Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Where am I, really?

This morning I went on sort've a bender.  No, not that sort of bender.  An angry-depressive-don'ttalktome and leavemealone kind of bender.

It was all because my kids' elementary school gym teacher was enforcing the rules.

It was raining pretty hard this morning, so we thought we would just drive the kids to school instead of making them stand in the rain at the bus stop.  We had fun little giggles and a small dance party in the car on the way (these are not uncommon in our car).  As we pulled up to the school we realized that the carpool lane was horribly long and slow, so, breaking the rules, we decided to pull into the bus lane.

We pulled around the empty lane.  No buses to be seen.  No kids either.  Totally empty.  We just thought, let's throw em out real quick, no biggie.  So the kids start unbuckling and begin to give hugs and kisses.  Then the gyn teacher walks up as they're getting out.

"You can't drop them off here," he says as our kids are already hanging out the door.  "This is a bus lane.  You have to pull around to the other lane."  Our kids get back into the car; and my inner world gets dark.  Melissa begins to pull away.

I mean, if I shared the things I was thinking in that moment it'd make a sailor blush.  I'm glad Melissa rolled up the windows cause I may have hung out the window and yelled things that would've gotten our kids thrown out of school.  I'm not joking; that's how dark I got.

This is not the first time something like that has happened to me recently.  Last week I was rebuked for grabbing too many M&M's out of the  community pot here at work and I wanted to go on a killing spree.  Really.  I was so mad about it I could barely function the rest of the day.  And these two events are not isolated, believe me.  This keeps happening to me.

A quick addendum at this point may be necessary for me to say that I now completely understand neither the gym teacher nor the M&M police were doing anything wrong.

Here's what I'm gathering, finally.  Call me inordinately slow for taking this long to realize it, but these reactions are not normal.  Something in me is broken.  I am really messed up.

Each of the last three days I've begun reading a portion of a book I started on seeking healing amidst PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  And each time I've broken down in tears.  Like snotty, red eyed tears.

I hesitate to say it like this publicly, but I have had, and currently still am processing through PTSD.  I have virtually all the symptoms.  Outbursts of anger are definitely a symptom.

I'm already at 500 words here, and this could go in a multitude of different directions, some of which I'm hoping to discuss in coming posts.  But I'll get to the heart of what has been so hard for me:

I have trouble admitting reality about myself.  Especially when that reality is difficult or painful or broken.

I always want to feel good, and I deny feeling bad.  I grew up in a culture in which you "throw some dirt on it" or "walk it off" when you're wounded, weak, troubled or sad and grieved.  Compound that culture with the Christian culture's emphasis on the victorious Christian life and I began to believe that I should always feel good.  I should be joyful and loving and peaceful; I should not be sad or angry or hurt.  I should be growing in trust and peace in Jesus, not distress and outbursts of anger.

So I denied it.  I didn't deny it in a ridiculously caricatured way, please don't misunderstand me.  I would admit my pain and hurt and trouble.  But I did not want to stay there.  I hated it there.  That place was death to me.  Only weaklings dwell there.

I have a lot more to say about this.  Hopefully I'll write more about it.  But denial is real, and my suspicion is that it's not just real for me.

I wanted to pause here to pose a question for the reader.  Where are you, really?  If you had nobodies' opinion of you to weigh, no-one to impress, and no "right" emotion -- how are you doing?  When you sit quietly and allow yourself to truly answer, what would you say?

Or, to put it another way, if your feelings were all neutral--as in, there are no "good" or "preferred" feelings, there are no things you should be feeling-- how would you describe where you are?

A follow up question may be: why do you think it is that you tend to always put off a sunny disposition?  Is it suspicious to you that your answer to the common "How are you?" is always "good"?

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Slowly, slowly"

Some things in life just stick with you: memories, joys, pains, milestones.  Sometimes rather random things just seem stapled to your brain, for only God knows what reason.  One phrase that has stuck with me ever since our STINT year in Azerbiajan has been the Azeri phrase “yavash yavash.”  The phrase is really a bit nonsensical but can loosely be translated “slowly, slowly.”  For whatever reason, this phrase has always had a special connotation for me. 

I’m finding that, much to my surprise, I’m a rather driven guy.  I want things done, and I want them done well.  I want to succeed, to accomplish big things, to, literally, change the world.  This has been a huge impetus to our mission and ministry.  This is usually a good thing.  But in the midst of hurt or disorientation, being deeply driven to head somewhere or do something can be somewhat destructive.  Consider yourself in a fog: should you choose to just run off wildly in one direction or another, there is no telling the danger you may run into.  That’s my tendency. 

What I have needed—and here is why yavash, yavash has always appealed to me—is a calming force.  A present sign of the slowness of the spiritual life.  A gentle reminder that though crazy things aren’t happening every day, God is indeed moving.  A nudge to remain faithful in the midst of the process.

Perhaps you need to hear the Lord whisper the same thing to you?  Perhaps you could benefit from instead of seeing all the ebbs and flows of the day-to-day grind as distractions and little annoying interruptions, you could see them as God-given gifts of change in a turn-style world?  To slow down and breathe deeply in the reality of God’s pace and His presence is beginning to open new doors for me in my relationship with Him, His people, and His world.  This is a world that, I believe, most assuredly does not need more Christian rat-racers, but more people walking in the peace, comfort, and joy of a meditative spirituality led by Christ.

This has been a rather fun lesson to learn.  We look forward to sharing with you more of the fruit that we feel God has been graciously giving us as a result of this mindset change.