Praying with my eyes open; a return to finding a girlfriend

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Genesis 2:18 – The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Queen – Somebody to Love – “Oh Lord, Ooh somebody, ooh somebody, Can anybody find me somebody to love?”

    I find myself constantly in prayer and as of late I’ve realized I’ve stopped praying for a certain someone…a certain woman…in my life. I don’t know why I’ve stopped praying for a girlfriend in my life, I really don’t, and the pangs of singleness are flaring up again. It’s not that I am exposed to a lot of couples who are young (of age, or at heart) and in love, it’s just I realize that with all my passions and aspirations and desires are carried out alone. It’s not to say that I want a girl that will do exactly what I do, but rather I want to share my world with and I want to partake in her world as well.

I have learned…and have relearned multiple times…that communication is vital in a relationship, and not just mere “hey how’s it going, fine and you?” shallow-end-of-the-conversation-pool talk, but the mundane as well as the hard and difficult but real / authentic talks that need to be had. I realize that I have no problems with getting there with others, albeit sometimes I put more out there at a quicker rate than what people are accustomed to but here’s why.
In my first 22-23 years of living, I was a calculated and serial bullshitter! I presented myself in a way that I thought was socially acceptable, a nice and tidy outside might reflect a nice and tidy inside, right? Well, it wasn’t me, and yet I thought to myself constantly if anyone finds out who you really are and what you’ve been through, they’ll stop liking you and even worse, stop loving you. It wasn’t true, but when you hear something often enough or repeat something to yourself no matter how false it is it will be true to you.
So I spun this lie in my head until my world evolved…my comfort zone expanded…and I found out that even when I put myself out there, warts and all, people still liked me and loved me. I haven’t looked back ever since. And while some relationships among some individuals I entrusted my story with have gone belly up over the years, I don’t regret the brief friendships that were based on transparency and honesty to the other person, and so I continue to conduct my life in this way; not holding back, not bullshitting, being transparent, and being the best damn version of myself. I and like the rest of humanity is evolving. And so often we are the force[s] that move us forward or keep us *here* wherever *here* might be. Not saying that *here* is not a good place, but if you find that it is and you want to move forward, it’s time for you to move forward…and if you need it, you have permission to move forward.

***

With that being said, here’s my transparency; I have no freaking clue of how to jump back into dating / I don’t know what my “scene” is when it comes to dating. Real talk, apart from work, my social interactions either occur at bars or in church. I am prone to overanalyze and overthink things…everything…and so I weigh out what either place has to offer, the types of women, and I even check my prowess.
I am not an alpha male, I don’t ooze testosterone and type a-ness, I don’t reek of Brut and pheromones…I’m an assertive type b introspective ambivert who is better at active listening than talking, good at making out, loves God and craft beer, loves word-related games of all sorts, likes to workout but doesn’t regularly hit the gym, has Zach Galifianakis as a spirit animal, tie-dye and weird socks wearing, wish-I-could-wear-shorts-all-year-round kind of guy!

I know this FULL well about myself, and I love myself for it; I thank God for these traits and nuances about me on the daily, but I also realize that too often I am stuck in my head. The insecurities of being liked and being loved sometimes crash over me like a tidal wave; I am the beach and I am pounded by a seemingly unending barrage of doubt and helplessness at times.
It’s because of getting stuck in my head that I don’t venture one iota of courage when it comes to the opposite sex…and therein lies the basis of my singleness. I have dated before, hell I was also engaged as well, but it seems like with every passing day / week / month / year I grow a bit more frustrated. It’s why I am returning to praying with my eyes open, because it connects me with something deeper than myself. It’s not a shot in the dark or a hail Mary play, but as a means to be verbally transparent before God. God already knows me, but remember what I said about communication? Yep, same thing applies here.

So that’s where I am returning to. I may have walked away from this practice for a while, but I know I will get there. It might be cliche to say, but so be it, it’s equally about the destination inasmuch the journey. God bless this journey I am about to embark on, who knows where it will lead, but I am ready and I am willing to go where it leads.

~Nathanael~

When age/grace sets in

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Earlier this month I went on vacation to a particular part of Wisconsin that my family and I have been going up to off and on for a long time. This part of Wisconsin was where I spent many summers with my family, a place known to us as “the farm”. The farm is where we got away from our Illinois lives for a while, to have fun, go swimming in Lake Michigan, and enjoy time apart from our very busy lives.
The farm is where R* and P* and their daughter and granddaughter also lived. We occupied the upstairs area while they lived in the lower area, and my memories of them aren’t many apart from R* seeming very grouchy at times, smoking heavily and drinking a bit. I also recall Baron their 3-legged dog, and he was scary and fast…for a 3-legged dog. There were times when they had animals on the farm and it was amusing and smelly, but it was for 2 weeks so most of it was bearable.

Having gone back to this part of Wisconsin my mother informed me that P* had passed away a few years ago and R* was living on another farm not too far away from where we were camping. I don’t know how it got coordinated, but we were able to spend time with R* one day.
I am very glad we did, because R* welcomed us to his place with open arms, and if I had not been the driver for my mother and myself I would have had the beer he offered me. R* offered us Diet Mountain Dew, which upon him talking about his wife who had passed away, I realized that he was probably serving us the soda she herself liked to drink. As he shared of what his wife had gone through leading up to her passing, the man before me appeared to be full of grace. Maybe it’s the years that have passed, maybe my perception of him was wrong all along, but even my mother grasped that age had made him into a softer and graceful man.
R* told us about how one of his regrets was that he didn’t vocalize I love you’s to P* more than he did. They loved each other dearly, but he didn’t always communicate it by words or by hugs or by kisses, and that is something he wished he did. He said all this sadly, but his gracious demeanor never waned. He shared with us with great pride what his kids and grandkids were doing, he talked as a man who embodied love- both in the giving as well as the receiving. When our time with him was coming to an end he told my mother and I where P* was buried and invited us to go visit her. That was endearing to me as well as to my mother. And as we were driving away he told us to text him and come visit him next year and the year after that, and God willing we do the latter.

***

Grace is…well, what can I say about grace? Personally, grace has set me free, it has enabled me to love and care more for others. It has unlocked the part of me that always was but unfortunately was tucked away because legalism bound my mind as well as my heart for a while. This binding was self-imposed as well the Christian culture I was a part of; both paired together led me to live out of fear and the law rather than love. Without giving too much away, grace given and received and extended out of love and even more grace reminds me of Jean Valjean from Les Misérables, whereas grace dismissed and not extended reminds me of Javert from the same play. I have been Jean Valjean my entire life, and yet the extending love and more grace has been but a fraction of my mortal coil…but still I press on with love and grace as my banner, I intend to wave it and extend it for the remainder of my life so help me God.
R* stirred the part of me that wants to be present to life, all of it, both good and bad, but to also be present to grace and to love. I realize so much of the the time…actually, all of the time, my demonstration for how much I love God is demonstrated in whom I love the least. When I am not loving, when I am not graceful, my love for God is not present or at the very least I mar the face of Christ with my actions.

I can’t wait to see R* again, to share life with him but to also extend the grace and love he extended to me. And that is what love does time and time again, that is what grace does time and time again; it gives more and more of itself with no shortage ever.

All is grace,
Nathanael

Say what you mean and mean what you say – 7/28

I am a man of a lot of pet peeves, A LOT; primarily people and their driving skills (or lack thereof) but there’s also the nature of communication. Yes I sometimes get bogged down on what gets said and how it gets said, but there’s also the nature of someone hint hint-ing about something. C’mon man…or woman…spill the beans! Stop this unnecessary beating around the bush.

While I have communicated where I am coming from in all of this in a previous post, I will put out there why I think that it’s a good thing to say what you mean and mean what you say.

***

By speaking authentically, people will trust you
; if you’re caught up in apprehension and perhaps even verbally squirming, your posture might make you out to be a liar…but by speaking the truth, speaking from a place of authenticity can take you farther than you might expect.

Body language [sometimes] speaks louder than words; even if you’re communicating something with knowledge and insight but have an air of not wanting to be there, you’re bored, et al. people will pick up on this and you’ll be viewed under scrutiny for the way you carry yourself via body language.

Honesty is the best policy; Instead of putting out there what you think people want to hear, put out the truth…but…

Use tact; …Use tact and love, choose your words carefully before you say them. My rule of thumb is think before you think before you speak.

Take ownership in what you’re communicating; I think that a good part of learning in our earlier years is one of mimicry. I know that before I started reading at the age of 3, I would “read” to my sister, that is repeat what was just said to me as my mother read to me and I then went to read to my sister. But there comes a time when “well my mother/father/pastor/best friend says” wears out its welcome. Yes these can be valid sources for what you’re trying to communicate, but what do YOU as an individual have to say? I am more likely to listen to what someone has to communicate that is the polar opposite of my viewpoints if he or she makes known this is what I have to say rather than communicating via “well my mother/father/pastor/best friend” statements.

It’s okay to not know; In my younger years (in particular about Christian matters) there was a drive that I had to know all the answers, that somehow it was imperative to be right. Well I no longer have that bent to me, I would rather come across being graceful and loving than right, and sometimes that comes at the “expense” of not knowing. I own up to when I don’t know, and I know that it’s okay not to know…ya know? 😉 But seriously, communicating a lack of knowing is okay, it also provides you with a chance to learn more about the subject you don’t know.

Speak the truth in love; Some people get this confused and come across as speaking as an asshole. Love should be the center, should be the bearing in which we chart our lives, and we should weight out our words accordingly. Am I saying what I am saying because I’m out to get “the other”? Am I saying what I am saying to get a reaction, to rile someone up? Am I saying what I am saying because I think my viewpoints are the only valid ones? So much needs to be thought out before it’s vocalized, and I am guilty at times of vocalizing a reaction with no thought whatsoever.

***

Communication is vital in all relationships. It is important to put out there what we should say in an effective manner. To go about skirting issues will only lead to a break in communication and quite possibly a break in relationship to whom we’re communicating to, so please for the love all that is good, stop hint hint-ing and say what you mean and mean what you say.

~Nathanael~

Being unauthentic is exhausting

Everyone needs a place of belonging. Everyone. I see it unfold in the lives of the students in the high school youth group I help out with, I see it in the lives of the people I worship with on Sunday morning, I see it in the lives of the men at the local mosque. We were made for community, we were made for belonging, but sometimes factors get in the way. Maybe in the season of being the “new guy” it’s hard to be authentic, maybe you’re someone who’s “once bitten twice shy” and trust factors get in the way and it takes time to get to that point again (I am one of those people).

But here’s the thing, if you have settled down roots someplace and trust and authenticity is being cultivated, people bare their souls of what’s really going on and none of that “fine” or “good” language that seems to be commonplace, my question is if you have all that going for you, why would you resort to unauthenticity?

I recognize from working with high school students, trust doesn’t come easily when you’re the “new guy”; there’s a lot of flux, a lot of in-and-out leaders within youth ministry as well as other places. So it comes down to seeing if the “new guy” is going to stick around, is not going to leave…because truth to be told, it’s hard to place trust in someone if they’re not going to be around for long, if youth leaders have a shelf life of 1-2 years, that certainly takes its toll on trust earned.

But back to being unauthentic…
Now I am an individual who has been bitten many a time (proverbially) and as a result I am shy for a while, I say for a while because God has given me a desire to be authentic with those around me, and sometimes my authenticity is the nudge that helps people get there themselves, authenticity begets authenticity is what my mind murmurs time and again, and granted I don’t put myself out there with the intention of getting the authenticity ball rolling, but thankfully sometimes…a lot of the time, it does.

I recognized in my early 20s that my life was somewhat of a facade, that for all appearance’s sake I seemed to have my life in order when in all honesty nothing seemed to be right. I also recognized that my lack of authenticity kept me apart from friends that even at that point I had known for a long time, being unauthentic kept me from those I loved and the act of “fine” and “good” was and is utterly exhausting.

Think about it, if you’re in an environment that you can share from your heart about what’s really going no matter how big it is and they’re still there after the dust has settled…THAT is someplace of belonging, that is somewhere where you can grow, the individuals who make up that group can make a world of difference…but the caveat comes when that environment exists and there are individuals who don’t want to “play with others” and so they keep on giving pat answers to silence the masses, which has the power to harm not only the person who’s offering them up but the community at large.
Plus there’s the side of keeping all your stories straight; you have to remember what you said to someone which may have been different from what you said to someone else. It because a verbal juggling event, but there keeps on being an additional conversation to juggle with each person you talk to, eventually the whole thing will fall apart. I like how my friend put it, he said the unauthentic life was like a stage, and what’s going on in front of the audience sometimes doesn’t reflect what’s truly going on backstage, and so it’s a tiring running back and forth of maintaining what’s being sold to others and what’s really going on behind the scenes, eventually the curtain will fall and both facets will be exposed for what they are, with that in mind…let the curtain fall, because it is too tiring to live the double life.

So my e-advice to you the reader is twofold: 1) Do what you can to cultivate a place where people can be authentic to what’s really going on in their lives 2) Do what you can to be authentic in said place, not for selfish motives, but because you want to believe that if others are willing to bare it all you can as well.

These things take time, but I believe that being authentic helps to develop a better community with those around you, as Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world”, it starts with you but it doesn’t have to end with you.

~Nathanael~