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

The Fear Of Starting

I’m 27 and so far in life I’ve rarely gotten past just starting. What do I mean?  That I’ve started a book but haven’t made it past Chapter 2 and have sort of given up on the idea. I mean that I’ve initiated a weight loss challenge within my family, gone at it hard for a few days and then sidelined myself with the excuse of “busy” and “tired” and “discouraged.” And now my wife and I are considering starting up a business of our own and I can already feel the fear and anxiety creeping in.

At what point do we tell fear it has no place here? No place in my heart or mind or ideas or my home. That it doesn’t belong. It’s not allowed to take over my creativity and passion or subdue my talents with the lure of addictions that are simply a coping mechanism for its presence or ensnare me in apathy, a pretending that one doesn’t care when really they “don’t care” because they care too much (about what others will think). How does one tell fear that you will now harness it and use it as fuel? If I fear financial destruction, then I will write up a plan. If I fear heart conditions, then I will exercise regularly and eat less brownies (although the ones we whipped up this week were DELICIOUS). If I fear vulnerability, then I will find others that are being vulnerable and we will encourage one another in our authenticity.

Faith over fear, so to speak. If God created us and made us in His image, then are we not designed to be creators ourselves? If I’ve always been socially adaptable and energized by crowds of like-minded individuals and unafraid of those who challenge me with differing ideas, then what do I have to fear? What can someone’s objection or challenge do but strengthen my resolve or help me find a better solution?

Why do we settle? Will I be able to forgive myself if I decline us the opportunity to do something together and different and exciting simply because we had little faith? What can I do to increase my faith but to pray and try and discuss? All of which, if even they lead to failure, will only lead to more discipline and success in other areas.

Too often we allow ourselves to believe that if we cannot run a mile now, then we never will and we might as well not try. I’ve tried that mentality and it’s gotten me nowhere.

It’s time to shake things up, rattle some cages, and do the hard work of continuing the projects I’ve started. I may not finish, but why give up before you’ve even started? And why not test yourself to see if you can run even further than you thought? Why not increase the weight and see if you’ve actually got what it takes to lift it?

We just might surprise ourselves.

(Share your stories of overcoming the fear of failure and how you’ve bettering yourselves, as writers, entrepreneurs, wives/husbands and so on. How do you continue to fuel the fire for growth and throw off the old self of self-doubt, apathy, and killing ideas before they’ve even had a chance to take shape?)

fear

Ascending Stairway

An ascending stairway to somewhere beautiful,
Clouds that tell tales of storms being plentiful.
Onward comes the dark, lonely night.
Yet the sun simmers down, but will again bring light.
Today may hold sorrows two-fold.
But who knows what tomorrow could hold?
So we climb, we heave, we lift our feet;
One step at a time and then repeat.
For the promise of what tomorrow holds;
And a trust that it’s tale needs to be told.
Don’t fail to take the steps that lead,
To glory’s view and Heaven’s deed.
So let the storms come and do as they wish;
Because light will come again in a pinch.
Hearts will be healed, redeemed, and made brave.
And eyes doth gone astray can be set back to remember that day.
The day that glory met night,
And darkness fell to Light.
So here I am trusting, dreaming.
But it all starts with truly believing.

stairway

Edge Of My Seat

There’s a lot going on in life right now that has me at the edge of my seat. There’s so many possibilities, so many dreams, and so many obstacles. I’m constantly wondering how it is I’ll overcome these obstacles, chase these dreams, and open the abundant possibilities.

This is just the beginning and there’s much more to come in life. Many surprises just over the horizon. Lots to look forward to. Lots to embrace in the now. And yet, somehow, I find myself constantly revisiting the past or being frustrated with what I’ve earned for the present.

Discouraged by things I cannot control (anymore).

I think this is the way that the Enemy loves for us to be. Running in circles, chasing our own tail. Think about it with me for a moment. You find those one or two annoying things about yourself and then you chase that part of yourself all around the room, until you bite your own ass or pass out from sheer exhaustion.

I can stew about reaching my heaviest weight yet again and having to start over, or I can get back in a rhythm of 5:45am workouts with Allie by my side, and stop ordering drinks and fried food out. Speaking of – is that not true love right there? Talk about camaraderie and friendship with the woman you love. I’m lucky to have someone willing to do that with me in hopes of bettering each other.

When learning my new job in Sales, I can focus on all of my screw-ups – the moments where I said the wrong thing or shut-down and failed to overcome objections, or I can use it at as a learning opportunity, put my best foot forward, get up, and try again. One leads to needing to find a new profession and the other leads to the potential for wealth and a career.

One step at a time. Speaking of steps – most of us began our “growth” journey as a human-being by crawling and then WALKING. Our parents went NUTS when we took our first steps. “Babe! Babe! Get the camera! Justin is walking!” You wouldn’t see my Mom or Dad doing that now. No one is cheering for me as I walk down the rows of cars at Carmax, trying to find Nissan Rogue’s yet again (popular car by the way). But back then, it was everything. It’s where it all began.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to where it all started. Walking. One step at a time. If you were standing on a walking-path and constantly turned around and looking back, you’d never make any progress. You’d just turn your head around in circles like an owl and at the end of the day you’d wonder why your feathers had turned so grey and bleak – why you hadn’t moved anywhere or done anything. That’s the monotonous mindset that can be brought about by pessimism and trying to be the next great American Cynic.

There’s more to life than the past. And we are more than the current sum of our mistakes.

As my love-life increases and as my relationship deepens, I find myself increasingly perplexed at the sheer power that love has. It truly can cover over a multitude of sins. The adaptability, perseverance, and hopeful energy that is present when someone chooses again and again to love you is insane. And even the greatest examples of love are just meant to be a mirrored image of God’s love for us. (I’ll be honest – that’s hard for me to grasp and lots of days I don’t live as if I believe that. But I know it’s true.) They’re not even as good as the real thing. And our loves are pretty damn great.

Lord, help us to love ourselves more because you love us. Help us to love others, because you’ve told us to love even our enemies. Help us to raise ourselves out of the pit of despair so that we can make a difference in the world and bring others into the Light as well, rather than hiding in the shadows of our past and allowing darkness to have its day.

You’ll have your weak moments tomorrow. The times where you want to break down crying or you’ll find your fists bunching up as your heart-rate races. Emotions don’t have to have the final say though and neither does your past. Let’s fight, together, for a brighter future. Let’s learn to walk again.

I’m at the edge of my seat to see what God ends up doing through you.

Right There With You,

Justin Meyer

walking

P.S. To those dedicated readers, I’m sorry I’ve been off-the-grid the last couple weeks. Lots on mind and lots going on in life. I just haven’t gotten to it. I’ll try to keep up with this the best I can! Please feel free to comment or share – or to hit me up anytime! 

Escape Artist

Escapism is the American way. I’m sure that’s far too broad and cynical a statement to be fact. But its my preliminary instinct to believe it to be rather accurate. I, personally, love to escape.

A high anxiety individual – the quickest, easiest way out is almost always my go-to, knee-jerk, logic-lacking response to any given obstacle.

Facing fear, unknowns, varying points of conflict, and a lack of knowledge leave me feeling inadequate. Which leads to stress. Which leads to thinking too much. Which leads to anxiety. Which leads to an obsession with lack, rather than a search for a powerful solution. As if I were “destined” to take the desperate, hard, often more expensive and fruitless path. As if there were not a simpler option.

Which – of course – there is.

To rest and be content at the same time rarely seem to correlate. Strangely enough, I’m more at peace when I’m feeling connected, energized, and firing on all cylinders (i.e. not resting) – which would make sense since I’m an extrovert. But the undying desire for “something more” always seems to leave one thirsty, whether they have $100 or $10,000 in their checking-account on any given day. And to be content. To be, for the lack of a better word, pleased – with oneself. That would be the desired end. Grateful, thankful, content, fulfilled, able to breathe without a wandering thought or relapse into critical thought-patterns. In other words, it’s okay to power-down. We don’t always be to be “On.” But for some reason, I think I do. (And it wears me out. Shocker.)

But it’s the American way. Acquire more. Do more. Become more. Be worth more.

And yet, God, Allie, and the majority of my inner-circle don’t seem to be nearly as concerned with external net-worth as they are with my internal. Often times, the external is a direct reflection of the internal. If I’m a well-oiled, positive, love-filled and hope-driven machine on the inside, then surely that’d lead to more success on the outside. However, it’s always an issue of the heart.

I’m more fascinated with why escaping is the first impulse. I know I’m not alone and not the only one. I know there are people reading this that totally relate (even if this isn’t my most eloquent, developed writing at work – I understand it’s rather fragmented, coming from a tired guy trying to learn a new profession). But what is it that makes just being not enough? Why is it hard to just have dinner and watch a movie, without a desire to be out on the town? And why a lack of internal gratefulness for being able to pay for the necessities, and instead, being consumed with the frustration of the lack of wants and have-nots.

As I grow up, “man-up”, and become more “aware” of my inner dialogue – as I discover my varying triggers and responses – I’m irritated by the constant need for immediate gratification. The lack of intrinsic will and self-discipline to stay the course, keep the vision, and place the longterm good of the collective units of family and community above myself.

Love is a powerful verb. Love is awesome. It’s not necessarily a feeling, as feelings are fleeting. Nor an emotion, because emotions linger, but not forever. But rather, a sustained, convicted action. God is love and Jesus is love because of their sustained commitment to the common good – the benefit of – and the redemption of others. Perhaps I’m speculating too much (as I’ve not been deeply in the Scriptures in a while), but I’d dare to say that Jesus didn’t die on the cross for himself, as much as He did for us. And I think we’d agree. He wanted to connect with us. He wants to be with us. He wants us to be with Him. He wants a relationship with us. We were find worthy in His sight. We were worth it. We were worth Him.

My future family and my local community, my government, my people, my circle – they all deserve that exact same kind of relentless love that stays the course and disregards immediate gratification for the common good. They deserve a man that doesn’t run or try to escape or avoid conflict or delay progression. They deserve a man that can face himself in the mirror, be content with who he is, but progress to a more sanctified self.

So in conclusion, I suppose my humble prayer and realization is that I’ve been an escape artist for far too long. (And I’m confident others reading this can relate and likely have too.) It’s time to engage in war against darkness, battle against hopelessness, pray for a renewed mind that views setbacks as opportunities for improvement rather than debilitating “ends.” It’s time to face and embrace emotion. To allow it to settle in. To consider its meaning and implications rather than finding ways to ward it off.

Above all else, it’s time to seek the Light. To pull back the blinds and let in the bright, white sun of day. Because it’s no longer Night.

Right There With You,

Justin Meyer

escape artist

When Green Eyes Meet Blue

 

There I was stuck in the trenches,
Prematurely pulling out my stitches,
That bloody kind of messiness;
I’m broken now, sure of this.
I hid my face from the One that could save me.
Save another; don’t even bother.
A failure even to my father.
But were these statements true?
Of course not. (My father loves me.)
Paralyzed again by anxiety,
Faking my own piety.
Snuggled on the couch with my love,
Quietly searching my own soul while she looked onward,
What a sight it must have been.
Watching your man wrestle within.
Green eyes that searched for light,
Finding only grey and darkness tonight.
Beauty saw me for what I could be,
Never ceasing to love fearlessly.
Cloudy numbness gave way to tears,
Realizing love like this will weather my fears.
Projecting my perfect expectations onto others, onto me.
You’d wear yourself out to spend a night in my dreams.
Fiercely working,
Forever searching.
Running, but not a runner.
Fearful, but always cheerful.
Brewing, but not a brewery.
Wondering why God’s decided to choose me.
Prolonging His call and staying out of sight,
Hard to ignore, even in the night.
A dead heart still burning bright.
And there Love’s love still loved me.
She held my hand and prayed for me.
Asked God to set my heart free.
I’ve met Beauty, and her name’s Allie.
So green eyes met blue,
A weary heart, yet true.
Eagerly awaiting what God’s about to do.
Baby, I love you.

The Power of Habit & Belief

A lot of what we do is based on a belief or a lack thereof. For example, I do NOT believe it’s possible to give up caffeine, so why would I try? Well, I’m American. So I’ll stick to my coffee, but soda is bad-news-bears, so it probably needs to go. But I’ve yet to give up my Diet Mountain Dews because I don’t believe the habit is possible to break. Without belief, it simply won’t happen.

I’m reading a book written by Charles Duhigg that takes a look at The Power Of Habit. And wow, is it powerful. Our brains quickly program themselves to make tasks easy. I think of my present job where I work with fairly technical mechanical and electric products – when I first started, I was terrified and clueless and asked a million questions; it took me forever to figure out which direction to turn a screw-driver, or where the cam should be positioned, etc. Now, it’s all muscle-memory. In fact, my primary issue is that I’ve become so good at what I do on the technical side, that I go into a habitual robot-mode and sometimes forget to empathize with the customer.

Habits – whether it’s the daily Starbucks (was guilty for a while, but I’m pulling away from that one, because if you do the math…that’s one of the reasons I’m still poor) or the afternoon run – all have a trigger. If we pay attention to the triggers, then we can replace the routines as long as they lead to similar rewards. My daily Starbucks was triggered by my automatic drive-thru orientation. I’d get to the intersection by Bass Pro and fly right by the turn I should take to work, because my brain was screaming, “Coffee!” But little did it know there was free coffee waiting for me at the office that would provide the same reward: wakefulness. It’s taking some time, but gradually over the last several weeks I’ve noticed that I don’t have to think as much or be as deliberate about turning right at that intersection now and heading straight into work.

When it comes to stress or anxiety, perhaps your first response is, “Which place has the best Happy Hour this evening?” I’ve been there and occasionally have the same pitfall. But I’ve discovered that I can replace my stress routine with running, which happens to be a little easier on the waistline and a whole lot better for me. So I leave work, where it’s fairly high-stress due to the nature of customer-service and I get home. I can help myself to a double-serving of my Mom’s delicious cooking or I can lace up my new running-shoes and hit the pavement for a few miles. The new routine delivers the same reward – the stress melts and is replaced with euphoria but instead of carbs or alcohol, it’s endorphins delivered by exercise, that delivers the punch needed to extinguish the stress.

Learning about habits and how they work has been fascinating and I’m only halfway through the book, but I wanted to share what I’ve been learning. I’d highly suggest picking up a copy for yourself and reading through it. However, there is one thing left to cover…

It turns out researchers have studied habits and how to replace old ones with new ones for decades. Time and again, they’ve managed to take smokers away from their cigarettes and alcholics away from their bottles and overeaters away from that second slice of pie. However, in high-stress situations, they’ll almost always fall back to their old habit.

“One group of researchers at the Alcohol Research Group in California, for instance, noticed a pattern in interviews. Over and over again, alcoholics said the same thing: Identifying cues and choosing new routines is important, but without another ingredient, the new habits never fully took hold. The secret, the alcoholics said, was God.”

If I were to continue quoting, you’d learn that researchers hated the explanation but decided to study it anyways. It turns out the belief in something higher gave them the resolve to follow through, even when traumatic or high-stress situations arose in their lives.

“If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted. But that’s not enough. For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that believe only emerges with the help of a group.”

Just as much as belief, they needed community. I can’t imagine a better group than the local church. But in any case, the secrets to better habits aren’t that secret. It would appear it all boils down to belief and community.

And I’ve discovered the first step is prayer. Asking God to help me with my unbelief.

SOURCES

Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.

Exercise-habit-loop