Labels, Pretzels, And Feelings.

Labeling things always seems so dangerous to me. I’m sure you can relate. Do I really want to label my issue with such-and-such an addiction? Do I really want to label this relationship abusive? Or the ones that I struggle with presently would be…do I really want to admit that I’m 50 lbs overweight and living in depression?

I suppose admitting you have a problem or placing a label on something can be freeing as well. For me, deciding Allie was the one I was willing to give my life for and to has reaped the benefits of freedom and love that I could have never fathomed before. The label of faithful commitment called marriage has been well worth the cost.

However, for many of you, in the present-world of dating, everyone has so many options. Swipe right, swipe left – go on a few “dates” and watch a little “Netflix” – okay, now I’m bored – let’s swipe some more. Placing a label on things seems…dangerous…to some. Placing a label on things may cause someone to avoid making a decision altogether (perhaps that is why some people date 5+ years or end up in 3+ year engagements). Committing to another now takes all the other options off the table and that risks making a bad decision.

I don’t know about you, but I hate failing.

Failure is one of those things that drives me crazy. If I put myself in an unfamiliar scenario and say “I’m going to lose x-number of pounds by y-date,” or “I’d like to make z amount of money by 2025,” then I feel paralyzed. Admitting that I have a goal or getting it out into the light is one of the most proven methods for success. Let others know where you’d like to go and surround yourself with an energetic team of others that are already going that direction – be okay with leaving the stragglers behind, because that’s not where you want to be anymore, yourself.

If that’s the method for success, then why is it so difficult?

To place the label on oneself as writer would probably mean that one should write something…right? Hence this silly blog airing out my internal spider-web of feelings.

And feelings…aren’t they just so complicated? I really, truly wonder how anyone makes it through life without therapy/counseling and some kind of stress-release outlet (for me, it’s coffee and reading or disc-golf on my days off). If it weren’t for my own weekly counseling and “me-time” outings, I’d be a pretzel of feelings. I pray for those of you that have yet to have the courage to admit that you need help.

It’s insane that we all thought at the age of 18 that we knew so much and would be conquerors of the world. To have some of that confidence back would be amazing, but perhaps tempered with the wisdom of years of realizing just how much anyone always has left to learn. Remain humble and you will be lifted up, in due time.

One simply has to be themselves to get anywhere in life. You are unique and different and important and you add value to the world around you.

As my counselor put it – “you don’t really have to change or be any different for anyone other than yourself, if you want to.”

Another friend put it growing up, “you will always do whatever it is that you want to do.” It may have been his way of spurring me on toward a more obedient faith during times of abundant apathy and cynicism, but that truth remains.

You will do what you want to do.

What is that, exactly?

I’m still trying to find the answer, for myself. I think I grew up in such a way that I wanted to be perfect and pleasing for others. Focusing my energy on ensuring I was setting the right example – or rather, obsessing over the times I obviously had not set the correct one. Being the oldest of 5 siblings places you in that sort of dynamic by birthright. It’s no one’s “fault” really, more so just where you end up.

Wasting all this energy on wondering what others want of me has proven unsuccessful. So I now find myself beginning to ask the question of, “what do I want for me?”

Sounds selfish. But it’s not. The times that others have been the most blessed and enthused by my presence are the times that I’ve loved myself.

What are your thoughts? How have you personally come to peace with who you are and decided what you wanted for yourself? How can I pray for and encourage your own life-journey?

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Grace Over Grave

The world will crush your bones,

Dry up your spirit.

It will promise pleasure, but you’re still thirsty.

I’ve got the truth – but you won’t hear it.

Too busy getting stuff done,

That you forgot about the Son.

But hey, me too, so I guess it’s fine.

We can just say “hey, your sin is more than mine.”

Compare our righteousness to others,

“Ha! If you only knew my brothers…” we say.

Brush the judgment day off our shoulders,

Feel abandoned this side of heaven,

Go out looking for attention, getting “bolder.”

Only to learn that this world’s colder.

So we numb the pain with something fake,

If it feels like love, then it must be it,

Besides, the loneliness of this world is too much to take,

So even if I settle, so be it.

And that’s the lie that you believe,

A lie so well-spoken by deception,

That it seems to bring about relief,

But don’t be surprised, then, at pain’s reception.

Because it will arrive.

And choke what you thought was thriving,

Then you’ll look back for hope,

And realizing it’s not there, as your relationship with it is what you were depriving.

Living in “liberty” but a captive,

Free from “the law” but shackled to regrets.

Hope came to set you free.

Hope has a name.

Hope hasn’t given up on you or me.

Hope has no desire to leave you in shame.

So the next fool’s gold that catches your heart’s attention,

Do as my wife (the teacher) would and send it to detention.

And work on your retention of love over hate,

Grace over Grave.

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I’m Justin, Here I Stand

Heart’s in a panic;

Beating quickly;

Thump, thump; they’re voting Trump.

Don’t get political;

Turns hypocritical.

Temper your opinions;

You are just a minion.

 

No confidence,

Lack competence.
And these are the lies,

That catch me by surprise.

 

Because really, if you knew me.

You’d see the mirage right through me.

 

Bravery and intellect,

Inquisitive, that is correct.

I’m smart and unapologetic;

Communicate without the rhetoric.

 

More passionate than Romeo;

Come to me and your troubles go;

A counselor to and fro;

Not afraid to go deep;

It’s in the shallow-end, I’d likely sink.

 

So what causes me to come and drink?

These lies from the bitter sink.

 

A broken mirror I see into,

Wondering what to do.

How to become the better me,

Because me isn’t enough,

But he’d be – he’d be tough.

 

Through and through, a winner.

Respectable, with accolades,

A house with lots of shade,

Married and pretty great;

Crises averted and problems dissolved,

Justin – Evolved.

 

But I am what I am,

Sam I am.

 

An overcomer,

Not a bummer.

 

Strong and relational,

Rarely confrontational.

 

Come to think of it,

I like who I am.

I’ll write my name in this sand;

I’m Justin, here I stand.

 

“I’m Fine”

I was having a particularly bad Friday. Things weren’t going my way; I was tired and the world was at odds with me in every direction; I was suffering from deep, paralyzing anxiety, and yet I found myself answering a peer’s question – “How are you?” – with “I’m fine.” Why?

Why is it so socially acceptable to lie about our mental state? Why is it that we’ve been taught to repress feelings?

Why are we so afraid of real?

I’ve been a wrestler my whole life. Challenging the status-quo of belief and wondering – asking questions – digging deeper – seeking out and discovering things for myself, not always taking no for an answer. And the social landscape through which we view and filter our feelings has always baffled me. I’m always scratching my head, off in the corner by myself and thought that it’s simply wrong. There is no way in heaven or hell or earth, land, and sky that everyone is doing just “fine.”

And are we okay with fine?

Sitting in a coffee-shop the other day with a friend, we discussed some of our deeper fears in life. One of the fears that we both had was that we were alone. It was an interesting fear, as we both have large social-circles, girlfriends, and families that are beyond loving. Yet we believed we were alone sometimes.

First off – that’s obviously a “lie” from the enemy that we are “alone” and alienated. And that we can’t partake in community.

But secondly – I think we’re to blame, as we’ve accepted the culture that says hiding your feelings is acceptable, the norm, and what you should pursue. And so I’ve had rough days and wanted to reach out to a close friend like him and I didn’t let myself because I thought it would be frowned upon, or worse – an inconvenience – I thought I’d disrupt his day.

Well newsflash, world! People have feelings and those feelings are going to disrupt your day sometimes. And my friend would have taken my call. And he would have let me cry or shout or worry, and then everything would have been just fine.

So why are we so afraid to make a wave? To drop our rock of feeling into the standstill pool of the world, afraid that it might disrupt the crystal-clear water of numbness.

You can be fine. You can be happy. You can be sad. But if you’re not fine, you’re not fine – and that’s fine. No – I mean, that’s alright.

Are you messy? I’m messy. Do you love hard and get hurt? Hey, me too. Do you give all you can and wonder if you’ll ever get back? Surprise! Me, as well. Do you dream and wonder and get confused? Is the world a surge of joy one day and a dark storm the next? Do you wonder where God is sometimes? Guess what? Me too.

So, how are you?

Keep it real.

Justin