Friday, April 13, 2012

Blue Like Jazz: The Movie

I don't agree with Donald Miller on 100% of every issue, but I am a big fan of the way he approaches almost every thought, his unflinching yet humble honesty, and his damn good prose. That's why when I heard money was being raised to turn his book Blue Like Jazz into a movie, I didn't have to think long about giving money to the cause.

Tonight, I had a casual Asian fusion dinner date with my lovely wife, and then had myself blown away by the very movie I helped (in a very small way) to create. When we walked into the theater 2 minutes before the previews started, I was somewhat anxious that we would turn the corner to see a sparsely populated room, but that wasn't the case--we were relegated to the lower, end-of-the-row seats because of the number of people in attendance. And I can honestly say I have never sat in an audience so engrossed a movie.

The last ten minutes or so of the movie is just a simple conversation between two of the man characters--Don and 'The Pope'--during which the entire audience was absolutely silent. The (what I believe to be exemplary) 1 hr 40 min build up to that scene firmly merited our attention in those closing minutes. The conflict is real, it doesn't occur overnight--it doesn't fully resolve (just like jazz) but it speaks one of the most poignant and honest professions of faith I have ever seen in film (and possibly in real life).

Even though the setting of the--shall we say--eccentric campus of Reed may cause some to deem this film to be "unrealistic," I think for most it provides a more solid justification for such catalytic change in Don's life, and allows for an entertaining little petri dish for him to experience and ascertain in one year what many don't until their forties.

The film is not flawless. But neither is life. It takes seriously the serious issues it wants to wrestle with, and has fun with what should be fun. Let me leave you with this, if you pay the 7, 10, or 15 dollars to see this movie you will:

1) Not be distracted by a famous actor, but by believe characters
2) Honestly feel like you are attending Reed for a year
3) Genuinely care about Don's struggle with faith
4) Think about the movie for days--whether you loved it or hated it
5) Not regret the price of admission.

So go see it. Wrestle with why the stars are swirling in the blue, like jazz.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Am Resolved

I am resolved to not interrupt the silence, unless I can improve it.

But I am also resolved to never stop trying to improve the silence.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Haters Gonna Hate, Lovers Gotta Love

"I know many young evangelicals barely have any stomach for controversy, let alone strong words about a serious topic. But if there is no way to be simultaneously bold and humble; if there is no way to be a gentle, caring person while still speaking in clear tones about hurtful error; if there is no way to correct those who oppose sound doctrine without being a moral monster; if there’s no way to love truth and grace at the same time, then there’s no way to be a biblical Christian. Judgmentalism is a sin and Calvinists can be jerks. But not every judgment is sinful and not every truth is cruel just because Reformed people teach it."
--Kevin DeYoung
In the context of my last post, I have found myself characterized by that first sentence: I barely have a stomach for controversy. While I will regularly debate things of theological weight, I find myself cringing and the helping hand I am lending to conflict. And there is a simple reason for my disdain: conflict sucks.

Conflict sucks even worse among Christians, because we are supposed to exemplify love (1 John 4). And this theological argumentative conflict does not appear to be helping that exemplification in any way. It literally pains me to hear the rough equivalent of theological hate-speech being tossed in either direction.

Yet, as DeYoung points out, there must be way to do both. The example of Christ clearly demonstrated both: from caring for the widow and orphan, or even those without faith, to his explicit and almost virulent statements toward/about the Pharisees. Jesus valued truth as much as he valued love, because they complement each other.

In my last post you can easily state Furtick is hating on haters, therefore becoming hypocritical. But I understand where he is coming from. There are people (and I think these are the types of people he is talking about) who carelessly and lovelessly criticize anyone in or out of their or the church who they decide deserves it. They are not demonstrating love. Likewise, those people who are infinitely emphasizing love and attempting to prevent conflict simply for the sake of peace are not demonstrating truth.

It comes down to a simple point: your theology. I do not mean Reformed or Liberal, Catholic or Protestant, Pre or Post Millenialist, but rather the way you view God and the way in which he has acted toward humans. If God is not a sovereign, just King, then your life could demonstrate mercy but without need, for why show mercy if there is nothing to be save from? Contrarily, if God is only a sovereign, just King with only a sliver enough of grace to save you, then your life could become focused on those who escaped that sliver.

However, if God is both sovereign and just, but slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (as he identifies himself: Exodus 34:5-7) then we will find ourselves able (though not without difficulty) to live lives following Christ's example, fulfilling both love and truth.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sippin' On Dat Hater-ade

When I first watched this video, my first thought was inclined generally toward the ways in which Furtick's argument seemed a little off base, and the small miscalculations he had made through the course of what he was saying. Then I realized that I was who he was talking about. I am a hater.

I don't know when exactly this happened, probably sometime around the time of my birth (you know, original sin, total depravity and all that). The thing about being a hater is, hate blinds you. Not only does it blind you to the object of your hate, but it blinds you to your own condition, it keeps you from grasping the sinfulness and the effects of your hate. Hate is subtle in your own heart but blatant in the face of others.

So when I watch someone call out haters, and make the implicit connection to what they are saying to who I am, my hate kicks in. Now, this is not to say that I agree with everything Furtick has to say, but I at least think he has a point: as someone who is Reformed, proudly and adamantly so, I have a grave tendency to cast down small judgments on others from my throne of theological supremacy. And that is not right.

Good theology, orthodoxy, is important. Yet, equally important, is love. When Christ came into the world, he did it to do two things: share the love of God, and provide a correct theology. He cared for, healed, and helped people, demonstrating the mercy of God on earth. But he also told them what was up. Forcefully.

Christ came from a position of infinitely more correct theology--you could argue that he was the only person on earth who had a completely 100% correct view of God. And yet, while he called out those whose views were wrong and destructive, he simultaneously showed grace and mercy. I think I could do with a little following of his example.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winter Hymn

It is a damn cold night,
But these nights are clear.

The frigid wind has a way
Of cutting down to bone
And probing deeper.

These are the evenings of my discontent.

I am more honest in the cold:
Winter offers the formality
Of doctor-patient confidence,
When the weather reminds me
That death is not so foreign.

This is not the end, but
Death is piling on dying.

On cold, hard nights like this
I hear something written on my heart.
It whispers: “I see a new day coming,”
“There is beauty in cold, desolate places.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm Talking About Love

I have a problem. I talk about my fiancée all the time. At least three conversations per day include a phrase such has "Well, my fiancée was telling me..." or "Elizabeth and I were talking, and..." or "Elizabeth said the other day..." or something similar. I mean, I do talk to her every night, for at least an hour, in addition to multiple texts and sometimes calls throughout the day. It also could be the distance: being 412 miles away from each other, I want to make her a part of my everyday life, and talking about her is just one way to do it.

I think the real culprit, though, is love. I love my fiancée (You say: "Well I'd hope so."), and as we are 151 days away from being joined in holy matrimony, she is becoming an ever increasing part of who I am. So in one sense, I am not talking about her more, but I am compensating for her growing influence in my life.

Now you may be wondering why this is a problem. Well, it kind of isn't. As I already mentioned, I love my fiancée, and highly enjoy talking to and about her. The problem is, because my love for her and the growing importance she has in my life constitutes more talking about her, that there is a noticeable absence of such talk about God.

People who regularly talk to me may notice I engage in theological conversation a fair amount, readily repeating the latest blog or thought from Piper, Driscoll, etc., or how I don't agree with ----'s theology, or ----'s interpretation of the Bible, but how often do you hear me say "Well, God was telling me..." or "I was praying, and..." or "I was reading God's Word the other day and it said..."? What this says to me is that God does not have a growing influence in my life--that I do not love him--at least not to what would be a good degree.

So talking about Elizabeth is not the problem, but not talking about God is. What's comforting, though, is that in both cases, the amount of talking I do about the other person does not affect how much they love me. Both Elizabeth and God, though I deserve neither, will love and pursue me no matter the quantity nor quality of what I say about them. That is a blessing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Somedoby to Love, Part 2

Read Part 1 Here

The one beauty of a long distance relationship is that it stands or falls on communication. If it survives, then you are able to communicate very well. If it doesn’t, well, you apparently can’t. Still, day after day it begins to wear on you, having someone so dear so very far away. Sometimes, I doubted the validity of it all. Other times, it has been more real to me than my next breath. I began to make good on my intention to love her. I did the sweet boyfriend things: texted her every night after she goes to bed, so she had a message waiting for her when she woke up; went to visit her at least once a month; and, naturally, gave her flowers every time I visited, often accompanied by dark chocolate (her favorite).

I began to notice, the more affectionate I grew toward Elizabeth, the more affection I had, the more affection I wanted to give, and the more affection I wanted to see all people give each other. I also began to see manners of displaying that affection more and more. Even in Rubik’s cubes. So I sent her a picture one morning, claiming the artistic validity of a heart comprised of a Rubik’s cube:

“We're walkin' into the fields.
We're walkin into the forest.
The moon is before us.
Up above
We're holdin' hands in the rain
S-sayin' words like I love you
D-d-d'you love me? Yeah

My my heart like a kick drum
My my heart like a kick drum
My my heart like a kick drum
My my love like a voice.”
—The Avett Brothers “Kick Drum Heart”
I made her a mixtape of songs that reminded me of what we had. And another. The second mix I titled “i carry your heart with me” after an E.E. Cummings poem I quite like. It goes like this:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
This made the difficulty less difficult, knowing that I carried her heart, and she carried mine. The problem was that because we had each other’s heart, our hearts were still not together. But I was okay with “fearing no fate” because “she was my fate.” Some days I literally looked up at the sky and thought that “whatever a sun will always sing” was her.

The real predicament came when I realized that the choice I had made, to love Elizabeth, no matter what, had actually happened. You must understand, in my experience of being me, normally the things I choose to do of my own will fail relatively terribly, as my will is very weak. So when this one thing I had willed actually came to be, the logical solution is that something supplemented my own will. Does this mean that the choice was not mine? No. But was I alone in making it? I think not. And, to be honest, I am glad it was not—I would have probably chosen something a lot dumber.

Still, I now had the dilemma of my love. I loved Elizabeth. Normally this is a prerequisite for marriage. But I wasn’t ready for marriage, was I? I had always heard about guys being scared of commitment, and scoffed at the possibility that I would fall into such a pathetic condition. No, I would be a real man, buck up, and propose when I came to such a juncture. But when I realized that I might actually be in love, it genuinely scared me. When you are in love, true love, real love, there is nothing that anyone can tell you beforehand, there is no experience you have had off of which can base your thoughts. You have no idea what to do.
“People, people, people, they make it sound so easy
They say just do what your heart tells you to
But sometimes you cannot feel it
Sometimes you cannot hear it
Sometimes it won’t talk back to you
And yeah I know you love me
And yeah I want to love you back
And how I know you love me
And how I want to love you bad.”
—The Avett Brothers “Pretty Girl From San Diego”
I was nowhere near ready to make that commitment, and yet, everything in my life was ready for it. My pastor friend encouraged me to press on, telling me that commitment is like a swimming pool, you can’t expect to get a feeling for it by dipping your toes in on the side. The only way you are going to get used to the temperature is by jumping in headlong. So I decided to jump.

On the seventh of July, as we were driving from her parents’ house in Florida, to my family in South Carolina, while I was sharing parts of who I am that no one had been privy to before, I told her I loved her. This is, I have heard, a huge milestone. For Elizabeth and myself, it was inevitable. There was no other way it could have happened. The way we treated each other—loved each other—provided for no other circumstance than this. One day in February I asked a girl to go to Chick-fil-a with me, and five months later I am in love.
“I say hey I'll be gone today
But I'll be back all around the way
It seems like everywhere I go
The more I see
The less I know
But I know one thing:
I love you
I love you
I love you
I love you

I've been a lot of places all around the way
I've seen a lot joy and I've seen a lot of pain
But I don't want to write a love song for the world,
I just want to write a song about a boy and a girl”
—Michael Franti “Say Hey (I Love You)”
Love has occasionally been viewed as requirement for marriage. I subscribe to such a tradition, and was immediately aware of the impending doom of my marriage. I say doom because I could see no positive ending to the matter. Having lived with myself for twenty one and one-half years at this point, I had begun to notice my tendency to be a jackass, and the consistent degradation of many relationships such a tendency causes. Naturally, a relationship as weighty as this would necessarily result in an even more weighty screw up on my part. Past experiences began to rise in my memory: every girl, every failure. It hurts some, because I wanted to share everything with her, but I didn’t want to hurt her with my semi-secret mistakes.

At this point in our story, I fell into a twofold trap: first, I assumed that I would have been able to fully and successfully love Elizabeth for the rest of my life all on my own strength; second, I completely removed her feelings from my calculations. I seemed to have forgotten that, if I was incapable of loving her, if I did not love her, then she would have probably let me know. Love, while it is not a feeling, can always be felt. We felt it.
“I got secrets from you, you got secrets from me
Because you're so worried about what I'm gonna think,
Baby I'm worried too.
But if love is a game, girl, then you're gonna win.
I'll spend the rest of my life bringing victory in,
If you want me to, yeah!”
—The Avett Brothers “Paranoia in B-flat Major”
The real test of love is in real life. Not in the happy, romantic, lovey-dovey moments. Even Hollywood can nail that. Love comes in when life comes in: honest, average life. I realized at some point in our relationship that Elizabeth asks “Why?” when deciding to do something, and I tend to ask “Why not?” This gives rise to serious conflicts when I decide to do something obnoxious just for obnoxiousness’ sake, and she wants to behave like a reasonable adult.

Elizabeth eats slowly, with purpose, while I tend to inhale my meals with the speed of the latest Hoover vacuum. She likes to plan things and be organized; I prefer spontaneity—that is unless something undermines the plan I had in mind—in which case I freak out. I take what are often joking discussions and slam them into heated arguments.

Each of these concerns has the potential to be a serious problem. Or not. The choice is ours. I could resolve every issue we ever have, I could work very hard to make sure that she never has a problem with anything I do, and she could do the same. I could buy her flowers, write her poems, massage her feet each and every day, but that wouldn’t be our love.

Love is a funny thing in that you can’t earn it. I don’t love her because she’s done the right things to make me do so; as if love were a cause-effect equation where she could force my hand into falling in love with her. No, I love her because she is mine. Because there is an ideal world, and that world includes me in love with her, us loving each other. I love her because that is the task that God has given me: not that it is a chore, a Sisyphian struggle that I must simply undergo; rather it is a blessing and a calling that fulfills me when I do it, rather than draining my effort and resources.
“Don't care where we're goin’, just wanna be with you.
Put your head on my shoulder, tell me what you been through.
When I lose my focus, you remind me of the truth.
Lift us up to the heavens for a bird's eye view.

One woman for me:
Other half of my soul, you are my queen.
One woman for me:
Other half of my soul, roots of my tree .”
—Matisyahu “Unique is My Dove”
You may be wondering what more there is to say? Just a few closing statements: our story is not extraordinary, although for us, it is both ordinary and life changing at the same time. I doubt you have been able to glean life lessons from my words—you, reader, are probably wiser than myself. I hope you are left with the impression that this story is little more than mundane, because that is where I live, and that is where you live, and if you have found love, or if you are going to find love, I all but guarantee that is where it will be—in everyday life.

On the ninth of October, in the year of our Lord 2010, I took Elizabeth to the Smithsonian Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. A small white box in my pocket went off in the metal detector. Afterward, we had a picnic lunch at a beautiful park adjacent to the Washington Monument. After a considerable amount of wasting time and rambling conversation, I had Elizabeth stand up next to me, told her much of what you have just read, and asked her if she would marry me. When I pulled the little white box out of my pocket, I opened it upside down. She still said yes. There is not much more that I can tell you. You have arrived at the end of the story. But we haven’t.

“She keeps it simple
And I am thankful for her kind of lovin'
'Cause it's simple

No longer do we wonder if we're together
We're way past that
And I've already asked her
So in January we're gettin' married.”
—The Avett Brothers “January Wedding”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Somebody to Love, Part 1

“I am the least difficult of men: all I want is boundless love”
—Frank O’Hara

When I was six years old, I proposed to my friend Sarah. She and I went to church together and were definitely friends and definitely destined to be together. Sadly, she disagreed. Sarah declined my proposal on the grounds that I could not do a cartwheel. As a six year old, I had no idea that these things were so important in marriage. Here I had learned it was about unconditional love, but the real secret to a successful marriage was acrobatics. This brought about a radical change in my worldview. It also established a precedent, as every romantic relationship or pseudo-relationship I had from the age of six until my junior year of college failed because of my own inadequacy. Not that I always said something stupid or wasn’t caring, but I always looked at my relationships as a means of satisfaction.

In high school, I really liked Katie, but I didn’t do a great job of keeping up with caring for her—for the first week of our relationship, I did little more than smile as I passed her locker at school. That’s a big win for the male gender. She was my first kiss—I don’t regret it, but it didn’t help me care for her selflessly. I do regret the next few girls I kissed. Katie, I kissed because I truly cared for her. Marie and Erin I kissed for the sake of kissing. Then came the careful flirtations and never-official-relationship crushes, each of which was a new opportunity for me to selfishly entangle lovely young women who were undeserving of such foolishness: Allison, Haley, Anna, Kathryn. Fail. Fail. Fail. Fail.

Then came Bethany. Bethany was not so much a failure, because by my junior year at Winthrop University, I had learned it was a good thing to actually take the time to state my intentions and ask her on a date. It was to Waffle House, a prime location. We stayed until 1:30am on a Sunday morning, after she had been babysitting and I had been square dancing and we both had church early the next morning. These days were fun—I liked her and she knew it. We spent time together and all intentions were open, honest, and discussable at any time. It was less than pleasant when she said we should just be friends—although I can think of precious few times it is unpleasant to have a friend—but she was right. She was a remarkable young woman, I was a less than stellar young man, and we would not have worked out. But, like that first kiss with Katie, I don’t regret it. It set the stage for a grand finale that has only just begun to start. Still, I was upset—I had done everything like I was supposed to, and it still didn’t work out!
“Each morning I get up I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet
Take a look in the mirror and cry
Lord what you're doing to me
I have spent all my years in believing you
But I just can't get no relief, Lord!
Somebody, somebody
Can anybody find me somebody to love? “
—Queen “Somebody to Love”
I first met Elizabeth when we were both going to a summer conference in Panama City, FL. I distinctly remember thinking to myself “She is really cute. Too bad she goes to Vanderbilt, that would never work out.” When asked about this same conference, she told me “I thought you were a little weird and maybe a little rude. I thought you didn’t like me at all, even as a person. I remember having a conversation with Joel [a mutual friend], asking ‘T.J. hates me, right?’” Wrong. The two years too young T.J. in all his wisdom was very lacking in his ability to wisely interact with women.

The first time that I really met Elizabeth was on Saturday, the sixth of February, 2010. A series of fortunately unfortunate events including a formidable snowstorm in Washington, D.C. where she was an elementary school teacher and the fear of being trapped in the apartment with her much loathed roommates sent her packing to Rock Hill, SC. Through a series of fortuitous events I can only attribute to God, but you may feel free to call luck, chance, or fate, the person whom Elizabeth went to visit, her former (my current) youth pastor Mike, now resides in Rock Hill, where I ever so auspiciously attend Winthrop University.

When I “met her” this time I had the same thoughts as before—“she is really cute, and really nice, but she lives seven hours away, how would that ever work?” This time, however, we had a conversation. We had multiple conversations. She laughed at my jokes. There are few things more masculating for a man than a woman laughing at your jokes. Knowing that woman thinks you are funny and entertaining while still taking you seriously makes you feel like you are more than insignificant. We connected on serious matters like faith, a distaste for the mixed martial arts match everyone was watching on Pay-Per-View, the television shows Pscyh and Leverage, and the band the Avett Brothers. After our conversations at the MMA match and the Superbowl (which just so happened to be the next day), I thought of something.

On Monday, February eighth, after several back-and-forth-decisions in my head, I came by her number from our mutual friend Joel, and called her:
“Hey, uh, Elizabeth, this is T.J. I got your number from Joel, I hope you don’t mind.”
No, that was fine (or something along those lines)
“I was wondering if you would like to get some lunch with me. I have a little bit of free time, and I would like to go out to lunch with you if you would like to.”

I didn’t give her much time to react: I was very direct. (She tells me that I was not usually so serious). She said yes, and proceeded to walk out into the living room to tell Mike, “I think I am going on a date with T.J.”

She thought correct—I took her to the pinnacle of all first date locations: Chick-fil-a. You must understand, in my mind, Chick-fil-a is a magical combination of Jesus and chicken. My roommate told me this first date venue was the clincher for our relationship. The beauty of our first date was not primarily the location, rather, it was the lack of awkward first date conversation. She expected it to be miserable, having experienced many horrible first dates. When it didn’t suck, she didn’t quite know what to do with herself.

I felt like we could really communicate, free from the ambiguities of feelings and intentions, as it was, after all, just a date. The first date was incredibly significant for me, because I realized something that day in Chick-fil-a: I am a really fast eater, and Elizabeth is not. That is it. The sun didn’t shine brighter. The air didn’t smell likes roses. There were no unicorns or rainbows or angelic choruses to signify this fateful beginning of a new relationship. There were just a guy and a girl, talking. It was glorious.

That first week was, I believe, quite literally a gift from God. It snowed so heavily in the D.C. area that Elizabeth was forced to stay in Rock Hill until Sunday. This provided us with plentiful opportunities to spend time together—something of a commodity in a long distance relationship. We had dinner and lunch several times, went to see the movie Valentine’s Day—both agreeing that it left something to be desired—and we even went to Mike’s wife’s play.

That Sunday was Valentine’s Day, a fact which first—frightening, as the relationship had yet to be established and I didn’t know what that meant regarding the sharing of gifts, flowers, etc.; and second—encouraging. I felt that were few more preferable ends to a week that was shaping up to be a very promising relationship. Therefore, I did what any man would do—going with what I knew, I gave her flowers. Actually, just one flower. I only gave one, because I wanted her to be sure that I liked her, but not think I was ready to propose.
The truth is—I was ready to propose.

The very next week, while talking to a pastor friend, I asked if it was too early to buy a ring. Laughing at my “joke,” he paused, shrewdly realizing I was only half joking. In all seriousness, it was quite a ridiculous conclusion on my part: one week, with a girl who lives seven hours away, and I am already seriously considering marriage? I don’t quite know what was going through my head. All I knew was that I had never thought about a woman like I thought about Elizabeth. Not felt, but thought.

I had felt the emotional roller coaster of attraction and infatuation before, but I had always thought it was an opportunity to get the fulfillment that every relationship always promises but never delivers. I did not think this way with Elizabeth. It would have been difficult to expect fulfillment from someone who lives over 400 miles away, with whom I only talked for an hour each evening. With Elizabeth, I thought that I liked her very much, and I wanted to love her very much as well. So I did. I already knew from the recent influx of only slightly more realistic romantic films (the best source, of course, for practical knowledge) that love is not an emotion, but a choice. So I chose. I chose her. I chose to love her.
“Violent is the motion in my heart and in my body and mind
And silent is the feeling that I lost but I'm determined to find
And love is but an ocean, unrealistic notion
But I cling to her devotion and I let it pull me down to the floor
It goes on, on, on, on
It goes on, on, on, on
It goes on, on, on, on
It goes on, on, on.”
—The Avett Brothers “It Goes On and On”
These first weeks, these early forays in to what it meant to be in a long distance relationship were bitter only in the distance that separated us, but sweet in everything else. They were at best, unconventional. Not that love is ever conventional. Conventional love is made in Hollywood, and as the Avett Brothers so wisely point out, “life is more than just two hours long.” For both of us, this was the first relationship in a long time, and the first long distance relationship at all. We had no idea what we were doing. Add to that the fact that I was actually acting like a sensible, serious adult in my pursuit of this lovely young woman (somewhat of a rarity up to this point in my life), and you have a most interesting mix.

For the first month, we didn’t call it dating, didn’t indicate we were “in a relationship” on Facebook. And yet, we were. We talked every night. She had to be in bed by ten and I had to call after nine because of the cell phone minutes, so nine to ten every single night I was in my room, on the phone. It became “our time,” as we regularly built each other into our lives. We repeatedly admitted to each other the “newness” of it all—how we didn’t know what we were doing when it came to a long distance relationship, how we had yet to have a relationship this serious. It was exciting, like Columbus’ trans-Atlantic voyage.

“We don't know what we're doing
We do it again
We're just amateur lovers
With amateur friends!”
—Switchfoot “Amateur Lovers”

Read Part 2 Here

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Pain of Goodbye

Let me start by saying I would like to punch almost every goodbye in the face. I say almost, only because there are some times I am very ready to see people gone. Other than that select group of people I am going to self righteously declare deserving of my wrath, I generally want people to not leave. Separation is painful. Whether it's divorce or a physical wound, when things that were meant to be together are forced apart, it hurts.

Because my fiancée lives several hundred miles away, I regularly have to say goodbye to her. On one such occurrence when I was in a particularly poetic mood, I penned (or rather "typed on my phone") this line:
I'm convinced that the curse of human existence exists most complete in the pain of goodbyes.
I stand by that. I do believe a general survey of your friends, or coworkers will reveal that the most painful times in their lives were at the loss of a lover, loved one, or friend.

Relationships are a messy business, mostly because when your life rubs up against someone else's for more than a moment, your soul reacts like a scoop of ice cream: you can still separate with your core intact, but you inextricably leave some of yourself behind. The separation is only made more impossible and painful the longer you are together--like two scoops of ice cream slowly melting into homogeneity.

I think this pain at separation is what makes redemption so beautiful. If division is the greatest human pain, then redemption, resolution should be the greatest human joy. It's why movies with reunified families or nations or friends or lovers may not get the highest critical acclaim, but they warm your heart better than a mug of hot chocolate.

People don't often appreciate redemption in this life because, in one sense, it isn't realistic. We live in a world where redemption is not commonplace among humanity. Depravity leads us more often to disunion. But that is God's greatest gift, that when the shadows of this life are over, we'll be welcomed with into the one place that has been torn most fully from our being by the Fall--the arms of our Creator.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Opposite of Apathy

I have a question: What is the opposite of apathy when not talking about people? When it comes to a person, the opposite of apathy is empathy, sympathy, compassion, or love. But when talking about not being apathetic about, say, schoolwork, what word is there to use?

Discipline, or maybe motivation? Could be, but that is a little wordy. I can't really feel compassion for my schoolwork. Maybe "being driven?" I ask for such a word because whatever that word is, I need. I have said I lack discipline, which I do, and motivation, which I need as well, but I think what I really need is just some sort of empathetic impetus.

When it comes to schoolwork, ministry, relationships, writing (including this blog), I have no "care" to do them much of the time. I am sure that many people, maybe even you, dear reader, struggle with this, but I am also sure I am the only one who it affects. This apathy proves incredibly paralytic in my daily life, all but eliminating any constructive activities I would complete on any given day.

Apathy represents such a formidable foe not only because of the effects it has if left unbridled, but also because it is nigh impossible to begin to fight. How do you fight apathy? Do I just need to try to care more? Isn't that exactly what I am struggling with? It seems the only way to combat apathy is to combat it. It is an incredibly redundant conundrum.

I do not have a solution or moral imperative for this issue, as I normally conclude blog posts with, so you'll have to figure this one out on your own without my incredible insight. And if you do, let me know.

Whatever the opposite of apathy is, I need it.