What Everyone (And No One) Is Talking About – Guest Writer

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. This week my wife was feeling a stirring in her heart to share some of her own thoughts on issues that we are both passionate about. I’m super proud of her boldness and ability to articulate from an honest, compassionate, heartfelt standpoint on a controversial issue that continues to be such a joked-about, casual, pop-culture reference. Maybe we aren’t the ideal problem-solvers, but perhaps her and I can get the conversation started. Without further delay, I introduce you to my beautiful bride, Allie Meyer, and her writing in the form of a guest-blog post.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s a video worth? Video is pictures frame-by-frame that flash by so fast, they appear they’re actually moving. So, does that make a video worth ten thousand words or even a million words? Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth nothing at all. When the things that you’re seeing and watching can cause you to stumble, is it worth it?

There is a topic that has been looming around in my head lately and it’s a topic that simultaneously is both never talked about and always talked about is pornography. It’s a topic that people freely joke about with friends or is alluded to on the radio but yet also is kept in secret and like a skeleton in our closets. I suppose it’s also a topic that rarely gets any air time with parents talking to their children or people reaching out to ask for help when they feel like they’re trapped in it or it’s consuming them.

I grew up in a Christian home, but I also went to a public high school. I of course had the uncomfortable “birds and bees” talk at home and the “how to not get STD’s” talk at school. But a topic that wasn’t ever discussed in either of those was porn and the complications that it can add to your life. The stress it can add to your relationships. The shame, depression, and anxiety it causes to your overall well-being, and not to mention, the isolation it will eventually produce.

Now let me set this straight: I’ve honestly never struggled with any of these things nor have I ever sought out any type of pornographic content. I have however, been subjected to Hollywood’s decision to include some kind of sexual content in every movie. That’s not necessarily porn, but in the end, was it necessary? (This is a whole other post, but a good point nonetheless.) I digress…

So needless to say, porn wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind. It wasn’t until someone close to me opened up about their addiction to it and their struggles that I ever really understood what it was. Here it is – a billion-dollar industry in our world, and I literally had little idea it existed or what it even consisted of. In the moment I played it off as though I knew what they were talking about, but deep down I felt so naïve and like this was a foreign place they were talking about. Unfortunately, it’s something that I’ve gathered more knowledge about and learned why this addiction is so rampant in our world. It’s rampant because it’s so readily accessible by literally anyone. Think about how easy it is to search things on YouTube, or how hashtags have changed the way you browse social media. Teenagers can have unlimited access to content that they shouldn’t with just a click of a button. This causes there to be millions and millions of people out there consumed by lust and this addiction, but likely there are also millions who are naïve like I was.

Why is that?

I think it all goes back to awareness. It never was mentioned growing up. Not at home, school, church, etc. All of my friends could have been struggling with it for that matter and I could have never known. I think that we, as not just Christian people, not just one political party, not as one gender; we just as people need to talk and do something about it. What that something is I don’t know, but we can’t continue to allow people to fall into this trap of lies and loneliness.  How can we as humans rally together to create awareness and support those who are struggling, those who are directly affected by it, and those who haven’t been exposed but can be spared the turmoil and heartache?

I believe that personally my heart is drawn to those who are just bystanders. The people who are spouses of addicts. The people whose relationships are fragile because their partner used to struggle with it. The kids who might learn what porn is from some jokes shared at school and never hear what terrible things that this new addiction could lead to. I feel led to find ways to be a listening ear to those who feel they can’t trust their spouse as well as be an advocate for those who might not know what problems it can cause until they’re in deep.

I often pray for those struggling and ask God why can’t he do something about it. But I feel like God is asking me “What can you do about it?”. So here I sit, not a writer of any sort asking you to help me find ways to bring attention to a topic that has been in the dark for far too long and how to bring it into the light. With the dark being such a lonely place, the only way out is through relationships and Jesus. We ALL have to be vulnerable if we ever want to beat this thing head on. When we bring things into the light others can be praying and guiding you. Let’s unite together to leave those movies worth no words in the darkness, and bring all people into the light.

Vulnerability

A Look Inside (My) Depression

“When was the last time you thought to yourself, you know what – I’m actually pretty good. I kinda like who I am,” asked my well-meaning counselor.

“What would it take for you to love yourself?”

“I don’t know – if I could lose weight, write a book, actively accomplish something that I’ve set out to do, like if I want to wake up early in the morning then to actually get out of bed at 5:30 AM when I’ve set my first alarm. To have finally completed the 12 Steps of my addiction recovery program.”

My counselor then proceeded to show me the places in which I’ve grown over the last year. “Justin, you’ve gone almost a full year without a relapse into your former pornography addiction. You’ve successfully had financial discussions with Allie without getting defensive and allowing it to turn into a fight. From what I can tell – you’re becoming rather successful at work, you’ve built healthier friendships and your relationship with Allie gets sweeter and sweeter.”

“So what is it going to take for you to love yourself?”

“Where would you say you are on your fantasy scale of who you want to be – on a scale of 1-10?”

“I don’t know – a 5, maybe.”

“And what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with being a 5 and telling yourself, “you know what if I improve to a 6 or 7 over the next few years, then I’m a champion. I’m overcoming my sinful nature and becoming a stronger man of God,” and maybe by the time you’re 40 you’re an 8, and so on and so forth.

I found myself far more engaged this session than previous ones. Often distracted by wondering if someone from work has texted me or if my wife is doing okay, or whatever other anxiety-ridden thing I might be missing out on – FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I found myself listening, emotionally there, and nearing tears of gratitude.

“Justin, I think you’re okay. You’re doing a great job. You’re doing some really hard stuff. You can’t take on the whole world all at once. What if you took your goals – let’s say you want to drop 40 lbs and we cut that way down and we say you want to lose 10 lbs in the next 6 months. That’s doable, right? And what if instead of beating yourself up every morning when the scale still reads 2** – you decide to celebrate the victory of going on a walk a couple times a week. Because that’s better than what you’re doing right now, right?”

You get the idea.

You’d think I was in 1st grade. The concepts were so basic, so simple, so “easy.” And yet for the last few months I’ve barely been able to get myself out of bed, get dressed, and accomplish anything. I’m convinced I’ll fail – I won’t reach the fantasy self (230 lbs, New York Times Bestselling Author, freed from shame and living in joy), so why try? I’m gonna snack, so why not have three snacks? I’m gonna get distracted, so why even take the laptop and the book to the coffee-shop with me?

Round and round goes the cyclical cycle of shame. Satan’s henchman whispering in my ear at night all the reasons I’m useless for God’s Kingdom. My neural pathways strangely trained to think the worst possible outcomes will occur in my life.

I could blame it on being introduced to pornography in my young teens. I could blame it on the way that’s affected my relationships and the shame and pain of doing things I regret because of that former addiction. I could blame it on the way loved ones reacted to my being found out – seen for what I was. I could continue to lay in bed and wait for the day of the dead to come knocking at my door, to take me home from the suffering.

Or.

I can wake up with a purpose – the purpose of loving being a 5 and becoming excited about the journey to becoming a 6. I can honestly share my story and my heart with others, knowing that there’s nothing to hide anymore – and as high and mighty as some may pretend to be, they have plenty of their own skeletons. Having always admired the authentic, why try so hard to be the polished?

So that’s why I’m writing today. I’m not so sure this blog even has all that much cohesion and I’m certain it’s not my best work; confident there’s much to be improved. But for someone that’s been sinking in depression for the last several months, simply externally processing and sharing my feelings and heart with my community is a win. Hitting “Publish” is a victory. It’s one small step toward becoming a 6. One step closer to becoming more like Christ, regretful to radiant, sorrowful to serendipitous, grave to grateful.

Let’s dust off the keyboard and see if I’ve still got it.

Until Next Time,

Justin

depression

No Pain, No Gain (Like You Haven’t Heard That Before)

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that one of the connecting points for many lasting friendships in the world is the endurance of pain, together. There I was sharing a margarita with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months and the conversation drifted to the tougher moments in life and how he could relate to x-y-z and I could relate to a-b-c. Perhaps that’s too simplistic a view, but being the sinful humans we are, we’ve all been hurt and we all have hurt, others. It’s our nature to be selfish, inflict pain, and to find ourselves in the crucible of sanctification, given the choice of asking for forgiveness and saying “F*** them, they’re not worth it.” We’ve all been guilty of choosing the latter at some point in life, but it’s never led anywhere fruitful. Bitterness and hatred is only serving yourself the poisoned wine, rather than giving it to your enemy. You’d be better off attempting to kill them with kindness, wouldn’t you?

Anyways – back to my point – in a world of filtered photos, edited texts, and Facebook posts that are a highlight reel of life…we need that one person to share that one painful story of rejection, anger, pain, hatred, betrayal, longing, addiction, abuse, etc. – and that’s all it takes – and then there’s an iconic moment in every redeeming friendship – a “me too – I’ve been there as well.”

I talked with a coworker about depression this week. Opening up about my need for counseling, I found myself given the opportunity to minister to his soul and providing him with helpful options that I’ve utilized for my own personal growth and journey towards freedom from the hatred and loathing of self.

All it took was an opening up, and a “hey, me too man.”

So I guess all of that is to say, you can filter your pictures and keep your Facebook as clean and crisp as you want, but my life is about to get as real as it gets.

I’ve spent enough of my time worrying about reputation, status, money, and what other people think about me, but as long as God says “well done, my good and faithful servant” and my wife is excited to see and kiss me when I get home, then I’ve lived life well. The rest doesn’t matter and it always works out in the end.

It’s amazing how much time we spend chasing peace and perfection, and some of the most peaceful, perfect, love-filled moments are those that are spent being honest and broken, and allowing love and grace to cover over them.

Tim Keller writes of a czar who adopted a son. The adopted son had squandered his wealth and was contemplating suicide due to his recklessness… (sounds like the Prodigal Son in a way)

“Because he couldn’t cover his gambling debts, he began to embezzle from his regiments funds. One night he was sitting in the tent looking at the books and he realized that his embezzlement was about to be discovered. He could hide it no longer from the accountants. He sat drinking heavily and prepared to kill himself. He had the revolver by his side and he took a few more drinks to strengthen his resolve for the suicide. But the drink was too potent and he passed out on the table.

That night the czar was doing what he often did. Disguised as a simple soldier, he was walking through the camp and the ranks, trying to assess the morale of his army, hearing what he could hear. He walked into his foster son’s tent and saw him slumped over the book. He read the book and realized what he had done and what he was about to do.

When the young man awoke hours later, to his surprise the revolver was gone. Then he saw a letter by his hand. To his shock, it was a promissory note, “I, the czar, will pay the full amount from my own personal funds to make up the difference found in this book.” And it was sealed with the czar’s personal seal. The czar had seen the young man’s sin clearly, the full dimensions of what he had done. But he had covered and paid for the sin personally.”

The crazy part is that Jesus does this for you and me, daily. We constantly squander the wealth and the gifts that He’s provided us with. We hurt our wonderful parents with our insensitivity to their wisdom, we hurt our spouse with our stubbornness to their pleas for wiser behavior and moral conduct, we disappoint our elders as they prod us toward holiness, and we discourage our brothers with our apathy – yet Jesus PAID our debt. He said, “I see what you’ve done and I know it fully. The price has been paid. Now come back home.”

I think my life’s calling is to call other’s home. I see what you’ve done – I’ve done some stupid shit too. Now let me pay the price for you, so that you can come back home. You don’t belong in the underworld anymore. Let me provide you with some clean linens and prepare a guest-room for you. You’re an esteemed guest, a high ranking official, and adopted heir to the King – grace and peace and love covers over you.

So friends, come home. Stop running. Stop hiding. Stop chasing success. Stop searching for happiness at the bottom of the bottle or at the sound of any empty pill bottle. Stop clicking through videos and images of women that don’t belong to you (I shouldn’t even look at my wife that way). Stop shopping until you drop. Stop buying friendships with your money. Stop connecting with others through your self-loathing.

Just stop.

You were worth it. You are worth it.

So worth it that he paid your debt in full and covered you in the finest clothes. “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.” (Tim Keller, “The Meaning Of Marriage”)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our slight momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

no pain no gain

Relying On Him

It was one of those weeks where you never really catch up on sleep – and just when you think the drama has come to an end, there’s a new twist and turn. From family drama to challenging professional interactions, arguments over nothing caused by irritability, and life-changing, deep conversations. From a margarita infused laugh fest to sober tears and lots of pain, there was all of it.

I’m not sure why but whenever life enters that spectrum where success suddenly doesn’t seem to matter all that much, interesting things happen. You’re at work – but you’re not really at work. You’re in the car driving, but your thoughts are taken back to your own memories of pain. You make it home safe, but you’re not sure how.

This week a family member made the strong, challenging decision to break off an emotionally abusive relationship and I couldn’t be more proud. But it’s hard to break away from something that we’ve become used to.

In a way, “love” can become as addictive as a drug, the dopamine that had been released during close times together creates a spiritual tie of sorts. It binds us closer, creates that need for closeness; and that’s one of the many reasons it hurts so much to break a relationship off.

The light that is at the other end of the tunnel is worth it though. I remember the time in my life where I was in a relationship where the other individual wasn’t all-in, but I was – it hurt a great deal to end the relationship one fateful May evening. But what I didn’t know is that just a little while later – on an October evening, I’d meet a woman that would love me wholeheartedly, forgive quickly, and encourage and champion growth together. It was no longer the endless, perpetual cycle of stagnancy; I made financial gains, spiritual gains, and relational gains. “He makes all things new.” Even you. And even me.

My heart has been overwhelmed with the pain of others recently. Thinking about all of the addictions that some wrestle with and that I’ve had to overcome personally. Allowing myself to feel the pain my family-member is going through. Spending valuable time on my phone outside talking brothers off the ledge.

It’s times like these that make me wonder – how does anybody do it that doesn’t know Jesus?

I mean, seriously. How?

Several times over the last week, when someone has overstepped their bounds and interfered with my life and I’ve wanted to lash out in anger, I had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

Several times over the last week, when someone was feeling the same pain that I’ve experienced in the past, I had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

Several times over the last year, as a brother in Christ confesses their battle with purity, and I’ve done the hard thing of giving them tough, Gospel inspired love, calling them to repent and then lovingly embracing them – I’ve had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

So when you ask, how does the eldest of five, newly married, constantly busy, “rock-star-legend” (according to my wife) retail salesmen manage to keep it together (most of the time)? The answer is, I am His. My strength is His. I rely on Him.

I know Jesus, and I want you to know Him too. He saved my life, saved my marriage, gave me hope, and rose again – giving every sunrise new mercies.

There’s a new beginning each day. And we get to live with that hope, because of Him.

I’m praying for you, dear friend, as you’ve taken the time to read this – praying that you would know Him too.

tunnel

Threes

I’ve heard it said that life comes in threes. Perhaps another way you’ve heard it is that when it rains it pours. And I think there is some truth to all of those old sayings. Sometimes we will hit a season where everything is falling into place and we feel unstoppable – you get the promotion, money starts stacking up in the bank account, you lose 15 lbs from sweating it out over the summer, and your marriage is as passionate and exciting as it was when you started dating. Then, out of nowhere, the tides of life change on you. That “promotion” comes with more responsibility than you were bargaining for, medical expenses come out of nowhere and drain up your savings, and it starts to feel as if you’re just going through the motions in all of your relationships…and you gain those 15 lbs back, and then some.

The tide has very much been going in the latter direction for me lately and it’s been a rather humbling season. I came across a verse recently that I thought fit someone else’s life quite well, only to discuss it with a mentor of mine and find myself convicted mid-sentence that it also applied to me. “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Proverbs 26:11-12)

“Easy there, Justin – don’t let your righteous anger convince you that you’re king of the universe because you’re right this one time.” said the Holy Spirit.

As a man, I like to fix things. I’ve never been very good with my hands in terms of fixing a broken washer or appliance. I typically call 1-800-DADDY (or Tyler, since he lives with us) and they handle those situations. But I’ve always had a knack for being a peacemaker, counselor, and encourager – and when shit hits the fan in my family and in my social circles, I usually am one of the first ones to receive a phone call or text about it. My default reaction is to attempt to manage, persuade, and ensure that my best solution for success is executed. The problem with that is that people can’t be managed and just because you’ve learned certain lessons in life already doesn’t mean they’re ready to learn them right now too.

“Everyone has to find their own way. They surrender different pieces of their lives to God at different times. When I see you and others struggling for freedom and struggling for the light, I want to come in with my shotgun and blast some holes in the roof so the light can get in. But that’s not my place. I can’t do that. But when you (and the others in your life) are able to find the key and open the door, I’ll be there with arms open wide, and so will Jesus.”

You see – you and I just weren’t designed to carry that burden all by ourselves. And as my social sphere has been going through a heavy dose of drama over the last week or two, I’ve found myself desperately wanting to fix everything, to manage the situation, and I’ve looked at my own heart and seen everything that needs fixing and I’ve tried to do it all on my own.

But the thing is, I can’t do it. Not by myself. I’ve got to let Jesus back in, and I’ve got to enlist the help of a counselor along the way. (Quick side note – Allie and I have been participating in marriage counseling over the last few months and it’s easily the best thing we’ve ever done for our relationship. There’s no shame in admitting you may need a little extra help. We’re laying the foundation for a LIFETIME together right now, and that’s hard work when you’re two strong-willed individuals with varying ideas and backgrounds. Do yourself a favor and give counseling a try. It’s worth the monetary sacrifice.)

Speaking of three – I’ve got a quick story for you that has to be shared related to financial sacrifice. We found ourselves in a place where finances weren’t going as well as we wanted them to. I had a bit of a heart-scare and Allie and I both needed a few rounds of doctor’s appointments and testing around the same time and our bank account was starting to get punished for it. Out of a fear of scarcity and a lack of faith in God to provide I found myself avoiding tithing. “I’ll tithe later, when we’re a little better off.” I said to myself and avoided discussing the situation with Allie. Well, it was coming to the end of a qualification period in my sales career and I was feeling particularly convicted as I hadn’t sold anything for a week. I needed to sell just 3 within a week and I couldn’t do it. Nothing. Zilch. I was thinking, staying at work until about 8:30 (way past when I was supposed to go home), and I realized that I wasn’t trusting God. I took myself off the Ups List, sat down, pulled out my phone and back tithed the last 3 weeks that I’d been avoiding it (a rather large sum for an already depleted account). The next day, I sold 3 cars. 1, 2, 3. I barely broke a sweat. Everything just sort of fell into place. I’d decided that morning I was just going to trust God and go with the flow and sure enough – He came through and provided for another season of privilege and increased commission.

God is good. We just have to trust him. Why do we make that so hard?

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The MVP Of Marriage Thus Far

As you may already know, 12 hours ago I found myself waking up to the sound of my wife’s screams. The kind that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and your adrenaline immediately start to pump. Probably just reaching a deep sleep cycle, it took me a minute to come to out of the fog, and realize the screams were coming from Allie, take my CPAP mask off, and run to her aid.

She’d collapsed on the floor after trying to get out of bed to stretch due to the discomfort being caused by the sciatica she was experiencing. From what I understand (and I don’t understand it very well yet), that means there are some pinched nerves near where her spine and butt meet that can cause a great deal of discomfort. Pinched nerves and muscle spasms are not a good thing. To my dismay she’s been uncomfortable and in tears for the last 3 weeks and I’ve stood there helplessly trying to figure out what to do. Chiropractic and massage therapist visits brought only temporary relief and in some cases only worsened things. And then it all came to a head last night when she literally could not get up from a fetal position. Trying to stretch things out for about 40 minutes. Me, laying on the floor next to her and trying to comfort her through the pain until I realized it was time to call for an ambulance…

My beautiful wife is fast asleep on the couch now, tuckered out from waking up in unbearable pain, being rolled in a chair down the stairs because she couldn’t walk, shot up with narcotics and now on heavy doses of pain-killers. Allie is such a strong, brave woman and I hate seeing her in this much pain. I also hate knowing there’s nothing I can do about it but help her get up and stay home for the next few days (since I had a vacation scheduled already anyways) to ensure she’s staying healthy.

Would I love to be in Vegas with my coworkers? Of course. But I’d love to stay here with her way more. I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun without her anyways. Something I think we both realized today is that one of the most valuable aspects of marriage is having someone there when you need them. I can’t imagine life without her. Vegas will always be there waiting for us in Nevada and sometime we can go when we’re both healthy. What’s valuable now is that regardless of whether I’m in Shawnee, KS or Las Vegas, NV I get to spend a few days with my best-friend and do what I can to encourage her weary heart.

I love you, babe.

Welcoming your prayers,

Justin Meyer

Man Crush Monday

There he was, the dream version of myself in human form sitting to my left. A middle-aged gentleman obviously in early retirement, wealthy to the point of millions most likely but my interest wasn’t necessarily in the money although you could tell he had some from the stories he told. After spending years in law enforcement, he had become a motivational speaker and through his speaking realized he needed to write a book and share his stories with the world. I thought about asking for his phone-number or his business card, or trying to give him the link to my blog but in the moment it felt like I’d be trying too hard so I just listened.

He talked about his favorite things to do in retirement were playing racquetball and joining a few gun clubs. I probably should have said, “I’ll try and keep up with you on the racquetball court,” but despite his age, he’d probably whoop me.

So what’s the point of me sharing this story? I feel I was just encouraged by meeting someone that had done it. It wasn’t as if the money appeared in his bank account overnight and it wasn’t as if he was an immediate success. From what it sounded like, he had made cold calls to various sources in order to self-promote and sell his own books and services. But he put in the work and received the pay off over time.

When asked what book I was wanting to write, I quickly quipped that it’d be awesome to compile a book of my previously written poetry and he suggested adding illustrations to them to make it more consumer friendly which I thought was an excellent idea. Unfortunately, I shied away from sharing that I was currently working on writing a book on addiction recovery and my own faith journey but that’s okay – I just felt revitalized to start writing again. Something he said was, “You just have to do it. Sit down and write and write and write – don’t worry about the editing until you’re nearly done and then go back and spend twice as much time editing it.” It’s always been the starting that is the hardest part. Like getting out of bed and making the bed in the morning. Like choosing to jog. The hardest part isn’t finishing a mile, it’s the first two blocks and trying to get some cold, tired legs to move again.

With writing, it’s eliminating the self doubt and the worrying what others will think, because who cares? They’re either going to read it or they’re not going to. Really, I’m doing it for myself anyways, as part of my own healing process and journey to freedom from addiction to counterfeit affections, freedom from the obsession with other’s opinions, freedom from bending to other’s expectations. It’s about letting others behind the veil, eliminating a second self cloaked in lies of omission to provide safe haven for the second self. Dying to the old and giving birth to the new.

In the end, that’s what life is all about. And it’s always the heart of the matter that matters the most.

So today as you read this, where is your heart? What dreams are you not pursuing and what excuses are keeping you from their pursuit? Gather up those excuses and take them out with the trash tomorrow morning. They don’t belong in your life anymore.