I hate it when I don’t take care of myself. I sometimes ignore my food allergies or neglect to drink enough water. The effects of these are always negative and I know it. It sucks. A couple of years ago now I did the “Body for B…
Be real with yourself. How are you changing? What did matter most to you? What does matter most now? Don’t back down here, really, you’ve got to be flat-out honest with yourself! Enough of the crap people say to make themselves feel better. You must take your next steps and not everyone in your family and friends is going to be in agreement with you and your decisions from here on out. A good journaling habit and or a counselor might be a good idea.
Do what you need to do. Do you need to get away for awhile? To binge watch TV? Sit out on your porch and drink beer? I don’t know what you need to do. I can tell you that NO ONE else knows though. You need to do things and take part in things that help you heal and move forward.
Choose your flock. Who are you hanging with and what kind of influence are they in your life? Who has stood by you? It is time to let some people go. Chances are, they already self-selected out of your life while others you didn’t expect, showed up. You choose who you get to hang with and when.
Consider your life philosophy. Carpe Diem? Life sucks and then you die? The one who dies with the most toys wins? Maybe you haven’t really asked that question before, well, now is a good time to do it. This might be the time to discover what it WAS so you can consider what it IS now. It is okay if it changes.
Consider your financial status. I know this is no fun and it sucks to do this but it must be faced. How are you going to provide for yourself moving forward? What is it going to cost? Who might help me? Is there someone I can trust with my best interests? You may not have much or you may have an abundance. Regardless where you fall on the spectrum, be honest with where you are in this area.
Start imagining the future. What do you see your future becoming? What does it look like? You get to shape what is next. It does not matter how old or young you are – you do get the freedom to choose. Times of pain and change provide the times we most often are able to grow and change.
Where is God in all of this? My life philosophy became the title of my first book, “Life Sucks Seek God.” In some ways, I have been all over the map, from being angry with God to falling down helpless and hopeless before the Divine. How do you see God in your life? It may be that it is time for your image or personification of God to be tossed aside. God is bigger than any box you and I can make. Maybe you need a break from God too.
You do realize clergy face the same, right? Yep, we’re to be “super-Christian” or “Bible Answermen/women.” Numbers are batted about regarding our churches that we serve as measures of our success. But these aren’t measures of our faith, only of our vocation. Our faith and our vocation get so wrapped together they become inseperable and then who do the clergy TALK to about faith without it becoming about vocational achievement?
Maybe I am wrong to bring it up but I suspect both laity and clergy feel the reality of a weight unjustly tied to our faith and our journey of faith. Our questioning, our wonderings, our wanderings, our messes, our doubting, our worries, all of these seem to be forced down into ourselves by a sinister (yes, and I do mean precisely that: sinister) tendency to establish measurements to that which is not meant to be measured.
Do we measure beauty? Do we measure compassion? What is the measurement we use for grace? How do we measure trustworthiness? Have we found a way to measure love?
Yet, in our churches (maybe even the Church), it seems to me, we have indeed found a way, even if unofficially, to measure one’s faith, and in so doing, it seems we have taken the “easy yoke” and the “light burden” of Jesus and have added to it in such a way that the faith our fathers and mothers has become something they would never recognize (see, Matthew 11:30). I certainly don’t think my Grandma Hagler would get it!
No one is an expert in another’s journey.
It sounds so common sense but with each new day, I find the journey of my life through and now, seemingly beyond, the valley of suck, to be a journey of whole new discoveries. Everything and I do mean EVERYTHING, has been up for grabs as it were. The changes to me and to my family have left us scarred but stronger.
And here is the thing at the heart – you can’t write curriculum for this mess. You cannot preach a sermon series to sum the mess up. You cannot go to your community group study and get the answers. As a pastor, I’m pulling the curtain away and pointing out the true state of “Oz,” there isn’t anything there.
Do not get me wrong, we NEED pastors and priests! There is a need for shepherds in our lives BUT they do not belong at the controls of your life or my life. They have not lived your life nor mine. Just because a pastor leads a large congregation it is no guarantee these men and women are even spiritually healthy or worthy of following.
Is this a statement on the large, mega-church paradigm? No…ok, maybe a little, but what is at the heart of our life journey (which IS a spiritual journey), is the reality that it is OUR’S and it belongs to no one else. Growing dependent on the men and women of “the cloth” for your spiritual health and well-being is a dangerous thing. Trusting solely in the creators of good curriculum or lesson plans is dangerous. Even being completely committed to living according to the Bible is something we need to be cautioned on.
What is needed is for us to put our faith and trust in God. In his “First Epistle,” the early church father, Cyprian, wrote,
“Walk with a firm step. By that I mean, firmly resolve that you will depend on God with all your heart and strength… The first step in this way of the Spirit: Come before God each day, always with holy reverence. Like an innocent child, trust Him. This attitude will protect your soul. It will keep you from becoming like some, who are so sure they are ‘saved’ that they become careless. Begin today to walk in the way of innocence, which is the way of right living before God and [people].”
I have not found any single expert or author to truly help me. I have sought God and the counsel of “shepherds,” namely, faithful friends and my spiritual director. The path through this “jello” is not so clear. You are going to be a mess when it is done and you may well find, like I have, the person you are becoming is a better, more authentic human being who began the journey.
Check out Ken’s book:
Life Sucks Seek God: 5 soul-healing habits to connect you with God when life seems out of control.
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I hate being sick. I mean, no one really likes being sick, right? This week it just seems to suck more than usual. This should be a crazy, fun week! I published a book! Yeah! Turkey hunting season is about to begin! Yeah! Both my kids are about to be drivers! Yeah (or not)! But nope, I’m sick with a head cold that is just a brute.
Life sucks. Seek God.
Maybe it was my kids sharing with me over the past few days their worries about the future. Maybe it was my own insecurities of publishing my own book. Maybe it is just this stupid cold. Whatever it is, I started thinking about the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.
Why do I say that? Because among all the things the valley of suck has taught me is I cannot sustain my faith – only God can do it. God’s grace sustains our faith. We can fall back on God precisely because God is THAT FATHER who does not abandon us; does not get upset when we say we wish he were dead or when we thumb our nose in God’s face for providing for us.
Call it grace by any name you like: common, prevenient, or original. Call it blueberry for all that it matters – while grace may provide the freedom to turn to God, it is still God’s grace and none of us have that in us by any measure other than what God gives to us. We so do not comprehend the fullness of grace.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:1-4)
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. (Psalm 91:4)
I cannot sustain a simple practice of praying simple breath prayers when I’m sick with a cold for crying out loud! What kind of faithless fool am I?? How wounded and weak am I?? I cannot sustain even something so simple. No. I cannot.
And this is why we dare not depend on or put faith and trust into our spiritual practices – they do not make us holy. They do not make us “good Christians.” Our penance only states the fact of our fallenness, not our ability to forgive ourselves.
Life sucks and we seek God because God is precisely where we are going to receive our help. God’s grace alone has sustained me. The habits which nurture holiness are gifts of grace to growing a more intimate relationship with Immanuel. They do not save us or redeem us. They make us aware of how much more we need to seek God when life sucks.
Image used with permission: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/tissue-box-1420439