Words to raise the dead

When I was younger I was fascinated by the Jewish legend and lore of the Golem. A monster made of the dirt who would come to life when molded by a Rabbi, and when truth/emet was inscribed upon it it came to life, when the “e” was removed death/met terminated the Golem.
A protector of the Jewish people when there were problems; pogroms, antisemitic attacks, and the like.

Given that with what little I know about my Jewish heritage, there were matchmakers and Rabbi’s in my family, so it would have been the latter that took the dirt and inscribed the emet and when the time came met would have occurred…

With that being said, despite centuries and cultures apart, I too raise the dead with my words!

No, I don’t take the soil in my hands and inscribe emet into it, but I do speak words of encouragement, comfort, and life over and into others.

Last week one of my students was in an emotional rut. She had a difficult day, it was known by all, but given some factors in her life it didn’t sink in until much later in the day. When it did, she was moping about and frustrated with herself for the choices she made for herself. Because I don’t work with her all that often, and I’m not in her classroom so I only see her when she goes back to her unit. It was there I saw her in a very despondent state of being, it was there I spoke life into her;

“This is a temporary setback, this doesn’t define you nor does this define your future.”

The light returned to her eyes, hope set back in, and she whispered a “thank you” to me.

***

That’s all it took for my student, and so often it is the case with most people who need words to raise them from their suffering or their metaphorical death. Yet I propose that within speaking life into others, sincerity is key; yes, sometimes the outcome might very well be bleak, and literal physical death could be on the horizon, but there is still room to speak from a place of truth and not one that merely glosses over reality.

Speaking encouragement and life into someone’s life doesn’t take much, but so often we don’t take the time to do this because we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we lose sight of anything that isn’t us. But we weren’t made to be solely focused on our needs, we ought to consider the welfare of others (more on this in my next post).

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Day after, day 1 on the road to recovery

Swelling. Bruising. Stuffiness. Pain.

All the things I’m feeling within my chopped liver face, but nevertheless, I am here I am now and I am healing.

With my day off I slept. A lot. But I still had a follow-up to go to and a dentist appointment, but all in all it was a restful day. Tomorrow, until further notice, I will be on light duty at work; this’ll be working in the kitchen, meal prep, et al. I will still see my students but not as frequently (bummer!) and it upsets me a bit…but I need to heal, I keep myself in check with this regularly, as I want to go back to what I was doing prior to getting injured…but I need to heal.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Being present to suffering as a spiritual exercise; day 10 of Ramadan

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Earlier this week I got a text from one of my best friends and he hit me with some hard news; his mother, whose health has already been up and down, had unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse and as a result she was in the hospital. He filled me in on the details and he and I worked out a time for me to visit her in the hospital.
To be honest, I don’t like visiting hospitals because my associations with hospitals have more to do with hurting than healing. I have spent a good deal of time going to and from hospitals and every time I go I have a sense of foreboding. Yet my bro is my bro, I love him and out of love and not moral obligation I went to visit his mom in the hospital with him and his wife.

When we got to her room she happened to be up and happy to see those she knew. Her oxygen machine was running pretty strong, and unfortunately it was causing her throat to ache and it felt internally scratchy to her. We all talked with her and she with us, and it was encouraging to see her so upbeat and talkative despite her suffering a bit more than usual.
One thing I noticed while spending time with my bro and his wife and his mom (and even me) is that we were all present, we were all there, and were all mindful of the pink elephant called suffering that was in the room.

It’s rather commonplace to ignore the suffering of others and to a certain extent our own. We’re constantly bombarded with commercialism that tries to take us from “here” to “there”, and usually the “there” is a place without suffering, without hardships, without need to be present to anything that might cause us distress.
And yet the common denominator across all of humanity unto all people is that we all suffer; granted suffering isn’t a one size fits all, sometimes it’s want of love and sometimes it’s for food for our tables and those of our loved ones. Still it is inevitable to suffer and sometimes when we’re faced with it we want nothing to do with it, or we want to face it alone, and yet there are times we want to be in the presence of our loved ones who will help us through the suffering.

That’s why I consider being present with suffering to be a spiritual exercise; it doesn’t take us away from the suffering to a “there” that’s better, but puts us in the thick of it, the here and now of what’s going on. When we do this we’re given a chance to do something, and sometimes that action of doing brings us to a place of being more in touch with our humanity.

Plus if we’re able to be present with our pain in the presence of others, the weight of it all can be carried. I know for a fact that my bro and his wife and his mom and I carried that weight together in community because we love each other and want what’s best for each other, and in this instance it was so that my friend’s mom didn’t have to suffer alone.

If you’re able to find true community you will find people who will stand with you in the good times and sit with you when you suffer, and if you’re able to be a recipient of that you also can also reciprocate that with others.
I know that in my life it has taken a long time to find such a community, but I love it and I do what I can to be a part of it as much as I can! I am grateful and thankful to God to be a part of a tribe to call my own, and I will be a part of it for as long as I am in the area.

So with all that being said, being present to suffering were my keywords on this 10th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for being ever present in our suffering. You who don’t watch idly by as we hurt, but cry and weep and comfort and love us. May we in return be your hands and feet and eyes and ears to those who hurt as well.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

The Suffering Christ

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The common denominator between anyone and everyone in all of humanity is suffering. Suffering takes many forms, but it unites us in some shape and form. It is because of this, the Jesus I identify with is one who suffered.

Yet while I recognize when I look at crosses whether he’s on it or it is vacant, I identify with him suffering like us. It takes a God who is willing to hurt like us for me to love God that much more. If God was one who started the wheels of life in motion and walked away or backed out of the scene, I don’t think I could connect with such a God because it lacks warmth, it lacks humanity. There wouldn’t be that connection that I feel in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul if I had to somehow follow a God who couldn’t identify with my life and what I go through.
I know that in my personal life that some individuals I cannot truly identify with; I can’t identify with the issues a single mother faces who survives paycheck-to-paycheck just to put food in her children’s bellies, I can’t identify with being a young Gay man who grows up in a small conservative town where he’s told on a regular basis that being Gay is a sin and an abomination in the eyes of God, I can’t identify with a black guy who despite a rough upbringing he overcame odds and makes it in the corporate world only to suffer the duress of institutionalized racism…I can’t identify with these individuals, but I can empathize, and I can listen to them as they tell their stories, and I can BE with them.

I need a God in my life who can BE with me, which is why the face of God I so often see is a bedraggled, haggard, suffering HUMAN face. It is marred, it is ugly, it hurts like I hurt and yet…it is the face of love, the face of God-with-us, the face of a God who cared so much for ALL of humanity that he set forth to make things right between ALL of us, not just SOME of us.

In this Lenten season I am reminded time and time again of Christ and what he went through as he was with us, and it is encouraging in many ways but one that sticks to my mind regularly is the nature of “go[ing] and do[ing] likewise”. To be a part of humanity not apart from humanity, to love others and serve, to end paradigms that separate US and work towards bringing about perfect shalom and recognize the imago dei/image of God that we all bear. It is also within the context of the lenten season I am aware of where his end and resurrection is ultimately our beginning as well as our own resurrection. Easter brings it all into focus, it is about life and renewal, it is about order being restored and perfect shalom starting to take place with all of humanity.

Love won that day, and continues to win. Each day draws in a bit of perfect shalom for all of  us.
~Nathanael~

Sometimes I don’t like being alone with my thoughts

Now here’s the thing, I do have moments where I like being alone with my thoughts, moments where I’m able to tap into silence and my subconscious and dwell there and resolve things. But there are times where it really isn’t so, that I have mini panic attacks because I let my thoughts get the better of me.

I think some of it comes from being stressed out, which is only magnified 1000x when I don’t eat in light of being stressed and I drink copious amounts of coffee. I go from being caffeinated, jittery, to full blown dread. I worry, I fret, I think horrific what-if scenarios and I break down. Sure I might own up to some of it after the fact, but I hardly do it in the midst of it all. I think that has to do with my ego getting in the way, or at the very least the horrific “I-got-this” attitude that prevails in culture.
If you need help, you should ask for it, and I am speaking to myself in all of this because I certainly know at times I’m a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kinda guy and yet I realize (especially in my line of work) help might not always be there but that shouldn’t stop you from asking for it until you get it.

I realize I have crossed the threshold, the very fine line between arrogance and independence. I am not made for me, I am made for community, and sometimes there’s a time and place for retreating from everything for a while (including one’s self) but so much of life is meant to be spent and invested in the lives of others. I recognize what I have to do, not what I ought to do; it isn’t out of societal norms that makes me want to live in community, it’s my personal desire and goal to live in community wherever I am planted. That’s another factor that might seem cliche, but I’ll state it here anyway;

Absolutely do this, failure is okay and if you constantly fail that’s also okay. But the moment you throw in the proverbial towel and give up, that is a far greater disservice to yourself and those around you than simply failing. I realize within the core of me I have dreams, desires, and ambitions, but too often they’re out “there” and not so much “here”. I’m getting to where I need to be in life, but I’m not ready to shift it into neutral, onward and upward I go and will keep going till I achieve success. Success as defined by me and success by what I give back to this world, after all, I do want to leave this world in better shape than when I first arrived.

So I realize that instead of dwelling on my head full of dreams, I need to make some obtain some of those goals. Primarily nowadays it’s working on a book about mental illness. I’m also working on a proposal for my work to revamp the system because the system is broken (Illinois is 48 out of 51 for a second year running when it comes to Social Services – whether on the receiving end of the services, or if you’re like me and work in this field). But I realize that my goals might not be accepted, and so I am mostly ready  to take my dreams and goals and implement them elsewhere. While this might seem contradictory to the above statement of “grow where you are planted” I assure you it only seems that way.

My thoughts do get the better of me sometimes, but I am getting better at expressing what is wrong with me with those I trust, in community online but also off. Writing here brings some solace and some comfort that things will get better, and sometimes I need to be the one to gears moving to make it so whether my thoughts bother me or not.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Making peace with my past

“If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it” ~ Richard Rohr

It hasn’t been too long now that I have made peace with a part of my past.

It hasn’t been that long that out of anxiety, out of not wanting to get past it, not wanting to move forward in my life that I still dreamt and dwelt upon a future that’s never going to happen. A future with my ex-fiancee (she has a name, I address her as such in prayer, but only there I speak her name out loud) and her sons.

My pastor Scott has shared with me some of his story, and how some things he had issues with had come to a resolution to a point where he pronounced peace and blessing over that closed chapter in his life. Now I hold on to a lot; I could say some of it stems from seeing parents who don’t resolve much, and if anything the enmity between them have made a rift ever-widening. Seeing and hearing a mother who is good at forgiving but not forgetting to the point where areas of contention past are brought to light in the form of verbal ammo. I grew up hearing 1 Peter 4:8 when it says that “love covers over a multitude of sins” but I have never seen it lived out in my family life.

So with that sociological tale of woe in my life, what was I to expect when it came to holding down a healthy relationship (at that time, nowadays I have a better idea, thanks to healthy people in healthier relationships)? Love is a verb, it needs to be acted on daily and even secondly, but I in my younger years knew how to love…but then I switched on cruise control and moved forward but with no work on my part. I failed at loving my best friend, and I paid for it by our relationship ending.

I probably have pinned more blame on her for it coming to an end. It sometimes can seem like the one calling it quits is the one to blame, I mean c’mon, if you’re willing to get out and not fight for love’s sake then you sir/ma’am are the loser…perhaps I had this kind of mentality at one time, but it didn’t make it any easier.

I didn’t rebound after that relationship into another relationship for nearly 3 to 6 months later. It wasn’t healthy and it was over quickly. I was in another relationship since that relationship, and it was none the more healthier; when you get wrapped up in dopamine and oxytocin, sometimes it is what it is, and for me that doesn’t equate to stability and the bedrock of a good relationship. In the moment it feels good (it really should) but it doesn’t feel right, at least, not to me.

So with 3 relationships failed in my life’s rear view mirror, some kind of resolution needed to take place; either I could squirrel away my emotions and what I feel and what I think and stay there, or I could shake off my emotional baggage, forgive myself and forgive my ex-fiancee and get here. I chose the latter, and let me tell you, it is freeing! 🙂

Unless you’ve gotten to this point in your life having gone through a similar if not the same experience, freedom doesn’t seem attainable. Your mind wanders, you remember and reminisce healthier moments in a particular relationship and dwell there. But if you’re dwelling there you are not in the present, you are not here, and it sucks to be caught in flux like that because I think at times people want to be both there and here but you really can’t, you’re a whole person in either environment but you can’t be healthily divided in both.

Here I am, broken and healing man, typing away to the tunes of Steely Dan whilst drinking some black Columbian coffee and eating some pumpkin bread. That’s one thing I have been doing to get here, exercises of mindfulness per what I am learning in DBT. Here I am broken and healing man who is able to pronounce blessing on this part of my story, here I sit smiling at making peace with my past. It needed to be done, I am glad that time is now.

~Nathanael~

Suicide is not the solution – 2/28

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I truly believe that one of the common denominators that everyone in every walk of life can related to is pain. Pain caused by self, caused by others, caused by circumstances that are beyond our control and circumstances that might be under our control but still hurt in their own right.

Sometimes when that pain comes it goes rather quickly, sometimes it lingers and goes on and on and you wish you could do something to get rid of that pain, and sadly some individuals think they should just end their lives so as to end the pain as well…

HOLD ON!

Suicide is not the answer, suicide is not the solution, if anything it causes more pain to the friends and family and acquaintances of the one who chose that way out.

How do I know this? Well, none of my friends ever committed suicide, but I tried to on two occasions. I’m not proud of that fact, but I need to say it, because if I can reach through the internet with my story as someone who has tried and they themselves reconsider, then maybe my attempting suicide was not in vain.
Life gets tough, Life is tough, but ending it all will hurt more people than you can imagine. I don’t want to say that suicide is selfish, but in many respects it is; I get that sometimes all that one thinks/feels/dwells upon is the pain and it’s hard to focus on something else in the heat of it, but for the love of God please try! My focus that stopped me from nicking myself the 2nd time was my 3 sisters, I did NOT want any of them to find me in a puddle of my own blood in the bathroom, their finding me like that is what saved me.

I no longer have thoughts of suicide. Have my circumstances changed for the better? Some yes, some no, but I hold on to hope, and I keep pushing forward to make for myself and others a better tomorrow, a better future. I can’t guarantee things will get easier, but I can guarantee that suicide is not going to “fix” much of anything. Hold on, please, hold on!

~Nathanael~

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline