Endings are complicated. Even if they are happy endings, the feelings of loss can be tough to put your hands around.
I’m in the midst of one of those endings currently.
Over the next week I’ll be ending a job with an employer and trying to figure out what the next step is. This is the first job loss I’ve ever experienced as an adult.
Salient details include the fact that this job wasn’t due to performance issues, or anything personal. It was mostly related to market conditions and an organizational decision to restructure. The severance will allow plenty runway as I try to figure out the next steps for my family and I.
I find myself processing the feelings and cycling through emotions like relief, sadness, and a shadow feeling of loss that doesn’t match up with reality. It’s so interesting to try to look into the deep of my emotions and try to identify what is actually happening.
I’m trying to stay centered on a couple of facts as I try to figure out career-wise what to pivot into.
God is not surprised by this development
God knew and knows my responsibilities and the bills
God is still God
I’m also trying to figure out how to balance the priorities of a growing family, work, ambition, and rest.
I know that at the end of the day- my biggest challenge will be resting in the strength of the Lord as he works everything out.
Thank you for allowing me to process aloud and I’m sure I’ll be back as I work through all of these feelings.
I have a child who is raising me as I’m endeavoring to raise her.
Every week there is a new habit or skill learned that leads some revelation that impacts the way I see the world. The most recent realization brought to mind a host of possible implications, but I’m jumping ahead.
My daughter has a pacifier that she has somehow named “doot doot”. “Doot Doot (DD) is something that she has come to cherish. It’s not much but a $2-5 piece of plastic that mimics the very real, life-giving comfort and actions of nursing, but my daughter will often stop crying at the mere mention of DD. She’ll look around, eye’s wide and ask her toddler version of “where” while scanning the room for the promised appearance of DD.
Needless to say, I’ve appreciated the presence of DD on many an occasion. On long car rides, I’ll confess that i’ve handed DD backwards in an effort to quell the cries of a child in distress at the length of transit.
However, the other day, I noticed that the relationship between my daughter and DD had morphed into something a bit more substantial than a source of comfort. Somewhere along the line, my daughter had started to depend on dd as an emotional regulator and as a prerequisite for peace. I didn’t realize it at first, but I found myself disturbed by this, and before I knew it, I was hiding DD from my daughter and making plans for its eventual disappearance.
Somewhere in the midst of this exercise of weaning, I started to wonder if my daughter was the only one in our family who had transformed what started out as comfort into a crutch. It didn’t take me long to start to see the things in my life that I may be forcing to serve a purpose well beyond what perhaps they were intended to. I could see clearly how things like money, job titles, and financial security were trying to usurp the position of something, or better yet, someone, who had the actual power to promise safety in my life.
I marvel at the natural ability of humans to create idols and attach meaning to those things that mimic the truer thing beneath them.
As a father, who is trying to build a strong daughter, it became my goal upon noticing this negative trait to remove DD from this vaunted position and make sure my daughter was able to seek sources of comfort that were legitimate, healthy, and hopefully internal/eternal.
It becomes clear to me that our Father in heaven may have similar feelings when he notices certain things creeping into positions that they were never designed for. They’re removal, although it can feel negative is actually for our own good.
I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to remind myself of this truth if and when God has to prune my life of certain things.
This post is specifically for those trying to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Who find themselves having a hard time trusting God’s god and perfect will for them because of the roadblocks of what you see. Faith is perhaps the hardest part of following God. Mostly, for me, because faith requires pushing past feelings. Right now, I’m feeling beaten down, disappointed, and having a hard time mustering up hope for the future in certain areas of my life. My usual route when faced with these feelings is to give in to them, to buckle under the pain and the imagined future I’ve created that is an extension of my current feelings into a absurdly depressing future.
There a couple of things that are helping me this time to stop short of getting on the ride towards hopelessness.
Perspective – I’ve been here before. I’ve seen the consequences of hopelessness and the destination it leads me to. The final destination is nowhere near where I really want to be.
Recognizing the fact that my feelings fluctuate and will not be the same in 4 days, 4 hours , and potentially 4 minutes. Letting such ethereal, fleeting feelings (no matter how all-encompassing and deep) serve as the basis for my behavior only ends up hurting me
Understanding finally that I have a power in these moments. A power that may not make me feel better immediately, but one that will help me to know how to move forward in spite of my feelings.
This power is the power to choose differently. The power to decide to trust God even when everything that I see and the voice in my head is telling me that I should trust my own understanding and seek my own happiness vs. trusting the position that God has anointed me for.
While thinking today, I was brought to the passage in Ezekiel about a certain valley. It reminds me that no matter how lost a cause may seem, there is still hope with our God.
The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones become living people again?’ ‘O Sovereign Lord,’ I replied, ‘You alone know the answer to that.’ Then he said to me, ‘Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones..but they still had no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man..”Come, O Breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again. So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet – a great army”
Understanding the power and love of our God is what I’m leaning on as I look at the dry bones in the valley of certain areas of my life.
I’m going to have to rest on God’s grace and ability to fix even the most dessicated situation.
Outright lies aren’t the most dangerous species of falsehood. In fact, they’re probably the equivalent of poisonous frogs: bright, deadly, but they don’t kill you unless you touch them.
There is another species of lie, that is much more pervasive and hard to see, the equivalent of a mosquito.
These lies are the sort that parade around in broad daylight as the truth and seem so compelling that they fool, not just the slow or dim-witted but the brightest among us. We’ll call these “alternative facts”. Why are they so dangerous and what are examples of this species of un-reality?
These types of lies are dangerous for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest is that these lies point to a time in the present or the past and promise something that you can’t really verify until you’ve arrived. This means that you have to invest your most valuable resources – time and energy in order to discover the foundation of these lies is actually not true.
They also are held by so many people that they seep into the common cultural glue of a society and because they are seemingly so obvious they are never really questioned at a society level.
An easy example, that I struggle with is the lie that “Financial Freedom will equal happiness”.
Why is this lie more dangerous than the lie “if you jump off a bridge you’ll fly”?
To prove that financial freedom you’d have to INVEST quite a bit of time figuring out how to become financially free, perhaps giving up 4-5 decades in the pursuit, and because this is a difficult thing to accomplish, you’ll most certainly have to sacrifice things along the way. Perhaps passions, friends, time with family, having a family, investing in your children’s emotional lives, etc. This may not be the case for everyone, but at some level, sacrifice will have to happen at the altera of this lie.
The other part that is hard to unravel is that there is some percentage of truth (perhaps 60-70%) found in this lie. Some gradation of financial margin unquestionably leads to a happier life. Struggling to find food to eat or a place to live usually does not give birth to deep happiness when it’s not chosen voluntarily. This slow improvement on the small scale makes it hard for us to stop seeking it at a source of happiness when we’ve perhaps, unknowingly, reached the end of the happiness that this is able to give us.
We can confuse our lifestyle for our life.
We start to work harder, sacrificing more, and resting less, in order to achieve some dreamed of level of luxury that like our first paycheck will allow us to feel some higher level of satisfaction. At some point this is not only impossible but harmful.
We leave families, don’t enter community, avoid rest in pursuit of a lifestyle that hustle culture says will lead to the promised land of luxury for something that will ultimately disappointed if achieved alone.
It may be worth it for all of us to dig deep into the things we believe in to make sure that we’re not following seductive lies that point us to nowhere.
The light of experience is a interesting phenomenon. It doesn’t necessarily shine in front of you, although it can sometimes give you the shape of things you may have seen before.
Considered experience actually does the opposite and shines brightly on the past. It helps you to see more clearly the past and the ways that you, in the moment, either correctly perceived or misperceived the events of the day. More often than not, one of the ways that you see clearer in hindsight is the removal of the fog of emotions that so often hinder our vision. Without the pressing emotions of fear, lust, anger, or ambition attached to a specific course of action we can more clearly see what should have happened and why or why not we chose a particular route.
Often we may notice that fear so often achieves the goal of dissuading us from a brave course of action by minimizing who we think we are and consequently what we think we deserve.
This is fear’s favorite game.
Distracting us from our identity and helping us to choose a sub-optimal course of action based on our fears about what we are capable of and what is possible for someone like us.
Our identity plays such a huge role in determining the light that we see ourselves and is subject to so many variables – the culture we were raised in, the words our parents used on us, the relationships we entered into before we knew how to create boundaries around our identity. Our identities can so often be damaged, inaccurate, or downright fiction, as we’ve so often seen on singing competitions.
Because of the fickle nature of the identities that we’ve defined by our own thoughts and perceptions over the course of our lives, the importance of finding an identity that isn’t subject to the winds of human machinations is beyond important.
Ask the many people who have built an identity and found out later that this identity isn’t robust enough to carry them through a full life.
What do rich men who become poor do?
How do beautiful women who become old or ugly feel?
How do overachievers who become sick or infirm think of themselves?
What happens when the coolest among us, become the creepy old person in the singles bar?
Or the toughest guy in the neighborhood finds himself in a prison full of the toughest men in the city, state, country?
When the identity we’ve invested in for years no longer seems to be viable in the world we inhabit, this can open the door to being lost, to midlife crises, and to destroying everything we’ve built in order to figure out who are we actually.
Our identities should be built on something more solid than the vagaries of the cultural moment or the words of the flawed people who raised us.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Problem: Adulthood is a bit of a blur. If your not careful, and most times even if you are, responsibilities start to pile up. The hours grow slippery and seem to slip through your fingers. This gets even more clear once you have children. Children can become all-consuming and leave you with not a lot of energy for anything other than sleep and recovery.
We’ve all met people who seem to move through life with the enthusiasm of a sloth. Seemingly bound on all sides by responsibility and the prison of debt – whether financial, emotional, or spiritual. They may have the trappings of a successful life but their spirit seems heavy.
How do we remain afloat as the waters of responsibility rise around us?
There is a poem from Kahllil Gibran that I think of when I consider the how we should structure our life – mentally and spiritually as we acquire responsibilities.
You shall be free indeed when your days
are not without a care nor your nights with-
out a want and a grief,
But rather when these things girdle your
life and yet you rise above them naked and
And how shall you rise beyond your
days and nights unless you break the chains
which you at the dawn of your under-
standing have fastened around your noon
In truth that which you call freedom is
the strongest of these chains, though its
links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.
And what is it but fragments of your own
self you would discard that you may become
-On Freedom – Kahlil Gibran
This poem reminds me of a couple things – that the dream of freedom can itself become a prison and that freedom is not the absence of responsibility but the enjoyment of life and pursuit of purpose despite the responsibilities.
That’s one reason I think it’s very important that we make time to pursue the things that feed you at least one hour a day. Make this pursuit a habit and prioritize your enjoyment even as the responsibilities of life multiply.
I know this is hard to do, but I also know its worth it.
I can’t remember the last time that I used a compass. Perhaps when I was a cub scout, searching for ways to accumulate badges as if each were worth its weight in gold. Somewhere in my outdoor adventures, there was a time where I held some version of the small round device that magically, no matter where I was in the world, would point me North.
The compass needle wasn’t influenced by the obstacles that may have lain in the pathway north or how easy the path southward is.
A compass has one job, and that is to point you in the direction that it is aligned with.
Life was much simpler as a cub scout. As you grow, black and white is replaced with a whirlpool of gray and possibilities of what to pursue multiply, which is both liberating and paralyzing. If I can become anything I want to be, how do I know what I SHOULD be?
Do I follow my passion, my reason, my religion?
How do I know where all of the possibilities intersect with the gifts that lie within me?
How do I prepare for the future while respecting and appreciating the present?
Balancing and navigating these questions is the work of adulthood.
If you’ve read this far, your probably wondering, ok, well, what do you propose be a guiding principal for the decisions we’re making as we’re navigating life?
Now, I think its important that we define what kind of fear I’m referring to.
The fear I’m referring to isn’t the bone-chilling fear of being in a dark alley with a shadowy figure approaching. I’m not advocating pursuing life-threatening situations as a means to find meaning. For most of the people reading this, your fear isn’t related to survival or making sure that you evade predators, but probably more along the lines of being exposed as being inadequate, or failing at something hard, or losing someone important to you.
Also I’m not sure if I’m advocating for using fear as a guiding principle as much as a compass that points towards something true. Just because the compass points north doesn’t mean that you should be heading north. However, knowing what direction is North is helpful no matter which direction your heading in.
So, why fear? What information does fear give us? When should we listen? How do we know when to ignore it and move forward?
In my life, fear is a marker of the edge of my belief. Fear gives me a definite boundary for exactly where my faith stops. Understanding this boundary is important because often times, when we feel the tremor of fear, we do everything we can to unconsciously arrange our lives not to approach that boundary again, in the hope that we can avoid the discomfort. This is, perhaps, a mistake. In the interest of growth, it may be worth it to sit on the edge of that boundary and inspect it for what truth is it conveying?
Am I afraid because I made something other than God my source?
Am I afraid because I don’t want to disappoint others or myself?
Is this fear rational or emotionally driven? Is this fear a product of worry about the future or regret about the past?
Sitting at the edge of your fear will give you INFORMATION. This information if you allow it to can inform you of the path towards growth.
This is not easy work. Easy work makes for a hard life.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Sometimes, I don’t mind this voice in my head. It allows me to think through potential situations and do cool things like self-reflect.
Most times, however, my voice is complaining and annoying. I mean, it sounds like me, but it often says things that put me in a bad mood or make me angry.
It’s taking me a long time to start to wonder, why exactly I listen to this voice.
I think the original reason is that, like my ’99 honda accord, it was mine. No one else in the world had this particular voice, just me. So who could it be talking to but me. However, over the last couple of months, years, decades. I can see certain patterns in the voice. Patterns that don’t lead to forward progress in certain areas.
I think the voice is deathly afraid of risk, intimacy, and failure.
I’m no fan of these things either.
But I notice that the voice kicks up a steady stream of reasons why I shouldn’t risk a new venture, or let someone close to me, and how I can control failure by working to the exclusion of all other things, whenever I consider something that may fall into those categories.
What’s interesting is that in the short term – the voice is right.
I can avoid risk by not pursuing the things that excite me. I can keep my heart safe by only letting people in so far, and I can prevent failure by working hard on things that don’t matter. If I stay on the hamster wheel long enough, the voice might distract me from the dreams that lay on the horizon.
For me, the first step in growing will be doing battle with the voice in my head and listening to the still, small voice in my soul that is pointing out into the horizon.
Even if that means I have to risk the safe place that the voice considers home.
Me and work have a unhealthy relationship. I’m not sure exactly why. There’s probably a million reasons that I could point to:
My parents were immigrants and hard work was just a matter of survival
I live in a society where money is tied to productivity and I decided early I didn’t want to be poor
In the family I grew up in, work, especially paid labor was the great excuser – almost anything could be forgiven if work was the reason
This reality, unfortunately, has some unfortunate fruit. I can find myself using work as an excuse to avoid other, more important work. Whether that work in internal emotional work, spiritual work or just investing in family seems not to matter.
Being in relationship with someone who didn’t grow up with these same values can be a bit disorienting. The reaction to work used as a all-excuse is bewildering to me. Work isn’t viewed as a relevant excuse for missing important functions, which allows me to evaluate exactly why I’m working so hard and make sure that i’m being honest with myself.
One of the questions I have to ask myself is why am I working so hard? Of course, you should work heartily unto the lord but working all day – that may point to something else.
Psalm 127 speaks a bit about this:
“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
Too often I find myself working anxiously which at its base means, I really don’t trust God to provide for me. I think that I must create a pathway via work to provide for myself.
Lord forgive my inability to remember the many ways you’ve provided for me and and my family and help me to rest in You.
Something that is on my mind this morning is the way that God always manages to be right “on-time”, and how this is really the best most effective way to make sure that people learn something at a heart level.
Do you remember the feeling of being in classes that didn’t apply to any area of your current experience and how mundane those hours of trigonometry seemed? Alot of our general education seemed to hold no relevance to our lived experience and so often those lessons are doomed to fade into the shade of oblivion.
Was this because the information wasn’t true? or helpful? I’d venture to say that no- the information was both true, and potentially helpful but that more importantly, it just didn’t apply and had no “good soil” for the skills, information, or learning to sink into.
Contrast those experiences with the experience of riding a bike, or learning to drive a car, or when you learned to budget or invest. These skills were potentially much easier to grasp for one specific reason, in my opinion: Immediate applicability with a clear benefit.
If you learned how to ride your bike on Monday, you could immediately take the bike for a spin for the rest of the week. The same with learning to budget – as soon as your next check rolled in you could immediately use the skills and see their impact on your quality of life.
I think that God in his infinite wisdom is not unaware of this fact. Often, it seems upon looking back I can see how he brought me to a place where I could on a very intimate level start to understand the lessons that he was working on with me. He would bring me to a place where my frustration was at an all time high in order for him to really show the impact of how trusting him to give me peace would change my life. He will often bring me to a place where money alone is unsatisfactory or not enough to provide and he will show me how his provision is much broader than just money.
In my opinion, there is no better place to be in order to start to really want to see a solution and when given one, use it. It’s something like ‘Rock Bottom’ for alcoholics anonymous. We’ve reached a place where we can finally hear and accept the wisdom that we need in order to make it to a better place in the long term.
I would love to use this model of learning while I’m in the process of teaching my children. It makes me wonder what this might require from me to work effectively?
Being involved enough to see where my children are at?
Not allowing my fear of inadequacy force my hand into solving all their problems for them immediately but being patient enough to allow the problem to develop fully and the emotional fortitude to see the potential benefit of pain.
I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to (with my wife) build those skills enough to impact my family’s life for the better.