What I Learned Since “My Faith Is Dead”

I wrote this a year ago. I’ve learned a few things since then, reminded of more, and changed a few ways as well.

I’m Not The Only One With Troubles

I got a lot of responses from this post. Some thanked me for being so honest. Others said they had felt similarly at one time or another. A small number simply encouraged me not to give up anyways. But then others actually shared their own struggles. Some quite similar to my own frustrations, others of a very different struggle.  These were things I never would have learned about otherwise. Many of these friends live time zones away. Learning that my friends suffer as well didn’t make me feel better, per se, but it helped give me a bit of perspective. Pain and disappointment are not things unique to any of us. I don’t know why sharing helps, but it does. Maybe because we’re not lying anymore.

There Are Only A Few Promises In Life

If your parents promised you Power Rangers action figures for Christmas, you’d be rightly disappointed with them when you instead got a pack of knock-off Chinese toys consisting of three Shreks, a Spider-Man, and an inexplicably orange Black Ranger. If however your parents made no such promise, then you have far less reason to be angry at them, save for the fact that you think you deserve Power Rangers (but you don’t because you’re a little brat). This is probably a very poor analogy for anything, but I enjoyed thinking of it so that’s what we’re going with. Prior to a year ago I had a lot of vague expectations about life, picked up from a variety of sources. Some of them from well-meaning books, others Midwestern friends with their seemingly perfect little married lives I simultaneously despised yet wanted for my own. I saw this sort of inevitable progression to life, that the things I desired were inevitable (“God will grant you the desires of your heart” and all) and would just sort of appear sooner rather than later. Really the only thing inevitable was my frustration with these broken “promises” boiling over into a big dramatic mess.

When you clear out the endless bombardment of platitudes and well-wishes, life looks far simpler. Benjamin Franklin was rarely more wise than when he wrote “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The Bible is, for Christians at least, more optimistic in the more long term view of things, but for here and now the kinds of things we can expect include persecution, temptation, family strife, false teachers, being misunderstood and other such things. That said, God also promises his presence throughout it all, and that he will never forsake us, and that all the troubles we go through now will be as nothing compared to joy we will soon know.

I’ve Tried New Things

Though it took me longer than most, I eventually realized that part of the reason my life was boring and disappointing was because I just sort of waited for it to happen. I’ve done some things to remedy this. I ran a half-marathon, I’ve taken a drumming class, and I’m several weeks into a poetry writing class, to name a few things. While out intrinsic worth as human beings made in the image of God cannot be diminished or enhanced by our own efforts, it’s a simple fact that our lives are better when we do things with them and take full advantage of our capacities. Expecting things to happen on their own is a good way to ensure they never will.

I’ve Developed A Strong Interest In Theology

I wish I could say that last November was what caused this, and while there was certainly more reading in my life since then, the real cause was both stranger and more mundane. To put it simply, I developed a crush on a girl of different denominational leanings from my own. What started as an idle attempt to see if there was truth to her beliefs (and thus a legitimate future for a relationship) spiraled into a whole mess of research, Googling countless questions, delving into Catholic dogma, Orthodox tradition, Reformation teachings, you name it. And questions led to more questions, questions I couldn’t even find being asked, requiring me to read entire books just to see if I could gleam what I was really looking for. And I found I enjoyed it immensely. In a sense this was a rediscovery, as I’ve always enjoyed reading both fiction and nonfiction, but instead of indulging my curiosity about orcas or VY Canis Majoris this had the added benefit of having eternal implications. It got to the point where I even decided to go back to school (something I’ve put off for nearly a decade) in hopes of learning more. Only downside is it’s a rather touchy subject and not something you can casually discuss at most dinner tables (unlike orcas) but such is life.

I’ve Become Slightly More Okay With Being Single

Still a bit of a sore subject for me but I figured I’d touch on it anyways. Along with somehow becoming a writer of some sort of effect one of the other things I felt I was being denied was marriage. And the fact is I am still single (the crush did not turn out, though like every other time I eventually discovered that it was probably for the best). Dating, or even getting to the point of dating, remains rather difficult. It could be I’m just overly picky and/or cautious. And I have tried online dating, on multiple occasions, to no avail. And yet, despite edging ever closer to “old” I’ve found that the existential dread of being “forever alone” has abated, at least a little. To the question, “would being a lifelong bachelor really be the worst possible fate?” I am starting to be able to answer “well, perhaps not.”

I don’t have a clue what the future holds as far as relationships go, and the fact that it involves a second person, possibly with their own self-indulgent blog, makes it all significantly more complicated. But I guess I’m willing to wait and find out, and occupy myself with more immediate concerns in the meantime.

The Gym Is A Waste Of Money

Yeah I’m never going to go regularly. I should just cancel the membership today.

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My Faith Is Dead

I’ve been a Christian for a little over 8 years, I think. I still believe it is true, for whatever worth that is, but I can no longer bring myself to live it. I can no longer trust that God cares about me, has my best interests in mind, or has any intention of making my life more fulfilling.

Time and time again, I’ve stepped out in faith, trying my best to believe what I couldn’t see, that God would pull through at the last minute and that everything I had been through would start to make sense. And time and time again, I’ve stepped forward just to find that there was nothing under my feet, and I fall down on my face. It’s become too painful. Every time I think something might be changing, that I’ve learned something or have grown somehow everything manages to fall apart and I end up no different or better than where I started. So I’m not going to try anymore. It doesn’t matter what God supposedly has planned, I can’t bring myself to get my hopes up and have them dashed again and again. I’m exhausted and my strength has given out, and there is no comfort to be found.

Hope in general has become a sick joke in my life. In the last several years I’ve only felt a few, so-called desires of the heart. One was some difficult to articulate desire to write something great that would make a mark on the world somehow. The other is so deep and personal that I can barely bring it up without becoming choked up, but I want to be a husband and father. But I know it’s never going to happen. I can’t do what it takes. No woman could ever love me that way, and if they deceived themselves enough to do it anyways, I could never inflict myself on her like that. They all deserve better.

Some of you might read this and think to reach out and comfort me. Do us both a favor and don’t bother. It’s happened before and it’s like clockwork. You say something like what a great guy I really am, or how what I do is so appreciated, or just that you arbitrarily love me. And maybe it makes me feel better for a little while. And then you leave and go back to your real friends and your busy fulfilling life, and I’m left all alone again until the high of temporary socialization fades. Maybe you do care, but you can’t help me.

Not sure where I will go from here. Probably find a lot more distractions until God finally relents and lets me die.

5 Important Things To Keep In Mind While Christmas Shopping

The “Holidays” are nearly upon us, and in the retail world have already been here for a couple of weeks. That means it is time to start considering what momentum you will contribute to the engine of consumerism to help keep the Socialists in check. And while I cannot tell you what to buy, for such knowledge lies locked away in your festive little heart, I can offer you some time-tested tips for getting the most out of your shopping experiences.

1) Dress For Success

As any stock photo will reveal, the best shoppers are models wearing clothes that perfectly accentuate their every feature. Most of us aren’t models but we have to do the best that we can, and that means buying great new outfits for ourselves so that we have the confidence and glamor needed to make the best shopping choices possible. After all, how can you possibly decide what incrementally better smart phone to buy for your mother when you are distracted by your shabby 2013 rags? PROTIP: cashiers will charge you more for your purchases if you aren’t well-dressed, since they rightly conclude that you are too stupid to know any better.

2) Put Yourself In Their Shoes

Buying the perfect gift takes more than just good intentions and a mind cleared of distractions, you need a little something philosophers like to call “empathy”. Google defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”, and that sounds pretty correct. The easiest way to develop this “empathy” for others is to put yourself in their shoes. Walk around in them for a few hours. Try on their outfits. Sleep in their bed a few times. Get a haircut and colored contacts to look more like them. Show up at their place of employment in their clothes and do their job for a few hours. Call your friend’s parents on their phone and talk to them like you’ve known them your whole life. Get a credit card in their name. Whatever it takes to really, really understand them.

3) Remember Those Who Don’t Celebrate

As hard as it might be to believe, there are some people who don’t celebrate Christmas. Particularly at this time of year, they can feel isolated and alienated by all of the festivities, particularly if they are the only person among their friends or co-workers who doesn’t partake. Being a good friend means understanding that not everyone does things your way, and nothing says “I tolerate and respect your different beliefs” like giving your Muslim or Taoist friend a Christmas gift of their very own! And don’t be shy about wishing them a “Merry Christmas” every time you see them; the last thing you want to do is exclude them!

4) The Right Gift For The Right Relationship

With all the hussle and bustle of Christmas shopping, it can be very easy to second-guess how appropriate a particular gift is; five gold rings is all well and good for your true love, but what about Dale in Marketing? Should he get five gold rings too? Not necessarily. Remember that every gift is a way of telling someone how you really feel about them. For important relationships, like a fiancée or the judge weighing in on your insider trading case, nothing is too good. Two million dollars cash may seem extragavant, but what would it say about your heart to only give $1.75 million? For a dying grandfather who stopped giving you money for your birthday after you turned eight, on the other hand, maybe something a little more practical, like a travel sized shaving cream or a candy bar.

5) Remember The Reason For The Season

Nothing can stress a Christmas shopper out more than getting caught up in the frivolity and commercialization that so often comes with the holiday. Christmas is ultimately a celebration of the birth of Jesus, after all. Keep this in mind as dash from store to store, looking for the boots that will make your sister love you again. Remember the faith of Mary and Joseph as you attend party after party, drinking that delicious egg nog and doing things with whatshisface or whatsherface that you cannot fully recall but fills you with a sense of unease. Think about the chorus of angels that broke out as you fill the peace and quiet of your life with endlessly repeating holiday jingles and 24-hour Christmas Story marathons. Christmas is so important: get it right.Are you ready? She is!

I Was Elliot Rodger

In light of recent events, I thought it might be a good idea to blog again, as you do. I’m not really interested in talking about the murderer, his unfortunate victims, what may or may not have prompted this, or the outcomes of it.

Instead, at the risk of hijacking the tragedy of others and using it for my own ends, I am going to talk about me. And also God.

You see, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was a great deal like Elliot Rodger, and many of the other men who have done similar things over the past few decades. Arrogantly yet full of self-pity, entitled to every good thing in the world, deprived of nothing save perhaps friends, and even then I only had my own bilious attitude to blame for it. I felt deeply wronged by everyone, and I could spend hours fantasizing about the elaborate revenge I would take on them all. Honestly, giving into rage and bitterness was easy. Anger feels good in a way, and it can also be addictive, and coupled with the idea that I was a tragic and innocent victim of everyone’s failure to recognize how great I was naturally led to the “empowering” idea of me being my own avenger, righting the wrongs made against me and being really awesome and terrifying in the process. Occasionally the wrath would give in to despair that I would never get the love and appreciation and acknowledgement I so desperately wanted, but even that was fueled by the same selfish delusion: I had been grievously wronged, and I would make everyone pay.

I was just an overly dependent teenager at the time, but who knows, by the time I got to 22 or 23 I could had enough self-centered fury to spend my dead-end job earnings on some weapons and really do some damage. Possibly my former high school, or a mall.

As you might have guessed, that never happened. As nice and clean and simple as it would be to be able to say that I simply grew up and found a more positive outlet, I can’t take credit for it. The credit goes to God. As unworthy and unlovable as I was, he accepted me, made me one of his very own children, and gave me a new life. Jesus freed me from the prison of hate I had locked myself into, and for the first time since maybe my childhood I could be me again, the me I was meant to be.

Which is not to say I’ve become some perfectly good and wholesome person. The bitterness is still there, in a way. Weakened, dying even, but still present. The prison walls are knocked down, but it’s easy enough to wander back in, to dwell on my self-inflicted pain and isolation. But I’m not locked in any longer, and I’m not defined by the four walls of hate. I may not have all the close friendships and affirmation I crave at times, but I’m learning how to have healthy relationships, to love others as God has loved me.

I’m not just a changed man, but a new one. Jesus did this for me, and he can do it for you as well, if you’ll let him. Hopefully you aren’t in the same condition I was, but even if you are, even if you are worse, it is not beyond God’s forgiveness and healing.

I was Elliot Rodger, but by the grace of God I am no longer.