Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Closing Time

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” –Semisonic

During the first three months this year I had to deal with five different relationships in “closing” mode. I find that I need closure in a relationship when that relationship changes in a way I did not want and in a way I was not expecting. Usually these changes happen quickly and without much warning. Searching for closure in a relationship is a difficult and at times painful endeavor; the magnitude of the hurt is proportional to the degree of investment in the relationship. Basically if there is a sudden and unexpected change in a close relationship, it will hurt much more than if the relationship is just with an acquaintance. For me, the beginning of this year was very difficult because in all five relationships I was either highly involved or becoming highly involved.

One of the first big hurdles to finding closure is actually knowing that the relationship is changing. Only one of my five relationships had a definite end to it; in that one relationship the other person laid it out for me and told me that our relationship was changing. The other four relationships changes were much more subtle and from my perspective I did not see a need for them to change. I was left to “find out” that something was changing. As I said these changes were unexpected and unwanted. And since I was dealing with five different cases my reaction time to the change was much slower than it could have been.

It always takes time to find closure in a relationship and that time will vary. First thing that I did was blame myself for the change in the relationship. I went through every scenario and thought to myself, “Where did I screw up?” I thought about what I could have done differently and what I should have done differently. Though it is good to reflect on how I treated people, it was not healthy for me to replay situations over and over and over again. Over time I did find ways to reduce the amount time I took to find closure.

The best way to make the time go quicker was to have an open communication with the person. This is usually hard to do because communication is the first portion of a relationship to go when it changes. Of my five relationships, I was able to have open communication only with the one person that told me that the relationship was changing. The open communication allowed me to know what that person was thinking rather than to guess and blame myself for not doing the “right” thing at the “right” time. I am extremely grateful that communication was a possibility in that relationship. In the other four relationships I was not as fortunate to have open communication. The reason for that is I was unsure they were actually closing; I kept hoping that they were not closing or that the other parties would tell me something was changing. I did not want to initiate the conversation because I had the unhealthy conviction that if they had a problem with our relationship, they would say something. That conviction was unhealthy because I started to hold resentment towards those individuals because they changed our relationship without informing me. Since I refused to initiate conversation, I had to go about finding closure in another way.

Since I couldn’t bring myself to talk with any of them, the next most important thing for me to do was remain firm in my identity. This helped me when I would blame myself for the unwanted change. The countless hours I spent thinking about my five relationships and what I did wrong really wore on me. How I got out of the continual second-guessing was remembering who I am as a person. I needed to remember my identity. My friends and family really helped me out in this situation because they affirmed who I was. Also I was able to find my identity in Christ and that made my healing go faster as well. We all have worth well beyond a single relationship but it is hard to remember that when we are focused on one or two aspects of that relationship.

Once I remembered my worth, it was a bit easier to look at the situation from a more objective standpoint. I remembered that I was not the only one who had a role in these relationships. The line “it is not you, it is me” has always seemed hollow for me but it holds a lot of truth. Other people have their own priorities and if they don’t see you fitting into them, they won’t hang out with you. You cannot be friends with everyone (even if you want to be); that is still a hard lesson that I am struggling to learn. I thought I had built some solid relationships with five people but when their priorities changed our relationship changed with them. As much as I want to, I cannot control how others feel about me; my actions play a part in how they feel about me but they don’t ultimately control how they feel about me. All I can do is try to be the best person I can be to others. When I do something wrong, I hope people will have grace on me because I am not perfect and I make mistakes.

Getting closure in a relationship is never fun and often painful. It requires you to evaluate how you treat others and how you look at yourself. Ideally we would never hinge all our worth on our relationship with another individual. Sadly that happens quite frequently and when that relationship doesn’t work out, our self-worth suffers. The quicker we can get closure the better off we will be. Even though I don’t think I have complete closure in all of those relationships, I do know I learned so much through this closure process; it has made me a much better person and given me a more complete outlook on life.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ridin' Solo

“I'm Ridin’ Solo” Jason Derulo

Being single is great! You don’t have to check in everyday or every 12 hour or every hour. You can make plans for the weekend without worrying about the other person’s plans. You don’t have to shoulder a heavy burden that someone else may be carrying.

Being single stinks… You don’t have that one person you can go to and tell them anything. Close friends are great but there is something more intimate when the friendship is a committed relationship. The level of comfort that can be gleaned from a marriage or dating relationship far exceeds the comfort that can be gleaned from a great friendship.

Being single is great!! You can take time to focus on what you need to get accomplished and focus on what is important to you. I know that I have poor time management skills and being in a relationship has only proven that I struggle with time management. It is easier to work on an issue you see in your life if you are single.

Being single stinks… There is no one to be there after a long day. There is no one to affirm you after you have been beaten down by your boss, co-workers, clients, and children all day. Again, friends can only go so far on this front as well.

All of these scenarios are not inevitabilities but rather possibilities. I just wrote generalizations of being single and being in a relationship (experiences may vary). What I am worried about is that I know so many people who are discontent with their situation and they ruin this awesome opportunity to grow while they are single. When all you do is worry about finding that someone two bad situations can occur: you compromise on what you deserve in a relationship and you neglect your need to grow.

Compromising is good when you are in a relationship but bad when you are compromising on a person’s character to get into a relationship. This applies even to friends that we are not dating. The type of friends we chose to hang out with affect much of our lives; much more than we give credit. Our friends go a long way in determining our sense of self-worth. The friends that we chose reflect our need for companionship.

Not focusing on your need to grow is also disregarding your self-worth. There are many people who think finding that “special someone” will be the missing piece to the puzzle that is life. What happens when you find that “special someone?” Odds are that you won’t be complete and you may be in a worse situation than you were. You were waiting for this “special someone” for so long and when they cannot fill you like you wanted to be filled, you are still left with a piece missing from your puzzle.

Relationships are great, but a relationship is much stronger when both halves have gotten to focus on themselves while they were single. Being single is a blessing and it should be used to become a better husband or wife. Being single is the best time to prepare for being a husband/father/best friend or wife/mother/best friend because you have more time. But being single is also the time when you are least motivated to strive to be any of those possibilities.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What is Love?

“All you need is LOVE”


“God is LOVE”

1 John 4:8

How many different types of love are there? There is love for one’s parents and family, love for one’s close friends love for stuff, love of money, love of sports, love of self, love of women, love of sex, love of drugs, love of music, love of __________ (fill-in-the-blank hobby), love of men (maybe…. :), and love for a significant other. When I’m talking to someone I will throw around the word “love” frequently and it never has the same meaning. There are intensities of love. We are all looking for love in one way or another. Someone without love is someone without hope.

Why do we love? We are hoping to be loved in return. It is something we all seem to inherently strive to gain: the love of others. We even attempt to get love from things that cannot really love us back. Why do we love sports? We get such a high emotional reaction to the outcome of the game that we feel fulfillment from that. It is the same with any other sort of entertainment. It is not bad. Actually it is good to be able to enjoy entertainment but it cannot be our main supply for love. How can we define love?

In Greek they had four different words for love: “Eros,” “storge,” “philia,” and “agape.” C.S. Lewis put them in the following order: storge, philia, eros, agape with agape being the most intense form of love and the greatest of loves. I am no Greek scholar and I have seen them put in different orders but I have always appreciated Clive’s point of view.

Stroge is applied to acquaintances and in our language I think I should be classified as a “like” and not a “love.” This is the type of love we have for inanimate objects. “Bro, I love that movie!” Inanimate objects should not be given more love than this because they cannot love you back although people try to get money to love them back. Philia is the love that is shared between close friends and family. It is developed over time and is obviously what comes after stroge. The next love in line is eros which some define as actually “being in love.” It is the romantic part of a relationship that can follow a philia friendship. The last one doesn’t necessarily follow any of the other “loves.” Agape is the love that I have heard the most about in church and it is also what Clive calls the greatest of loves. Agape is what is called unconditional love and this is the love that is used the most in the New Testament.

The Greek terms for love do help narrow down our intensities of love a little bit more but there are still intensities for the Greek terms for love. I know I have a different level of “love” for my acquaintances, my friends, and my family members. I have never really experienced eros but I can say with confidence that there are different intensities of that love as well; Almost every marriage starts out with that eros feeling and for at least 50% of them they lost that feeling somewhere along the way and many end in divorce.

The one love that doesn’t have any different levels of intensity is agape. That is because agape is not dependent on what the other person does but it is a state of mind and a choice to love. Agape does not seek the love of others. It is the love the loves with the possibility of not getting anything in return. It is that crazy love that says “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”

I want to add one more level of love that I have never seen but I have felt. I am referring to God’s LOVE but I want to make a distinction between our love and God’s LOVE. God is LOVE! Everything he does and everything He is, is LOVE. The New Testament writers used agape whenever they were referring to LOVE. But His LOVE is much deeper than anything we can describe or imagine because we get our understanding and our desire for LOVE from God. We are always searching for something to fulfill us. We try eros, philia, love of money, love of things to bring fulfillment in our life but all we need is LOVE. One of my friends wrote on her status: “May all my friends experience HIS extravagant LOVE. Reach up and receive it!! It is available for you now. stop and open your heart up for the touch!!” God’s LOVE is free and it is crazy and it doesn’t make human sense. Why does God love me with this LOVE after all the times I have lied to him and betrayed him and told him “no I am going to try this form of fulfillment?” I believe Francis Chan puts it very well in his book entitled Crazy Love. He says

There is an incalculable, faultless, eternal God who loves the frail beings He made with a crazy kind of love. Even though we could die at any moment and generally think our puny lives are pretty sweet compared to loving Him, He persists in loving us with unending, outrageous love.

The last book that we read as a small group was called The Comfort of Vengeance by Ben Redmond. It brings up the perceived conflict between God’s LOVE and God’s vengeance found in the book of Nahum. How can God be loving and vengeful? The conflict only arises when we look at it from a human standpoint. Vengefulness and love has never existed in any human I have ever met. When I see someone bent on vengeance, they do not have love. But with God, his vengefulness flows from his LOVE which means it is not vengefulness at all. But we see it as vengefulness because there is no word to describe a loving vengefulness. It is same thing when God is said to be a “jealous” God. When I think of jealousy, I think of a man who does not trust his wife enough to let her talk to other men. This vengefulness and jealously cannot be looked at it as a human being vengeful or a human being jealous. God’s vengeance comes from His LOVE for all the people and things that He made. If a nation is continually sinning against Him and His creation, it is His right as the creator to punish them. People need to know that they cannot commit such atrocities and get away with it. God always warns the people as well and is much more forgiving and patient with them than any human would be. Why should parents punish a child? Parents should punish children to let them know they have gone too far and to correct wrong behavior NOT just to get the child to be quiet. It should be through love (and hopefully LOVE). God’s motivation is the same and much purer and true than any parent’s motivation could ever be. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)”

God’s LOVE is crazy! Reach up and grab it because He gives it to us freely. Everyday renew your LOVE intake. There may be times when you feel dry and you feel God is not there but "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Judger Judger

1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7: 1–5

Judging people is part of our nature. Judging people allows us to compare ourselves to others. Usually when we are the judge, it is easy to put ourselves on top and find something that the “defendant” does worse than us. We have all judged on looks, possessions, and accomplishments (am I missing anything?). For Christians, we also tend to judge others based on how moral they appear to be in a certain area. All these things are dangerous and they cause us to stress out about how we stack up against others. Once we let go of judging others on these concerns, they actually become less of a concern in our life because that concern is not on our mind as often. “Don’t think about pink elephants! What are you thinking about?”

Christians have to be some of the worst judgers. Since we have a set of moral rules, it is easy for us to point out when someone is not following them. Most of us have been brought up on unwritten rules that Christians are suppose to follow. There may be certain ways that Christians are suppose to dress or certain ways Christians are suppose to act. When a Christian doesn’t act that way, we judge them.

I recently discovered a really great virtue that somehow I felt qualified to judge. I judge other Christian’s sincerity. When I realized what I was doing I sat down and thought about it for a while. I am taking about judging what some Christian says or does. My mental response is “No you aren’t really feeling that way.” Or “No, you don’t really mean that.”

Why do I judge this way? Two reasons

1. 1. I am not feeling the same way. How can you worship God with that sincerity when I don’t feel the same desire to worship God like that?…

2. 2. I have been insincere before. I have gone in front of people and said something (that I felt was true at the time) and then gone back on my word a few weeks later.

WOW! How dare I? How arrogant of me? How can I say that if I am not feeling something, then no one can? Am I the only one in the room with discernment of spirits? Does God have to run everything through me? Am I God, that I can judge other people’s sincerity towards God? I am putting myself up there with Him, the Judge. At least with teaching, I am expected to judge my students on performance. With Christianity, what authority do I have to be able to say, “You don’t mean what you are saying (or acting)?”

God really convicted me in this area.

2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:2

I am going to be judged the same way that I judge others? Do I want to be judged on my sincerity? N… O… !... !... !....

I much rather prefer that my ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and my ‘No,’ ‘No.’ Matthew 5:37.

I am sure that it goes both ways and I have been judged by other people the same way that I have judged others. Even those times when I ended up being insincere, I still should not be judged by my brother. That is not his role (or my role) but it is God's alone. He KNOWS our hearts better than we know our hearts.

What can I do to stop judging this way?

The questions shouldn’t be what I can do to stop judging this way but how God can create in me a new mindset in which to think about my brothers and sisters. This is a hard concept for me to believe and go through with. I want to do something and I want to fix this judgmental spirit of mine. I know once God creates something new spirit in me I can stop focusing on my fellow Christian’s insincerity and start focusing on helping them to follow through.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I know but I think...

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

-Romans 12: 1–2

From an early age, we are taught how to act in certain situations. For example, in school we know that when the teacher is teaching we are supposed to be quiet and listen. This knowledge does not restrict students from ever talking when a teacher is talking; any teacher will tell you that at some point in the day there will be a student who will talk while they are teaching. There is no way around it. Did the student forget what they knew? No they didn’t but for some reason they chose not to do what they knew they were suppose to do. For most students it will just take a gentle reminder to get them back on track. How do you close the gap between knowing and doing? It takes a desire to do the right thing. Then if we get off track it takes a reminder to get us back on track.

What about knowing and thinking? Are there gaps in our knowing and thinking? As a Christian, I know I should think differently than when I was a non-Christian. It is evident in the Sermon on the Mount that God desires Christians to surrender our thought life as much as our action life.

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.

-Matthew 5:21-22

Being liable for hell because I’m angry at someone? I’m liable! I have been angry at my brothers and sisters (and cousins and parents and every other relative) and many of those times my anger has been unwarranted. Being angry is a normal human response to countless actions we encounter. There is such a thing as a Holy anger but that is different than our normal perception of anger. I know I shouldn’t be angry at someone; are there other areas where I need to watch my thoughts?

I know I shouldn’t judge but I do.

1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

-Matthew 7:1-2

This one gets me all the time. I will actually write a whole post about this later so I won’t elaborate as much as I could. I am constantly judging people in important areas and in shallow areas.

I know I shouldn’t worry but I do.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

-Matthew 6:25-26

This is another promise from God that I know but I do not apply it to my life. Every time I read this passage a huge weight is lifted from my shoulder because I tend to read once I have started to worry. I know this verse but I don’t fully believe it because, when I get busy, I forget it. I trust God as far as I can see and when I don’t see him do anything, I trust my human eyes and mind to tell me what is important.

I know I shouldn’t care what others think about me, but I do.

This goes right along with the people pleasing post. I shouldn’t care about what others think about me because their opinion does not ultimately determine my worth; it is God’s opinion of me that does determine my worth.

How do I rectify what I know with what I think? I believe it is the same we are taught to rectify what we know and what we do; it first takes a desire to have a God-driven thought life. And when we go astray from that thought life, we must be reminded how to think. All of the issues from our thinking (anger, judgment, worry, self-consciousness) stem from human concerns that we as Christians do not have to worry about.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

-Romans 12:2

That renewal should serve as our reminder that God is who he says he is. Reminding ourselves of this fact daily will help us think His way. It cannot just be a onetime renewal because we will always have the tendency to go back to how we originally thought. We are still fallen beings and we return to what our “original programming.” How do you renew your mind? Remind yourself of God’s promises and remind yourself of points in your life when God’s faithfulness was most evident in your life. Find Bible verses that remind you of God’s promises! The transformation can be amazing.

This post is a product of that renewal; I struggled to start this post and I sat down and allowed God to remind me of all He has done for me. All of the verse I quoted in this post came to me in my renewal time. I felt a huge burden lifted from my shoulders and my mind was freed to think as God intended it to think. My human desire (and thought process) was getting in the way of what God wanted me to write.

This all needs to start with a desire to have a God-driven thought life. The renewal process does not work if there is nothing to renew.

I wish I was there. I wish I was at the point where I could think as I know I should. I wish I had that desire to think as I know I should. I am not there yet but God is faithful and just. For me, it has been a long process and it will continue. Humanly speaking it is impossible, but with God, ALL things are possible!