Girls Are From Venus

We have all heard the rhyme as children “Boys are from Mars and girls are from Venus”. At first, I thought “Nah, that’s just a silly rhyme. It doesn’t reflect reality.” Then, I started dating and I discovered just how true this rhyme was. Women look at the world and experience the world in vastly different ways then men. Am I saying this is better or worse? No, just vastly different. My analogy for dating, courting, whatever term you want to use is equivalent to the feeling of walking on the moon for the first time.

Everything is new, everything is exciting, and everything draws drastic emotional reactions from you. There is a feeling of danger, exploration, and discovery. And there is another emotion that accompanies all of these that clouds our judgment, makes our hearts race, and makes us care far more about this one person’s thoughts and feelings than anyone else in our lives. And that feeling is LOVE. Now, I wonder if we use the term “love” to describe a feeling of affection only or a deeply-rooted, confident expression built upon a foundation of friendship, companionship, and that feeling of affection we call “falling in love”.

I believe that it is easy to “fall in love” but hard to “stay in love”. Because real love is the kind of affection that exists despite sickness, poverty, and angry, bitter words. It is what remains when everything else is taken away or is lost. It is what gets you through the loss of a child, chronic illnesses, and job loss. Do we understand that as modern-day Americans? Do we follow this standard or do we believe that we can always “Go back to our own planet”? If we truly believe that there are always second, and third, and fourth chances, do we really open ourselves up for hurt and make ourselves vulnerable? Because if we don’t, we hold this barrier between ourselves and this person that we “love”.

Loving someone with an unconditional, selfless love is hard and isn’t as “fun” as simply “falling in love”. Courting someone from another planet is extremely hard. You have to learn a new language. You have to get to know that person in a deep and intimate way. Its work and its hard. And guess what? Love doesn’t always look like a movie. Sometimes you have to fight for your happily ever after and sometimes the pieces don’t always fall into place. Sometimes it takes awhile to complete the jigsaw puzzle of your life.

I’ve discovered that in my life, I love figuring someone out. I love getting to know them and understanding their story. And when you’re learning “Venution” (the language of women), you have to be a good listener, Guys. You have to know her favorite color, even if you guess it wrong a few times afterwards. You have to know what she likes and what she dislikes. And you especially have to know how to make her feel special. You have to be willing to make mistakes and be hurt. You have to be willing to be open and honest about yourself. And guess what, Guys, maybe you’re going to have to go at her pace and focus on her.

Now, you may wonder how all I know all of this. Am I some “girl whisperer”? Nope. I’m just as awkward and uncomfortable around women as most men. I’m average-looking  guy, with a sarcastic sense of humor, a big heart, and a thirst for knowledge (code for “I’m a nerd”). However, I listened to my parents, especially my mom, when they told me how to treat a lady. You treat her like a queen and you romance her all throughout the relationship. My Dad always told me “Don’t ever stop doing little things for her. You’re dating her your whole life.” And I learned from making mistakes. Some big, some small. Do I have regrets? Oh, you better believe it but I understand that if I don’t move forward, I will never have the great moments you have with a special someone.

What Do You See?

I am an interesting man. I say that because of the eclectic collection of likes, loves, and interests I have. I love musicals, love stories (chick flicks), and poetry. This is juxtaposed with my love of action movies, sports, and UFC (more blood in the ring the better). I have the most differentiated collection of interests of anyone I know and that is one of the things I love about myself.

This leads me the reason why I felt the need to write this blog post. The reason is I have a question: What do you see when you see a child?

I view a child as a gift from God to be cherished and loved. A child should be viewed as someone, not something, not an it, who deserved to be loved. A uniquely designed person, known and loved by God, who deserves to feel safe. No matter what society may say, it is not bad to shelter a child; to protect a child from the horrors and tragedies of this world. The more I read, the more I listen and watch what is going on in this world, I understand that there are those out there who do not view a child like I do. Children are my weakness and anything evil or horrible that happens to them (actually this is probably tied for first in my heart with abusing women, especially minors) breaks my heart. Because I can’t comprehend how you could treat a child with anything but love and compassion.

What do you see?

I recently started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I saw the movie in theaters before I had read the books or even seen a trailer and I was horrified by what occurred in that movie. Then I read the first two books in the trilogy and was even more horrified by the depravity of man (something I am convinced is true). I will not discuss in this blog the graphic nature and contents of that trilogy so if you have the internal fortitude, go watch the movie and read the books. I highly recommend them but also strongly suggest you prepare and educate yourself first.

I then started reading the book Redeeming Love and just like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I was horrified all over again. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is brutal in its honesty and upfront in its contents, ripping through all the layers we as a culture place over injustice, pushing into your face so you have no choice but to see it, and never forgot what you saw. Injustice is something we actively seek to hide  from our eyes so we can lie to ourselves and cry “I don’t see it so its not my responsibility”. But The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo refues to allow you to do that and I commend them highly for undertaking such a monumental, and unpopular, task. But Redeeming Love….. Broke my heart in a way I could never have imagined. Blinsided by subtlety is an understatement. The last time I cried so much in so few pages (cried twice in 20 pages) was when I read Lovely Bones, my all-time favorite book.

You may ask “What happened that was so terrible? That evoked such emotion from you?” The answer is simple: a child is viewed as unloved and unwanted…..

At an age, where a child should be carefree and spoiled beyond any hope of rehabilitation, a child is faced with the prospect of being unloved and unwanted by both her parents. What do you see when you see a child?

Because children understand how you view them. Contrary to popular opinion, they do hear every word you say. Not only that, they take every word to heart like it was spoken by God Himself. They take all of that hate and displeasure and put the blame squarely on their own shoulders. Because after all, “If I hadn’t been born, my momma would be happy” (direct quote from the book). What do you see when you see a child? If that child isn’t your whole world, where you would bend space and reverse time to make sure they feel loved, then you don’t understand how to love.

I don’t care if I’m called soft or less than a man for crying because when I see a child, I see an image-bearer of the Almighty and I will be damned to pits of Hades before I allow my heart to harden to the point where I am not deeply grieved when a child is abused, neglected, or mistreated. What do you see? Or more aptly and practically, what do you fight for?

Micah 6:3-4 says, “My people, what have I done to you, And how have I wearied you? Answer Me. “Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and ransomed you from the house of slavery.” When we stand before the Lord, indigent and angry that our cable signal is on the fritz. That our fridge isn’t fully stocked. That our job is too hard. That our feet hurt. That taxes and gas are too high. And then, with a voice full of arrogance and stupidity, boldly ask the Lord, “Why are you asking so much of us, Lord? Don’t you know I’m busy?” He asks right back, His voice full of righteous, “What do you mean? Hmmmmm? You mean, you, my people, who I ransomed from death and the grave. You, my people, who I bought out of sin and shame, are too busy?”

Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” So what does the Lord require of you, His people, who are “too busy”? All He asks, all He requires, is that you demonstrate love, mercy, and justice to the world. All He asks is to do what you agreed to do when you signed the contract to be His chosen people (this applies to Israel then and to the Church now). All He asks isn’t even that much but He does ask it of you.

The consequences of not doing what is asked of you is simple. Micah 6:14-16 says, ” “You will eat, but you will not be satisfied, And your vileness will be in your midst. You will try to remove for safekeeping, But you will not preserve anything, And what you do preserve I will give to the sword. You will sow but you will not reap. You will tread the olive but will not anoint yourself with oil;
And the grapes, but you will not drink wine…. Therefore I will give you up for destruction Andyour inhabitants for derision, And you will bear the reproach of My people.”

So let me ask you one more time

What do you see?

Age of Accountability (the succinct version)

While researching the Age of Accountability in scripture and in Church history, I discovered the debate hinges on just a few important  conclusions about how we are saved and how infants factor into that picture.

However, before I outline the different points, I want to start with a personal story. The names in the story have been changed for anonymity’s sake but it is a true story.

Many years ago, a young lady, we’ll call her Jane, was working at a dispatch company. While she was working there, she met a man, we’ll call him John, and she led him to the Lord. They dated for six months and then were married. After they had been married for a little while, they decided they wanted to have children. They tried to conceive and did. They were ecstatic and praised the Lord for His blessing on them. Everything looked like it was going great. They decorated the baby’s room and decided on a name for the baby. However, one day while John was at work, he got a call from his wife. The moment he picked up the phone, he knew something wasn’t right. “Something is wrong,” She said. “Something is wrong with baby.” John could feel a pit forming the pit of his stomach, but he maintained his composure for his wife. “Stay strong,” he said. “Everything will be ok.” They drove to the hospital, their worst fears playing through their minds. The doctor examined Jane, did some tests, and then left the room. They waited patiently for his return, both of them extremely nervous and tense. The doctor came back, a solemn look on his face, and Jane’s heart dropped. The doctor said, “I’m sorry but it looks like you lost the baby.” Jane and John didn’t know what to say, all they could do was cry.

Months go by, and John and Jane decided to try again, hoping and praying that maybe, just maybe this time everything will be ok. They are scared to decorate the baby’s room, and don’t even discuss a name. Months go by, and tentatively, cautiously they start to hope. They start discussing a name for the baby. And then….. John receives a phone call. A phone call he had hoped he would never have again. “John…” Jane whispered. “It happened again.” John didn’t reply, he just sat at his desk and cried, while silently asking, “God… why is this happening to us?”

Sadly, for this couple, they experience not two miscarriages, but nine. They didn’t lose one baby, or two. They lost nine. So what do I tell them? Do I tell them that their babies are in Hell because they did not “put their faith in Christ”? Do I tell them their babies are “not of the Elect” and are in Hell? Or do I tell them that their children are in heaven since they didn’t reach the “Age of Accountability”? A concept not found in scripture.

I know that many within the Protestant faith view Infant Baptism as unnecessary for salvation (which they should). However, if you want to believe that a still-born or aborted child goes to heaven, the belief that Infant Baptism ensures that a baby goes to heaven is very attractive.

The Arminian system is also an attractive one to me because it argues that a believer chooses God. This means that a child has not had the opportunity to choose or reject God’s free gift; therefore, there is a strong chance that a child will go to heaven.

Calvin had an interesting take on infant salvation when he said that he believed that children of believers are believers from the moment of birth. This is strange to me, however, since Calvin believes in original sin and total depravity. I fear what this means for the children of non-believers who experience miscarriages but this at least means Christian’s babies are going to heaven.

The conclusion that I have come to after all of my research is that your stance on original sin (we are born with a sin nature) will decide how you view infant baptism and their eternal destination. Moreover, after reading through scripture, I find the absence of any conclusive evidence on the topic, disconcerting. Scripture hints at the eternal destination of babies when David speaks of “going to” his dead son but there is no other evidence besides that. I would have also expected Jesus to at least address the topic but whenever He is around children, He speaks of having faith like them and seeing the face of angels. After hours of research, I am no closer to a conclusion then I was when I started. The absence of biblical evidence could be support the claim that infants do go to heaven but that just as easily could be used to say they absolutely do not. It boils down to do you trust that the Lord knows what He is doing and that He is perfectly just and loving.

My final thought on the topic is that I tend towards the Arminian understanding (as far as I could articulate their understanding of “choosing God”) of whether or not an infant goes to heaven or not. This conclusion hinges on the justice and love of God and that He would not condemn a child who is never given the ability to choose. This conclusion would also support the belief that mentally handicapped go to heaven.

Finding Joy in Negative Places

When I was thinking about what my first post would be, and fighting through the frustration of losing the idea I had in the first place while putting together this new blog (Oh, well), I finally settled on an overview of the changes that have taken place in my life in the past year. Think of this as an introduction to the author. You know, the part that would serve as the foreword by an author in a book. Author’s usually do this when something major has occurred while writing the novel or if they really want their audience to know something personal about them, a struggle or something in that vein.

In the past year, and I don’t mean January 1st to now, I mean last February to now, I have gone from engaged to be married, to single, to in a relationship to single again. And it would not be hyperbole to say that it was the worst year of my entire life. A bad break-up, with an even more terrible aftershock, followed by a hurried relationship just so I could feel better about myself and make myself believe that I was “ok” are just a few lowlights of the past year.

I hurt two people I care about because I couldn’t stand being single. I couldn’t stand the thought of my ex, and her new boyfriend (my former good friend. Long story for another time), being happy while I was miserable. I couldn’t stand the thought that I wasn’t ok. I couldn’t stand the possibility of losing her and I couldn’t stand the thought that I had failed. So many lies running through my mind, and I believed every one of them. And why wouldn’t I? After all, hadn’t I clearly blown up my “one chance at happily ever after”? That was hyperbole and a period in my life when I was extremely bi-polar, even though I expertly hid the fact that my heart was in a billion pieces with the shrapnel piercing every fiber of my being. Because you see, one week after my relationship with ex-fiance ended, I was promoted. Woo-hoo? Not really. Even that accomplishment was tainted by the fact that I had worked so hard to be promoted so I could afford to get married….. Yeah, that put quite the damper on my job life.

Shortly after that, I began to date a girl who was sweet, nice, and genuinely fun to be around. A few weeks into the relationship, I grabbed a grenade, pulled the pin, and got the hell out of there, blowing that relationship all the way to Jupiter. Now, please understand, I didn’t do any of this because she did something wrong, but because of all the things I realized were wrong with me. Fast forward a few weeks, I’m single and now experiencing intense acid reflux and stomach issues (couldn’t imagine why).

This was six to eight months of me make poor decisions and desperately striving to be loved, to feel loved. Because I didn’t feel like I was lovable and I truly didn’t believe that my ex-fiance had ever truly loved me after what she did. Finally, I made one good decision. A decision that turned all of these thoughts around and changed my life for the better. I went to counseling.

Now, for a little back-story, during this entire period of my life, my ex contacted me four times through text messages. And ever single time, she took the opportunity to kick me while I was down with steel-toed boots. I still love her and always will, but looking back, I honestly don’t recognize the girl who replaced my fiance. The hardest part of all of this was the intellectual gymnastics I was going through, trying to reconcile in my mind the girl I knew now and the girl I knew before. To be told, by her, that I clearly hated her was like being hit with a wrecking ball. Because I loved her unconditionally and without a thought of malice or hate. I went through thick and thin with her for four years. Through good times and bad, and never once did the words “I hate you” ever leave my lips. Am I a saint? Absolutely not. I had just as much to do with the deterioration of that relationship as her.  However, (and I can’t and won’t speak for her) I knew that I needed help if I wanted to become a man of God.

So what did I learn from my counselor? A lot. I learned how to move on. I learned how to be happy while single, to not need to be with someone. I learned how to look for someone who is strong and independent and doesn’t “need” a boyfriend. I also learned how to forgive. I learned that sometimes things don’t make sense. That sometimes things happen that we can’t explain….. Wow. It was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. And for the first time since I had the break-up, I cried. I let myself accept my brokenness and turn to God, instead of her, for comfort and love. I learned that I had made my ex-fiance an idol. She became my life and my happiness. And guess what? She failed me. I put so much pressure on her and expected far more than she could ever give. She could never truly make me happy, never truly fill the void inside me that only Christ can fill.

So now, months later, I can truthfully say, I don’t want to be with her. I don’t miss her. Does it still hurt sometimes? Of course, but that pain doesn’t mean I can’t be happy. In fact, I refuse to dwell on the past and I refuse to allow my happiness to be completely dependent on a human being. People will fail me, people will hurt me, but God never will. She is free do whatever she wants and be with whoever she wants. Her life doesn’t concern me anymore. I am no longer her counselor, her ever-watchful fiance, who was always afraid for her safety and mental health. I’m free to seek someone else and woo her. I have the opportunity to be me, which excites me more than anything.

Finally, I learned that God has a plan and that no matter how hard, no matter how full of potholes, glass, and darkness the road is He is always guiding me. Ninety percent of the heartache and pain I faced was self-induced. I caused most of the problems I had to deal with. God was knocking at the door of my heart and I was so busy trying to straighten the furniture during that earthquake of my life that I didn’t hear Him. I tried to make myself ok and I learned the hard way that I don’t have that ability and never will.

So to keep the past from repeating itself, I’m focusing on walking humbly with the Lord. Job 1:21 says, “He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.'” This verse is a beautiful example of someone understanding how the Lord works. How sometimes things happen we can’t explain and we just have to trust God. I understand that this verse has a wider context in the book of Job (which I don’t want to ignore); however, an extra-biblical observation I want to make in light of the events of the past year in my life, is the Lord doesn’t always take away pain, suffering, or “bad” things in our lives. Sometimes He takes away things we really like. Things that we love and think that we can’t live without. He then sometimes “gives” us trails and tribulations (I know that the Lord doesn’t “give” us trials but rather allows these things to happen. So understanding that, allow me to just use this metaphor for just a second). The Lord uses these trials and tribulations to teach us and make us stronger. He uses these things to teach us what is really important, understanding that the trails we face are temporary. In the end, the Lord then gives us eternal life and eternal paradise.

The Lord in the book of Job, as far as Job understood and believed, took away everything from Him. Including, things that were not evil. In fact, they were things the Lord cherished. He took away the lives of Job’s family and also caused Job’s wife to curse him and tell him to die. I can never understand completely how Job feels but I can understand to an extent. And I know one thing for certain, Job 42:10-12 says, “The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold. Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him…they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him….The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…” I know for certain that the Lord has blessed me more in the latter days of this “year” of my life than the former. And no matter what, no matter how bad the rest of the year could get, I trust that the Lord knows what He is doing.

I thank Him for the little things and the little blessings. I thank Him for the people I’ve met and have gotten to know. Moreover, I thank Him that someone likes me for me and I don’t have to hide. I don’t have to lie or try to be someone I’m not (i.e. someone is cool or suave. Talents I very clearly don’t have). In the end, the tribulation fades, and only praise remains on my lips.