The First Thing

Haven’t posted a lot of new things lately, but if this current work assignment has given me one thing, it’s a lot of time to think. What I’ve been thinking about the most lately is that things are different now for me then they’ve ever been.

This has come to pass in stages rather than all at once, but I honestly believe that nothing at all would have ever happened had it not been for the first thing. And that thing was realizing that I mattered to the One responsible for everything, that the one who crafted the stars had also been responsible for crafting me in all my flawed and imperfect glory. And I don’t mean just knowing in my head. More importantly, this realization was a truth I felt in my heart since I met Him.

The best way I’ve ever seen that represented is in a scene from the tv show, The Chosen:

Mary Tells Nicodemus about the difference Jesus made in her life and I’d say it was a similar experience for me:

I was one way, and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened between was him.

Not exactly the same for me, of course, but similar.

I was one way, and now I am completely different.

The thing that happened in between was him.

People You May Know, and Bruised Reeds

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.

That’s impossible.

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.

It’s part of the fight.


Satan Wants My Squeaker

I had this dog for a while who would utterly destroy all his squeak toys. It didn’t matter what they were made of, it typically only took him a few days to get at the toy’s squeaky little heart.

He would do it through small wounds, generally, and just work the toy over. He’d pull out little bits of stuffing from each tear in the material and deposit them on the living room floor as he worked to get at his ultimate goal–the messy death of the squeak toy.

When he finally got there, he’d crush the squeaker between his jaws and then just lay there and enjoy the carnage he’d created.

This morning I was thinking how much my faith is like one of those dog toys.

I’ll get wounded from time to time–small tears in my fabric. A little stuffing will come out, sometimes more than a little. Yet because my heart is still squeaking, I convince myself my wounds are only superficial. It’s only a cut or two.

I tell myself the cuts are no big deal, and since they don’t (really) threaten my life, I don’t need to worry about them.

The world–and life–are the cause of the tears in my fabric.

The world can’t get to me because of my faith, or because my wounds really aren’t that bad.

My wounds are not mortal.

And then the truth came.

1. It isn’t one singular tear in the fabric of my faith that will be my undoing.

2. It’s the collective whole of my wounds and the blame apportioned for their cause that can draw me away from God if I let them.

3. It’s separation from God that will kill me.

4. The tears in the fabric of my faith are caused by doubt, and by whispered lies from the enemy about God, and myself, and my wounds.

Another truth that came to me today is that for every lie we’re told and believe there is a corresponding truth from God.

We can fight the lies with truth, and it is that same truth that heals the tears in our fabrics–in my fabric.

It’s normal to doubt. Doubts mean you take your faith seriously, and provided you don’t allow them to overrun your faith, they can help you in the end. That is, if you seek the truth with a disciple’s heart. Doubt can only overcome you if you let it–if you do not fight.

Make no mistake, there is an enemy to fight. He prowls around like a lion (or perhaps an angry dog), looking for something to devour (1Peter 5:8).

That something is you. And me. It’s tough to hear, and even tougher to talk about. People want to hear platitudes, and that everything is good and beautiful and that they are saved from harm by faith.

That’s true, but not the only truth.

Our enemy–and I do mean Satan–can and will stop at no height or depth in his quest to separate us from God. He tears at the fabric of our faiths, and our lives. He burrows deep in our guts, attempting to get at our hearts.

He can’t unless we let him. We don’t have to.

We can fight.

We can pray the armor of God daily, and we can seek the Lord’s truth in and for our lives.

Otherwise, the world is the least of our worries. We’ll end up like this poor thing, but for eternity.