Monthly Archives: March 2011
Let’s get something straight from the start of this post: I am not a warlock. I have neither tiger blood nor Adonis DNA. I have, however, been awkwardly using the term “winning” for years, long before Charlie Sheen was winning Being An Insane Megalomaniac.
“School is hard this semester,” a youth would say.
“Are you winning?” would be my response.
A blank stare would follow –the VERY SAME blank stare Mr. Sheen gets whenever he says something like “Aliens have requested my sperm to help regenerate their lost pantheon,”– and the youth would say something eloquent like: “wha?”
“Winning school…” I would say, and the conversation would degenerate from there.
Now, as I’m pretty sure I’ve said before, I like winning. It validates me. It probably shouldn’t, because I know I should find my validation more in relationships, particularly my relationship with a Creator God who loves me and pursued me to the grave. That’s all good, but I still like winning. There has to be a point system or objective to every game I play. “Just for fun,” isn’t enough; I want to be able to win.
My friend Derek has a blog that he started recently: dereksoundguy. Derek is the new Tech Director at Heritage Park Alliance Church in Windsor. That’s a Big Deal, because it’s a Big Church, and Big Churches get Big Guys to do Big Things. He’s an amazing guitar player, a brilliant sound tech, and most importantly a great guy. And he’s pissing me off because he’s winning blogging.
Derek’s blog is still pretty small in terms of post numbers, but he’s being consistent and posting almost every day. I don’t feel like I have either the time, or the worthwhile stuff to say to be blogging every day, but when I see his posts popping up in my inbox, I feel the pressure to post because he’s beating me! He doesn’t know that we’re competing and he’s winning. What’s up with that?!?
So here I am hauling myself back from artificial competition again. What is it inside me that feels the need to be measured against other people; to have some sort of empirical proof that I’m Good? Why can’t I be Good unless I’m winning? Why can’t I be Good unless I’m being better than the people around me?
We’re made to be in relationship. We’re created to be in community. That doesn’t work if one person is trying to do everything, or making other people feel unnecessary or inadequate (all too often the flipside of winning). Last night I hurt a friend of mine through what seems to be a perpetual need to one-up… She made a comment about an issue that was Big in her life, and my one-upmanship made her feel like I deemed that her concerns were invalid and that she was petty for voicing them.
In trying to somehow prove I’m not Broken, I’m running the risk of breaking relationships. This is why I’m striving to let go and embrace my Brokenness. John the Baptist said of Jesus “he must become greater; I must become less [John 3:30].” I’ve got to become less so that everyone around me can become greater. In my relationships I can be so much greater than I am alone. If I can let go and get out of God’s way, he can do so much greater things through me. Why do I get in the way of that?
I’m going to be so much better off when I figure out how to be winning Being Broken.
Those who know me know that I’m big on not knowing. I mean, there are some issues that I come down hard and fast on, but generally speaking I give the benefit of the doubt way more than I should, and I allow for a fair amount of leeway when scaling orthodoxy. I’ve been wrong far to often to deny an intelligent person’s reasoned opinion on most matters. Unless they’re wrong, which seems to happen all the time on the internet. People being wrong on the internet keeps me up at night because I’ll argue my case long after they say “nope, that’s just the way it is.” Mostly, I like the debate, the competition of it, like intellectual wrestling or mental bocce ball. At the end of it though, as long as I’m not caught up in the fight, I’m happy to allow for the possibility (however slim) that they may be right.
This is a dancing pickle:
I am a master of the non-sequitur.
So yeah, to bring it back closer to the point, and in defiance of all those who hold me in high esteem (both of you – what up!), I don’t always have the answer (although I’m usually willing to fake it convincingly). The big question that I haven’t been able to fake a convincing answer to lately is “how are you doing?” I could say Fine, but I don’t think I am. I don’t know whether that’s a lie or not, so I don’t know how to play it off. It probably is, though, and it’s lame, so I don’t usually go that route. The most honest answer I can give right now is “I don’t know,” but people just keep looking at me like they’re expecting more, or like they feel like I’m not trusting them or the authenticity of their concern.
It’s a weird feeling not to know how you’re feeling. I feel like it’s something I should know. As much as I might pass myself off as an authority on a wide variety of subjects, I am definitely the world’s foremost authority on what’s going on inside my head.
I have no clue.
My friends and family ask me and I’m left with the blank stare of a McDonalds addict who was just asked what percentage of their recommended daily caloric intake they just consumed in a single sitting. I’m freaking out but I’m not. I’m anxious and upset but I’m not. I’m tired. I’m not blowing people off when I say I don’t know how I’m feeling. I really don’t know. As much as I’m cool with not knowing how the End Times will play out, or who’s allowed into heaven and who’s not, or what my cats are really thinking when they look at me like I might be food, I’m not cool with not having answer to this question. As I consider it, I’m coming to believe that it’s primarily because of the pressure I feel to have an answer. To appease the people that love me and care about me and want to offer their support. I know you want to help, and it hurts not to be able to let you. If I knew what would help – if I had a clue what I was feeling – I’d tell you.
(There’s a long winded pity party for you, some classic 90s blogging.)
Can we make that okay? Can “know thyself” take a backseat to “be thyself” for a while?
I’m going to talk for a second about the friends of Job tonight. Generally speaking, they’re raging douchebags with incredibly bad and ill-informed advice (been there, can’t come down to hard on them for it), but you’ve got to give them this: when Job’s life was going to pot, this is what they did: “they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. [Job 2:13]” They dropped what they were doing and came to be with him. They don’t become jerkasses until they start pushing and prodding at “what he did wrong to deserve it”. They had it right the first time. They were just there. Actions are love. Presence is love.
I think that as humans when we see something that’s broken we either want to poke it or fix it. We don’t do well with things that are too sensitive to poke and too convoluted and messed up to fix. We try to package it in a way that we can understand then make it better. Sometimes we can’t make it better, sometimes it doesn’t fit into a neat box. I think deep down we know that and we try to take care of other people’s issues as a way of cathartically dealing with our own. Can we [I] learn how to offer support without offering advice? Without needing to get in there and clean up the mess like a some kind of superhero emotional janitor? Let’s be Broken people together. I know it will get better. I’ll sort it out. We’ll sort it out. All I really know is that for now I’m lost in my head, and I’d just appreciate some good company while I wander.
This is my dad:
He’s the one on the left with the beard. Not the asian guy on the right with no beard; that’s Yo-Yo Ma. No kidding, he was chillin’ at a private performance with Yo-Yo Ma a couple weeks ago. That was right after catching Clapton from the second row in Dubai. He’s a wicked amateur photographer and a dragonfly expert and he got his Master’s degree in Information Technology just a couple of years ago. He kind of kicks ass in a really nerdy sort of way.
I found out this morning that he’s probably dying.
Mikey isn’t the only one who has cancer. My dad has a malignant metastatic melanoma taking root in his liver. That’s not a happy after-school-special kind of cancer (if there is such a thing). It’s nasty. To the best of my knowledge the mean life expectancy is about 5 months with current treatment, possibly longer with experimental ones, but generally speaking complete remission isn’t a realistic possibility. I’ve been trying to do research and wrap my head around what’s going on. It’s not working very well because all I can get my mind to do is think of the extremely low odds that he’ll see next summer. Summers are usually when I see him, since my parents only really leave their exotically mundane lives in the United Arab Emirates to come visit when Canadian weather is tolerably warm. That’s a piece of it… there’s my dad and my mom and all they’re going through and the things that rise to the surface of my mind are how this is going to affect me.
I think about missing his advice. I think about the help he gives me with tech stuff and having to muddle through it on my own. I think about the fact that this makes it much more likely that I’ll at some point battle cancer personally. I think about the possibility of insurance money, then I think about what a complete ass I am for thinking about the possibility of insurance money when it’s my dad and feel overwhelmingly guilty.
I think that the term Donald Miller uses to describe this is Self-Addiction. Everything is about me. I am the lead in my own story. Everyone else exists in importance only as their stories intersect mine. Self-Addiction is one of the biggest barriers on the way to living a life of Godly Brokenness, because the Self desires above all else NOT to be Broken. Brokenness is painful and it acknowledges fears and failings and the fact that our Self isn’t good enough. The thing is that I don’t want My Self. I want Jesus’ Self. The only way that I can put on Jesus’ Self and be the person that I’m meant to be is to discard the Old Self. Every time I think I’m doing that, it rears it’s pointy little head and I have to ask myself “who am I to be trying to teach people about God? Is it complete arrogance to preach what I seem to be unable to put into practice?”
I remind myself again that the value is in the journey. The example is in the striving, not the momentary portrait of who I am now. I’ll tell them don’t look to be like me, look to be like the person I’m Becoming. That person will be very cool.
My Dad’s journey is probably ending soon. He’s not perfect, but he’s shown me things like it never being to late to make an improvement in your life, and the value of the focus and drive that I often lack. He’s set an example for me in his amazing work ethic. Most importantly, when he leaves, he leaves me with the legacy of faith that I get to offer my own son, because in the midst of his imperfection, along with other beloved people in my life, he pointed me towards Jesus Christ.
I’m tired. I don’t have much to say, which is a strange reason to post on a blog that’s not just inactive but hasn’t seen tangible activity since its creation. People aren’t reading it, but someday they might, and on that day they will see that it had not one, but two posts that had no discernible purpose.
I got over to wordpress again today because another friend has started a blog. The Day I Met You hasn’t been active (hopefully Andrew will post again someday), but a positively inspirational gentleman by the name of Mikey Fisher has begun to chronicle his journey with cancer. If I recall correctly, it started a couple years before he should have been dead. He’s not dead, and that’s very cool. He’s got a young wife, and a young son, a battle with a terrible disease, and a vibrant faith. It shines here, on This is Awareness.
It turns out that this is a good place to write about Mikey, because he’s being Broken. I met Mikey about 10 years ago, at Emmanuel Bible College. He wasn’t Broken then, but he needed to be. We all needed to be, I guess… we’ve all changed as life [and God] has worked its calloused hands and broken fingernails in our hearts. Mikey’s faith was not vibrant. It was somewhat hesitant, searching, but holding hard onto Solid Ground. Mike has very little Solid Ground now. Where the earth of his life ended, faith has begun. Well, not begun, really, because it began a long time ago, but it’s changed in such a way as to be New. That’s my outsider’s perspective anyway.
He was gone on a musical missions trip (did I mention he’s a ridiculous [so good you want to kick him in the crotch] musician?) when it all came to a head. That means that I don’t know what was going on in his heart and mind at that point, because he was far away and we weren’t keeping in touch even before that since I’d moved to another city. God’s been working on him for a long time. The spiritual growth may have been slow, but I saw it like a God bomb dropped on his life when I joined already in progress and reconnected. Since his diagnosis, I’ve watched the growth of a humble, spiritual man, willing to take direction, letting go of the Unimportant, as the Essential grows in clarity.
Mikey is leaving himself behind. Broken pieces of himself are falling away, and the core is shiny. The doctors told him he’d be dead last year. That would have been a shame, because his world wouldn’t be witnessing his incredible metamorphosis. It’s also amazing, because if he hadn’t had that news, his world wouldn’t be witnessing his incredible metamorphosis. He’s taken being Broken and making it Good, just as God intends for us to do. I pray that he’ll hold on another year, because we could all do worse than to have a chance to follow the path he’s blazing.
Story posted without permission. He can handle it.