I Did What You Told Me

I did what you told me

Cause I was still young

I did what you told me

Cause I trusted you’d found

The path to the light

Which was dimly lit

But you kept screaming

Look how bright it is

 

Now that I’m older

I have learned how to see

Now that I’m older

I have learned some things

For some the bright light shines

For others it gets lost in the trees

But what I’ve found

The light is the hope we need

 

 

She Ran

“I’m just warning you, this is the point where I start pulling away.”

When she told me that I thought, “I’m the king of pulling away and not getting too close, I can handle this. Just give it time and it will all shake out how I want it to.” So far, it has not. She pulled away, I pressed and made my intentions known that I wanted to get to know her more. I wanted to get to know her on a one on one level instead of drunk nights with friends. Don’t get me wrong, I liked us all hanging out and was having a ton of fun but for whatever reason I was drawn to her and wanted to get to know her on a more personal level. This is actually very unusual for me.

The last time I saw her she was literally running away from my friend and me. She and her friend got to their Uber and she, what seemed like was out of guilt, walked back five steps and looked at me standing on the curb perplexed and said simply “Bye Dayton.”

The conversation that led to that fleeing moment was spurred after I looked at her and said I could not figure her out and that I liked hanging out with her and would like to do it more. “Why me” she asks. “You could have any girl in this place, why me?”

“I don’t want the other girls, I like you.” was my simple response. It didn’t work.

She goes on with, “What do we even have in common? I like to be social and bounce around and have fun. I’m seeing other people and I hope you are too. Matter of a fact I have a date to a wedding this weekend. I don’t know how you would do in a situation like that. You should be more confident. You are a catch why wouldn’t you be more confident.”

This is where I get defensive because I know I am a quiet person. I don’t like to be the center of attention. But I love to be social and have fun. It just looks different with me. I know I am a good looking guy but I don’t want to be known as that good looking guy that is a good time. I would rather someone have a real conversation with me and walk away thinking that I am genuine and intelligent and probably not what they thought I was at first glance. It is almost like I put myself in a catch 22 all the time. I don’t want to be that obnoxious outgoing person because I don’t want to be a douche bag. So instead, I’m the quiet person that comes across as an asshole. I want to be known for my mind and my heart but I won’t speak it often enough for someone to get to know it. It does not make sense and I know this. I often think that my mind is not right.

Oh the frustration in that moment. The loss of words. I just want to scream “If this is how you see me then you don’t know me at all. If this is how you see me then that is all the more reason that we should try to see each other in a different way so we can get to know each other.”

I don’t want to be the former frat guy hanging out at the meat market bar. Do I get along with those guys, yes. Do I enjoy a lot of them, yes. I am not hating on it. Some of my best friends are those people. That is just not me. Congratulations, you know more people at the popular bar for 20 somethings… I have news for you, I’m not 20 something anymore. I don’t want to talk about how much money I made selling commercial insurance last month or the Dave Matthews Concert I saw last week. I saw Dave enough times ten years ago before Tim Reynold’s cheesy ass electric guitar got added to the mix. I still like the music but my tastes have expanded. I listen to weird indie music. I listen to old soul music, classic country, Jazz. My favorite songs by Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones were never hits. I like black and white movies. I like books that are filled with emotion, life meaning, and conviction. I love people. I love people with tattoos. I love gay people. I love people who do drugs. I love people who sit at the same bar everyday when they get off work because that is their way to unwind from the day. I love these people because they are the people that are not ashamed that they don’t have this whole life thing figured out. I like them because I am one of them, I don’t have this shit figured out.

I can put on the show and show people that I ‘have my shit together.’ To most people I do. I have a fantastic job, nice truck, house, friends, and even a dog I love and take care of. I have family members who call my life charmed. It’s a compliment from them. One of them thinks good shit just falls in my lap over and over again. I do get put in great situations but it’s not all luck. First off it is God’s plan. Second, I work my ass off at whatever I do. Third, I’m a really good listener and learner. Fourth, I try to set my ego aside when dealing with people.

I want to know why someone acts the way they do and how they ended up in the position they are in. I think people and relationships with them is the most valuable thing we have in this short life. So, why waste time with the small talk with ten people when I could have a real conversation with two or three people. Maybe it is just the way I am wired.

I say all this defensively because I am social and I connect with people well and love to do it. Am I going to start the dance ring at the wedding, probably not. But I will strut my ass down the line when it comes to my turn. I say all this defensively because this is also where I am the most insecure in myself.

 

In the five seconds that all these thoughts were going through my head, she ran. She ran. She ran. She ran. Me, left in her tracks with my friend asking “Dude, what did you say?”

“I have no fucking clue” is all I could say. Because I didn’t.

And then she was gone. The date I had asked her on for the next night was canceled. I have just bounced around this conversation that we had at a busy bar after too many drinks in my head over and over again. I know that conversation was not the problem, I think. She had warned me about pulling away and that it was coming. I ignored the warning and thought that I would overcome it. In the most arrogant way that I can say it, I have had a girl walk away like that only one other time and she came back the next day and apologized and we went out a couple times. I’m not much of anything special but I can usually get a date, an actual real date out of somebody. Not this one though and it drives me nuts. Matter of a fact, it might be the only reason I want to take her on a date now, because she ran.

 

I’m going to get off course here for a little bit now because there are some things I need to air out before I start letting you know how filthy of a person I am. First off, I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and descended from Heaven, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as punishment for the sins of those who believe in Him, and defeated death and Satan when he rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God our Creator. I believe this with all my heart. I believe this with all my heart yet I doubt it every single day. I question it every single day.

To steal something from “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken when he refers to love, I would like to use the metaphor for hearing God. This is a paraphrase that will get butchered because I am too lazy to look it up in the book. ‘Someone in the jungle might hear a hyena and think it is a lions roar, but when that same person in the jungle hears a lions roar, they know it is a lion.’ I feel the same way about our faith. You may hear a call and it could be right on, but when God speaks to your heart, you know. God’s voice is scary as shit and I run away from it. This is a different story all together.

Anyways, this knowing God calling me to Him is how I know I believe. Some might read the things I write and do and wonder how someone who is a Believer could live like that. I am guilty of letting my internal sins manifest and turn into drunkenness, sex, and mainly more drunkenness. There are other things there too but alcohol is novocaine to my mind and soul and when I can’t shake what is going on in my mind and heart it helps a lot. Then my desire to be wanted and ability to get what I want takes over and that is where the women and sex come in.

I am not out having sex or hooking up with girls all the time but I am guilty of letting it happen. Most of the time sex is not an option because I’ve drank enough to where my penis won’t work properly. While we are putting it all out there, I also poop. I poop and it usually smells really bad. My feet stink too.

I can get into all my fucked up paths that lead to certain sins but that will come at another time. I really want to address, in this break of the story, one of my problems with Christian culture literature. It seems that people are only allowed to write a Christian book or talk about stuff once they have come out on the ‘other side’ of their struggle. I have not come out on the other side. I am neck deep in my filthy, dark, mud pile of sin. In my time on this Earth, I will not EVER come out on the other side of all this sin. It’s the nature of us. Now, am I saying I will forever struggle with being a drunk, absolutely not. But I will always be in sin while I am in this body on this earth. That is why I have such a need for Christ and the cross and the resurrection. Because there will always be that struggle.

Let me give you an example, mainly because I would like to boast about the overcoming of a sin that I had major conviction about and hated. I love watching porn. I think naked women are beautiful and watching them in sexual situations is something I have watched a lot of for many years. I would say that I was off and on addicted to watching porn. It was something that released the right neurons in my brain when I was feeling lonely and it would appease me for a little while. I never liked it though. My same love for people of all types convicted me of how I looked at these beautiful women as merely objects (again, in real life women this is a struggle too but we will talk about that later as well). I would watch and wonder how does this beautiful girl end up doing porn? Was it daddy issues that everyone jokes about? Was it a drug problem? Does she truly just love sex and does not have a moral problem with it? Were there no other options for her? Is it mild fame or money? I would ask all these things in my head, sometimes while masturbating, and then when it was finished, I would feel bad because I knew I was part of the problem.

For so many of the reasons I just asked, if people like me did not click on the web sites that showed the advertising, then there would not be the money to pay these girls and lure them into the business. For what is worth, I was a part of the problem.

I had a friend of mine, Larry, who is the most loving and open person I have ever known talk to me about porn. He said “Wouldn’t it be nice if/when you meet your wife you could honestly say that you do not watch porn?”

In my head it just clicked. God’s conviction in my heart plus a little kick in the ass from Larry, I just quit. Totally God’s grace because even while writing this, I have visions running through my head of ass and titties.

For Christian culture, I am now qualified to write a book about overcoming porn addiction because I have not watched it in several months. But I am not qualified to write about the struggle of alcoholism, being a drunk (I am a fun drunk), or using girls to boost my ego when I feel rejected. It makes no sense. I think people are tired of hearing the super heroes talk about how they once were in sin but are no longer. The transparency of hearing someone stumble through their life and need your help makes you love them so much more. Maybe I can write through my dirty trudge through the mud puddles of life and be a source of camaraderie to a fellow struggling sinner that has a desire to follow Jesus.

I do not take Grace for granted. Well, that is a lie. We all do. So before you start pointing fingers at me saying I cheapen God’s grace with my sin, please explain to me how you are not doing the same exact thing with your sin of pride. I am just broken enough to say that I am fucked up and my only hope to ever do right is in Christ. Any good I do is Christ in me, I just want to strive to have more of him in me so I do more good and love people better.

 

Do you know what the worst part about when she ran is? The unknown. If I had gotten a little frisky and made an inappropriate move on her and she ran, that would make sense. But that did not happen, not that night anyways.

The girl that ran I am going to name Runner. I would use her real name but I can’t do that to people. Plus that would destroy any chance I ever have of actually taking the girl on a date one day. I would have just kept referring to her using pronouns but it might get complicated when I introduce another character into my self-created, real life saga.

Runner is a cool chick. She reminds me of my sister in many ways but my favorite part about her likeness to my sister is the ability to banter with the guys. They both grew up being the little sis, so they learned by growing up with the guys. I like this in the runner for some reason. She is the kind of girl that doesn’t blow you away the first time you meet her but by the time you hang out with her several times, you have formed a crush on her and can’t wait to see her again.

She moved back to Birmingham close to a year ago. She moved in with one of my best friend Coley’s ex-girlfriend. His ex told me she wanted me to meet her, which we did one day but that was nothing beyond the greeting. This Spring, Coley and I started running into her and her friend around town and we would end up just hanging and talking some. Still, truly no thoughts of it going anywhere. It was not really even on my mind because I was secretly seeing someone on a regular basis. We will call her Charlie.

Charlie and I had been hanging out on a regular basis for a good while. We were sexually active and I thought the sex was really good. She was my very good friend for a while and would listen to me bitch and complain about life like nobody else would ever have the patience to. I miss her a lot but we were not going anywhere. She was my companion but she was also my companion that kept me from taking any steps forward because we kind of got into a comfort zone, or a rut. I felt like I was missing out on a lot of opportunities for trips and hanging out with new people. Also, she is around 40 years old and did not see a family in the future, which is something I desire if God graces me with that. There are a lot of other reasons that we could not be but I can’t get into that right now.

Mentally I had a rough few weeks in a row. I was really doubting God and why he was putting some of my most faithful friends through really challenging situations while he let me plug along in my life of sin without true heartache. Still a source for questions and doubt often for me. I can logically and theologically and reasonably make sense of it all but in my heart, I get filled with anger that my friends go through those hard times. I remember as a 15 year old, not a true believer in the sense of knowing what I believed, but I remember praying to God that he would take pain from some other kid in the world and give it to me. And I cried, for hours in my bed, and I am not sure why. For some reason there is something in me that says “Mess with me and it’s fine, I can handle it, but do not mess with my people.”

I remember hearing about my sister getting into it at the Nick with a couple of the bike gang members for her trying to squeeze behind the ‘leader’ to get outside. I was so thankful that I happened to not be there that night or else I would have died fighting some biker gang outside the Nick. I tell that story mainly to say I care for my sister more than anyone else in this world and I will kill you if you mess with her. I WILL KILL YOU. Kidding, but not really.

Back to the story… my thoughts about life and where Charlie and I were started to snowball and I couldn’t see where we were going, but I was a wreck emotionally and she was my go to consoler. She showed me so much grace during this time yet being the selfish asshole I am, I just walked away from it. I didn’t really have the balls to walk away from it. I didn’t even handle it right with her when I walked away from it. But when I had this little spark in my head that I might like the runner, it was my nudge out the door. It’s fucked up really. I feel bad but I don’t know what to do about it. It was time to move on.

 

The Runner, Coley and I ended up at a bar day drinking one Saturday. She had friends come meet us which turned to dinner which turned into more drinking at the bar. We all had a great time. Somehow I ended up with the runner at her apartment with a soft cooler of Miller Lite sitting on her front lawn chairs with her listening to music and talking until 3 am. I wish I could go back to that moment.

I was invited to stay at her place and I accepted as long as I could take a shower before getting in bed. At this point I’m digging this girl pretty hard but I have zero intentions of trying to have sex with her for a couple reasons. First, because I was really liking her and I thought it might fuck up things. Second, I had probably drank more alcohol that day than you have in the past month total, so there was no chance in hell I was going to get hard. Very wholesome reasons I know.

We did begin kissing. You know when you’re used to kissing someone that when you kiss someone new it is sometimes awkward? This was a little awkward. Not bad just out of rhythm. I have had those kisses that the first time is just easy and it’s like bam, that is a good kiss. This was not one of those moments. It was also not like the girl I kissed a few times that was the most awful kisser ever. The most awful kisser ever I kept trying to kiss on different occasions hoping that she might have learned something. She never did. I tried to subtilely get her to relax but that never happened. It was so bad I might as well have been trying to make out with my Miller Lite bottle. So the runner wasn’t the best first kissing experience but it was definitely not the worst. We had a chance, just had to get dancing to the same beat.

Kissing led to feeling and feeling led to me getting a semi-erection. This shocked me considering my state. As they say, there is only enough blood in a man to control one head. Ones I started getting hard, I quit thinking and next thing I know I am working my way in her. With her on her back and lifting her hips up to get a good angle I remember we had some type of readjustment that threw me off. Then I felt like I was losing my hard on. Then I started thinking about losing my hard on and once you start thinking about it, it’s probably lost. I remember rolling off and covering my face. She asked what was wrong and I could only utter “I just mind fucked myself.”

I wish I could sit here and tell you that in the middle of sex I had a wave of conviction and I just could not go on anymore, but that would be a bold faced lie. We never talked about this situation.

Looking back, was this the beginning of the end? Probably so. One, we should not have had sex and we have both admitted to that to each other. Two, did I fuck with her ego or something that made her start pulling away (emotionally) because she thought she wasn’t pretty enough for me to stay hard while having sex with her? It’s possible. I could have done a few different things to remedy the sex side of the situation and boost her ego. I did not come up with this on my own by the way. I am not that smart. I could have woken up the next morning and ‘fucked the shit’ out of her as one person later advised. I could have had the balls to talk about it the next day and affirm with her that I think she is gorgeous and that I am sexually attracted to her. Or I could do what I did and not ever mentioned it or even try to really kiss her again, which is not a remedy at all, it just so happens to be what happened. Oh the desire to go back to that night before I started fucking things up.

We hung out the next two days at different peoples houses for cookouts. Never alone. I asked her on a date for Thursday night and she said yes. An hour and a half before I was supposed to pick her up she canceled. She had a shitty work week and had just picked up a early morning case (she’s in medical sales) that she had to get things ready for. Even with an excuse that’s a shot to the ego. My job is not as important as somebody’s pacemaker working, but I think if I really wanted to see someone I would have made it work. Charlie used to tell me “We do what we want to do.” I hated hearing that because it’s so damn true.

I was originally going out of town that weekend but my plans got canceled so I ended up in town. We kind of made up the Thursday night date with drinks and apps at a couple places. I think she got bored with me because the next move was that we went and kidnapped Coley from his house and we all went out to the bar. At the end of this night, we shared an Uber with Coley and I took her home. I basically invited myself in without the intention of staying because my dog was at home. She also made it very clear that I was not staying there. This was the night that I got my fair warning. She told me “”I’m just warning you, this is the point where I start pulling away.”

 

The next afternoon, after licking my wounds from the previous nights debauchery by sweating it out doing yard work, I inquired what she had going on that evening. She was going to Otey’s, which is one of my companies restaurants, with some friends. I don’t like to go drinking and hanging out at restaurants that I help run, so I was not going to go up there. She said that she would let me know if they changed locations. I never heard anything. I did not want to be the pathetic poor boy that just waited around for her to say come on over here so I started putting feelers out to see what other people were doing. Meanwhile I started killing the Tito’s and water at the house.

I ended up at this mini music festival and the bar with a group of people. One of which was my friend Sara who has had a thing for me since college. We have hooked up a few times before and she ended up latching on. We stayed the night together unfortunately. Not because I don’t like Sara but because it was a total ego move. My pride was hurt and I used Sara to make myself feel needed. I am a fucking douche.

Sunday I went to the lake and decided the next weekend I was going to the lake regardless and I would invite people. Specifically there was one person I wanted to come and that was the runner. I invited Coley and a handful of others. The funny thing about the lake is that I have had what I call the ‘Lake Test’ since I was sixteen years old. If a girl can go to the lake, spend the night and the next day and still look good, she’s got a good thing going on. The lake could have totally been a point where I started running from the runner. It didn’t happen that way though.

I went up to the lake Friday night and cleaned the boat and the dock and everything I could to impress. I have never, ever, spent that much time cleaning that place for someone else. I worked on the boat until 2 am and then turned around and was up at 6 am doing more work. Later on my dad called me out at a family dinner and said “You either had a female touch helping you clean or you were really trying to impress someone because that’s the cleanest you have ever had that place after a weekend.”

We had a good group come up to the lake on Saturday and stay until Sunday. I thought it was a lot of fun but I probably did not give the runner the attention I would have liked to because I was playing host a little bit and also I was really questioning whether or not she liked me at the point in time. I probably wore that on my sleeve and was protecting myself on this trip. I passed out on the couch at the end of the night and did not even attempt a kiss or to sleep in the same bed as her. I still had a chance at that point in time and I did not capitalize on it.

 

Back from the lake and the runners go to wing woman back in town, we went to drinks Tuesday night. Coley and I and the two of them. I’m really letting this stuff get to my head and not able to figure out whether she likes me or not. Maybe I’m just too boring or maybe I’m just… shit, I don’t know anything. I asked her to go out to dinner with me that upcoming Friday and she agreed. We also made plans as a group to go to the baseball game on Thursday as a group.

Thursday approached and the weather sucked. In our group texts there were questions of whether or not we were going to do anything at all because of the weather. Coley and I pushed to hang out anyways and this is the night that she ran. She ran. She ran.

I gave her space that weekend after she canceled the date and today I gave her a call hoping for another chance for the two of us to hang out. She did not answer but she responded with a text that she was in surgery and “you ok?”

Am I ok? Really? Am I ok? why would I call her if I was not ok? What does that mean? What could she possibly help me with that any of my friends or family in town could not help me with? I went ahead and put it out there in my text back that I was great, just seeing when I could take her out or cook dinner for her. The response; “I’ll try to call you back in a bit.”

That call back never happened. Like Charlie said “We do what we want to do.”

And She ran. She ran. She ran.

 

2.5 weeks sober

This is something I wrote to myself two and a half weeks into not drinking. This was October of 2015 and I was carrying a lot of guilt from a previous relationship. The subject of the previous relationship has since gotten married and moved out of the area. It is interesting to reflect back and see how my tendencies in relationships show up again and again. Here it is:

 

Two and a half weeks sober has been interesting. It’s been quite depressing since I arrived back from Haiti. I can’t really get out of my own head and I just sit and dwell on the past and my mistakes and how I have wronged people. Especially Christina. For some reason or another, she unblocked me on Facebook which has been pretty hard for me. Of course I went through old pictures, most of which I have been removed from. But if I look far enough back, there are some early pictures from our relationship. There is even the one of the first night we hung out with a group and it’s just the two of us. I like that picture a lot. I know I must reap what I sow and the way I treated our relationship, I deserve to be bad mouthed and talked bad about. I am comfortable with this and welcome it. Christina has every right to hate me. I hate how I was too much of a coward to walk away from our relationship before I let it get bad. One of my greatest weaknesses is that I am a people pleaser. There were a lot of times that it was easier to be miserable myself than to hurt her and deal with it. Ultimately, I probably hurt her way worse than I ever would have on the front end of things. I sit and I think a lot these days. I guess when I don’t have alcohol to make me forget then I have to toil with my problems. I wrestle with them throughout every day. She is constantly on my mind and I pray for her more than I pray for all other people, including myself, combined. I guess I pray like this because of the guilt I feel for hurting her. She did not deserve me stringing her along. Granted I did try to break up with her and end things a few times, but she’s not a quitter. I’m not a quitter either so we just both plugged along like stubborn bulls trying to make a way. I wonder if I subconsciously wanted a way out and that is why I would never take more steps forward with her? I wonder if that is why I always had good girl friends that I, at the least, texted with on a regular basis to keep other doors open? They are all possibilities. I do believe that she had to hate me to leave me, and that she does I am sure. Tonight I was at Otey’s checking on things during trivia night. My intention was to be in and out fairly quick. I started making the rounds and saying hello to people I knew in there and the usual small talk that I find very joyless without a few drinks in my system. I saw one of Christina’s friends from high school look at me then turn her back. Not completely positive that it was Merilyn, I looked on the computer to see if she had a tab open, which she did, and decided that I needed to at least say hello. I have not crossed paths with many of Christina’s friends since things were really ended. I ran into Stephanie one time and she was very sweet and it was good to see her. I guess there has been a kind of unofficial separation of places that she and her friends go and places that I go. Basically I go to the hole in the wall, sometimes trashy places and she and her friends stick to the ‘classy’ places. All is fine by me. So, when I saw Merilyn at Otey’s, where anybody with any sense would know they would probably see me there, I figured I should say hello and wish her well. I approached Merilyn who was sitting at a table for four at the front of the restaurant and tapped her to get her attention. She looked up at me like I was a complete stranger, to the point that I asked if she was Merilyn. She said very matter of factly “Yes.” I then said “I saw you and I just wanted to say hey.” She responded with “Well hey” and had turned around whipping her hair before the words even finished coming out of her mouth. This really bothers me but I just can not quite pin down why. I mean, I guess friend loyalty gives her the right to be bitchy to me and that is fine. I think what hurt was that I could have easily walked out of the restaurant without saying a word and it would have been a non­issue. But instead I thought I would be cordial and say hello, especially since she decided to come and spend money at the restaurant that I help run. I guess it hurt because it was a reminder of how deep the cuts are with Christina and I. I think the cuts run deep on both ends. I seem to have been the one doing all the cutting though. I cut and hurt her and I cut myself while I was at it. Now I am dwelling on the pains and refusing my usual self­prescribed medication of whiskey and beer to make me feel better about myself. If I am honest with myself, I am very down on me right now. I am ashamed of being a cheater, a drunk, a liar, and a bad selfish person. I think this is why when I drink I immediately begin looking for attention from girls who tell me how great I am. I like hearing girls or people ask how I am still single at my age. It makes me feel like I am something worth being desired, which I really don’t feel I am. This is the state where my heart lives right now and it is extremely depressing. I am in a funk for sure and I just pray to God that I come out of it somehow someway. The only thing that gives me hope is Jesus, the Cross, and being a new person in Christ. That is my only hope to ever feeling redeemed or worthy. The fact of the matter is that I am worthy of nothing. I have squandered many blessings and have done more harm than good as a Christian. But in Christ, I have been made new and with that I get to fellowship with God the Father. This is great with me. When I dwell on that thought, that I get the Trinity and God loves me and has shown me grace for all of my sins then the dark cloud that keeps a weight on my chest is a lot lighter. Jesus is my only hope to get through this dark time. I am ashamed of the man I have become but I am thankful for my appreciation of the Cross and God’s love and grace. It is not something I understand more in my mind now than I did when I was on a more straight and narrow path. It is something that I can feel in my heart more though. I can feel the Spirit comfort me in my times of despair. The helplessness that I feel is paralyzing. I often feel so helpless that I don’t understand why it is worth it to get up out of bed. I think that maybe if I didn’t think I would drive myself absolutely insane by only dealing with myself and my thoughts all alone then I would probably have a lot harder time getting moving in the mornings. Instead I get up and get going because I hope. I hope that maybe somebody will show me some grace. My boss and good friend, Will, showed me grace and took me in as a part of his family when I was without any direction or a job and he has taught me a lot in business and provided me with a healthy living. I hope to show other people that kind of grace and love. I wish I had shown that grace and love to Christina and not dragged her through the mess that I made out of my life. I hope and pray that she is happy. I hope and pray that God heals her of the pain I caused her. I hope and pray that she would be loved whole heartedly like she deserves. I hope and pray that the Lord protect her to no ends so that she would never have to deal with somebody like me again. I do not know what healing process I need to go through to overcome this darkness that sits with me daily thinking about our relationship. I know it begins with resting in Christ and trusting in God and his plan but that is a lot easier said than done. It is so hard to live in that moment of grace. It is almost like I don’t truly believe that I have been forgiven for my sins. I know it in my head but my heart has a hard time embracing that idea. I don’t know if Christina will ever forgive me. I really don’t expect her to. And that is what is hard to swallow for me. I have forever lost a friend who loved me because I was not man enough to stick to my guns when I knew we should not be together and I acted out as a result of it. I wish I could take my lashings and move on but instead, I sit and dwell. I don’t dwell on what we could have been but I dwell on how she loved me more than I loved her and I took advantage of that. I was a user who used her for her love, support, and stability while my life was a wreck. She was broken by a thoughtless bastard who only looked out for himself. That is a damn shame. Now I am not one to feel sorry for myself and I am definitely not one looking for someone to feel sorry for me. I believe I live my daily life with a thankful joy to be where I am. I have been very fortunate to land on my feet in Birmingham. I have good friends that care for me and I have family that loves me. There really is not much more I can ask for. It is just interesting how at night, when I am left with my own thoughts all alone, I always go back to mine and Christina’s relationship. I believe when it is time, there will be another girl that comes along and is really the one I am supposed to be with. I look forward to getting to know that person. I am also not willing to try to make things work with someone who is what I think I want. Christina was everything I could have wanted except that we weren’t right for each other. I have now tossed out any idea of what I think I want and just trust that God is good and has it all under control. Me trying to control things only screws them up so I forfeit control with an open mind and an open heart. Tomorrow is going to be a great day filled with love, grace, and joy.

Cistern Time – Reflections from Haiti

I went to Haiti a couple years ago on a short mission trip with the church I had been attending. Every night we would sit on the cistern at the top of the hill and discuss what we observed. I did not talk much on the trip but put my thoughts together afterwards and sent it to our group. I think I am sharing this now because I have become full circle and feel like I am trying to wrap my head around where I am and what I am doing. This is what I sent in October of 2015:

 

I wanted to have one last cistern moment with everyone before we got swept up into the normalcy of life.  Morgan and I were talking on the plane and I brought up a quote that I used to hang onto because I thought it was an idea that was simple, profound, and impossible to live completely but worth trying to.

 

“True spirituality consists in living moment to moment by the grace of Jesus Christ.”

-Francis Schaeffer

 

When I think about living my life, this is pretty much the opposite of what I try to do.  My goal on a daily basis is usually; be as productive as possible, control what I can control, and please people.  These things are more in how I’m wired and have learned how to live/work than anything else.  These very things have led me to many blunders and falls that have left me with messes to clean up since becoming a follower of Christ.

 

As some of you know, I dreaded turning on my phone and seeing the damage that would add to my stresses of the week.  What I found was that, from a work standpoint, life was good and it will be business as usual when I hit the ground running.  What began to bother me had more to do with my relationships with people and how I treat those.  This led me to grow anxious during our layover in Atlanta, and this is why…  I recognized that I am walking back into a world where I have people that have seen the worst of me, that I have let down time and time again, and that I have both intentionally and unintentionally hurt.  These are the people that have watched me fall on my face over the past several years and have continued to love me, but I keep them at an arms length and don’t ever really show them the real me.

 

As we were driving through Port yesterday I began to think about the filthiness of the city and I couldn’t decide if I was more like the people or the streets.  I know that when I look at my life and my mistakes I see the filthiness like I saw on the streets, but I knew the people caused it.  The way God created Port Au Prince, Haiti, is beautiful with the mountains overlooking the water as it does, it truly is gorgeous.  And as we were created in God’s image, we are like an untouched Haiti, breathtaking.  When I try to take control over my life and do anything my way, I see that  I can do nothing but make it filthy.  The same is true with the people who live in Port, they control a beautiful place and it is filthy (so dirty that I’ve had black snot and boogs since we left).  So, what would it take to clean it all up?

 

With endless funds, we could have a thousand street sweeping machines, trash cans on every half block, and house the people living on the streets in organized communities around the city’s surrounding areas so that people don’t see the bad parts.  This would most certainly improve city’s appearance and the overall cleanliness, but the fact of the matter is that the people have made a habit of throwing their trash on the streets and just living with it; and even if they are moved into less seen areas, it would still be a matter of time before the filth takes over the clean parts.  It would take a complete miracle to change the city from its state right now.  My life is the same way.  I could do all the “Christian” things that would sweep all the filth up from my life and hide the bad parts but I know I will just trash it up again.  I need a miracle as well and it is the grace of God.

 

I fell in love with Haiti while we were there. Haiti is unapologetically dry, dirty, and just trying to survive the day.  This is my true state when I am honest with myself.  If I could fit in at Port Au Prince and/or not get bombarded by people trying to sell me something or asking for a handout, then I would want to walk around and really get to know that city.  I would want to get to know those people and the streets and be able to say “Yes, I too know what it is like to be dry, dirty, and just trying to survive the day.”  I would want to survive the day with that city only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, because that is the only way I have ever survived a day.

Birmingham, unlike Port Au Prince Haiti, is more a reflection of the southern church culture than it is a real person or the true body of Christ.  We have street sweepers, trash service, and project housing in specific parts of town.  When we drive visitors through Birmingham we are sure to show them all the nice neighborhoods, cool restaurants/bars, and for some reason a statue of a nearly naked man.  They don’t really get to see Birmingham as a whole.

 

As a 16 year old, I remember telling my grandfather, who lives in Walker County, about how much I loved Birmingham.  He wisely told me that what I know as Birmingham is not really Birmingham.  He was right to start, because I grew up in Vestavia, not Birmingham, and what I knew and considered to be Birmingham was actually the prominent suburbs with the exception of a couple inner city gyms my parents let me go play basketball in.

 

This city, like any follower of Christ, has its good parts and bad parts.  This city, like most Christians, only shows its good parts and sells people that it’s always on the come up and that any problems are old problems.  Even people that live here don’t really get to know Birmingham just like I didn’t at the age of 16.  Most of us live in this city the same way we live our Christian lives; we play in the nice, clean, good parts of town and we just avoid, cover up, and don’t talk about the bad side.  Sure, we have moments where we have to acknowledge the faults, like when an article on crime comes out or murders are reported on the news, and then we shake our head at the ‘bad parts,’  But this isn’t being true to ourselves or the people we live around and with, and as I see it, it is being a false witness.

 

For me it looks like this: I have to acknowledge that I got drunk last weekend. It was out there for people to see and I will openly talk about it regretfully.  But that is only on the surface of everything.  That is like driving through the Southtown Court next to St. Vincents on your way to have a dinner at Hot and Hot and saying “Yeah, this is a part of life in Birmingham but it’s not where we have to be everyday, and they are talking about redeveloping it, so it’s okay and not a real problem.”

 

The real me is more like strolling through and sometimes staying in Gate City.  The real me isn’t dealing with problems by talking about how I got drunk.  The real me is getting somewhere when I tell you that I have a hard time not stopping into Crestwood Tavern on my way home and drinking anywhere from one to nine Miller Lite’s because I have taught myself that the easiest way to take the edge off anxiety and stress is to numb it.  The real me tells you that the biggest problem I run into when I get drunk is that I begin looking for attention from girls in a poor attempt to feel emotionally connected to another human because I daily live so guarded and removed from people because of my lack of vulnerability.

 

This is where I go back to my anxiety in Atlanta regarding my relationships with people who have seen me at my worst.  I have people who know where the bad parts of me exist and they get glimpses of it from time to time but I spend a lot of energy acting like they are old problems.  It’s exhausting to put on a front and act like I have my shit together but at the same time it is my greatest fear to let someone get a glimpse of my true self.  This makes me anxious.

 

The fact of the matter is that I want to be more like Haiti because I am a man with a dry, dirty, soul that is just trying to survive the day by the grace of God.  I want the body of Christ here to be more like Haiti and quit acting like we are something that Christ is lucky to have.  I want to be a part of a church that is not afraid to get into the ugly parts of town to figure them out and is not afraid to deal with ugly problems within it’s own body of believers with reflection and most of all, grace.

 

Knowing Dwight and his passion for the inner city and missions is what has drawn me to visit Redeemer over the years and now that I am back in town, a regular.  I don’t believe Redeemer is a church that only acknowledges a problem and throws some money at the problem or does a weekend clean up every quarter as a good deed.  I hope Redeemer is or will be a church that acknowledges faults in our city, community, neighborhood and tries to help everyone by showing them love and grace.  I hope it does the same within the body of believers.  No church is perfect, but a church that will talk about and walk through those things is a real community of believers.

 

 

What I saw in Haiti and got to experience for a few days is the closest thing in my life to the ‘true spirituality’ I mentioned before.  I saw people that only know to live moment to moment because there is nothing to look forward to.  From the street hustlers, beggars, and bums to the orphans who were abandoned by their parents and know nothing of the greatest thing, Love.  They have nothing more than that moment.

 

At Canaan, God has been so good to those kids to put them in a family where they are at least getting to experience love.  Seeing the passion the people at Canaan have for those kids makes me believe in that place.  I pondered how to launch the kids to be productive citizens or be able to give back to the community and spread the gospel through their lives and kicked around some strategies for things they could do.

 

Riding through Port Au Prince gave me the perspective that makes me question my strategies for launching disciples from Canaan into Haiti.  Not that they would not be effective or should not be given some thought, because I think there is something to that, but it should be carefully approached.  When a person, people, or culture knows nothing more than being in a moment and praising God for that, how can we expect them to openly adopt a strategy for launching disciples in five, ten, fifteen years?  I know they talk about the future and hopes and dreams and things they could become but really I think that is just talking about it, and that is good, but not an end goal or a remote possibility for a lot of those kids.

 

Reflecting on the Francis Schaeffer quote, I almost want to do the opposite to protect anybody down there who knows how to “live moment to moment by the grace of Jesus Christ” and not bog them down with any strategic five, ten, or fifteen year plan.  If there is a people who know how to live moment to moment then all I want them to be shown is the love and grace of Jesus Christ because I know they will be so much closer to ‘true spirituality’ than I ever will be in my pursuits of it.  God is so big for a believer in Haiti because of this mentality.  I saw it and got to get a small glimpse of it during our time there.  God is in everything down there and it is easier to live in that moment when we disconnect and truly praise God for the grace he has shown us just to experience a moment on this earth, in Jesus Christ.  Here, we try to control everything, and as a result we remove God from everything and only play in the good parts of town.

 

I know I will be distracted and lost from the possibility of living like this in no time, but maybe we can try.  Maybe we can be a real people.  My favorite part of the week was getting to know everyone.  I know that I am a quiet one but I’m usually taking things in and thinking about observations I see.  So, for my lack of sharing over the course of the week, those are my thoughts for a last sharing moment on the cistern.

 

By the way, Will Lankford is the person I admire most on this trip.  He told us about his fear of speaking to and in front of people at our first meeting and he faced his fear everyday.  I wish I was brave enough to conquer my fears on a daily basis like he does.  I am glad you were able to make it on the trip Will, I enjoyed it and look forward to getting to know you more.

 

Jordan, I am terribly sorry about your mom.  I am glad you were with us and we missed you the rest of the trip.

 

As for you other jokers, y’all are all awesome and I can’t wait to see everybody again soon.  Sorry I took so long at my imaginary cistern time.

Title… and Thoughts???

The idea of a blog is pure arrogance with me. Why would I write anything worth reading for anyone else? Why should I have some magical way to put a thought into words for a person? This is a purely selfish endeavor to keep myself from driving myself entirely insane with the thoughts in my head. As if I am some special human that has enough internal thoughts in my head to drive me nuts. I do not do well talking through things verbally because I get very sensitive to the other person’s reaction and or feelings. I keep things bottled up inside, probably because of both wiring and how I was raised. All that to say, this might be a place of word vomit if I ever remember to write something. Which is not likely.

Follow through has not been my greatest strength, so I learned from my ex-girlfriend. Which is why this blog will probably be a one post and done. I do follow through though. I think we all do. We follow through with things that matter to us. Sometimes the follow through is slow and sometimes it is quick. But if it matters it will probably get done.

There were a lot of things I have learned from ex-girlfriends. I learned how to be a douche bag. I learned how to be a fake ass friend. I learned how to be a fake Christian. This is false, I actually just learned how to dress up for church by wearing a brightly colored collared shirt and khakis rather than jeans, t-shirt and a hat. Which reminds me of a rant I will have to come back to sometime about the tradition of dressing up for church. If we are supposed to come humbly before God then why, in church, would we need to wear our nicest clothes unless it was purely for social reasons? I am sure there is a verse people refer to that talks about going to the temple in the finest robes, but I bet that the context does not match up to present day application. In the new testament, how many times do we read that people made sure they were dressed in their nice clothes to worship God? If it is in reverence, then who sat around as the fashion police and decided that khakis and a polo are more God fearing clothes than a pair of jeans? I did argue with the said ex one Sunday morning that I did in fact wear my nicest pants. They were a $200 pair of jeans and I did not have any other pants that cost over $100, therefore I technically was wearing my ‘Sunday’s finest.’ That went over about as well as the time I tried to sneak off to the casino with the guys but got caught because of some location app installed on my phone. Whoops.

I had a lady who was very kind to me once upon a time that tried to teach this quiet guy in his early 20’s how to act, and she taught me one of my favorite lessons in life: Girls are crazy and guys are just dumb. For all male/female relationships I base most actions and interactions on this foundational piece of wisdom. Now I do want you to know that I am joking, a little; but there is a little truth to every joke, otherwise it would not be a joke. It would just be a random statement meant as a joke. This is not completely true either but it is a little saying I picked up somewhere along the way and it echoes in my head anytime someone makes a funny comment. Turns out this blog post is just turning into some simple thoughts and theories on life that maybe I can refer back to and expound on these things. I have come up with many many theories on people and life over the years, and when I put it all together, I come to the conclusion that I actually don’t know shit.

I do not understand why so many people get so caught up in knowing. Why is it so hard for some people to just say “I don’t know?” It is like some people’s kryptonite. It ultimately is probably a pride thing where they are insecure about how the people will perceive them if they do not know. It is a lot easier for me to say “I don’t know” because I typically do not like people to know my thoughts and feelings and it is a great cop out(sp?). “I don’t know” gives me a chance to listen to other people’s opinions, form my own opinions, not tell anyone what I have come up with, and then consider everyone else an idiot because they did not figure out the right answer (which is my opinion). I do not think everyone is an idiot in reality nor that I always come up with the right opinion, but I do think that some people should just say “I don’t know” when they don’t know and be okay with it and finding a valid point of view.

So, that’s it. I guess I am about to be an official blogger.  At this point in time I still have not figured out how to change the title at the top of the page, but I am hopeful that stroke of genius will come to me in the coming minutes. I did spend more time coming up with ‘paralysis through analysis’ blog name than I did on this blog post. My runner up and future true self blog personality is going to be ‘cheesychristianblog.’ But with a title like that, I am bound to violate the ingenuity of the blog name at some point in time. I either will not blog about Christian things; be a cheesy Christian blogger and then have a blog that is not cheesy; or be a not so cheesy Christian blogger for the irony, and then accidently be cheesy. Or I could just not write anything at all. Hence, why I chose this blog name.

‘Paralysis Through Analysis’… If I were to never write another blog then someone could stumble upon this and think “Damn, poor guy really is paralyzed by analyzing everything and he can not even get words on the computer screen. I hope he does not have this problem when deciding what to eat or else he might starve to death.” Another scenario is that I could write on this thing very consistently about my thoughts and then when nothing comes of it, or me, then someone smarter and with more framed pieces of paper hanging on a wall studies paralysis and stumbles upon this, they will then have documentation of the analyzing that can be introspectively paralyzing. Hopefully I never am paralyzed or this thing could become very foretelling and might make one think that having these similar thoughts can lead to the physical condition of paralysis. My desire is that putting some of these random thoughts of sometimes meaningful things and sometime meaningless things can get me moving on from these thoughts, understand God more, and find more joy in this short glimpse of a life I have.

P.S. Sorry for the typos. It is truly amateur hour.