triggers.

My abnormal psychology class was the one that made me decide to be a psychology major. It was taught my a great fellow named Dustin Wygant, with whom I bonded on the grounds of football, even though our rooting interests varied (he’s a Bengals fan, and I’m a Steelers fan.)

 

In abnormal, I was taught about the diathesis-stress model of mental illness, which essentially says that we may have the predisposition for a disease, and it may remain latent until it is triggered. Usually, a stress is a big life event: the death of a family member, loss of a job or perhaps more chronic things such as financial struggles, marital struggles, etc.

 

Before I proceed, let me make clear a couple of things that I want you to know before you read this: first off, I want to be respectful towards people who struggle with depression. This may be somewhat disingenuous, and I do not want it to be. Depression isn’t cool, it isn’t trendy, it’s not fun. There are people who struggle with depression more severely and intensely than I do. I’m fortunate enough to be stable most of the time, and I realize not everyone has that luxury.

Second, I want to make clear how my faith and depression can coexist. And, well – I don’t exactly know. That’s part of the struggle. Part of the struggle is that I wish everything were always perfect, I wish I always looked to my faith as the cognitive antidote to depressive emotions, but I don’t. I also know that I’ve managed to be around wonderful people who I consider part of my faith family who uplift and encourage me, and then I go home and still lose my head. I don’t know how it works.

 

I remember when I was a teenager – probably 18 or 19, or somewhere in there, and I texted a friend, saying, “I think I might be depressed.” They called me on the phone, and I can’t remember exactly what they said, but it felt at the time to be something to the effect of, “No, you’re not – Jesus loves you. You’ll be okay.”

That’s true – Jesus loved me then and I know Jesus loves me now, and I know Jesus has loved me through everything I’ve ever done, and everything I’ve ever been through.

But that didn’t help me a whole lot.

It’s kind of disingenuous to make that distinction for someone. And, it may be equally disingenuous to make that distinction for yourself, which is the risk I run at present. I’ve not been to a counselor, I’ve not been diagnosed with depression, or seasonal affective disorder, or anything to that effect. But I know enough about my normal disposition and the lows I’ve experienced to form a hypothesis that I struggle with depression from time to time.

Like this week.

Just a heads up: I’m going to make some honest confessions and talk about some real stuff that I felt and said. It may seem extreme, or it might not. To me, it seemed logical at the time, and that’s what scared me.

This Monday, I was doing just fine – I had gotten to work early, was working at full tilt, got stuff done, and I was looking forward to my Monday night tradition of going to one of my favorite restaurants with my friends after work. At the very end of my shift, I found out that everyone was either tired from work, trying to save money, or other various things, and none of the usual suspects would be going out tonight. I sunk. I took the news not with anger or frustration, just sadness. I felt as though all of my energy had been drained out of me – if there were a way of feeling emotionally what you feel physically after you lose a lot of blood, that would encapsulate it.

And then, on Tuesday, I woke up, got to work, did great, and then with fifteen minutes to go, I cleaned out a customer’s mug, but it turns out he had intentionally put something in it, and he indicated that it was expensive – after I had already dumped it out. I didn’t know what to do other than feel guilty. Cognitively, my brain was stuck on this idea that I didn’t deserve to shrug it off, because I had just cost this guy money. And, even though he said it was okay, why would he indicate that it was expensive? How was I supposed to feel okay about that?

I proceeded to go to the back and pretend to put away some boxes, but I felt all the emotion coming back to me – in the form of incredible guilt and anger towards myself. I told myself not to shed a tear, but I couldn’t help it. I cried. My boss tried to console me, the customer himself tried to console me (he’s a friend, not just a weird stranger) but I was inconsolable. I was upset, mad, and frustrated.

Later in the day I was fine, I came down to Berea to hang out with my little sister and we had a great time, and I got to see my parents and my dog, and I was happy. But then on the way home, driving down the interstate, I felt that drain again. And somehow, it felt a lot worse. My appetite disappeared. I was hungry but I didn’t want to eat. I was thinking about what I wanted to pick up on the way home but suddenly it felt meaningless. In the course of a few miles, I became a temporary nihilist.

I half-heartedly greeted my brother when I came home, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. And then I started weeping – pretty uncontrollably. I confessed out loud (to myself and God) that I felt like I felt like a failure – that I was always letting people down, coming up just short of what was needed of me, that I failed my friends, my parents, my dog, my ex-girlfriend, my old church, God, and on and on down the line. All the bad just sprung back up, and it didn’t stop for a while.

Then, with my head on my warm, tear-soaked pillow, I uttered words that I was surprisingly unalarmed by – “God, I don’t want to wake up.”

Fortunately, I did wake up (that’s one prayer I’m glad God didn’t say “yes” to,) I woke up and fought the need of getting out of bed – I didn’t want to go to work. Not again. Not this early. Not yet. I don’t want to give my whole day to work again. Then more negative thoughts:

All you do is work. You wouldn’t have to work so much if you just planned your work better. it’s your own fault. But it’s not like you do anything outside of work, anyway. And you’re too lazy to do more than one thing in a day – you’re only productive on your own things when you’re not working at the shop. If you were smarter and more motivated, you’d be able to do some personal projects AND work projects in the same day.

I absorbed the thought, I didn’t fight it directly, but I did the only thing I knew to do: get out of bed. It’s true – I didn’t want to go to the shop, so I just went next door to the Starbucks by my house and did some necessary work there.

I’ve heard it said that when you’re depressed, the best thing you can do is the only thing you can do, and the only thing you can do is the best thing you can do: just get up and do something.

See, when I’m depressed, I feel totally depraved. I feel absolutely worthless. I feel drained of energy, I feel drained of value, of motivation, and of ability. So the only way I know to combat that feeling is to actually do something. To accomplish something puts a little fuel in the tank, it gives me that little push that says, “you can do something.”

I wish that it went away so easily – I wish I felt 100% today. I don’t – but I think I at least have some sense of where this comes from and how it came about.

Depression is in my family. My aunt has it and so too, I think, does one of my cousins. Some researchers believe there’s a genetic/hereditary link. Could be the case. If it is, then I know where the predisposition comes from.

As for the triggers, well – where do you even start?

It honestly spirals.

It spirals from acknowledging the things that are hard: moving, breakups, work stress, financial stress, leaving people near and dear to you and trying to find new community, time management, etc

 

to

 

the cognitions about those hard things. So, for instance, it’s one thing to have to move. It’s stressful, sure. But then if you have a cognition that says, “well most people move without a lot of problems – people switch cities all of the time. Why is it so hard for you?” Suddenly, the pressure doubles – not only is there a stressful event, there’s social stress – stress for you to be “normal,” to be able to cope with the things that everyone has to cope with the way that everyone else copes with them.

It’s one thing to have a lot of work to do, and to vent it a little bit, but then you may have a comparative cognition – one that says, “well they manage all of their work just fine, and they still manage to have a normal life outside of it, why can’t you?” Same thing.

 

A lot of stress, at least for me, comes cognitively. It comes from thinking about what I’m thinking about. And, in a way I can’t explain, I can’t stop doing that. I’ve tried to stop. I’ve tried to let things go, and I will continue to try, but it’s a genuine struggle. It’s a genuine struggle to stop caring about what my co-workers think of me and my work ethic; it’s a genuine struggle to shrug it off when my social engagements fall through; it’s a genuine struggle to undertake personal hobbies in the midst of a busy work schedule. It just is.

 

I always hear it said to people with depression: it gets better. And it does, and it has, and it will continue to. And I expect a few pitfalls along the way. In the meantime, I’m grateful for my blog and whoever the heck out there that reads it, for being my therapist, because sometimes I just need to talk it out and share it with the world – even though the world doesn’t read it, it helps to know I’ve been as honest as I can.

on the 2016 presidential election.

Good evening friends, readers, co-workers, and anyone else to whom this post may spread.

I would like to make two quick notes of clarification before I proceed, if I may.

First, given that politics are not usually something I discuss (not because I intentionally avoid them, just because I never saw much of a reason before) I’d like to clear the air, just in case I give an impression like this election matters in the grand scheme of things, as in eternally. My blog usually revolves around spiritual matters, and my spiritual perspective is the same. No matter who wins the election this year or what becomes of the United States of America in the next 50-100 years, my faith statement holds, and my faith doesn’t waiver depending on who’s in office. I don’t see my president as someone who is supposed to carry out the will of God for me, for America, or for the globe. I do believe, however, that we are to steward our gifts. So the way I look at it is that I have been placed as a citizen in the United of States of America which happens to be a democracy, and we have values and ethics and history, and we should do our best to elect someone who will do a good job of stewarding that responsibility. We are a large global presence, and our leader should respect that. So, to the degree that I would expect my president to recognize that weight of stewardship for the presidency, I expect myself and my fellow citizens to recognize the weight of stewardship of our vote.

Second, this post is, in some ways, my endorsement of Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky (my home state.) His policies, philosophies, and perspective resonate with mine immensely, and I will definitely be spreading his message a little bit here, but I want to put this out there first: I want you to know who you’re voting for and why you’re voting for them. Last time I voted in a presidential election, I went to the polls somewhat discouraged, because I had a feeling that I was voting for the lesser of two evils. Not to mention, I went back and forth and back and forth on who I wanted to vote for; I bravely donned my Rick Santorum 2012 bumper sticker for a little while (how far I’ve come…) and I placed a very unconvinced vote that fed into the big red machine that is the Kentucky electorate; ensuring that Mitt Romney would get Kentucky’s 8 votes.

Don’t be 2012 me. Please, please, please; take this election seriously. Consider it your civic duty. Inform yourself. Watch the debates – republican AND democrat. THINK. THINK. THINK. If you hear a candidate say something you like, think to yourself, “how will that come about?” If you hear something you disagree with, make a note, ask questions, have discussions. If Bernie Sanders tells you college is going to be free, ask the question, “how?” If Rand Paul says he’s going to reduce surveillance on U.S citizens but increase surveillance among domestic terrorists, ask him, “how?”

Think of it as a job interview – someone is trying to literally preside over our country. It’s no small job, it’s no small task. You can’t just boil it down to them saying something nice about God in their answer, or the fact that they like guns, or the fact that they’re pro-gay marriage or anti-abortion or against Common Core. Please take a look at the candidates and decide who you comprehensively agree with. Let this election be one decided by your conscience and intellect, not just the media. Don’t let the candidate with the most money or the best orator win.

That said…

It’s said every election, but I sincerely believe that this election is extremely telling of our future as a nation. We have a field of candidates that have very different ideas, and whoever is elected will shape the next four years, which will shape the next four, and the next four, and so on and so forth. The question is this: what’s the greatest challenge facing our nation, and what can we do about it?

It’s not an easy question to answer. Some say ISIS. Some say national debt. Some say problems in our criminal justice system. Some say immigration. Some say climate change. Some say education reform. In a certain sense, it’s up to you to decide which is the biggest problem, but I’d like to argue that it’s our national debt.

Debt is not a healthy thing. It’s a normal thing, but it’s not a healthy thing. Debt is financial slavery, if you boil it down to its purest definition. It’s a liability – a favor someone (whether it’s a person or a corporation) has done for you for which you now owe. And, let’s be clear about this: borrowing more money doesn’t mean you have more money. If I owe $1,800 on a credit card and get within $200 of my limit, I don’t make myself financially stronger by going out and getting another credit card, I make myself weaker. I add liabilities to be placed against my assets.

That’s what’s happening right now with our national coffers. We are spending money out of our ears on federal programs, funding international efforts, the military, education, the prison system, etc. The worst part is that if we took a different stance on some issues, we’d cut our spending immediately, but since we choose certain stances, we choose a lose-lose scenario. For instance, the prison system. If we didn’t criminalize drug use the way we do, we would cut back incarceration significantly, which means that there are less meals on the government’s books, and there are a lot less people for the government to support (because where does money for the care of the inmates come from? That’s right – the government, which in other words is taxpayer money.) So the liberal solution is this: we need more money? Let’s borrow it. Let’s borrow it from other countries, let’s print it at the federal reserve (money which has no actual backing, we’re literally just printing it) or let’s just tax everyone more. But while we’re already overspending, why don’t we try to make college free? Why don’t we try to make healthcare free? So we create more programs, we spend more money, we borrow more money until eventually, we are eighteen trillion dollars in debt. That’s real: we are eighteen trillion dollars in debt. we borrow a million dollars a minute. For every taxpayer in this country, there are $158,000 of debt.

And, the big problem with debt is that the more debt we have, the less of a player we make ourselves in the global economy.

 

It’s just like personal finance in that regard – you can’t afford to keep outspending yourself. And the more you borrow, the more you owe. And the more you owe, the more people you have to pay off, and the more people you have to pay off, the bigger risk you run of being unable to pay them back.

When you have a credit card, you can spend money on it as long as you make your monthly payment. Maybe it’s $20. Cool. You can afford that. But then you get another one and rack up more debt, now you’re paying $40 a month in MINIMUM credit card payments. But you keep approaching your credit limit on both cards so you get another one. $60. And another. $80. And another. $100. And on and on and one until the income you make isn’t enough to even pay off your credit card bills, let alone pay for everyday expenses.

That’s not EXACTLY what’s happening with this country (I think there may be something to be said for the assets we have, and our assets:liabilities ratio) but it’s not entirely far off, either. We keep raising the debt ceiling (or suspending it altogether) and we haven’t made any progress on the debts we owe.

All that is to say, it seems to me that the biggest problem we face as a nation is one we’ve created ourselves: debt.

I think debt makes us a weaker foreign player. In every respect: the global economy, the ability to fund our military and protect ourselves, the domestic economy, etc. It may not be directly a national security issue, but it is linked to the issue of national security.

Debt is slavery, and slavery, we decided a while back, is not a good thing.

I think debt is just one example of how our government has gotten far too big. Our federal government is into having a say in everything from marriage to drugs to military to economic matters to surveillance to healthcare to college to the education system – we grow federal programs so big that we have to take out a loan to fund them, and we’re weaker for it. A big government doesn’t help anyone. A small government does. A government that will get out of the healthcare business and let the healthcare market regulate itself will get you the best prices; not taxing citizens more to provide a “government-funded” healthcare system.

Our government wants to decide what marriage is instead of leaving that to the states.

Our government (or, at the very least, some of the republican candidates) wants to get involved in overseas conflicts, becoming the world’s policemen when we still struggle with domestic security.

Our government wants to increase surveillance, collecting more and more phone records without the use of a warrant, going against your 4th amendment rights.

Our government (or at least some of the democratic candidates) wants to raise taxes, taking more and more money from out of our pockets to fund their already-too-big programs, and to mandate their educational programs on the states (when it is the state’s right to decide) and cut checks to Iran in prisoner swaps.

Our government is too involved.

It’s gotten bigger and bigger, it continues to get bigger and bigger, we spend more money than we earn and we borrow more money than we can afford to pay off, and at some point, it has to stop.

That’s why I’m voting for Rand Paul.

People criticize Rand Paul for, well…his curly hair, his loud intonation at the first presidential debate, and the fact that he’s running for senate and president at the same time, Rubio calls him an isolationist because he (Rand) thinks regime change is a bad idea and thinks we should get our noses out of foreign business.

(please feel free to search for more of his stances on foreign policy on youtube or on google.)

Donald Trump criticizes him for his poll numbers. Peter King criticized him for wanting to decrease surveillance instead of increase it. Chris Christie wants Rand to go before congress for defending 4th amendment rights.

Is that it? Is that all of the criticism we have against him? If so – I’ll take it. I’ll take a president criticized for defending constitutional rights, for letting the free market be a free market, for not spying on me and my friends, and for knowing when we should and shouldn’t intervene. I’ll take a president who is intellectual and proactive enough to see through the ramifications of his decisions.

Make no mistake: a Rand Paul administration would hurt for a little while. Money might get tight. We might let states make decisions on things that…well, they should be allowed to decide, instead of the government. You might have a little liberty under a Rand Paul administration (God forbid.) But a Rand Paul administration will begin to deal with the problem of massive government, which is a problem we need to fix (and soon) or else the America we know and love will be gone in a few generations.

As much as I’d love to say “mark my words” or “take my word for it” – I don’t want you to take my word for it. I want you to do your research, I want you to listen to the town hall meetings of various candidates, I want you to read their twitter feed, see what they’re about, and make up your mind. Don’t let CNN or MSNBC decide the election before it’s done.

seventy times seven…

I think the factor on which the definition of redemption hinges is the definition of suffering. That is, your suffering is not my suffering, and my suffering is not your suffering – we all struggle with different things, we are all scarred by different things, we react to different things.

The nature of testimonies is that they differ – one person’s testimony is one that happened outside of the church, with drug and alcohol addiction, pornography, sexual addiction, etc. Another’s is that they grew up in church, got tired of it, left, and eventually came back.

I’m going to be honest – I hate my testimony. I don’t hate my testimony because it isn’t a good story – I hate it because it doesn’t seem right to me. It’s the classic case of the struggle with grace: if my story were someone else’s, I’d have no problem with it and I’d applaud the goodness of God through it – but because it’s me, I have a harder time accepting it.

I have a hard time accepting that a guy who followed Jesus for nine and a half years could throw it out the window (after he knew so much better) abandon the morals and values that a wonderful group of people instilled in him, and then begin to mock the very institution (the church) that made him the way he is, or was.

 

It infuriates me.

But only because it’s me.

 

But, on the other hand, I’ve forged a path long enough to know that it’s a dead end.

 

I’ve forged a path where I try to strike some balance between the intense negative feelings I’ve had in the last year – fear, anger, bitterness, worry, anxiety, vitriol, personal injustice, jealousy, envy, etc – and the older fruits I once bore – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; trying to return to those fruits, but allowing them to be stained with the cynicism, doubt, and unbelief that got me into the mess.

 

That misses the point of radical grace, and I know that well enough to know it.

 

So, like I usually do, I write this without an end in mind, but with a move in mind – I know that it’s not all going to change overnight, but I know it changes with an encounter with Jesus – I know that I’ll never understand forgiveness until I experience His again. And, I know that He wouldn’t ask His disciples to forgive their brother seventy times seven if He wouldn’t do so Himself, with the same intensity, the same love, the same clean slate every single time.

little brother, big brother; a brief lament and celebration of the church.

Some days, I think nobody has a bigger problem with Christianity than I do. Then again, mine are usually mere annoyances; I’ve never been severely hurt by anyone in the name of Christ.
But, I get frustrated with a lot of things.

I get frustrated with how differently it can be interpreted: from traditional black gospel to big-hair, sparkly-dress, shiny suit, hair gel televengelists, from monasteries to megachurches, from Presbyterian to Pentecostal, from highly musical to amusical, from conservative to liberal, from quiet, calm, and reflective to loud, raucous, and thoughtless; I don’t really understand how a message about humanity and the savior who came to intervene can be so widely misunderstood (if it is indeed misunderstood, although one could argue it is.) I reckon it has a lot to do with experience: the rich don’t know the sufferings of the poor, and vice versa; therefore a rich man may see God as a provider while a poor man may see God as a kind companion, even if his physical needs aren’t met. Or, a person who lives in a quieter part of the world (say, the woods, the country, or the wild) may see God more as a majestic creator, while a person who works and lives in a fast-paced, competitive, corporate society may see God as a rule-maker, approaching the Bible (and in that, presumably, his faith) for guidelines on how to ethically conduct his business.

I get frustrated with the little rules and the little ways in which you’re supposed to honor people; I don’t like the thought that I should not do something because it might cause someone else to stumble. I want to drink alcohol when I want it, because I know I won’t get drunk (most of the time.) I want to say a four-letter word if I accidently hurt myself or make a mistake; or if I’m watching a movie and want to react to even a fictitious circumstance.

I get frustrated with how people go and sanitize Christianity – how it’s not of the world, but it doesn’t really seem like it’s even in the world to start with. It becomes so clean, so sanctioned, so quarantined, that it finds everything – from someone saying “shit” to finding out that someone slept with their boyfriend – absolutely appalling. (But, where do you get that shock? Not from Jesus: remember how Jesus talked to tax collectors [professional extortioners] and prostitutes [professional sexual favor-givers] as normal people, and dined with them, and didn’t find them disgusting?)

I get frustrated when Christians are only friends with each other – when the youth group stays the youth group forever, and it winds up with dysfunctional adults incapable of engaging with the guys at their office because they’re scared of what’ll be said in the locker room or at the water cooler.

I get frustrated with the people who make Christianity non-stop positivity, as if it’s easy to just change your mood. Yes – hope is eternal, but humanity is fickle. It is not easy (although, I’ll concede that it’s possible) for a brain to react to cognitive change all at once, that is, if I wake up to a headache right ahead of a long work day, and cut my face shaving, I don’t so easily forget all of the hard things when I look in the mirror at my bloody face and pulsating brain and say, “Jesus loves me!”
Let me let George MacDonald speak:
“That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to Him, ‘Thou art my refuge.'”

That is, it’s not that our negativity wins out; but it’s not that positivity suddenly reigns, either. It’s that in the midst of all of it – we just come to Him.

I get frustrated with the people who call God nicknames and walk into places looking for who they can “speak a word over.” Me and one of my friends call each other “buds buds,” but I’m not going to talk about her to anyone else as “buds buds,” because they would have no idea who I’m talking about and they’d think I’m a lunatic. I call her Alex. If you’re talking about God, you can call Him by His name [or, the one that most people in your culture are familiar with] in our instance: God.
Also, be perceptive. I don’t think Jesus went into every party, every marketplace, etc looking to speak. In fact, He was probably happy to be quiet a lot of the time (maybe I’m projecting.)

I guess the central thread holding all of this together is the thread of interpretation, and, of course, all of my opinions presently expressed are simply interpretation. As sad as it makes me, I’m not the ruler of Christianity, and whatever I say does not actually go!

No, if anything, it’s the thing that makes the church the church: how it can drive me absolutely crazy, and yet I can’t walk away from it (even when I tried!) Even when God’s people make me absolutely crazy, I still love them. They’re God’s big family. They’re my crazy, annoying little siblings who embarrass me in public, and who sometimes I go to the bar to have a drink and get away from them. But, other times, they’re the sibling I’m at the bar with, drinking and crying my eyes out. Sometimes they’re the sibling who are screaming in the car and make me want to tear my ears out other times they’re singing softly while I relax and rest. Sometimes, they’re the dad who says the truth when it’s out of line; sometimes they’re the dad who tells the truth in love, gently and honestly. Sometimes, they’re the mother who has to tell me, “no;” sometimes, they’re the mother who cooks a big, hot meal and serves up a slice of cake after dinner. It’s a constant ebb and flow, and I always have to come back to this:

God loves His church.
So should I.

becoming front-footed.

Dear friends,
I know you must be exhausted by the number of New Years posts on your various social media news feeds – so, sorry to add to your misery. I used to be like that, except recently I’ve come to buy into the power of human consciousness – that there’s something to be said for everyone being on the same page at the same time – kinda like Christmas. Christmas is Christmas because everyone is celebrating it at the same time (now, there’s a discussion to be had about what exactly people are celebrating, but that’s for another day.)

So, I have come to love New Years because yes – while you should be able to “turn a new leaf” whenever you want – there’s something to be said for the chance to do it when everyone else is, too.

The other day, I found myself in the familiar surroundings of Madison County, where I’m from. I sat on a couch I hadn’t sat in for about a year, having a conversation with a man who is a dear friend of mine, a man I’ve seen all too little over the course of this year – my old pastor.

As the visit approached, I was going over in my head how the conversation would go, what all we would talk about. What a year! I mean, a year earlier, he’d released me with the blessing of the church, and effectively, that was that. I barely saw him or my old church family for the next year.

The landscape has changed a lot over 2015. I work a lot more, I see a whole different set of people, I traveled to a few new places, etc.

And, if I’m frank – it hasn’t been a very good year. I don’t mean that to complain, I don’t mean to say that things haven’t gotten a lot better since they got worse, but if I’m realistic, there have been some low lows this year. I’ve made my biggest mistakes this year, I’ve let my temper get the better of me, I’ve dealt with more bouts of anxiety and histrionics than ever before – it just…wasn’t a good year.

But that visit couldn’t have come at a better time.

Because this was the man who taught me what it is to be a man – how to make tough choices, how to be disciplines, how to be loved, and how to love others. How to love God, how to approach the Bible, how to be honest, how to be real.

How to live life on the front foot.

I’ve been considering that idea for a long time now, and I think that within the dynamics of that statement lies the summation of how I saw last year and how I hope to approach this one.

2015 can be described as: undisciplined, selfish, mistake-riddled, unbalanced, unsure, anxious, fearful, cautious, desperate. Reactive. Reactive in a lot of ways – in how I dealt with a text message being ignored; in how I worked; in how I used my spare time; in how I spent my money; in how I dealt with broken/fractured/failed relationships; in how I saw the church; and so on and so forth.

I got rocked by a lot of change, and as a result I’ve been living on the back foot. Defensively.

But I think it’s better to live on the front foot – to be proactive. To make choices about your friendships ahead of time, to make decisions about your money and your work, to plan your schedule and your time, to be proactive in your thought life, to love people, to keep your eyes up instead of constantly on yourself – that’s life on the front foot.

And that’s a life that sounds a hell of a lot better to me.

So the question remains, how do you get there? And, to return to my preacher’s roots, I prefer to approach it theologically.

I think that these sorts of issues often boil down to whether you see yourself as just another orphan, or as a son. Orphans live from a place of searching for love and acceptance, and refusing to believe that the love they receive is permanent – it is a drop of water in the desert instead of a stream. It helps, but it doesn’t satisfy.

Sons live from a place of being loved, and let that love inform all their actions, behaviors, decisions, and cognitions. Love is their schema. They don’t have to form another one.

And how easy it is to forget that God, in the person of Jesus, took all of the necessary actions to take us from orphans to sons – that said action is irrevocable, and our names our written, never to be erased.

That’s where it starts. That’s where it ends. It all starts with love – with being loved so that you can love others. With being secure in who you are so that if you find yourself rejected by others, you know you’re loved by the very person who made you.

And nothing else (I finally, after two years of preaching it and a year of wrestling with it, realize [at least for a moment]) matters.