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Month: February, 2014

Light-hearted Post: A Home for Boys

In an effort to lighten the mood around these parts, I will be taking monthly breaks to write or relate something a bit more lighthearted than my normal fare. It might be a video about cats, or a story about my sons. Or it might be a terrible joke I just came across. But be prepared it is almost guaranteed to make you smile just a teensy bit. Without further ado, an introduction to my boys, quite often my muses.

The Boys

Judah Boomfist – A quieter boy  (usually), reading before he turned 3 (he is 5 now), he likes books and star wars and making high pitched silly voices. He has a strangely well developed ability to self regulate sugar intake, and will often push a bowl of ice cream away half eaten and announce he is done. (What kid does that?!) He is in kindergarten and is beginning to make friends, this can be difficult for a boy that tends toward the shy side. He likes to wrestle, but often prefers to be on the outskirts, darting in once in a while to kick or poke the enemy (me).

Wyatt the Evermoving – A decidedly not quieter boy at 4 years old, he will wrestle or fight pretty much anything. He is more interested in standing on his head than reading books, but once in a while will settle down long enough for a one. An early riser, 5am is a reasonable time for him to be up and about (he thinks).  On the many occasions that he will crawl in bed with us in the middle of the night, he manages to move, twitch and flip over constantly, even while sleeping (hence the nickname). He loves music, and has a remarkable pitch when singing. He loves video games, and “shows” and will consume them till his eyes fall out, if allowed.

Duncan Strongarm – Our bashful one, at 2 years old, he is a daddy’s boy and will often refuse momma for me. He likes lightsabers and making tiger roars. He often is so effective with his tiger roars that he will scare himself and begin crying. He is just beginning to talk more, to our delight, and usually uses this new-found skill to demand “Nanas” and “Cookies”. He isn’t as interested in TV as his older brothers thankfully, but I am sure that will come. He likes to build blocks and destroy his brother’s Lego contraptions.

In an all-too-often pants-less house of boys, my wife is often overwhelmed and outnumbered. She handles us well.  These are my boys, be nice to them.


Start with the Understanding

In order to do battle one must understand one’s enemy first. For us to banish or process doubt we must understand what it is. Defining this in a way we can understand will go a long way towards creating a mind that correctly and deftly handles doubt.

Webster’s dictionary defines doubt as uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with decision-making. To really grasp this though, we need to look at it on a more fundamental level. Doubt, as we are discussing it, is not really a verb or an action. It is more something that happens to you than something you choose to do. While it usually leads to actions and proactive movement, it is something more primal and base. A mix of instinct and external influences, it is hardly a cognitive construct. One rarely sits down and proceeds to actively doubt something. Instead we begin to see the reason why it is often described as something that invades or sneaks in like a thief. Used in literature, it is often described as almost a spate entity from the character that is experiencing it.

Another important aspect of doubt is that it is a negative entity. Similar to darkness in this respect, it shows itself to be something that is a lack of another thing, rather than a substance in itself. Darkness isn’t so much a thing in and of itself, as it is a lack of light. Doubt isn’t a think so much as it is a lack of a thing, certainty. Certainty is sometimes a tough commodity to obtain and as such in its absence, doubt flourishes.

As we begin to tackle this subject and seek to understand that which we hope to do battle with, we start to organize our war effort. We begin here, to get our ducks in a row, which we must do if we are to have any hope of victory in this fight. Our great enemy doubt can be brought down. It can be vanquished, and that eventual victory is going to find its origination in the seeking of knowledge, of understanding.

A Culture of Doubt

In the West, we have a saying, “Seeing is believing.” How many times have you heard the declaration, “I’ll believe that when I see it”? Hard evidence is valued over trust or belief, almost every time. One can build a friends trust, and have them “believe” in you, but even that is a time-tested process built on temporal evidence. Since the Enlightenment, western man has been so tied up in this Aristotelian notion of the here and now and what that entails. If I can touch it, it exists. Anything I cannot fully understand must be doubted. As a good friend of mine, Ben, says, “We live in a culture of doubt. Doubt should be assumed as it is our starting point.” One is actually out-of-place or odd, if one doesn’t struggle with doubt. Given a proper understanding of Western thought, one can assume a starting place of doubt and it suddenly isn’t so terrifying any more.

So if doubt is expected, or even understood to be our starting point how does that help us? Well, what IS a starting point? Or better yet, what is a starting point not? It is not an end. Just because you have struggles with doubt does not mean you will end with doubt. It is, by nature, a process not a solution, a question,  not an answer. One’s doubt will eventually  lead to a certainty. Whether that certainty will be encouraging or not is another question, but the doubt itself must be transient. Even in our culture, the doubt or skeptical though is only there so one can push through to clarity of thought on the subject.

I spent so many years terrified and paralyzed by my doubt, when I should have realized that all that doubt really was doing was spurring me on to the deeper truths. Doubt is our cultural inheritance but our inheritance does not need to define us. We can go forth and make our own fortune. Go forth!

Doubt of Self

Tempted to despair, we threaten to tip headlong into the abyss of our own darkness. One can recognize this feeling if one looks into a darkened empty room, as if a mirror, and finds kinship there. We identify because of our failures, our lack. We see the dark and shamefully think we know it to be us. Introspection brings with it a certain level of danger in this. We are often encouraged to examine ourselves by popular psychology and after all, Socrates himself told us that an unexamined life is not worth living. While this is true, oftentimes we self-examine to the exclusion of all else. In doing so alone we raise the possibility of self-deception.

Am I an expert? Am I a doctor or psychologist? What, at all, do I know about my fragile darkness within? I may recognize it or even think I know it, but do I have insight? Can I show myself a better way, or a healing path? Any lack of credentials should show me that isolated introspection will only lead to self-deception and despair. And even those with some measure of credentials, what of them? Too many doctors I have seen refuse their own medicine. Too many psychologists, I have seen draw the line when it comes to their own weakness and failings. My own ex-wife was a gifted counselor and psychologist having intuitive insight into other’s lives and mental health. Unfortunately, the buck stopped with her. When challenged, she reverted to that scared, darkened twelve year old girl who had just lost her daddy and desperately needed to grow up.

So what do we do? When Satan tempts us to despair, and throws our own darkness in our face? We needs must turn to him and say, “What of it?” Yes, we are dark, and yes we fail, and even deserve the fallout that might come from that failing. But by God’s grace we don’t need to stop there. Despite our own darkness, despair and weakness we are given a hope and a future. We are given an inheritance and plan. Don’t spend your whole life looking inward, despairing at what you find. Rather, look outward at Him, and what He has promised us. Hope.

Stephen Mattson

Inspiration. Faith. Christian Culture. Writing.

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