Sometimes I feel like this crawfish, wandering too far from the ditch into the dangers of asphalt and vehicle tires. But like this crawfish I put up my claws and face the world with feeble threats. I boldly face that which could easily destroy me, perhaps a little too boldly.
Life hurts. It’s full of dangers and very real attacks. Anything can plow into us and knock us down. Pretty much every one of us has suffered this year. Some of us have been completely knocked down, some are still standing, but barely.
Sometimes we are blessed enough to have a hand reach out, pick us up, and put us back in the safety of the water. We might pinch at it, we might struggle, but eventually we find ourselves at peace. We can breathe again and settle into safety.
Don’t resist those helps.
Life is too crazy and too dangerous to resist the help and care of others. Even if they don’t solve our problems, they can give us comfort through them. Never underestimate the power of companionship or simple kindness from the hands and mouth of another.
It was either that or: “Love: The Deadly Choice”. You’re welcome.
This isn’t actually that post. While writing and re-writing that post I realized my perspective was off. I was writing about unrequited love but my definitions were off.
I assumed that loving someone and getting nothing in return was a destructive force on one’s well-being. But as I was editing away, I realized that true love has no expectations on its object. When we love someone and expect something in return we aren’t actually loving them.
If we get hurt when they don’t return the favor, were we really loving them unconditionally? Or were we merely looking for a tit for a tat?
Loving someone means dispensing with most of our expectations and loving them simply for them, not what they do for us. Expectations lead to disappointment and disappointment leads to bitterness. When one falls prey to bitterness it is nearly impossible to love. It is best to leave most expectations out of the relationship. Take care of your own actions and don’t place such a premium on the actions of your beloved.
This doesn’t mean that all expectations are wrong. One should have reasonable expectations that the one she loves will fulfill things he gave his word on: vows, promises, agreements on daily living arrangements, and others. However, even when those promises are unfulfilled, she ought to fulfill her own. It was her vow and agreement also.
Perhaps this is when unrequited love does become deadly. One must kill pride and the desire to demand what is owed by covenant. One must choose to love because it is what he or she promised. One puts to death one’s own pride and desire for retaliation and instead chooses to love his or her beloved because that was the promise made: to love until death.
Loving someone like this requires us to forgive when we are wronged, either by omission or by commission. Forgiveness is not an easy thing. Allowing someone back in who betrayed trust or withheld promised benefits means opening ourselves up to the possibility of having our love hurt again. As Christians however, we must forgive because Christ has forgiven us. Christ forgave our debt to God, and unless we want to end up like the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, we have to learn how to forgive debts from others.
And as Christ restored our standing with God we should strive as much as possible to restore the standing of one who has hurt us. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us, therefore we should emulate His love and forgiveness, even when our flesh tells us otherwise.
So, as the song asks, what is love?
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
If that is love, what is not love?
When we impatiently push our beloved to change, we fail to love.
When we are unkind in our words and deeds, we fail to love.
When we hold ourselves in too high an esteem, pushing down our beloved, we fail to love.
When we insist on our own way and put a prerequisite on our affection, we are failing to love.
When we resent our beloved or grow irritated at their failures towards us, we are failing to love.
When we allow evil into the relationship, we fail to love.
When we fail to bear with their weaknesses, think them liars, give up on them, or decide we just can’t handle their failures anymore, we fail to love.
When we quit loving, we have to ask whether we really ever loved at all.
Love is an action. It is a constant choice we make to put others above ourselves. Even though our motives for loving others should not be to gain something in return, it is helpful to understand that sometimes our love will not be returned. Sometimes we are spurned by those we elevate.
This is why promising to love someone is a risky choice. We risk the destruction of our happiness and comfort if that love is not returned.
None of us love perfectly. We all fail to love at one point or many. Knowing this, we should certainly sympathize with those closest to us. They will fail us and we will fail them.
There’s a new craze going on. People are going “KonMari” on their homes and tidying them up. Lives are changing, with every cymbal flourish and Marie Kondo Coo, rooms are being magically transformed from dumps to habitable spaces.
I knew nothing of this show until it started appearing in my newsfeed. Then my wife watched it…
My wife has spent literally the last ten years trying to KonMari our house without knowing she was doing it. She has emptied her closet onto the bed several times and whittled down the clothes to a manageable number. She has sought to create spaces for the objects that she loves to be on display to bring joy to her house. She emptied and rearranged kitchen cabinets, she disposed of piles of things that no longer meant anything to anyone (and a lot that she still loved).
But because of me, this labor was in vain. I am a hoarder, or at least a recovering one. I have held onto papers and books and random objects from my youth for odd and unhealthy reasons. It’s been a process, slow and painful (yet cathartic), to get rid of my stuff and only keep what really makes me happy.
So seeing the craze, and hearing my wife’s reviews, I decided I should watch a few episodes myself and see what it was all about.
First off, skip the first episode unless you want to know why the rest of the world dislikes Americans. Stereotypes exist for a reason, sadly. The one upside to the episode is that it normalizes breastfeeding.
But episode three was great (we accidentally skipped episode two), especially for us, because we live in a smallish house with seven people in it. Seeing another family downsize from a huge space to a tiny space was uplifting and gave me some hope for this household. Plus they were just so dern wholesome. The kids were polite and the parents well spoken. They seemed like normal people trying to get by, just like most of us.
There was another episode with a couple just like us, the wife (in our case, me) just couldn’t bear to get rid of her clothes, books, and miscellaneous items. We had to laugh because if we didn’t laugh we would cry. This woman said many of the things I do. It was humbling to see someone else do it. She kept things for various reasons, usually utilitarian in her mind. I completely understood what she was saying. And her husband? The words he spoke could have been stolen from my wife’s mouth.
So what do I think of Marie Kondo?
Well, first off, she seems like an absolute sweetheart. She doesn’t come into her client’s home like a wrecking ball, deriding them for having stuff. Instead, she sweetly reminds them of some pretty common sense stuff like you’re all in this household together, so you have to work as a team to keep it tidy and only keep what brings you joy. Common sense frequently escapes me, so her reminders were well needed.
Other shows of this genre show you “horrible” people and build up drama around their horrible addiction to materials. They literally guilt you into cleaning up your house, because only “horrible” people live in messy houses. Not “Tidying Up”, this show shows you average people who are just trying to get themselves out from a completely relate-able situation. It’s feel good TV.
People will mock Marie because of her Shinto beliefs, saying she does odd things like “waking up books” and greeting the house. Sure, there is a bit of superstition involved, but that doesn’t make everything she does incorrect. Watching her talk about her beliefs got me to thinking, what is the correct way for Christians to think about the objects in their house?
So many Christians in America just go along with the materialism of our culture. We buy stuff we don’t need, we collect things with no intrinsic value, we hoard and take pride in our displays of wealth and blessings. Most of us are able to keep our material possessions manageable, but there are more than just a few of us that are drowning in them.
Wealth is not bad. Having material possessions isn’t sinful. Buying stuff you don’t need or having collections are not intrinsically bad behaviors. But, like all things we do, we should examine our motives and the effects the behaviors have on our lives and the lives of those around us.
Watching the show encouraged me to ask myself a few questions:
Does my home or the objects in it hinder my ability to share the Gospel?
I can’t share the Gospel when I can’t invite anyone in to my home. My home is an extension of my life, and the best way to spread the Gospel is to let others into it. But I am too embarrassed by my chaos to let others in.
Does my home reveal a lack of self-control, a Fruit of the Spirit?
My home definitely reveals some lack of self-control. There are places for things, but things are not put away. Clothes are not put in hampers, dishes are lost in far corners, the tables are used as catch-alls. Habits are not maintained.
Is there peace in my home, or is it chaos?
There is no peace. While training to be a bus driver I was told that having a clean bus actually encourages good student behavior. This is obvious even in my home. My kids aren’t bad, but clutter stresses them out and can lead to grumpiness, sloppiness, and laziness. How much more relaxed would they be if they knew where their stuff was? How much more willing would they be to keep up with their chores if they didn’t have to shift around mounds of stuff?
What does my mountain of stuff and my inability to get rid of it say about what me and what’s important to me?
What’s more important to me: this stuff that I’ve been dragging around for years, or the health and well being of my family? Stuff, or my ability to have friends over to share my life? Stuff, or my ability to do the things I love instead of wasting my time moving sand dunes of clothes and papers around?
Do these objects rob me or members of my family of joy, also one of the Fruits of the Spirit?
Joy is the one thing that Marie brings up more often than her love of tidying. Objects can rob us of our joy. Mountains of material possessions can drag us into depressing and awful places.
We should only keep what brings us joy. We should not hold on to the stuff that robs us of joy or inhibits our ability to share the Gospel. We should use our home to bring joy to others. Keeping a house full of clutter often means keeping a home empty of friends.
Go check out the show, then go KonMari on your house, you won’t be disappointed.
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Maybe you have guessed that I am a bit restless in my current situation. Maybe you suspect that I am merely living a lie and will eventually give it up and go back to my old way of life.
I don’t want to go back.
I left a career of nearly ten years to go do something else that I loved. Then I left that after two years to give my wife an opportunity to do something I knew that she would love (and I wasn’t wrong). But am I doing what I love?
Yes and no.
I love being with my kids. I love teaching them and talking to them and watching them become great little people.
But sometimes they are real jerks. Sometimes I get tired of being around them. Frequently I feel like I fail them on so many levels. But I love them. So yes. I love what I do.
I need adult interaction. And more than just the superficial internet interactions. The presence of people is a balm for my anxiety and loneliness. There are times when being around the kids perks up my spirit, but they are the takers in the relationship. Adults give and take, the dynamics are different. Right now where I am I do not get the kind of adult interaction I need.
I have dreams and goals. But I never think I am good enough. I am always the contingency guy. I have a goal, I assume right off the bat that I won’t get to it, so I automatically search for all the secondary plans.
Where do people get their optimism? How does one make a goal and dream and actually think themselves good enough to get them? How do they take control of their lives and make the things they want happen?
Or do they? Do people ever actually get what they want? Or am I just watching too many movies? I swear I see people out there on blogs and Facebook and elsewhere living the lives that they want. Surely there is something flawed in their life, something they don’t like, something that is not quite right.
How do they live joyously despite those things? How are they successful in jumping past those kinds of problems and focusing instead on the good things, the successes?
The simple answer is that they aren’t. Everyone has struggles. No one is arrived 100%. Some people are just better at displays than others. They are simply good at social media.
Or perhaps they really are hopeful. Some people are just optimists. They do a good job at seeing the good and understand the best way to make those good things happen is focused work towards them.
So the answer to getting where I want is simply focused discipline? Make an effort to get adult time? Focus on the good goals and spend a little less time on contingency?
Time will tell.
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This was in a Facebook group I’m in. Most people got the joke. One guy commented:
“What exactly is this meme saying?
Why is the woman abandoning her God given role as mother “for the next few days”?
Why is the father being regarded by both women almost as a boyfriend?”
My response was “you gotta be trolling.”
But looking at his timeline I really don’t think he was. His posts show that his worldview assumes men and women were created exclusively for distinct “roles”, women to pump out babies and stay with them constantly until they are capable of pumping out their own, and men to go out of the house most of the time to till the fields and provide the means to buy food (which definitely falls into the woman’s role). These roles are rigid and unbending.
I’m not completely opposed to the idea of roles. In any organization, such as a family, division of labor is helpful to ensure that all jobs are taken care of.
But implicit in this guy’s worldview is the idea that men are incapable of raising children. The fact that a woman would “abandon her God given role” and leave her children in the incompetent hands of their father is appalling. We all know men don’t have the capacity to nurture. We know their attention spans are way too limited to ensure the kids get all that they need to survive.
Implicit in this worldview is the concept that fathers are nothing more than babysitters when they take responsibility for the care of their children. If this guy had his way, the mother would never be out of the child’s presence. The father would will never be left out of his league watching the kids for a few days, let alone a few hours.
Maybe I am being uncharitable. Maybe this guy is a great father. Maybe he lets his wife “abandon her role” and go out occasionally. I don’t know.
All I know is I take exception to the idea that men are useless for raising children. I reject the notion that fathers are babysitters and the jokes about them needing “rescue” and being incompetent.
This guy may not have understood the meme, but I think most of us got the point loud and clear.
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“You literally just dated and married someone from middle/ high school and stayed together?”
Yep. That’s exactly what happened.
Having that pointed out made me realize just how complicated life really is. Especially the finding and keeping a mate part.
I was blessed to meet a girl at the beginning of high school who simply latched on and never let go. One of my fondest memories of our early relationship was when I took her hand to lead her through a crowd and she stayed attached for hours afterwards. She literally would not let go of me. I asked her to go out with me fully expecting her to get over me within a month or so. Nope. She was mine and there was no changing it.
That certainly makes it sound easy doesn’t it? I mean, compared to the majority of people our experience was pretty simple. One girlfriend (unless you count that one for two weeks in 8th grade) and one boyfriend (unless you count that one in kindergarten). No breakups or heartaches, no chasing and wondering, no getting attached to someone who wasn’t interested. Compared to the norm we are freaks of nature.
But it wasn’t easy.
Starting out together thatyoung created all sorts of headaches others avoid. It didn’t take very long to realize that we wanted to be together forever. But since “everyone thinks that about their high school sweetheart” no one believed us. We got engaged in secret and wracked our brains about ways to make it happen. Elopement was not completely off the table, folks.
And temptation… There is a reason the Bible says to get married if you burn with passion. When you are young and truly in love there is a strong passion for physical connection. “True love waits” is a silly slogan. True love commits and becomes one flesh as soon as possible.
It wasn’t easy after marriage either. Being young and immature (though you think yourselves quite wise) makes living with another sinner difficult.
We didn’t have the typical surprises many people experience after marriage. With nearly six years literally growing up together there really weren’t any secrets or skeletons or odd habits we didn’t know about.
No, our difficulties came because we read the wrong books and listened to the wrong advice and took the wrong pills. The first months of our marriage were hell. We had a foundation in the many years together, but the walls built in those first months was full of cracks and holes.
It took a while to get our footing. It took longer to gain any sense of success in our marriage.
How’d we make it work?
Well, first off, divorce is not an option. It has never been a part of our vocabulary. Even during the times when one of us (or both) wants to leave “divorce” is not a word we ever use.
Loads of patience is the second. Love is not love without patience. That may mean waiting a loooong time for a change in your spouse. It may mean years of gentle nudging in the right direction (not nagging, nagging is impatient) before you see a result. It may mean bearing infirmities much longer than you would like. Patience does pay off though. In the long run you find that you can bear more and you love each other more.
Third, a big helping of stubbornness. I won’t let her go. And she won’t let me go. By golly we made this commitment, we are going to keep it! There is no one else that I want, so I am going to selfishly cling to her with all my might. If something I do is hurting her I’m going to work on myself to change it. Because I want her. And she is one thing in my life that I actually have. Nothing else that I want ever seems to happen, so I will hold tightly to the one that has happened.
We were blessed to meet so young (and cursed) but there is no reason why you can’t be blessed to meet someone later in life.
You just have to grab them and not let go.
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Don’t ever think of yourself as useless. You have no idea what you mean to others. You may very well be the reason someone gets out of bed in the morning. Even if you think you do nothing, sometimes your mere presence is enough to give someone else a purpose.
On the flip side of that, don’t ever take the presence of someone for granted. Every single day is a gift, and one of you isn’t going to be around forever. Always assume it’s the other person and make every moment with them as special as you can.
Accept that you won’t be perfect at this. Accept that if every moment was special, no moment would be, so sometimes it is good enough to just sit around and bask in the presence of each other.
I could bask all day in the presence of that woman…
There is an expression well known to people who go long periods of time without their significant others.
Absense makes the heart grow fonder.
Well, does it? I mean do you really want that other person around more when they are gone? Do you love them more when you are separated?
My marriage has been a test of this theory for some time. I used to go out once or twice a year on two week assignments, then I took a job that had me gone for two weeks at a time several times a summer. Now my wife has that same job and she spends a week or two away at a time. We won’t even mention the long days at her own station which make her home life basically just sleeping, eating a meal or two, and perhaps marital intimacy if the exhaustion isn’t too much.
Do I miss her? You bet. Do I pine about her lack of presence? No. What’s the use? Do I love her more when she’s away? Not really. In fact we have both found that the busier you are in a period of absence, the less likely you are to have strong feelings about the situation.
If anything, absence actually makes presence more difficult. You get used to a routine without that person. You get used to keeping certain emotions bound up. You stop thinking too much about the situation (and the other person) lest it become painful.
Then they come back. Your routine is muddled. You emotions are stirred. Where there would have been pain is now an empty hole into which you shovel your excitement over the reunion. Absence didn’t make the heart fonder. It kinda made it numb.
With the return comes the feels. Strong feels. So you bicker. Bouts of fighting interspersed with intense passionate embrace. All those emotions that you buried with busy-ness now find themselves naked in the laziness that comes in the arms of your lover. Your heart is no longer numb, it wants to explode.
You confuse your excitement with the negative feelings you had in the absence. It feels like panic, so you seek to suppress it. But your heart won’t let you, so you stutter over your thoughts and words and apologize profusely over the smallest of disagreements.
Absence doesn’t create fondness. There isn’t really a fondness growing at all when she is away. Instead, there is a ton of awkwardness rising up and waiting for the return. And oh so much passion.
I don’t want her around more when she is gone. I just want her to stay more when she is here. Honestly, I would rather she never leave. Especially it it’s only to build up some sort of elusive heart fondness.
While Moulin Rouge might have been more of a lust story than a love story it at least gave us some memorable medleys about love (and was a darn good movie).
What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me)… Love, biblically is: patient, kind, not arrogant or boastful, selfless, forgiving, truthful, strong, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and everlasting… All the things that we as sinners seem to have such a hard time being.
Why is marriage so difficult? Because we aren’t loving. As soon as we lose our patience, or distrust our spouse, or hold onto a grudge about something s/he did, we are no longer loving. As soon as we decide we would rather selfishly sit on the couch then get in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, garage, home office, or nursery and lend a hand we are no longer a loving spouse.
Why is parenting such a hardship? Because it is hard to be patient with three year old tantrums or a nine year old’s backtalk. It is hard to be kind when you have been working your fingers to the bone and your six year old demands some attention. It’s very tough as a finite creature to give endless amounts of discipline and instruction to little people.
Love is tough, it does not come naturally to most of us. Movies make it seem so easy. All you have to do is kiss and say some sweet nothings and your life will blossom with joy. Not so with reality.
In reality love is holding your pregnant wife’s hair while she loses her breakfast for the third time that day (for the record my gag reflex was too much. My wife was gracious enough to let me out of this halfway through her second pregnancy). Love is sitting down and helping your nine year old figure out her feelings or giving your six year old a much needed piggy back ride. Love is making your spouse lunch every day. Love is getting up and going to work every day (or staying at home to take care of things there) so your spouse can live out their gifts and talents (at home or in a workplace).
Love is ugly sometimes. It forces us to confront our own narcissism. It makes us crush ourselves so others may rise to greatness. Love frequently leaves us feeling spent and used. There is not always an immediate or even short term return on our investments.
But in the end (the love you take is equal to the love you make), love is worth every struggle and hardship. Every pain will be counted and rewarded.
God rewards our good deeds, and those done in love all the more.