Little Things Lead to Big Things

This is a concept that is very true and works in multiple directions. For instance, I have a young friend that I’ve mentioned several times… I’m not sure I’ve ever given her a name… let’s call her Shelly… I’ve known Shelly since she was very young, and I’ve never really done anything all that special for her. I’ve given her a few birthday presents here and there, I’ve spent time with her, and I’ve comforted her a few times when things at school were upsetting, but I haven’t done anything really major. I’ve never saved her life. I never bought her a pony. I never did much of anything besides be myself. The thing is, over years of being myself, this little girl has decided that I’m a really great friend, and a close bond has formed. The same is true with her younger brother… Timmy…, for whom I’ve also never done much of anything special. Little things, over a long period of time, lead to big results.

This is true in the opposite direction as well. When I was young I was given constant negative reinforcement. I can’t say that my parents ‘never’ did anything majorly wrong (I almost made my mom move out at one point, and that is the one time that I can say that my dad just plain beat me), but they didn’t do many hugely wrong things. They weren’t drug addicts, they didn’t sell me to strange men in alleys, they didn’t smack me around on a daily basis. Nonetheless, little things, repeated over a long period of time, lead to a massively screwed up kid. When I turned twelve I was in my eighties, and I didn’t reach my teens until I hit 20. Thus my twenties were filled with all the emotional crap that teens have to deal with. It was all very annoying.

So, little things+time=big results. When a gorgeous woman whom I’ve never met and who has many pictures and few connections ‘friends’ me on Facebook I tend to take one look at the profile, decide it’s not a real person, and deny the friend request. … …Of course sometimes I take the time to look through the pictures of said gorgeous woman… I generally regret that afterwards. Today has been one of those days. Ever since the friend request I got this morning, I’ve been wanting to Google ‘the girl next door’. I don’t particularly want to do this, but the idea keeps popping back into my head. I push it out, and a few minutes later it pops right back in. Then I push it out again… and repeat. This frustration has persisted through grading, martial arts classes, and a friend’s party. I suppose I could have named this post ‘and the cat came back…’ If you know what I’m talking about then you know… if not… it’s a thing, don’t worry about it.

At this point I can’t say what will happen, and I hate that feeling. I can say that I’m going to take my frustration to God and ask for help. I can say that I’m going to do my best to keep my mind and heart focused thoroughly on him. I can also say that little things lead to big things. Little blessings lead to big blessings, and little problems lead to big problems. …And there it goes again :(. Anyway, we all have desires. It’s a normal part of life. We want things. Sometimes we actually, legitimately need things. We long for things. However, ultimately, it isn’t the desires that pop into our head that matter. It is what we do with those desires. Which desires will I choose to dwell on? Which desires will I choose to pursue? Which desires will I choose to focus my heart on? I know which desires I want to focus on, but all to often want and will are two different things.

So, for all of you who are struggling with some desire that frustrates the crap out of you: it happens to all of us. You are not alone. So get your head back in the game, beat the shit out of whatever is pulling you away from God, and focus on pursuing him with a complete heart and mind. I’m going to go do the same.

P.S. What the heck! I was winning! I go away for two days and I’m back to barely breaking even! Seriously people…

Ethics, Self Image, Family, and Foundations

Teaching ethics I am often confronted with the fact that I am a horrible person. This is not to say that I am completely without the traditional virtues. I have a modicum of wisdom (though I’m always amazed when people actually listen to me), some small measure of courage, a fair amount of patience, and a little self-control. However, I am not an excellent leader, nor am I a man of impeachable moral character, or incredible internal strength. I am certainly no sage, though I do always find myself drawn to the Chinese sages (…I suppose that’s pretty obvious by now). I’m not a particularly skillful leader, and all to often I allow exhaustion to impede my ability to live up to my responsibilities. I care about people, but far too often I don’t stop to help when I could. I try to do what’s right, except when it’s too hard and then I’m all too happy not to. I want to be a good person, but when not living up to that standard seems easier, more fun, or more profitable I’m not unlikely to chuck my morals out the window.

Scripture tells us to have a right view of ourselves, but it also tells us to view others as better/higher/more worthy than ourselves. I struggle with the latter. I want to be the best, to be the one who’s admired, chosen, looked up to, lauded… I want to be important, and I’m still struggling with the fact that I am, always will be, and always should be nothing. If I am to allow God to live in me, to work his will through my life, to act through me in the lives of others, then I desperately need to get over myself and step aside. I think that the man who’s funeral I attended yesterday was very good at this. He was good at being nothing, at getting out of the way and letting God work. I find that I am thoroughly not good at this. I am good at getting in God’s way. Forcing him to move me out of the way before he can do anything that he wants done. I am good at causing problems. I wish I was better at living for him.

This afternoon I messaged a friend of mine (actually the mother of my young friend at Church) to ask if I could take her children to a movie sometime. I love her kids, and I have always wanted a family. The older I get, the less likely that seems. Honestly, it might just be a result of some melancholy left over from the funeral yesterday, but at the moment I feel as though it will never happen. Even if I do someday find a wife, the chances that she’ll be young enough to easily have children is unlikely (though Sarah did have Isaac in her 90s). I wanted to cry out to this woman: ‘Let me borrow your family! Just every now and then! Please, help me to feel less crushingly lonely!’ Of course, I didn’t. I have a feeling that this would come across as creepy and desperate. Of course, her children aren’t the answer to my loneliness. That is, in itself, a ridiculous notion. I love both of her children, and I want to spend time with them, but time with them (or with anyone else) is a temporary fix for an emptiness that only God can fill.

And that is my foundation. Whether I have a family or not. Whether I am humble or not. Whether I am a good person or not. Whether I spend time with her kids or not. Regardless of any of this, it is God in which my joy lies. It is him who fills my emptiness. Him who dries my tears. Him who heals my pain. God is , and must be, the foundation of my life because there is nothing else that can serve that purpose. This doesn’t mean that I don’t desire, but in the midst of my desires, in the midst of loneliness, of despair, of emotional turmoil and pain, I can know that tomorrow will be a new day that will bring with it new joys and new treasures. God always provides, and this doesn’t simply mean that he provides for our physical necessities. God’s provision is ever sufficient for the whole being of man. In this too I know that he will provide.

Desiring Singleness

I know that I need to be single right now. I’ve mentioned this several times in previous posts. I need to be single, and I need to be content being single, and I need to want to be single. However, today I didn’t. I’m really not sure what it was, it wasn’t even a particular woman, but all day I just wanted something. I wanted someone to walk up and kiss me, to hold me, to tell me that she loved me, and to tell me that she admired me. I just wanted someone. I gave this to God, several times… or at least I tried to. That helped some, but the desire was still there, and this is my struggle right now.

I want to be content. I want to be happy. And there are days that I am completely content to be single. However, that wasn’t what I was made for. I know that, I can feel it my bones, in my heart, but I also know that it’s a desire that I need to let go. Not to give up on, I think I’ve made that clear. Even on those days where I’ve been completely content in my singleness, I’ve still known that it wasn’t going to last, but I need to let the desire go, to learn to be satisfied without it.

I struggled for a good part of the day with the feeling that no-one could love me as well. That is to say that there is something in me that is simply unlovable, undesirable, and that no-one will ever get past that. The feeling that I’ll always be the second choice, the ‘nice guy, but…’. I know that this comes from the way I was raised, and I can see the way that its been reinforced by the relationships I’ve sought out, and I honestly know that it’s not true… at least, I know that it’s probably not true. The feeling though… yeah.

Feelings are powerful. Much as we laud the reason (more than we really should, honestly), feelings are often more powerful in our lives. I know that there are people who love me, but I rarely feel that love. I know that I have good qualities that would make me a very desirable man, but I generally don’t feel desirable. The difference between knowing something and feeling something is pretty hard to overstate (not that it can’t be overstated… seriously, you can overstate anything).

David Hume once wrote that “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” I teach an ethics class and my students have to interact with this quote, so its safe to say that over the years I’ve seen just about every interpretation (good and bad) that you can draw out of this statement. Honestly, I generally disagree with a lot of Hume’s reasoning. God is real, man is not inherently good, and his passions do not lead him to inherently good ends. However, this quote… it has legs. Even if we don’t like it, the fact is that we are generally driven by our passions. Our feelings run away with us… our reason rarely does.

We use reason to justify our desires, good and bad. We use reason to be effective in our desires, but we aren’t driven by our reason. It’s the same way with our feelings. We feel things, we have gut impressions, and we use our knowledge to help us understand them. However, no matter how much we ‘know’, those feelings are powerful and lasting. They aren’t easily changed, and even when they do change, we keep trending back towards the original feeling, and we have to maintain the change that we’ve made in our lives.

I think… well, I hope that I’m in the process of changing the feelings that I’ve listed above. I’ve been trying to change them for a long time. Trying and failing. I have no doubt that God can change them, but God generally takes his time to work in us. Free will and all that balagan. It takes time to change, and the more deep-seated the thing that has to change, the longer it takes and the more it hurts. I have a feeling this is going to be a long, frustrating summer. Still, I think it will be a good summer in the long-run. The dawn only follows the darkness, right? Well… that’s what I’m holding onto right at this moment, anyway. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a happier day.