Be Kind to Yourself

Humanity, individually and collectively, has countless sorrows in this life. A few particular griefs that stand out for me are the waste of loss, the weight of loneliness, and the intensity of pain. These things live side by side with our joy, love, and connectedness. Do you feel the tension? Our hope peers down into our cavernous longings and shudders. Our love does not know how to live with loss. We are in the midst of a lifelong tug-of-war between joy and despair. If either dropped their end of the rope, we would be living a lie.

To fight against being overcome with despair, we shout into the ravenous discourse of social media to feel some kind of connection. We fall into the arms of friends to feel known. We look for affection and romantic love-even sacrificial love-to throw themselves into our voids. We sedate ourselves binge-watching sitcoms or scrolling through pornography. We bury ourselves in work to feel some semblance of purpose. We starve ourselves to feel beautiful and drown ourselves in alcohol to escape the hurt. We look for sub-par saviors to supplement the Savior of our souls.

This is not a guilt trip.

This is an acknowledgment: life is hard.

I want you to know, because I am right in the thick of it myself: your own unique, personal methods of self-medicating deserve compassion. Your deepest desires for love, connection, intimacy, peace, affirmation, etc. echo of heavenly realities and a fulfillment yet to come. You’re not alone. You are loved. Don’t give up.

Stare into your sorrow for a while and you’ll find the terrified shell of a human being that is you at your most vulnerable, your most honest state. Eight months ago in coming face-to-face with the most hidden parts of me, this is the journey I began . . . it was the worst and best decision of my life so far.

We must learn to be kind to the parts of ourselves we do not like. It is time to take our darkness gently by the hand and walk with it into the light. I’ve seen glimpses of the goodness to be found. Will you press on with me, in courage and kindness?

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A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Four (out of approximately one million) things I have wondered lately:

1. Why am I in the situation I am in?
2. Why do I feel alone?
3. Why am I still awake?
4. Why are there no more Cheez-its? (answer: my sister ate them)

I’m about to tell you a story, without telling you the whole story. The past six months or so, I’ve been going to counseling (I cannot recommend this enough) and have been on an agonizing, confusing, frustrating, eye-opening journey through something I had done my very best to avoid my entire life up to now.

I cannot begin to list off all the resources that have been at my disposal during this ongoing struggle. Books, articles, interviews, podcasts, good friends, counseling, writing songs, writing stories . . . oops, I guess I did try to list them all. Seriously, my mind has been consumed by this journey for months on end.

In sifting through all of these words and trying to piece things together to reach a livable conclusion, I’ve noticed something . . . these resources and people are wonderful and clearly God-given and absolutely imperative to my journey, but I’ve been looking at them the wrong way.

I’ve selfishly been trying to save myself from pain by living vicariously through other peoples’ stories. Instead of accepting all these things primarily as encouragement that I am loved and not alone, I subconsciously count each conversation, songwriting session, testimony, etc. as another piece of armor to shield me from personal pain, as another weapon that I am supposed to use to win the war. What I’m finding is that all this armor and all these weapons I thought would keep me away from experiencing brokenness in my own story has in fact stockpiled into a storage center as large as Yankee stadium (or should I say Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs fans?) that has nearly driven me crazy.cloud-of-witnesses

I take great solace in my cloud of witnesses, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

I’ve been trying to turn my cloud of witnesses into an army of warriors. But what else are “witnesses” but people who watch you and cheer you on and who testify to the reality of your experience? The most avid fan at a baseball game is not going to suddenly run out into the field during the bottom of the 9th to take their turn at bat. However, witnesses do make a difference! Imagine the World Series without any witnesses…I would think that the players would feel a little discouraged that no one cared to show up. There is SO much more motivation to play well and play hard with so many people cheering you on! My cloud of witnesses encourage me tremendously, but they cannot prevent me from making mistakes and messing up and falling flat on my face. I should not expect myself to do everything perfectly just because I “know better,” just because I am aware of others’ failures and victories.

I must live my own story.

I must accept my own brokenness. I must persevere by looking to Jesus and to the joy set before me that comes from choosing to walk through suffering in order to follow Him.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-3