In Dallas, TX for work.
Been going through some really painful stuff, perhaps the most painful in my adult memory (but then I’ve said that many times). My experience is that the path of engagement in life (as opposed to retreat from life or counterfeit life) is just plain… painful. And I believe with as much of my heart as I have at the moment that God is about bringing about full restoration and healing in our lives — transformation, sanctification — and that requires, among other things, reopening old wounds to clean and heal them. For what is laid down in pain, is (often) only accessed through pain. Moreover, I’ve heard and believe, that the great Physician in His love will allow the exact kind of pain that will give Him access to the parts of us that He wants to heal. Of course, that means that the deeper you let Him take you, the more fierce the dragons, the more subtle the deception, the more core the wound, the more terrifying the pain. And I’ve prayed that He would indeed access and heal these parts of me, transform me, regardless of the cost. Sometimes (often) I regret having prayed such prayers, but too late. Oh, I suppose I could always retreat again from His offer of Life, but I’ll never have peace that way. Ever.
My take on the enemy’s strategy in my life is that he used early trauma around perceived abandonment by my parents to lie to me about the heart of God the Father, and to encourage me to cling to dependence on self and others for my security in life. There’s a fear in me around this area of security in my life that can truly be called terror. I’m fiercely devoted to self-protection of this most tender part of my heart, that desperately desires security and love. So the enemy has some firm root in this part of my heart, and that part is itself fortified by strongholds upon strongholds, like a kingdom with rings of walls, all themselves strongholds protecting the key stronghold. That means layers of selfishness, fear, lust, idolatry, and the list goes on.
My loving Papa’s strategy on the other hand… He wants to be at the center of my heart, and wants to break down all strongholds, free me completely, and establish Himself at the center of my heart. I’ve asked for this, and there’s absolutely no way I can do it myself; I faint in terror just looking at this stuff. This usually manifests itself as anger (rage, really), distraction, endless idols and squirming strategies. But He Himself can and wants to free me, but He’s asking for my trust and cooperation. What He seems to be doing now is systematically removing people and things that I’ve turned to for life instead of Him (my idols). Frankly it’s hellish. In part because it’s just so… unjust! I suppose I thought He’s just come in and fix me, but He seems to be using what I perceive as injury and injustice, and asking me to trust Him. I can feel His hand and his love even in the injustice… but it’s so damn hard to trust. Damn hard. My inclination is to hate and curse, to curse God and die (not literally, but by rejecting “the path” and turning to less wild lovers).
But truth is truth, and truth hurts. I fall back into hate daily, hourly, but He calls me back to Him daily and hourly. One of the ways He calls me back is by the amazing people He’s put in my life. I’ve prayed for a “band of brothers”, and He’s answered (not in the way I had imagined!). I’ve got friends who love me enough to tell me the truth, and it often pisses me off. A lot. But damn it, I just can’t deny it. I think this is a great grace. I mean, I fail much, much more than I succeed (I’m talking about sin), but He keeps being there, even though I don’t trust Him, even though I turn from Him all day every day. Even though I watch Netflix when I feel His gentle call to receive His love and consolation in prayer. Even though I run wild inside, even when I’m bat-shit crazy. Even when I say “no” to His call to sanctity. It’s like no and yes are waring inside me, with my life being mostly “no, but Lord I want it to be yes”. Even though my prayers are mostly “Lord, help me to want to want say yes!” “Lord, my answer is no, but help me answer yes”.
My friends help me sort through my rights. Somehow, rights are wrong. Rights are not life-giving for me. Even though they have every appearance of being real (and perhaps they are), somehow they have bad fruits. And every tree is judged by its fruits. Every action, every thought, every feeling, every act of the will. It’s confounding and there is no right that I let go of that does not have claw marks all the hell over it. More accurately, I let them go and grab them back in the same breath. And I’ve found that in this journey — the journey of the heart, the life of the heart — there’s a huge multitude of well-meaning people that will support my rights. Friends, family, Priests, etc. But then.. there’s “the silver thread” of those who see beyond my rights, to the calling on my life, and help me see beyond my rights to… to what? To love. To the Cross. To true healing, forgiveness, selflessness, freedom, to His life.
My friends help me return to hope. Maybe some of you know how painful hope can be, how much courage it can take (know what I’m talking about)? How can you have hope in uncertainty? How can you know you’ll be OK when there’s no evidence that you’ll get what you’re hoping for in this world? So there can be no hope without faith. Because I sure can’t see the thing I hope for. I’ve put my hopes in meeting my deepest of needs in things that just can’t meet those needs. He’s the only one that can meet those needs, but what courage it takes for me to believe!
So.. thank you. Thank you to my brothers and sisters who tell me the truth. Even though it hurts. I hate you for it and I love you for it. Thank you God that you’ve never left me alone, even if it looks completely different than I had imagined (or rather demanded). I wish I didn’t need this painful medicine, but.. seeing that I do, Thank you.
“Lord, I pray again the prayer that terrifies me; do whatever you need to do, whatever you want to do, to transform me, all of me, according to your love. I accept this pain, and I give you complete access and permission to let you use it to heal my heart. Take me there. Lead me. Give me courage, faith, hope, love. Thank you that you don’t crush this bruised reed, that you don’t extinguish this smoldering wick. Thank you for your faithfullness. I want so much to trust you with all my heart; help me to trust when I cannot trust on my own. Take my groanings, and pray them for me. Under my layers of pride and fear, I’m such a small person with such a small faith! Thank God you are so big! I love you, I trust you. Do what you will. Love, heal, free and transform my family and loved ones, especially those who I want to hate. Take away all my hate, and transform it into love. Amen!”
So much has happened since my last ’12 post, it’s really not worth updating. In fact, I disabled the feature that emails subscribers (let’s see if that works!). I just want to write, and I don’t seem to do it unless I post it somewhere (someday I’ll figure out why this is).
Dark, dark days… inside and outside. Lost in a dark fog… but not all lost. I’m still here, and so is the Lord.
Had a beautiful conversation with a dear brother last night (thank you). Lots of things to meditate on from that, but right now, the part that’s rolling around in my head (my heart?) is the part about the abandoned little boy who is me. He mentioned that I have someone now who cares about him and won’t abandon him. I assumed he was talking about the Lord, but he was talking about me. Me. I won’t abandon the wounded part of me. Any more than I’ll abandon the wounded parts of my daughters. I will take care of my boy. And of course this is true about my Lord, too. So I am not abandoned. It felt good to stay and comfort him last night, and to let Jesus comfort him. Good to remember to have compassion, even on the worst parts of me. Interesting; a wounded child inside, but with all of the sins and vices and the like of a full-grown middle-aged man. I had to chuckle.
With love and compassion,
Sometime in about 1984, I was walking home from my friend’s house. The trip was about ten blocks, and passed St. Joseph’s Catholic church. I wasn’t a Catholic (yet), and I wasn’t in a particularly odd mood. We’d been smoking cigarettes, drinking a few beers and listening to Social Distortion. As I passed by St. Joe’s, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I felt a deep, painful ache in my soul, and I burst into tears. I fell to my knees in front of the church, and tearfully begged God; “God, if you’re up there, please, please help me!” After a moment, the feeling passed. I looked around to make sure no one saw, wiped my tears from my face, and walked home. I never forgot the moment, but it didn’t mean much to me until much later in this dance of the heart, and I see that God’s been about the business of answering that prayer since that very moment. He took me literally, and never forgot.
A few years ago I prayed another prayer, similarly heartfelt; “God, I want my whole heart back! Do whatever you need to do to rebuild my personality according to your love.” I’ve gained some (but not much) awareness of the gravity of such prayers. I’m talking about dangerous prayers. Not dangerous like “please kill so-and-so” or “please give me a billion dollars” (I don’t know if He puts much stock in those), but dangerous like this’ll seriously disrupt your life. Asking for my whole heart back… I can almost hear “are you sure you can drink from this cup? Do you understand what you’re asking?” It’s a dangerous prayer, and there are times I almost wish I hadn’t prayed it. Heck, to be honest, I do wish that sometimes. For, to get your heart back – all of it – you must be willing to fight for it, and the battle is indeed more fierce than I imagined. In fact, it’s too much for me, and I’ve “gone under” many times (every time I think the battle can be won on Adam’s strength and wits).
I’ve come to believe that the “narrow path” is primarily a metaphor for the journey into one’s own heart (that’s where He resides, is it not?). Our hearts are fearfully guarded; there are dragons galore, and they are very dangerous, and do not want you on the path. St. Paul makes it clear that our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but against ominous powers (eph 6:12). Translation; what seems real is not, and what seems unreal… is. Moreover, whether we risk open war or not, it is upon us! We’re living in an epic war, the stakes are life and death, and the ammo is live. But truly it is a love story set in a war. The Divine Lover is a warrior, and He’s after His bride’s heart. So, an honest prayer to get back our whole heart. Well, it appears that’s the same as saying “yes” to Gandalf’s invitation. “what sort of a story have we fallen into, Frodo?” It’s bigger than I had imagined, anyway.
The heart is a delicate thing, and must — must — have its safety. there are things that are too much for it to bare. It can be broken, perhaps beyond repair (outside of the miraculous). We intuit this, and so — when it receives arrows — we must do something; they cannot be left unaddressed. By “arrows” I’m referring to the wounding things that inevitably happen in this life. Some are minor; an unkind word from a friend, getting passed up for a raise, etc. Others are deep to our very core. My own deepest wound goes all the way back to childhood. And every one of these arrows must be addressed, interpreted if you will, because the heart is so precious and delicate. Tragically, when they happen, right at our most vulnerable time(s), the enemy is right there to offer his interpretation of the meaning of it and a plan of action to deal with it. For me, feeling alone and abandoned as a child, he whispered “you’re not wanted, and the world is a dangerous place. It’s too risky to love and be loved. You should protect your heart; close it up.” Not knowing what else to do, that little boy took that suggestion. I closed my heart, locked it, walled it up deep within me and tossed away the key. What followed was a lifetime of “evidence” that this was the right decision; disappointment after disappointment, wound after wound. So, when I prayed for God to help me, and later prayed for my whole heart back, the Lover of my heart heard the call and came after it. But alas, what has been laid down in pain must be accessed through pain. And the Lord knows just how to access the buried treasure of our hearts; He never loses the key, even if we hide it, but the lock resists the turn almost unto death.
It took the Lord almost thirty years to get to that place in me, and I’m talking about just getting to it and starting the healing process. I hope to tell the whole story of my rescue (so far) some day, but I can’t do it now and here. But I do want to tell part of it here.
When I first met Him, He was… magnificent. Knowing me and my wounded heart, He approached me in just the right way. He does not make too hard of terms for those who seek Him, and we were buddies, enjoying each other. Mostly, He played with me in the woods, and I loved to find Him there and talk to Him. I followed Him casually, and He lead me in the most amazing way to His Son. When I “met” Jesus, that too was easy and natural. From here, things got complicated. The path I took, afraid of my heart and what was in it (I didn’t know this at the time), I went the path of duty. Perhaps a necessary step, but — if followed too long — a deadly one. My intellect lead me to the Catholic Church (thank you, intellect!), but God had so much more for me than duty; He was after my heart, not my service. Year after miserable year passed. It was very dark. I supposed He needed it to get dark so I’d be wiling to risk the narrow path. It did indeed get dark; dark enough for me to want to take my life, but for the fear of eternal damnation. Crap, I’m going on too long. Let me skip ahead a bit.
To be continued (wife needs me inside). Bless y’all till then!
I saw this awesome article about 4-time IronMan Champion Chrissie Wellington not long before a session with my coach (click here). I was deeply moved, and was thinking about my own desire to be “all in” like this champion. Tom has inspired, and I’m praying this prayer (or versions of it):
“Lord, you made me, and you made me to be a man who wants to be all in. But you also made me to be a man who falls short. If you don’t help me, I’m going to fail, and fail utterly, and I don’t want that! Lord, I implore you, beg of you, give me the grace to be all in. Lord, give me, in my heart, such a powerful meaning and vision of my life – your vision – that I can be nothing other than all in. I ask this in your holy name, Jesus. I love you!”
Major remodel in the RV – moving the kids to the back “master bedroom”, wife and I are out in the main area. Mostly this is so we can get up, make coffee and pray in the morning while they sleep in. I also went out to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought some nice real down comforters for everyone. We’ve tossed out all of the miscellaneous crappy blankets we brought from our old home. Last night was a test-run, and it was great. I mean, really nice. Its’ been hard living with everyone in this small space, and every little thing helps.
I had a great conversation with my coach Tom Curran the other day. He was kind enough to speak some hard truths to me about my dream to build a men’s ministry. He reminded me of two important points:
First, if I am not actively involved in this ministry in a hidden way now, there’s no reason to think I’ll magically start doing it when I have arranged things so that I can do it full-time.
He told me a story. When he was in seminary, life was very easy. Everything was taken care of for them, and everyone praised the seminarians for their goodness and courage to answer their call. He noticed that there was a tendency in himself and in the other seminarians to imagine that, once out of seminary, they would then begin to live a life of sacrafice, hardship and prayer. He was insightful enough to see that if he was not doing this already, there was no reason to think he’d be able to suddenly be able to do this when things got hard.
Similarly, I have a burning desire to help rescue the hearts of men, and dream of a time when I can do this full-time as a ministry; perhaps when I retire. I want to retire sooner so I can begin. Tom pointed out that if I am not doing this now in an “inner” way, there’s no reason to imagine I’ll somehow magically do it when I have more time devoted to it. Am I praying for men now? Am I offering sacrifices, fasting, living on behalf of them, in place of them? How much ease and comfort do I live in? Ouch. What a kick in the spiritual nuts. He’s right, of course.
Here’s his words from the call (paraphrased) “Don’t tell me you want to live your life for men in the future if you are not living for them now. Right now, today, you can start your men’s ministry. You can start fasting, stay up an hour later, chose a less comfortable chair, spend less time on internet, don’t have pleasant foods, etc. On behalf of men, you can fast for men to be victorious in areas of spiritual oppression.”
Next, he reminded me of this relationship hierarchy:
- Service to God (Ministry)
I was groaning about my burning desire to rescue the hearts of men (like mine has been rescued), and how I wanted to start now. He described in his life how he refuses to build his ministry “on the backs of his wife and kids”. I’ve seen first hand what it looks like when people drag their family through hell in pursuit of their “ministry”. Heck, in many ways I do it myself. I’m talking about the time should spend but don’t spend with my wife or my kids, because I’m on the phone “rescuing” a friend or acquaintance. I’m talking about all of the ways that I’m checked out, gone limp and passive in my family life, but I’m “on fire” in my ministry. All of the ways that I talk the talk of a life with God to men, but fail to walk the walk.
Here’s what he said (paraphrased): “Don’t tell me about how your ministry is going well while your work is suffering. Don’t tell me how your work is going well while your kids suffering. Don’t tell me how things are going well with your kids while your relationship with your wife is suffering. don’t tell me about how good things are with your wife while your time with Lord is suffering.”
Sobering stuff, no? I was thinking about this this morning, after yet another morning of not waking up in time to do some significant, quiet time in prayer…
Sigh – I know my posts all seem negative. I guess I just like to post about my inner struggles to grow into the man feel I could be. But it’s not all negative! The sun is shining into the RV, I’ll be going to Mass today with the family, then out on a date with Michelle. We’re having a hell of an adventure.
Loved ones, friends, everyone –
We’re in Austin, TX. This is one of the places we’re “interviewing” as a possible place to settle down.
My emotions have been all over the board, not unlike how we’ve been all over the USA. For a good long while, I was not able to muster the courage to blog. Does that make sense – needing courage to blog? I find that, for me, it takes tremendous courage. that is, if I want to say something authentic and transparent. And, if this blog is anything, it’s about being that. So, I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I’ve posted; my courage was… low.
Yesterday Michelle and I drove around Austin to different RV parks, looking for a place to park long-term (like a month or so). Some of these places were pretty scuzzy. All the nice ones are totally full, and we can’t get into them. This is a first for us; an area where we can’t find a good place for the RV. Frankly, it made me feel like such a loser. As we went into the offices of these RV parks, I imagined looks of contempt or pity in the counter person’s eyes, like a bum looking for a shelter. It made me feel homeless. It made me feel irresponsible. It made me feel like an idiot.
Throughout all this, I noticed something inside me; I wanted a way to show people – prove to the world – that I am not a loser by demonstrating in some way how much money I make. Better clothes, a nice watch, a fancier RV, new car… something, anything that would prove that I’m not a homeless, irresponsible, idiot loser! Of course, the temptation here is to feel like a shallow, vain, prideful, materialistic loser… the accuser is working overtime! I had to chuckle at myself… And I’m grateful I have at least a limited ability to see these things for what they are.
I’m not saying that everything I’m doing is right… but I am noticing how hard it is for me to really believe – at a deep, meaningful level – anything outside of my programming. I’ve spent a lifetime constructing the “fig leaf” I hide behind, the system of beliefs, responses, thoughts and strategies that pass for my personality. I can see, in these times when I’m being stretched, just how deep my strategy of finding my own worth in the eyes of others goes. If they think I’m somebody, I must be somebody. If they think I’m a loser… Well, you get it. Getting free is harder than it looks. You can hop off the conveyor belt easily enough, but there can be tremendous resistance to inner change. It is indeed impossible to consistently act in a way that’s inconsistent with the way you see yourself.
I realize how important it is to know who I am. there’s an interesting passage in the book of Revelation, 2:17: “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name on it, known only to him who receives it.” What is my name? How does He see me? That is reality. Aligning myself with that reality and shedding the fig leaf… that’s the journey of the heart.
Who am I?