When a Friend is Trapped

Dear Readers,
Consider your life.

I can’t use enough words to say how important our lives are. You are more than a job. You are more than your latest or last relationship.

 

I had a shaking experience with a friend. We recently meet up, though we live in different towns, and have for years. I know his life isn’t what I’d hope for him, and despite my husband & I offering him a place to live at anytime…he remains where he’s been.

“What makes you happy?” I asked. “Not entertained, but happy…joyful.”  My question was met with silence. If possible black silence. My heart cracked. I understood the non-answer.
“You don’t do anything that makes you happy anymore, do you?” I asked, and humbly he confirmed.

He went on to tell my husband and I that he doesn’t think about “these things”. Simple questions that are deep. What difference do you want to make? What makes you happy/joyful? If money wasn’t an issue, what would you want to do or be?

My husband and I explore this questions all the time, so that we can assess the steps we take in life.  Money isn’t the goal, it’s the necessity on the way to goal. We try not to offer too much of our thoughts, ambitions, and life to such a minut factor. It’s not everything.

 

Don’t be trapped.

When I moved out of parents and into the shaky land of adulthood,  one of my first purchases for my new apartment was two huge maps. One of my country, one of the world. I hung them on my wall, and I’ve looked at them frequently thought the years. I still look and I still think the world I know is small. There is so much more beyond me yet.

If I’m happy with my small world, that okay. If I’m unhappy I remember that I could choose change at anytime. Get up, move, learn, experience, move again. No problem.

Money maybe a factor, but only one. Determination is another factor. Friends and influences could be another factor. Don’t let this things pigeonhole you. It could always change. You have choices. You have options.
In our meeting up, my friend brought his newest girlfriend. They seemed to speak of their city as the representation of our state. (A pathetic representation that would be too.) I’ve been around most of the state, intentionally learning and experiencing different things, so that I could legitimately know that state. We all make broad sweeping statements, but I’d just like to be able to back mine up if possible. It’s a wonderful state. I love a lot about it; despise a little about it, and I have learn to adore many of its quirks.

When I mentioned that perhaps they don’t leave their own city much (which I’ve seen to be true with many people) the girlfriend tried to say they don’t have much money for that.  Money has never stopped our friend before. He’d been an adventurer. Finding rides with friends, and friends of friends. Exploring whatever places he got a opportunity for. Maybe it wasn’t much, and yet …it was.

A while after talking with her, I realized she probably imaged traveling as a vacation. Hotels, eating out, spending money on attractions. We haven’t often done that.

 

GO and BE.
I believe every city has its own personality. And I suppose small towns do as well. A region can definitely have a particular culture to it. It’s amazing to see the stunning differences with crossing of a boarder, whether geographically mapped or not. You don’t have to spend tourist-y money to learn this.  Being there, driving through, walking around, sleeping, eating, talking with people, watching people …all of these normal day to day things reveal the full experience.

Often my husband and I camp when it’s warm enough. It’s cheap and it tells a lot about region. Some place have been amazingly beautiful and calming, others were rough and more unwelcoming as a whole.

 

Ironically, at the end of the day, this isn’t about traveling or visiting places. It’s about living life, knowing there’s more out there when you need an “out there” to adventure into. Sometimes we live our lives in such a small space that we miss our whole lives.

Survival mood can only work for so long, before it stops feeling like life. Before hopes stops flowing in. I don’t want to see that happen. Sometimes, I have to watch it happen. I can’t force anyone to get help, to try something different, to adventure beyond the unhappy state that they’ve known for so long.  Sometimes I can only proclaim that “other” exist.

 

We continue to pray.  We continue to hope, while we have hope. We continue to remind people the think, seek, pray, progress.  Sometimes the unpaved road leads to home.

Loneliness: Struggles of Isolation

Loneliness doesn’t mean I’m alone; it means I’m isolated. I can be hanging out with people, or sitting right next to my own husband, and I can still feel deeply alone. For me, I can grin and bear it most days of attack. But not all days. And not everyone can.

The ironic thing about loneliness or isolation is there will always be those people who say “oh I’m here! you can talk to me anytime” …Anytime? How about the last time we hung out and we never talked about real life? How about last weekend when I had nothing going on, and I dwelt quietly in my own silence. “Anytime” seems like a pretty flexible word when it’s only heroically attached.

Besides…

Loneliness isn’t defeated by distractions.
To engage in friendship long term is something I feel utterly inadequate to speak about, and yet…these are they who we depend on. If someone wants to help defeat loneliness in another’s life, they must also help defeat boredom, incessant questions, empty chatter, and yes, isolation itself.
We must be a people who act like…well…people.

The last thing I want to do is create a formula to nullify loneliness. That would be the epitome of recreating the problem. Formulated relationships are isolating. Maybe that’s why it has little effect when someone says “I’m here for you” but then never is “here” so to speak. Or they’re around and yet still very distant.

Nothing kills like the silence of my closest friend. Nothing nullifies my worth, like my husband dealing with something on his own. Just when I thought we were a team. I’m locked out.  I’m on my own, waiting, alone. Isolated.
Marriage isn’t the key to escaping loneliness, and this is a myth that I long to dispel for those who sink headlong into this new arena. Loneliness doesn’t mean a marriage isn’t working; it means you’re human…very human.

I have a big family that I love, but sometimes there’s nothing lonelier than being in the midst of that group. When there’s an argument on, and I’ve taken a firm stance on the minority side of things… whew! It’s pretty lonely out on that branch. It’s isolating. And they’ll wait me out. …so they think. Instead…there becomes a rift.
They’ve forgotten all about the argument…or most of it… and I still feel the burn of scorn in my inner being. Oh God! What’s more isolating then pretending nothing hurts? Few things are. I won’t lie. I know a few things are worse.

I grew up playing a part. Being known as a title instead of having a name. That’s what happens when you have a parent working in public service. …That’s also what happens when you have a charming charismatic brother who all the girls think is hot. From one title to the next, I was pretty use to the shadows.

So something happened when I got out on my own. A freedom that I wasn’t use to. Some people saw me, and I wasn’t use to being seen or noticed. I wrote it off …for the most part. Yet it was fun too. And then… I got married, which was awesome! But it didn’t take anytime at all before I sunk back into a shadow. My man…the theologian, the musician, the science man, the darling religious dictionary.
And I…I grew up to be the distasteful hard-nosed confident woman who shares her opinion…her unwanted opinion… without even realizing that it was an opinion or unwanted. Here I thought I was making jokes, making friends, and stating the obvious.

I can be such a fool.

Loneliness doesn’t require a lack of people or contact with people. It only requires isolation. Sometimes it’s people and dear friend which are exactly they who bring it.
I’m sure I’ve been a villain as much as a victim. I am not careful. I am only sincere.

Instead of being or finding a cure, I try to learn to walk -long walks- in isolation without it fully killing me. What’s a little more death? I make it through. I live. I’m strong. …and people hate my strength. Around another corner will be another thoughtful person waiting to take me down… down into isolation. My fire swamp. I’ve lived there quite happily for sometime now. Why should I care what becomes of me?

One. Two. Three. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. Repeat.

And yet… like many other human beings… I would theoretically like to be known, be seen, be remembered affectionately. Yet if my choice is self-inflicted isolation of the shadows or isolation of the strong being attacked for their strength. I hardly know which one to choose. I switch between the two like my life is a game of hot potato.

The hardest part is finding the strength to know others suffer this too.
Or so I assume. When you’re isolated it’s hard to tell.
I want be strong enough to say I suffer, not for sympathies sake, but because I fear someone else might think they are alone in their isolation, or that their loneliness is consuming and who can see them now?
It is hard to see from here, but sometimes I can still here a voice calling to me. Or I can still here my heart begging me to get up, one more time. Maybe if I feel this…maybe someone else does as well. Maybe I still have a voice that can be heard, that can help.

One. Two. Three. Breathe…

Spiritual growth, Spiritual maturity, and heretic

Spiritual growth, Spiritual maturity, and a heretic = What do these things have in common?

I suppose it depends on your honest perception. Honest meaning not necessarily the first thing out of your mouth, because many of us a trained to give certain answers immediately, but more like the second thought or third (or later) thought that comes up in your mind. The solid answer that comes to your mind as you real start to consider if we do faux-pas in throwing these things altogether at any given time. As you consider the question, and I hope you do, I’ll start off with a fun example.

My husband and I have run into some leaders here & there who simply find us “off”. Most of these don’t know how or what to call us at all, but few ever actually like us. Early in the year a pastor who was trying to thank us for something said to us, “There something about you two. You’re…” and as he searched for a sufficient wording and I joked, “Good Christian people?” to which the pastor replied “No. More like… uh…” and continued to search for adequate but not overly-blissful praise. This is something I haven’t stopped laughing about yet, and it was very early in the year when it happened.

More recently, I opened my mouth in defense of a Christian brethren who was being accused by a conference leader/speaker of descension and/or division, and since we (my husband & I) sided with our friends we were all accused of not enjoying the “spiritual meat” because “there’s plenty to go around“, to which I also replied something along the line of it wasn’t meat but baby food.
One might think there’s a big difference between actual meat and baby food… but then again..?

Also slightly after this last event, my husband was encouraged to write to the good-hearted leaders of this said conference, so that they could also know our opinion, after giving some time and hindsight to consider the full implications of it all. My dear husband also found himself getting accused (by such good-hearted leaders) of similar things “not appreciating the spiritual meat” “there’s plenty to go around”  that very same “spiritual food” that both I and he called baby food or to be politer, a happy meal.

Wow.

Can it be, that one would get in trouble for wanting to spiritual mature past baby food and kids meals and spiritual Cheerios stage? Can it be that one would get into trouble for knowing how to seek out, prepare, bless, share, and partake in our own healthy regular spiritual diet, and therefore not come starved enough to intake whatever is being given out? Instead we might actually be looking for quality ingredients to form a spiritual meal?  Apparently if anyone could get in trouble of this type of thing, my husband & I will be the ones to do it.

The problem?

I am not insulted by you telling me I am spiritual “fat” because I know how to feed myself prepare full healthy meals, and I am not spiritual anorexic or anemic. I am not insulted. Neither am I bullied by this. Nor can I be bullied into eating whatever is being served up, just because its there, and its what “everyone else” is doing.

There is this cool story in the Bible that you get to hear about once in a while and it’s found in the book of Daniel chapter 1. It talks about 4 friends who’s lives where spared when their country was invaded, but they were still taken away as slaves. (Good luck, bad luck.) From there, they got chosen to compete for positions of training and honor in this foreign kingdom, but in the midst of this preparation they were serving types of food that these 4 friends do not indulge in. Therefore they had to make a secret deal with their supervisor to only eat the foods which fit their diets.
In the end, they turned out to be healthier, smarter, and all around better off than all the other young proteges, and had much success in their new land, by the blessing of God.
(that’s the short form; it’s very suspenseful story)

I like to ask, Why didn’t they just indulge in the foods like so many others with them? Why did they abstain if God had brought them to this place of privilege, didn’t that in itself give them the right to enjoy? But I don’t ask to judge these 4 friends, but I ask to judge ourselves. I am a big believer in that if we don’t learn from history we will be doomed to repeated. We must see the patterns that have already been created, and learn from others mistakes and victories.
I think these 4 friends choose life while they were still alive. They choose to honor God with the “temple” they had left, their own bodies. but… What about the others? Maybe the other young candidates had previously been scared to death at being taken as slaves and watching their beloved city burn, and maybe they never recovered. Maybe something in them died, or lacked graditude toward God or just saw these circumstances as most favorable and so they “lived it up” while they could.

In my experience, the terrible thing about growing up, especially spiritually, is that when you learn how to make meals and share what you have, you sort of become pickier, in that you learn things taste better fresh and not prepackaged. This does apply to physical nutrient and cooking for your body’s own health, as much as spiritual nutrient and spiritual food. I love learning new recipes and meals and trying different foods, but I don’t go back to eating baby & toddler food unless I am ridiculously sick or in a gross-food-eating-contest.

In my physical and spiritual life, I still eat Cheerios, but I eat them with fruit on top and milk surrounding them and on an occasion, but not as a snack or meal staple. I’d be so hungry if I only ate Cheerios ever.

Recently, in this blog, we’ve discussed that there is a difference between hunger and craving. We absolutely have to know that there is a difference, and that we are not to mix up which is which. This part of growing up. We have to be able to discern what is healthy for our bodies and our own being, and therefore we must not take in just whatever is available, but only that which is beneficial and enjoyable (in a non-indulgent way) to our insides.
Our physical bodies are the perfect example of our spiritual health needs. Some people have food allergies. Some people LOVE pasta (Thank you God for pasta!). Some people like spicy. Some people can’t sleep because of caffeine, others aren’t affected by it, still others try to be health conscience about it. Listen, you must know what you need! You must disciple yourself to do what is best for your inner parts. And I hope I don’t really need to say this, but you do not need to be following trends, enjoying “quick fixes”, and going along with the latest greatest.

Be real.
Be moderate.
Be authentic.

So have you been considering what do spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, and a heretic have in common with one another?  I hope very little, to be honest, but if you’re in our shoes (or many of the sandals of the saints), they might just be the measure of success!
If you’re growing up spiritual, you might get accused of the opposite, but the proof is in:  “for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes” (Proverbs 24:16)

Let’s keep going friends. There’s more adventure, insults, and joys to be found, and I can hardly wait to see what’s next!

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:18-19