Getting stepped on

There is always a moment of semi-betrayal in which the one thing that didn’t go through for you goes through for someone else. The ex-girlfriend who says she doesn’t want to be with anyone suddenly gets married. Your friend who says he never opens up then spills everything to a stranger. That job you wanted for years is grabbed up by your best friend — who is more qualified in every way, or less. You ask a small favor from a friend, get nothing for months, and she instantly grants a similar favor without being asked to someone not even close.

People can be absolutely mean and inconsiderate without even trying. They don’t know it. They won’t apologize for it — apologize for what? Eyes blinking, lips doing the innocent pout thing. Most people assume that everyone has the same expectations, reference points, and thought frequencies. If you’ve been alive long enough, you’ll discover that a blind spot in one person is a sensitive spot in another. But some can go a lifetime expecting everyone to get on their own orbit or die. If you don’t think that’s true, then it’s you.

There is this other type of semi-betrayal, when you go out of your way to help and they do what pleases them anyway. Imagine fixing someone’s tire and they immediately drive off a cliff, as if to spite you. I know I’m supposed to forgive — this does nothing to heal the hurt. The damage is done. The fifth time, the fiftieth time — it hurts every time. I wonder often how long it will take before the gauntlet is thrown down and it is said, “No more.” But I feel like everyone is worth it. No one should be counted out. Right?

Within this constant disappointment, I understand I have done the same to others. No one is free of the blood of men; we are all guilty of misleading. Sometimes apologies are not enough; sometimes apologizing is the best thing you can do. But cold hard negligence is despicable. An ignorance of the facts, no matter how petty, can only make us bitter people. If you have possibly hurt someone and choose to overlook it, you’ll pay with your own soul. You can only grow more aloof and insensitive and detached from reality. It’s not easy to come back from it. In the short term it may be hard to confess an unpaid debt, but it’s almost impossible in the long term to see the mountain of debt you have incurred. Most will choose to call it “life.” It’s really an abomination and tragedy all at once.

Being a follower of Christ, I get it: there will be rejection, loneliness, abandonment, pain. If there weren’t, I would be doing something wrong. But forgiveness is a tear-filled battle. Please be mindful of the lonely heart. Every scratch is a mortal wound. Your careless words are daggers. When you run to your own pleasures without considering the bystanders, you kill everyone including yourself. Some can handle that; some will not. I’ll still be there. I care about your feelings because I actually have feelings. Call me a dummy but someone has to be that guy.


Second place at life

Didn’t get the job, the college, the relationship, the results, the award — as many times as we’re rejected, shut down, cut off, laid off, and turned down, it hurts. No one ever gets used to it. I’ve had the wind knocked out of me in sparring class: it feels like getting punched in the soul every time. My immediate reaction isn’t to praise God, read the Bible, pray harder, read positive things, or listen to positive songs. I assume the fetal position and hate myself, hate life, clench my fists, grind my teeth, try not to cry. Maybe that’s not the spiritual thing to say. I’m speaking from an honest place. Life can hurt.

For most things, I was second or third choice. I got the job because no one else was available. I was picked because the other good picks were gone. I made it in the schedule because someone else cancelled. Us second-place people get used to the routine, but never used to the feeling of dejection. A certain bitterness builds that is surprisingly overwhelming: being the back-up rebound guy is never a happy thing. I should be grateful I was picked at all, but I keep thinking not like this.

Future plans can so easily become yesterday’s garbage. It’s not always the situation: sometimes it’s just you. My fault, my shortcomings, my mistakes, my stupidity — there is no one else to blame. It’s like an infectious diseases that corrupts every good intention. Your friends tell you, Keep going, don’t be mopey, pick yourself back up, you can get through this, with God you can do it. I mentally assent to these things; I agree with you bro. But we all know that storms take time to pass.

In moments like these, I run to cheap sin. I watch endless amounts of movies, read trashy tabloids, watch dirty stand-up routines, binge on processed foods: anything to get my mind off my mind. If I’m so low, why not go all the way. Why not compound my guilt by matching myself up with my failure. This is the easy way, the wrong way, the stupid way. I know. By the end of that fourth pint of ice cream, I feel like I deserve the guilt.

Seven and a half years ago when I swallowed that bottle of pills, I remember thinking afterward that God saved me for a reason. Seven and a half years later, there were spotty days when I’ve forgotten that reason. I should be thankful I can feel pain at all. It’s what we must go through to be better people: a perfect season does not make a better person. Sometimes I think it would be nice to be first place, to be the guy everyone is excited about, but second place is about the best it’ll get. If that’s true, okay. I’ll try to enjoy it. Amidst rejection, I believe God has a reason.

Why is the Old Testament so crazy? – Part Two

In answer to biblical genocides, bloodbaths, and God’s vengeful wrath.
Part One is here.

The God of the Old Testament is a relentless war-monger, we’re told, evidenced by God making the earth swallow a bunch of people with different opinions, feeding poisonous quails to the hungry, and killing two of Aaron’s sons (Moses’ nephews) when they messed up the worship service.

The mainstream culture latches onto these stories as total proof that God or the people who made Him up must be bloodthirsty and unreasonable. Certainly the evidence is stacked against the Judeo-Christian God of Hebrew Scripture and His presumably misogynistic ways. At a glance our humanist sensibilities react in disgust and dismissal.

Last time we stated two considerations:

1) The Old Testament passages about God’s gratuitous violence are not the only things the Bible says about God.

2) We can discover God by beginning from a wider scope of “measurement” than our current human categories.

My goal again is not to justify nor reconcile God’s actions — I am neither worthy enough nor intellectually capable of such a thing — but to reflect on His revealed nature from the Bible to get a deeper understanding of who He is. We immediately have contention with God because we think, “If I were God then I wouldn’t have done it that way.” I’m not sure this is the wisest path to understand Him. I’d prefer that fire cook food but not burn me; I’d prefer that ice never melt in my drink; I’d prefer that I can jump off a skyscraper and land at the bottom without injury; my preferences do not inform the objective reality.

Yet I believe I’m fair in questioning the more harsh aspects of God’s nature. I struggle, as many do, with embracing the more difficult biblical narratives. It’s a lifelong discovery. I’m not here to persuade or pander, but to think through together on these troubling matters. With humility I confess I will not always have the typical answer, or even whole ones. Many will claim this as “copping out”; I’d say it’s reasonable that I don’t have infinite knowledge.

For this entry we’ll discuss some about warfare and the Law.

Continue reading “Why is the Old Testament so crazy? – Part Two”

Why is the Old Testament So Crazy? – Part One

In answer to biblical genocides, bloodbaths, and God’s vengeful wrath.

There are multiple disturbing passages in the Old Testament that many worthy men and women have tried to defend.

Deuteronomy 2:32-36, 3:3-7, 7:2-6 describe the wholesale slaughter of entire cities including women, children, and their museums. In 1 Samuel 15, Samuel is disappointed that Saul did not completely wipe out the Amalekites and Saul consequently loses God’s political backing. David uses numerous images of profuse bleeding, breaking teeth inside mouths, and stillborn death (all in the same chapter). At one point Elisha calls out two malicious bears to maul some youth group kids. This isn’t to mention all the strict Hebrew laws like stoning to death the violators of the Sabbath or swearing in God’s name. Add to this the mainstream suspicion that the Bible condones slavery, misogyny, polygamy, incest, and war.

The great thinkers like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and Timothy Keller have remained largely quiet over the apparent bloodlust of God. Atheists and philosophers have leveraged such passages in outrage to show the Judeo-Christian God is not only evil and corrupt, but actively against any goodness at all.

My goal isn’t to persuade or even to justify. We all have pre-commitments to worldviews that will influence our conclusions regardless of the contrary explanations. Many Christians will try their best to defend God’s less humane actions with absolute fervor. Though their reasoning may be mostly sound, it is a futile endeavor to convince everyone with a satisfactory answer. No one likes to admit that they’re wrong because we’re so often convinced in our own mind by our own mind.

My goal is only to reflect thoughtfully over these matters. My obvious bias is that I believe God is good, but I will try to empathize on each side and investigate from there. Because of the disturbing nature of some of these passages, it doesn’t always lead to the typical defensive conclusion.

Continue reading “Why is the Old Testament So Crazy? – Part One”