You can do the thing. It starts with another thing.


You can really do the thing. You can really achieve the dream and pursue your goal and find recovery.

But it has to start with one thing. It has to start with letting go of a lot of other things.

Maybe that means your current group of people. Or one person. Or some late night habits. Or the thing you keep throwing money at. Or an ideal version of yourself that’s just impossible.

None of that is easy, I know. I have this habit of starting new stuff and then I quit halfway through. It’s because I look sideways, seeing what everyone else is doing. It’s discouraging. “I could never be that good,” the little voice says. Everyone else seems better. More witty or charming or articulate. I’m missing “it,” you know, the elusive charm they were born with. So I stop doing all the things. “They’re already giving the world what I can barely do myself,” is the voice that keeps me down.

I have to let go of comparison.

I have to let go of some romanticized self.

I have to let go of the fear that I won’t be well received, the fear of silent response, the fear of crickets and tumbleweed.

You can do the thing. It starts with letting go of fears, habits, harmful people, bad advice, even beliefs we once held dear.

You can really, really do the thing. The stuff that hinders can be shed.

Are you there, too? Is there anything you need to let go of? Anything you did let go of which changed it all for you?

— J.S.

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“You will never be ___.”




A little typewriter therapy:

I’ve heard this too many times.

“You will never be enough. You will never be okay. You will never be successful. You will never be happy. You will never be picked. You will never be loved. You will never be forgiven. You will never be trusted. You will never be friends again. You will never be at peace again. You will never be at home again. You will never be better.”

I know it’s a lie most of the time. But in the moment, in the worst of every downward spiral, there comes the voice that says “never.” It’s an irretrievable vacuum, like the lights are shutting off behind me and I’m getting chased by darkness. Getting nevered is to be exiled.

I had a math tutor in fourth grade who used to shout at me. “You will never be smart enough for this.” He made me write the Pythagorean theorem hundreds of times, until my hand was swollen, though I wasn’t sure how it was helping. For months, this tutor kept yelling how stupid I was. My parents never found out. I still think about this all the time.

I have had to grieve when “never” became true. Sometimes “never” does happen. Loss happens. All change involves loss. All loss is change. I have had to welcome “never” with a bitter embrace. I don’t like it. I still don’t.

I think there are times I must refuse to believe “never.” I have to know when to pick those battles. I have to fight that voice.

Are you dealing with this, too? What does it look like? Sound like? How do you get free? How do you fight this voice?
— J.S.

I Called the Suicide Lifeline

A couple weeks ago, I called the National Suicide Lifeline.

I was in a really bad place. I was ready to go, permanently. After two rings, I hung up the phone. I was too scared to talk with someone. I had heard sometimes they call the police on you, and really, I was afraid of what my neighbors would think if I was carted away by red and blue lights. But the very act of calling got me off the floor. It was enough to get my feet moving.

I know I’m not supposed to talk about this. I’m the guy who helps people. How can anyone trust me again? Will I be fired? What will they really say about me? What sort of hate mail will I get?

I worked at a church once where I told the lead pastor that I was suicidal; I was laughed off. Maybe everyone is tired of hearing the word “stigma,” but it still exists. Everyone says they care, but anyone can act like they care online. Up close, mental illness is an ugly thing that is hard for everyone involved.

Here’s how it happened: Someone had said something to me in anger, and of course, the person apologized. I felt in some ways I had deserved it. I was fine for a few days. And maybe for somebody who is “normal,” or maybe on any other day, it should’ve all been fine. But the words caught fire in my brain, got louder, loomed over me, and dug hooks in my stomach. I took ten Advil. I wanted to take the rest of the bottle. So I called the lifeline.

I have to make clear that none of this is the other person’s fault. I would never put that on someone. That’s too much responsibility for words said in a heated moment. I am, in the end, responsible for how I choose to react. I cannot rely on good or bad words to determine my health. And I realize my mental health has been a lifelong issue and will continue to plague me. No one should feel obligated to walk on thin ice around me. I have learned, not always willingly, to be resilient in a cruel world.

At the same time, words are powerful. They have the power to heal and destroy. Words are meaningful to me. They should not be used lightly. And I’m not impervious. I’m not some tough guy who gets tougher with every punch. There’s always that one exhausted, fragile morning when I can fall apart fast. I can’t be alone in that.

Whenever I think my battle with depression is getting easier, I’m reminded that progress doesn’t go on an upward track. It’s a real one-step-forward and two-steps-back situation. More like a thousand steps down. My progress on a graph would look like a fiscal nightmare. I’m not sure it’s healthy to look at progress on a graph this way. I can only see the one step in front of me. That’s about all I can stand to take right now.

I kindly and graciously ask that you pray for me. I know the world around us is blowing up. There is a lot to pray about. My problems are small. I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky to laugh and cry and eat today. May you still send a two second prayer? And I hope you may be kind to someone today. The only words that are worse than the harsh ones are the kind ones left unspoken.
— J.S.

“This Is The Ugly Truth About Jealousy And Friendships”



Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called “This Is The Ugly Truth About Jealousy And Friendships”. It’s based on my post here.

Here’s an excerpt:

Jealousy can cut short the empowering work of friendship and all the joy and vision it brings forth. I have two choices: I’m either your cheerleader or the loop of condemnation in your head. And I know which one I prefer to be around.

Read the rest here. Be blessed, friends!

J.S.

“8 Little Things You Deserve To Know About Forgiveness”



Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called “8 Little Things You Deserve To Know About Forgiveness”. It’s based on my post here.

Here’s an excerpt:

Forgiveness does not mean that the hurt should be forgotten or dismissed. In fact, true forgiveness actually confronts the very real hurt that was done to you and says, “This is not okay. This is something terrible that happened and it requires you make reparations.” The people who hurt you should still be held accountable, with all the mercy you can give and with all the justice that they’re owed.

Read the rest here. Be blessed, friends!

J.S.

“But What About Their Sin?”

Very often when I talk about the love of God, some of the first go-to responses are, Well what about repenting from sin? What about conforming to the image of Christ? What about purity and holiness and the narrow road? What about wrath and hell and judgment? What about discipline and submission and obedience? What about selling all your stuff and getting wrecked and radical for Jesus?

I do believe these things are important and they need discussion. A God of love must also be a God of justice, and Jesus had some very hard things to say to us. We can’t skip them. I’m completely against sugarcoating and watering it down – the truth exists regardless of my whimsy. Christianity is not a feel-good fuzzy for tickles and giggles, and it really does require your whole life.

I just think that some of us say sin and hell and holiness with a certain type of glee that’s shamelessly smug and lopsided. It’s with a hasty thoughtlessness that doesn’t consider the nuances of a whole person. Sometimes “sin” has been a person’s entire value, culture, and identity for their entire lives, and to expect a person’s worldview to shift so dramatically in a single sit-down is to play God. We expect people to change and get qualified before walking in the door, when this is the very opposite of how we each got inside – by a divine miracle. You and I don’t make that happen.

My job is that I’d point to Christ, and you would get to a place where he would challenge you on something you had never considered, and whether overnight or over a lifetime, you would solidify your own convictions.

And if we’re not speaking from a grieving, sacrificial, truly concerned heart, then it doesn’t matter how much we “stand for truth.” A jerk is still a jerk, no matter how upstanding we look.

Continue reading ““But What About Their Sin?””

“5 Little Ways To Bring Yourself Closer To Your Faith”


Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called “ 5 Little Ways To Bring Yourself Closer To Your Faith”It’s based on my post here.

Here’s an excerpt:

Leave your phone inside and walk the neighborhood. Talk with Him. Tell Him about your day, what’s been on your mind, what’s bothering you. Thank Him for the trees and the breeze and the sun. If it’s hard to talk with Him, tell Him. If you’re hurting, tell Him. If you’re mad at Him, tell Him.

Read the rest here. Be blessed, friends! — J.S.

[Art by pg7inc]


“The Five Worst Romanticized Crushes That Will Completely Mess You Up”


Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called “The Five Worst Romanticized Crushes That Will Completely Mess You Up”. It’s about dangerously obsessing over a false version of someone. It’s based on my post here.

Here’s an excerpt:

The darker problem with “crushing” is that it occasionally turns a real live person into a trophy, a sort of non-independent rubber statue imprisoned on a pedestal, and if you ever finally reached it, you’d either squeeze it too hard or please it too much. In both cases, both people lose.

Relationships are hard work, and absolutely require more than the initial illusion of fleeting chemicals in our easily tricked brains. That rush of first feelings is overwhelming, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grander scheme: and we could save ourselves a lot of trouble if we took up Taylor Swift to “count to ten, take it in, this is life before you know who you’re gonna be.”


Read the rest here. Be blessed, friends!
J.S.


“Sorry, But Your ‘Perfect’ Partner Doesn’t Exist”


Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called “Sorry, But Your ‘Perfect’ Partner Doesn’t Exist”. It’s about the over-romanticizing of finding “The One.” It’s based on my post here.

Here’s an excerpt:

The person you’ll end up with is going to be their own person with their own hopes, dreams, goals, anxieties, and weird little habits. They’re not a checklist trophy that will meet your every size or quota.

They’re going to be way different and in fact way more interesting than the stitched up hologram made from half-baked movie cliches and choir-preaching memes.


Read the rest here. Be blessed, friends!
J.S.

I Will Disappoint You.


Eventually I’ll say something that you’ll totally disagree with. I will disappoint you. I’ll come off shrill, inconsiderate, ignorant, and misinformed. Your favorite writer or pastor or celebrity will miss an angle or fumble a point or miss the whole thing. You’ll think, “How could I have ever liked this guy?” And we completely dismiss and demonize this person based off one sentence, one phrasing, one particular choice of word. I’ve done it, too. Farewell, forever.

Maybe it’s for a legitimate reason, and they really did go too far. I just wish we could give a little chance for conversation over coffee. It’s possible this person misspoke, because they’re just a person, and they don’t always get it right. It could be that they need the patience of dialogue to re-examine what they said, instead of the hasty hate-train that offers no fair exchange. I want your help. I want to know when I’m wrong – but it’s hard to hear what’s right when everyone is yelling. I want the freedom to make mistakes so that I’m not afraid to learn from you. I don’t want to be afraid that you’ll freak out when I don’t phrase things exactly as you’d like. We can tell when you’re ego-boosting your platform and winning internet-points with the choir. I’m not sure if you would listen to that sort of yelling, either.

I know there are some non-negotiables that we must agree on, like common dignity and humanity, but none of us will ever agree on everything. And that’s okay. I think we can have the nuance to disagree over a few things, but not judge an entire person based off a few degrees of difference. We can disagree and still be friends. It’s in our disagreements that we can become better together, and not worse.

– J.S.

Is It Okay to Be Angry with God?

Anonymous asked a question:

What if I am angry at God. How do you cope with the frustration and anger towards Him?

Hey dear friend, I’m really sorry. There must be many things happening internally and externally, and I’m with you and for you. So is everyone here.

I have to tell you up front: I’d much rather be mad with God than mad without Him.

That’s not some cute little statement that only works abstractly on Instagram. I’m dead serious. If you’re angry with God, at the very least, you’re talking with Him. He’d rather you be mad at Him than displacing that anywhere else. God isn’t put off by our barest, most raw emotions: because He made them, and He made you, and He’s going to work with that.

Continue reading “Is It Okay to Be Angry with God?”

From Atheism to Faith: Discovering the Hidden Story of Humanity


About my journey from atheism to faith, and how our historical impulse for religion points to the hidden story of humanity. I also engage with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and his take on religious metafictions.

For my seminar and Q&A “Jesus for Atheists,” click here.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/jsparkblog

Love y’all, friends!
— J.S.

A Reminder, Dear Friend.

 


You are loved.

You might have heard that a million times, but it’s no less true.

You do have a Creator. He is with you. He is bigger than your situation and closer than your deepest hurt. He’s not mad. He is cheering for you and rooting for you this very second. He’s okay about all the things before. He sent His Son for that very reason.

You can put down the blade. You can throw away the pills. You can quit replaying those regrets in your head. You can quit the inner-loop of self-condemnation. You can forget your ex. You can walk away from the porn. You can resolve your conflicts right now. You can sign up to volunteer at that shelter. You can thank your parents for everything. You can hug the person next to you. You can tell the waiter, “Jesus loves you.” You can go back to church. You don’t have to sit in the back. You don’t have to prove your worth to the people you’ve let down. You don’t have to live up to everyone else’s vision for your life. You’re finally, finally free.

You are loved.  I am loved.

As much as I love you, dear friend, He loves you infinitely more.

Believe it. Walk in it. Walk with Him.

God is in the business of breathing life into hurting places.

This is what He does, even for the least likely like you and me.

— J.S.


Interviewed by The Parady Weekly


I was interviewed by Heather Parady on her podcast, The Weekly Parady. We talk about my hospital work, recent events and protests, and how to deal with disagreement. You can also download it directly here.


Be blessed and much love to you, friends!
J.S.

I Could’ve Saved Him, But I Didn’t Know.

I have to tell you about Roland.

I met Roland in my third and final year of seminary. For my final year, I went to North Carolina to the main campus for a month-long crash course. At the seminary gym, Roland introduced himself to me.

He was tall, a bit desperate, with shifty eye contact, the sort of good-looking guy who probably wasn’t so handsome in grade school.

He followed me around the gym, offering to spot me, copying some of my exercises. We exchanged shallow pleasantries between sets, and at the end, he said, “Maybe we can, uh, like have coffee this week.”

“Sure,” I said, unsure if I wanted to offer my number. I take longer to make friends. Trust issues, I suppose. “I’ll see you at the gym tomorrow?” I said. “Then we’ll make plans?”

Roland grinned, a really sheepish, aw-shucks sort of grin. “Yeah, yeah!” he said, practically clapping. “Okay!”

I didn’t see Roland the rest of the week, and the crash course ended. I went back home to Florida and forgot I had ever met him.

A few months later, one of the professors on the Florida satellite campus made an announcement at the start of class:

“A student named Roland committed suicide this week.”

Roland’s girlfriend had broken up with him. The break-up had happened months ago and he was too lonely to go on. He had swallowed a bottle of pills and went into a coma. His parents decided to withdraw life support.

I remembered Roland’s puppy-dog shout: “Yeah, yeah, okay!”

I understood why he had tailed me at the gym. Why he was so quick to find a friend. Why he wanted to meet for coffee.

After class, I ran to a restroom and threw up everything inside of me.

I could’ve … I should’ve … I didn’t.

I let someone die.

For years, I felt responsible for Roland’s death. I’ve blamed myself over and over, seconds before my head would hit the pillow, remembering his dark-encircled eyes, replaying his voice on mental vinyl, losing sleep and softer dreams.

Could I have done something?

Should I have done something?

Continue reading “I Could’ve Saved Him, But I Didn’t Know.”

Happy Easter, Jimmy

Dear cousin Jimmy,

You died about fifteen years ago. When I met you, you were screaming in pain but you didn’t know why. You were born almost completely brain-dead; you could only eat, drink, breathe, scream, laugh, smile, and cry. I had the privilege of making you laugh once by making a funny face. Or maybe you just laughed at my face.

Continue reading “Happy Easter, Jimmy”

Why Do We Need the Cross and Resurrection?


Why did Jesus have to die? What does the Resurrection do? Why did Jesus punch death in the face?
The story of those three fateful days in three minutes. And why the Resurrection is just as important as the Cross.

Subscribe to my channel here.

Happy Resurrection Weekend and love y’all!
— J.S.

[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions]


Spoken Word: Friday / Saturday / Sunday – Death, Doubt, and Deliverance



Hey friends, this is a Spoken Word performance that I gave with Yale University Students in CT. About the three fateful days from Jesus’s crucifixion to resurrection, told from the viewpoint of a modern day disciple.



To download directly: http://traffic.libsyn.com/thewayeverlasting/JS_Park_-_Fri_Sat_Sun_Spoken_Word_1-21-18.mp3

I’m also on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/j-s-park-the-way-everlasting-podcast/id395594485?mt=2

Be blessed and much love to you, friends! — J.S.

“Your Theology is Wrong” — But Says Who?


Really, when someone says “I disagree with your theology,” what they’re saying is, “I disagree with your interpretation of theology based on my interpretation of theology.” So where did that interpretation come from?

Trace it back and it’s always from someone else. A person. With a tiny brain like yours & mine. Augustine or Calvin or Nietzsche or Osteen. Some church leader a thousand years ago, or some book written last year, or some preacher guessing at the Bible the best he or she knows how.

I’m not entirely sure how to discover which interpretation is the right one. Each of us have so much self-interest that we can use the Bible (and anything else) to justify any position we want, even under the guise of “the common good” or “your benefit.”

But if my opinion and my interpretation of the Bible are always matching up, then it’s possible I’m just making God into my own image and forcing my idea of God to conform to what I want. I’m then just colluding with myself as my own accomplice into the crimes I want to commit.

Then I wouldn’t be in dialogue with God, but rather manipulating a robot-idol that I designed to do my bidding and to turn off at my convenience. If the Bible is timeless truth, then I’d expect that it would sometimes press against what I hold to be personally and culturally true.

And we are all chronologically landlocked by harmful ideas that must be challenged and changed. I believe that if the Bible is true and read correctly, it would have to usurp the destructive and affirm the constructive. Still, I assume that these ideas can be confronted and rebuked.

In the end, I don’t think the Bible is some amorphous putty that can be twisted any which way. It‘s made some things pretty clear. Jesus said plainly: I must love people. There’s no equivocation or wavering there. How it happens might differ, but that it happens at all must not.

J.S.


Photo from Unsplash