justbarelymadeit

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Tag: Retro Post

RETRO POST: Torn Between the Two

November 2006

Everyone says it. I hear it all around me. I am inundated with the same self-help message time and again. Psychology informs me that I cannot be fulfilled anywhere if I am not fulfilled inside. It is often preached from the pulpit and from the street curb. God helps those who help themselves. Be a good steward of the body, mind and heart that God gave you. Protect yourself so you can protect others. These are statements I am given. I am surrounded by books written by famous authors and even theologians that plead with me to focus on myself so I can one day become a whole being, who can then nobly be strong for others. Such are the rationalizations for self-focus.

Enter stage left: a young couple, new joined, and forging ahead in matrimony. He brings with him a deadened past and a starved heart, while she struggles with ugly ghosts of a broken history. They love each other and they love God, and all they want is health for their fragile marriage. They see a counselor, they read books, they focus on themselves and sorting out their own pasts, convinced that they need to reach some level of mental health for their marriage to be acceptable. And yet the more they focus on themselves and the more they struggle the further they get from each other…and worse, from God. Now he is gone, and she is left destitute lying on the ground.

How does that even happen, when all their desires and strivings were only to make it better? Shouldn’t it have worked? Shouldn’t this have done the trick…?

I am torn between two. Do I focus on self-healing…or do I focus on God. Are they mutually exclusive, or can I do one, as well as the other? Sunday school told me to only focus on God, and life told me to focus on myself. Logic tells me to find a happy medium. Scripture is clear that a tree by the water will flourish, and otherwise will dry up and wither. The story of the Israelites is rife with examples of their failings when they allowed themselves to focus on something other than Jehovah. Peter started to sink the moment he took is eyes of the Messiah. So, with that in mind, how connected is spirituality to mental health? Can one be close to God and pursuing His unwavering heart, while being a mental basket-case…Can I be borderline disorder, and yet live each day by faith? Can God still use and touch me even though my tortured past haunts me every dark night?

The clock is slowly ticking its way closer to midnight, and my souls quavers at the darkness that is sure to come…the darkness that is not always washed away by the sun. I yearn for closeness to Him, and I know that He can bring miraculous healing, but that is not the norm, is it? Perhaps that is sometimes why He permits mental anguish. Perhaps that is why depression is so prevalent. Perhaps He wants to teach us something. Perhaps, it is because as soon as I feel strong I run out on my own. Perhaps that is why He allows this cripple to stay this way. Perhaps, some of us might need that. Perhaps

But pondering that only brings frustration. Regardless, I cannot be far from God. I know that. He is my Sustainer, my Water, my Bread. He is the Sun that can wash away that darkness…He can do that, and until He does, I know I need to stay close to Him.

So how much do I focus on God, and how much do I allow myself my selfish pleasures of self-examination and focus? I know now that I cannot ignore the former, and I also know the danger of too much of the latter. Unfortunately, as the clock ticks, and the gloom settles, I find myself sitting here in front of this keyboard, still undecided. I don’t have that answer, yet.

RETRO POST: A Good Recipe for Fighting

– November 2007

Pow! I staggered back, reeling from the blow I had expertly blocked with my jaw. I found myself squared off against Bobby. He was a large boy, significantly larger than me, and he had decked me for some reason I couldn’t quite dredge up at the moment. I only knew I needed to hit him back. I did, and we traded a few blows before we were dragged into the principal’s office. Bobby was actually a friend of mine, and by the time we got to the office the reason for our scrap had been forgotten and we were both grinning sheepishly.

There is an old stereotype that when women fight they hold it in for 6 months, until it explodes into a catastrophic explosion of tears and professions of mutual friendship and love. There are variations of this, but it is always a juxtaposition against men, who will immediately throw some blows, then put their arms around each other and go out for a beer. Of course, this is not always true, but it brings up a thought in my head.

Is fighting bad? Is conflict bad? We are sort of taught that our whole lives in Sunday school, in grade school, in church quite often, on tv, with our brothers and sisters. We are always told not to fight, and that it is harmful and bad. I wonder sometimes, though. Fighting is inevitable, and so is conflict. Where you have two individuals, there will always exist some form of conflict. God has made us different, with the ability to form our own opinions and beliefs. You will never agree totally and completely with another person, and yet we are called to live in close relationship and proximity with these other individuals. So what do we do then? Should we instead, examine conflict itself? What is it about conflict that is so negative, really? It is usually the things said, and the way the conflict is expressed. When you are arguing with your friend/spouse/sibling what really makes you angry and less rational? When you feel hurt, when they insult or attack you directly. There are variations of reasons for hurt and offense, but the fight itself is rarely, if ever, the cause for that hurt.

I look back at my first marriage, and I realize that many of the discussions had to happen. That conflict had to be faced, but oh, how I wish to God that I could have done it differently. So much pain and hurt I caused, because I was an inexperienced fighter. I didn’t know what to do, so when my button was pushed, I turned around and pushed her button right back. What would my life look like if I had stopped trying to avoid fights, and instead tried to learn how to fight? If I had only found a way to fight in a manner that was respectful and Godly, where would I be now? I am not disillusioned enough to think that my marriage failed just because I was mean, but I can’t help but wonder what would have been different.

So next time conflict pops up, where will you be? Are you the type that runs at first sign? Will you come out with all of your guns blazing, in hopes of tearing the other up before they can touch you? Next time try this, stop running, put the guns away, and walk with your head up towards the conflict, and deal with it in a way that God would approve. Fight, and hell, fight well!

Stephen Mattson

Inspiration. Faith. Christian Culture. Writing.

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