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

What I Learned In 2017

Since 2013 I’ve been writing a summation of lessons learned over the course of the year. My wife jokingly said that people were counting on it, so whether people read it or not I suppose it’s worth writing – so humor me and her and stick around for this year’s golden-nuggets of wisdom.

First off – I should probably be writing a book because you learn so much in the first year of marriage that it’s not even funny. I’ve learned more about myself in this last year than I ever have before. Previously, it seemed to take me years to learn varying lessons of maturity but when you get married, the necessity of growing up and becoming a man accelerates. It’s an incubator for growth.

In pop-culture and even in an episode of Glee that Allie and I watched last night, it seems to be “okay” to lie in marriage. In fact, it’s often encouraged as if it were the only way around certain things. After all, “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her” – until it does. What I’ve learned over this last year is that even lying by omission is lying. It’s been to own my mistakes, like the fact I went over budget that week rather than pretending like nothing happened. And the sooner I own up to my sin, past, shortcomings, and flaws, the sooner Allie forgives me and the sooner the Lord can work in my life to help me overcome these obstacles.

I’ve heard it said many times that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and it’s never rung truer than with budgeting and establishing a household together. Open communication about gender roles and expectations are a necessity to avoid the awkward tension of unexpressed expectations that lead to conflict. Often, a fight could be avoided altogether if we had simply taken the time to talk about our feelings in the moment rather than holding our feelings in and allowing time to pass and our hearts to begrudge one another. Thankfully, over the last few months we’ve learned the way to overcome this flaw is to call for occasional time-outs and admit that there is conflict/tension/disagreement and talk it out. Trying to avoid the elephant in the room never eliminates the elephant, no matter how badly we wish it would.

Speaking of elephants – how about sex! Yep, I went there. I cannot express the freedom there is being with my wife and knowing I’m loved wholeheartedly despite all of my brokenness. Unfortunately, the world’s view of sex is just so skewed. It’d probably take a whole other blog post or book to dispel all of the false doctrine my young mind encountered in college and as a young adult. But what I’ll tell you is this – there is a reason the Bible calls for sex to be something saved for marriage. Whether it be pornography, promiscuous “friendships” or “innocent” flirting, every aspect of your heart, soul, and body that you give to another prior to marriage will haunt you. And remember that honesty thing…it’s better to bare my soul to the beautiful woman that has chosen to stand by my side for the rest of her life than to attempt hiding the skeletons in the caverns of my heart. After all, there’s nothing more healing than the light, no love greater than an honest, warm, covered by the grace of God embrace from another that simply refuses to give up on you.

Along with getting married in 2017, I became Papa Meyer to our Puppy-Bear, Harvey. You’ve probably seen him light up social-media with his cute expressions and seen our frustrated posts about him destroying our property and creating stress in our home. Prior to Harverford (his legal name), I’d never known what it was like to own a dog. It’s interesting the bond you start to form with the young guy. I guess you could say that we’re pals now. But good Lord can he make me angry. I’m still getting the hang of being a puppy-daddy but Allie seems to think I’m doing a great job and that’s what matters.

Professionally, I’ve seen myself excel in a career in Sales. The key to my success has been refocusing on my relationship with God and trusting that He will provide. It’s ironic how when I’m not worried about the money, I perform exceptionally. And when I’m too focused on the numbers, I have a bad week because I’m trying too hard. It’s a constant battle between trying to be the best and remembering to find the right work-life balance. When we get to heaven, he’s not going to care how many cars I sold – he’s going to care about how many lives I embraced with his grace.

Last but not least I was meeting with my Men’s Group on Saturday morning at 7AM as I do nearly every week and I found myself giving this piece of advice to a brother in Christ in the room. “Pause, and love yourself.” Ironically, I think I’m the person that needs this advice the most. I’m an all-in or all-out kind of guy. In college, I was either getting an A or barely scraping by with a C. That sort of hot-and-cold perfectionism, emotionally charged intellectual has always been a yo-yo of existence and rarely do I find myself doing just that – pausing. Pausing to love, myself.

2017 taught me a lot. It taught me that one of the greatest things about marriage is losing yourself and finding someone else. Finding the man that you’d buried deep beneath the pain and hurt and insecurity and calling him out to be the husband for the beautiful bride. It taught me to take nothing for granted and that wealth must be earned. It taught me that God’s grace can overcome absolutely anything, even if I’m too scared to surrender it. And it’s taught me that true freedom is a truly surrendered heart to His will.

That’s all I have for now! Looking forward to all there is to learn in 2018.

2017

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

Life-Speed

It happens quicker than you think – just blink and it may all be over. Hesitate for a moment and you just may miss it. Over-analyze your stance and you may stand for nothing at all. Life happens ever so fast. It is a warp-speed affair.

I wish that I learned as quickly as time passes by, or that I had the superpower to bend time to my own whims, but I do not. And even as I write this, time continues ticking on by. How much of our lives shall we spend being scared to act? (I ask this question more as a pressing into my own soul than a challenge to the general populous.)

A commonality among men and women alike is that they would very much like to succeed. There is nothing wrong with this ideal at all. Unfortunately, a problem does arise when the fear of failure becomes crippling. If I set out to climb the mountain and then do not make it to the top, then my pride takes a hit – so why would I attempt mountain-climbing at all? There is a chance that I will not reach the summit – a chance that I am not as strong and well-conditioned as I (hypothetically) think. I cannot bear to lose.

It’s a travesty to be a fearful man. What kind of impact can one make if they are afraid to rock the boat or cause a wake in the still sea, even if the sea is truly dead? So often, good men stand idly by, not wanting to press into those around them – subsequently, they miss out a great deal on the growth caused by working through conflict with another, and their peers are robbed of their wisdom and the growth that comes through being challenged in your thinking and way of life.

The friends that I’m closest to are the ones that have rocked my boat. They’ve done so with wisdom and patience (usually) and have waited on the Lord’s guidance as to the appropriate time. Sometimes they wait things out and let the Spirit do the work of convicting and changing my heart, but other times, they are not afraid to call out the man within, and to challenge my heart. For those few men, I am grateful. I respect them for their diligence in building up and protecting my heart.

I want to live as a passionate man – not afraid of the pursuit of something new (a relationship, job, dream).

Something I really appreciate about love-stories (fiction/nonfiction) is that they are courageous tales of one heart daring to influence another – whether for better or for worse – one has attempted to impact the other. Love is, or should be, selfless. And in the best romance movies and stories, you see that sacrificially lifting up another is the ultimate expression of deep, true love. To give is far better than to receive. It may take us as long as a lifetime to learn this, but I hope not. Attempting to manipulate people, or utilize relationships for our own gain is never fully satisfying, and only leaves us thirsting for more. But giving of our time and talents to make a positive contribution to molding another’s character, or assisting in reaching their dream – that is something worth living for.

Start living today, because you could very well die tomorrow. Your friends need your counsel and to share in your burdens, so that you may grow, together. Your bride/groom needs your attentive pursuit of their heart. Your church needs your personality and gifts, just as much as you need theirs.

You’re not getting younger. Never again will you have the opportunity of today, so make the most of it.

Life-Speed, friends. Because it’s not slowing time anytime soon.

warp speed

 

Ramblings on Manhood

The title says it all – I am going to “think out loud” and piece together what I have been learning over the last month. None of this is edited and primed for a book, but that is the beauty of a blog. Disclaimer stated, allow me to forge forward.

Let’s talk.

There is an absence of realness within the realm of men. Big ideas and vision come forth and words of wisdom are spoken, but little action is taken, and even fewer relationships built around truth. It is easier for guys to gather and watch football games and to avoid getting into one another’s lives. Trust me, I can watch a Chief’s game with the best of them, and when the NFL season comes around again, I’ll find a way to be in Arrowhead at least once this coming year. However, there simply has to be more to man-to-man relationships than beer, food, and sports. And I do appreciate all of those things.

What are the roadblocks that keep men from connecting?

I’ll lead by example. Here are some of the things that keep me from true fellowship (at times):

I am fearful. While transparent most of the time, it is difficult to get to a deeper level with others at times. If you know all of me – all of my insecurities, sin hiccups, and desires/dreams, then you may think I’m crazy. There are few that I would like to trust with all of that. Not to mention, it is much easier to remain commander-in-chief of myself – to be the only one that knows all of my secrets.

I think men operate this way, a lot. In order to save-face, we avoid showing our face. Yes, you see us at church, and sure, we showed up to the Men’s Retreat, but we slip out the back-door right afterward and awkwardly avoid putting our phone-number on the list of contacts, because that would mean that someone might get to know who we actually are – and there’s a chance they may not like that. In other words – On the altar of reputation, we sacrifice relationship – putting discipleship to death.

This should not be. We need each other. There need to be those people in our lives that know our crap, so they can get down in the trenches with us, clean us up, and get a group together to lift us up out of the pit with prayer. 

Which brings me to my next discovery. We have unwittingly bred a generation of passive men. In the spirit of not hurting anyone, or ruffling anyone’s feathers, we’ve emasculated manly strength, and invited authentic manhood into silent exile. However, in the spirit of truth and redeeming the lifeblood of The Church, it is time to call the men back out – to heal, restore, and utilize their strength. You cannot (or at least shouldn’t) tame a lion, but you can appreciate its strength. A champion horse is only champion when it’s gone thru the hard work of training to win the race.

We need strong men in the church – not ones that will manipulate and coerce, but ones that are willing to boldly speak truth into the lives of others, take the time necessary to sacrificially love and disciple others, and use their resources/strength to serve. This is no small task. It requires training. It will take time, prayer, study, relationships, and lots and lots of practice. Because, let’s face it – this is something that does not come naturally.

I believe this requires a great deal of love.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. Lewis)

Being vulnerable is hard. It leaves you open and available, and leaves the possibility of being hurt wide-open. It’s much easier to stay hidden – for no one to know us. Isolation is safer (in our eyes), because at least no one can stab us in the back. The problem with this theory is that satan loves the isolated – they make extremely easy targets for depression, doubt, fear, and others dark clouds that ultimately lead to one’s faith being snuffed. Therefore, isolation is not safer, wiser, or best – it is in fact the absolute worst idea ever. Do NOT become isolated. The walls you build to “protect” yourself do just the opposite – they hurt you, sometimes leading to spiritual suicide.

Friends, we must love. We must embrace vulnerability and find ourselves stronger in the LORD for it. If we submit to the LORD and find our identity secured in Him, then serving and following others will no longer be considered a loss of ourselves, but rather, an act of worship – offering our bodies as living sacrifices for a Holy God.

Men younger than you (spiritually or physically) need your leadership, but you must also lay aside your pride and seek out someone older as a mentor – someone to whom you will allow some spiritual-authority in your life. A leader that is not also being led should not be trusted – for his pride will be his downfall, and his lack of accountability a snake waiting to strike his heel.

I am not an expert. I am still a young man seeking out a mentor of my own – getting plugged in and looking for faithful younger men to lead. I’m still learning. But these are some of the thoughts the Lord has placed on my heart, and I wanted to share them.

Where The Men At?

A recent conversation I had revealed the devastating reality that there are few men left. Oh, don’t worry, there are plenty of individuals that can mark “male” on questionnaires, but upstanding gentlemen–good luck.

I wish I could pride myself more-so on my own contributions to the coed relational world, but I’d be hypocritical and dishonest if I were to not admit that I’ve had my own slip-ups here and there throughout my young-adult years. So, men (and women), before you continue reading and pointing fingers at one another, realize that I am first preaching to myself on this topic before I exhort you (and you should do the same). ENOUGH of the finger-pointing within The Church; seriously. Take responsibility for your own actions, exhort your brothers and sisters with biblical counsel, live out your faith, read the Word, and then leave the convicting, heart-changing, and life-changing to the Holy Spirit (He’s been in the business a while and is SO MUCH BETTER at it than you and me–we tend to get prideful and mess things up).

Back to the conversation I was having…A friend of mine sent a Facebook message to me and asked if there was any hope for finding a guy that would wait (for that magical three-letter word, s-e-x), because she was being pressured by all kinds of “men” to compromise on her convictions. My first instinct is probably like yours–“well, they’re jerks, wait and date a gentleman”. Note that “gentleman” is a word compromised two smaller words–“gentle” and “man“–are there any men gentle enough to sacrificially love, wait for, and pursue their bride-to-be?

And men, this is the question I’ve come to realize that many upstanding young women our age are asking themselves, “Are there any real men left?” Or, is it time for them to lower the standards they’ve been raised to uphold, so they may have some slight chance of a man being willing to pursue them? But at this point, what are they being pursued for–for them (ALL of who they are), or simply for the perks in the bedroom? 

I’d venture to say that the women in this world are ready for a new kind of man; Not necessarily an entirely new breed of man, but men that are still willing to uphold old-fashioned principles–like waiting for marriage. Not only that, but as many of you likely know, there has been a societal epidemic of a fatherless generation–where are the men at? Where have they gone? Why do they run from their children?

Men desire respect above most other things, but men, respect is earned

I don’t claim to be the mac-daddy of the dating-world, but I’m fairly certain respect is not earned by shirking fatherly responsibility or pursuing women solely for the provision of momentary fulfillment.

Have I upset enough readers with my bluntness just yet? Great! That’s the goal…guys tend to stay relatively chill about things until it engages their emotions, or hurts their pride a bit. Now that your cage is rattled, tail-feathers are ruffled, and the like…give me a second to calm the waters.

No one is void of responsibility in the issue of men lacking in society. We all need to be doing our part to raise up a stronger generation of men, to become that generation ourselves, and to cherish the women in our lives.

Ladies, you are not all perfect little princesses all the time, so please do not judge your brothers haughtily in this situation. Many of you are fiercely opposed to the leadership of men, which, by the way, is a biblical principle–I hope to find a wife that will be okay with me leading.

Oh, right, I said I would calm the waters… 😉

Here’s the thing…everyone is responsible. And responsibility is lacking miserably in the American culture. If you mess up, fess up. If you are currently in a relationship that is going nowhere, but somewhere it shouldn’t be going, GET OUT OF IT. If you have a baby, take care of it and raise it to be a child of God, an heir to Grace. If you want respect, earn it. And for the love of men’s purity, dress modestly. It’s actually been scientifically proven that the more scandalously-clothed a woman is, the easier it is for a man to view her as an object, rather than a person. Do you want to be someone’s object, or someone’s companion? Attract the right kind of man.

This world is ready for a new class of man. A new brand. It’s seen enough of the Biebers, Timberlakes, Chris Browns, and Barney Stinsons (the star-character of How I Met Your Mother) and is ready to be reminded of what a true, classy man is. It’s time to get old-fashioned. It’s time to be responsible.

Learn from your mistakes. Correct your peers gently. Be overwhelmingly courageous, encouraging, and resilient always. And for the love of humanity, never give up.