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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Battle on the Ledge

It was at church camp, the high ropes course to be specific. I had made it up the rope ladder, across the solitary log that connected the two sections, to the final platform where I stood staring in disbelief at the wooden bar that swayed gently in front of me, about three feet away. I was supposed to jump to it. At that point, it seemed like 20 feet away. I stood there for a long time, getting encouragement from friends down on the ground. Finally, I jumped.

I didn't make it to the wooden bar. I probably didn't even make it halfway. And today, I finally know why.

My whole life I've been afraid. I will be for the rest of my life about something or another. I know I was scared that day, just like I am now. I am afraid to jump; afraid of what will happen if I absolutely commit to the leap and try reaching that bar. Thats why I didn't make it to the bar: I already knew I wasn't going to try enough to make it. Even before my feet left the ground, I had already failed. I didn't really try. What I told myself afterwards wasn't enough to fool me into believing that I didn't really fail, and I didn't realize until today that it still haunted me. I realized it today because I'm still standing on that ledge, its just a different ledge than the one on the high ropes course at church camp. Now its my life that I'm jumping for: all the relationships, chances I'm not comfortable taking, and the moments that will never come again. I made the mistake of not trying the first time, but will I learn from my mistakes? Thats the question I've been asking myself a lot lately. Will I finally be able to grab that wooden bar? If I really try, will I make it? Or will I be disappointed?

That wooden bar though, lets look at that for a second. Its just hanging there, like fruit ready to be picked; waiting, taunting. At camp it was just a wooden bar. Over the years its become pay-raises and promotions and girls and every possible kind of success and outcome. Its the thing that is just out of my reach and the thing I want most badly out of life. However, success is the end goal; the result, the reward. Like that day on the ledge so many years ago, I failed because I knew I wasn't going to risk the jump that it would take to make it to the bar. But, it wasn't because the bar wasn't alluring enough, or the reward great enough, it was that I could not bring myself to give all I had to attain it. I could not give up the kind of control and comfort that the solid ledge provided. I had to give those things up to make it to the bar, and, standing on that ledge, I decided I wouldn't do it.

What I learned from missing the bar that day is that the battle was fought on the ledge. I stood on it then as I stand on it now, with the same choice in front of me. Do I give up control and comfort in pursuit of a greater goal? Do I stay on the ledge, not really try, or give it all I've got? I'm starting to see that its not just a decision that I make once, but a way of living. Its intentional, risky, and I know I need to know why I'm doing it. But I've realized that if have enough to courage to jump with everything I've got, I've got a chance. The decision is made already. The battle against the fear is already over at that point, and whatever happens after that is what happens. Through the simple, terrible act of trying, I have a chance to reach that bar. Its time for me to try, reach for what I've been afraid of for so long, and start winning the battle on the ledge.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Watching the Weather

So its Winter. Its cold.

I don't think I ever noticed that there were so many amazing things happening right now, in Winter. So often, at random times of the year, I shut down and pack up and figure I should go and hibernate because nothing that I want to happen is happening, and life seems slow. I get caught up in the season of my life. Have you ever heard that phrase? 'Season' of this, or 'going through a difficult season' of that? I hate it sometimes because it always implies that we are trapped in this invisible space and time where we are constantly waiting for something. It sounds like purgatory. Either I convince myself there isn't any point to being conscious because nothing is going to happen, or I am in the wrong place or the wrong time; the wrong Season, and there is nothing I can do about it. Well, sometimes there isn't. However, recently, I've been thinking that seasons of life aren't so much about the season, or waiting, although it sometimes it, but about changes in perspective and in what I expect.  

Just like it is with physical seasons, its tempting when its cold and wet and depressing to think that Summer will never come again or the world can never be warm. I think its the same with emotional and circumstantial seasons. I have thought a lot this year that all the things that were horrible situations could potentially go on forever, or that maybe it was just a season of something. Like, I don't know, misery? We'll call it Winter. The Winter of Life. I was woken up to the fact that maybe I was selling, the season I might see as 'Winter', a little short.

Maybe Winter is in the eye of the beholder, and any 'season' of life can take it's form. What if maybe there is life abundant right here, in the cold and the dark, and I just have to be ok with accepting a life that I haven't planned out or expected. What am I waiting for? If I'm waiting for summer I'll have an awful long wait, like holding your breath underwater until someone pulls the plug on the ocean.

I've realized there is so much beauty to be missed in the world around me, and I've missed it because its not what I expect. I think that I've convinced myself that things won't come until I'm ready for them, and I finally think that its untrue. Maybe the world doesn't revolve around me. Go figure, am I right? Maybe the seasons, both in life and in nature, don't change based on where I am in life, but rather I need to adjust to the world around me. Lets just say that all this time I've been wearing a t-shirt in the middle of a blizzard.

I've started to see myself right where I am, not where I'm going to be; not putting all my expectations on what the 'future me' will be like. I guess a lot of people call this living in the moment. Its always taken me awhile to catch up to these things. This is also not simply just being "content" with all the stupid things in my life that I still hate, but rather focusing on the relevant things that have come around, that are in front of me now, in this moment. My job is to take hold of those opportunities and enjoy them at their proper times without wistfully wishing for something I could never fully appreciate at this time, like enjoying a perennial garden in bloom before it goes back into the frozen ground for another year. This simple fact has really changed how I see things. Its really just made life more fun. The seasons of life seem to be much harder to predict than the seasons of the calendar year, and there are a lot more than 4. But hey, life is only an adventure if you don't know whats coming right?

I've written off so many people and places and sights and sounds because they didn't fit in with the landscape that I had constructed for myself. However, when I started paying attention to the weather and the seasons that were changing without my approval, I realized that I could kill myself with longing for the next season, or I could put on a good coat and really start to live in the real world, with all its amazing circumstance, detail, nuance, and people that it would bring; paying attention to what is happening now.

I'm not going to blame the seasons for changing, because change is such a huge part of what keeps life good, although its hard to keep up sometimes, especially when I get comfortable with how things are. But what I'm starting to see in my 'Winters', and seeing the people who are around me now: it makes me want to try. Try to not to get bogged down in wishing for something else, for some other season, when this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Open the Door (Part 3)

This might be my final journey into the topic of meaning in everyday life for a while but I'm not ruling out the possibility for more as I continue to struggle with this whole concept that I've scarcely been able to describe in 3 posts, let alone in some cohesive way in my own mind. However, I want to at least ask this question because I want to know the answer.

So far I've realized that life sometimes does not feel satisfying. I then realized it is because the things that I am investing in so heavily are not, inherently, supposed to be satisfying (did your parents ever tell you not to drink soda because it will just make you thirsty? Well mine did. Its kind of like that).

Today, I've been thinking that developing a vocabulary for what you want and need is incredibly valuable, but there is an important leap from to knowing what to say and saying it. The satisfying and important things in life may sometimes simply fall into your lap, but I think the crux between having good things and wanting good things is knowing how to ask for them, and then asking for them, and then waiting for them to come. I don't  mean that all your wishes will come true if you hope or pray or beg or whatever, but having meaning in your life is a decision I think; an attitude.

Let me flip this just a little bit. God says in Revelation 3:20, "I stand at the door and knock." There is also a lengthy discussion about free will that I could also dive into at this point, but lets just, for the sake of argument, assume that we have free will. Is Jesus saying in this simple passage, that He also waits? For us? To ask Him to come in? Woahhhh. Maybe meaning in life is found in asking the right people and things into our lives and most importantly, letting Jesus in to shape and put our hearts in order. This also means closing the door to things that strip life of its meaning by passing itself off as the real thing and not just the symbol.

Will life be meaningful and feel meaningful just because it is now devoid of things that aren't? Isn't that why there are so many distractions and pursuits to keep us occupied? Because we either can't find meaning or just need a break from being disappointed? I don't think so. I think that this intersection  might be where I can start opening other doors to things that matter; things that I haven't discovered before and are therefore hard to get a perspective on, and stop opening the same doors to places I know all too well.

I think at the end of the day, all I can do is ask. I think it is important to know how and what to ask for, but the asking is also important. By closing the door on things that aren't meaningful, that will free up that room for things that are, but so often I feel like when I am empty, I don't know how to fill myself back up.

So, at the end of all this, it still feel faintly unresolved, but I think I know what to ask for and how to ask, so maybe, my part is done.