How Christmas Influences My Perspective Today

You know that feeling where you simply cannot shake the conviction of the Holy Spirit? I’m convinced of my salvation in Christ Jesus because the Holy Spirit dwells within and draws me toward repentance. I may be stubborn and not repent right away but that often leads to literal, physical sickness for me. Christ within me cannot stand sin, but my flesh loves it. I know what Paul means when he wrote “I know the good I ought to do and yet don’t do it” – something along those lines.

I’ve been thinking about some life situations recently, along with my own sin faults over the last few years of my adult life, and one passage in particular keeps coming to mind.

Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It’s a humbling reality to realize that even as a “good Christian” and someone who has been in good standing most of my life, even I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I think this is why it can be so dangerous to allow ourselves to develop a moral superiority complex toward others. “Well at least I’m not an alcoholic…” or “at least I’m not as gluttonous and obese as they are,” or “at least I haven’t killed anyone.” I’m not an alcoholic, but I have certainly been drunk and that is sin. I am not morbidly obese but I am overweight and have an impulse control problem. And I haven’t killed anyone but I have had hatred and bitterness in my heart toward others, and Jesus says that hatred in our hearts towards a brother is the same as murder.

That’s some rather heavy stuff. I found myself sulking in that reality, that heaviness and dread of my own folly and lack of righteousness. I found myself humbled and wishing that it were not so.

The good news is that verse 23 of Romans 3 is followed by a comma, actually, not a period as portrayed above. Here is what follows in verse 24 – “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

I was thinking about things like depression and addiction and these pitfalls that even the best of people fall into sometimes, and it made me think of a world without hope. I saw a post on Facebook the other day about depression and how inescapable it can be “I know I will be fine but I don’t feel fine.” We should not willingly allow ourselves to be led to the slaughter to sin, but if you find yourself there this morning and realize your own capacity to mess up, then that is the first step toward freedom. The next is realizing that no matter how f’d up you may think you are, ALL are justified FREELY by HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ JESUS! (Read that again.)

If that isn’t a reason to celebrate Christmas, then I don’t know what it is!

This morning, I’d like to remind all of us that conviction does not have to lead to shame and guilt. In fact, if our brains are trained to go that way, it’s because we’re listening to the whispers of the devil rather than the still, small voice of Almighty God.

The Father’s voice sounds a lot different. Conviction can lead to repentance, which can immediately lead to full restoration. Think Prodigal Son. Wasted His entire inheritance and the Father still celebrates his return home, throwing a party which requires even further financial sacrifice on his part. We simply cannot outrun or out-sin the love of God. We can always come Home. “Let the children come to me.”

I think about my love for my wife. I do not love her because she loves me. I love her because I choose to and because I’ve made a covenant to do so every day for the rest of my life. But I am also motivated and encouraged to new levels of love as I witness her beauty, spiritual growth, and acts of service and kindness toward me – they are a sort of motivating force behind my love toward her and becoming increasingly less selfish so that we may both benefit.

My prayer for us all would be that conviction would lead to repentance which would lead to full restoration, and that we would be quicker to live a righteous life out of a deep love for God. A love that we have learned from Him, that is encouraged and strengthened by His love for us. And that we would choose Him daily.

If you’re having a hard time doing that, maybe you’re simply not looking for Him in your life anymore. When I find myself having a hard time loving Allie, it’s because I’ve gotten lazy in noticing all she is and all she does and the way she loves. We have to be intentional with what we fix our eyes on. If I fix my eyes on a woman, then I am bound to lust after her and be led away to sin. But if I fix my eyes on Christ, then I am bound to be led toward holiness, a cleansing of my sins and a deeper understanding of who He is and why I’m loved.

From that discovery and outpouring and life with eyes fixed on Christ, I can love others because I’ve learned what Love is from the Creator Himself.

You get the point.

Stop thinking you’re better than…Be quicker to admit your faults…Admit your failures don’t claim them as your identity. Fix your eyes back on Jesus and let Him remind you who you really are. Then live and love out of that reality.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

BUT…

Christmas happened.

Jesus came. Freedom is ours for the taking.

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Thoughts On The Greatness Within

A friend of mine turned me on to Kris Vallotton’s Podcast and I listened to the recent episode of “The Greatness Within” and it was mind-blowing. I highly recommend it as a great listen on this Friday morning.

He speaks of an exercise that he did with his youth-group at a retreat. Having the students take ten minutes to write down what they would do if they were ten times bolder. At the end of the ten minutes, he said “If you’ve written anything down at all, then you’ve allowed fear to shrink you.”

I nearly fell out of my chair, thinking about the things that I would potentially write about or speak on if I were just ten times bolder in my faith and in my walk with Christ during my daily life at work, at home, with friends in coffee-shops and bars. He’s right, if I’m limiting myself due to “norms” then I’ve allowed fear to shrink me and I don’t really think of God as all that big and capable.

Another great point that Kris makes is the sort of “false humility” that can be found within the church. We all act as if we are prideful we will steal the glory from God. Are you really that big? Can you really steal the glory from God – the one who created you? If your son were to score the winning touchdown for the Kansas City Chiefs, would you be saddened? Would your glory be stolen? More than likely, you’d be beaming with pride – his success is your success! Just like the downfalls of children can cause the mourning of parents. He takes on both the glory and the pain of His children, just as my parents do. If I get a promotion at work, they’re thrilled! If I make a poor life decision and am suffering the consequences, their hearts and prayers are with me.

All of this got me to thinking…how are we limiting ourselves?

This was literally the first podcast I’ve ever listened to by Kris Vallotton but I’m sure that I will be back for more. He went on to share stories of how the anointing of Christ can come on us when he gives us a new name.

No longer fearful and timid, but strong and courageous.

But like Saul in the Bible when he was hiding from his anointing as King, there can be a trial – a turbulent like moment where your kingdom is threatened and suddenly the Spirit of the Lord comes upon you – it’s time to live up to your name. “Where there is the Lamb, the Lion lives also.” He then unites his people to defend their countryside and lives up to his new name as King.

How powerful is that? Sure, Jesus was the Lamb led to slaughter, to die for the sins of His People, but three days later He was The Lion, overcoming death with ferocious power.

How about when He protected His Father’s house (the temple) and overthrew tables? There was a righteous anger that sought justice for His Children. I think of the feeling I get when I hear a story of how someone has hurt the feelings of my wife or sister. Rarely an individual that resorts to violence, there is an immediate balling of fists and raise in blood-pressure as I prepare to go to battle for her. Being the eldest of five, I took on the role of a third-parent whether the family liked it or not – it’s hard to raise a bunch of capable kids and babies at the same time, as my Mom was in the spot of doing. So I’d do a lot of “babysitting” and keeping the flock safe, hence the “affectionate” nickname of “Father Meyer” from friends who didn’t understand my cautious mentality.

If we are heirs to the throne and royalty is our brother that went to Calvary on our behalf, then are we not kings and queens in waiting as well? Are we not called to something greater than ourselves?

There once was a time for childish games, but that season has passed away and He is making all things new. “So while you may be standing in the midst of a difficult life-struggle and you believe you are in the valley of the shadow of death, perhaps you are just in the belly of the whale as Jonah was”, Kris says. He’s called you to Nineveh but you don’t want to go. Well, guess what, if God calls you somewhere…you’re either going now, or you’re going after a crazy storm throws you overboard and the whale of life swallows you up and spits you back out, humbly where you were called to go in the first place. 

Unfortunately, I think most of us are like Jonah. We don’t want to listen the first time. We’re too busy looking at our phones, balking at spiritual authority, and having a good time. We forget to listen for and cherish the Lord’s voice and calling. Our ears are filled with earphones so that we cannot hear His still, small whisper. And then we find ourselves surprised that suddenly our sin’s consequences have given birth to trial.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…we will never outrun the laws of God’s Great Economy. We will always reap what we sow. Sure you can be lazy and let the fields go for a little while and the crops may still thrive. But stay lazy long enough and the weeds will strangle the crops and you’ll be forced to plow the fields all over again.

Stand your ground. Clean out your ears. Realize that you’re not that big, but you’re not that small either. It’s time to make something out of yourself, because God doesn’t make useless things. He hasn’t called you to live in addiction, depression, isolation, and sadness. He’s called you to live in the land of milk and honey, to take part in the His Kingdom’s riches and to live with joy, thankfulness, gratitude, and peace on your hearts.

It’s time for you and I to unlock these powerful truths and to unleash the greatness within.

Here is a link to the podcast referenced for your listening ears: Bethel Podcast – Kris Vallotton

the greatness within

4PM – Wrestling Through My Authentic Self

It’s almost 4PM and I’ve gotta be honest, despite an incredible week of discipline and life-changing decisions, I haven’t accomplished much today. Some days you wake up and the crippling expectations of perfection you’ve placed on yourself cripple your movements. You don’t want to get up and work toward your goals because, what if you fail? You share the incredible progress you’ve made in your weight-loss journey and set a reachable, but difficult goal and share it with your Facebook friends and then you shrink into bed for an afternoon nap because how you’re afraid you won’t achieve it.

You remember the meeting that you set up with the lead pastor of your megachurch, who kindly took an hour out of his day to set up a meeting with you to share tips on how to become a better writer, shared his own story on how he came to be one, and then you find yourself paralyzed by the fear of not being enough and you barely have the inner strength to get yourself back behind the keyboard again – even though you know it’s exactly where you belong.

You’re the kind of person that walks into a room and the temperature changes. You go into a meeting at work and if you’re on, it’s noticeable – and if you’re down, it’s going to bring the room down. You don’t even have to be assigned the role of leadership, you just naturally are the leader – your words have power, your actions bring results, and your passion – present or not – makes itself felt.

And you set this unrealistic expectation on yourself that you always have to be on, all of the time. If you’re at the family-dinner and you’re feeling a little sullen and not being the life-of-the-party, peace-keeper that everyone knows you’re capable of being then you’ve somehow failed them.

But have you? Is it really your job to be everyone’s Jesus? And do you have to be at 100% every day to compete?

There are Major League Baseball pitchers who’s job is to be ON, bringing the heat, throwing the strikes game-after-game-after-game, and even they are going to have an off day. I think of the late Royals Pitcher Yordano Ventura – throwing gas most of the time and sometimes he was just plain awful, but he was still the young-star and his energy was felt. His presence was made known, at every single game – on the sidelines or in the action, on the mound at Kauffman Stadium.

But what makes guys like Salvador Perez so valuable to the Royals? It’s his authenticity – he is always himself, all of the time. He’s leading the emotional, physical, and mental charge, all of the time – on and off the field. And he’s having fun while he’s doing it!

Brene Brown writes, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

That got me thinking…

If my blog is about Embracing God’s Grace and believing in His redemptive power to overcome my weaknesses – if His love can cover over a multitude of my sins, and if I think Jesus took my place on the cross…

Then why am I still hiding in bed?

And so I got up, put my clothes back on (as the world outside cheered and thanked me for doing so), and came downstairs to the computer to pound out my choppy thoughts on the day. Chopping writing is better than no writing.

“Practice your craft,” my pastor said.

So it may be just a quarter after 4PM as I’m briefly editing this, but the day isn’t over yet and I didn’t surrender fully to the Enemy. God’s not finished with me yet. And he’s not finished writing your story either. So if you’re having one of those days where you’re stuck hiding in bed, or slinking behind your coworkers and avoiding being seen and known, I’d encourage you to be brave today and trust that His grace is enough.

I encourage you join in the “daily practice of letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embracing who you are.”

You can see the first week of our progress in how attractive my beautiful wife and I are in this photo of us at my buddy Matt’s wedding this Saturday! I’m one heck of a lucky man!

justin and allie

Psalm Study Week 2 (Psalms 8-14)

Here we are two weeks into the study of Psalms and I can already feel the Lord stirring my heart. It’s so cool to see how God’s Word is living and active, useful for teaching, rebuking, and training in discipline. I’ll follow the same format as last time, highlighting my favorite verses from each chapter and sharing my thoughts along the way.

  • Psalm 8:5 “You have made them (mankind) a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Parenthesis added for context.)
    • As Allie and I discussed this chapter, this verse struck us as awe-inspiring and left us with questions – like, what is the heaven hierarchy? What are angels, really? And while I’ve learned a great deal growing up about these kinds of things I did not want to pretend that I really knew the answer so we’ve prayed and asked God to help us learn more about the topic as we go along. But really what is cool about this passage is how we’re only a little lower than the angels like Gabriel and the Lord has chosen us to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4), and crowned us with glory and honor.
  • Psalm 9:9 “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
    • This is truer than true. I think of all the times I’ve found myself in a burdensome time and it’s as if my heart’s gravitational pull is prayer. The sad reality is that this is often the only time many of us choose to pray. A plane strikes the Twin Towers and suddenly we are a nation of prayer again. Kids are senselessly slaughtered in an elementary school and we pray. He’s designed us in His image and our default is to run back to Him for comfort in times for calamity. I’m so grateful the Lord is my refuge and my strength, my stronghold in times of trouble. I think I’d also like to get to a point in my spiritual walk where the Lord is with me always and I’m in constant communion with Him.
  • Psalm 10:1,4 “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?… In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
    • These two verses are not exactly correlated but they both really stick out to me. Verse 1 reverberates an honest question that I feel we have all asked God at one time or another. We’re in the valley and we’ve been praying and crying through our depression and hardship for days and God seems nowhere to be found. Where, Lord? Where have you gone? Is the question of our hearts – the honest, heartfelt plea. I read a blog earlier this week by Hannah Brencher that went as far to say that the valleys of life are where we do the most growing. And often she’s found the trial passes once she’s had the strength to stand up and start walking again. Far too often we just sit frozen in fear and expect God to take the pain away – but what would we learn from that? A good father disciplines his children. Verse 4 just seems like a good reminder for all of us – when we allow pride to overtake us, there is no room in our thoughts for God. Are you consumed by the Lord’s love for others, or are you so enamored with yourself that you’re deaf to His gentle whispers calling you home?
  • Psalm 11:6-7 “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.
    • Now I’m sure you’ve heard the idea of righteous anger. Right here, we see where that natural anger comes from. Created in His image, we can’t help but clench our fists when there is wrongdoing in the world. For some reason I find this verse encouraging. All men will be called to account for their wrongdoing in the end and on the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur on their heads. The upright, on the other hand, will see his face. Sign me up.
  • Psalm 12:1-2 “Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race. Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.
    • Are we sure David didn’t sneak back into modern-times via time-machine and write this passage for the modern-day? Gracious Savior, come quick. Right? It’s just so disheartening to see all of the hatred and deception in the world, the lying, stealing, and cheating to get whatever you want. It burdens my heart to know I’ve taken part in it myself a few times along the way. I’m thankful for the Lord’s grace and His redemptive work in my life. I’m also thankful for David’s writing here as it relates to my present-day outlook on life as I read the news, surf my Facebook newsfeed, etc. “Lord, so few are faithful, so few say genuinely nice things and actually mean them without having some form of deception in their hearts.”
  • Psalm 13:2 “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
    • In the moment, it seems like the enemy will remain triumphant over us. In that pit of despair. The good news is his diminished victory over us won’t last forever – it’s only a minor victory of a particular battle. Light wins the war that wages within. This is another reminder that I can pray honestly to God. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?”
  • Psalm 14:5 “But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.
    • “They” is referencing the wicked, those who have trampled on the oppressed and ignored God’s calling back Home. I interpret a tone of “there they go again – surprised by the fact they feel empty and lifeless…” And the Lord’s heart is that it should be no surprise you feel dead inside when you’ve accept Death’s lies avoided Life’s truths. I’m comforted to know He is present with the righteous at heart.

Well friends, that wraps things up for this morning. I’ve gotta get myself to work. I hope you’re enjoying following along. Read Psalm 15 today and tune in next week for the third installment of our Psalm Study.

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Darkness Better Run And Hide

I’m not sure that I could pinpoint the exact moment when I became more aware of the world spiritually but I’m aware now. As I write this, I feel like the crazed lunatic that I used to judge thinking, “They must be some sort of weird charismatic Christian for believing in spiritual warfare, and that they’re ‘under attack’.” But as someone who’s been going through a sort of spiritual renaissance for the last couple years – with a sober mind and heart, I can tell you that there are forces at work beyond what the eye can see.

Allie and I watched a documentary last night on Hulu about the Menendez Brothers. It was a horrific account of their trial for murdering their own parents and the defense was set up around the fact that one of the sons had been sexually abused by the father. On Facebook earlier, I came across post after post filled with hate and despair in relation to homosexuality, gun-control, and the immorality of others and the dark pain it’s left behind.

As I watched, read, and took in these stories and accounts from others it was almost as if I was being smothered – my chest felt heavier, the world seemed grey (even though yesterday was relatively beautiful), and hope seemed light-years away. A pen could drop and we’d hear it, the faint sighs of our shallow, defeated breaths filling the living room. It was then I realized that we had to pray.

We turned to God and asked Him to be protect us from this darkness, to send his angels to watch over us, to heal our hearts in the areas that they’ve been broken, and to help us to live lives filled with joy and victory – that our season of feeling stretched, exhausted, and smothered would be taken from us. Then we had conversations with some other friends and heard about the heaviness in their lives and the demons were back, ready to whisper lies in our ears that it was only a matter of time before our hearts and souls would be crushed by darkness too.

My wife shared with me this morning that she couldn’t sleep very well last night. Kept awake 1-3AM with the spirit of fear and darkness bearing down on her. And in a text-message she just shared with me, “I kept praying and singing worship songs in my head last night while I was awake to try and combat it.” After insisting she wake me up in the future so I can sing, pray, and cry with her, I told her that’s probably one of the most attractive things she’s ever told me about herself. She’s a fiercely beautiful woman with such a strong heart, refusing to give in to darkness no matter what comes our way.

She’s supportive of my writing and gets excited when I share my heart with the world; she prays for me when I ask her to and even when I don’t; she does the silly things I ask her to do like make homemade granola and she doesn’t complain about it. When I met Allie in October, 2015 I was lost to the ways of this world – womanizing, drinking too much, and had given up on Jesus if we’re being honest. I tell her often that she’s always been Jesus in the flesh for me. She’s called me back home. My heart has been softened to His love again and she’d attest to the heart and life change that has occurred since. Now, when I encourage, pray for, and write letters/blogs I am a different man, one that is heavily influenced by the Lord.

As I study Psalms and see David’s heart – open, honest, vulnerable, outspoken, fearful and fearless in the same breath (Week 2 of our study will be published tomorrow or Wednesday, FYI) I cannot help but see myself. David had some appalling weaknesses and a volatile spirit and yet he writes 150 chapters of the Bible with his own pen and is credited as the man after God’s heart.

Genuinely pursuing a relationship with God was never promised to be easy, but it’s the most powerful relationship in the universe. Marriage was never meant to be easy, but it’s the most rewarding relationship you’ll ever have – and it’s designed as a mirror image of what our Father in Heaven’s love is like for us. People are broken and come from hurtful backgrounds – they have hurts, hangups, and habits that were designed to be healed in a loving community but that’s made difficult when society thrashes back with hate, judgement, and vengeance. And start genuinely pursuing God and you better believe a legion of demons will be heading your way. Satan hates when someone else is revived by the Light. We must call on the Lord and FIGHT BACK. We cannot simply shrink back into the corner of the room and allow darkness to consume us. We must sing, cry, dance, shout, and declare victory over darkness. It has no place here! Satan has no authority over me or you or anyone else – unless we give it to Him.

The words we speak over ourselves are powerful. The Lord brought the world into existence with his words and He’s created us in His image. More often than not, we prophecy our own demise. “I’m fat” and so we stay fat. “I’m broke” and so we stay broke. “I have an addictive personality” and so we stay addicted. What if we broke that cycle and said, “I’m a fighter” and so we fought. “I’m handsome” and so we embraced our positive physical attributes and worked on our weaknesses. “I’m rich” and so we spent more time thinking about what we have, rather than what we don’t – and no longer consumed by a spirit of lack, ended up with more than we could have asked for or imagined.

Stop allowing Satan to use your own words against you. Make amends. Apologize, forgive, and move forward. We can consume our minds with our history or we can became an active part of His Story.

I am redeemed, recovered, renewed. I am bold, confident, awakened. I am alive, well, and strong. I am honest, integral, and through with running from God.

I am a man after God’s heart. A man in pursuit of his wife alone. I called to ministry and to writing – to encouraging without relent.

Satan hates me and will continue to send his deceptive, horrific, dark, deadly lies my way and I will fight him. And in Jesus, I will win.

“I have good news,” I told Allie, “I’ve read the Bible and Light wins. Darkness better run and hide.”

run and hide

I See Greatness In You

I asked God to speak to me today. In prayer, out loud – I said, “Lord, I want to hear your voice – to feel your presence and to know that you are for me.” And I waited on the Lord; I waited for Him to come. And He didn’t…Not right away, anyways.

But somehow, going through the motions of the day, Allie and I began to open up – sharing deeper and deeper longings and dreams in our hearts and taking the time to intentionally ask questions and seek out more intimate truths. Walking further into the caverns of each other and finding precious rubies in each others hearts.

Vulnerable moments. The kind that make you hesitate before you share. The impulse comes and you begin to speak but doubt clouds your judgment and stills your tongue – wait a couple moments longer and you’ll be silenced – and then again the words come to your lips, you take a leap of faith and let them escape, exposing yourself to the other’s impact.

In that moment, you’ve chosen to be known.

And insecure fear can race into your mind, forcing you to wonder whether or not you should have shared that intimate part of yourself.

And in those moments today, we both found Jesus looking back at us – the other listened, asked questions, and went to the King as their mediator, gently refusing to pass judgment or throw the first stone.

“I see greatness in you.”

“I see greatness in you,” my wife said as we paused and reflected on the wonderful day of sharing that we had experienced together. “It’s the moments you’ve taken in your life to be vulnerable with others and listened to their counsel that have led to your greatness today, and more greatness to come.” (Slightly paraphrasing. But the message was clear, straight from the Lord. Two separate messages. First – a playful, “I heard your prayer and answered it. Didn’t I?” Because He spoke to me, clearly, plainly, and beautifully – just in a different way than I had expected. The second message became clearer the more I meditated on the words my wife had spoken. “I’m proud of you, son.”)

“I’m proud of you, son.”

Unashamed. The Lord, my King and Father, is unashamed of me. He isn’t passing judgement on my weight or lack of income recently due to poor sales or my insecure worrying and constant pleas for others to pray for me, because of my disbelief in the effectiveness of my own prayers. He isn’t saying, “Go read one more chapter of the Bible and then I’ll pour out my love and affection upon you.”

The story of the prodigal son is true. It’s my story and it can be yours true. A ragamuffin, troubled by the thorn in Paul’s side, recovering from addiction to counterfeit affections by God’s grace. Every memory of hurt and torment, every word of abuse, every fragile friendship that experienced abandonment, Jesus has offered to take those from me and to replace them with His love. All I had to do was let Him in. Never once after letting Him in has He cursed me with residency in my past, dooming me to a life of shame. Rather, He’s freed me from my shackles and shown me His powerful mercy and grace. To the point that my beautiful, outstanding, strong, faithful, kind, merciful, Christ-like wife said, “I see greatness in you.”

Words that melted my heart, softened me to His Love. Tonight, I’m Embracing God’s Grace. I’m accepting myself because He accepts me – not as an acquaintance and not even as a distance friend, but as a son – a son that He is proud of.

vulnerability

Mustache Manifesto

It all started a few weeks ago. I began sharing with Allie my impulse to shave my beard – it was bothering me; I wanted a clean face for a little while again. But for whatever reason I just didn’t do it. Then Saturday came.

I had just gotten off work and eaten dinner with my wife and the thought crossed my mind again and I spoke it out loud – “Then, let’s do it!” she said excitedly. “Why keep talking about it? If you want to shave your beard, just do it.”

The matter was resolved. I walked up the stairs and began trimming my beard. If only that were the truth.

Instead, I spent the next hour or two agonizing over whether or not I should do it. What would people think? Would my friends and family accept me? Would she still find me attractive and desirable if I “looked 17 again” as some say when they’re clean-shaven in their 20s? What if coworkers made fun of me and customers found me less trustworthy?

So much identity wrapped up in some hair – the mild brownish-red scruff that I had sported since Jake & Co. had convinced me to grow a beard in college. It was important. It proved as it were that I was a man. It covered up (I thought) my double-chin and mildly handsome face. As I thought about it, it was almost as if I were hiding my true self behind a wall of rebellious manhood.

And I thought about my post-college years (pre-Allie) and the “man” I tried to prove I was. Overzealous rhetoric, aggressively flirtatious, and a ridiculous amount of pseudo-charm that was the Covergirl Makeup associated with an unstable amount of insecurity.

That was it. It was time to do it. To cut away the past. Wipe away the greasy strands and wispy past. To feel clean again – even if just for a brief season. (It’s highly likely the beard will return as soon as the weather cools again. But it’ll be because I want it, not because I need it.)

So it happened. Failing miserably with a razor at first and realizing I’d have to mega-trim the beard before using a razor to clear the rest. “Except for, keep the stash!” said Allie, cheerily – always finding a way to bring an extra dose of joy into the already silliest of occasions. And so I did. Because, why not?

A day later, I’d convinced my brother Tyler that lives with us to do it too. And I’m still working on convincing Jordan to bring his back. But all in good fun and just for the sake of laughs (I mean, how great would a Meyer Bros Mustache Trio be?!?!). Because I’ve already taken life seriously enough for the three of us.

So friends, what are you doing to cover up your heart and the parts of yourself that you don’t want to face? Maybe it’s as simple as shaving the beard and starting over, or maybe it’s a little more complicated than that – some poisonous relationship to flee from, an addiction to leave behind, or an over-reliance on independence to the point of isolation – but whatever it is that is trapping you from being fully the man or woman the Lord is calling out of you – rid yourself of it as quickly as possible.

My identity is in the Lord, as a Christian man, husband, brother, friend, son, and puppy-daddy.  I don’t need anything else to prove who I am.

(Yes….I know….I got a whole blog post out of shaving my beard. Silly? Sure. But it’s also unapologetically who God designed me to be. Now Harvey needs someone to play fetch with, so I better go!)

ron swanson