a great way to hide who you are. I’ve seen others use different devices to medicate and hide that in their own way. I learned what one level of love is like, because I kept losing it. And in it’s loss, I learned its value. I learned what it is like to hurt people. I learned what it is like to grieve in my loss, and grieve in my guilt. I learned what it is like to live thirty something years as a shadow of something I always could have been. I have learned what it is like to be your greatest contradiction. I learned what it was like to live thirty something years as a boy, and not man. I learned how to fail at marriage. I learned how much I hate divorce, and how valuable second chances are, because you may never get them. I learned that my parents probably love me more than I still realize. I hope they know how much I love and respect them. I learned the power of prayer. I learned that without risking great risk, there may be little reward. I learned who I truly am, why I am, and what I must do before my time on this earth comes to an end. I learned that what I think I know about God is laughable. I have learned that if there is any reason for being, it is for Him. Not because someone told me, or persuaded me, but because He has loved me into life. And no, not just the cliché eternal life stuff. I mean here, now, in this world! I learned that it took thirty plus years to begin this thing called “my” life, for what it was truly meant to be.
I could go on…
There are things I wish I could tell people who are no longer in my life. It is odd. Because not all of those people should be in my life. But oddly, sometimes I find myself wanting to thank them anyway. People change. I change. Some relationships end because two people change in directions the other cannot go. Judging them for their change, based off my hurt, undermines the power and plan God has for them. The hardest thing I’ll ever do is try and see Jesus in my enemies. God help me. These will often be the very people that need me. Or the very people I should avoid.
I’m still working on my ten second elevator pitch. That is supposed to be your way of telling any form of important information, in condensed form, very quickly. But maybe it would go something like this:
“Life is short, we all risk losing something important and valuable to us. It happens fast, and without warning. Make sure you can live without regret. Find out who you are. Live and be that at all cost. Even if it means giving up everything else. What good is it to possess the world, but lose your soul? Or worse yet, live disconnected from the soul of your being. Refuse to live in fear, even if it requires your life. Better to live five minutes free as your true self, than a lifetime of misery wondering what you could have been. Love fiercely, love radically, love all of yourself. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Then start loving other people the same way. Love yourself enough to be able to get out of yourself, and give back to the world. And lastly, if you don’t know God, give Him a chance to love you despite what you think He is or is not.”
To the ladies and gents…we live in a dysfunctional world. We are very underequipped for life, despite what anyone will tell you. You will have to find your own way to be sure. But time is the only resource we cannot reproduce. Use it wisely. The world is full of brilliant people. There is a lot of wisdom and knowledge available to us. More than any other time in history. There is no reason to settle for a mediocre or mundane life. The average American spends seven hours a day watching T.V. If you don’t think for yourself, someone will think for you. If you don’t set the course of your own life, it will be determined for you. Read, read, and read some more. There is no Netflix show, video game, sport, or hobby that can replace the value of intentional learning, and application of that learning. The life you really want is not found in the security of making a paycheck, at a job you hate. It is not found in your college degree. And not even in the love of your life (but they are a great bonus). You have to find the meaning of fulfillment for you. And be intentional about making that fulfillment a reality.
Men: wherever you are in your love life, or if you are single…women are not like us. They are totally different. Culture has lied to you. Most of us are so blind to it, we never realize it. The image and idea of being a man is not what you think it is. Nor is it what women really want. In fact, it’s not who you really want to be. And you will come to discover that, when you have this revelation for yourself. It’s OK to feel. It is OK to be vulnerable. It is OK to be masculine. Don’t confuse that with macho. Women want a man, not a boy. No matter how many relationships or women you go through, until you become a man, and find yourself, you will be empty. A woman alone, cannot fulfill you or make you happy. You live in a world where women are being taught not to need us. Or we are hurting them so often, they don’t want us. This is want the independent woman looks like. She is still a woman though. And deep down she has hope. You will either be that hope, or you will be the next layer going up on the wall of her heart. She doesn’t want a boy, grow up. She wants commitment, leave her the hell alone if you can’t give it. If she is loose and easy, you don’t want her. Not because she is not valuable, but because you can’t make her see her worth. She has to find that on her own journey. Don’t think a woman can’t pull you into her void. You live in a time where morals and manners are almost non-existent, marriage is just a piece of paper, and there are more single parents than ever. And if you grew up with a single mom, then you know what it’s like to not have a father in the picture. Don’t pay that forward by making a child with a woman you can’t commit to. And if you do, take responsibility and be a man, and be the child’s father. Show up for your kid, even if you can’t get along with the kid’s mother. If you are screwed up inside – meaning you don’t care about anything or anyone – don’t pull a woman into your blackhole. You’re not hopeless, you are identity-less. Find yourself, find God, and you will find life. I dare you to try! Lastly…read! Everything you need to know about women, love, and how to have the relationship of your dreams, can be found in a book.
Women: read everything I wrote to the men. Understand that without your support, we suffer. You have been lied to also. I understand you can do everything a man can. And even more, because we can’t birth a child. But using your independence as a protective wall for your heart, is suffocating what you really want. And that is to be cherished and loved. Lose the independent mentality. Men don’t need women to live, breathe, chase their dreams, or make money, any more than you need a man to do the same. But don’t lure a man into your life, and give off the vibe he is not needed. Don’t use us and lose us, so you can have a child you think will love you unconditionally, because most men in your life have not. No matter what the world or your life experiences dictate, don’t lose touch with your femininity. You were created to feel. Feelings are good. Embrace being a woman at all costs. Embrace your uniqueness. The world is one large nightmare for you, I get that. Everywhere you go, your insecurities are fueled. There are a million ways to crucify yourself in your own mind. If men are not threatening enough in one way or another, there are millions of women that are for you. Fear and insecurity are different for you than it is for us. Don’t think getting a man (even a good man) will remedy the issues with your insecurity, or self-worth. You have to learn to love yourself too. You have to learn to conquer your inner voice, and dispose of the thoughts that do not serve you well. You have to risk your insecurity exposed, to find true love. You can avoid undue harm, by learning who you are, being vulnerable in your own sense, without giving all you are away, at the first signs of infatuation and love. You were created to respond to emotion, but keep close tabs on them, otherwise they will run away with your heart. I know it might be frustrating, or feel impossible to find a good man. They exist! Never settle. While you wait, use the energy of your frustration, for the good by finding ways you can help men understand your pain. Help them hear your cry. Understand that there is a lot of pressure and emphasis on your external beauty in our culture. You are the symbol of sexualization in our culture. See it for what it is. Understand that you either contribute to it, or you stand in opposition of it. Understand that the choice you make in that decision directly links to the frustration you will have with men. Lastly…read! Everything you need to know about men, love, and how to have the relationship of your dreams, can be found in a book.
To men and women: the battle and struggles of our gender differences are not ours alone to fight. We need to support each other’s cause, no matter how frustrating it is. If all else, our children and their children will need the foundation we laid for them now. If we do nothing, they will have worse to deal with.
To those hurting, lost, hopeless, or without purpose…
Never give up!
Whatever your story is, you are in the middle of your “becoming”. Realize that. Realize that it is for something greater and more meaningful than yourself. Again…no matter how skeptical or hurt you are, give God a try. He doesn’t impose Himself. That’s just the way it is. If you wholeheartedly ask Him to make Himself known to you, He will. In your darkest moment, hold on even when holding on seems impossible, or pointless. The greatest change happens right on the other side of that choice. I’m proof. I fully embraced suicide once. And even if you are not there, dark can still get pretty dark. What else could your turmoil mean? Instead of why, ask what is this for? What is dying inside of me, that something great is about to come alive in me? Don’t walk out before the movie is over. Don’t judge your life by its cover.
This is the memoir of a broken man restored. What is yours?