I figured out something about myself a little while ago, and like many important things it came to me out of the blue—well, sort of. I’ll try and offer a little peek at how my mind has a tendency to bounce around and make connections really quickly. Often, the conclusion will make sense to me, but will confuse others because my thought process works a little bit like a short circuiting transformer—sparks will fly everywhere.
What happened was that I caught myself humming the refrain of a song I’d heard a while back. I’d seen a video clip from the X Factor UK of a young English man singing an acoustic version of a hideous Brit-pop song called “Young” by a singer called Tulisa, who also happened to be one of the four judges. The chorus went something like:
Forgive us for what we have done
We’re young, we’re young, we’re young
I was humming that as I walked back to my truck from an errand, and then I looked up the clip on YouTube on my phone. The singer was a young guy named James Arthur, and his audition was really good. I watched the clip again and during the backstory part, Arthur explained how he’d been on his own since he was a teen and his parents split up. He didn’t want to be around their fighting and such. So he put himself into foster care. He got into a lot of trouble, which is perfectly understandable, given his circumstances.
Watching that clip for some reason made me think of a Sunday School class I’d taken at FCC a while back taught by Rod Reed. It was called The Quest for Authentic Manhood, I think, and was based on a book by Robert Lewis. Lewis had a pretty rough childhood and grew up—like James Arthur—largely without the influence of his father, at least for a time.
One of the things Lewis says in the class is that there are a few things every boy needs to hear from his father:
I love you
I’m proud of you
You’re good at something (whatever that something is)
What I thought of today was…that’s why I’m so needing validation and approval, even though I understand intellectually that I’m a grown man with a wife and a family and a job and I’m doing pretty much OK.
My dad died when he was too young, and I was younger, and I never really heard any of that stuff from him, at least not that I can remember. I don’t think I heard it from anyone for most of my life, actually. Well, not the last two, at least. I knew my sisters loved me (and my friends, in their own way).
I messed up a lot when I was younger, and it didn’t really seem to make any difference, so I continued to mess up. Today I realized there is something to Lewis’s words.
He was right—I needed to hear those things. I still do. I think that’s why my sometimes strained relationship with my sisters and other family in San Diego bothers me so much. They don’t even come close to understanding my faith, and the huge work that God wrought in my life. They are vehement atheists who give every indication of despising what I believe has become the great work and passion of my life—telling people about what Jesus has done in it and can do in theirs, too. They basically want me to not be so vocal about it, and that is something I struggle with.
My sisters love me, and love my family, but think the change in my life was not for the better. I would say they hate God, but they don’t believe, so that’s not exactly the right way to say it, but you get the point.
I am happy here in Arizona, and I love my life, my family and friends here, and my church. I am thankful for everything that God has brought to my life. Every day I think about how different my heart is now, and how I feel on the inside.
I would love it if my SD family could see that, too, but I have to admit to myself it is unlikely that will ever happen. I would love it if they would come here and see the life my wife and I have made for our family, and that we’re happy and not at all the deluded religious zealots they probably think us—me, at the least.
I want them to be proud of me. I want them to be part of my life. But I also have to realize those things are probably not going to happen, either. They will likely never come here. So that particular desire will probably continue to go unfulfilled, at least for now.
The other thing that occurred to me was that it did not matter at all what anyone else thought—those closest to me and my life understand what God has done in it. Writing things like this will hopefully make others on the outside understand as well. I want to also note that any relational gaps between myself and my sisters are probably almost entirely my fault. I screwed up pretty badly with them when I was younger, and am reaping the fruits I sowed then now as an adult. I can’t blame them for not being closer.
So what I learned about myself today is that my need for approval and validation can sometimes cause me a little emotional difficulty (and probably some awkwardness for others as well). For now, I can rest in the knowledge that I have the unconditional love and support of my wife and my family, even my family in SD (they may not share my…spiritual conviction, but they do love me as best they can given the circumstance of our long distance). I don’t need to continuously seek approval from anyone but God. And I need to accept my family’s belief (or lack of belief) just as I want them to respect mine. It is not fair for me to expect them to behave toward me as I want them to. They should, in all fairness, just behave simply as they are.
In short, I need to get better at loving unconditionally as well. I need to trust God to meet my needs and fulfill me—not the people in my life.
So that’s a peek at my scattered thought process. Thanks, James Arthur.