emarkthomas

Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.

Monthly Archives: April 2012

It Gets Better.

I was reminded today about my high school experience, and just how different I am from the young man I was then. What I know, what I believe, how I see the world and respond to things. So different. I thought about the It Gets Better campaign and ruminated on what kind of video I would send myself at 17 if I could. I’d tell myself that it’s only a season, and that it does get better. Don’t get discouraged, work hard with what and where you are, and that sooner or later seasons will change. I’d remind myself that my perspective was too small to accurately judge the value of what was happening.

Then I realized that that same advice can apply to me here, today.

So I’m going to pretend that I got a video from a 37 year old Ethan. He’s telling me not to lose heart, and to hold on even now, because my perspective is far too small to accurately gauge what’s happening. He’s telling me to work hard and love well. He’s telling me that it does get better.

Thank God. I was beginning to lose hope.

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Here we go again.

Have you ever found yourself thinking that your life is just one big cycle?

I have.

My cycle usually revolves around me screwing up.

Me? Nah. Well… maybe.

My life is pretty much the same circuit: I take a step out, learn some things, grow a lot, and right when I’m feeling pretty good about who I am and what I do… WHAM!

I find out that I’ve screwed up in some terrible way. Now it’s not always “out of the blue” or whatnot – quite often it’s something that I know will probably come back to get me sooner or later. But sometimes it is completely out of the blue. Something I wasn’t expecting at all.

Like this time. I hurt some friends, I think. Badly from the sounds of it. I didn’t see it coming, and still don’t know exactly how. But I do know that it has to do with my words on this blog. Somewhere along the way, I said some things that left at least one good buddy stinging. Open mouth, insert foot.

I’m not sure yet just what it was that I wrote or exactly how it was taken, but that really doesn’t matter at all. I’m not in the least interested in defending myself and rushing to give context to justify “my side” of the story.

And why?

Because this guy is my buddy. He’s lived love to me, so very well, over and over so many times that I can’t even count. I love this guy. I love his wife and kids. They are precious to me, having carved out a spot in my heart through time, trials, and testing.

So it doesn’t matter what I said, or what I meant, or how he took it.

What matters is reconciliation, and stepping up to the plate. It’s been on my mind rather heavily today, and I found myself talking to Papa about it. I realized a few things. Well, re-realized them. “Remembered things that I once knew” is the phrase I like to use.

Words are powerful. Recklessly throwing them around has become the norm in Western culture, spurred on by this idea of not being “fake.” I get that. But maybe sometimes I need to stop and remember that it’s entirely possible to retain authenticity and yet carefully filter and choose my words as well. Taking an extra few minutes to form an answer doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m thinking of how to lie to you; most often it means that I”m thinking of how to respond in a way that loves everyone involved well: you and me. Because if I just say what you want me to say, that’s not loving myself well. But if I spout off without thinking, I could end up hurting myself and you with a careless tongue.

So perhaps I also need to be much more careful with my words in my writing, as well. I forget that not everyone reading these posts is privy to my thoughts, and so of course the only thing they’ll have to go on are the words I write. And if those words leave someone I love hurt and bleeding…? Yikes.

I think I’ve learned, these last few days, about loving people well. Again. Deeper. And that’s not so bad, is it? With that perspective I begin to think that sure, I may be in a constant cycle of screwing up, but each time brings a chance to grow a bit more. A chance for the principles of the gospel to expand a bit more in my heart and mind; to become rooted more firmly in my soul and from there to reach out further and more effectively to those around me.

So thank you, Papa, for another chance to understand how to live love better in this life I’m living. I’m sorry for being reckless with my words, and I’m especially sorry for the pain it has caused. I recognize that placing value in people above all else means doing just that: placing more value in my buddy than myself and my ideas and thoughts poured out on a blog. Help me to do that, Papa.

Help me to do just that.

Four years ago, and four years from now.

Every now and again I like to stop and remember back to where I was (and who I was) in a different season.  I often do it like this: today is 5 April 2012. The fifth day of April is my sister Jennifer’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Jennie!) Where and who was I on the fifth day of April a few years ago?

Well, on 5 April 2008 I was on a non-stop flight from Hong Kong to New York. I was sitting next to Stephanie Whitmore, who is now married and has a new name. We literally talked for five straight hours without realizing how much time had passed. If you’d have told me that day that just six months from then I’d be at Stephanie’s wedding and seeing the last of her for the next three and a half years, I’d not have believed you. If you had told me that I was really just six months away from not only the end of my friendship with Stephanie but was also going to launch heavily into a new phase of a terribly complicated and drawn-out self-sabotage cycle that would completely wreck my life and decimate my communities and relationships, I’d not have believed you.

But it’d be the truth.

I look back to that 23 year old Ethan, sitting on that plane, and think of all the terrible mistakes he’d already made. Then I think of how they all pale in comparison to the terrible mistakes he’s about to make in the next year and a half of his life. He’s literally going to destroy, systematically, every relationship he has in his life through his lies, his deceit, and his monstrous self-centeredness.

He’s going to find himself, within just a few short years, heartbroken and humbled at his terrible sins.

But then I think on who that Ethan was, really, and what he knew and believed. Suddenly the desire to be able to go back and keep him from making all those terrible mistakes vanishes, because if I did that then *I* would vanish. At 23 years old, I was sure that I was gay, but I really had no idea what that meant, and there was a big part of me that was still very concerned about being sent to hell for it. At 23 I was still very much naive about life and the consequences of my actions and decisions. At 23 I just couldn’t comprehend being 27 and knowing what I know, having experienced and learned what I have experienced and learned. It may have been learned through terrible hardship and with a wretched cost, but the experiences and lessons are so worth the price paid that I daren’t imagine a me without them now.
 
And it strikes me that even though I know that my 23 year old self, sitting on that airplane, isn’t aware that his biggest regrets and most shameful betrayals are still ahead of him… well, I know that he’s going to make it through that okay. Papa’s going to look out for him, forgive him, grant him grace, and provide for him. Papa’s got a plan for him that will bring about growth, reconciliation, and peace. That kid’s gonna go through hell from 2008 on, but by 5 April 2012 he’ll sure have learned a lot about life, love, and the Father.
 
And when I think on that, suddenly all my problems and my worries about the future and my current circumstances seem… completely manageable. Because I’m sure that on 5 April 2016 I’ll be looking back at my 27 year old self and saying much the same thing I’ve said about me at 23 years of age.
 
And I’ll know then, at 31, that Papa already had his hand on me, and worked to faithfully and lovingly take me further up and further in. Can’t say that I have any clue what that will look like, but I certainly believe that it’ll be true.
 
In short… God’s big enough for my life.
 
And thank goodness he is.

Value people.

It’s been quite some time since I found myself thinking that it’s probably more in line with the heart of the Father to value people over all else. By that I mean I like the idea of cutting through discussion, conflict, scandal, etc. to just value and love people over who or what they may bring to the table.

Someone may come to me with something that I don’t understand, something that makes me extremely uncomfortable. But if I move to value that person above my feeble understanding of “Biblical morality” and rules, then I show up to love. To listen. To walk through life together. I don’t have to understand. I just have to love.

Today I came across this concept in a blog and I loved how the author, Scot Miller, phrased it. He said this:

“Which reminds me that I hope I am prejudiced to value human beings over moral or theological principles.

When Jesus was caught breaking the Law by gathering grain on the sabbath, Jesus said to his accusers, “The sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

In a similar way, I suspect that the Bible and moral principles are made for human beings, and not the other way around.”

 

Oh, I love that.

The sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the sabbath.

Value people over your ideas of righteousness?

Help me to do just that, Papa.