An Homage to Meaningful Friendships

Life has a way of finding its center in the mundane.  Grocery shopping. Doing Laundry. The morning commute. Church on Sundays. Mowing the lawn.

We busy ourselves with doing “things.”  These things likely become repetitive and, in the repetition, they, quite naturally, lose any sense of significance.  We get bored with work.  We get tired of having the same arguments with our children. Conversations with long-distance family members are reduced to discussions of health and the weather.

It is only when the mundane is pressed upon by outside forces that we gain fresh perspective upon how good we have it.  These outside forces can be a positive or a negative change in your circumstances: an unexpected illness, loss of a job, job relocation, an untimely death, heartbreak, the birth of a child. These are the kinds of events that threaten to recast the ordinary, jumbling previously settled pieces of ourselves into new patterns.

It is when the pieces become unsettled that we can examine them each afresh, and, having done so, can once again appreciate the good and the bad for what they are.  In those moments we cling to life, celebrate a little more boisterously, cry in that deep way that shakes your whole body, and reestablish the important connections in your life–the ones that you have taken for granted while lost in the mundane.

This post is dedicated to one very important piece of our life that my family has taken for granted: meaningful friendships.

Recently, my family and I have been fortunate enough to experience several jarring changes, directly and indirectly.  I do not hesitate to consider us fortunate in referring to the good and the bad bearing down on us and our friends.  No one wishes to experience the hardships of life–and I would gladly take those difficult things upon myself instead of seeing them visited upon my friends and loved ones–but it has certainly been true that life becomes more precious when faced with them.  We have watched our friends rally around one another and lift one another up.  It is a testimony to their character, a character that is worth celebrating, so hear it goes…

Dear Friends,

  • We are honored by the ease with which our lives intersect, regardless of the circumstances.
  • We have benefited greatly from your generosity.
  • We  cherish your willingness to open your hearts to us.
  • We celebrate life more abundantly when we celebrate it with you.
  • We look forward to new life and newness of life with you.
  • We thank you for being available at any time of day or night to talk us off a ledge.
  • We glory in the ways that you have expanded our pallets. I have come to love new music and new foods because of you.  (God, I love food!!!)
  • We respect that we can argue deep, unsolvable matters and walk away laughing and in good spirits.
  • We love that you love our kids.
  • We have great stories to tell for decades to come because of you.
  • We hope you have benefited in some small way from your friendship with us…if not, then we owe you, big time.

In this rare moment of clarity that great change brings allow me to simply say that we love you.  Today, we cling a little tighter to the truth that you make our lives more fulfilling.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…
It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that
give value to survival.”
– C. S. Lewis –

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When evil men plot, good men must plan…

I want to believe these words with all my heart

Otrazhenie

Evil good men

I firmly believe that good people outnumber evil people on this planet – in all cultures and in all lands. Never lose hope in humanity no matter how much evil you see in this world. Good will always win.

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Little Imitators

The first installment of my “frustrated parent” blog. FYI, most of the time it will be frustration aimed at me or my kids or both…but not this time.

A few months back I took our 5-year-old son to his first martial arts class.  He was bursting with excitement, so much so that it was near impossible for him to keep some measure of control over his faculties.  It was priceless.  I managed to get the door open just wide enough for him to squeeze himself through. He hopped his socks and shoes off.  Then he was through the inner door in a flash.

He was so excited that he began to whisper in that “oh-so-subtle” way that children do, by which I mean that he could be heard three rooms away.  I quickly did my best to get his attention and pass along a few brief instructions. 1) follow your teachers’ instructions, 2) practice listening instead of speaking, and 3) remember to have fun.  I would like to believe that he heard at least one of those instructions but that may be delusional.

He quickly made his way through the waiting area and out onto the mat, full of excitement, ready to learn something new (and probably pretending he was Spiderman).

I retreated to the waiting area to sit alongside a bevy of parents and grandparents and settle in for the show.  The space was…lets say “cozy”…but adjacent to the workout area, which meant that we had a fairly decent view of our kids.  As I waited for his lesson to begin, I let my eyes wander around the room and noticed a rather large sign near the door where we had made our grand entrance mere moments earlier.  It was not a subtle sign.  In fact, it was a rather eye-catching sign, with giant lettering that was painted in a metallic, electric blue. It listed a number of expectations that the masters at this particular dojo have for the children who learn from them.

The instructions were all centered around the dual concepts of discipline and respect.  A few of them were, “Children who study here will do their homework as soon as they get home.  They will wait their turn to speak.  They will practice waiting patiently.  Children at this dojo will refer to adults as ‘sir’ and ‘mam'”, and so on.  I found this particular sign to be rather reassuring, as I knew relatively little about that establishment, and hoped that it signified a real holistic concern for our kids–to make them positive members of their families and prepare them for being positive contributors to society at large when they reach adulthood.

It wasn’t long before the lesson began.  The instructors took great care to be reassuring but firm with each of their students.  For the entirety of the hour’s lesson, they were side-by-side with the kids, showing them exactly what they wanted.  They performed a series of punches, kicks, stances, and stretches.  The instructors patiently modeled what they wanted and the children did their best to imitate the grace of their instructors. I was very impressed and excited for what this place could mean for my son.

About half of the way through the lesson a conversation started up between two adult males in the waiting area.  I think that they were reliving the glory days of their youths in some fashion, but I know that their voices were carrying out onto the mats.  The instructors noticed.  The kids noticed.  Fortunately, I had the periodic ring of another parent’s phone set at decibel-level-“I’m mostly deaf” to distract me from their incessant babbling.

Eventually, I became so exasperated that I threw my head back to stare at the ceiling and let out an explosive sigh.  When I finally lowered my eyes I noticed a relatively benign sign located directly above my chair, at the portion of the waiting room nearest the mats.  The sign had instructions for adults, but only three: no cell-phones, no talking, and no children playing in the waiting area.

I must admit that my first instinct upon seeing that sign was to stand up and draw everyone’s attention to the rules and begin to pummel this room of parents into submission.  However, that was quickly suppressed by a rather bleak realization.  These people were paying someone else to teach their kids things like respect, obeying the rules, courtesy, obedience, self-control, and discipline.  Yet, these kids were only at the dojo for 1-2 hours a week; the other 100+ hours they were at home with their parents, the same parents that couldn’t be bothered with simple courtesy rules at a public place and couldn’t care any less about what their kids were doing out on those mats!

They are throwing their money away if they think their kids will learn enough discipline and respect in 2 hours to override the disrespect and discourtesy demonstrated by their parents.  Now, I know that parenting is terribly hard (I almost capitalized ‘terribly’ here) and it is possible that some in the room were just tired or having an off day.  But I have a strong suspicion that the hypocrisy of the moment lies in each of our homes to varying degrees…but I can certainly speak for myself and nod in the affirmative.

Hypocrisy as a parent is unavoidable on some level, but it is an extremely unsettling reality nonetheless.  The harsh truth is that little children are grade-A imitators.  My boys observe and mimic everything I do and say; EVERYTHING.  They try to joke like me, lounge like me, do projects around the house like me, laugh like me, play games like me, kiss their mother like me, marry their mother like me.  It is comical, infuriating, and a daunting responsibility.  But I know that it isn’t something I can avoid.  They will model themselves after me, it is unavoidable.  I know this because I am an imitation of my father.  Sometimes it is a poor imitation and sometimes it is an exact copy, but I am an imitation of my father.

All this to say that I wish to leave you with 2 parting thoughts:

1. Forget gun control, civil liberties, and immigration reform…if you want this to be a better country then start being good parents.  God, it is hard to parent.  There are so many days I don’t want to be one.  But…I am the model that these little people have, and you parents out there are models for your own as well so at least try.

2.  Get your heads out of your phones and tablets and SEE your children; actually SEE them.  Who knows, it may get easier to deal with them if they feel that they matter…

Life Giving Water

Life-Giving Water

There is nothing quite like a rainy Spring day.  Sure, you can choose to notice that the clouds are gray, hate the feel of wet clothes, or resent the extended commute.  But all I can see this day is how quickly the grass turns from a lifeless brown to a vibrant green.  All that I can see is newness of life.  Truly amazing…awe inspiring…magisterial.

Staring out at that vista of life I get lost in the connectedness of life.  “No man is an island,” words from a song, leaps from the deep recesses of my brain to my frontal lobe.  Suddenly I find my vision widening out from the rain drops to see a little broader.  I can make out houses and neighbors busying themselves protecting their basements from flooding or sheltering their prized flower beds or covering that car they polish every Saturday afternoon.  I can see birds of every sort hiding beneath our parked cars to escape the heaviness of this particular storm, all the while scanning the newly fertilized soil to see where the grubs will surface (yummy). I can see children playing in the newly formed–ever expanding–puddles in our yards.  Filled with excitement at their good fortune–God made them a new pool!

What I see is this crazy, disjointed, yet intimately connected, dance of life.  Faces of wonder, hunger, distraction, determination, single-mindedness, survival, hope…

And, as is so often the case with me, my thoughts drift from this mortal plane into thoughts about God and how, if at all, this vision mirrors what it means to be a child of his in this world.  Is there a message for me in this moment?

This time I find that there is something for me to notice.  I find the steady rhythm of the rain pouring its way into the inner recesses of my soul and I feel quickened in a way that I haven’t felt in some time.

I am immediately reminded of the story in the New Testament of the woman at the well and recall Jesus asking her if she would be interested in partaking of a kind of water that satisfies in a way that she has never experienced before.  It is a story that I have read countless times yet I find suddenly resonates with me in an entirely new fashion.  

Never before had I connected with the woman at the well. But now…she is me.  An outsider, a shameful past, an imperfect present, in need, always thirsty but never sated,

Then Jesus is said to have offered her an alternative to her life as she knows it.  Her world can change.  She can be satisfied if she partakes of a life-giving water that he has to offer.

I am transported some 20 years in the past and, vaguely, I recall that time when I tasted that water and felt satisfied for the first time.  I recall having clarity, peace, and purpose.  It is a memory that brings a small smile to my lips and a wistfulness to my soul.  For that satisfaction has long since passed.  Somewhere the water that springs forth into an eternal kind of life has been suppressed back down into the dark recesses of that deep well that is my soul.

Life happened. Brokenness happened.

I wonder if it is as simple as going back to that person I was back then, but I know that I can never go back.  I am not the same person that I was then.  There are layers and layers of life in the way. I know more. I ache more.  It has been too many years.  By now that period in my life has moved from reality to memory to myth.  There are no glory years just glorified partial memories.

And so–back in this present moment–I find that I am the woman at the well, drawing water that does not satisfy out of that deep well. Daily. An outsider. Caught in the grind of life.

Then I recall that Jesus asked the woman about her spouse and relays to her that she has had 5 husbands.  I don’t know that his words were meant as anything more than a sign of his intimate knowledge of her and a demonstration of his power and status as more than a simple Jewish man. But, due to my own story, I find myself feeling judged by her string of failed marriages.

You see, I went through a divorce 5 years ago after 10 years of marriage.  I never thought I would experience such a thing and had no idea in how many ways that experience would come to define me.  How it would scar my perception of my self.  How I would let it derail me from my God-given gifts and consign myself to the mundane.  How it would seal away that life-giving water…deep within me…

Yet, now, like the woman at the well, I find myself encountering this Jesus character once more and, like her, am excited at the idea of an alternative to this daily grind.  I find myself asking “Can you give this water so that I do not have to keep coming back to this place?”

In the silence that follows I realize that the only thing preventing this explosion of life is my own self.  My doubts.  My fears.  My scarlet letter. My perceptions. My weaknesses.

I look back outside my window and it dawns on me that I am too much like that guy covering his car–preoccupied with mundane tasks–and not enough like the kids playing in the mud with nothing but wonder and excitement on their little faces.

And in that moment of wonder my observation of the connectedness of things starts to take on a whole new life for me.  Pieces that seemed random before start to coalesce into a coherent picture of the life before me. Before us.

This is going to seem a little disjointed but bare with me…

That life-giving water that you may have partaken of was never meant to be bottled up within us.  It was meant to spring forth, to come bursting out, to make its way to the world around us thereby bringing that life to others.  I don’t meant this as a call to evangelism.  It’s more personal than that.  What I mean is this…In the Old Testament God entered into a relationship with a specific group of people and in that relationship he called them to practice justice.  Not the kind of deeds-consequences justice but the kind of justice that looks out for one another.  The personal, interrelated, risky kind of justice.

They were to look out for the disenfranchised: the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, the stranger.  Policies were created to ensure that these things took place and to discourage individuals from succeeding at their expense.  So important was this idea to this relationship that it embeds itself in their worship and sacred text for centuries.  It was an enduring, foundational idea, woven into the fabric of their eternal relationship with God.

In this way they were to be guardians and givers of life; to one another in the name of their God.

I see now one of the biggest impediments to this life-giving water within me.  In life we either give or we get.  For too long I have been a taker and not enough of a giver.  I think that when we receive this life-giving water that it becomes our responsibility to act as conduits of this water for the world around us.

To bring life to our families. To bring life to our neighbors. To bring life to our work places, school mates, cities, country, and world.

GIVERS.

Giving a kind word, a much needed hug, a helping hand, a smile, reassurance, guidance, time, patience.

The second that my gaze moved from within to the world outside of myself I began to feel that life-giving water stir within me.  Ready to be used for the betterment of those around me.  I think that is what Jesus was calling people to be.  I think that is why he made the deposit within us of that kind of living water.  The church should be a place where people are showered with life. And it starts with each and every one of us extending our gaze outward and pouring life into others.

Do you want to enliven that personal relationship with God? Then take care of those around you who are in need because he loves them. Start SEEING people, truly seeing them.  Be a conduit of that life-giving water today.

Constructive or Destructive?

Today, as I read through Ephesians, I was struck by the metaphor of speech as a tool of construction.  Paul requests that we should “Let no evil talk come out of our mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that our words may give grace to those who hear (Eph 4:29).”  Two things really stood out to me.  First, if evil is, in some sense, simply the lack of good then any word delivered without some form of generous spirit behind it is a potential force of destruction in others.  Why? In essence, all of us are either in the business of building up or tearing down with our words.  There really isn’t much of a middle ground.

Unfortunately, in my experience people seem to find it preferable to tear others down than build them up. To make matters worse, breaking someone down is easy.  Conversely, building others up with our speech seems (quite often) to require a conscious effort on our part–it is quite often hard and time consuming.  My father-in-law gave the boys an elaborate toy last Christmas; it was a game where two people race marbles down a large series of ramps, twists, and turns.  The manual for putting this thing together was over 30 pages and it took me the better part of a day to put it together!  The boys played with it for a few months but–as boys do–they soon broke it.  When it was no longer functional the three of us tore it down.  It took 30 seconds. A whole day to build it up and half a minute to tear it down.

It doesn’t take much of an effort on our parts to be demolition experts.  How many times have you returned home from church and before lunch has been served you have already shredded your pastor’s sermon, ridiculed the musicians’ performance, questioned the selection for the dramatic reading, doubted the competence of your child’s teacher, commented on the fact that you weren’t greeted when you entered the church, etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum.  Maybe you didn’t even make it home before the criticism began?!  God knows I have been in my share of those car rides.  The saddest part is that I cannot recall there ever having been a purpose behind said criticisms other than my desire to be critical.  All that I know for sure is that over the course of years that I have participated in such activities I have successfully cultivated a rather critical spirit.  I really don’t want to pass that on to my children…

The other thing that struck me about this passage in Ephesians is the notion of being a conduit of grace for others.  In church lore the idea of communicating grace is usually reserved for sacred (sacramental) things such as the Lord’s Supper, the Word of God, and Baptism–things in which, through which, God’s grace is communicated to us.  Taken in this light, Paul is encouraging–no, instructing–us to be channels through which God’s grace can travel to others.  If you are a follower of Christ then that should be pretty powerful motivation and quite convicting.

It may be easy to tear someone down but a kind word can be a lasting vessel of grace.  Throughout our relationship, my wife has been in the habit of supplying me with graceful words.  Early on I would receive cards with lengthy notes inside.  They were filled with words of affection that expressed her gratitude for us and her complete faith in me.  These cards appeared quite frequently and at completely random intervals–no anniversaries or holidays, rather they came just because she thought I needed to hear the words or she wanted to make sure I knew something important about how she felt.  Even more impressively, the notes were rather lengthy and thoughtful.

One of the last cards I received meant so much to me that I keep it as a bookmark that goes with me everywhere that I go.  It contains the vows that she had prepared in the off-chance that we decided to prepare our own vows for our wedding day.  I now read those vows from time-to-time when I feel like a sub-par parent or a failure in general, and those words streamline her gracious spirit right into my very soul.  That one act of building me up with her words has extended grace to me a hundred-fold.  A kind, thoughtful and selfless word can truly be a lasting vehicle of grace.

I will be perfectly honest; being a blessing to others is something I have always longed for but never really taken the time and energy necessary to make it a present reality for me. Why? It takes work!  It is exhausting!  It requires not putting myself first, and, lets face it, that is what comes natural to me.  The times that I have attempted to transform myself I have failed miserably.  But you know what? I have become thoroughly convinced of a rather obvious truth.  If you want to be transformed then impart grace to others.  Commit yourself to being completely generous with words of kindness for others.  Invest in the well-being of others; partake in their transformation, and wait and see if they do not return the favor thereby arriving at the transformation you have so desperately sought.

Real transformation happens in community.  Extend words of grace to others and see what happens.

Who is Worthy to Lead the Way?

If you have done any job searching recently then you are familiar with the long lists of “Required” and “Preferred” experiences that employers provide.  These give you a sense of the bare minimum required, as well as some idea of what may set a candidate apart.  What is incredibly frustrating is that it is very rare to find a job listing where I meet all of the required specifications and a majority of the preferred.  Inevitably, I meet half-to-most of the former and quite a bit of the latter.  Unfortunately, this quite often discourages me from even applying!!  What if I am the best candidate for that job but reading those lists–and taking the word “required” seriously–takes me out of the running without even an interview? 

Early in my life of faith, about 15 years ago, I had an interesting conversation with my father.  My father, who had 20+ years of experience as an elder and teacher in the church at the time, posed a hypothetical situation for me.  “Son, lets say that we need to expand our church’s leadership team to account for our growing membership.  Given the fact that we (as church leaders) desire to be true to the teachings in the New Testament, and specifically its description of who is qualified to be Elders (e.g., 1 Timothy 3:1-7), what do we do if no one fully meets the requirements?  What if they meet all but one of the listed specs for leaders but they fail to lead their family well, or they are a relatively new Christian, or they have a temper, or they are divorced and remarried?  Do we choose the best available or do we wait until the proper candidate comes along?”  If no one meets all the criteria then must we confess that “No one is worthy to lead!”?

To take the matter a step further, what if we assume that the list Paul provides to Timothy was meant to be interpreted as a guide, a list of preferences rather than requirements? If that be the case then are there portions of the list that are of greater relevance than others? Are any of them deal-breakers or is it simply a matter of personal preference and prayer? What’s the criteria for deciding which item should be ranked higher on the list?  Whether he knew it or not, my Father had stumbled upon a crucial dilemma for Evangelical Christians, for at the heart of my Father’s question lies the uneasy marriage of the Evangelical’s desire to be “true to the Word” (matters of interpretation & the moral life) and the messy realities of life (sin, loss & redemption).

Over the past 15 years I have discovered that Evangelicals are perversely preoccupied with this question of “Who is Worthy?” and we ask it in a multitude of ways.

As an academic, I attended a national conference of Evangelical scholars, a theological society if you will.  Nearly every one of the 7 years that I attended these conferences there was a (disturbingly large) minority of members that banded together to ask the Society to redefine who should be a part of this group and who should not.  Their rationale for this behavior was invariably their concern for preserving the faith from heresy (false beliefs), they were concerned with being true to the Word. But this kind of behavior, unchecked, only leads to one person, alone, standing on their soapbox preaching to no one. So the question is raised: What beliefs make one worthy?

For that matter, what makes one worthy to serve in the church in general? If you are a convicted felon can you no longer teach Sunday School?  If you suffer a divorce can you no longer lead worship? If you physically assault someone can you ever lead the youth again? If you are a pastor who steals from your church can you ever lead again? What about adultery, lust, serious doubts about the faith, depression….

The only answer to the question “Who is Worthy?” is: NO ONE IS WORTHY. What is needed is a little perspective.

I recall with incredible clarity the first time that I was called upon to preach in my college church.  As the day approached I had my sermon completed and knew what I wanted to say but an overwhelming feeling of unease settled over me.  It was dawning upon me that I was about to stand in front a room of my peers and pretend to proclaim a Word from God that they should heed.  Who was I to proclaim such a thing?  In a panic I phoned a close friend and mentor, and in a panic-induced sweat proclaimed that I was unfit to do this thing and begged him to replace me on Sunday.  I was too dirty, too shameful, too unworthy.

His response was simple but loaded with perspective.  He said, “If every preacher had to be worthy then no one would do it.  Own up to your failings as a man, beg their forgiveness, and lead with humility.”  And that is it in a nutshell folks.  Perspective.  That cold cup of reality-water dumped on our sleep-addled holier-than-thou heads.  At the intersection of your desire to be true to your faith and the filthiness of being human you should find a bright neon sign that says “Welcome to Perspective.”

After fifteen years, my biggest disappointment with Christianity it too often lacks perspective.  Do you remember when you came to your faith?  You came with a sense of your failings and need for something bigger than you to redeem you; you needed to be made new.  Then you were taught that the Christian life is a slow but steady growth that involves striving for godliness, failing, confessing, being renewed, and back to striving for godliness.  If we know that being a Christian, being human for that matter, involves failure then why do we allow failure to preclude certain kinds of service?  Abraham gave his wife up to Pharaoh to avoid trouble and yet was seen as having a faith that is in some way exemplary.  Jacob is the father of the 12 tribes and yet was a deceiving, double-crossing schemer.  Faith is believing in things unseen yet Gideon is listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, even though he needed to see proof of God’s promise.  God didn’t let David build his temple because of the blood on his hands, but his son was allowed to and he turned out to be a polygamist who defied the requirements of a king, as laid down in Deuteronomy.

My point is this: If we are to believe that God used that messiness in the Old Testament (and I barely scratched the surface there) then how can we be so quick to eliminate people who are willing and able to serve on account of their failings?  We began seeking redemption and somewhere lost redemption and replaced it with a trumped up false morality.  Where is the morality in finding no place for redemption and reconciliation post conversion?

I often compare the Christian life to that of a blue chip stock. Blue Chip stocks can be counted on for a life-cycle of slow but steady growth.  Over a 40 year period you can have confidence that it will be more valuable than when you purchased it.  However, that line of growth is never a straight line.  There will be periods of decline and periods of growth. Some will be great and some will be small.  But you don’t react to a negative month, quarter, or year and sell your blue chip stock; you hang on to it, sure in the knowledge that it has value and will rebound to greater heights.

So, I ask you the reader, why do we sell off our Christian workers when they hit a period of decline, a bump in their road?  Unfortunately, there are too many divorcees who aren’t being allowed to lead anything, convicted felons who can never redeem themselves enough to look out for our children, people who have been unfaithful never again allowed to mentor our teens.  Sure, the church still has a place for them, it’s called the back row.  Such a shame.

If you happen to be in a church that has a program of reconciliation and redemption for its leaders then I invite you to share your stories to balance out my observations here. Signs of a healthy church  and a mature perspective are always welcome.

Letting Go…

…of who we thought we would become.

In the 1990s, Andre Agassi was synonymous with the claim that “image is everything.”  And, in a matter of speaking, there is a great deal of truth to that—especially when the image in question is the image that you have of yourself.  What plan did you have for your life?  Did you imagine yourself doing something profound on a global scale?  Starting your own business? Perhaps you saw yourself as the perfect parent?  Were you going to have the largest house on the block with all of the latest toys? Or, like a superhero brought to life, would you be the one person who always made the just and moral choice?

Self-Image is a very powerful thing.  It impacts both our output and our intake.  A positive one can produce feats of courage and daring, lead to innovation and self-improvement, and encourage those around you.  At the same time it interprets our life and daily interactions in a manner that builds us up and strengthens for the days, months, and years ahead.  But….and this is a big Butt…a negative self-image can be devastating.  Our output becomes lethal and our intake polluted.   This self-image can be a poison that leaches into those closest around you, it can cloud your perception of life, and it can leave you in a rut that gets harder and harder to escape.

And, if you are anything like me, the greatest cause of self-generated negativity is your inability to let go of who you thought you would be.  Such a powerful force this can be.  Just like the comics where the villains always have the stronger powers, negative perceptions (powers of destruction) are the nukes of life.  If you are a Christian wanderer like me then you undoubtedly have found yourself in a place somewhat similar to what I have described.  Things have not turned out at all as you anticipated.  You were going to be a minister, missionary, or professor of Christian thought—at the least, a regular part of a church.  Instead you find yourself in a spiritual limbo, a place devoid of ultimate direction, without a center, a place you never saw coming.

So the question begs, what do we do if we find ourselves in this place of negativity, this limbo, this ceneterlessness (to coin a phrase)?  Is this the necessary outcome of becoming a Christian Wanderer or a Doubting Thomas?  I say the answer lies in letting go.  Take that image that you had of yourself as a child, young man or woman, and let it go.  Embrace your past.  Own up to it.  In so doing you will take away some of its power over you and you can begin the process of laying it down.

Until you do you risk hurting yourself and those around you, and wasting what remains of this precious thing called life.  Reconcile yourself to who you are and take joy in whatever you can.  Find others with similar life stories and find solace in camaraderie.  I cannot guarantee that doing so will restore any former glory, make you a better parent, give you that big break you have been waiting for, or make you that moral superhero you always envisioned.  But I can say with a great deal of conviction that failing to let go of who you thought you would/should be will increase the odds of you being a bad parent, a bad friend, a drain on those around you, and increase exponentially the odds of you wasting your life.

Image can be everything, so imagine yourself laying down the chains of your past and embrace your now.  Find joy in today.  Find excitement in the struggle.  See things anew.  I finally am.