Fear of Girls

If you haven’t ever seen Fear of Girls you should look it up on youtube. All three videos are hilarious, and they get progressively less disturbing, which is definitely a good thing. That being said, I find myself in this place right now. Karategirl is back in the picture. If you don’t remember, about five or six months ago there was a woman who’d joined the karate school that I help teach at. She’s a lovely woman who I found myself attracted to right off the bat. I asked a friend at the school to introduce us, and asked her out, and she promptly turned me down. Admittedly, she turned me down because, in her own words she ‘wasn’t dating right now’, which I’ve been given no reason to doubt in the past five months. I’ve tried to get to know her, and generally failed. We’ve had a number of superficial discussions that ended very quickly. However, a few days ago I messaged her on facebook (there was a good reason… I’m not going to share it) and we had a very good conversation. I think this was mostly just because she was hurting at the time and wanted someone to talk to, but I honestly felt like it was the first conversation that I’d had with the actual Karategirl, instead of with the mask that she wears, and I rather liked what I saw.

So, I’m planning on asking her out again the next time I see her (probably sometime end of this week or next week). However, I’m a little bit terrified. Am I scared that she’ll turn me down again? Well, this is certainly a possibility. Honestly, I think it might be a probability. However, it’s not something I’m particularly scared of. I’ve been shot down plenty of times. It’s no fun, but it’s not really a big deal either. If she turns me down then I’ll wait a while, try to get to know her a little better, and then try again.

Honestly, what I’m really afraid of is that I’m making the same mistake again. I’m afraid that she won’t turn me down, that she’ll say yes, go out with me, really enjoy the way I treat her, but in a month or three decide that I’m a great guy, but not really what she’s looking for. It’s been about a year since Peaches (yes there’s a reason for the name… no, I never called her that… shutup) decided that I just wasn’t right for her. In her words I was ‘everything she was looking for’, but she was too scared to do anything about it. Admittedly, Peaches was not the right girl for me. Still, it’s been a pattern with me for a long time, and I’m scared that I’m just repeating that pattern. The thing is, I think that I’d be scared of repeating the pattern no matter who the woman was. Peaches was 19 and going through some serious emotional trauma. She wasn’t ready for a relationship, and probably didn’t need me pushing for one. If I’d been a better man I would have been her friend and dated someone else. Instead, I fell for her and waited for her to be ready, even though I said I wouldn’t. She never was.

Karategirl is not 19, and to my knowledge has not had any significant relationship traumas. She has some problems, yes (we all do), but they don’t seem to have anything to do with romance or dating. I also know that she’s been single and apparently healthy for at least five+ months, which is definitely a good thing (well… from my perspective at least). Nonetheless, I’m utterly and completely terrified. I’m terrified that I’m being an idiot. I’m terrified that I’m going to make the same mistakes over again no matter what I do. I’m scared that I’m going to get hurt again in the same way. I’m scare that I haven’t grown at all, haven’t changed at all… I guess I’m scared that the past year has been wasted, and that I’m about to prove that.

Ultimately, Karategirl is not Peaches. I am fully cognizant of that fact. However, I need to not be the same person that I was a year ago for anything to happen, and I think I’m afraid that’s the problem.

Honestly… I just hope that she winds up being the woman that will find a reason to be with me, instead of finding a reason to walk away.

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All the Little Things

So, I’ve been following the Mark Driscoll plagiarism controversy since it first came out, and if you haven’t heard about what’s going on, it’s well worth a good look. However, as I was reading up on this controversy, I came across several articles about Driscoll’s views on women, focusing specifically on his highly questionable teaching that Esther was, among other things, a selfish slut who seduced King Xerxes into making her the most powerful woman in Persia. This interpretation has a number of obvious flaws, probably the most egregious of which is the idea that Esther had the option to deny Xerxes anything. However, after reading some of Driscoll’s personal testimony about his own history with women (excerpts from his book Real Marriage), I can understand how his views were formed. Driscoll relates that every girl he dated cheated on him, including his wife (though he didn’t discover this until after they were married).

Right or wrong, the way we are treated forms our opinions of people. If you’ve only ever known blacks who were angry gang members, then chances are that you don’t much like black people. Similarly, if you’ve only ever know women who cheat, then chances are you assume that women cheat. We’re often told to avoid forming such prejudices. The problem is that avoiding such prejudices isn’t really possible. What is possible is handling such prejudices. See, if you’ve only ever known hypocritical, selfish Christians, then you’re going to see all Christians as hypocritical and selfish, and interpret their actions in this way. Recognizing this kind of basic assumption is difficult because the assumption itself is such a small thing, but its a small thing that fundamentally shapes the way you see the world. Changing this kind of fundamental assumption is incredibly difficult and often we need help to do so. I’m not convinced that we can actually change them without meeting positive examples of whatever group we are prejudiced against, and even then we must be open to allowing our minds and hearts to change.

So, why am I talking about this? Because sometimes I see women as nothing more than deceptive harpies who live to destroy good people. I know that this image isn’t true, and there are examples of women who are fundamentally not the above, which helps me in my struggle. However, I’ve also been influenced by a lot of women who were exactly that, add to this the fact that almost every woman I’ve dated has left me feeling lied to, betrayed, and broken and you begin to understand where this particular struggle comes from. While I have some experiences that tell me that women can be good, honest, beautiful people, I have a lot more experiences that tell me they are not.

Does this make me a misogynist? No, it doesn’t. It does mean that I sometimes struggle with misogyny though, and that I probably need more examples of good, caring women in my life to help me in that struggle. The problem is, I can seem to find any under 35…

That’s probably a post for another time.

Sander’s Family Christmas

Tonight I went to see Sanders Family Christmas at a local theater. I’ll be honest, I went because a friend who works for the theater asked me to come and see her work, not because of any particular desire to see the play. I’ve never really been fond of Christmas… well, anything. That probably sounds like a strange thing to say, and it’s gotten me in trouble more than once in Christian circles. The play was good though… well, it was good in that it was well-acted and well-produced all around. It was also the general mish-mash of Psuedo-Christian pluralism that generally makes me dislike Christmas. I’m not saying that anyone who mentions Santa Claus should be stoned, or even that it’s wrong to do in church, but this particular play had high moments and low moments. One of the low moments was when the matriarch of the family condemned Santa Claus (something about Jesus punching him in the face) right before the family happily sang Jingle Bells, which is clearly not a song with any particularly Christian influences.

This is the thing that gets me about Christmas… Christians get just about everything wrong. From the ages of Mary and Joseph (Mary was probably in her early teens [14 maybe] and Joseph was probably in his late twenties to early thirties) to the wise men (who almost certainly didn’t show up in Jerusalem until a year and a half to two years after Jesus was born). We gleefully mix hymns with clearly pagan songs, sing hymns with horrific theology, decorate small fire-hazards in our living rooms, and do it all without any concept of what any of it means or is supposed to mean. Honestly, I think if people were just more aware of what they were doing I’d be okay with it. There’s nothing wrong with Christmas songs or Santa Claus per say, it just that I don’t like them and I get frustrated with everyone who looks at me like an inhuman monster when I say that. Then again, I am something of a Scrooge and the words ‘Bah Humbug’ have been known to leave my mouth… frequently.

However, there was something from the play tonight that I did appreciate very much. One of the characters, the patriarch’s brother… I can’t remember his name (Sam, I think… or something like that) has something of a checkered past. When he gets up to speak he speaks of his past and of how the family has helped him change. One of the lines (and I’m sure that I’ve butchered it) say,’I’ve gotta reckon that God takes no account of talent. It’s a man’s character that matters.’ That’s the gist of the line… probably with a little Terry Pratchett thrown in since I was listening to Wee Free Men on the way home. This made me think about my own life. Most specifically the past seven(ish) years since I graduated from seminary.

Don’t get me wrong, I can me a right ass. I can be arrogant, judgmental, thoughtless, and stubborn. If the beginning of this post doesn’t prove that then the rest of this blog probably will. However, I’d like to think that I’m less of an ass and more caring, compassionate, and hopefully a little more humble than I was seven years ago. I’ve certainly learned a lot about life, about people, and about faith. I’ve been beaten over the head a few times, badly bruised both by the church and by those outside of the church, and broken repeatedly. Honestly, seven years ago I was full of myself and extremely in-secure. Now… well, I’m not sure that I actually have much to offer, but what I do have to offer I will.

As I write this I’m talking with my niece about colleges and about the degree program that I’m applying to. I remember when I first got out of school applying to one doctoral or Th.M. program after another and getting denied by one program after another. Now… well, I’m just hoping that they let me into an M.A. program and that I actually have what it takes to do well in the program. It’s scary, and a part of me is saying ‘I’m comfortable here and I don’t want to leave’. Another part of me is saying ‘It’s worth it.’ I still haven’t called Dr. Liederbach yet, but I’m going to. It might wait until January, as I’m sure all the professor’s down there are ridiculously busy at the moment, but I will call him, and I will finish my application and submit it. And then… well, I’ll hope that for once my desires line up with God’s (I wish I was better at that), and I’ll wait for him to kick me in the head if they don’t. That’s the thing I’ve learned more than anything else. What I want doesn’t matter if it’s not the same as what God wants.

Simple Complaining

I am moderately overweight (30-40ish lbs).  I’m actually smaller now than I have been in a long time. I’ve been fat since I was 10 years old. It took a diet (caused by poverty, not choice) of one can of green beans a day and some pretty intense exercise to drop fifty pounds and I’ve managed to keep most of it off (I’ve gained back about 10 pounds). This month I’m doing a planned semi-extreme diet (not as extreme as a can of green beans a day) to hopefully drop another 10-20 pounds. Here’s the thing though, I gain weight if I eat much over 1500 calories a day for any extended amount of time. At about 1500 calories a day I can maintain my weight, at 1000 or less calories a day I might (key word here) actually start to lose weight. It’s definitely a losing battle and sometimes I wonder: what’s the fucking point?

It’s not that I don’t want to look good. I’ve even at a point now where I have several forms of exercise (martial arts, lifting [sometimes], elliptical machines, and yoga) that I actually enjoy. However, 1000 calories a day and 2 hrs working out a day is hard to maintain on a busy schedule. Of course, this is also when thoughts like ‘there’s no point, no one will love me anyway’ start to worm their way into my consciousness and wiggle around inside my head. Little thoughts like that can cause huge problems for my battle against my weight, my health in general, and my emotional life at large. Nonetheless, they are there. The fears, the worries, the negative self-esteem, all present and accounted for.

That being said, I’ve talked about self-esteem in general before, and I view negative self-esteem the same way. Just like positive self-esteem, negative self-esteem is a bad thing, not because it builds a poor self image, but because it isn’t based on anything real or true. Self-esteem is, at its core, an over-focusing on ourselves, and an under-focusing on others. Whether that self-esteem is negative or positive doesn’t actually matter, both are equally bad. Both equally over-focus the mind on the self, and both are built on lies that we tell ourselves, not on actual experience that reflects who we really are. Self-esteem is fragile precisely because it is fragile and selfish. The fact that it doesn’t have any basis in reality makes it much harder to disprove (no, seriously, try to actually prove that Unicorns or Dragons don’t exist sometime). The experiential evidence of life doesn’t matter, but at the same time, anything (whether experiential or equally as unreal as self-esteem itself) that throws our self-esteem into doubt is immediately counted as a threat and attacked.

I fall into this the same as anyone else. I fight back against the idea that there might be a point to trying. I argue that I’m worthless, stupid, pointless, and undesirable. I make a point of convincing myself about these things precisely so that I can convince other people. Honestly, I’m doing a lot better about this than I have in the past, but its something that I still struggle with. My ‘self-esteem’ isn’t based on any kind of reality. Honestly, a lot of it is based on the fact that women keep rejecting me. However, the fact that I’ve had a lot of rejection doesn’t actually say anything about my value as a person. The only thing that it might provide real evidence for is the claim that I’m undesirable. It certainly says nothing about my worth, intelligence, or purpose. Not only is my self-esteem unrealistic, but it is entirely self-involved. I can get so busy throwing myself an idiotic pity party that I forget to consider what’s around me and miss opportunities to actually be a worthwhile person.

Like I said, I’m getting better about this. It’s still a work in progress, and still far from completion, but I am getting better, and I hope to keep getting better. So, right now my answer to the question: what’s the fucking point? Is: I want to.

Thanksgiving and Remembrances

Obviously, I haven’t posted in a while. Part of the reason is that I’ve been fairly busy lately. I spent most of the weekend and beginning of this week making sure that I had all of my papers graded before Wednesday so that I could spend Thanksgiving with my family. Part of the reason is that I did spend Thanksgiving with my family, which meant travel, get-togethers, food, etc. I also think that part of the reason, a subconscious part, is that 1) I’m still not entirely comfortable having followers on this blog and I want to get rid of all of you, and 2) the most significant thing I’ve had to say lately isn’t something that I’m actually comfortable saying yet. In fact, what I’m about to write I’ve told all of one person (my niece), and I had to force myself to tell her. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, in fact I think its a very, very good thing, but its something that is very personal, and very uncomfortable. I’m not used to it yet.

So, giving thanks. There are a lot of things to be thankful for, and something that we do at my church the Sunday before every thanksgiving is take a night to simply share things that we are thankful for. I couldn’t get up and share this, though I wanted to. There are many reasons to be thankful. Many things that should inspire gratitude in us. For one, I have a loving family that gets along well. I live in a safe town. I live in a safe part of time. I have good roommates. I like my apartment complex. I have a job that I thoroughly love. I have good friends who care about me. I have people who know they can depend on me. I have a plethora of amazing books to read. I have access to websites with even more amazing books to read. Let’s face it, even being poor in America isn’t all that bad unless you’re at the very bottom of the barrel. I could go on listing things about my church, the school I’m applying to, friend, hobbies, etc, but I think you get the point. I have a lot to be thankful for.

That being said, I haven’t always been a thankful person. Actually, for a long time I was an extremely ungrateful person. I always wanted more, no matter what. It didn’t matter what I did have. The only thing that mattered to me is what I didn’t have. (Don’t worry, I am actually getting to the point). I’ve mentioned several times that I used to be  (still am all to often) a right bastard. My lack of any form of gratitude was a part of that. There are still things that I’m working on. For instance, my last couple of birthdays have been difficult (hell, birthdays have always been difficult for me). The year before last my birthday was ignored entirely. This came on the tail end of a bad breakup in which the girl that I’d been ‘not-quite-dating’ dumped me and then jumped in bed with someone three days later. Admittedly, that was a low point, and I feel that I wasn’t entirely unjustified in being frustrated with my friends. My birthday this year wasn’t forgotten, a few friends even got together and threw me a party. Honestly, this should have been plenty to satisfy me, but the distinct lack of gifts stood out to me. I went out of my way to be profuse in speaking my gratitude, but I’m not convinced that it was entirely felt. A part of this is that gifts are my primary means of receiving love and affection. If you really want to make my day, send me an encouraging note or give me a little something with a lot of meaning.

I’m not saying that I need big gifts or expensive gifts. Honestly, how much it cost doesn’t matter to me at all. If you can get it for free, all the better. What does matter is the time, thought, and effort that you put into the gift. I have a few rules for gift-giving: 1) the gift should be meaningful to the giver, 2) the gift should be desirable to the recipient, 3) the gift should say something about the relationship between the two, 4) the gift shouldn’t be a necessity. So, the lack of gifts did actually mean something to me. However, I also think that lack of gratitude stayed with me for longer than it should have.

So, the point. One of the things that my church does on our night of gratitude is ask this question: What is one thing that you are thankful for now that you never thought you could be thankful for?

My answer to that question surprised me. I am thankful that God has kept me single for as long as he has. I’m not saying that I don’t still want to get married. I’m not saying that I’ve given up. I am saying this, and I’ve said this part of it several times. God has taught me more through loneliness and broken relationships than through any other single means. It is my utter, complete, and repeated failure with women that has taught be to love other people, and taught me about God’s love for me. This is probably the single most significant change in me over the course of my salvation, and I’ve been thankful for the changes themselves, but never for the process that led to them.

This is the thing that no one ever told me about gratitude. There are many, many levels of gratitude. It’s not simply about saying thank you, nor is it simply about being thankful for the things that you have or the things that you like. I need to be thankful for the things in my life that are good for me, even if I don’t really enjoy them.

Saying thank you and actually being thankful are two different things as well. I can say ‘thank you’ a hundred times and never mean it. However, saying thank you can (and some of the exercises on Happify.com have helped with this) actually help you to be thankful for things. Being thankful is more consistent than simply saying thank you. A simple ‘thank you’ can come out of nothing more complicated than politeness. However, being thankful comes from the heart. It reflects the core of one’s being, and it is one of the things that reflects godliness. We should rejoice and be thankful in general, but we should make special effort to rejoice and be thankful for those things that we are not at first eager to say thank you for.

So… I think at this point I’ve stopped making sense. So, I leave you with this: gratitude that is slow to appear, begruding, and quickly vanishes is less than real. It might be a good step, but it isn’t real. Gratitude that overflows from the heart, that is quick to the tongue, eager to be shared, and doesn’t disappear after being shared is the real thing. Strive for that.

Sin and Guilt

Yesterday I was at lunch with a group of people from church. Flowergirl was one of them. I generally take her and one of her roommates to church on Sundays, and then buy them lunch afterwards. This isn’t an attempt at a group date (I’ve given up on her… almost completely), just something I like to do because they are both poor college students in need of good meals. During the meal flowergirl was rather frustrated with me, mostly because I kept laughing at her. She hadn’t had much sleep the night before and was very tired, and so I had to keep waking her up in church. I commented that her head resembled a metronome in the way it kept bobbing up and down as she tried to stay awake. She didn’t see the humor in this, mostly because she was ashamed that she was struggling to stay awake in church.

Flowergirl, like many of us, was under the impression that the fact one struggles with something is, in and of itself, something to be ashamed of. This is not true. All Christians struggle with sin, and as one of my professors used to say: all means all and that’s all all means. While I don’t entirely agree with this sentiment (in some cases ‘all’ clearly means ‘most’, ‘many’, or ‘those of which I have knowledge’), in this case it is entirely true. Outside of Jesus Christ who, being the Christ incarnate, can’t really be called a ‘Christian’ (i.e. little Christ or follower of Christ) there has never been an individual who did not fail in his/her struggle with sin. However, even Christ himself struggled with sin. We know that he was ‘tempted in every way as we are’ from Hebrews 4, and from both Matthew and Luke we know that he was tempted by Satan himself. Christ did not sin, nor did he have a sinful nature, and some will argue that he could not have fallen to temptation (this position is called ‘hard impeccability’, though personally I prefer ‘soft impeccability’ which argues that Christ was capable of sinning, but didn’t), but I do not know of anyone who will argue that Christ did not struggle with temptation. This fact is made absolutely clear in the scriptures. So, given that Paul clearly fell to sin… repeatedly (Romans 7), that Peter fell to sin the the worst possible way (the denial of Christ), and that Christ himself was struggled with varied temptations, why do we believe that to struggle is, in and of itself, a shameful thing?

The answer, of course, is the American need to be ‘better’. If you sin then I am better than you because I do not sin. If you struggle with sin, then I am better than you because I do not struggle with sin. If you are tempted to sin then I am better than you because I am not tempted to sin. None of these things are true, obviously, but they are the lives that we often attempt to portray, and also one of the most prominent reasons for the frequent and warranted accusations of hypocrisy within the American church. None of us is perfect. We all struggle with a variety of sins. Those sins may be different for different people, but none is better or worse.

This is another facet of the American church that needs to be addressed. We often rate actions by their ‘sinfulness’. Homosexuality is the most sinful thing a normal person could do. Pornography is a close second. However, gluttony, gossip, worry, and pride are all innocuous, inconsequential sins by common American standards. This is, obviously, a giant load of crap. James 2 makes it clear that sin is sin. All sin equally removes us from a right relationship with God and no sin is inconsequential. There is a passage in John 5 that discusses the difference between ‘sins not leading to death’ and ‘sins leading to death’, which was (I think) the primary impetus behind Augustine’s division between mortal and venial sins, but this is a theological question that I will address another time.

For our purposes here, sin is all equally damning in the eyes of God. All sins should invoke guilt in us until we turn to God in repentance. However, the simply fact of struggle with a sin should not. In fact, it seems to me that a man or woman who truly and honestly struggles with sin is respectable. It is easy to give up the struggle and simply fall to sin, and if we struggle we will eventually fall. However, to continue in the struggle, to run the race, to fight the good fight, is something that scripture repeatedly calls us to (1 Peter and 1 John are both good examples, as are 1 and 2 Timothy). We are called to struggle with our sins, and in struggling we pursue perfection, which is the process of sanctification. This isn’t something that we can, or even should escape.

So, do not let the struggle be a thing of shame. When you struggle and are victorious, count it as glory to God who aided you in your struggle. When you struggle and fall, be aware of your human frailty and repent. However, the struggle in and of itself is a part of being human. Consider it as such.

Feeling Down

Sometimes you don’t even have words to explain how you feel. There are times when this is due to the extremity of the emotion. It is certainly possible to feel love, joy, pain, fear, or despair to such an extreme degree that all words fail. To the point where you actually do simply stop trying to explain how you feel. I can say this because I’ve been at that point for each of these emotions. I can’t explain how terrifying it was to be chased through the woods with someone trying to shoot me. I can’t describe how much I loved a certain young woman who broke my heart several years ago (I’ve written about this before). I think this is probably true for any emotion. We are capable of feeling things that we simply can’t describe in any meaningful way, and this is not surprising. Much as we revere them, words are really an incredibly weak medium. However, sometimes it isn’t the extremity or intensity of an emotion that makes it difficult to explain. Sometimes it is the sheer complexity and variety of interacting emotions that become difficult to parse.

Lately I’ve been feeling rather unwanted and unappreciated. Some of this has to do with a difficult class that I’ve just finished. Some of it has to do with deciding to give up on flowergirl. Some of it has to do with being continually turned down by women in general. Some of it has to do with my spiritual life, which has been rather dry lately. Some of it has to do with the simple day to day drudgery of my life. Ultimately, I’m feeling joyful, depressed, stoic, sad, frustrated, excited, fearful, relieved, and hopeless all at the same time. A while back I started talking to a lady over eHarmony (I mentioned that I paid for a year long account this summer). Today she and I decided that, while we both liked the other, there wasn’t anything more than friendship in our future. This is one of the few times that I’ve had this actually be a mutual decision. She and I were both honestly relieved and we both look forward to talking again. I also asked another lady… let’s call her Paula… for her number today… well, yesterday technically. That is, I asked for her number yesterday, put her name into my phone, and then tried to text her with a name only and no number. I ran into her again today and got her number. However, I’m not really one to wait… that’s not entirely true. Perhaps its better to say that I’m interested in this woman and I don’t particularly want to play games, so I texted her earlier tonight. So far, there’s been no response.

I don’t know that I’m honestly surprised about this, and it is certainly a part of the ‘unwanted, unappreciated’ feeling that I mentioned above. However, it certainly isn’t the entirety of it. In general, I talk to people. I reach out. I call. I text. I walk over to say hello. It’s relatively rare for someone to reach out to me, and the past few months it’s been even rarer than normal. Honestly, I rather feel like I could disappear off of the face of the earth and no one would be significantly affected. This feeling is generally exacerbated by the kind of tacit rejections that are all to common in my life. Personally, I much prefer it when a woman tells me, ‘I think you’re a really great person, but I’m just not interested’. This is significantly better than the tacit, silent rejections that seem to be the norm among… well, women in general. Honestly, what makes it harder is to then watch these women find someone that they are interested in, and again I get left behind.

In a lot of ways I feel like the cliche little boy, standing cold and alone in the dark and snow with his face pressed against some families window, watching everyone else enjoy what he can never have. At the same time, I honestly am happy for my friends and acquaintances who have found love and who are doing well in life. Sometimes I just want to cry, but then I haven’t been able to express pain through tears for… well, longer than I can remember. Even when that young lady gave me a heart attack I couldn’t cry. I tried, and I almost did. I could feels the tears, but I couldn’t manage to coax them out.

I care about people. I do my best to show this, and I don’t want to ask for things in return. Like with Flowergirl, I try to do for others without thinking about myself. I want to do for others without thinking about myself. I want to be able to love God first and to love others completely and not worry about myself. To be honest though, I’m a little pansy wimp. Much as I want to be strong and take care of others… I think I need some people in my life who are interested in taking care of me. Problem is… I’m pretty sure everyone forgets that I exist when I’m not actually there in front of them.