Boats aren’t made for mooring; a metaphorical journey into the nature and heart of faith

https://www.kksblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/boat-on-stormy-ocean.jpg

Disclaimer: I don’t know exactly why I am using boat language to describe faith, so if I lose you along the way just let me know…

On the sea / In this life, there are many different types of boats / people; big boats, small boats, rowboats, sailboats, ocean liners, oil tankers, etc. All were designed / created for purposes, and their purposes vary boat to boat / person to person.

But the nature of boats / people and their purposes take them away from the docks / from comfort zones. Certainly they come to land / return to familiar places, but for a season because boats / people weren’t meant to be moored / contained for very long.
No boat / person serves out its life attached to the docks / tied to same thought process, the best years are served at sea / out in life and yet so often the waves and storms / problems of this life come in. Yes, seeking land / security is usually the knee-jerk go-to action. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, but it is just a smatter of the stuff character and identity is made of.

The thing is, waves / hardships have the capacity to show us what we’re made of and what we need to do to improve our situations on the sea / in this life. If we confine ourselves to the dock / our comfort zone what does that do to us? Well for starters, it gives us a warped sense of what life is about; we might think that things are primarily black and white, we might think our way is the only way and we might solidify our thoughts and concepts about anything and everything without weighing out that we might indeed be wrong.
The waves / hardships are inevitable, but it’s up to us to stick to our destinations through it all, because it’s only after going through them we’re able to assess what is worth salvaging and what’s worth discarding.

***
And when it comes to matters of faith and belief (human examples only in this scenario) I am a byproduct of all my experiences, all my encounters with the Divine, all my encounters with humanity. I very much have a “eat the meat, spit out the bones” mentality when it comes to matters of faith and belief.

When it comes to matters of faith and belief, I am evolving, and where I am at isn’t where I was 5 years ago or 10 years ago or even 20 years ago! And that’s the clincher; faith must develop, be weathered, be strained, be smacked about, be the shit and be the fan in order for it to grow!
A faith that doesn’t allow room for doubt, for challenging, for questioning, for microscoping and telescoping isn’t much of a faith at all. It becomes a locked down, dogmatic, black-and-white-no-room-for-grey kind of belief system. And that is something I rather abhor when it comes down to it.

So when the problems of life come your way, don’t be quick to make your way back to where you started off from. Take the time needed to be “lost at sea”, to reacquaint yourself with yourself and certainly your faith and your beliefs. Because in doing so you might be surprised as to where you end up, and I’m willing to venture you will never be the same after having gone through it all.

~Nathanael~

What I’m poor in/What it means to be a man

Not too long ago my father asked me do I consider myself poor, my response to him was in what form. Because as I think about it, being poor, lacking something, doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of money or a roof over your head, there are other types of being poor than that type.

So I explored this question introspectively, if I am poor what am I poor in? It came to me all too suddenly, I am poor in the sense of what it means to be a man. My response to my father is as follows…

If I am honest with myself and where I’m at, the only thing I consider myself poor in, is a sense of what a man’s supposed to be; while I err on the side of being an egalitarian, life in general and certainly the church, the attitude fluxes. Either the guy has to be meek and mild, a pushover, a Yes-dear-I’m-sorry type, or a red meat eating, whiskey swilling, testosterone junkie who works crazy long hours to support his family which there’s no irony to me with those who consider money equals time invested. So I hang on to hope, have faith, and in the words of Bono; transcend the bullshit.

This is what I told my father, this is what I stand by, because I don’t have a freaking clue as to what a man’s supposed to be. I do hope that someday this Johnny finds his June and we settle down, have a family, raise some kids, celebrate holidays, go on vacations…but I am scared shitless at times; shitless over the nature of this world sometimes, the way humanity sucks the big one in regards to how I treat my fellow man and how my fellow man treats me. I did recently question if I want to help raise a family in this world, and as I watched the sunset and pondered/questioned/prayed this into the deepest crevasses of my heart and soul, I know…I feel it within me, that YES I do.

So that’s me, that’s my poverty, but I am doing what I can to get to where I need to be in life. To continue hanging on to hope, to continue having faith, and to continue transcending the bullshit.

~Nathanael~

//

I am an anomaly/BEing in the now

Too often I view church culture to be couple oriented, and at times their best attempt to provide a place for 20somethings comes in the form of college ministry.

I recognize that being a 28 year old single guy who’s out of college puts me at a disadvantage, essentially where I am at this time makes me out to be an anomaly.

Yet I also recognize that I have to be the change I want to see, and so I am not down nor am I out, nor do I feel like I am the only 28 year old single guy within a church.

***

The pastor of one of the churches I attend, Scott Hodge, spoke the other day about his trip to Thailand and the advice he received before his trip – “practice being in the now” – and it was great to hear how that worked out for him and I know he’s not going to stop now that he’s back, I too long to be in the now.

If I am honest with my life and situation, I’m not always in the now; I’m too often caught in the painful nostalgia of what was and the undeveloped yet-to-be what I hope for, so I’m caught up in my past and what I’m doing to make for my future…and it gets to me, I get hung up and I get tired, I get angry and I get burned out over what I had and what I don’t have and yet want to have so much.

So I am taking my time, I’m reeling in the years and focusing on what’s in front of me, not what’s behind me or ahead of me, but in the now of my present situation, problems included.

I’m getting there, but I need to focus on the here that leads to there…and little by little, day by day, I am 🙂

~Nathanael~

I’m not quiet (I’m introspective); the way I operate in real life

Ever since my first days as a friend to someone, the I-like-you-do-you-like-me days that were so basic and so simple for starting friendships, in the days when politics and religion weren’t discussed except for the occasional I-love-Jesus-and-God that came from what I learned with my head (prior to faith in my heart and my life) from my parents…

I was deemed the quiet guy.

Except I wasn’t truly quiet, my mind, even then, was busy thinking and thinking, and, you guessed it, thinking some more. For you see I wasn’t the quiet guy…I was constantly thinking introspectively.

Here’s a snapshot from my youth as to how my introspective worked.

***

At Safety Town, the program some cities have that help teach kids to “look both ways before you cross the street” and “call 911 if there’s a fire” and other necessities, there was a fireman who talked about what he did and then posed questions, but that was followed up with a question to us:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Despite a large classroom, we were all given room to answer this question that is so often asked of youth. When it got to me I had a much thought out answer to give to my peers, to my teacher, to the fireman even;

I want to be a burglar.

*silence*

*quiet laughter*

*my heart pounding through my chest, face getting red from the responses, albeit quiet, rang in my ears*

Why do you want to be a burglar when you grow up? My teacher kindly and suspiciously spoke.

I want to be a burglar because he has a lot of things. A burglar also steals in the nighttime and he’s there for his family in the daytime I responded.

Even then at the age of five I saw the underpinnings to the problems that existed in my family. Even then I saw a father who was too busy with work and put his first fruits into that leaving us his family with proverbial apple cores and orange peels. Despite the hectic lifestyle of my father’s overworking there seemed to be times where he…we had a hard time making ends meet. I’m the oldest kid of 4, the only son, and I still got hand-me-downs from other families who got a whiff of the reality of our situation.

So responding that I wanted to be a burglar never seemed like the wrong answer, even now I don’t think I could have given a better answer to this difficult question that gets asked, but the caveat of it comes wrapped in the fact that sometimes the right answer is a hard and bitter truth to swallow. If I could travel back in time to that moment, I would give my younger self a hug, because I needed one that day for being that honest with myself and with others.

That’s how my five year old self internalized and processed things.

***

Since then I am still the one deemed the quiet guy which I tend to interject that I am introspective, not quiet, I process answers to questions longer than some people. I am choice with my words like a good cigar or a vintage wine, give me time and I will give you an answer that has come from much thinking and mulling about in my brain, and in some ways, my heart as well.

One of the caveats for me however is that some things need to be thought of quickly, and honestly I rather give the right answer in a time frame longer than the first answer that may seem plausible. An example of this happened rather recently when one of my youth ministry students (I’m no longer goal oriented to burglary, but youth ministry) asked me a “what do you think about _________” question and I got back to him…3 months later! Sure the question wasn’t demanding of an answer right off the cuff, but I needed time to introspectively come up with an answer.

Another caveat is that some times when I’m with someone I’m getting to know better of the opposite sex I get perceived in one of two ways; the funny guy who is never serious or the serious guy who is never funny. I am not both, but I do possess the ability to switch gears as needed be, and not in a mental “okay it’s time to be serious” fashion, but I am to give my all to seriousness or being funny as needed be in an appropriate manner.

***

I guess being introspective has helped me be an ideal type b youth minister; while I may never draw the crowds (nor would I want to) of many youth as an extroverted high-fiveing hand-shaking knuckle-bumping leader of youth, I know how to shape a community based on non-coercive authenticity and love,  I know how to lead small[er] groups, I know how to promote and carry out social justice and I know how to actively listen and help develop discipleship leaders.

It is my desire to get into youth ministry full time eventually, currently I am involved with one of my church’s high school youth group and I help co-lead a small group. On my own however I am brainstorming and thinking out a plan for an after school Bible study with some of the students, which I will run by the leaders as I get closer to expressing my intentions for outside of the regular times of our get-togethers with the high school youth of our church.

I believe that God uses the ordinary to do extraordinary things, and I see it coming together in my life and my calling of youth ministry and other things. So if you the reader and I the writer ever meet, keep what I said in mind, because I’m not a quiet guy…I’m just introspective! 🙂

~Nathanael~