In the quiet and in the dark, I thanked you for the time alone. But thanked you more for not leaving me that way. – Brothers Stories [a]
Music is life to me. It has always been the one place I can go to and express things that words just don’t say well on their own. My favorite musician is William Fitzsimmons. He has an unmatched vulnerability in his voice without ever sacrificing power. Bearded and bald, usually donning a flannel shirt and skinny jeans, I feel like William and I were separated at birth. I like how my friend Liz describes our look, “You’ve got a good Faux Bunyan goin’ on there”, she’d say. Looks aside though, when William writes you feel his sorrows, the things that have caused him to hurt. His lyrics and sound leads you to a place where you are transported to a place where you can really feel what he has felt. Like William, I have experienced things in my life where the pain seemed overwhelming. It took me a long while to learn that pain is part of life. We all too often try to sweep our pain under the rug and things will be alright. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have peace in knowing I don’t have to face the road alone. Anne Lamott says it best:
“Sometimes grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking…I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things; also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace’s arrival. But no, it’s clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in silence, in the dark.” [b]
Sometimes, we have to trudge through the winter of life, only to find out there is still two more months of cold, dreary snow left.
My earliest memories of a winter season in life happened where I’m pretty certain it begins for everyone else, the playground. I was dared to a swing off, where we would see who can swing higher. The only thing that had changed the day of the event was that it had rained the night before and under the swing was an ocean of a puddle. As a young boy on the playground, you can not say no to a challenge. So I grabbed a stick and pulled the swing back to dry ground. I jumped on the ship and launched into the open sea. Everything was going perfect until time for the dismount. I don’t know what happened in the process, but I landed face first in the soupy mud. When my head stopped spinning from the impact, I realized that I emerged looking like the Swamp Thing. In that moment, I realized I had become the joke of the playground, for the week. Everyone was laughing. I do mean everyone! Things like that will stay with you as a kid. Looking back on it now though, I would have fallen on the ground laughing also.
In my teens, I dealt with some tough issues. I felt alone and broken inside. No one else could possibly understand what I was going through. I told one of my best friends there was no way he could understand the pain that I felt. I rebelled and became a cool punk kid. I had spiked multi-colored hair, a studded belt, really anything that set me apart as different. I listened to music that would probably cause most people’s ears to bleed. I would tell myself that the music could numb the pain—temporarily. Inside though, I felt lost. I didn’t know how to handle the world around me. There was always an insane pressure from the world around me telling me to be more, or to change to be like what others wanted me to be. I did not think I would amount to anything by other people’s standards, which definitely didn’t meet my goals or dreams. I contemplated suicide or hurting others as a way of not having to deal with the pain I felt. All I was doing was numbing the reflection I saw in the mirror. I could not deal with feeling so different. I fought with my family about everything, all the time. It took awhile to let go of control and learn to love myself.
Fast forward a few years to my darkest winter. At the time, I felt like the season broke me. Nothing else had ever hurt like that. I was in my second year of undergrad right before finals. I was out on lunch break and called my dad to chat like always, but was instead met with a voice of anxious concern. My Pappy (my Dad’s father) had been rushed to the ER and things did not look good. Pappy made it through the day, but my family made the decision based on the doctor’s recommendation, to bring Pappy home on hospice. Not too long after bringing him home, Pappy passed away.
Everything becomes unstable when you knock a pillar out from an already shaky platform. I began to question a lot of things. One of the biggest hit came to my faith. I became angry with God for taking my Pappy from me. To say Pappy was my best friend would have been a major understatement. Like flipping a switch he was gone. I kept going to church, but no more than for good show. To the rest of the world I did not have a worry or care. I had my close friends and family that I knew loved me. I started to build walls that separated me from ever getting too close with others. If I did not get close, I could not be hurt. I very quickly became an emotionless shell.
In retrospect, I have come to learn that in our brokenness, God is able to shine through our mess. The hurt I used to feel never went fully away, but in its place I have grown a heart filled with so much love that it overflows in compassion for others. I now have a mind to serve others. The text in Lamentations is a message of the people of Israel who felt abandoned and broken. There in the middle of chapter 3 is where it all hit me. The scripture says, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him, so it is best for us to wait in patience- to wait for him to save us…” [c]
A few years ago my pastor, Jame Hahs and I were talking in his office. He looked me square in the eyes and asked, “So when are you going to seminary. You are called.” I looked him in the eye and chuckled. God had apparently sent us both an email that when I received it, immediately went into the spam box. He was serious though, and believed every word he said. This was not the first time I had heard a call to ministry. Just like the other times, I did not know how to take it. I tried to just ignore it all thinking surely this will go away like the others. As you already know, God is patient.
My life has been a whirlwind of God moments. These moments reached a point that I could no longer ignore. There were two moments that stick out from others. The first was a night at my church’s alternative worship service. I fought with running from my call. I could not bring myself to surrender all of who I was to follow God. When the service ended, I could not stand the fight any more. I told my friend Chris I needed someone to pray with. She laid hands on me and began to pray. Without me saying a word to her, she prayed about every single issue I had been wrestling through in my mind. When we finished praying, she looked at me told me God was calling me to stop fighting and answer my call. I had no clue what any of this meant and I was scared.
About a month later the second moment hit me like a ton of bricks. I was at an event where my favorite author, Bob Goff, was speaking about his new book. When worship began, everyone else in the room faded away and I was in a moment of full awe of the things happening in my life. Then Bob got up to speak. His book he spoke on was called Love Does. The basics: Love God. Let that love fill you so much it spills over in love to others. Then and there I prayed that God would use my life to show that love. The kind that does not just talk, but one that “does”. One of my favorite things I heard from Bob, is that when we live life in love for others we are standing on the edge of the unknown. It got really awesome when he said that if we fall, we fall into the arms of Jesus. Since that night with Bob, I have experienced God in some crazy ways. It is hard to put words to it other than to say what I have learned from my friends in Liberia. “Umm, look what the Lord has done.”
I feel with every ounce that God has been calling me for a long time. I get excited now about the prospect of bridging the gap between the world and the Church. I feel joy in service and feel an overwhelming sense of love for others. I look forward to the road ahead and what that means for the future of God’s church.
I can say now, when we come out of winter into the spring seasons of life, we need to remember to be patient. Summer does not come rushing in right away. Sometimes it gets cold again or it even snows, like 12″ of flurries snows. God’s grace will always be sufficient. Again to quote Anne Lamott, “I do not understand at all the mystery of grace- only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” [d] Grace has met me exactly where I was. It did not leave me there, and as I continue to grow along this journey, I hope that grace will be ever present.
[a] Millar, Ryan. “Brother Stories on Instagram:.” Instagram. N.p., 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
[b] Lamott, Anne. “The Muddling Glory of God.” Grace (eventually): Thoughts on Faith. New York: Riverhead, 2007. N. pag. Print.
[c] Lamentations. Bible: Good News Translation. New York: American Bible Society, 1992. Print.
[d]Lamott, Anne. “Grace.” Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. New York: Pantheon, 1999. 143. Print.
I had the chance to go to Yellowstone recently. I had the chance to get a photo or two. Here is one of my favorites.
The beauty of this world was designed /// created beyond what I can fathom.
I am a fake /// searching to find the real in each day.
Adventurer /// Creative /// Pioneer of Dreams /// Believer that Love Does
Havin’ a chill day off. I started the morning going to the dentist, took photos of a truck for a car show poster I’m working on, and went to the park. Now it’s time for coffee with my friend Dani, and dinner tonight with my buddy Randy at the Taj Indian Cuisine.