From the Middle of the Mist

Dark-Misty-Forest-beautiful-landscapes-37729157-1920-1080I’ll be honest, I hate this post and I have ever since I knew I’d write it.  You might wonder why I would write a post that I hate this much and it would make sense to ask that.  The reason is partly simple and partly complicated but the best answer is a single word.  Vulnerability.  I’ve written a lot of things that have shared struggles or flaws but this is a bit different.  It’s different because I’m writing from a place of current struggle rather than a place of past pain and it’s a pretty shitty place to be.

A while back when Robin Williams died, I wrote a post sharing that I myself have struggled with depression.  When I wrote it, I was in a pretty good spot really.  My meds were working and I was pretty much good on a day to day basis.  That’s not true at the moment.  Things have been really heavy lately.  My reason for sharing this, is not to whine about how hard things are.  It’s really more to speak it.  If I speak it, I move away from denial and honestly, I need to move away from denial.  I have shared that I’m struggling with a few people and honestly, the struggle has some pretty real things at the center of them but I haven’t been fully open about it.  Here’s the truth.  My depression affects my work, my recreation, my service in church, and probably most profoundly, my relationships with those closest to me. All of us have bad days but for someone with anxiety and depression, a bad day feels apocalyptic.  A minor mistake at work suddenly feels like firing is imminent.  A minor disagreement with my wife feels like the last straw for her in our relationship and she will be packing up and leaving.  A little extra sass from the boys feels like they think I’m the worst parent on the planet.  It doesn’t stop there though.  The feeling of fear related to work turns into hours scouring the help wanted section so I can get a jump on what I “know” is coming.  The fear of losing my wife turns into hours spent trying to figure out how we will navigate life as divorced parents.  I know it sounds laughable to say these things (and it is in a way) but I can assure you, it feels anything but funny.  When not feeling and acting panicked about the worst that’s coming, it’s about the only “safe” thing to do, to isolate and pull back from life.  This affects relationships more than anything else really.  Kids wonder where you went and what you are doing.  Those that don’t get it, might feel like you were angry and then get defensive and angry in return which is definitely a messy mix of interaction.

Maybe you struggle and you know what I’m talking about.  Maybe you know somebody that might, or definitely does struggle.  I’m going to link to a couple of articles that might be helpful either if you struggle, or if someone you know might struggle with depression or some other mental illness.  There is also a book that’s just out called All the Things We Never Knew by Sheila Hamilton which is her memoir about losing her husband to suicide shortly after he was diagnosed as bi-polar and how she missed the signs of his illness.  It’s a powerful read and you can check it out here.

If you know someone, or think someone you know might be dealing with this, don’t blow it off.  Reach out, let them know they are loved and that you want to help and then follow through.


True Confessions

The death of Robin Williams yesterday, touched a nerve with me.  I have dealt with depression and anxiety for several years.  Some of you already know that while some might be surprised.  I have struggled with being transparent about it and I really haven’t had a good answer why.  I am typically a pretty transparent person who shares routinely about my struggle with various things.  What is it about depression that makes it so much harder to talk about than my battle with porn or my weight, etc…  The best answer that I can come up with, is that I’m afraid of appearing fragile.  Like somehow you might feel the need to tiptoe around me to avoid hurting me.  Or maybe you won’t care and exploit that fragility.   I grew up thinking that people that were “depressed” were missing something.  They were weak and must not have much of a relationship with God. 

Here is the truth.  Depression is an illness.  It’s not a character flaw.  It’s not a sin.  It can be treated as I have discovered quite successfully.  It’s nobody’s fault that I have depression or that Robin Williams had it.  I am well loved by family and friends.  I have plenty of great reasons to live.  That doesn’t mean that I always see those or feel that.  Depression is a big reason why I basically disengaged from managing my diabetes for so long.  It’s not that I wanted my health to fail.  I just viewed it as inevitable which then became self fulfilling. 

I share this part of my life, because the seeming stigma about depression is a barrier to people getting help.  While I might not always be, I am in a good place now.  Somebody else out there might not be.  Maybe it’s somebody reading this or maybe not, but all I know is this.  No matter how funny, how successful, how seemingly in control someone is, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t pain and brokenness.  We all benefit when we are free to share where we are broken and when those that can, lift up those that need it.  That’s why God made us with a deep need for relationship and community.  Don’t take anyone for granted and love those around you well.  It might be just the thing they need at that moment.

Confessions of a Cynical, Depressed, Christ Follower

As a Christ follower, this might seem strange or perhaps disappointing for some to hear but I often struggle with the perspective that some fellow Christ followers have. Sometimes when I hear them talk about faith it’s like they are saying that just a little faith and they are flying high. Like they are some sort of firework launched into the stratosphere by simply believing. As someone who has at various times in my life struggled with depression, addiction, and physical, spiritual, and relational brokenness on some very profound levels, I can truly say that I find it nearly impossible to relate to the viewpoint that some put out of God as an amazing artist who is painting a beautiful tableau of their lives or a benevolent deity who wants nothing more than to rain down amazing, tangible blessings upon them. I am not sure what frustrates me more, the fact that they think this, or that it still has some sort of power to affect how I view my own faith or more accurately, to cause me to doubt it. I still remember conversations with some who told me their stories of quitting some sort of objectionable behavior with no difficulty at all, simply by putting their faith in Christ which seemed amazing and awesome to me. Then came the hammer. Why can’t you do the same thing? Why do you continue to be depressed, why can’t you just quit looking at porn, why can’t you just make better financial decisions, etc…… all I felt at the end of that conversation was hollow doubt. I work with men, many of whom are deep in the hold of sexual issues of varying levels of depth and/or societal acceptance. Sometimes, when I talk to people about the work I do, they misunderstand and get all excited about telling me how disgusting they think these men are. Sometimes I will talk with someone and some sort of controversy of the day will come up, maybe legalizing marijuana, or homosexuality and they will begin to share about how repulsive they find those things. In those moments, I sometimes start to feel somehow superior as I think about how awesome, I mean thankful, that I am to be able to love anybody, no matter what. Then I realize that I’m not really loving. I’m proud and I’m small and vindictive and I’m back to hollow doubt

Most of the time, if I feel any sort of artistic element to my faith, it’s the feeling that I’m a broken tile that somehow gets pieced together with other broken pieces into a mosaic. I’m always in awe when I see one of those. All these individual shards of pottery and glass, rescued from the trash, and pieced carefully together, creating absolute beauty from ruin. This I can relate to. And here is the way I have come to understand faith and the various expressions of it. The shiny, ecstatic, enthusiastic, judgmental, addicted, depressed, angry, proud Christ followers, are all broken. We are all broken. We may not all know or understand it. Some of us may choose to deny or ignore it, but we are. We are all broken, dusty, shards that an artist is piecing together into something so beautiful, we can’t really even imagine it. And it wouldn’t be the same without any of us.   

A Bouncing Baby Lesson

Yesterday, I took my boys to the park.  It was a nice cool morning and Ian and Gavyn played on the playground.  Sean isn’t really that focussed on the playground.  He likes to swing and slide a bit but he’s still pretty much too small to use a lot of the stuff there.  He does however love to run.  He will run fast and far, straight and in circles.  Yesterday, as I was following the bouncing blond head around the park,  I was struck by something.  He will run for a bit, he will stop and look at something that catches his eye, stand back up, and keep running.  One thing he doesn’t seem to do is to look back.  He runs forward, always seemingly in search of a new thing to discover, to explore, to eat.  I thought about the older boys and how they have started to look back a bit, but still for the most part are focussed on what’s ahead.  They don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what has already happened in their lives, they just think about what is yet to come.  I thought about my life and my tendency to live in the past…..and I wondered, where did that change happen?  When did I shift from thinking only ahead, to looking mostly back?  I think that it’s healthy to look forward and look for new and exciting adventures, but I also think there are lessons to learn from reflecting on the past too.  As with many things, it’s a pendulum effect.  The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle but it seems that it’s hard to stop the pendulum from swinging when you are in the sweet spot, mostly because it’s hard to know you are in it at the time.    The bittersweet thing about this as a dad is that so many of the lessons from the past, are from a place of pain and the last place I want to imagine my kids learning from is a place of pain.  I often wish they would just listen to me and then they wouldn’t have to experience the pain.  I use that line when I’m reasoning with them.  If they just listen and follow my directions, they won’t have to be yelled at, or they wouldn’t get hurt, or things would get done more quickly, etc…..  This isn’t usually effective.  They have to experience it for themselves, and in fact, since they are my son’s, usually have to experience it several times before they figure it out.  I have to be honest and say that it doesn’t really help my frame of mind that much to realize that I do the same thing with Christ.  He calmly and reasonably lays out advice, instructions, and counsel that is designed to show me how to live and if I just listen and follow that instruction, I will experience a lot less pain.  I am pretty bad at listening to that counsel though. I have to experience it for myself, many times, over and over again, just like my sons.  It’s amazing what a morning at the park watching a baby run can teach you and I’m thankful that God talks to me in more than one way.  Now if I could just perfect that listening and applying part.

You Are Not Alone

This is the second of my blog post’s blogging through the HOPE Campaign for the MST Project.  Be sure and subscribe to the blog located at the MST Project website.  I will be posting my HOPE Campaign blogs there from now on.  I will use this blog for other posts on different topics.  Please feel free to let me know your thoughts.

You may remember a time when you walked into a room full of people and yet somehow felt completely alone.  I remember that feeling well and yet somehow, I remember also thinking how strange it was.  How do I walk into a room full of people and feel alone?  What’s more, I can easily tell, that most of them feel the same way.

See the rest of the post here.
See the first post, My Kingdom for a Fig Leaf here.

My Kingdom for a Fig Leaf

As I have reflected about the past few years and on the adventure that I am on with the MST Project, I keep coming back to the topic of vulnerability.  We have all experienced on some level, the freedom of confession but as I think about it, I’m left with some questions.  Why is the process of baring our souls, so freeing?  I think the reason for this, is that we were created to be known completely by God.  When we choose to be vulnerable, we are somehow closer to who God created us to be and we feel that.  God didn’t create us to hide.  We weren’t supposed to have anything to hide.  What somehow doesn’t make sense to me is, if I feel more like God intended me to be when I drop my guard, why do I always have the inclination to hide.  Without a doubt, every single time that I need to let someone in, even if I actually follow through and do let them in, it follows a life and death struggle to keep my secrets secret.  I think this comes down to a couple things.  Pride and fear.  In the times that I have hidden rather than shared, it usually came down to one of two reasons.  Either I didn’t want to admit that I was not feeling as strong as I needed to be, and that I should not be struggling with these things anymore, or I didn’t want to admit that I failed.  I was afraid of what others might think, even as they literally begged me to let them in and never once judged me when eventually my secrets came to light. The irony is, all my efforts at hiding are about as effective as when Adam and Eve hid behind those fig leaves.    When God created them naked both physically and spiritually, they were as close to God as any humans have ever been.  Then they sinned and their way of dealing with their spiritual failure was to make some clothes out of leaves and hide.  Who exactly did they think they were hiding from?  As if God couldn’t see them just as well hiding in the bushes, hoping their fig leaves didn’t wilt, as when they walked freely and openly with God in Eden.  It’s easy to sit here and write judgmentally about how ignorant they were for thinking this way but the uncomfortable truth is, that I would give anything to be able to hide.  I put on my mask and build up my walls that I hide behind and feel somehow more secure in my separation from God than I do in his presence.  I have to fight against that all the time.  What I have to do, as difficult as it is, is to force myself to stand spiritually and emotionally naked before God as he created me to be and to realize that being close to God is counter to every fleshly instinct I have in my being.  My comfort or lack of comfort is directly tied to how much I willingly allow God to be a part of my life.  It really has nothing to do with what I allow God to see of my life.  Nothing is hidden from him.  In Psalm 139:7-12 it says;

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

Here is the application for me.  I need to be vulnerable and in the spirit of vulnerability, I am going to blog my way through the HOPE campaign material.  I am going to write my story through the eyes of the HOPE campaign, an entry for each chapter.  

Before I do this project, I need to say publicly how thankful I am for my wife.  She didn’t really know the extent of the details that she was signing up for when she married me and many of the experiences that I am going to share are things that I wish with all my heart, she had not had to deal with.  She has dealt with my sin, my shame, my deceit, my lack of discipline, and overall bad behavior with an amazing amount of grace and forgiveness.  The same can be said about many of my friends who while not to the extent of my wife, have graciously forgiven lies, lust, avoidance, and betrayal and I’m thankful for their example which has been huge in my journey.  I hope that this project is helpful or at the very least insightful into the mind of someone who wants with all his heart to want to be closer to God.

Today, I was hanging out with my new baby boy Sean.  I was feeding him early this morning and I was feeling pretty great as its father’s day and there’s pretty much nothing cooler than a new baby on father’s day.  A bit later, I was hanging out with Ian and Gavyn, who were not being quite so charming and discussing some behavioral issues and yet somehow, I was also feeling pretty good about my time with them.  They are my son’s and I love them.  It has nothing to do with their behavior.  It has everything to do with the fact that they are my sons.  It’s who they are and there is nothing that they will be able to do that will change that fact.  They cannot escape that identity.  It was a good reminder of how God sees me.