Lately, when I have a moment or two, I’ve been thinking about love.
Not in the way you might think—this is not one of those gooshy, “I love my wife sooo much” posts (although I do).
Rather, I have been thinking that there really is a pretty big difference between the sort-of star-struck love you feel while dating, even leading up to your wedding and the real, deeper, blue-collar love you feel after you’ve been married a while, and the work of marriage begins.
Star-struck love gets you to the altar; blue-collar love keeps you together, and growing closer.
It isn’t that the romance ends when you tie the knot, because it doesn’t. It actually gets better.
Personally, I don’t think a soulmate is someone you slow-dance with your entire marriage, and say things like “you complete me” to at every opportunity, while staring into each other’s eyes and sighing.
That crap is for the movies, and it isn’t real marriage—it isn’t blue collar love.
I think a soulmate (if there is such a thing) is the person you can come home to and say “my day was crap,” and then they sit on the couch with you, drinking a beer and not talking about it, while the kids destroy the rest of the house.
A “soulmate” is the person you can just be with sometimes, and that is enough. It doesn’t have to be a Bruno Mars song all the time.
A “soulmate” is someone who can see you in all your morning magnificence and still give you a kiss, then tell you your breath smells like ass.
Blue-collar love is not perfectly arranged, candlelit dates at fancy restaurants. It’s driving to Dairy Queen barefoot at 10pm for a blizzard because nothing else will do.
It’s making your whiny, complaining husband a pie that everyone else in the free world hates, because his mom made it for him, and when he has it he remembers her.
Blue-collar love is not running off when things get tough, or when you have an argument or disagreement. It’s rolling up your sleeves and working that stuff out.
Blue-collar love is being able to say to your spouse “I don’t have it right now. Everything feels wrong. Can I just…talk a little? I need someone to listen.”
Or sleeping sitting up in a Hospital chair while your spouse gets emergency surgery on Valentine’s day.
It’s having common goals; the same things are important to each person. It’s hitting your knees and doing the work of real prayer when it needs to be done. Battling together for your kids and your marriage.
Sometimes blue collar love is cleaning up messes you didn’t make so they don’t have to.
Or calling them out when they fart worse than you.
Or knowing when to offer input or just listen, even when your day was just as bad as theirs sounds.
Blue collar love is ugly-crying and not being embarrassed, because you know they will probably tease you after you get it out, and that is awesome.
Blue collar love is goofing around in the kitchen until you almost fall, then falling anyway, grabbing onto each other the whole way while screaming with laughter (and then groaning like you took a hit from Warren Sapp afterward).
But blue collar love can also be work, and that makes it even better. Marriage is not for the faint of heart.
If neither I nor my wife was willing to work at things, life would be wretched.
But I also think if everything was easy all the time, life would be crappy, too.
It isn’t until we face adversity of some kind that we learn what we are capable of, and how strong we are as individuals and as a couple.
I may not be the most romantic man in the world, certainly not the most observant. I forget things. I’m bad at planning things for my wife-who is conversely the bees knees with all that stuff.
My wife knows this well, and let’s me slide with sucking at it.
Individually, we probably have issues. Everyone does. But they aren’t deal-breakers, and they do not lessen what we have together, which isn’t a perfect marriage.
But it’s a great one. We love God, and love each other. We put in the OT when it’s needed (which is always), and always extend the extra Grace.
Because without a little work every once in a while, the rewards aren’t as sweet.
My wife is the only person I have truly loved, in the way people usually mean it. She is, to me, proof that God loves me. She is—literally—an answer to prayer, and will be my pretty girl until I look like this:
And even when I come home from work or anywhere smelling like a herd of rabid buffalo, she gives me a kiss…then tells me to go wash up, because I smell like trash, or whatever I happened to be into that particular day.
Or for my part, I can come into the bedroom while she’s using the w.c. and prance around the bathroom door in my Superman chonies. Or take a picture of my rear with her phone and make it wallpaper. It’s all good. She just laughs at me, and that’s a good thing.
You want to know my secret to staying happy? Be willing to sacrifice your dignity for a laugh every once in a while.
Come to think, we laugh a lot. Seriously, a LOT. That woman is funny, and I am more than willing to embarrass myself, especially in front of the kids. I want to teach them how to one day love their wives.
That’s the least I can do.
We have a blue collar love, and we are happy. Even when it’s hard, and life is being lame.
And, before I forget, I might add that it’s fun to freak out the kids every chance we get, too. If you don’t know what I mean, try giving your spouse a kiss in the presence of your children. You will usually get the wedge, or told to never dance again (I’m never gonna dance again…guilty feet have got no rhythm).
That’s another thing my wife has to put up with–constant and random 80’s song references…
It’s work, man. But it’s the most satisfying you will ever do.
I read someone else’s blog recently about parenting, and I thought it was both funny and carried a lot of truth. It’s tough to be a parent–the toughest thing in the world. Parents are usually not thanked for their efforts, at least not until our kids are grown and have a family of their own.
Kids are individuals, just as we are, and Lord, do they sometimes have their moments. So what do we do as parents?
We try to take what we’ve learned and use it, all the while filtering out the nonsense that our parents got from their parents, and we got from them, and so on.
Sometimes there’s a whole lot to filter. Sometimes not.
My parents were not the worst ever, though they had plenty of shortcomings like everyone else does, too.
I guess I kind of think of my own experience as a parent as something ever-evolving. Ever-changing. It’s not all good, and is sometimes really challenging, especially when they are being little toolbags. It isn’t all bad, either, because a lot of the time we get it right. I guess for me, it’s a lot like looking into a kaleidoscope, and seeing all those reflections of little pieces of broken glass or plastic or whatever it is. Triangles of bright glass multiplied by mirrors. Sometimes they combine in such a way as to make a beautiful mosaic. That’s what it’s like when I feel like I get things right as a parent, and do good deeds. When I give my kids stuff they can use.
Other times, the glass combines to make something straight up ugly–like mirrors and something gross. I somehow dredge up some of the less-than-good parenting habits of my folks. I crap the bed as a parent, like some of my Marine friends might say.
But you know what? Another thing I’ve discovered is when that happens, you can shake the kaleidoscope a few times and move on. The picture looks different.
Sure, parenting is hard. Everything good is, at least for me.
Of all the 9/11 images readily available, the ones that twist my guts the most are not the extremely graphic ones, though there are many of those available with the click of a mouse.
It would be fair to describe it as one of the worst days in American history, if not the worst.
There are two photos of Father Mychal Judge that are very powerful. In one, he is praying over (maybe administering last rites) a firefighter killed by a falling body. In another–after being killed by either another body or falling debris–the Father’s dead body is seen as he is carried out of the building by a group of firefighters.
He did his job, fulfilled his calling.
And he died.
The worst for me, though, are the images of people jumping from the upper levels of the World Trade Center. From the Windows on the World restaurant. From Cantor Fitzgerald. In fact, there is one well-known image of a large group of Cantor Fitzgerald employees standing in the broken windows of their workplace, and it’s almost as if they were looking over a cliff. I guess they were, in a sense.
They didn’t jump in sequence, but there was a rhythm to it just the same. Some of them held hands. Some tried to parachute, until the wind from their fall ripped whatever they held from their hands.
Then there was the image of a person who came to be known as the “Falling Man.”
We’ve all seen it. He’s wearing a white coat–like a restaurant employee–and he’s head down. His leg is drawn up, knee neatly folded. He looks almost peaceful.
Of course, the image is one of a series, and the rest reveal the chaos of his descent. But for that one frame, he looks at peace with things.
There was nothing peaceful about it.
And when I think of 9/11, I think of that picture, and I agree with the “never again” statement.
And I remember.
The Esquire Magazine article “The Falling Man” surmises the Falling Man may have been food worker Jonathan Briley, though no one knows for sure. The article then says this:
“Is Jonathan Briley the Falling Man? He might be. But maybe he didn’t jump from the window as a betrayal of love or because he lost hope. Maybe he jumped to fulfill the terms of a miracle. Maybe he jumped to come home to his family. Maybe he didn’t jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God.
Over the past week or two, I’ve written, rewritten, and ultimately discarded a post that’s been sticking in my craw like county fair taffy. In the end, I think I only need a few syllables. 17, to be exact:
All lives are the same
Created in His beauty All matter to God
I think about life, and then Thoreau speaks quiet words into my ear:
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
I don’t want to listen to him, because I got a “B” on my Civil Disobedience paper, and his sideburns are ridiculous.
Am I quietly desperate? I don’t know. I don’t want to be.
That doesn’t make his words any less true.
Do you really want to live the rest of your life with the song still in you? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
At my best, my voice is…not good. But in my own way, I carry a tune (even if it is in a bucket).
I just decided that it’s OK if people don’t like my melody—or don’t think I’m musical.
Maybe my music consists of letters instead of notes; bouquets of words, and sentences, and imagery.
I’m good with that.
All I want to say to you, whoever you are, is find your music.
It’s different for everyone.
It’s probably something else for you. Your music will sound different than anyone else’s.
It should–you weren’t designed the same as they were. You don’t have the same purpose, but be assured, you have one.
For my wife, it’s singing and pouring out her amazing heart for children.
Find your own song, and belt that thing like Andrea Bocelli.
Let me finish with these words from Psalm 51–about the most appropriate I can think of, given what I’m talking about:
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise)
Today I read an article online about the TV show Six Feet Under. It was pretty much just a quick oral history of how the show came to be, but there was a small part of it where the actor Peter Krause, I think, was talking about how the Fisher family was dysfunctional on the show, but that cast as a family was very functional.
It got me thinking about my own family growing up. Not that we were terribly dysfunctional, really. I think we were like lots of families during that time period. My brother and sisters grew up in the 60’s and 70’s (I came along in 1968), and it was just a different time then.
My siblings dealt with the same things lots of people did during that time period—Viet Nam, drug issues (not necessarily their own), probably some politics, meeting (or not meeting) societal and parental expectation, and simply finding their own way.
And they had this baby brother come along, and they were really more like parents to me than anything else.
My mom dealt with health and alcoholism issues as long as I can remember. Then it was cancer issues, and it took her a really long and painful decade to succumb to them.
I got along with my sisters much better than my brother. They showed me the love and support my parents couldn’t, for whatever their reasons. My brother, not so much. If I had to name an individual responsible for most of my woundings and scars, it would be him. Both literally, and figuratively.
He single-handedly formed the self-image that almost completely undid me.
I didn’t get it before—not for years—but I think I understand why things played out like that a little better now.
He was a little different as a kid, from what I have been made to understand. Perhaps there could have been some mental or chemical issues, I don’t know. He wasn’t always easy to love. Still, the girls did what they could.
Then I come along, and for whatever the reason, I was treated and loved well by my sisters and was a total mama’s boy. I don’t think there was anything special about me, but the love I was shown shaped my personality as much as my brother’s hate did, I think. And I get that it upset him and probably caused a lot of his issues with me.
Plainly put, this new brother did not help his issues at all, and certainly stole a lot of the time that he used to get. It felt like he hated me for being more loved than he was. I don’t know if that’s true.
I suppose that is a dysfunction.
Yet there were also moments of kindness. He would give me things of his I wanted that he didn’t use or play with anymore. He would take me for rides on his motorcycle. One time I got sick in the middle of the night and puked all over the place. He cleaned me up and put me back to bed, and then cleaned up the mess all by himself without waking anyone else up.
Lots of things like that.
My dad seemed a little aloof, but I think that was a generational thing. Men of his time (the greatest generation) were not always the touchy-feely uber-dads you see so often these days (I try to be that kind of dad myself).
I think he did the best he could considering what he had to deal with himself. There were periods of unemployment, my mom’s alcoholism and cancer. Probably hopes and dreams he had of his own that never happened. I don’t ever remember him striking me or anything like that. But I also don’t remember encouragement coming from his direction. I don’t remember much in the way of physical affection, though I suppose he did love me after his own fashion.
He died when I was 16.
Still, I had my friends, and I had my mom and sisters. My brother was thankfully not home much that I remember, and that was good. He only seemed to come around when something bad happened, and he wanted me to feel like it was my fault.
Like when my friend shot himself about ½ mile from my house.
Like when my high school girlfriend broke up with me shortly after graduation.
Like when my mom died in 1987.
That was when my downward spiral started, and didn’t end for a really long time. There weren’t really drugs, unless you count binge-drinking. There was lots of that. There were also several empty relationships, the last of which ended in the early 2000’s. There was a short foray into occultism. Pornography. Despair.
More dysfunction, I guess. During most of those years, I was not a good brother, or probably friend. I preferred shadows, and I would walk in them.
Then God started to introduce people of faith into my life—slowly, so I didn’t notice it was happening.
And for the first time I can remember, I also had accountability.
I met a guy in college who introduced me to a Jesus I hadn’t heard much about, and he called me on it when I was doing dumb stuff. My self-image began to change. Slowly, and I didn’t notice it was happening. The Jesus he told me about loved people as they were—even in their imperfection and sin. He forgave. He changed them from the inside out.
He changed me, in the fullness of time, with many missteps along the way.
I think about all the dysfunction, and I think about the many valleys I’ve been through in my life. Lots of pain. Lots of bad things.
I would not change any of it, and I know how that sounds.
But had I not experienced that stuff, I would not be here today, literally.
There’s a line in the Pat Conroy (one of my very favorite authors) book, The Prince of Tides where the narrator says something like “There are lots of families who go their whole lives with nothing of interest happening to them—not a single thing. I’ve always envied those families.”
I like the book a lot, and used to feel that way myself.
My family is interesting, and has overcome a lot. Everything I have and more.
I love them.
We are weird, and we have phobias, and predilections, and strange habits.
But strange and dysfunctional as we are, we are a family.
Wilkins in various forms, ideologies, shapes, and colors.
I have been shaped by my life experiences, and by the love I have been shown over my life. Not by the hate. Nothing good is.
I am not the person some of those experiences led me to think for so many years.
God showed me that.
So here I am today.
I work for the Army (indirectly), doing a job I like very much.
I have my own family, and though we might not be Wilkins-level dysfunctional, we try our best. We are loud, and crazy, and we fight, but not as much as we love.
My wife is literally the most extraordinary woman I have ever known, and I will love her until I look like this:
All that dysfunction was for a reason. It got me here, by the Grace of Jesus, my abba.
The Wilkins family is here to stay. We’ve got branches all over the country, though my main concern is the San Diego Chapter.
I am grateful beyond measure.
I love show tunes, and I love metal, the language of my people.
My wife has introduced me to country, and I like that, too.
I like mince pie, even though I seem to be the only person in Arizona who does.
For me, ideas often begin with a desire to know more. It’s probably like that for anyone that writes.
I’ve been reading for quite some time now about how white on black racism is making a comeback. Nearly to the extent of pre-Brown vs. Board of Education levels. And if the news stories are to be believed, it’s in no way more evident than in the ratio of shooting deaths of “perpetrators” by police officers, based on racial statistics. The level of outrage would indicate police officers are obtaining licensure to shoot African-American men like rednecks receiving deer tags in November.
It just didn’t sound right to me, although it’s also possible to argue racism isn’t making a comeback, it never left at all.
So I did a small amount of digging, and the information I found with only that was alarming, and not only in the way I expected it to be.
Also, I suppose another thing to consider is that controversy sells, not to mention earns ratings points. If it bleeds it leads, right? So I need to take coverage with a very large grain of salt.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation reported the following on their 2012 Expanded US Crime Statistics Table:
2648 African Americans were killed. 193 by white perpetrators (apparently, not all police). 2412 by other African Americans. 3128 caucasions were killed, 431 by black perpetrators, 2614 by whites.
2013 was much the same. 2491 African-Americans were killed, 2245 by other African-Americans, 189 by caucasians. 3005 white people were killed, 2509 by other whites. 409 by African-Americans.
The conclusion I drew was easy (and based ONLY on the FBI tables).
We are killing each other.
I don’t plan to make a study of crime statistics, but it’s easy to see that the violence and death going on isn’t just 1 or 2 way. We really are killing each other. Racism or not, we just are.
I don’t know how to fix that–both racism and people giving in to their base and violent instincts and just taking lives.
Better education of our kids is part of it, but not the only part.
How do we re-learn something we’ve been taught our entire lives? And not just on a family level, but also a cultural one.
People aren’t all bad–not even mostly bad–white, black or any other color.
Give them a chance.
Absent fathers are another part of it, but as before, not the only part.
Teaching kids that all lives matter is another part.
I think the largest part of all is that the United States seems to so abhor what is usually described as traditional values, we are scattering and running in all directions rather than looking inward, to our hearts.
We are becoming more Godless by the day, which is also very evident. Media confirmation is not needed for that one.
That’s another problem, and not-so-easy to solve.
Partly due to the standard-bearers for Christ not holding the banner particularly high, even on a good day.
That is not an easy-fix, but certainly a possible one.
We have to remember that He in us, is greater than he who is in the world.
And then we have to live like we believe it.
It isn’t the only thing we can do, but it’s something.
My niece posted a meme a day or so ago that really made me think. It was about separating from people that hold us “back,” or something to that effect. I stared at it for a moment or two, and the next thing I thought of was that it wasn’t necessarily people that held me back at one time or another. It was the things they said about me that I believed.
They were not always true, or perhaps based in truth but executed in cruelty.
I don’t think many people would disagree our preteen and teen years truly are formative. That time is our proving ground for adulthood. We learn how to treat people. For all intents and purposes, we form ourselves from the looseness and carefree time of childhood into what we will become.
We form our self-images.
In some cases, this is a good thing—maybe in many cases. But I believe for every kid that comes out of their childhood thinking positive things about themselves, there is probably another who struggles—sometimes a great deal.
We hear the things people say about us, and probably more often than we should, we believe them. Sometimes even our friends can inadvertently say things that we wish we could forget.
I think it would be fair to say there are always “those kids” at the teenage level, who make it their mission to dismantle the self-image of kids who do not conform to their normality. That was me. Those kids let me know who I was in their eyes, and who I was not. At the same time, my brother had already got started on turning me into a bit of a mess.
For as long as I could remember, I heard things—these Iago-like whispers—that made it oh so clear I was not supposed to be here. I was an accident. They only pretended to love me. Things like that, and worse. And because I was young, I believed that shit for most of my adolescence.
Then I had the kids in my junior high who seemed to focus on my size. I had always been tall for my age, and became broad as well once I got through puberty. All my “classmates” could focus on was my extra “padding” in the midsection.
They said things like “fat,” “fat cow,” and one time the extremely eloquent “fat p.o.s.” It slowly dawned on me they were right, too. I knew it was possible to change that, but it seemed pointless. I wasn’t ever going to amount to anything anyway.
I was carrying that when I started High School. It would not be an understatement to say I was not one of the cool kids. We were not well off at all, and my clothes were never designer, and sometimes not even new. It shouldn’t have mattered, but kids can be more cruel than the Marquis de Sade so it ended up kind of making things harder.
I was bussed from Santee to Grossmont high school, and I remember how crappy the kids from that neighborhood were to those of us who could not afford the trappings of wealth many of them could, and who didn’t look the way cool or attractive people were supposed to.
That was me for sure. Overweight by the in-crowd’s standards. Average-looking at best. Generic or used clothing, for the most part. The “fortunate” kids were always kind enough to let me know where I fit in the scheme of things.
There was one time in particular that stuck with me–well, two. The first was one day early in the school year. I remember getting on the bus and feeling like the clothes my sister had purchased me looked pretty good for a change, and my new Payless shoes looked just like Adidas. I thought it might make a difference.
I remember one kid when I got off deliberately stepping on my shoes and making them dirty, while another berated the “Kmart specials” I was wearing. I was utterly humiliated.
The other time I was getting out of my car at the Parkway Bowl theater about a year after my mom died and I was wearing this rugby shirt I liked a lot and a pair of actual Levi’s I’d purchased myself. A carload of high school boys (football players, by their jackets) drove up and yelled “egg the fat kid,” which they proceeded to do. Thankfully, their aim was much worse than their probably beer-impaired judgment, and they only hit me once, right on the chest of my rugby shirt.
Egg the fat kid, indeed.
I’m not sure why, but when I saw my niece’s meme today, it made me think of the careless cruelty of my peers when I was the age we care about what people think the most. I so wanted what they had, because I thought I’d fit in. Maybe even get popular friends.
Instead I got labeled.
I went against everything most guys my age were into.
I read—books and comics.
I didn’t watch sports (though we did play a lot of pickup basketball and football).
I was poor, and out of shape.
I was into drama, and men’s chorus (glee?).
The friends I did have cared not at all what kind of jeans I wore, how I dressed, or how much weight I carried.
They still don’t. Maybe that’s why I never really cared much for brand clothes as an adult.
And then there came a point where I stopped caring about my labels, and began to realize the person I was had little to do with them.
A couple of years ago, some executive at Abercrombie and Fitch made some comments about “fat chicks” patronizing his stores. He created a pretty big stink, and it goes without saying a lot of people were angry. It also made a lot of women (and men) reject their labels, and that is a very good thing. It might be worth adding that by all accounts, the A and F CEO is supposedly a bit of a troll in addition to his PhD in douchebaggery. It seems evident he is attempting to make up for whatever he feels he missed out on in his youth.
He’s going to fail, and no matter how expensive the clothes are he wears, in his heart he will always be the fat kid, or the poor kid, or the kid with buck teeth. There is only one way to find healing for those kind of wounds, and it is not through wanton buying sprees and callow and superficial attitudes toward people who don’t meet some arbitrary fashion standard.
If it weren’t for Jesus, I would still be trying to meet those standards and trying to please people who didn’t like me for who I was, and would never love me for who I wasn’t. It was and remains ridiculous.
Let me say to you now, if you live your life trying to please people by being cool, you’re going to fail.
It’s human nature to try and conform to what “everyone” is doing. We have an inherent need to fit in somewhere.
Unless the people you’re trying to fit in with know the real you—know your true self—than whatever it is you’re trying to do, or whoever you’re trying not to be, will amount to a handful of smoke.
Maybe you were once the fat kid.
The ugly girl, or geek boy.
Or maybe you were poor.
The stupid retard.
The bible thumper.
The whore, or the worthless junkie.
Don’t try to live down any of that stuff. Don’t let what people have said in the past—or are saying now—define you.
Don’t be subject to a label.
Don’t label anyone else.
Labels are false.
While you may even be some of those things, you are not defined by that. It isn’t you. What you do (or have done) and who you are don’t have to be the same thing.
Let me tell you a little about the people I spend most of my leisure time with now. We’re a bunch of different folks. Stay at home moms. Property managers. Children’s ministers. Sound engineers and musicians. My closest friend is a pastor who doesn’t get to preach that often, but still helps change lives, mine included.
These people know the truth of me and love me in the purest sense—as friends.
That label I accept.
Friend. Along with husband, father, brother.
Lastly, consider there was a person designed for you to be before you got here. Your path to becoming that person is not always easy.
But I believe you get there not just by rejecting people who are holding you back, but by rejecting the many, many labels we are given who do not define who we are.
We are not:
Our true identity lies within, given to us by our maker. We are his children above all other things—sons and daughters. He does not make mistakes. Whether or not you believe that does not make it any less true.
I don’t think I will ever be done with revisions on this one.
There’s been a great deal written over the past few years about how the church is “losing” millenials (young people coming to adulthood around the turn of the century, the year 2000, that is) or members of Generation “Y.” Many have speculated as to the reason, but it seems to me to have something to do with the rise of liberalism and/or progressivism in both politics and the church. This is manifested in many ways, but I believe most significantly is the extreme antipathy of many young people toward conservatives for what they feel is a hawk-like view of the war in Afghanistan and the potential for war in places like Syria, Libya and Gaza. Not to mention conservative support for legislation like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and legislation against gun control reform.
There are probably lots of personal reasons people have for turning away from or leaving the church. But based on news coverage and changing public opinion, it seems to me the perceived (and sometimes actual) treatment of LGBTQ men and women by conservatives and “evangelical” Christians has had the most effect on young people as far as changing their views of the church. Recently, for instance, there have been several instances of business owners not performing services for certain customers because of their sexuality.
Of course, what people often do not discuss is that to an extent, the reverse is also true. From what I have observed and to an extent, experienced, many among the gay community have highly skewed ideas about conservatives among the straight, conservative, often Christian community. This manifests itself in several different ways. Chief among them, I believe, is the frequency with which gay people file lawsuits against Christians who are not able to do something for them because of something they either believe or do not believe. They make no secret of their faith, and it would be obvious to most folks of course they would object to supplying service to people who are in the process of doing something they object to—something that offends them—on the grounds of their core beliefs being different from that of the gay folks bringing the lawsuits.
So why do they approach businesses they know will probably not render them services? Is it because they have discovered someone doing a perceived wrong and they want to right it?
Is it because they’re looking for a nice payday? Or maybe because they want to destroy a business operating apart from their own agenda?
Do they have an agenda? Is it “tolerance?” If so, of what?
It may not always be so, but these cases always smell a little bit like an ambush. It often seems as if these Christians who object to supplying food or services to those Gay people getting married or whatever the need happens to be, are targeted specifically because the person(s) making the request already know what they will do and they wish to make an example of them.
For my part, I don’t know if I agree with denying services to people as a form of protest. I am not sure what I would do given the same situation as some of these folks, but I think my inclination would be to make the best cake I could, and do it for the glory of God. It’s a bit of a sticky wicket. Does providing services to someone practicing a lifestyle someone else does not indicate some sort of heresy or blasphemy? I don’t know.
I do know the situation is ugly both ways, and certainly seems as if it could be mitigated by a little understanding from both “sides” of the issue. After all—is freedom really freedom at all if it can only be interpreted and exercised one way? Either way?
So, to be clear, I believe what Jesus and others say in the bible regarding sin. I believe that it is rampant in the world, and we are all covered in it. But I also believe in God, in Jesus, and in his sacrifice on behalf of the world and everyone in it. Not just everyone who believes, but everyone.
Lately, the issue is no longer simply that of “gay marriage.” Also coming into the ring is that of recognizing people with…alternate gender identities. Can they dress a certain way, or “identify” a certain way without “persecution?” My personal thought is that hating your “original” genitals does not mean they aren’t the ones that are supposed to be there. I do not believe that God makes mistakes. And I do not believe that, say, removing your hood ornament makes your vehicle something other than what it is. But it doesn’t excuse being a jerk to people simply because you think they’re doing something they shouldn’t.
Still, there is this: over the past year or so, there have been several incidents where young people with gender identity issues have been persecuted in their own way by other teens who are not in the midst of gender identity issues, and have consequently taken their own lives. This is real, and sad, and terrible. I think it’s true that few people can be more condescending, ruthless, and just plain cruel than one teenager feeling superior to another.
With the advent of people being much more open about how they identify regarding their gender (among other issues), has also come the same cruelty teens are often made to endure. The current Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner “controversy” is a great example of that. I believe that’s because people are often afraid of that which they do not understand. Gender identity that does not conform to what people expect based on the “actual” rather than perceived sex of the individual in question with the “non-traditional” identity is really pretty hard to understand, especially to people of faith.
We just don’t understand it. If you find yourself with a chromosomal structure that says you’re a man, well…you are. Or are you?
Part of that issue is that we believe God is perfect, has a perfect will for our lives, and does not make mistakes. Identifying as a gender opposite from what you are genetically seems like putting a “my bad” on God.
I can’t think of an instance where that happened, biblically.
So here we are.
Those with “alternate lifestyles” are offended because many, many Christians do not recognize their desire to be married as valid, or consider their lifestyle choices simply that; choices. They think those living in the “alternate” do whatever they do or think whatever they think because they are sexual or psychological deviants. That is probably no more true of gay people than straight people. There are creeps and freaks everywhere. That kind of deviance transcends any type of sexuality, I think.
Many of the people who share my faith also share a view that (and I am not speaking solely of the loathsome Westboro Baptist “Church” here) homosexuality and gender identity issues are chief among sins. They will be what will ultimately bring down the country, the world, and bring about the return of Christ to wreak vengeance on a gay-loving world. Or something like that. I can only speak for myself, but as a believer, I don’t really believe that. I don’t because it isn’t biblical. Sin is sin, and it’s all black against the purity of Jesus. I do not believe that being gay is any worse than anyone else’s sin. I’ve struggled with lust and addiction my whole life, and each of those in its own right is just…bad when you hold it up against one who never sinned at all.
People talk about the gay “agenda,” and while there may be some gay men or women who seem to have a fondness (and no small amount of skill) for springing legal or legislative booby traps on unsuspecting business owners who also have strong ideals about faith and biblical principle, it does not mean they are trying to turn the world gay. They aren’t drinking the blood of hetero people and making more fabulous blood suckers. No. And I believe that is where the problem lies for so many believers.
We aren’t doing it right.
Often, the approach of my Christian brothers and sisters toward gay people—both at gay events and in other forums, such as online, in newspapers, magazines, etc.—is to let those men and women know in no uncertain terms what fate awaits them should they choose not to change their evil ways and repent. Seldom–if ever–mentioned is the true message of Christ. He loves them, just as much as he loves me. He died and rose for them, too.
We are supposed to love in the same way. Love God, and love others. By this all will know we are his disciples. If we love.
Love God, and love others as you would love yourself.
The problem that I have now—and have for many years—is that approach taken by so many standard-bearers for Christ sounds nothing like Jesus to me. Jesus didn’t tell his followers to condemn. He told them to go and make disciples of all nations. He told them to love their neighbors. That doesn’t mean love their sin. It doesn’t mean approve of it. But it also doesn’t mean justify your own by holding it up against something you find offensive. Hold it up against Christ if you need perspective.
It just seems to me that spewing vitriol at people does not let them know a loving God exists, a God who is in the business of deliverance. Not to mention that if I ignore the plank in my own eye, I am also sinning before God.
Let me backtrack a bit—all the way back to the very early 1980s.
My first encounter with a gay person was in the 8th grade, shortly before I moved up to high school. I wrote about that day a while back here. For those of you younger folks, homosexuality wasn’t something much talked about then. It was a different time, in almost every way. For my part, and also for many of the kids I hung out with, the word “fag” was tossed around almost haphazardly, without any concern for what it meant (many of us didn’t have anything but a rudimentary understanding of what homosexuality was, or how it was practiced. I include myself in that number).
We just said it, and it was almost a…good natured insult. Never considered was the fact that it could have been hurtful to anyone. It was just something we said. A lot.
I still regret what happened that night in my friend’s backyard, and I probably always will, to an extent. I’ve asked God’s forgiveness for my part in it, and I wish I could find the young man we hurt and ask for his, but that is not to be. Believe me, I spent a considerable amount of time looking.
So what has happened since then is that I have come into contact with a great many gay men and women at various jobs, and at the junior college I attended back in the 1990’s. With each encounter—and with each friendship developed—I began to notice something.
Each one of these men and women were people just like I was. They ate, and slept, and got dressed, and showered, and pooped. The only difference I saw was that they were drawn to people of the same sex and I was not.
We have a lot of untruth we learn throughout our lives we desperately need to unlearn. It’s the same for the gay community. They’ve got a lot to learn about Jesus, and Christianity, and Christians.
The gay people I have known over the course of my life were all involved in monogamous relationships at the time I knew them. They loved the people they were with, and in many cases had been committed to them alone for long periods of time. I worked with one lesbian couple that had been together for decades—almost as long as my parents were before they died.
Another thing to consider is the tendency of many gay people (not to mention the unquestionably liberally-minded media) to single out Christians, conservatives, and the “religious right” as chief amongst their oppressors, in a world that otherwise loves and supports the LGBTQ lifestyle and practices. The truth is, in many parts of the world (including the parts practicing Islam and Orthodox Judaism) homosexuality is condemned in stronger words than most Christians use, and gay marriage isn’t mentioned at all. That typically is not discussed, though.
It would prove that it isn’t just straight, white, followers of Christ who feel that to conform to the status quo, politically correct idea of modern normality is to compromise what they believe.
No one should have to do that.
Recently, the terrorist group ISIS (or ISIL) has began throwing gay men (and those they suspect of being gay) from rooftops in Iraq. Then they post merry, see-what-you-get posts on social media, playing up their contributions to keeping Islam true. They’re murderers, plain and simple.
It’s a little more complicated than that, though. This is certainly a multi-faceted issue.
For example, another thing I do disagree with is the tendency of late for LGBT people to liken their quest for what they call “marriage equality” to that of the struggle African-Americans faced during the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s. Yes, they are fighting for what they deem a right they are being denied, but of the states who are denying LGBT men and women the right to use the word “marriage” to describe their unions, I would submit that many—if not most—of them are doing so based on the definition they have to work with on what marriage is—which for a great many conservatives and those on the religious “right” means the union of a man and a woman. While that is how I would personally define the word as well, I would do so while taking the following into consideration.
What has changed in my heart over the years (and this is way before I became a believer) was that I no longer cared about whether or not these people wanted to do the same things I did with the people they were involved with. It occurred to me it was none of my business. It still isn’t, and I still don’t care. I wouldn’t want them to try and peek into my bedroom, either (if it was up to me, I would always keep the light off—bald headed and middle aged white dudes carrying a little extra in the midsection are not exactly Da Vinci sculptures).
I’ve dealt with and related to gay men and women on a personal level, based on how they treated me and others and not who they slept with (or didn’t). It worked out pretty well, and I made a couple of good friends over the years.
One of the things that gave me the most food for thought was seeing the Larry Kramer play The Normal Heart back in the early 1990’s. It was a college production at SDSU and I remember they had this display set up in the lobby with cast pictures, pictures of the author, and I think sections of the AIDS quilt. This was around the time of the first season of MTV’s The Real World, which featured a gay cast member (yes, I watched the show). He was supposed to appear and speak at the play, but he died of AIDS shortly before it opened.
Anyway, the play got me thinking of gay people a little differently, at least regarding the way they were sometimes treated back in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. They didn’t have many rights regarding their partners–certainly nowhere near those rights afforded straight couples. And nobody seemed willing to acknowledge AIDS with the seriousness it merited, nor recognize how widespread it actually was. It didn’t seem that fair to me, even then. Yet it was what it was, and I had no intention of becoming any sort of activist. It wasn’t my issue. Still isn’t.
When I came to belief in 2000, I was in a place in life where I didn’t work with or know anyone who was gay (that I knew of, anyway). I began to grow and deepen my faith, and it was so interesting to see that the Jesus I came to know through scripture and discipling was not the same one I’d heard about over the course of my life before knowing him.
In the course of time, I became somewhat involved with a young woman I worked with, and we began to spend time together with a group of friends of hers—most of whom were gay men.
I did not make a secret of my faith, and they respected it. I treated them just like I did everyone else, and I began to notice something the more time I spent with them. The gay community—at least to the extent of my involvement and casual friendships with these men—was way more of a community than the straight people I’d hung out with prior to that. They supported each other unconditionally, and seemed less interested in judging themselves and others than they did in simply living their lives. I got a little tired of the music these particular gentlemen favored (for pity’s sake, there’s only so much Missy Elliot a person can listen to), they were mostly really good and really friendly guys who liked to do different things than me.
I didn’t preach to them, and they didn’t try to convert me. I was more than willing to talk about any aspect of my faith they wanted to hear about, but I did not shove hell down their throats, either. I just tried to love them the way they were, to the best of my ability—even if I didn’t understand their lifestyle—It just didn’t seem to fit with the way we were made. But I could let that slide, for the most part. They didn’t share details of what they were doing in their relationships, and neither did I. So we had a mostly very friendly relationship, each of us understanding we were different, and that—for the most part—was OK. And the truth is, this particular group of gentlemen was a lot of fun to hang out with. If I had a dollar for every time I told someone “I’m not gonna wear that,” I could probably pay off my house. But that’s neither here nor there.
One time in particular, one of them told me, “It means a lot that you’re here. I don’t think anybody’s used to that with people like you.” I assumed he meant straight people at first, but then I realized he meant Christians.
I told him that I just loved God, and that scripture says I’m supposed to love people, too. They were gay, but they were no less people than I was. He smiled and gave me a hug.
Eventually, though, things began to change a little bit, and I started to struggle with some of the things I saw. It culminated in an evening where the young woman I was involved with and I were at a party where we were the only straight people, and things started happening around us. Very quickly, it started making me feel really uncomfortable, and I told the girl that I wanted to leave. It got to a point where I could no longer balance what I believed versus what these men did—mostly because I was being confronted with it in a way that got me a little weirded out, to tell the truth. Although it’s also worth a mention that extreme PDA from straight couples does the same thing for me.
I think it would be better if folks kept that stuff to themselves. Nobody needs to see you demonstrating your affection for your significant “other.” Seriously.
That evening’s adventures certainly weren’t in the privacy of anyone’s bedroom, so I no longer had the luxury of not being involved. My…whatever she was didn’t feel the way I did. That was the night we decided to “take a break,” which we never recovered from. There have been times when I wondered what would have happened if things hadn’t gotten so crazy that night. Would God have convicted me in some other way? I don’t know. And with things being as they are now, I can’t imagine wanting to change anything or go back. Yes, it ended up being a painful end to my relationship. Perhaps that was what it took to refine my heart.
In any case, after the party that night, I didn’t spend much more time with the group of guys, as I didn’t spend much more time with the girl—not any more, actually, outside of work.
It was five years later before I was involved with anyone else, and that was with the woman who would later become my wife. As we grew into our relationship—and later our marriage—it was around the time all the gay marriage propositions were going through the process of becoming law (or not). “Marriage Equality,” and all that.
I hadn’t thought much about the fact that gay people couldn’t (or could) be married over the course of my life prior to that time period (not since viewing The Normal Heart, at least), so it was interesting to see all of the various things on the news, including the Chik-Fil-A controversy of couple years ago.
It was interesting—and I felt a little conflicted inside—because while so many of my fellow Christians were up in arms about the potential legalization of gay marriage, I just…wasn’t. I didn’t see the point of marching on Washington or anywhere else. It wasn’t going to convince anyone of anything—it just made the people involved look bad.
I knew what the Bible had to say about homosexuality, and I agreed with it. But I also did not have a troubled heart about any of those people who wanted to get married. It didn’t matter to me what these folks wanted to do in the privacy of their own homes, and it seemed fair enough that they should be able to marry, if it made it easier regarding insurance and benefits, etc. I never felt that if they were able to marry it would threaten the sanctity of my own marriage. How could it? How could two men or two women marrying each other make my own union any less holy in the sight of God?
What did occur to me, though, was to wonder if all these people who complained, and protested, and cried out about how gay marriage was a danger to the family felt the same about divorce? Why is it we never see news stories about millions of people marching to protest how common arbitrarily ending a marriage has become? God is also very clear how he feels about divorce–perhaps even more clear than about gay marriage—which I never found a specific reference to. And while all these people were spouting off about how a word is defined, it occurred to me to wonder about how a marriage is defined? What does it mean to these people?
Certainly, I am not trying to say that divorce is never the right course of action, because sometimes it is the only course of action. It’s just that people are often so…fickle about it. The statistic you hear all the time about 50% of marriages ending in divorce? I believe it. Why wouldn’t it be true? It seems that few people understand what a covenant is these days. To me it suggests a sacred promise, and the rings my wife and I exchanged are a symbol of that promise. In short, I got married to her because I wanted to, because I knew I didn’t want anyone else, ever.
And on Valentine’s day a couple of years ago—I think I realized what marriage really was. It’s spending the night before Valentine’s Day in the ER with your husband, while he yells and pounds chairs and walls in his pain.
It’s spending the day itself in a chair next to his bed, and praying for him. It’s holding his hand and making him think of other things.
It’s sleeping (sort of) sitting up rather than going home, even for a little while.
It’s devotion to the person with whom you made the covenant, and that is what my wife showed me those two days. It made me love her all the more, if such a thing is even possible.
So to recap.
While I understand the biblical reasoning behind the stance so many take on whether or not homosexuals should be able to marry (based on the “biblical” definition of what marriage means), the conflict I feel comes from feeling like if people are devoted to one another, and are willing to make a covenant saying they are going to mean it for the rest of their lives, it’s hard for me not to want to just let them. Even if I don’t agree with or practice the same lifestyle they do.
Also, a while back, my adopted state of Arizona has passed (and sent to the governor–who vetoed the legislation) SB1062, a law that in essence allows people who refuse service to someone a defense (‘deeply held’ religious beliefs) in the event they are sued for discrimination or something of that nature. Of course, while legal recourse may ostensibly be what the law is about, the unspoken subtext is that it would also give others what they feel is license to treat gay people and their potential business in an unfair and discriminatory manner.
I believe that is it, in a nutshell. It is also what has millions of gays and pro-gays in such an uproar once again. They’re crying foul, and likening the legislation to the old Jim Crow laws from decades ago. While that may be a much lengthier discussion for another time, it does seem to me that while the “Jim Crow” battle cry is closer to pro-gay hyperbole than anything else. There is, however, a great deal of potential for discriminatory ugliness with this law, because people are people, and prone to do bad things with ambiguously worded legislation such as this.
With all that in mind, I think perhaps it is not just what some Christian folks are saying, but how they’re saying it. The arguments are the same, and probably always will be. Scripture decrying homosexuality is referenced, and gays along with supporters throw up scripture they feel counters their Christian counterpart’s efforts in the same regard. It gets uglier all the time, and nowhere on either side of the discussion is the real message of Jesus referenced.
It seems like this to me: if the bible is true, and it tells us that God is love and that all people will know we are the disciples of Christ if we love one another, then how are we showing the people who do not know his love the face of Jesus by so often treating them with open hostility? Same for gay “Christians” who do understand how people can still interpret the bible literally, and who seem to be all for prosecuting people defying their own deeply held beliefs.
There is definitely more than one side to this coin. How does feeding gay people fettucini alfredo or making a wedding cake for them make you a participant in whatever sin you feel they’re committing? I mean, I get it, but I don’t agree.
The problem is the wording and the design of the legislation, and I wonder sometimes if that was an intentional, CYA move on the part of the legislators. If so, we have to think about how this legislation is like (or could be like)…giving people already inclined to do so the right to treat others shabbily. There may be a place for some similar type of legislation, but this particular law is not going to go over well, not with the social climate surrounding this issue what it has become.
For my part, I can’t do it anymore.
I can’t treat people that way, and I never really could. Maybe some of it is my California-ness regarding gay people carrying over into my life in Arizona, but it’s really more about not wanting to feel like I’m any better than anyone else because my sin is different. I am not better than anyone else. I am the same. In my dotage, I’ve found it so much easier to treat people kindly. I would rather make them their food or a cake or floral arrangements, and then tell them God loves them and died for them, then let Him do the convicting.
I want people to know the Jesus I do. Whether they’re gay or straight or…whatever, I want them to know him, and know how he feels for them and what he did. I do not now—nor have I ever—felt my marriage (or any marriage) could be threatened in any way by who else can get married.
I wonder, though, how many gay men or women are known by the folks protesting gay marriage?
I also wonder how many Christians are known by gay, bisexual, or gender conflicted men and women?
If we don’t know each other, how can we expect anything to change in either direction?
Jesus talked to people. Walked with people. Ate with them. Probably fished with them, and laughed and drank and danced. I believe that in the end, the Eternal Kingdom will not be filled courtesy of those who spoke out against the things God hates the loudest—those who shouted condemnation from every rooftop. I think souls will quietly slip in thanks to the people who have shown them the most love, who have shown them Jesus.
To that end, because I am loved, I will try to be loving. I will choose to show people the Jesus I know by telling them about what he’s done in my life. I will tell them about how I am incomplete, and wounded, and broken, and still sin, but am loved in spite of the things that queue up to keep me from Jesus. I will explain what scripture means to me as I understand it, and I will tell people what I think if they ask me. If I love Jesus like I say, I owe them the truth.
I just have no intention of shouting it at them, or telling them God hates them because of their sin. Brand me a heretic if you must, but I feel that if God hated people because of their sin, he would hate all of us equally. And he would not have redeemed us from anything.
You don’t die for people you hate.
And to see so many people caught up in the definition of a word and how it threatens them rather than simply getting to know people and telling them about Jesus just doesn’t make any sense to me. I can’t understand how telling people they’re damned for what they do in their bedrooms is going to show them the Jesus I know that has changed my life and could also change theirs.
To be clear, once again, I am aware of the mentions in the bible of homosexuality, and that it is addressed as sin—just not by Jesus. While it is true that God hates sin, it would be errant—once again—to imply that he hates homosexuality more than any other type of sin. And that he hates homosexuals more than anyone else. Sin is sin. If God hated homosexuals, he would also hate every other type of sinner, and probably all Christians. The bible doesn’t say any of that.
Homosexuality is not something I indulge in, and whether or not I “approve” of it does not really even matter. I think the bible makes it clear what God thinks of homosexuality and what it entails, and I acknowledge the punishment for it is the same as any other sin—all other sin. Omission of mention by Jesus is not the same as approval. While Jesus himself may not mention homosexuality specifically, he did come in fulfillment of Old Testament Law, and prophecy, not to nullify it. I think where we go awry is when we start classifying sins, and justify ours as less terrible than homosexuality.
No one is righteous, no not one. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9)
Certainly not me.
We’re all different, but we are also all the same. We need God.
We need Jesus if we are to be freed from our chains and our sins. God knows it, and Christians do, too. Yet if we can condemn someone else for what they’re doing, then we don’t have to think as much about what we’re doing. All of which means that we can take comfort in our own perceived righteousness, while we decry the unrighteousness of gay men and women as if it were anything different than sins that we have committed, now, and throughout history.
Take a look at Matthew 5: 27-28. Go ahead. Read it and come back. Still here? Good. Let me repeat what I said before. Sin is sin. No one is righteous, no not one. How can I justify condemning a gay person with my own words, while justifying my own actions as a lesser sin. To God, they are the same. The punishment is the same.
Let’s talk about those Old Testament laws for a few minutes. You know the ones. Many people will talk about how scripture also mentions other things as being sinful that people don’t seem to care about anymore, like eating shrimp and other sea creatures for one example (take your pick, there are many others). They will tell you that those old laws—like the ones that condemn homosexuality as well as other sexual sins—do not matter or apply anymore, because the world is a different place. That’s partly true, and I’ll get back to that in a bit.
Those laws again, from the Old Testament. Taken specifically, there are three different types.
Laws pertaining just to the (ancient) state of Israel. They are pretty specific.
Also for consideration are ceremonial laws (many pertaining to sacrifice, and diet, and things of that nature), which were superseded by the New Covenant, fulfilled in the person of Christ.
Lastly, moral laws. It is only the moral laws of the Old Testament which remain and are held as truths by most Christians based on the validity of the Ten Commandments. I won’t go into every piece of scripture here, but at least to address the dietary laws and some of the other laws that seem to apply mainly to those of the Jewish faith rather than Christians: take a look at Mark 7:19, Acts 15: 5-29, etc.
Of course, if one does not hold the Bible as truth, then this would make little sense. And there’s the rub.
Then Jesus enters the picture, and everything changes.
As believers, we are called to share him and his truth with people. So while the biblical principles of the Old Testament make it clear how God feels about all different types of sin, there is hope, and in a world that seems to have so little, that is indeed something.
I posted a picture on Facebook not long ago I’d seen online of a group of Christians (mostly men) at a Gay Pride event, and they were holding signs and wearing shirts that said “I’m sorry.” They were apologizing to gay people for the treatment they’d received at the hands of standard bearers for Jesus. In the picture I posted, a gay man in great physical condition wearing tighty-whiteys gripped one of the shirt-wearers in what looked to be a very emotional bear-hug.
I thought it was a great picture and that it was a great way to actually show Jesus to people who needed to know him instead of just telling them they were on the Bullet Train to hell.
I got a bit of an ass-chewing from a couple of people to the effect that treating gay people as if their lifestyle was OK was the same as personally condoning and supporting it, and that wasn’t right—as if because I was a Christian, I should tell them they were going to hell. Never mind all that “love your neighbor” stuff. I want to tell people about Jesus, and I will tell them about sin. I just feel the right thing to do is let them know they are loved first.
I can’t convict someone of any sin, and I wouldn’t want to if I could. Jesus does that. And it isn’t my function, as a believer, to punish people for sin. Let him without sin cast the first stone?
That ain’t me, man—I’m a mess.
I’d rather tell someone I’m sorry, then hug them and tell them Jesus loves them.
I will leave the condemning up to God.
And if by some chance I came across the former Bruce Jenner or anyone else like him, I would do my best to simply say hello, and wish them a good day, just like I would if I met you.
Most of my adult life, something has bothered me. Enough that when I hear other people talk about it, it stirs me up quite a bit.
What’s going on with men these days?
The implication, of course, is that men don’t act like men anymore. Many see them as emasculated because they do not conform to how a whole bunch of people think a man should act.
How is that?
Based on stereotypes that have at least some basis in truth, men should be hunters, not gatherers.
They should always be willing to fight for things, and people. Yes, that does include actually fighting on occasion.
They should be strong, and strong-willed. They should never struggle with self-expression.
They should leave the nurturing up to women.
Nah. Maybe pancakes or barbecue, but nothing much else.
I suppose it’s true enough that men no longer conform to past ideas regarding manhood, fatherhood, and husbandhood the way a great many people think they ought to. They may lead, but by example rather than with an iron fist.
They may fight, but not always with fists (though yes, there could be a time when that sort of thing is called for. Or deserved—because there are people in life who desperately need a whuppin).
They may hunt, and provide, but not with a 30-.06 or a spear.
I guess I’ve always felt like one of those men who aren’t like a lot of others. I enjoy watching sports, but because I have a theatrical background, I also enjoy watching plays. I also like oldies as well as metal. I like Christian-themed music, too.
I like to cook, and I think I’m pretty good at it.
I don’t think I know everything, and I am not afraid to ask for directions, or help.
I have a hard time suppressing my emotions, and consequently, if things upset me in a particular way, I can get emotional.
I absolutely love talking to my wife about anything and everything. I love her and I always will. When I said ‘til death do us part, I meant it. So I hear men make mean-spirited jokes about their wives and it ticks me off.
Maybe I’m not normal—I don’t know.
A few months ago, I was on a jury panel, but I never got past the selection process, though I did get far enough to find out what the case was about: a local former teacher had been accused of 20 different counts of several child-molesting related events. It was so bad that a handful of people were dismissed from the jury because they didn’t think they could handle hearing testimony, or seeing evidence—some of which would be “examples” of various items witnesses had been shown.
Some thought they did not have the ability to render a fair opinion.
What I noticed was that when we walked in the courtroom, the defendant was standing there looking at everyone who came in with this little smile on his face. I didn’t get how anyone in that courtroom could smile.
Or how any man could refer to himself by that title and wreak the emotional havoc on these little boys emotional lives that whoever perpetrated these crimes likely did. I thought of my own limited experience with such things and the lifelong cracks in my own psyche it caused me.
I looked at that man—without even knowing if he was guilty or not—and wanted to choke him until he turned blue.
Never got the chance to be even questioned. About 40 of us were dismissed by the judge after a large enough pool was selected.
In spite of my own childhood issues thanks to some inappropriate family behavior, I wanted to be selected for the jury. I don’t know why, except to say that I wanted to be a part of justice for a person who’d been harmed in that way. Justice like I hadn’t seen myself.
Then I came home, and as my dogs and children were scrambling around the back yard, I sat on the patio and scrolled through Facebook, and I found this video, taken from a Poetry Slam competition. The young poet himself had been scrolling through Facebook much as I was, and had his childhood rapist referred to him by Facebook as “people you may know.”
Here is a video of his performance of the poem. I’ll tell you a little about what I think of it afterward.
The first thing that occurred to me was that I did not doubt this young man’s authenticity. At all. Perhaps names and situations were altered slightly (as things often are with art), but the pain he voiced from the depths of his hurting soul was as real as real can be.
There was a line where he says “no one comes running for young boys who cry rape.”
I think that’s probably true much of the time. Because that shouldn’t happen to boys. I would imagine there are people out there who think it can’t happen to boys. Because they should be able to fight back. Otherwise they wouldn’t be men.
The poet says at the end when questioned by his brother about that very thing (fighting back), “I am, right now, I promise.”
He fights back every day. He reminds himself of the people who love him, and who he loves. He reminds himself that he loves…himself. It may sound weird, but it makes sense.
Especially if you have a “wolf,” which is how he refers to his assailant. One of the worst things victimizers make victims feel is that they aren’t worthy of anything, especially love.
I may not have an assailant in the sense Kevin does, but I do have a wolf.
Sometimes, that wolf is corporeal, with hair, and bones and teeth.
Other times, he is ephemeral, with gossamer threads of my bruised soul and (formerly) broken heart hanging from his fingertips like he just brushed through a spiderweb.
Gone from my life (for the most part), but sometimes the wound opens yet again, and I really don’t want it to.
I don’t want to choke him (like I mentioned of the defendant in the trial–I’m not that kind of man), but I don’t want to have him over for a barbecue, either.
Forgive? Certainly, I can do that.
It isn’t the same as forgetting.
And while Jesus has given me life, and family, and hope, and a better way to live, I am not able to forget.
I’m not a poet (and I know it), but I believe God has given me an outlet to bare my emotions when such is necessary.
To give voice to my ire, my confusion, and to tell other people about the amazing and impossible things God has done in my life.
I do not doubt for a second, I would not be where I am today if my heart did not belong to him.
I think of two large scarred and callused hands a softball’s width apart. Between them is a torn and bruised piece of muscle—a gray lump of flesh.
The hands move about it slowly, molding, massaging. Giving warmth.
The heart begins to change. The gray fades, and eventually the heart takes on a deep, red…pulsing appearance.
Yet I am human, and sometimes the gray comes back, as it partially did when I watched the “People You May Know” performance video.
My fight is different than Kevin’s, but it is still a fight. I don’t struggle with depression anymore, not really. The battle is with my nature.
I have been delivered from my sin, it’s true.
But I am human.
Sometimes, it’s easier to go gray than ask those hands to hold your heart all the time–which would probably make things easier.
I am human. I make a lot of mistakes.
Yet because I have experienced redemption, I know that healing is there to be had.
My wounds may not go away forever, but the blood of the carpenter gives me more perspective than I ever had before I knew him.
Perspective to see that my scars aren’t going to kill me, because his wounds cover them.
Perspective to know that my wolf was probably acting out of his own pain, out of his own wounds. I could have been anyone.
Perspective to know that the comfort I received through healing of my own injuries can also comfort others, should they choose to hear and believe.
Maybe that’s even why certain things bother me. My wounds may not totally close, but that’s for a reason.
It’s how I can be used, perhaps.
Anyway, it’s how I have been used. God has also given me the ability to talk to people. I don’t know why, but they trust me, and are often willing to share fairly quickly.
Maybe that’s you, too.
Maybe you have a wolf.
Maybe you have scars.
Maybe you’ve never said his or her name out loud in context with your brokenness.
I would encourage you—no, implore you—find someone you can relate to in a personal way. A friend, maybe a pastor. It will probably be different for everyone.
Talk to them. Tear the hurt that’s blocking you from healing into pieces and talk to someone. Find a way to express what you’re feeling. I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me, those people looked like a guitar-playing, red-headed Irishman and Pastor from Pittsburgh and a Youth Minister from Yuma, Arizona.
I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Like mine, your healing will probably not come in an instant. But it will come.
I promise you.
Like the man in the video, you may have to write a poem or maybe a song every day to remind yourself why you fight.
That’s ok, and worth doing.
Let me leave you with millennia-old words from the book of Isaiah, Chapter 42:3:
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.
Always, he will bring forth justice. It would be so much easier if the justice of man and God were the same. Healing would not be such a process.
But then God wouldn’t be God. We have to trust that he knows what we need, and will give it to us.
So we have to fight back. Every day.
I don’t know about you, but for me, healing comes first.
Everyone has an opinion, on that one point, I think we have to agree. Maybe not on anything else, but on that at least. Whether you want it or not, I’m going to give you mine. If you don’t agree with me, that’s ok. My mind is all over the place today, and in sitting here thinking about the state of the world, for some reason I remembered a concept we studied in a sociology class back in the 90’s, during my first try at college.
Social Entropy. Wikipedia explains it like this (since I don’t have my ancient textbook anymore):
“Social entropy is a macro-sociological systems theory. It is a measure of the natural decay within a social system. It can refer to the decomposition of social structure or of the disappearance of social distinctions. Much of the energy consumed by a social organization is spent to maintain its structure, counteracting social entropy, e.g., through legal institutions, education and even the promotion of television viewing. Anomie is the maximum state of social entropy. Social entropy implies the tendency of social networks and society in general to break down over time, moving from cooperation and advancement towards conflict and chaos.”
I think that explanation tells us what’s going on, but in my opinion, it doesn’t offer any real answers as to why. That’s where my opinion comes in.
To my way of thinking, it’s easy to arrive at the conclusion that the social structure and social distinction of country—our culture, too—is devolving, to put it politely. Going into the toilet, to paint another picture.
I think we’ve gotten to the point as a culture where only one set of mores are permitted by a large and “new-fashioned” group of people within our society, those being more aligned with moral relativism than morals. People seem to think now that morals are little more than pictures on walls. I think this is a load of crap, and I will tell you why.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, there are moral absolutes. If there weren’t, people would go around doing whatever they want, because they believe it to be the right thing for them, no matter what the cost. There’s no God, and thus no consequences for actions, because everything is permitted when nothing is bad or wrong.
What’s that? There are some things that are wrong?
Where do moral absolutes come from if there is no God? Certainly, there are those absolutes dictated by law. Killing people is bad. Stealing is bad. Keeping a dude in a leather suit locked in a treasure chest? Yep, wrong.
But why? Where do the legal standards come from?
In my opinion, from moral ones. There are things we just know to be wrong. I believe we are all hard-wired to make decent moral decisions. That’s how we were made. We come pre-bundled with the ability to choose good over bad.
Right over wrong.
But how? How is that possible? Is it something we’ve evolved into? How did we go from being banana-stealing, inbred, low-level primates into higher thinking primates who know right from wrong instinctively?
Here is my point, and you can take what you want from it, or leave it entirely.
We were made by a creator, and we were endowed with knowledge of a few things by that creator. How to behave in public and in private. How to treat people the way we would want to be treated ourselves. It isn’t right to take things from people just because we want them, including their lives.
Things like that, and many others.
With those endowments also came rudimentary knowledge of that creator. He made us. He wants us. He loves us. All of us (Before I go further, that really does mean all of us. Even those who don’t recognize the truth because they’re too busy trying to figure out how to clear out their ears from the big bang).
We are made to know our creator. We are made to know God, and love him. The world, of course, is the other part of God’s creation. And everything in it.
Where does social entropy come in? Glad you asked.
I think we were made to live together in community. We were created to worship together. To grow together in our knowledge of our maker, until the day we meet him face-to-face.
I think our journey toward social entropy and our metaphorical toilet began when we stopped recognizing that simple fact. We grew apart as a people. It happened slowly, and nobody noticed what was going on.
Now, we are a world full of people who don’t know each other, don’t love each other in every way that counts, and certainly don’t want to help each other. That sucks, but it’s what happened.
If we hear something we think will make ourselves better or easier, many times we will just do it, especially if it feels good.
In spite of the consequences, both legal and moral.
In spite of the inarguable fact that everyone doing what’s best for ourselves as we see it pulls us apart as a people, a culture, and a world.
In the words of the group Helloween, “we are credulous idiots.”
We are gullible, to be sure. But we are hard-wired for truth. We just have to be willing to receive it.
What’s that? Believing in God is also subject to credulity?
Speaking for myself, belief in God, in Jesus, and in the Resurrection is the truth I came to that saved my life.
It gave me the ability to recognize the lies piled around me that obscured the truth.
God didn’t create evil, he created people, and gave them the ability to choose him, and recognize him for who and what he was.
Their freedom to choose him over themselves was also given. To choose absolute good over evil is also ours.
Sometimes—often—we make the wrong choices, both on a macro and micro level.
I also don’t feel like all the horrible things that happen on a global level disprove the existence of God. For me, those events are sort of an…alarm clock much of the time, both socially and spiritually. They remind us the world is finite, just as we are.
They remind us we have to make a choice as well.
The world is circling the drain—the toilet bowl, if you will—because so many of us stopped recognizing we aren’t in this life alone.
We don’t have to wonder how to live.
We don’t have to wonder why we are here.
We stopped believing there was a guiding light. We stopped recognizing there was truth.
We elevated ourselves to pedestal status.
We worship false gods, and real idols.
We forgot about God because when we remember we want to live differently.
So we run away from God, and each other.
In our towns, cities, states, and countries.
Sometimes within our homes.
And a house divided against itself cannot stand.
A world divided against itself cannot stand.
Humanity divided against itself cannot stand.
We don’t realize that anymore.
And we’re falling apart.
We live social entropy.
But I have Good News.
There’s hope for the world.
There’s hope for us.
That’s because of what this coming weekend entails.
Our hope lies in the able hands of a carpenter, and in his death, burial, and resurrection.
But he’s more than a carpenter, to quote writer Josh McDowell.
He’s a savior, a redeemer.
He has good works for you to do.
His name is Jesus, and he’s waiting for you to call out to him.
Your life doesn’t have to be about entropy, social or otherwise.