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?


External Processing: Justin vs. Justin

I’m very much an external processor and while writing in a journal can be effective at times…others I just need to get my thoughts out on the airwaves. Sometimes that happens via person-to-person conversation, others during phone-calls, etc. However, I find myself in need of expressing some of my inner thoughts/desires online. So, if at this point, you have no interest in my most recent frustrations, trials, etc, then feel free to discontinue reading…With that disclaimer spoken, here goes nothing…

I find my mind consumed with questions, doubts, fears, and all of the like. It’s as if I’m currently in a constant state of questioning…questioning myself, God, the actions of friends & family, etc. Suddenly nothing has any definitive trait to it, other than I’m aware of God’s Word being powerful and useful for teaching, rebuking, etc and I’m very aware that God is real and that prayers can be answered. The past would solidify this belief and it is the past and the transformation that I’ve witnessed within friends who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior that keeps me from faltering from this belief. Even though this is true…I still find myself doubting. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

If you know me, you’ll know that I once possessed (perhaps I still do somewhere) a zeal for the teaching of God’s Word and for the transformation that it can bring to my friend’s lives. But how could a man possible presume the role of teacher or speak in the authority of the Holy Spirit if he, himself, is struggling with doubt and frustration? (I told you I had many questions…haha) So, what is my purpose in my current state of struggle?

Now…my response to this question (and likely your immediate response) should someone else have asked it, would be “Trust God and watch Him transform your heart and beliefs.” But I find myself incapacitated and unable to trust God with EVERYTHING. I trust him with some things but not EVERYTHING. I’ve surrendered some of my heart. But not all of it. I try…but trying isn’t good enough. A friend recently said, “Don’t be captivated by your failures, be captivated by Christ’s victories!” and I gladly support and agree with this statement. However, this is much harder to place into practice than one would think.

I spent a good deal of time praying this evening; asking God to heal me. I know that I’m currently very weak spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically (as I recover from a virus that recently took me out for a while). I hate being down on myself. My thoughts can be so painfully dark sometimes; looking into the mirror and literally hating what I see, examining my heart and realizing how unrelentingly evil it can be. I know that even Paul, Peter, and others in the Bible struggled against the flesh, but why does it have to be so hard? Yes, I’m whining…chastise me for it if you wish, but I figure maybe somebody cares. I asked God to show me that He loves me, to speak to me, to show me His presence, to make Himself ever-present and evident in my life…I have faith that He WILL answer that prayer…and will perhaps have me praying it for a long time until I’ve learned to be patient and wait on His perfect timing.

Let me make something clear before signing off. I love Jesus; truthfully I do with every fiber of my being (not as much as I should, but as much as HUMANLY possible). I believe that He died on the cross for my sins, that he rose from the grave conquering death and henceforth conquering sin. I believe that God has the power to heal, redeem, and graciously provide mercy, love, and much more. After all, I titled this blog “Embracing God’s Grace”, but I find myself in a season where I’m wrestling with this grace. Which makes NO SENSE because I could never earn such a thing as God’s grace. I know that.

Here’s what I don’t believe in: Myself

That’s okay though, I’m not God. But I mean I REALLY don’t believe in myself. My ability to succeed, my ability to find joy, to be loved and to love, to live…O how I desire to be ALIVE.

Well, hopefully you all aren’t scared off and stop reading anything I have to say, but I’ve always been a strong advocate of transparency and strengthening the body of Christ by sharing in one another’s struggles and shortcomings. So here I am; humbled and broken before you. I ask you to pray for me and not to be consumed with worry about me. I’ll be fine because my source of strength is the Lord and my salvation rests in Him. So, Mom if you’re reading this, don’t call in the troops, haha, because I’ve got God and all of His angels working on my heart and protecting me. Just please pray. Feel free to let me know your thoughts…

Blessings Brethren.