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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My Notes Along the Way & In a Lifeboat

My Notes Along the Way

Sometime ago I was surfing the web looking for something, didn't know quite what. Well, actually, I knew what I was looking for ... answers to some things that press on my heart when I think about what it is that God has designed me to be. Anyway, I ran into a blog and started to read this man's thoughts about the culture and life and God. As I read it I began to realize that I wanted to have a part in this conversation, not so much with him, but with others who are also like myself are on a journey. I have no grandiose thoughts that my ramblings will do much to speed anyone else along in their journey. But I hope it will have some effect. I do really expect that it will help move me along ... for there are so many pent up thoughts, emotions, attitudes that are just internally pressing me and holding on to me tight. For whatever reason this seemed to me to be a good place to let them out.

I have not always been so nebulous. I have been a strong conservative Christian for years. Pretty determined and fully convinced of many things. I am a teacher of the Word, a pastor. But as I look out into the world and check my heart as well I came to realize that I am but on a journey and I am not as far along as I once thought. Previously I had many things figured out. I really was assured of where I was going and how to get there. I could and did easily offer counsel to others on how to live this life for Christ and how to reach that for which God had designed them to be. But now I find that I am not so sure I really know how to go about being a follower of Christ today. I feel very much like Abraham who was a stranger and a sojourner in a land previously unknown to him, yet it was also a land given to him by a promise from God.

At the same time Christ's words ring loud in my heart "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill can not be hidden, " and I realize that I can't help but being watched by the world - not just those who know me the best or are merely acquainted with me, but the scores that pass by me daily all around me - and I wonder if what any of them sees in me is Christ's love or just a rule bound automaton. They all see my mask, but what if I really let them see me, a pilgrim with all my heartaches, fears and doubts mixed with my passionate love for the one who gave his life for me. Vulnerability expresses love the best, that's why God walked in flesh and blood when Jesus walked the earth. I pray my vulnerability will show his love as well.

So thus I begin these notes along the way. In this you will find my thoughts as I wrestle with my own heart, with my faith, with my doubt. I will share my joys along the road as well. Although I have no idea if these ramblings will be of any help for you on your journey, this is my prayer.

From a previous post: Why Notes Along the Way?Sometime ago I began to realize that so much of my effort was on straining to reach goals. Often my focus was so strong that I neglected to enjoy the journey and learn about myself, my God, my wife, my kids, and my companions on this path. I would often ignore the cries of my own heart that would have led me to a truer, more spiritual place. The Christian Scriptures speak of "laboring to enter God's rest" and this is what I seek as I work at a shift in my life to living more from the heart than for the goal. I believe that in re-discovering my heart I will begin to apprehend the goal for which I am called heavenward by Christ. As I press on in these sourjourns of my heart, please join me. Let's press on together. -- Keith


Recently I was with a group of men several of which shared some of there stories trying to come to grips with what was going on in their lives. As one man shared I felt like he felt like a man by himself in a lifeboat watching all whom he held dear going down but unable to help his loved ones. It felt like the whole of his relationships past, present and future were like the Titanic plummeting to the bottom of the deep. Faced with this he just checked-out his emotions and wondered why he was even sitting in the lifeboat himself. I realized later that I connected so much with him because this is how I feel some times. My friend just checked -out his emotions, disconnected them to the ones he loved because he was left with impossible choices. My emphasis personally is on the often times debilitating depression that will hit me as I take each of the hits sitting alone in the lifeboat.

Recently I was with a friend of mine. I got together with him to offer him a job, a job he had expressed to me previously that he wanted. I was excited. As we talked I found he was open to the job but he was more excited about another project that he and I have independent desires to do. I found that he had just gotten the needed accreditation to do the thing up right. I was floored, couldn't believe he got it done. I talked and did nothing. He mentioned it and did it. I felt astounded, but the deeper feeling was to my own inadequacies. I knew that certain educational requirements are required to get this accreditation at least a Master's degree. I couldn't believe my friend had accomplished this educational level. I knew that I had never even gotten my BA. So I asked him if he had his Master's degree, he told me that he actually held not only a Master's but a Doctorate. I was stunned, but really not stunned but hit in the face with feelings of my own illegitimacy, flooded with the waste of life I was living. It took my buddy 12 years to get the degree that I coveted. I neither had the 12 years nor could I imagine the money I would need seeing that I have one son who is only two years away from heading to college and the business of living pressing me.

What I long to do, what I am designed to do I do such a small part of it fitting it in between the press of my life, my work, my increasing debt and the increasing work I have to do to pay. What I long to do, what I am designed to do, I never prepared well to do so although I do it in some small means I leave it mostly in the realm of dream. Never able to apprehend it and that which I do in the realm of the dream feels so illegitimate, so far removed from the dream, so not what the dream is, I have no heart to do it. The struggles of the not quite the dream reality compels me to act but I find that I am so tired from the internal struggles with the dream, my own sense of inadequacy and illegitimacy, the remorse and the guilt that I try to disconnect from it. But instead I just hurl deeper into depression.

This sense of despair became overwhelming after my conversation with my friend I just shut down. Refused to connect with anyone or anybody. I came home ate something. Laid in bed all night wanting just to go to sleep. Not wanting any comfort. Refusing to talk to my wife, or read to my younger son, refusing any enjoyment, I just sat in my lifeboat paralyzed not able to do anything but sit there.

I have been having bouts of this in various degrees. I usually call it a deep sense of dissatisfaction with ... you name it. I get angry usually. I usually express my anger at someone other than whom I am angry with. The reality is that I am angry with myself, because I put myself in the boat I find myself in. This time I just sat in the boat despairing.

What knocked me out of my state was the effect my despair had on my wife. I love her dearly although rarely seems to express it much. I came home the next day from work. And went back into my stew. My wife sat across from me and wanted to know why I was mad at her. I hadn't expressed any anger to her. She started bawling. I assured her I wasn't mad at all. She didn't believe me. So I laid it out for her what was going on. This ameliorated my pain and cause her to believe me. But it did not settle my issues.

In the days following this experience I found myself completely engulfed by a flood of hopelessness. It is amazing how I can let myself go down that dark, dark road. Now being several weeks removed from this time I feel as though I have made a turn as I have been discovering much about myself. I will write more on this in another post.

As I finish this post I want to say that I am learning something I thought that I had learned a long time ago. Communication is a path of healing and wholeness. I can not be whole and healthy with out communicating with someone else. Me left to communicate only with me will always drive me deeper into my own self. But when I communicate with God or when I open up to my wife or a close friend, or when I sort through things with a caring community of fellow pilgrims I find that this lifeboat adrift alone in this sea can become so much more. It becomes a means to reach the promised land not only for me but possibly for many others as well.