Posted in Broken Thoughts, My Thoughts

When God allows our dreams to die

This Sunday is a big day. This coming Sunday my second child will start going to the Jr High youth group at church. My son has been in youth group for a couple of years now, and now my oldest daughter has also reached youth group age. So starting this coming Sunday, I will officially have 2 kids involved in the Student Ministry!

I have always loved Student Ministry; my youth pastor was one of the biggest influences in my life, I had some incredible experiences and memories from my years in youth group, and for 13 years I was a youth pastor myself…so I have a huge passion for Student Ministry. And because of my love for Student Ministry, I am excited for my daughter to begin this next chapter in her life journey.

But…

While I’m excited, I’m also struggling. I’m not struggling so much with the fact that I’m now old enough to have 2 kids in the Student Ministry, nor am I struggling with being worried that my daughter might not enjoy her experience. Rather, I’m struggling with the reminder that a dream of mine has died. The dream of getting to be my kids’ youth pastor.

When I was 12 (the age of my son and only 1 year older than my oldest daughter) God developed in me a passion for Student Ministry. I knew from the time I was 12 that I wanted to become a Youth Pastor, and I did what was needed to direct my life in that direction. After I graduated from Bible College, I started my first full-time job in Student Ministry, and for 13 years I was living my dream.

When I had kids, another dream developed. The dream that one day I would get to experience youth group with my kids because I would be their youth pastor. They would get to see my passion for Student Ministry first hand by being involved in my ministry, and I would get to watch first hand as the Student Ministry provided them with experiences and memories of their own.

But…

God allowed my dream to die. I’m not blaming him or anything like that, don’t get me wrong here. I just know that God is sovereign over all and ultimately in control, so he knows what will happen and he allows things to happen for a reason…even if we don’t understand those reasons.

When my life took a left turn and I was suddenly thrust into the world of divorce, my life as a youth pastor also came to an end at that time. My son was starting to attend youth group when I stopped being the youth pastor, and that was hard for me because I didn’t get to be my son’s youth pastor. And now 2 years later, I’m being reminded of that feeling again as I watch my daughter start attending youth group.

My dream of being a youth pastor is not dead…I know that. It has just taken a break, but I am still just as passionate about Student Ministry as I was before, and I know that at some point in the future I can be involved in Student Ministry again. So that dream has not died. But the dream of being my kids’ youth pastor has.

It has died because when I do become a youth pastor again, it will be at a different church than the church my kids call their home church and where my kids are involved in the Student Ministry. Even if they occasionally attend my youth group in this scenario, they will do so as visitors and I still won’t be their youth pastor. At best, I will be their dad who is a youth pastor.

So that dream has died. When God chose to not miraculously save my marriage, which I spent countless hours begging him to do, he was allowing my dream of being my kids youth pastor to die.

But…

I also know that God is sovereign and in control, and he has a plan for things that I don’t see or understand. God allows things to happen in our life that we don’t understand, even really difficult and bad things. Yet he does so for a purpose that we don’t know in that moment.

God is at work. God is in control. God has a plan. God is doing things in my life to prepare me for the plans he has for me. I may not always get it or know why…or even be happy about it…but I can still trust that God is at work. I can know that, while my dream might have died, his dreams and plans for me are even greater than my dreams for myself.

Consider Joseph. He had no idea why he went through everything he went through (and man did he go through a lot!), but God had a plan for him that so much bigger than Joseph could have even imagined.

Do I wish I could be my kids’ youth pastor? Yes. It was a dream of mine. But I know that God is faithful and in control, so I can also trust that if he let that dream of mine die, it is because he has a better plan…both for me and for my kids. All I need to do is to continue to trust him and follow where he leads, and I can have full confidence that his plans are greater than any of my dreams.

When God allows our dreams to die, it is because he has something bigger and better planned.

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. – Genesis 50:19-20

 

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Posted in Bible Study, Broken Thoughts, My Thoughts

Some dates just carry more weight than others

Recently I’ve posted some pretty open and honest blogs concerning my life. I’ve shared all that I’m struggling with in terms of what I have lost in the past couple of years, and the loneliness I had been feeling because of the loss. I’ve also shared what I have learned from the loss and pain that is associated with it, and even why I’ve chosen to not forget my past as I move forward.

Forgetting the past…at least attempting to…is often the normal response to painful experiences. There was a time I wanted to forget everything and start over. I will be totally honest and even admit that at one point when I was really hurting, I wanted to just walk away from everything and everyone and start a new life somewhere else. I’m SO GLAD I didn’t, but I admit it was a consideration at one point.

I know that painful memories are not fun, and we want to get rid of them whenever possible. I get it, I really do!

Today for example, is a date that brings with it a lot of memories and pain for me. July 19th. A date that I’m sure I’ll never forget, and a date that I’m sure will always bring me more pain and reminders of the past than most other dates. Some dates just carry more weight than others, and this date is one of those for me. This date was my wedding anniversary. But not only that, it is also the date that I first realized that my marriage was in serious jeopardy of coming to an end (and it eventually did end).

For many years this date carried with it good memories. Memories of another year being married to a woman I loved and had a family with. In more recent years, however, it has carried more painful memories with it. Memories of the pain of loss and rejection. There are both good memories and painful memories associated with this date, which is why it carries so much weight.

But despite the pain, I don’t want to just try to forget the memories associated with this date. As hard as it has been, I want to learn to accept all memories as part of the journey that I have been through in my life. I want to learn from the memories of my past as I move forward into the future. And I want to learn to continually trust in God and rely on his strength in my life, and painful memories help me do just that.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” – James 1:2-3

“…but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

If I try to push away or forget the difficult times in my past, then I’m trying to live my life in my own strength, and I’m trying to act as though I’m not vulnerable to pain and hurt in this life. But when I choose to remember the difficulties of the past, then I’m constantly reminded that I am weak and vulnerable, which reminds me that I need God.

I need God’s grace in my life. I need God’s strength in my life. I need to remember that difficult circumstances help me to look to God for his grace and strength in my life. I need to remember that it is because of his strength that I am able to do all the things I need to do as well as what he has called me to do in this life. And I need to remember that trials and suffering in this life serves as the catalyst for me to grow deeper in my faith, gives me the ability to endure and remain steadfast, creates in me a stronger character, and ultimately leads me to hope.

July 19 is a painful day for me…but I know that it’s also just another date on my journey that God is using to produce faith and strength and character and hope in me.

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To anyone who has certain dates or memories that are very difficult and painful…

May you be able to find rest in God’s grace. May you admit that you are weak so that you will allow his strength to be your strength. May you continue to seek him each day as he produces stronger faith in you. May you remain steadfast and endure the trials with full confidence that God is at work in your life despite the pain. And may you find hope again for your future because of all that God has done in your life through the trials and pain.

Posted in Broken Thoughts, My Thoughts

The beauty of the scar

Scars. A mark that indicates where a wound once existed. A wound that was deep enough to leave a scar.

I have a small scar on the middle finger of my left hand. The scar is there because my finger was cut by the blade of a running lawn mower back when I was in High School. The wound was deep enough that my finger bled for quite a while. It may not be an overly big scar, but it’s still visible. That scar serves as a reminder of the wound I received.

There is a lot of beauty in a scar.

The beauty of a scar is not that it looks cool…although I will admit that some scars do look cool. The beauty of a scar is not that it reminds us of a deep wound…wounds deep enough to leave a scar hurt. The beauty of a scar is not even in the fact that it can serve as a reminder of what not to do…like remembering to not stick my hand near a running lawn mower blade.

The beauty of a scar is that it indicates healing. A scar forms when the wound has healed over. When a scar forms, that means that the wound has closed and the bleeding has stopped. The scar will be a visible reminder of the pain that once existed there, but the scar indicates healing has taken place. That is the beauty of a scar.

Everyone has been wounded. Some wounds are physical, and other wounds are emotional. In this life we will be wounded in some way…it’s not a fun message to hear or share, but it’s a true message. This life brings with it difficulties and pain and sorrow. It is a symptom of living in a fallen and broken and imperfect world. As we go through this life, we will be wounded in some way.

Wounds lead to scars. The deeper the wound, the longer the scar will take to form. But eventually, a wound will become a scar. A mark that indicates where a wound once existed. A reminder of the pain that once existed as well as a reminder of the healing that has taken place. A beautiful scar.

As I’ve journeyed through the past couple of years living my life in a way I never expected to have to live it, I’ve come to recognize the beauty of a scar. I was deeply wounded, in a way I never saw coming and in a way that left me in complete shock and excruciating pain for quite a while. The wound was so deep that it took a long time for the bleeding to stop.

But the beauty of it all is that the bleeding did stop. The scar eventually formed. The wound has closed. There will always be the reminder of the wound that hurt so deeply and bled for so long, and the memory will bring back the feelings of hurt and pain that I experienced from that wound.

However, I know those are now just memories of a past wound. I can find rest in the present and into my future knowing that the wound has closed, the bleeding has stopped, healing has taken place, and a scar has formed.

A beautiful scar.

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The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

Praise God for his healing! Praise God for his peace! Praise God for the strength he provides! Praise God for his compassion on those who are hurting! Praise God for his comfort! Praise God for the beautiful scar!

Posted in Broken Thoughts, My Thoughts

Why I’m not trying to forget the past

In April of 2012, I was able to accomplish a major goal by seeing my first book, Blurred Vision, get published. This morning I was pulling a copy of the book out of where my extra copies are stored, and I took a moment to glance through it. As I was doing that, and remembering how cool it was to get it published, I came to the dedication page at the beginning of the book.

“To my wife and best friend, Charissa”.

Just like April 2012 is an important date in my past, so are the dates July 2015, November 2015, and May 2016. But unlike the April 2012 date, which is a reminder of a very cool memory, the other dates are reminders of very difficult and painful memories. Those 3 dates mark significant events in my marriage coming to an end. My marriage to Charissa, whom I referred to back in 2012 as my “wife and best friend”.

So why don’t I contact my publisher and have that dedication removed from all future copies of my book? The divorce legally made it that she is no longer my wife, and it’s also true that she is no longer my best friend. That phrase which was written as a dedication back in 2012 is no longer a relevant phrase, so why don’t I just have it removed now?

Because for 12 years she was my wife, and for 15 years she was my best friend. In 2012, when I published that book, she was my wife and best friend. She isn’t anymore, which was a very hard truth and reality for me to accept as well as work through. But in 2012, it was true.

As I’ve been working through everything, one thing I’ve learned to do is to not forget my past, but rather to embrace and remember it as it was. The good as well as the bad. The fun and the painful. Everything that happened, all my good memories and my not so good memories. Because every one of those memories are part of me.

My past experiences are what make me who I am today. What I’ve been through and learned in the past builds my character and strengthens my faith. The things I’ve dealt with provide life lessons that I can learn from. Both good memories and bad memories. All of them can serve to be experiences that I learn from and that build my character and strengthen my faith. And all of them can be used in my life to help others who have similar experiences.

That’s why I’m not going to try to forget the difficult and painful memories from my past. I have definitely considered it, and I’ll admit that there are memories that I wish I didn’t have. Both mistakes I’ve made as well as painful things that were done to me. But I’ve come to realize that every memory, no matter how painful, can be used for good as I move forward if I allow it to.

It’s not easy, that’s for sure. I continually need God’s strength to not try to push away or forget certain memories. But that’s part of my faith being strengthened in all of this, because I’m learning to rely on God’s strength rather than my own. And what’s more, it’s also part of me gaining a deeper understanding of grace and mercy, and learning how to better show love and forgiveness and compassion to others…and those are things you can’t have too much of.

For 15 years Charissa was my best friend, and for 12 years she was my wife. She is also the mother of my 4 AMAZING children, who I’m so thankful for and would never trade for anything else in this world. And even though there are many painful memories that come from my relationship with her, there are also many good memories that I have as well. Yes, there are good memories I have that I’ve learned were not all that I had thought they were, but I’m not going to let that steal any joy I have. I will simply learn to accept the truth, and still do my best to hold onto the good that was there.

Life is made up of many different memories. Some good, some bad. And all of them make up who we are. It’s easy to want to block out or try to forget the bad and painful memories. But doing that will not benefit us as we continue on our journey through life. Our past is what makes us who we are now, and will help us become who we need to be in our future.

God can use all past experiences, good and bad. In moments when we want to forget parts of our past, may we remember that God can use it for good, and may we continue to trust him and where he is leading and guiding us on our journey through life.

 

Below is a song that has become kind of my theme song…it has been a huge help to me the past couple of years. May it be a help to you as well as you learn to not forget your past, but rather embrace it and learn from it as you trust God to lead you into your future.

Posted in Broken Thoughts

Hope

Hope is defined as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust.”

Hope is a very commonly used and understood word. I’m sure nothing in that definition was shocking or revealing, and I seriously doubt anyone reading that definition went “OH, that’s what hope is…I finally get it!”. We get what hope means. We have all experienced the feeling of hope before, many times on a daily basis. 

We hope for a good grade in school after a big test we studied for. We hope for a job we want. We hope a certain person will notice us. As kids we hope our parents don’t find out what we did. There’s many times we experience the feeling of hope in life.

Those examples are the kind of hope that the first part of the definition talks about…’the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best, and to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence’.

Then there’s the other kind of hope.

We hope that the person we have chosen to love will love us back. We hope that our children make wise decisions in their life so they can avoid unnecessary hurt and pain. We hope that we don’t lose our job or face financial struggles that are so daunting that we can’t pay our bills. As Followers of Christ we place our hope in God as we walk through life.

These are examples of the second half of the definition of hope. ‘To believe, desire, or trust’. This is the kind of hope that pertains to things that we have no control over.

The first examples we don’t have full control over either, but we do have some. If we want a good grade on a test, we can control that by studying hard. Then our hope for a good grade will be based on the fact that we worked hard and we are hoping for a good outcome from that hard work. We can’t always control if we get hired for a job, but we have control over how we present ourselves and prepare for the interview, which can help our chances. If we want someone to notice us, we can take steps to ensure they notice us. They might not end up liking us, but we can make them at least notice us. And we do have control over our own actions, so if we want to do something but know it will upset mom and dad, then we can choose to not do it. It’s only if we choose to do it that we then have to hope they don’t find out. So we do have some control there.

However, we have no control over if the person we chose to love will love us back. We can show them love and do all we can to let them know we love them, but we have zero control over their choice to love us our not. We can teach our kids what is right and what is wrong, but at the end of the day they make their own choices. We can be there for them and continue to try to teach them, but we can’t control their actions. We can work hard or do all we can to be financially smart, but sometimes life happens in such a way that no matter how hard we worked or tried to be smart financially, we end up going through daunting financial struggles.

This kind of hope is much more difficult to hold onto than the first kind of hope. It’s more difficult to hold onto because we have no control over it, because there is usually a lot more emotion involved (which also means the chance for more pain), and because it can affect our life in a much bigger way.

If I get a bad grade on a test, I can work harder for the next test. If I don’t get the job, I can keep looking and apply at other places that have the same/similar job. If someone doesn’t even notice me, then it’s safe to say our relationship wasn’t that strong to begin with. And while I’m sad, I will be able to move on. There’s disappointment in all of these, but the disappointment can be minimal and our hope can carry us on to what’s next.

But giving someone your love and then being rejected, that’s extremely difficult to recover from. Watching our kids hurt themselves by bad choices and not being able to do anything about it, that’s painful. Losing a job or not being able to pay bills carries with it a feeling of failure and humiliation that isn’t easily shaken off. It’s not just disappointment that comes, but rather a losing of our hope. It’s not minimal. It’s devastating. And with that devastation comes the feeling of hopelessness, which makes us question and wonder what is next.

As I said earlier, we have no control over these things. We can’t keep them from happening, regardless of how much we hope they don’t happen. But while that truth seems to simply be piling on even more hopelessness, I want to say that it’s a truth that can also begin to recover our hope, even in the midst of the pain and hopelessness.

The fourth example I gave that the second half of the definition pertains to was “As Followers of Christ we place our hope in God as we walk through life.” We have no control over God, but we can find hope in the fact that he is in full control of everything in this world. Even the things we don’t understand, or the things he allows into our lives that are so difficult that at times we can hardly move from the weight of it all. We have no control over those things happening, but God does. And as Followers of Christ, we can rest and find hope in knowing that if we continue to follow where God leads, he will be with us through all of life’s worst moments.

Truth is, we were never meant to handle this life alone. God created us to be in relationship with him. Sin messed that up, but through Christ’s sacrifice it can be restored. And while we still deal with the ugly effects of sin, we can also have the kind of relationship where we walk with Christ through this life.

One of the most influential verses in my life is Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” In the NASB translation it says “Cease striving and know that I am God…”. Be still. Cease striving. I love the picture that paints. I love that it reminds me that I am not in control, and I need to stop spinning my wheels trying to be in control or fix everything on my own. What I need to do is to just be still, cease striving, and know that he is God. I’m not God, he is. I’m not in control, he is. I can’t handle life’s hardest circumstances on my own, he can. I don’t need to try to deal with everything on my own, I simply need to believe and trust in the one who is in control.

Believe and trust is the definition of hope. So when I’m trusting and believing in God, I’m hoping. When I’m in the middle of life’s most difficult circumstances, if I simply hold onto the trust and belief that God is in control and has a plan, then I’m holding onto hope. My hope may be wavering and not all that strong at the moment, but as long as I cling to God and trust in him, nothing will ever be completely hopeless.

May we hold onto the trust and belief that God is in control, even in the midst of life’s darkest and most difficult circumstances. And may we realize that even when things seem hopeless, when we hold onto God we are holding onto hope.

Posted in Broken Thoughts, My Thoughts

Loneliness with purpose

Part of this season of brokenness in my life involves something I’m not very good at…being alone. I know that it goes with the territory of this specific type of brokenness, but understanding that doesn’t make it easier. As a total extrovert who is very relational and enjoys being around others, being alone is one of my least favorite things. That’s why I’m not good at being alone.

Learning to embrace the feeling of loneliness that comes from being alone has given me a greater joy for the times I am around people, a greater understanding of how important true friends are, a much greater appreciation for having a best friend in your life, and it has given me so much more of a desire to fully enjoy and make the most of every time I am with my children.

Yet learning all of that still doesn’t make the loneliness easier. It’s still very difficult to deal with.

The other day my dad shared an article with me. It’s by AW Tozer and is entitled “The Saint Must Walk Alone”. The article really spoke to me, specifically to my heart as I was feeling lonely, giving me more of an understanding as to why God is allowing me to walk through this time in my life.

It didn’t make the loneliness easier, but it gave purpose to it. I want to share it here for anyone else who might also be struggling with loneliness in their life as well. Below is the article, and here is the link to where it can be found: The Saint Must Walk Alone.

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The Saint Must Walk Alone

By A.W.Tozer

MOST OF THE WORLD’S GREAT SOULS have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness.

In the morning of the world (or should we say, in that strange darkness that came soon after the dawn of man’s creation) that pious soul, Enoch, walked with God and was not, for God took him; and while it is not stated in so many words, a fair inference is that Enoch walked a path quite apart from his contemporaries.

Another lonely man was Noah who, of all the antediluvians, found grace in the sight of God; and every shred of evidence points to the aloneness of his life even while surrounded by his people.

Again, Abraham had Sarah and Lot, as well as many servants and herdmen, but who can read his story and the apostolic comment upon it without sensing instantly that he was a man “whose soul was alike a star and dwelt apart”? As far as we know not one word did God ever speak to him in the company of men. Face down he communed with his God, and the innate dignity of the man forbade that he assume this posture in the presence of others. How sweet and solemn was the scene that night of the sacrifice when he saw the lamps of fire moving between the pieces of offering. There alone with a horror of great darkness upon him he heard the voice of God and knew that he was a man marked for divine favor.

Moses also was a man apart. While yet attached to the court of Pharaoh he took long walks alone, and during one of these walks while far removed from the crowds he saw an Egyptian and a Hebrew fighting and came to the rescue of his countryman. After the resultant break with Egypt he dwelt in almost complete seclusion in the desert. There while he watched his sheep alone the wonder of the burning bush appeared to him, and later on the peak of Sinai he crouched alone to gaze in fascinated awe at the Presence, partly hidden, partly disclosed, within the cloud and fire.

The prophets of pre-Christian times differed widely from each other, but one mark they bore in common was their enforced loneliness. They loved their people and gloried in the religion of the fathers, but their loyalty to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their zeal for the welfare of the nation of Israel drove them away from the crowd and into long periods of heaviness. “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children,” cried one and unwittingly spoke for all the rest.

Most revealing of all is the sight of that One of whom Moses and all the prophets did write treading His lonely way to the cross, His deep loneliness unrelieved by the presence of the multitudes.

” ‘Tis midnight, and on Olive’s brow
The star is dimmed that lately shone;
‘Tis midnight; in the garden now,
The suffering Saviour prays alone.
‘Tis midnight, and from all removed
The Saviour wrestles lone with fears,
E’en the disciple whom He loved
Heeds not his Master’s grief and tears.”

-WILLIAM B. TAPPAN

He died alone in the darkness hidden from the sight of mortal man and no one saw Him when He arose triumphant and walked out of the tomb, though many saw Him afterward and bore witness to what they saw.

There are some things too sacred for any eye but God’s to look upon. The curiosity, the clamor, the well-meant but blundering effort to help can only hinder the waiting soul and make unlikely if not impossible the communication of the secret message of God to the worshiping heart.

Sometimes we react by a kind of religious reflex and repeat dutifully the proper words and phrases even though they fail to express our real feelings and lack the authenticity of personal experience. Right now is such a time. A certain conventional loyalty may lead some who hear this unfamiliar truth expressed for the first time to say brightly, “Oh, I am never lonely. Christ said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’ and, ‘Lo, I am with you always.’ How can I be lonely when Jesus is with me?”

Now I do not want to reflect on the sincerity of any Christian soul, but this stock testimony is too neat to be real. It is obviously what the speaker thinks should be true rather than what he has proved to be true by the test of experience. This cheerful denial of loneliness proves only that the speaker has never walked with God without the support and encouragement afforded him by society. The sense of companionship which he mistakenly attributes to the presence of Christ may and probably does arise from the presence of friendly people. Always remember: you cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. No one is a friend to the man with a cross. “They all forsook him, and fled.”

The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.

The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. A certain amount of social fellowship will of course be his as he mingles with religious persons in the regular activities of the church, but true spiritual fellowship will be hard to find. But he should not expect things to be otherwise. After all, he is a stranger and a pilgrim, and the journey he takes is not on his feet but in his heart. He walks with God in the garden of his own soul and who but God can walk there with him? He is of another spirit from the multitudes that tread the courts of the Lord’s house. He has seen that of which they have only heard, and he walks among them somewhat as Zacharias walked after his return from the altar when the people whispered, “He has seen a vision.”

The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another. He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself. He delights not to be honored but to see his Saviour glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see his Lord promoted and himself neglected. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd that Christ is All in All, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life’s summum bonum (greatest or supreme good).

Two things remain to be said. One, that the lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he the holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in popular literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness. He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tells his grief’s to God alone.

The second thing is that the lonely saint is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the broken-hearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world he is all the more able to help it. Meister Eckhart taught his followers that if they should find themselves in prayer as it were caught up to the third heavens and happen to remember that a poor widow needed food, they should break off the prayer instantly and go care for the widow. “God will not suffer you to lose anything by it,” he told them. “You can take up again in prayer where you left off and the Lord will make it up to you.” This is typical of the great mystics and masters of the interior life from Paul to the present day.

The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful “adjustment” to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.

Posted in Broken Thoughts, My Thoughts

Falling apart…or into place?

Today was just like any other day. I went through my normal morning routine, had a normal day at work, took a normal lunch break, and after work began my normal commute home. On my drive I plugged in my iPhone to listen to music, as I always do. My music is organized into different playlists, and I have my usual favorite playlists that I like to listen to. But today I decided to do something I don’t normally do…I put it on shuffle and let it play through all the music I have. It was cool listening to some songs that I hadn’t heard in a while.

Then things changed, and it was no longer just like any other day, when a song came on that I hadn’t heard for a long time. As it began to play, it was as if the song was being sung directly to my heart. Almost as if the song was written just for me. The song was “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns.

The chorus especially spoke to my heart; one line in particular. So much so that I just kept replaying the song over and over. I had a couple stops to make on my drive home, which made the drive longer than usual…and the entire drive I listened to only this song. The chorus of this song says:

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

The line in the chorus that spoke so strongly to my heart was “Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place”. No matter how many times I heard that, it seemed to always speak to me just as strong as ever. I kept thinking about that phrase, processing what it meant and even asking myself ‘is that true?’

For the past year and half as I’ve walked through everything that lead to me being divorced, living alone, only getting to see my kids a few times a week, and losing a job that I loved, I had thought of it all as my life was falling apart. I knew God was in control, and while I have definitely complained to him at times, I never doubted that he was in control. I didn’t really understand why he had allowed it to happen, but I knew I could trust him. I knew that God had a plan for my life, and that he can even use the worst of situations for good.

But the only way I had thought about all of it was that the life I had, the life that I was blessed with and absolutely loved, had fallen apart. When thinking about how God had a plan and was still in control, I did so by thinking about how God will restore and help me put the pieces of my shattered life back together, and he will use my brokenness for good. My thought process always began with the assumption that my life had fallen apart.

So when I heard the phrase “Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place”, it really hit me deep in my core. Deep down where I’m still hurting the most, where the pain of all that happened and the questions of why it happened are still raw, where my wishes that I will wake up and it would all of been a bad dream are found, and where my hope for a better future is still kept. Deep down in my soul.

Have I been looking at my life all wrong? Have I been starting from the wrong place when I think about everything that happened and where I’m currently at? Is it possible that my life didn’t fall apart, but rather it’s simply that God is working on the next chapter of my life, and this tragedy is something he allowed to happen to help me get to that next chapter?

Perhaps my life is right on track with where God is leading me, and this is just another bump along the road that he is using to teach me.