Why Worship? What’s the point?

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive study of the history of evolution of Christian worship.  So please excuse the brevity.

Most of my life I have been around churchy worship environments.  I was nearly born during a Baptist altar call (true story, and yes, they are really that long! Ha!).

I have been told that man and woman were created to worship, that is their purpose on the earth.  God needs it, and we got it.  And so somewhere along the line that evolved into plexi-glass acoustically foamed drum cages, light gels, the holy 4/4 GCD progression, glory poses (only if your Sprit-filled mind you), fire marshal threatening levels of hair product (or there was that long beard season and then the shave your head bald period), and about 30 minutes a week spent singing at a screen or crowd-watching per week.

The conclusion that God needs our worship or that we were primarily created to worship reinforces the distant God, somewhere else.  I would argue what we were created to abide, to commune, to breathe, to experience and express love, to appreciate, to be.  While worship may include these things, so much of it (just read the lyrics sometime) is spent reinforcing the idea of a far away God who needs to act, or might act, or could show up.

Further, the act of worship, which in most cases has come to mean music, is misunderstood.  As a communal practice and physical act, singing together has a great benefit.  Science reinforces the brain and endorphin benefits of singing together (http://www.npr.org/2013/06/03/188355968/imperfect-harmony-how-chorale-singing-changes-lives) and nearly every society has this as a practice of celebration.  It is a physical act that reinforces unity.  Let’s keep doing it, but maybe not emphasize it so much.

But what other spiritual acts could have a physical and communal benefit?

– Meditation and Breathing

– Exercise, Yoga, Jogging, Pilates, Zumba, Dance, etc

– Art

– Silence

– Laughing and Silliness

– Eating, Drinking Together

– Accomplishing Something Meaningful Together

– Experiencing the Earth, Gardening, Hiking, Stopping to Smell the Roses

– Traditions that Emerge from Your Own Community (Look, it could really be a whole lot of things despite my short list.)

If worship is about abiding, then we can look at “acts of worship” differently.   We can abide, reflect, and appreciate (worship) no matter the activity, so the value of acts of worship serve a different purpose in a community and on our physical bodies.  Acts of worship are about rejuvenation, health, engagement, maintaining connection with your community, re-centering our souls, and reinforcing trust and unity.  From that perspective, singing together is still great.  It’s still on the list, but maybe it’s time we got more creative and used some other senses and other experiences.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good echo-y, chorus-laden strat solo.  Jesus and the Electric Guitar I’m sure it’s what Jesus will play when he shows up (and yes, I’m sorry that isn’t a strat in the pic, I know!).  But, for the love of us, why don’t we look at our spiritual practices again?  How about a running club?  Anyone into growing produce for a local food pantry?  Weekly meditation anyone?

What if our worship leaders spent all their time facilitating practices that encourage abiding in God and centering our soul?  Seriously, what if our worship leaders were expert outdoor excursionists, joggers, artists, chefs, composting gardeners?  What if our acts of worships supported the full range of health and abiding as a community and emphasized less doctrinal repetition?  Just an idea here, but seems like the whole world is open to creativity and enjoying God.

Where Have I Been?

Clearly I have not posted in a while.  There are a few reasons:

  1. I started another Master’s degree, and much of my free time has been swallowed up in reading blueprints and researching housing development issues. I decided to branch out of my current Public Administration background, due to funding cuts in the field.  I work in affordable housing, but right now, my educational background is more policy oriented rather than project management oriented.  So, given all the bizarre reactionary funding decisions being made in the recent few years, I decided it was worthwhile to add something to the resume.
  1. 2014 was the year I became worn out with media buzz and debates about national forces and ideas that supposedly represent the thoughts and experiences of everyone that fits ________ category. I think it’s part of my own maturation process, but I let 2014 teach me to be silent and to focus on listening to the people in my life,  not to the reductions of humanity spouting off in nearly every blog or media outlet.   I want to hear about personal experience, not the dilution and exploitation of any category of people.   This compelled me to stop reading the news, and honestly to cut out the posts and blogs of a lot of friends.  It was not that I was stepping away out of a desire to protect my own insular way of thinking.  I just realized the debates from the talking heads changed little for good while it exacted a toll on my own soul and those around me.

I highly recommend taking this step to others.  I feel much more at peace in the world and feel like I could have an actual conversation with another about their own experience without the baggage of filtering the conversation through a special interest group’s talking points.

  1. My own thoughts on God, spirituality, salvation, sin, health, faith and the like continue to evolve. I do not always feel like I readily have vocabulary, and particularly a defensible vocabulary for my thoughts.  Many relate to faith as a detailed, point-for-point theological framework for what they exactly believe.  I find myself relating to faith more like a sense of the spirit these days.  I feel like I am learning to listen through it, be centered by it, be invited to be love in the midst of my world because of it.
    Thomas Merton Quote
    Though there is a tension.  I have several decades of baggage tied to faith, understanding God, spiritual practices, and processing my own thoughts and actions in that light.  I am sure many others do as well.  I feel like I became an expert at using a tool for the wrong purpose, and now all the muscle memory of my previous work is right there while I am trying to train myself to think and act differently.  That is not an easy thing to write about because it is not sensational.  It is humbling.  It is hardly noticed some days as I fall back into old patterns or just stay busy with life.
  1. I am a dad, husband, peewee soccer coach, mentor, student, and affordable housing program manager. Life is complex.  Life is amazingly simple.  You plant a plant in a good spot for the amount of sun it needs with good soil and proper drainage, and it thrives.  Some people spend their entire career studying the properties of soil, a particular variety of plant, or the movement of ground water.  In terms of thoughts about life, I go back and forth in the tension of resting in the amazingly simple, and then trying to explore the complex.
Go Go Go Monsters!

Sometimes I question whether my pursuit of the complex is driven my own desire to know something unique and significant and share it with the world.  Look at this great idea I had, or the way I said ________.  It seems to me that those that write publicly have a strong tendency to do so with narcissistic undertones.  What if I don’t really want a following, but I would really like to help someone else thinking the same kinds of thoughts?  It is hard to know where the line is in writing in a way that is open and free of my own desire for attention.

And so these are some of the reasons I have not written as much lately.  Sometimes I debate about deleting all my old posts.  We are in a world that looks for evidence to prove someone thought too narrowly or wrongly at one point in history, and therefore they are flawed and not a reliable source of information.  I think I leave it because it tells a story of thoughts along the way.  They were not written to be thesis points for my defense of how the world works, but rather were an exercise in reflection and honesty.  It would probably be worth asking what I think now versus then, but likely I am not thinking so much on the ideas I wrote about before.   If you are curious, shoot me an email or grab a coffee/beer with me.

I may try to post a bit more regularly, but in doing so, I want to write as a process of reflection.  My apologies in advance for it likely being incomplete as written, or if my understanding and vocabulary change over time.  I feel like the compass of direction (meaning, compassion, faith, community) have not really changed over the past several decades, but certainly the way I would present it today has from my earlier thoughts.

Sin is not that big of a deal – Let’s Focus on Abiding

For most Christians in modern cultures, sin is a big deal. It’s a huge deal. Many have made it the primary thing their faith is all about. If we can deal with this sin problem, then we will finally be right with God. Out of this thinking has become a tremendous amount of criticism for those with altered positions as being full of “cheap grace”, as the assumption is that if you do not measure someone’s behavior, then it will result in a level of chaos and destruction that is born out of the idea that it’s the reminder and measurement of behavior that keeps us on the straight and narrow path.

The position of sin as measuring tool works… partially. It teaches about helpful and unhelpful behaviors. It can serve as a teacher and trainer (see Proverbs) for behaviors that generally produce better outcomes in life. So one cannot fully reject this position, as it has been useful to many.

A good physical comparison would be our personal tendency to measure pounds. In many cases, this is a good place to start for the basics of health, though as most have found, weight is not an indicator of health necessarily. It can, in some cases, be an indicator of specific kinds of unhealth, but someone having less or more pounds than expected may be an indicator of a lot of things.Scale

Sinful behaviors are similar. They can be indicators, but the absence of undesirable behaviors does not mean that someone is healthy.

Further, sin has been misunderstood at different points of our history. The creation story shows the presence of sin not in the propensity to choose disobedient behaviors, but in the sense of separation Adam and Eve felt and experienced from God. Sin was the shame, compensation, fear, and lostness they felt as they were compelled to hide, make clothing from nearby vegetation, and eventually find themselves outside of the ideal garden that represented security in their identity. Sin is the prodigal son and performing son that allow their sense of competition and desire for escape separate them from the awareness of a loving father. Sin is the lost sheep, who the shepherd won’t rest until he finds. Sin is the forgotten treasure, buried in a field so long that no one remembers its value any longer.

Jesus came to free us from sin, not modify our behaviors. If you study Jesus, he waged an intentional war against the system of measurement created by the religious/governmental structure of his day. He was a threat to the system. One of the few times he lost his cool was in the temple where the people had figured out how to make money off of the guilt of pilgrims coming to the temple.

What then, does health look like? While a healthy person may have fewer sinful behaviors, this is a poor measurement for a humanity who is being saved. The presence of light is not measured by the absence of darkness, or love by the absence of hate. Jesus described an abiding connection (the vine and branches), a community that is made healthy in the absence of material wealth or the presence of mourning… There is a burden of walking alongside Jesus that is easy, and not compensating.
Perhaps the path is narrow not because it is so difficult to avoid all the sinful behaviors, but because it is so easy to obsess over them, to listen to the voice of shame far louder than the invitation to be still and trust.

Sin is not that big of a deal. Abiding in connection with God is. Coming home to our loving father is. Awakening to our over performance in an effort to justify our place in God’s ranking of us over our siblings is.

My God was an A$$hole – Letting Go of the Rigid System of Belief

Preface – A Recent Reflection on the Framework of Thought and Faith in My Childhood

So I want to start this by saying, I have a faith, and it is tremendously important to me.  It has been built, shaped, adjusted, destroyed, and rebuilt throughout my life.  Anyone who believes that their framework for understanding themselves and God will last a lifetime, is either in for a road of great personal delusion and restriction of learning, or disappointment, pain, and disillusion.   Recently I have finally found myself with enough distance to see how my early life faith framework impacted the development of my personality, and who I became as an adult.  I will preface this with saying that I have at several points in my life served as the counselor/facilitator for others who were processing their own past and disappointments.  My bag of tools for addressing these types of issues was pretty full, but it was not until recently that I was able to honestly acknowledge my experience.

My Childhood and Faith Seen as Performance

In the enneagram personality assessment, I am a 3, the achiever/performer.  More specifically, I am the “self-preservationist 3”, which essentially means that my personality developed as a high-performing, pragmatist, jack-of-all trades approach, with an odd mix of self-depreciation and detachment from my feelings.  People frequently come to me because I usually have a solution to just about any problem.  I have a can-do attitude, and jump in to help because I genuinely care. A friend from my faith community recently shared a photo-copied section from a book on the self-preservationist 3.  One particular line stood out to me: “People with this sub-type (self-preservationist 3) often had a childhood in which they didn’t have enough protection and resources”.  In the past, I would have cut short this kind of thinking, honoring the amount of physical needs that were met in my childhood, but as I meditated on this, I realized that I did not have the emotional support I needed.  I remembered about eight years of my childhood specifically where I felt very alone to navigate all the expectations of the world.

I was raised in a house where there were exceptionally limited ways to connect with my father.  He is a performer in his own way, still reacting to his own childhood, being the strength and stability that his family never was for him.  If I wanted my father’s respect, it came through achievement in education, sports, or religion.  I was competitive in sports, but would never be better than middle of the pack.  So somewhere around middle school, I gave up on sports mostly, and vested significantly in performing in education and religion.  I feel bad for my classmates now in retrospect.  I achieved in nearly every subject.  At the end of the school year, I always walked home with a stack of achievement certificates.  I was the king of nerds.  In terms of religious achievement, I was on several committees, ministry teams, started several faith-based groups at school, and ultimately went to bible school and into inner-city ministry right out of college. 

Unfortunately, I was “that guy” who could suck the air out of the room with a mix of zeal, and truth.  I was not hiding some secret life of compromise, as many do.  I really was living what I said.  I just happened to have a really disciplined life, which was an indication of my unhealthy drive.  Achievement was my disease, and it has been growth for me to allow myself to be rough around the edges, to be honest about my weakness.

Somewhere between elementary school and bible college, I came to believe that God was just like my dad.  He (and of course God was a He in my mind, who I normally addressed as Father or heavenly father) had a perfect relationship in mind for me and Him, but I needed to perform. I needed to achieve.  I needed to be productive and awesome.  If I believed the right thing, lived the right way, and found the right plan for my life, it would be a life of amazing awesome spiritual outcomes (this is the part where you are supposed to hear an electric guitar solo peel away during an exceptionally moving praise song).

The Inevitable Collision of Expectations and a Rigid Doctrinal Theology (i.e. thought I knew it all)

Then around age 25 it all came crashing down around me.   Life happened.   My framework for understanding my own value and God no longer fit.  I remember one particularly vivid point where I quite literally shook my fist in the air at a distant God who had caused me so much pain.  Knives freshly in my back from a variety of spiritual performers and leaders, I could not understand how my life was turning out so poorly when the efforts had been so good, and I was so close to believing the right thing.  I must have missed it somewhere.  I was frantically searching for my blindspot where I did or believed the wrong thing.

I was confronted with a mental impasse, God had compelled my father to move us from our friends repeatedly, attending 12 different schools between elementary and high school. God had compelled me to go to Bible School to go into the ministry.  God had let my whole world fall apart while I was sacrificing so much to perform.  Or so I believed because the framework I had been given from my father, my childhood churches, through books and summer camps… they all said there was a perfect plan, a God-plan for my life, and if I was on the right path, I’d find myself doing great things. 

Instead, I found myself abandoned, confused, broke, divorced, and injured in a car accident.  Several spiritual leaders gave me a long list of things I should be doing, praying, and busying myself with to change the situation… and yet it happened.  They had their ideas.  I had the rubble of a life at my feet. I had no adequate words to express where I was at in life.  Nothing had worked.  I was ashamed.  I felt like I was starting over, rebuilding my life, but looking at a pile of my broken life lying on the ground, thinking no one would want to share a life with this wrecked version of me.  I was in debt.  I had no degrees.  I was overweight. I had no faith I could verbalize anymore.  My car was totaled.  I had been laid off in an office shutdown. My faith was tattered to a shred.  Two things remained.  Through months of tears, and loss, and getting back up again, I believed God is love, and God redeems.   It was all I could hold on to.  It was all that felt true in my core. To this day, it is the place I return.  It is my compass, my hope.

Getting Up and A Newer, Flexible Faith – Finding my Center

I got up.  Decided I needed to lean into hope and believe that God redeems the broken life.  I finished one degree, then another.  I paid off my debts.  I took care of my body.  I opened myself up to relationships, first fearing to acknowledge the rubble I was still sorting through, then realizing if someone could not accept the broken me, they were not accepting me.  The other me was a lie. I think this season of slow progress would sound much more awesome if I said I had visitations from angels, or that God immediately confirmed my new framework for life, and my efforts were easy, and everyone liked me immediately, and it rained gumdrops one day.  But in truth, it was slow.  

My faith existed like my spiritual center, my place to return for hope and belief that love could and would win.  And I worked my ass off to steadfastly, and peacefully rebuild my life.  In my old framework of life, I would have expected that the moment I had prayed the right thing or believed the right thing, it would all have started working out.  Or I would have instantly had the pain from my past sorted, and would move forward fully healthy and restored. It was work, diligence, and a battle to constantly return to my center.  I regularly questioned my own intentions and actions…. whether I was doing things because of my old framework of performance, or because I believed it was loving for myself, my community, and my future family.  This kind of sorting is hard, and I think I had a tendency to question my own motivations too much, but I had stopped trusting them. I met my wife.   We made friends.  We built a community for others and ourselves.  Bit by bit, I sorted through the rubble, not sure what to feel of my past in most cases. 

As a child I developed a strong capacity to suppress my emotions in the name of being productive, so in many cases, I was allowing myself to feel things for the first time, some 10 – 20 years later.  It is the oddest sensation trying to reconcile the suppressed emotions of the childhood version of yourself with the objective, rational mindset of your adult self.  I would like to say that the youthful feelings immediately jump on board with the rational thoughts of the adult self, but they don’t.  Sometimes you just have to let yourself feel them, and be honest that they exist, buried, and still feeling.  As you enter into them, and acknowledge them, there is freedom to simultaneously forgive and honor their presence.  All sorts of dysfunction seem to appear when you refuse to honor them by denying their existence or rationalizing them, or force them to conform with your adult belief system.  There is truth and beauty stored there, but it is vivid, full of extremes.

Recently I have come to terms with the system of belief I adopted as a child.  It was abusive.  I hate to use that word, for a thousand reasons.  Most of the people I know who claim abusive moments in their lives, never move past those moments.  While the actors in my childhood were diverse, the message has heard loud and clear, achieve… chase the plan of God for your life, and you will be worthy to be loved. As a child I was too young to filter out the various messages from sources I respected.  Unfortunately it took it all falling apart around me for me to realize how my own woundedness propped up and supported that framework for understanding myself and God.  I wanted it to be true.  I knew I could achieve.  I knew I could discipline myself.  I knew I could be productive.  If all I had to do was do well and believe the right thing, that is a pretty good offer for knowing your life will be significant and you will be loved. What I realize now is that I was loved.  

What Happens When You Follow A God that is Mostly a System of Thinking

And that God, that version of God was an asshole.  That version of God wrecked the first 25 years of my life with an equation for acceptance and significance that betrayed me.  It set my life up as a quest to chase the spiritual carrot of living right, believing correctly, and performing so I could be accepted.  That God had a systematic theology that told me what I should believe about my life, and what the final score of this game called life would be.  What I have also come to realize is that I helped make that version of God, that system of understanding and relating to God that betrayed me.  It was the systemization of God that poisoned by ability to rebound from life, see the joy in it, while not denying the rubble. 

I am convinced for so many people it is the systemization of their own version of God that causes them so much pain in life.  They either have a life that performs well for their expectations, and they slowly become more and more judgmental against people that do not accept their framework for understanding themselves and God… or their life does not meet the outcomes of the plan, and they live disillusioned, bitter, and unsure of their own value.  They are flips of the same coin, neither providing a context for knowing your value free from performance. What I have come to believe about God is that God will be revealed, but not defined… that what we all get are glimpses of stories, experiences, and metaphors that resonate, ripe with love and redemption, and we inherently see God in them.  It is the oddest of gifts, as we are richer for accepting the diversity of them, and hurt, both personally and communally, as we try to control them.   God is like many things, and fortunately it is the many of things that help us to understand God.  

As we allow our understanding of God to grow with us, we are richer, healthier, and have a greater capacity to live in the present.  We are no longer tied to the defense of a dusty list of prescribed thoughts on God and a framework of expectations for our life.  Instead we are able to celebrate how we and others understood God in the past, how we know God now, and how we will continue to discover God throughout life.  It is an immeasurable treasure of discovery.  

My Mid-Life Crisis – Part 3

So we made this choice, a very physical/practical choice, that had a significant impact in the way I perceived who I would be going forward.  I am sure there are other men that have very different triggers for their own inner transitions.  For me, this was mine.  I hoped that putting it to writing would help me process my own thoughts, but also that other men that had not yet found their own thoughts might find some solace in our common struggles.

Let me rewind a bit.  We started the conversation about the procedure back in the late winter/early Spring.  It was roughly 6 months later when I acted on it.  I think I believe I started processing the transition much earlier, but did not fully understand what and why.

Generally, when a significant life transition occurs, we, as humans and particularly male humans, tend to find something of perceived significance to throw our energies into.  Some choose hobbies, some choose new girlfriends, some choose extreme sports, some choose travel, some choose work, and some just choose to escape.

Out of some mixed sense of nobility, I chose my job as my area of focus.  It was almost not discernable at first.  I began thinking about the future of my team, our programs, my organization… and it evolved into projecting what I would need to do, be, and choose to best ensure success for all.  I clearly felt the threats of what was going on with government funding and the later shutdown, but also saw few others lining up to carry the torch for the next generation of providing solutions for the marginally housed.

Over time, this shift in thinking weighed more and more on my soul.  I felt the inaction of the upper levels of management clawing at my desire to move the organization into a better position for the future.  When we lost momentum or a significant effort was thwarted for some insignificant or bureaucratic reason, I felt like I was sinking and losing hope.  There was one critical moment when I had invested significant time, probably 60 hours or so, and upper management chose to blatantly ignore my opinion and the opinion of the other mid-tier leadership.  I was almost directly told that my opinion did not matter, and whether or not it was directly said, action was taken confirming how little value was placed in the effort and thoughts of mid-tier leadership.

I felt shattered.  At first, I felt great anger for upper management.  Legitimately, I felt like the communication and decision making process was exceptionally poor.  Objectively, that was true.  I could argue all day long about how poor the process had been.

Though I had other moments in the past where poor decisions had been made or my opinion had been ignored, so why did this feel so much more impactful?  Why did I feel the need to escape my own thoughts when I came home from work?  Why did I feel the need to mentally argue with upper management every time I allowed my brain to drift?  I was letting upper management live in my thought life far too frequently.

It took more time to process the why’s than I would wish it would.  Perhaps it was because I was busy with the family.   Perhaps it was because I was fighting the good fight (or at least so I thought) for the future success of others.

It took two bouts with sickness, nearly back-to-back to get me still enough to perceive my own agitation.  I knew I was angry, but I did not realize how much it had grown to dominate my emotional state.  I should be better at discerning this by now, but I am still learning.

It was sometime on day 3 of 102 degree fever, stuck on my bed, too bored to try to distract myself with anything else.  I had exhausted Netflix, Hulu, and any video games I wanted to play.  I finally began to process what had happened over the past 7 months.  I knew I was facing this transition physically, but I had not really understood that in my own desire for a new sense of significance, I bet hard on my career.  And my career had knocked the wind out of me and clearly did not love me as much as I was trying to love it.  It just wanted to be friends… or more like acquaintances.

Years ago, I had a season where I lost everything, or nearly everything.   I was fragmented.  I lost money, relationships, my own sense of personal self-worth, and my view of the world.  I think I still fear that I will be blindsided again.

I made my career, at least in the place it was occupying in my own soul, the place of stability and significance for my future.  I am sure that mixed in there was a noble desire to provide for my family, and I do truly, truly believe in giving my life to create opportunities for others to change their lives.  But, my level 9 Richter scale soul earthquake had little to do with feeling loss over those two areas.  I can always get another job, and I know myself well enough to know that I will try to help others throughout my life, even if it is not part of my job description.

So I am trying to think differently about my career.  I have a helpful post-it note stuck on my monitor, “Just a job”, as a reminder.  Some people need to push themselves to invest more deeply in things.  Generally that has not been my problem.  I tend to try to make situations work much longer than I should.  It has been a pattern in my life that I need something to fall apart in front of me, to cause me to re-evaluate what I am investing my time and energy toward.

Maybe I will change my career.  Maybe not.  I do not really know now, but I do feel a palpable sense of peace about my day-to-day soul strain at my job.  It’s just a job.  It’s not me.

I have found a new joy in dreaming about what could be next.  I am not a “grass is always greener” person.  I am way too pragmatic to think any change is good change, but maybe I want to be someone different down the road.  And that potential new adventure is exciting to allow my imagination to savor.

I share all this in hopes it will help someone else that is having their own level 9 soul earthquake.  If you objectively know that your situation does not justify the intensity of emotion you are feeling about it, create some space and allow yourself time to process the why’s.

My Mid-Life Crisis – Part 2

To be honest, after the procedure, the physical recovery took far longer than I anticipated.  It was a pain that was distinctly different than other pains I have previously experienced.  I was planning on being up to speed 3 or 4 days later, and probably over-exerted myself.  A word to the wise, plan on this taking several weeks to feel fully normal again.  It was roughly 10 weeks later before I truly stopped noticing the random pain.

Women seem to universally talk about this as if it is a simple procedure where there is obviously no reason for their man to feel really bothered by it.  My wife did a good job saying little, but I heard ample feedback, nearly all from women, that getting snipped was an insignificant thing.  So men, just prepare to not be understood.

I experienced a tremendous amount of inner turmoil both before and for several weeks after the procedure.  Partially, it was physical.  I was uncomfortable with what would be done, the risks, and the much slower than expected recovery.  Though as I reflected I realized my turmoil was more about this signified.  This marked a tremendous transition for my future.  It meant that the family I had, at least biologically, was the full sum of my family (barring some surprise).  It meant that I was no longer working toward the family I would some day have, and instead was accepting the family I had.

Thinking about what this transition meant required accepting where I was at in life in an entirely new way.  I did not have regrets about the life I had.  In fact, quite the opposite…  I have a wife and two daughters that are a delight to me.  I am exceptionally grateful to share my life with each of them.

Rather, this meant that I had to accept there would not be another member on Team Burton.  From a rational standpoint, I fully agreed with the choice.  Our family has committed to maintaining enough space in our life and budget to share with others outside our family.  We felt like we had reached a point where we still had some of us left to share with others, but were uncertain that more children would still allow us mental, emotional, and financial space.  I know other families have other points at which they feel they have reached the point of being complete.   For us, we were there.

But still, I had to allow myself to accept what this meant.  I was no longer the young man building.  I was now the father raising, caring, supporting…

In other areas, we made choices that seemed to only amplify the transition:

  • We used what we saved on birth control to buy more life insurance.
  • My wife bought a lumbar pillow for more comfortable driving.
  • We upped our contributions to our retirement accounts.
  • We have talked about what the next family vehicle might be.

All of these are reasonable things, but the transition seemed so sudden that it caught my adventurer heart by surprise.

I found myself looking for security and significance.  Who would I be in this next season?  If I wasn’t the young man building, who would I want to be?

(to be continued)

My Mid-Life Crisis – Part 1

Were my blog a cactus, it would not have survived.

I could name about 43 reasons I have not been writing.

At the top of the list would be a picture of a frantic Josh… trying to be all that I can be:  a growing career man, a fully present dad, a contributing part of a community, a husband who actually sees the awesome things his wife does enough to thank her for them, a handyman, an informed contributor to society, a kickbutt virtual assassin that saves the world when called upon, an indie music aficionado, a thirty-something that has not yet given up on caring for his body, and more.

This has been the year I am no longer trying to build the life I might some day have:

  • I have my degrees, probably enough to get by (though I do get tempted by the occasional doctoral program).
  • I have a house that sufficiently meets the needs of the family that is currently occupying said house.  If they made a self-cleaning / self-repairing model, I would upgrade.  But until then, it is a blessing to have a space to share with so many we love.
  • I have my family.  This was the year we decided that two was enough.  My wife felt really strongly that two was what she had space for in her heart, mind, and energy.

Years ago I surrounded myself with young men that talked about how they were going to change the world and win a woman.  Gradually that shifted to conversations about an epic proposal.  Then we debated about when to start a family.  Apparently 2013 is the year all the cool kids are getting snipped.

So I did what thirty-something married men do when they realize they are done adding to the population.  I decided I would celebrate arriving at this grand new season of my life by giving up the functionality of some of my organs!  All while having awkward conversations with people I hardly knew.

After getting the referral from my doctor, I went and had the consult with the urologist.  If you were ever slightly uncertain about what you were embarking on, they do provide a list of everything that can go wrong, and make both you and your spouse sign off on it.  Perhaps the most awkward compliment of the day was the nodding approval of my manscaping from my 60+ year old urologist.

We did our homework, soberly signed away my boys, and the day of the procedure arrived.  The urologist was scheduled to move into a new, state of the art facility between the date of my consultation and procedure.  I showed up at the brand new building exactly on time, and not a minute early.  I debated about taking a flask for courage with me as valium does not agree with my stomach.  At the last minute, I chose to tough it out.

The electronic doors whooshed open upon my approach to the shiny, new facility.  Inside I met a confused looking administrator sitting in the entryway.  She asked if I been informed about the box fire and the surgery that had been relocated 30 miles away.  She handed me an illegible Mapquest photocopy, and I headed out, grateful I chose to skip the bourbon in the parking lot.

40 minutes later, I arrive to an exceptionally crowded facility (another urologist offered for the week while the building was repaired).  40 of us stared awkwardly at the walls, so as not to make eye contact…  except for that one A-hole that was watching a movie on his phone without headphones, directly below the “Do not use cell phones” sign.

Two hours later, they called me back.  I sat down in one room, waited 20 minutes, and tried to chit chat with the nurse/assistant when she came in.  She looked to be exactly the age of my wife, and very similar in attractiveness and build.  Unfortunately, she was not my wife, and so I faked my confidence and began having conversations with a complete stranger about a procedure I had begun questioning somewhere during the two hours in the “waiting room”.

20 minutes later, they moved me to an identical room, and I was greeted by another urologist I had not met yet.  He seemed to be exactly my age, funny, and very conversational.  I thought to myself he’s the kind of guy we’d have over to a barbeque or share a beer with.

What was not at all expected was that the new “better” room they moved me into apparently had none of the supplies we needed to proceed.  In some weird version of a scavenger hunt, the new doctor and nurse literally went cabinet-to-cabinet, door-to-door, yelling as they found one of the 20+ items they needed for the procedure.  It felt like some awful episode of survivor, with my dignity on the menu.

All the while the hunt was progressing, I was sitting prepped in a chair with the 200 watt halogen lamp highlighting what God gave me.  I think I was darn near to a sunburn when the urologist and nurse agreed that they finally had all the supplies they needed.

After liberally applying the industrial aftershave to my freshly shorn, now nearly sunburned source of awkward conversation, the procedure itself went normally.

I was fully awake throughout the process, and I had not really spent much time thinking about how I would fill the time during the procedure.  So despite the occasional moments of stabbing pain coming from my groin, we had a pretty decent conversation about life, college basketball, family, and what makes a good marriage work.

I still have this gut-wrenching fear that some day either the nurse or doctor are going to show up at our church or to some event, and I am going to have to recover from how we first met one another as the foundation of our friendship.

(to be continued)


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