like a cactus

What matters? Oh, what a difference a week makes! Or, as some would tell me, a few months.

What matters to me… God matters, but the way and amount in which He does changes and decreases less and less, affecting me less. Family used to matter. A lot. Family was paramount to everything. But tragedy, misfortune, and many years of apathy have worn down the sharp edges, leaving things soft and porous. Leaving me wonder how so much could go wrong without me even… caring.

Friends. Career. Personal well-being.

I can’t pretend someone stole away my regard for the important things. I made choices, though my understanding of the results of those choices came very late. Love, of course, must be nurtured or it withers. Friendships can fade or even turn sour, misunderstandings widening the rift. Working relationships falter, even fail to take root. Trust turns into disappointment and, finally, resentment.

The restoration of the lost, precious things is like losing weight. It is so easy to add on pounds but takes sweat, dedication, and not a small amount of humility at realizing the necessity of it all. You let it get this way. You let yourself go. Now you need to put in the time to gain back what you lost–assuming you can gain it back at all.

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where’s my damn soapbox?

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted in quite a while. It’s been a strange couple of weeks. Strange, strained, emotional, quiet, harried. Grief still runs through the family, and I’m still not sure where I stand amidst it.

Death can call things into question, things you once held as true, things you took for granted, things that… maybe you were wrong about. Faith is shaken, if it was ever really there to begin with. Answers are sought–demanded, in fact. Blame may well be placed.

For the average Christian (family), death is not considered the end. And if the one who died was Christian, death really ought not be so tragic. But we are only human, aren’t we? We only see a very small part of the picture. We cannot conceive the good that may come out of the loss of a loved one, cannot imagine how a loving God could countenance such an act. “Why didn’t God save him or her?” is the one question our mind can handle.

The average Christian possesses many misconceptions about life, God, sin, and faithfulness. As a former church-goer, I heard them all the time and I also swallowed each mistruth whole. Shall I share them all? Well, I don’t know. I’d rather not turn my blogpost into a theological landmine. You can ask, though, and I’ll try to answer. But for now, I’d just say that no, I don’t think God will give us everything we want just because we pray, or tithe, or read the Bible, or give to the poor. And if you think God owes you a solid because you’ve been a good little soldier, you’re in for a terrible surprise.

Ugh, now I’ve gone and gotten passionate about something. But listen, friend–you who have lost someone–a miracle is only a miracle because it’s unexpected. Otherwise, you should call it an expectation and go on and create your own rules and your own religion.

You know, screw it. Let’s not pull any punches here.

Being a Christian sucks. It’s hard, and it’s unfair, and it doesn’t compromise and whisper sweet lies in your ear. But a lot of things suck that are worthwhile and good. Exercise. Eating healthy. Childbirth. You think faith in the face of adversity is stupid? You think heaven’s a copout? You think belief in a higher power is easy?

Let me tell you, believing in nothing is the easy route. Because with belief comes hope, and with hope comes the possibility that your hope will be dashed on the rocks of tragedy. That is not easy, nor is it really altogether foolish. Those of you who say that we are sufficient, that we need no one and nothing other than ourselves… we are not gods. We are not all-powerful and all-seeing. The world does not answer to our whims. We are not sufficient, because the world is completely out of our control. Our own lives are out of our control. My step-sister did not control the cancer that struck, nor did she control the devastation it wrought upon her, and she certainly didn’t control the end it led her and us toward. She controlled a few things, yes. I won’t say different. She controlled how she responded. But that was all. Is that enough, you say? Perhaps for you. And more power to you if that’s where you stand.

Believing in God is hard. Trusting that there is a reason for everything is damn near impossible.

Now maybe one day I’ll be proven wrong, that I was deluded to ever put stock in all this malarkey. Fine. I’m okay with that possibility. Maybe I’ve pissed some of you off. That’s fine too. Sometimes it’s best to offend somebody, so long as you’re honest. Sometimes I’m just too tired to be polite.

with passion

I attended a 4-year Christian college. Several, actually. And among the usual required courses (English, math, science, humanities, etc.), we also had to take a number a of theology-based courses. It was during these classes that I first learned the value of passion.

The willingness to suffer for a thing. That’s how it was defined to me. Definitely not the traditional understanding, which involves love, desire, even obsession. Well, those can all be elements or effects of passion, certainly, but I gained a keen appreciation for the way my Christian professors described the concept.

Now relax. I’m not about to proselytize or speechify about doing all things with passion. That’s silly and, in my opinion, not at all possible. I admit, it’s a common Christian tenet, but I firmly believe there are lots of things to do without passion. Worthwhile things.

Passion is a great thing. It can provide strength, focus, stability, joy. Passion can provide endurance and purpose when you’ve run out of both.

But passion is also a terrible thing. It can frustrate, bring tears, enervate, and worst of all–make you question yourself. How? Well, as I said, passion is great–so long as you possess other complementary traits. Motivation, energy, strength, focus. In my experience, passion rarely manufactures these independently. In my experience, one or more of these must already exist. Or you will be miserable.

But that’s the whole point, the whole validation of my original meaning. Passion simply is the willingness to suffer for a thing. You may disagree, and that’s fine. I’m not proposing a universal truth. We experience things in different ways.

My mother asked me a few days ago what I’m passionate about. Of course, my response was immediate: writing. Storytelling. Stories in general. I love and live for story. Creating it, receiving it, experiencing it. But she persisted. What else? I must confess, that question still hangs over me. What am I willing to suffer for? Family? Friends? Perhaps. But aren’t most of us? That hardly seems a worthwhile confession. God? Country? Now that appears much more oblique, not terribly personal unless I’m in the ministry, military or government. What am I passionate about?

What’s your passion? I wonder. Is it a simple exercise for you?