The Hard Road

Church tonight was good. It had me thinking about a lot of different things. I think I might get two or three blog posts out of the thoughts that were running through my head tonight (if I can remember them that is). However, as I sat in church today I thought back to some of the lessons that I’ve learned in my life, a number of them learned through this very church, and many more learned in other ways. My entire life I’ve had to learn things the hard way. I’m a stubborn bastard an awful lot of the time, and it makes everything take that much longer. Sometimes I wonder why God made me this way. Honestly, thinking back, if there was any one thing that I could change about myself, it would be this need to learn things the hard way.

I’d like to say that I learn my lessons better, or that they stick with me longer, but honestly I’m really not sure this is true. There are a few lessons that I’ll never forget (generally the hardest ones), but many that I’ve had to learn multiple times. All in all, I’ve had a lot of lessons that I probably shouldn’t have needed, and this habit of always learning things the hard way has resulted in a lot of pain in my life. Not to say that this pain hasn’t lead to good things, personal growth, etc. However, if there was anything that I could change about myself, it would be this. I would love to be able to learn my lessons the easy way, without the incredible pain that goes with doing everything the hard way. I would thoroughly enjoy being less stubborn, less prideful, and more teachable. It’s something that I’ve been working on for years, and often failing at, and I’m still trying to be less stubborn and more teachable.

Honestly, I’m not really sure that I have much more to say in this post. I started it with every intention of writing something deep and meaningful about learning things the hard way, and how pride causes a lot of pain, which is entirely true. However, there isn’t a whole lot more that needs to be said than that. I’ve made some giant mistakes, and I’ve learned valuable lessons from them, and I always say that I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I understand that God made me the way he did for a reason, and I know that he’s working his will in me. I know that this is something that he is using to make me a better person… still, sometimes I wish he didn’t have to. I wish he had made me… perfect. Actually reading this I realize how ridiculous it sounds. We are all fallen people, all in need of a savior, and all in need of a lot of work towards sanctification. Nonetheless, sometimes I’d like all of this to be a lot easier, and I feel like if God had made me a little bit different it might have been.

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Then The Demons Left

I had the privilege of attending a deliverance (i.e. exorcism) tonight. It was an interesting experience, and I use the word interesting intentionally. If I’m honest, the only thing I can say with absolute confidence is that the experience was real. The woman who was delivered was visibly changed by the end of the night. That being said, I’m not convinced that the experience was entirely spiritual. As I’ve said, I’ve been involved with the occult, I’ve been exorcised (or at least the attempt was made) shortly after my salvation, and I’m fairly familiar with the demonic. In my experience demons aren’t stupid. According to my reading of scripture, demons aren’t stupid. In fact, I have no rational reason to believe that demons are stupid, but some of the things that were said tonight were remarkably stupid.

Some of this I can put on the simple fact of pride. If a demon is compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak, and whether for pride and for some other reason it does not wish to speak the truth, the only possible response might sound stupid. For instance, if the only answers are yes and no, and the demon doesn’t want to say yes, then no is left, and no might sound stupid. However, this only explains a portion of what happened tonight. Also, if everything rebuked tonight was a demonic spirit, then the young woman who was delivered must have had upwards of a hundred demons in her. The only scriptural precedent I have for this is Legion, and his case in scripture appears to be rare. That being said, scripture tells us remarkably little about the demonic, and so any exorcism ministry must be, in large part, extra-biblical. This was openly admitted by the exorcists tonight. In fact the claim they made was that much of what they did was extra-biblical, but none of it was unbiblical. This is a claim I have to agree with. Nothing I saw was heretical, none of it was sinful, none of it was theologically problematic. It was simply outside the scope of what scripture teaches.

The result of what I saw was absolutely real. I said this above, and I want to reiterate it. However, it was also therapy (again, this was a point made by the exorcist), and I think that which was rebuked had a mix of spiritual, psychological, and emotional elements. I have no doubt that some of the things rebuked were demonic in origin. However, I am not convinced that all of the things rebuked were demonic in origin. I think some of them may have been sin issues, emotional traumas, or psychological mechanisms that arose from those traumas. That being said, I also see no problem with rebuking these things. One thing I noticed is that the exorcists, at a few points, bordered on word/faith (i.e. name it claim it) doctrines without actually crossing over into them. I found this intriguing because, if they had crossed that line, then I could point to something distinctly unbiblical, but they didn’t. And there is truth in the claim that words have power. Not the reality altering divine power that word/faith doctrine gives them, but they do have power.

So, I’m definitely glad that I went, and I’m probably going to join them again. For now I have no actual verdict on what I saw tonight, except that it appeared effective (I want to say ‘was effective’ but to really make that claim I’d need to see sustainable change in the woman delivered, and… well, this all happened a few hours ago).

Never Been Kissed

I realize that being 30-something years old and never having kissed a woman makes me odd. I mean really, most people have their first kiss around what, 13 or 14? Most people lose their virginity before they are legally considered adults. However, the majority of the time I don’t really notice this. It just isn’t something that commonly has a major effect on my life. There are times, though, that it becomes oh so readily apparent in my mind, and I feel like… so many things. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on something important in life. Sometimes I feel like I’m less of a man (really, sexual experience is a major basis for manhood in our culture). Sometimes I just feel like I’m less… like God just forgot about that part of my life… that part of who I am, maybe?

Since I started following Christ I haven’t had an easy time with singleness. I’ve been looking for a wife, praying for a wife, preparing for a wife for the past thirteen years. I tried taking a few years (six actually) to just focus on God and hope that he would bring me a wife in his time. Then I started looking again. Women seem to have an easy time rejecting me as well, and that hasn’t helped at all. Constant rejection can easily get under your skin. Make you feel like there’s something wrong with you, and I have to admit that I’ve felt this way many times. A friend of mine just posted a picture on facebook, a meme that read: even if I had a million reasons to leave you, I’d try to find one reason to stay.

My experience tends to be the opposite. Even if I give a woman a million reasons to stay with me, she always finds one reason to leave. When I started this blog, and for the past month or so, I’ve actually been doing fairly well with this. I haven’t been focusing on the flaws. When I asked out not-Sarah, I really thought she was interested. Honestly, she surprised me with her rejection, and that’s a first. I’d gotten to a point where I didn’t automatically expect to be rejected, and  I think that was a very healthy place to be. I don’t think I’m there anymore. I realized this last night when I was talking with some friends. It’s not that I’m focused on any particular woman or rejection, but I realized that I’ve come back to a place of bitterness where I’m struggling to see any kind of virtue in women in general, and I don’t like being there. It’s not a fair place, and it’s not a happy place, and it’s not a particularly lovable place, or a particularly loving place.

I thought that I was out of this for good, that I had dealt with the pain and the bitterness and let them go… given them to God. However, one rejection and I’m right back there again. I’m not ok with that.

One of the most important reasons that I want to find a wife is the spiritual growth that I know comes from being a husband. I see it in all of my married friends, and this is something that I want. Of course, I also want to make out with someone. I want to have sex. I want someone to spend lonely evenings with. Someone to love and take care of, and someone who will love and take care of me. However, spiritual growth is more important than all of these. While I still want it, and I still struggle with lust, and with pornography from time to time, sex has become steadily less important to me as I get older. I don’t know if this is something that comes naturally with age, or if this is something that comes from consistent self-denial. At the same time, the spiritual growth and relational aspects of marriage are things that I want more and more as I get older, and things that I feel myself missing more.

Ultimately, as much as I don’t really believe it, I have to admit that I’m back in a place where I wonder if perhaps God doesn’t have someone for me. If perhaps I’m meant to be alone, or if there is something about me that simply makes me impossible to love. Cognitively I know that I don’t actually believe these things, but right now I feel like they’re true, and as I’ve said before, feelings are incredibly powerful things.