Alone

Feeling alone, feeling lonely, and being by yourself. It isn’t a pleasant feeling, and one that leaves us feeling hopeless.

I’ve mentioned before that I have the privilege of working with a bunch of students in a one year residential recovery program. It is hard, very hard, working with guys who are in the midst of becoming more self aware, making amends, and trying to life live better. Last week, one of those students left the program. I’m used to that. It happens. It happens a lot- guys thinking they can do life on their own, feeling like they “got enough recovery” (which you can never have enough of) and leave after two weeks, a month, even after a year and a half in the internship program.

He left. It was sad, and a lot of the other students were sad, because he loved the Word, the scripture…Jesus. But he left. We mourned that, hoping he would come back after his mandatory 30 day out since he left.

Then yesterday, he was found dead……overdose…..in a trashy hotel room……

…….alone

I am sad that he died when he had so much potential, head was on straight and loved Jesus. I’m sad that he overdosed falling back into his old addictions, instead of leaning on Jesus. And I am mostly sad that he died alone. That he had walked away from community that he was leaning into for support. A community that was being the body of Christ to him, walking the road of recovery together.

Alone

He is not the only one who has walked away from community. He is not the only one who has walked away from the Body of Jesus that was there to lean on in times of struggle. He is not the only one that has broken relationship because of his addiction. He is not the only one who has chosen addiction in hopes of finding something to satisfy their desires, only to end up alone. All alone.

I’ve done it. I’ve done that several times. It’s why I choose, now, to lean into community, as much as I can. It doesn’t mean that I don’t walk away at times. But it does mean that I often choose to not be alone. And when I am feeling lonely, I’ve learned to reach out to a recovery friend, my sponsor, my spiritual director, my leadership coach and others. Because when I am alone, when I’m feeling lonely, that’s when I go to my addictions for escape.

I don’t know all who read this, and I don’t know all who share this to others. But my prayer for you, for every single one of you….for me…is that we reach out, be vulnerable, find community and lean into it whenever we are struggling. As I’ve said before, we ALL have addictions. Please know you don’t have to walk this road alone. That is not the life Jesus desires for you. Reach out….and discover the family of Christ. Even if you feel you are good and don’t need anyone else, that’s a lie. Please don’t believe it…and please reach out, no matter your addiction.

be blessed today

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The Opposite of Scarcity

I’m going to be honest, looking for a job when you’ve been gone overseas for a while, is hard. It’s hard to not take a “no” personally. It’s hard to not be discouraged. It’s hard to live in peace and confidence that God will work this all out, and to not give into fear. It’s hard to not live on a constant plane of anxiety or stress. And it’s hard to not continue to think of the “what ifs” that plague my mind.

The last two posts I have been talking about scarcity. Wrestling through what it means when we say “God’s got this, it will be ok.” And, wondering if that is really true. In the end, I do believe it is true. But I must be willing (and “willingness” is a huge word) to accept that what rock bottom or scarcity may mean to God may be much different than what I think. I must willing to accept that rock bottom may mean much more than losing a job or even becoming homeless. Becoming a refugee in the harshest sense, like Abraham or the Israelites under the direction of Moses or like the Christians under Nero, etc. Losing all that I hold dear…just like Job.

Brene Brown, whose work on shame is powerful, said “For me, the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough…” We have a warped sense, at least in North America, that when we have scarcity God will come in and provide for us in an over the top, extreme way- the typical American rags to riches stories we so love. I do believe that happens, and God can chose to do what he desires. But what if His plan is to simply give us enough. Enough to know we are loved. Enough to know we are taken care of. Enough to be “ok” and to know that it is true that “God’s got this.” I have been the recipient of God doing off the wall crazy over the top things. And, I was reminded yesterday, that God also gives what I always need- enough.

Like I mentioned above, this process has been hard, difficult and stretching me beyond what I thought my capacity for trust was. Yesterday was a bad, crappy day. Thankfully, I was scheduled to go hang out with people I love and cherish. My good friend and I sat on his porch and talked. And though there was no job offer, though there was no “here’s a million dollars I had tucked away for you” type of gifts, what he said were words of peace and truth. What he said was enough. It was enough to re-center me to God’s truths and peace….and joy. It wasn’t over the top, but it was enough.

I wonder where God is providing enough for you today and maybe where you can’t see it because you’re waiting for the lavish indulgence. Let’s see where He is enough for us both today, together.

be blessed today

Meeting Each Other

I really have good people in my life. There are good people that have surrounded my family and I. Encouraging, supporting, willing to call me out on my stuff when I start blaming or throwing myself a pity party. Yep, those kind of good people. I’m not sure where I would be if I didn’t have them. I would probably be living out of my own woundedness and dysfunction more than I already do, that’s for sure.

One of the hardest things for me when I started down my road of recovery was both sharing my own junk freely and letting that float in the air in the room. The listeners were quiet, none of them trying to break up how uncomfortable they felt with handing me a tissue or saying “it’s ok.” Another hard thing was sitting there when someone was sharing their junk and me not trying to make myself feel better by smiling, talking, adjusting my posture in my seat, etc. We all just sat. Quietly.

My first experience with this sitting in silence was in one of the dark times in my life. I wanted God to speak, clearly, as to what He wanted me to do. I was desperately searching for direction. But He was silent. Very silent. And the more I strained to hear anything, the more piercing the silence was. I finally unloaded about this in a  group meeting of other leaders as we went around the circle sharing what God had done in us that week in the San Bernardino mountains. But all I could share through tears was my frustration…and fear. And there it was again, silence….silence from the other 30 people in the room. But this time it felt inviting. It seemed that God was doing, even though He wasn’t saying. I say this in no light terms….it was holy ground.

Henri Nouwen, who knew loneliness and pain, wrote, ” I have always felt that the center of our faith is not that God came to take our pains away, but that He came to share them and I have always tried to manifest this divine solidarity by trying to be as present to people in their struggle as possible. It is most important to be with people where joy and pain are experienced and to them become aware of God’s unlimited love in the midst of our limited abilities to help each other. “

When we hit the wall and the bottom, we feel it. If we lean into it, and consequently God, we come out changed for the better. More grace, understanding, compassion, trust, joy…the list goes on. Jesus meets us in our pain. And, we can meet others in theirs. Who will you meet in their pain today? Who will you allow to meet you in yours?

be blessed today

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The Other Side Of The Wall

We can never, never, fully experience everything another person in this world experiences. It doesn’t matter if you’re the same age, race, gender, nationality, social class….you can never experience everything because you are a different person than they are. Different family history, family structure, personality, talents, etc.

But, you can experience the same feelings. In the last post I wrote about watching loved ones getting ready to hit the wall. I wrote that it’s like watching them in slow motion as they are about to hit rock bottom, and there’s nothing you can do. And it’s extremely hard to watch. However, there is a gift that comes from going through pain. Actually, I believe there are a few gifts that come from going through the pain of anything including hitting the wall. One of those is being able to experience the emotions and feelings going through that painful experience. God created us. He created us in His image. He has feelings and emotions. It is clear in scripture that God experiences anger. His wrath is an expression of that. He has compassion. We see that in a few places, such as growing a plant to shade Jonah from the sun, even though Jonah is living in his own dysfunction. He delights in (or is joyful over ) us. Spend a few minutes reading and you will find many more examples of God and His emotions.

One of the gifts I believe we have through pain is being able to relate to those who are feeling the same emotions we did. If you’ve ever hit the wall, rock bottom, a crisis of limitations, you know how painful it is to watch others head down that road. A similar road, perhaps, you have been down before. It is painful to watch, to receive the rejection at times, from their dismissal of your warning. It’s hard to see people you love go through something that may, may, have been avoided.

God has us go through painful times to learn many lessons. Those lessons are usually about either Him or us. Coming out on the other side, we have a better understanding of who we are, who He is, and who we are in Him. And, those same emotions we felt during that crisis, during that pain, enable us to relate to others. They enable us to come alongside others who are going through similar crises.

Those times are not moments for “I told you so; I tried to warn you but you wouldn’t listen.” No, no shame. Those times are for sitting with the person hurting, confused, lost, in the fog, defeated…broken. Sitting with them. Listening. And empathizing with them. Meeting them in the emotions. That, that sitting, that is a gift. Jesus does that with us when we come to Him in those same times. When we are confused, lost, sitting in the forest unclear where to go next.

Paul sat in a time of confusion, instantly blinded and thrust into full dependence on the people he tried to kill, thrust into total dependence on the Body of Christ. God listened to Moses in those moments as well, allowing him to feel, to speak to God openly. That is a gift. To be that deeply engaged with someone and connect on that level, is something that is beautiful, priceless, holy. And being able to connect on that level with the Creator, the Builder of the universe and time, it’s a gift worth accepting and acting upon.

Will you sit in that with Him? Allow yourself to be open and honest with Him? Will you sit with someone who has hit the bottom? Will you use your gift-your experience to be Jesus to someone else? There is great healing and power in that act.

be blessed today

What Are True Friendships To You?

The past few weeks I’ve been thinking over friendships that I’ve had, the idea of best friends, close friends and the thousand+  friends/contacts I have on social media. I’ve lived primarily out of my passport country, the country of my birth, for over 11 years now. I clearly resonate far more with the younger generations, primarily Millenials, than I do with people my own age or just older than me. I have deep friends in the States still and keep in contact with a few on a regular, sometimes daily basis. I’m thankful for them. A couple of them have gone through the steps of recovery along with me and we continue on that journey together.

Last week I had two similar but distinctly different encounters with friends. One was over a phone call with a friend from the States-a friendship that we’ve had for many many years. The second was on an overnight camping trip here in the countryside with a friend that I have grown closer with the past seven years. After getting off the phone call I noticed something had changed, something was different. Actually it was a feeling that I had been there for a long time, but I wasn’t able to put my finger on what I was feeling. It wasn’t until I read an excerpt from a book by my favorite author, Henri Nouwen, that I could put words with my feelings. As Nouwen was visiting his family back in Holland after living abroad for so many years, he had this to say about his reunion with them, “The feeling of having become something of a stranger in my own family was strong throughout the whole day. I had not seen many of the people at the party for more than a decade. Our reunion made me realize how much had happened to them and to me, and made me sadly aware that I no longer know the soil on which we both stand.”*

That. That was the feeling I had been feeling that night as I hung up the phone. It was more than simply not being in the same culture, it was the notion that the ground in which we used to share commonality was eroded away into something different that I didn’t recognize. Not bad, simply different.

Contrast that with my closest friend apart from Iris. While camping we shared way too many laughs, and more than a few tears as we lived life out together raw and untamed. Our emotions and thoughts intersected as we talked about Jesus, coffee, camping, pain, the beautiful mountains we were in, family, cafe design, beer, and the Bible. There was a common ground, a common struggle and a common core belief that we shared. There is freedom for listening with no need for feedback  as well as freedom for pushback and disagreement. This was relationship at it’s core, and I am so very thankful.

I don’t believe that someone has to go through the exact same thing you have gone through, nor has to be older than you in order for them to understand you better. Though I believe everyone is uniquely made and does go through pain that as a total, is unique to them, I also believe that that same person is able find others who can identify with those same struggles and joys they have when looking at a small group or even a society of other people. Meaning, I believe we are not alone in our struggles nor our joys, that God has people around us who can walk with us and can identify with what we are going through. This is what I experience in true friendship and this is what I seek out.

This isn’t so much a call to action post as it is me simply sharing with you my own growth and learning of who I am in Christ. The friendships I seek out and desire are ones that are life giving and leading me to that end. I will say that part of that also involves pain as we are still people and we will disappoint each other. But, walking through the pain and seeing how that leads to peace and joy, it is worth it. As I was caught in a moment of reflection on that this week, maybe you may be encouraged to reflect on your friendships as well. And may God help you to be incredibly aware of His presence in and among them.

be blessed today

*”The Road To Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey” by Henri Nouwen.

Photo Credit:  me 🙂