Divine Love and Infatuation: The Trap We Live In

Romantic human love, when stretched thin by misuse and deification, acts like an obsession and lives like sin.

What do I mean by “misuse and deification”? Please allow me to break this down.

Most of all of us share a common desire to eventually be in a romantic human relationship. But surprisingly, at the end of the day, far fewer people desire a spiritual relationship with God— the Creator of possibility and the Giver of space for human relationships to be initiated.

Our most recent generations are being raised in homes with either a father or mother missing (usually a father), and that leaves children scrambling and fighting to feel loved— both in their broken home, and in the world. When they don’t find what they seek from their broken home, they will undoubtedly seek it from outside the home.

Where do they go? you ask.

Well, I can tell you the majority of times, they don’t go somewhere seeking closure, wisdom, or answers from a loving God. And from the viewpoint of a child, why would they? What children on their own accord are mature enough to desire such a thing as a relationship with God, or the experience of healthy spirituality? That would be more commonly instigated in a healthy home where a mother and father represent spiritual figures in which the children are inspired and taught what it means for a husband to love his wife, and for a wife to respect her husband; for the husband to lead his family and his wife to be submissive. That happens in a healthy Christian home. In non-theistic homes, and/0r in homes where there is one biological parent missing—(or both, in the case that children are not adopted by a mature, loving, selfless couple)—the natural, healthy portrayal of a husband and wife (loving leadership and submissiveness) is lost— as well as the sufficient expression of love each child desires and needs in order to grow and develop in healthy, natural ways; “healthy and natural”– meaning– they learn and accept that they are in fact loved and that life is a good thing to look forward to each day, not some dark cloud to dread.

Long enough after this life phase has been exhausted– in both adolescence and early adulthood when one or both parents are missing– children have learned not only what it means to rebel, but also the ignorance of the importance of setting boundaries between themselves and the world; the allocation and wise use of intuition and discernment in certain life situations (finding a job, communicating effectively with your spouse, discovering a new/better living situation, etc.), as well as the desultory use of little or no stricture on where to find the answer to whether or not they are–or even can be–loved sufficiently**. They are zealous, but careless, in their ability to find what they need; desperately searching with the right intention, but hopelessly unaware that what they’re actually looking into are skewed distortions of acceptance and love in the forms of promiscuous sex, drugs, alcohol/partying, overspending/overeating, and even gangs/occults.

**(On my note on stricture with regards to finding the answer to love, I am describing the dangerous, misguided choice of any individual to join an occult or gang rather than that of something like a church community, or other social organization founded by trusted individuals with the genuine intent to provide space for validation, love, support, and the extension of a listening ear, as well as the arrangement of events with the sole purpose focused on providing entertainment and time for human connection–particularly for people living in unhealthy homes. Whereas gangs force you to prove yourself with violence, lies, betrayal, and secrecy; church communities make time and room for connection by providing the space conducive for authenticity without judgment or censure; allowing you– in fact, preferring that you–be your most sincere version of yourself for the purpose or having a place to feel safe and accepted without having to prove anything first.)

During my seven year stint as an atheist in my teens and early twenties, my god was love (conditional, expectant love– not centered or based on altruism or selflessness, of course). My response to life and its agonies (divorce of my parents, a dramatic change in home life, transition from elementary to middle school, death of family members, and more–all in less than one year) was to search for love in a place more believable and convincing. Girls seemed to hold up a sign that rang a louder truth to me than religion, and so I retreated to them. At that time, to me, having a girlfriend meant you were “somebody” and special, and that was exactly what I felt like I wasn’t, so I went searching for a girl to become my girlfriend to solve my problem. That was basically my life pursuit. In class I would daydream a lot, not really focusing on academics. I would work hard enough to pass, but I didn’t care about school; I cared far more about being loved in a way that wasn’t sufficient for me at home.

So my question returns to me: Where did I go?

My life as an atheist looking to girls to answer, complete, and solve my deepest longest for a relationship (the kind that didn’t even involve them, nonetheless) was thoroughly disheartening, disappointing, emasculating, and exhausting. One after one I would try to find a girl who could complete me, but rarely would a girl give me more than a conversation. There was a romantic relationship, yes–I did eventually achieve my status of being “somebody and special”–but even when I experienced such a shoddy reward tantamount to a desperation not even related to females— I could feel something was missing. There was constantly something my girlfriend wasn’t giving me that I wanted more of than anything, and she never provided it. Little did I understand for many years to come that no woman ever could have provided it. This absence inside made me angry and sad; disappointed and discouraged. And during the time I was in that space of desperate needs gone ultimately unsatisfied, I obstinately refused to consider faith, religion, or spiritual activity— any seemingly irrelevant, threatening**, or radical notion of a God written to me from the pages of some two-thousand year old book.

(**You may be wondering why I used the word “threatening” when describing the notion of God. Well, let me explain that. To a stubborn atheist like myself at that time, God was the epitome of arguments against a non-theist like me. Not only was He the argument against my disbeliefs, but He was ultimately the answer I was unwilling to accept to every question I wasn’t brave enough to ask. He was the one threat between me and reason, cornering me between choosing purpose and fate: Without Him, I had no purpose– and while I didn’t believe in Him, I denied the notion of fate (which denies free will, and there was no way I was giving that up), which forced me into the most minuscule space between my doubts, questions, and the edge of an answerless cliff called atheism.)

Truth is, readers, I was treating conditional love from a girl as an idol by worshipping lust and infatuation as my gods

If there are any readers out there like me who tried–or is trying still–to replace the love God has for you with the love of another human, hear me now: You will never be satisfied with human love, and you will never find what you’re looking for until you surrender to God. That isn’t the way God created us, and when we try to deviate from our natural design (the design which God created us to naturally function; to need Him), we fall short, feel disappointed, and are always left unfulfilled. This never fails. People have gone to no end trying to replace the pain left in the void that is God’s missing presence (“missing” in the sense that we refuse to acknowledge the Truth that He is there), many times going to extremes of the renunciation of desire itself in order to rescind our belief in the need for anything besides our own presence (our inner connection to all parts of ourselves), which is what Buddhism preaches. But this will not replace God’s love; this will only prolong the distortion that we don’t need anyone’s love because love is itself a connection–a desire–and the belief of Buddhists is that all desire leads to suffering (which leads back to the argument of why suffering exists—something I’ve touched on a lot in previous posts, here, here, and here).

I may dig deeper into Buddhism in another post perhaps, but for now I am only using that for an example as to how so many people will go to any extreme necessary to deny the existence of God in order to live life evading the original hurt from the need they didn’t have met while still developing as a child. When a need goes unmet for an extended period of time as a child, that child may grow up to deify–to worship and treat as a god–lust, sex, and infatuation. These are the closest to human connection we get without actually attempting to be authentic in the process, while subjecting ourselves to the unguided, aimless belief that we don’t need a relationship with the Creator of relationships.

Without an honest, genuine, open relationship with Christ in our hearts, we misuse romantic love by deifying the feeling itself, replacing the relationship we seek with lust, rather than treating love as the result of something greater than the conditional, lustful love that we as humans idolize– misusing love as the answer to a deeper-rooted void.

Our void is our denial of the purpose of humanity beyond Earth; not that we don’t have a purpose, but that we refuse to acknowledge the depth of the purpose of our existence, the complex intricacies of our creation, and the Truth–the evidence–that humanity is capable and worth so much more than settling for lust. We were not born to solve each other’s problems in the sense that we become each other’s answers; we were born to discover how deeply we need God, and to use each other as a bridge to return to our relationship with the Creator of relationships. Without our relationship to God, relationships themselves would be pointless and directionless, and they would certainly not point us back to God–and therefore there would be no point to relationships, and that truth in itself would most likely undermine and uproot the very existence of any relationship. Is there any confusion then, why there are relationships; why our story as a human species on Earth does involve that Truth? If we refuse to acknowledge the must-be-acknowledged truth: That human relationships would be pointless and therefore non-existent if they were not meant to point back to the most important relationship (God)–then our denial points to a part of ourselves that has not yet found an answer. And I encourage you to do that today: Find your answer. If our relationship with God is not the most important relationship–and the key purpose to why there are relationships–then why do we have any? What does relationship point to for you, if not God? What does the result end with?

Readers, this comes down to a Truth that I had to discover for myself after a stint as a non-believer. If you are a non-believer, I have been where you are. I also know now there is more to life and faith than I believed there was while I was an atheist. That needs to be evidence for you that there is more to this life and relationships than sex and lust. Those are just temporary fixes for the moment; transient releases of dopamine in your body and brain that will in just a matter of time elude you once more. You don’t need sex (yup–I said it). You need God. And as much as it sounds like I’m telling you this as if I am the master of this subject, where I’m really talking from is the standpoint that I have been to the lowest of lows emotionally–to the point of trying to end my life–because I have tried to see life without God— and it’s morbid, dark, and broken. I have tried having relationships with human beings without God, and they’re empty. If you don’t agree, I strongly believe you’re hiding something from yourself. But don’t let me speak for you! Feel free to comment below. This post is for you, to encourage you to understand there is importance in the relationship with God because it fulfills the rest of life as well. Without it, there is no valid reason for anything.

Why live that way?

If you are misusing human love to try to sort out the emptiness of a faithless life, please consider my words. Jesus loves you! We could never do anything to earn it–He gave us His love freely. This is the kind of love you will never find from any human being— not ever. It’s impossible; we were made from God, therefore only God has the capacity to do in full what humans can only do partially. A car is a creation of man (inspired by God, however). So a car may work properly for a while, but not the way it does in a man’s head. A man can continue building new parts and innovate ideas for better car parts to work more effectively, but the car is never going to have the capacity that is in the imagination of any man. Likewise, God created human to need us: Cars would never work on their own– and even if humans figured out a way to make that happen, the device or machinery necessary to implement such goal would be temporary (ultimately, even if in the course of many years–the car would still break down). Again–likewise–life on Earth is temporary. Even relationships can be fleeting. They only point to Christ (cars point to their maker), they are not meant to replace Him.

Think about about and let it sink in.

You are loved by the God of Creation and the Creator of relationships. You need not wait for some person to make you feel like a king or queen; let God love you and fill you up to the full with a love beyond understanding. Allow that love to seep into your soul and resonate with the way you wish things would truly be: That your desires are truly relevant, they matter, and you don’t need to cut emotions out of your life to be fulfilled. Just soften your heart and allow Jesus to enter. His love is the answer to every emptiness and hurt. All suffering falls away like shackles from your wrist when you dig into your heart, realizing and accepting that Someone so omnipotent loved you enough to create a universe for you, send His son to die for you, and raised again to ensure your future with Him. You are loved by a Being very powerful, very mighty, and very humble and loving. There is no God greater!

Be blessed today, readers! You are loved!!

Together

Healing From Wounds Meant To Kill: Part 2

Tragedy is a wound meant to kill. A lie destroying the foundation of a marriage of 50 years is a wound meant to kill. Heartbreak is its own form of tragedy–comprised of many facets and multifarious permeations in the human spirit– undermining the very balance we as humans tend to assume is our only source of security before we understand and accept within us, the presence of God’s omnipotence through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. 

The question remains: How do we come back from life-altering, Earth-shattering tragedies; shell shocking betrayals, and perspective-changing heartbreaks?

(John 16:33) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

When Jesus said, this, He was both warning us of what is to come, and also giving us the solution at the same time. Notice He didn’t tell us, “Take heart! As long as you make enough money you’ll be fine,” and He didn’t say, “Take heart! As long as you find the most loving human being you can, everything will work out okay.” No. He tells us He has overcome the world. He’s reminding us that He’s the one who died on the cross, He’s the one who rose from the dead, and He’s the One with the power to get to the Father; not some finite number of good deeds we’ve done to earn our way past our mistakes predating heartbreak and adversity.

This is particularly important to note, readers, when we’re in the very middle of an emotional onslaught of stress, struggle, or tragedy. Think about this– if we were to become instinctually dependent on the hope and power of Jesus, imagine how much stronger we’d be to get through each and every battle hurled our way by the enemy (sin, evil temptation, the Devil)! The only way is through Jesus; not your job, not your marriage, not knowledge, and not status. Just Jesus. That’s it.

There is literally nothing you could do– not even if you spent every waking second of your human life trying– to become “okay” in God’s eyes, if you disbelieve in Jesus:

(John 14:16) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus isn’t setting up a trap, He’s opening the door (a trap is designed to catch and retain what it captures. God’s invitation is based on free will from start to finish; meaning, if we don’t want Him, we can either avoid the door altogether, or leave whenever we’d like. There are no locks on the doors. God’s loving power is enough to keep us safe from any one thing in existence. We are constantly free to disobey and to be selfish. But God’s promises are so rich, fulfilling, permanent, and transcendently unconditional, that we are most likely never to want to be anywhere else but inside with Him). He’s inviting every last human being inside to have a personal relationship with Him so that we’ll grow together in union with Him. Through this developed relationship, we come to understand what it feels like to have God as our Rock and Redeemer; Shepard, and Lion of Judah. If God is for us and not against us, why would we not come running to that door rather than walking away from it and towards worldly hedonism?

Many people do not understand the radical joy of the Truth of Jesus Christ. Or they understand it through knowledge but refuse to let the joy itself permeate their being and rejuvenate their souls. They hear about Jesus, but the pictures they draw in their mind’s eye remains two-dimensional and unmoving, dwindling away as a useless inspiration as they experience life in reality is multi-dimensial, chaotic, threatening; seemingly unfair, and traumatizing. But that two-dimensional Jesus is not the Jesus I speak of. My Jesus, the Christian Jesus, cannot be contained inside only two-dimensions. He reigns outside of all dimensions with the Father God of Heaven, and though He is capable of the transcendence of time and space dimensions, He is still able–He, in fact, chooses to–come back into our confining dimensional plane of existence to help us Himself, personally.

Every day, I am able to remind myself that Jesus died for me. He died for everyone, and that includes me (and for your sake, that includes you). That’s a very humbling truth. But the best part of that story is that Jesus didn’t stay dead. He came back to life and called the bluff of every person who ever doubted Him. Everything that happened was for the glory of God in Heaven, and He officially made it possible to be with God if we accept Jesus into our hearts. For those who feel threatened by this invitation, it’s usually because of a lifestyle choice they don’t want to give up, and therefore they do not feel the “need for Christ” the way Christians have come to understand to be a worthy surrender, after recognizing the selfishness behind the intentions leading to rebellion (sin).

Many seculars and agnostics are under the impression that the walk of faith with Jesus is boring, limited, and constricting—-and they don’t want to lose the time to do their hobbies or spend time with their friends. I would like to clear that fog. With certainty, this walk of faith with Jesus is anything but boring or constricting. Various groups of Christians go on mission trips quite often throughout the year to third world countries to spread the news of Jesus in the most dangerous of places. Is that boring? Others pray together about the most severe and traumatizing life battles people of the faith need counsel and support in getting through. This is not a boring life; this is a much more satisfying, fulfilling life than that of partying and staying up late, filling our minds with all things ephemeral.

We could be helping someone else believe and embrace the truth that they matter– like they exist— by praying for them and listening to them open up with vulnerability. In turn, we could share our own struggles with them so that we, too, don’t feel invalidated in a world strung up by its feet with status, money, and luxury. We don’t need that (That will come in Heaven, anyways! The streets are made of gold, for crying out loud–)! But we do need to be lovingly and compassionately reminded that we matter, that we are cared for, that our existence counts for something. That is all a part of the walk of faith with Christ. His ministry is founded on love, so there is nothing more important than that of each of us helping each other by loving each other, listening to one another, and giving of our time to make those realities coincide during a life of hardship and battling pain and stress.

Tragedy strikes and the first thing we turn to is isolation, or blaming the pain on theology for the mere sake that if such a thing exists— it must be evil—because theology is the closest concept to that which parallels the perimeters of the meaning and purpose of life, death, and pain (on Earth). Those people focus on theology only when they need to point fingers and place censure. This is a detrimentally misconstrued notion of the distinction of Christianity from other theologies, not separating acknowledgment of our mistakes (again, sin) caused by our abuse of free will from positing the power of Christ’s ability to make all things new is dismissible as a fallacy; abdicating God from the befitting picture of a healing Savior, and shoving Him (as if we could) into the illusory, pejoratively crass box of omnipotently forcing the suffering and agonies of human life without a solid reason. How is this misguided thinking any more fair or rational than disbelieving in God when people can’t just point “over there” and divulge God standing empirically before them? God does not take a step back so that we can doubt Him, He steps back so we have the space to choose Him. And when we choose Him, He comes running back to us out of pure unconditional love. Placing God in a box of blame is not commensurate with life’s struggles; it is the representation of how little we know, and how little we acknowledge the perfect love and sovereign power of a God humble and willing enough to send His own Son to die for a species who would rather blame Him than follow Him.

When we suffer, we don’t suffer alone, and when we suffer while assuming God is out for our worst, laughing “up there on His throne” while we live in emotional turmoil down here– we are facing the truth of the hope of Jesus with facetiousness, corruption, and belittlement of His truest motives. He came down off of His throne two thousands years ago and bled more than most humans ever have. And He did it because He couldn’t bear the thought of being without us. He couldn’t bear the thought of not having His children with Him, so He came down and became flesh. Why would an omnipotent God do such a thing if He was too busy laughing at our torture, misery, suffering, cancer, disease, and death? He would have missed the whole show if He’d been laughing. No!!! He couldn’t take it at all! So He got down immediately and rescued us Himself with His very hands nailed to a wooden cross.

That’s the God we have hope in; that’s the God who sits or lays with us as we cry during our most trying moments–never leaving our side. He is “closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) and our almighty God. He will never forsake us or abandon us. He is for us and not against us. He proved His loved for us by dying for us, and He followed through on all His prophesies and promises by resurrecting again. Never again need we worry about whether Jesus was just a crazy carpenter boy who told some wise stories. He is God Incarnate, He is the answer to every problem. When He doesn’t speak, He acts. Jesus is always beside us, and if we can’t feel His embrace, we must slow down and make an intention to call for Him to come closer. We need not be afraid; He is the lamp unto our feet and the very Light of Heaven! If there’s anything we want by our side, it’s Jesus!

If you’re experiencing a trauma in your life that you need closure with, I would encourage you to embrace the Truth of Jesus. He will embrace you with comfort, closure, and tender love. He is the Samaritan who takes care of every lost person, He is the friend who never gives up, and the God who knows the count of every hair on your head. He knows your best and your worst aspects and loves you for it all! There is no one greater to experience peace, grace, compassion, love, and tenderness from than the Lord God who frees us from our chains in this Earthly life. We need never fear the chains of evil again; He has overcome every last one. We walk forth in confident strides that He will provide for every need, and we remain obedient to everything He tells us. He will carry us through our worst hardships and land us safely back on our feet when we’re ready to carry ourselves, but He will always be by our side should we fall again. That is how much our God cares; He never leaves, no matter what!

We all experience wounds and traumas that, in the moment, make us believe will be the death of us. They will not. Our hope is in Christ, and our healing is in Christ. Through Him–healing, growth, development, and recovery are all made new. If you need His embrace, simply call on Him by name. There is power of healing in the name of Jesus. You may access this in relationship with Him. If you don’t know Him, now is the perfect time to be introduced. I can tell you is that the wounds of this world do not match our ability to cope. With Christ, nothing will ever defeat us; not heartbreak, not tragedy– nor pain or suffering. These will only bring us closer to Christ, and in our intimacy with Jesus, we will be made whole and new.

Be not afraid! Put all of your hope in Jesus, and love Him with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your strength, and all of your soul. You will be blessed for the humble surrender of your heart, and lifted high by the God of Creation. Wounds of the past will never have the last word. If you’re experiencing pain today, remember that it isn’t the end until Jesus returns. There is hope in this news, and there is healing. Jesus will heal you, whether physically or spiritually (or both). All we need to do is put our trust in Him. He will do the rest.

Radical

Hope–God’s Greatest Gift From Heaven: Part 1

Humbly surrendering our free will to the influence of Jesus is humanity’s greatest gift to God; His greatest gift to us was sending us His one and only Son to be the prime example of exactly what it means to humbly surrender. 

Look around you. It’s hard to find many people who unmistakably exemplify the Golden Rule(s) of Christ: To love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength; to love each other the way He loves us, and to love ourselves the same way. Why are these so important? What did Christ show us?

There are the miracles; and there are many. Some weren’t even healing– one was just Jesus’ disciples witnessing Him defy gravity by walking on water. But Jesus didn’t place emphasis on His power because performing miracles wasn’t the purpose or message of His ministry. His main message was that of love and hope. Love is the foundation of the church Christ laid down when He died on the cross for humanity, but His greatest gift to us was rising from the dead, conquering death and giving us something to put our hope in; something to look forward to: seeing Him and living with Him forever in Heaven when we die, if we accept His love and sacrifice for us into our hearts, here and now.

So, again, what did Christ show us?– He showed us how to love. Not with miracles, but with His words and actions. Yes– He healed the blind and the sick– but… He loved them. He even healed a person with leprosy by touching them in front of a crowd He’d just given a sermon to. Did He have to touch the person? Of course not! He was God Incarnate! He healed a child in an entirely different city just by responding to a man’s faith in Him. So why did Jesus touch the leper, which–in that time– was deeply frowned upon (for fear of catching Hansen’s Disease)? Jesus wanted the crowd to see that for Him, loving the people with faith in God– and being the reason for the seculars who hadn’t yet discovered such faith or hope– that was His main purpose for existing on Earth. He came to Earth love us; and through loving us, He died for us so that we would not have to pay for all the selfish rebelling we do. But that wasn’t His last act of love. He went one step further than any man, woman, or being in existence has ever done and could ever do: He resurrected. And by that final act of love, He gives us the greatest hope mankind has ever known.

When Christians say Jesus is their hope, what they are recognizing is that Jesus is our one and only bridge from this life to the Kingdom of Heaven, where God is. Jesus claimed that the only way to the Father was through Him. In resurrecting, all of His promises became ossified in history as true facts, and not just hopes and cliches. By resurrecting, all of the parables Jesus said, every miracle He performed; every sermon He told and rebuke He made became parallel with His claims during trial that He was the great I Am. There was nothing anyone could do but exult His name, worship the Him through the Father whom Jesus claimed He served on behalf of, and to love each other the way He commanded us to.

On an additional note related to this point, I hope some of you can relate to this short story:

In my later teens, I had a relationship with a girl, and I would ask her, even when things were going fine, “Do you love me?” This question wasn’t aimed from something she’d done to show a lack of love, but at my own insecurity. At this time, I was an atheist, and so–looking back now, as a Christian–I can recognize an aspect of that relationship I never noticed before: I was looking for God’s validation of love and hope through this girl. The essence of our relationship with God can never be satisfied with another human being. Looking for God’s love through the opposite gender will never satisfy that need. Only God can do that. And as stubborn as I was when I was an atheist–and for those of you who are an atheist or agnostic right now–I was never open to trying to believe God was the missing piece. But I have been there and I am here, as a Christ follower now, and I can tell you for a fact that there is no missing piece other than God, Himself. Without Him, no one will ever give you what you need. And that is not discouraging–that is the reason to have hope in Christ!!

Previously, in my post “Masculinity In A Broken World: Revisited“,  I wrote this:

A man needs no affirmation of a woman to be a man (Readers, do not confuse affirmation with validation. A kindly spoken, “You look handsome today!” or “So proud of you!” can go a long way. But that is not validation, those are compliments.) , and a man who thinks he does is still a boy.”

When I say this, I’m directly speaking into my point right now. God’s validation is all anyone need’s– whether or not they understand the wisdom from that truth. My point in that post was specifically directed at men and their relationship with God, so here in this post, I am speaking in another direction about the same point. People do not need validation from people in order to recharge or to be fully alive. In fact, for a woman to become fully a woman, she needs the same thing! To become intimate with God is to know oneself fully without the approval of humanity complimenting her every move, choice, or appearance. And where does all of this come from? Hope in Christ.

So for the secular, atheistic, and agnostic crowd out there, I want to speak into your space here. As a former atheist, myself, and a current Christian, I can elaborate distinctly on the difference between Christian hope and atheistic complacency. The hope of Christ is something that does not derive of this world, and it does not come from the pleasures of sex, drugs, partying, clubs, or attention; validation from your mom or boss, nor the way people respond to you. The hope of Christ comes from within your spirit. A first step towards understanding exactly what I mean by this is softening your heart. What does softening your heart feel or look like? Well, first, do you understand what hardening your heart looks and feels like? When you are rigid, stubborn, jealous, envious, closed-minded and difficult to communicate with effectively, you are being “hard-hearted”. When someone wants to pay you a compliment and all you can respond with is, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s just a shirt,” you’re being hard-hearted. In reverse, softening your heart means becoming humble and seeing things from another point of view without the fear of it automatically and drastically changing you upon impact.

Honestly, the fear of change is prevalent and universal. The fear of someone changing our belief systems, morality, and ratiocination (reason)–is, therefore, that much more daunting and unfamiliar. So when the first step towards any direction is softening your heart, the very first thought is usually– “you’re asking me to let it in the unfamiliar, and to trust myself enough not to be afraid that I’m going to let the unfamiliar change me right away if I don’t want it to.” Yes, exactly!

Now let’s back up. When Christians mention “hope in Christ”, what we’re talking about is softening our hearts to the will of Jesus–meaning–we are receptive to what Jesus has to say in our hearts, and we are willing to listen before dropping it on the back burner of our minds as useless. We consider what His words are saying, what they mean, how they would impact us and/or others, and what the intention Jesus is behind His words. Softening your heart doesn’t mean you become Christian. If you choose to follow Christ, that is your own decision to make. But first, softening your heart means you’re willing to listen. How willing are you to listen to someone you hardly ever–if ever– give a chance to speak fully, clearly, and honestly into your heart and soul? You’ve heard all sorts of voices; parents, co-workers, friends, strangers, enemies, significant others– you know them all very well. How well do you know Jesus’ voice? Do you know for a fact that He wants something bad for you; to threaten you and all that you want in life, or do you assume that based on the unsolved mysteries (unsolved as far as you believe) of this over two-millennium-aged book called the Bible? If you don’t understand Jesus, you will not understand what He has intended for you to know about Him and from Him. Are you willing to let Him tell you exactly what He wants with you, and for you? Would listening to Him really hurt you? Has not listening to Him truly helped you?

When I was an atheist, quite honestly, I was very hard-hearted. I was obstinate and rebellious against any idea of faith. Friends would mention God and I would hate every word they said. I didn’t want to hear anything and I tried my hardest to discard every word. Their words come back sometimes now because I want more than anything to know more about Jesus. But at that time, I wasn’t ready. Can you become ready to hear what the hope of Jesus means for you today?

The hope of Christ is that you no longer have to suffer for your sins. You don’t believe in sin? How do you describe what it is when someone kills another person? What is abortion; a choice? It’s a choice to kill. Readers, I’m well aware that saying that causes controversy. I get that. But do you understand what abortion is? A “professional” either provides a mother a herbal medicine meant to destroy the fetus–or–they stick a blade into a woman’s uterus and removes the still-forming body parts of a human being by forcing them out in pieces. Is that not murder? And if it is murder, how is that not sin? How is that not rebelling against the miracle of God’s blessing of giving life to a child?

Women and men alike will ask, “What if we can’t afford a baby?” I ask back, “What about adoption?”– “What if we can’t afford adoption?”….But you could afford to have sex, right? Why should a defenseless human be paying the price for your irresponsible hormonal decision? And you know what else? Where is your faith that God won’t provide a way for the newborn to be given a proper home in 9 months? Nowadays, in 2016–there are plenty of couples who can’t get pregnant who would travel across the world to take the one you can’t afford to give a proper, healthy upbringing. I personally know a couple who adopted a child this year, and I’m proud of them. That is better than a blade, is it not?

(For those of you who have already had an abortion and are reading this, please hear no condemnation or hate from me. I make my point about abortion to be clear about sin, and to be helpful for those who have not yet had an abortion– to encourage them to seriously reconsider such a heavy decision before carrying it out. I believe in the power of forgiveness, and that your choice to receive an abortion in the past can be made right through Christ. By asking Jesus for forgiveness, and upon accepting forgiveness from Him, I believe in peace beyond such painful choices. I do not believe you need to live the rest of your life in shame based on your past decisions; I believe in Jesus’ gift of forgiveness wholeheartedly! Be filled with forgiveness today and be raised up with His love. All is made right through Christ!)

Readers, again, the hope of Christ means we no longer have to suffer for our sins. In this life, we will have adversity; we will have trouble. But Jesus has already taken care of that. If we would accept His love now, we have something to look forward to later (that is, still living in present moment with the hope and joy what is yet to come after we die), something that will completely blow this vapor of a life away. Imagine 80 years to eternity! When you consider the comparison, imagining a place without death, pain, disease, suffering, or tears is a pretty amazing thought. And you can look forward to that, but first you must acknowledge who made it possible: Jesus. If not for Jesus, we would have nothing to look forward to at all. Not even death.

The expression from the workaholics out there, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” falls on dead ears. They live a life full of meaningless relationships and selfishness, thinking money will spell love to the ones dying for their affections right now, and then they think they’ll go to a place without pain while leaving those on Earth who needed their affirmation for their life without so much as a clue as to who they even were. How does that work, exactly? Jesus was always ready to stop and talk with people, even when He was completely exhausted. But workaholics have to work until they can’t even function enough for those they make the money for? Something tells me they don’t have faith in Christ’s ability to provide, and that is destroying their soul.

Christ wants us to lean on Him, one-hundred percent! He wouldn’t ask for such a commitment if He didn’t have something significant to offer. But He offers eternity with unconditional love– without pain! There is no fathomable experience within a lightyear of that promise on this Earth. So if He is promising that after His resurrection, there is truth to His promise. But, again, we must first acknowledge who gave us that option! Jesus did!

Be encouraged today. Whether or not you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, know that His offer is open to you, always. All you need to do is soften your heart and speak to Him honestly, and listen to what He has to say. If you can’t hear Him yourself, perhaps He’ll speak to you through another believer who God sends your way. Whatever happens, I can promise you there is nothing to be afraid of with Jesus. He always has your best intentions in mind. His roads don’t make sense lots of times at first—I’ve found myself countless times thinking, “Jesus, what are you doing??” But, in hindsight, I can see Jesus always has a plan, but it isn’t important that we know what the plan is every time we’re in it. It’s more important to Jesus that we’re obedient. He will never take us down the wrong path.

What will you do with this information? Will you try to do what I explained about softening your heart and speaking honestly to Jesus? Will you remain stubborn like I once was? You already know how the stubborn road feels and looks like– you’ve walked down that fork in the road before. Are you willing and brave enough to try something new? I would like to challenge you to try to give this a shot. The worst that can happen is… nothing happening. How bad is that? For your own sake, I would ask that you try, and see what best case scenario comes of it.

Be blessed, readers! May God lift you up and encourage you through every interaction and every circumstance you encounter today!

Recharge

 

Father and Son: What Matters Most

My dad reads my blog, and that alone makes me a very proud writer. I don’t think I’m perfect, and I know I’ll never be perfect (I’m always rewriting, editing, changing, and rethinking the changes and re-edits). But my dad reads every word and always has positive feedback. He always has encouragement to give me, and words of love and wisdom; extensions of himself which allow me the space to both be myself and to extend beyond myself in my own choice of words. He knows the purpose of my blog is to proclaim the Truth of Jesus, and he knows how important it is to me to reach readers, whether Christian or not. And when he speaks to me in that space, he speaks into my most deepest desires as a writer with compassion and concern. There is nothing held back, but there is nothing to hold back; he loves me for who I am and why I do what I do. He knows that the reason I want to write is not about popularity or fame, but to extend myself to every person so that they might be inspired and encouraged to find the love of Jesus in their hearts. And, because of this, he wants me to succeed. He doesn’t want me to succeed just to become popular; he cares to see that I become the best at what I love doing.

That… is what a father does.

I love my dad. Many years ago, when my parents divorced, our relationship was strained. There were many, many years that passed that I could only describe poignantly in hindsight. Our relationship was, in my words: stagnant, and unprogressive, and unnatural. That is not to his fault, since I know he was going through so much already as a man. But, you see, I was able to see that after looking back on that time, when I became a Christian.

For the longest time, I didn’t feel anything for my dad because I didn’t feel emotionally engaged with him. There were many years that passed before that aspect to our relationship began to show itself. During the in-between time, he tried to get me to church just so that I would keeping the concept of God in my heart, but I was very defiant and obstinate with regards to faith. God didn’t make sense: why would a God give me parents who weren’t meant to be together just so they could divorce, ruin all that I was used to and cherished as a happy life, and then say, “Come on back to worship me, the one tearing your life to shreds.” If that was God, then I was having no part in it. Atheism set in and, needless to say, at the time, made perfect sense.

Mom and dad raised all of us kids Catholic (I have three older siblings), putting us all through the same Catholic elementary, middle, and high schools. That experience was utterly exhausting, excruciatingly judgmental and non-accepting of the transitions I was experiencing at home. My favorite moments of each day, no idioms here–were walking from my car to the school in the mornings, and my walks back to the car from the school in the afternoon. That was it. Everything else faded away in the gloss of agony, despair, rage, depression; the atheistic back-drop of my disappointing existence.

During this time, I didn’t feel like my dad was really there. I believe he was doing what he needed to do to continue on the journey of life he was on, and he didn’t know how to respond or reach out to yet another child’s response to family drama. Honestly, I don’t blame him, because I believe everything happens for a reason. I had to grow into the man I am today in a different way than other men do. My dad was never absent or ever abusive, he was there every day; but I chose to go in my room and close the door. Do I wish he would have come to me and tried breaking in to my bubble of darkness? Yes. I can never blame my dad for being a bad father, or claim he never tried to love me. What I can say is that it took me about 15 years to understand and comprehend his way of loving me, and to step into that understanding and embrace the way he had always loved me— so that I could feel it for myself as his son. That was the most precious part of our relationship, for me, as father and son: learning to feel loved by him when I had felt so distant for so many years before.

There is nothing of blame here—I absolutely love my dad, words could never capture adequately enough the love I have for my dad. Do I wish he had broken through the wall of my rebellion and stepped into my struggles more intimately with me while I was in them? Sure. I often wonder what may have changed for the better earlier on in my life if he had. But that is not regret or resentment speaking. That is an observation I’ve made after accepting that there was a reason why my dad operated the way he did as a father during that season of my life. There are reasons for our relationship making the twists and turns that it did in order for it to arrive where it is today… and where we are today, I am more grateful than I could ever explain.

For the sons out there—- if your dad left before you were born, or if they were too busy to give you a few moments of their time to let you know with their love, patience, smiles, hugs, and time spent wrestling or playing ball outside (my dad taught me to ride a bike and throw a ball–) just how much you were always loved, and how much you deeply mattered to them– I am so sorry that you never experienced manhood from your dad. That is traumatic, and wrong. Fathers are meant to embrace their role and carry us through all our childhood years by their presence, love, confidence, emotional dependability, wisdom to answer our struggles with compassion, and simultaneously feed us the zeal to overcome our fears and bullies. Fathers are the ones who teach us how to stick it out to the boys who try to tear us down. They lift us up when we are sad, and they give us a reason to want to keep going when the world tries to tell us to forfeit all of our will.

They are not meant to leave you to become a man on your own, and they are not meant to leave you to define your own purpose in your life, nor leave open the void of validation for others to fill; such as women, sex, drugs, alcohol, workaholism, materialism, and self-doubt. If this is all you know, you have my sympathy. You also have my extension of courage and motivation to not let that be the end of your story. When I had had it with not only Catholicism, but all religion, I became an atheist. For seven years, I looked at the world and saw darkness, loneliness, hatred, and disgust. They were very, very dark, saddening years; empty of all passion for life. I was fragile, sensitive, stubborn, and overly analytical. It’s not a big mystery to me that my dad didn’t seem to reach out more when all I seemed to want was space.

But that wasn’t the end of my story. After those seven years, I was even more tired of the absence of meaning in my life than I had been the betrayal of the image of a happy life with one, undivided family. As a 21-year-old, I was curious. Not seeking the Jesus I was raised with in Catholicism, but curious. I had been reminded of in a cacophony of guilt, shame, and accusatory insinuations that people– including me–were the cause of Jesus’ death. Therefore the main point of Catholicism to me, from where I was standing as a young adolescent with a divorcing family– was that I was to blame for Jesus’ crucifixion, and that I should seek forgiveness for something I never understood. That was Catholicism for my entire childhood, and by the time the divorce happened, I didn’t feel any love of God. I just felt blamed. Atheism made much more sense. I didn’t need guilt about a God that didn’t make any sense to me having died because of me. That was the final straw for me, and the beginning of seven years of denial.

After that, God Himself led me to Florida, where I met a man of God who was open and inviting about faith. Jesus met me in Florida, because He knew I wouldn’t meet Him in Michigan (where I was born). It was there that my faith began; from just the seed of mere curiosity, and not for anything specific, but just for something to fill in the blank; a generic response to a vague concept. Funny, what I received in response to the desire for something so simple and undeterminable was the most complex, sophisticated, intricate, and satisfying (over the course of 8 years and still going) answer I could have ever tried to imagine. And it was in this Godzilla of a response that I discovered, through much difficult question and answer sessions with friends, spiritual guides/mentors/pastors/prayer partners/life groups, that a father like mine could love me the way he did. God revealed to me, after taking me out of a place I was refusing to see Him in and placing me in a location much more stable and rectifying of my anger and doubts– that not only had my dad always loved me, but that–just as I was blind to see God in my life through the work of Jesus Christ for all those years–I was just as blind to see my own father loving me on earth despite my walled-up presence and desire for isolation.

What a miracle that was! Imagine my response when I realized that not only was there a God (who just so happened to become flesh, die, and resurrect so that I could be with Him in Heaven when I die), but that my earthly dad loved me for all the years when I was hiding in my room hating life and all the pain that was driving me away from joy.

Now, today, in 2016, Jesus is my joy. I’m on fire for God, ready to accept challenges and always pondering what He’s doing each and every day. And along the way, I have a blog where I can share myself with others, asking questions to the world that I have also faced at one time or another–or may still be facing now–to inspire people to better their own spirituality, knowing full well how my own story could easily relate to others who have experienced trauma, and turned away from theology and Jesus. My dad knows ALL OF THIS, and he loves me for why I do what I do.

That… is what a dad does.

Does your dad do that? If he doesn’t, could you bring that to his attention? If you are a believer of Jesus, have you tried talking to you earthly father about your Father in Heaven? If you aren’t a Christ-follower, even in your unbelief, can you speak the truth to your dad that you need him to show you how he really feels, so that you can feel whole as you confront a life full of unknowns? If your dad has abused you, can you turn to a healthy father-figure and ask them to be your inspiration, your role model, your word of wisdom and crutch while you don’t understand life quite yet? This is what a father does. If your dad can’t or won’t, will you find one who will?

God the Father loves every single human being, because He uniquely made each and every one of us. Jesus died for you so you could live in radical joy of the hope to come. Will you lean into that promise, that love–that joy–and express it to others around you?

Fathers, will you lean in to your children and love them in every way you have read about here, and more?

Dad, I love you. Thank you for being a dad I can love with all my heart, pushing me to the next step. I’m very thankful for you.