Tag Archives: identity

The Great Frustration

Note: In an effort to bring my blog up-to-date, I’ve been reading old journals and looking into old issues, investigations, and funny stories I once had. Rereading this journal reminds me that I don’t always see the bigger picture. Having said that, I don’t know how much of this I still agree with. When I wrote it, I was hurt because someone accused me of not being “close enough to God” and used it as a weapon to tear down my heart when that person had no knowledge of my spiritual journey and just assumed the accusation was correct. Like all things that frustrate me, I had to write down my thoughts in an effort to make sense of them. I don’t necessarily agree with everything I once wrote here because I can see where I’m basically making similarly misunderstood assumptions about people. But writing under the influence of pain can blight our ability to think with love and wisdom. So, the following is another example of what happens when my heart is broken.

Originally posted to MySpace on:

March 6, 2007:

I’m tired of letting this control me: this issue of who I am, and how I’m perceived. Since when was it anyone’s business to define my identity for me?

I still find myself asking God to heal my heart. And I think that’s a given for any of us—we all have something that breaks it. But I’m tired of asking for the healing when the things that keep breaking it are out of my control. Just a few minutes ago I caught myself asking for this—for this healing—and realized I’m asking because I haven’t let go of my hurt.

And why not?

I don’t know if my relationship with God is exactly what it’s meant to be, or if I’m missing something. Frankly, I don’t think God is keeping score. I have a relationship with Him—He knows it, I know it, what more is there to say about it? As far as I know, I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I know my relationships with people falter, though. Today, for example, I had one of the worse days at work that I’ve had in awhile. There wasn’t any one defining thing that made it horrible, it was just a medley of sour feelings, great frustration, and all around chaos that made being there awful. And I found myself getting angry. Over what? Over picky people? Over low pay? Over my own exhaustion? Frankly, there was nothing worth getting angry about. And yet, I still had to ask God for the strength to love others.

Such a strange thing to ask for at 2:30 in the afternoon, isn’t it?

Truth was, I found myself resenting the people around me: the strangers, the friends, the whole bloody circumstance. And it was torturing me. It was just another Tuesday in Boynton Beach, but I wanted so badly to run away and never look back. Much like I’ve felt about my place here for the last, say, decade or more.

It comes back to my broken heart—that lonely thing that has hope, but little outlet; the thing that allows me to appreciate my family and the few good friends that stuck by me for years and years, despite my bursts of intensity and self-reflection, but recognizes that they can only give so much; the thing that relies on God for fulfillment, and yet becomes seduced by the holes that He leaves open for others to fill. That broken heart—a device weakened by misunderstanding, unfairly shaped by frustration—that thing I offer to God for healing but can’t seem to free from the things that broke it.

The wounds have festered. They’ve mounted on top of each other. Simple joys have been compromised by stupid things. And I’m tired of it.

It’s time to get honest here: my wounds are relational. There are several things I’m unhappy with, but only one seems never-ending. Lately, I’ve found myself resenting women—that frail gender that wants to be more like men every day. And it makes no sense. My mom faced trial after trial just to make sure I had a decent upbringing. As my first example of what a woman was supposed to be, she did one of the best jobs a mom could do, enduring all sorts of crap from my dad, from demanding employers, and even the church (the ‘80s / no grace version) just to make sure her family had provision. That character should’ve engrained a firm understanding of what a good woman looks like in me. It was a true testament of strength.

To have that as my base, my respect for women should currently be through the roof (as it once was). But then, that might be part of the problem. Maybe she’s one of the few women in my life to ever understand what it means to be a good woman. And maybe as a kid, it blinded me from the reality that I’d face as I grew older, when that gender would come to mean more to me—that women, for the most part, just don’t get it anymore. And maybe it’s the realization that a good woman is such a rare thing to find that brought my heart into this accelerated descent that I can’t pull out of. In the end, it’s a scary thought. What do I do with that?

Not to say I think all women have missed the mark, granted. But I do wonder why, out of more than a thousand examples to shape my view, only fifty or so seemed to get the point.

In the end, I’m just frustrated. If not for the media blitz of Bennifer, Brangelina, Ronald (Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump—one can hope for such a pairing), Maybelline, Victoria Secret, and Budweiser, then I probably wouldn’t care that there are so few good women out there who might respect me. But add that to the endless words buzzing my ears at work, the endless surveys poking my chest on MySpace (which I usually don’t read, but you get the point), and pretty much 95 percent of the things and the people I encounter each day telling me it’s so bleeding important, and I can’t help but to kind of care. So the frustration mounts when good women chase after dirty guys, when bad women creep around in their shadows, and all women think I’m a nice guy and therefore must run for the hills.

Of course, I’m probably responsible for most of my broken state. And that’s the point here: I’m tired of letting these creatures with their psychological imbalances (not the fifty or so good ones that actually take sensible risks and demonstrate a fair amount of strength in the face of chaos) shape my identity. And more so, I’m tired of dwelling on the ones who broke my heart.

I hope by writing this journal, I can start releasing the hurt, to claim that I won’t be beaten by unfairness or disrespect. Though, I know I’m taking a great risk in posting it, since it might consequently leave me branded as a jerk (or at least a misguided soul). But then, that assumes the people labeling me in such a way think they know me, when the truth is, they don’t, and I’m far from this.

Of course, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that we guys aren’t screwed up, too. (My father didn’t get the point, and it often pissed me off that a careless guy like him still ended up with a good woman. And maybe that lessened my mom’s quality—she herself would admit that she can’t choose a good man worth crap, probably because there are fewer good men in this world than there are good women—and, to be honest, that’s part of my gripe with women—that they can sit here telling me I’m a great guy, and then go run off with some complete A-hole who doesn’t give a flying flip about them (my dad cared, granted, he just had a LOT of baggage that he couldn’t shake and it wrecked the family).) But, as a man, I know where I’m weak and I know where I’m strong, and I’m at least trying to improve on those areas where I’m not the latter. Therefore, for a girl to tell me I need greater intimacy with God because I admitted I was interested in her (and was hurt that she didn’t reciprocate) is just disrespectful—it attempts to invalidate my relationship with God to get her off the hook, which frankly, I don’t need—and I don’t need such a wound infecting my identity. Like all men, I have my issues, too, but I’m still a good man as far as I know; unless there’s something I fail to see. But if everyone who’s taken the time to know me can agree to this, then it’s probably true.

The women to come and go in my life, friends and family alike, I care for. I still believe in Chivalry, even if everyone else thinks it’s dead, I still believe in kind words, and I still believe in that dangerous little word called “love.” To let resentment creep in about these same people just sickens me. That is my issue, and it’s something I’m giving to God, even as I type this. But to let go of the resentment, I have to accept the fact that the people I care about will continue with their issues, and I have to be man enough to deal with it. To let a few misguided souls try to make me into something I’m not so they can feel better—so they can feel less challenged (accepting that I have a deep nature), or conversely, let themselves continue with their own destructive habits (choose a jerk over a good man)—I just can’t accept that. I am who God made me, and I’m not going to apologize for that. My family accepts me, my close friends accept me, and most importantly, God accepts me. So why should I start becoming the A-hole? Why should I lower myself into the shallows so a girl won’t feel “crowded”? I won’t resent women anymore—why bother?—but I won’t lower myself to their standards, either. If they don’t want a good man, then that’s their problem. I’ve gone thirty years without a girl by my side—I think I’m getting pretty good at it.

The important thing here is that I let it go, that I stop letting the arrows of discontent pierce me.

My prayer: “Lord Jesus, spare me the burden of becoming something I’m not. Give me the grace to be who I am without accepting misguided influence, or to offer it back for the sake of pleasing others. Let truth speak through my lips, even when it’s hard to hear it. Put people in my life who will help me grow, but let me love those, still, who have been like weeds to me, and let me know which is which, that I might recognize life-giving words from the poisonous ones. Most of all, be enough in my life that these things, for better or worse, will be merely a side trip, where You are the Great Adventure. Let nothing, no woman, no circumstance, no hurtful thing steal my joy. Don’t let me slip into despair from a broken heart—what’s done is done, and it’s up to You to heal me now. Help me to let go of the things that have damaged me, but transform me with Your Spirit that they may not strike another successful blow. Shield me from Satan’s onslaught, as he will do whatever he can to destroy me. You alone are good, though I thank You for the blessings you give, and for seeing the good in me. Be who You are through me, and let not my identity or my faith be damaged. Give me Your grace that I might reflect it back to others, especially to those who’ve injured me. Give me the grace to forgive myself when I still fail in spite of these things. I love You and thank You for helping me through all things. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

7-11, Cherry Coke, and Judging My Identity

Originally posted to MySpace on:

February 25, 2007:

An Opening Narration:

It’s Sunday evening, the sky is overcast, a little damp, and the sun is a half-hour from retreating for the night. I got a late start this morning—4pm to exact—so I thought I’d make up some lost time by doing, well, nothing. Sunday is my first-priority chill day: a day that I prefer quiet, instead of rock bands on the radio; a day involving the adequate consumption of Starbucks and lemon-flavored pound cakes (usually at the same time); and a day spent reading a book or visiting another three hours in dreamland. Sunday, is what I like to call my “leave me alone” day.

But since life isn’t perfect, I decided to work on my novel editing today.

I started my revisions of Chapter 4 a week ago, and so far I’ve cut five pages. Not bad, considering the page count went from thirty-eight to thirty-three, but that’s still too much for one chapter. It’s also too much for my ADD, so after about twenty minutes of work today, I decided to walk down to 7-11 for a soft drink—for a recharge.

A Brief Description of Me:

Being a resident of upscale Palm Beach County, I like to dress presentably whenever I go out in public, you know, to fit in with society. Usually that means a pair of jeans, some kind of shirt, and flip-flops—sometimes because the beach will find its way into my itinerary, but mainly because I hate wearing socks. It’s what I do to blend in with the shallowness of this town.

It doesn’t change who I am, mind you, just what I look like.

But if the public means 7-11, I’ll usually go as I am. Today, that means lazing around in my blue-checkered shorts and a dark blue shirt with a pink bleach stain across the bottom, and, of course, my flip-flops. I’m also unshaven, which is a chronic habit of mine since I just hate shaving.

A Setup in Story Form:

To satisfy my ADD, I threw on my sandals, grabbed my wallet, and headed down the street toward the convenience store. A few minutes later, after passing through the ghettos of unincorporated Lake Worth, dodging a guy with a dog and another guy with a plastic bag, I reached my destination. It was there that I found my treasure: a bottle of Cherry Coke.

When I left the store with drink in hand, I passed a woman who might’ve been homeless, or just down on her luck, or up on her luck but chiseled with a tobacco problem; I couldn’t tell. She didn’t seem to notice me, so I kept walking. Further down the street, I passed a couple of guys riding their bikes to some unknown destination (a staple in this neighborhood as common as an airplane flying into an airport). Again, they had their place to go, and I kept walking. A couple of minutes later, I was home.

That’s when I started writing this blog—not my Chapter 4 rewrite, but this blog. What caused my derailment?

A Discussion of Identity:

I know who I am. I’m a laid-back guy in his early thirties who reads books, watches movies, writes fiction, drives a Honda, eats pepperoni pizzas, wears flip-flops, and likes to escape. In fact, if one were to put the sum of my superficial parts together, the escape theory is already defined. In the eyes of man, these things are often acceptable.

I’m also a man who waits until the absolute right time to make moves into the direction of his desires, ensuring that it’s the right thing and the right moment. Sometimes that means staying where he’s at, despite his angst, until the hour comes that a better opportunity arises. Sometimes that means having the ability to love someone fiercely for who they are, but backing off if that friendship isn’t flying or wanted. Sometimes that means fighting for contentment with situations, even when everyone else around him has what he wants. In the eyes of man, these things are risky.

I’m also a Christian who knows the freedom of Christ, but often forgets what that means, blaming myself for when things go wrong. I’m a struggling “journey” man who rarely takes things for face value, as face value often turns reality awry, but somehow accepts matters with naivete. I’m an explorer who has to pray everything on his heart until he finds something that fits God’s will, but gets discouraged when answers aren’t given. I’m an analytical mind that has to make sense out of every situation, when sometimes the answer is faith alone. In the eyes of man, these things are dangerous.

Anyone who might’ve seen me walking down the street this afternoon—in my scrubbed out clothes and unshaven face—would never pick this out about me. They wouldn’t know about the Honda or the freedom in Christ. They would just see some goofball in flip-flops walking through a ghetto. And this is assuming they would take notice at all.

And why should they notice me? Why am I any of their concern?

With that in mind, whom would they choose to notice? The rich man in the Mercedes? The model in the bikini? The celebrity in the tabloid? These people are regarded at levels most of us would never know. But who are they? Do they even know themselves?

I’m not rich, stellar in looks, or famous. Should I be jealous of the ones who are? What if I put on my nicer clothes, shaved my face, and walked through the ritzy district of Palm Beach? Would I be respected then? Maybe. Would I change who I am? No. What if I became any or all of the three (a rich and modelesque celebrity)? Would I be any less laid-back?

On my walk home, a father pulled out of a side street leading into a disheveled neighborhood. The first thing I thought about was what he did for a living. Was he a tradesman, a shop owner, or a civil servant? How much did he pay a month to live in his crappy neighborhood? Was his income high enough that he could buy a nice house in Alabama, but not enough to go above renting a roach-infested shack in South Florida? Did the difference even bother him?

The fact remains, God expects us all to make do with what we’re given. If we’re given a lot, we’re to take care of a lot. If we’re given little, then we don’t have much to concern us. Our wealth on earth isn’t an issue if we have contentment. The problem is with pride.

I’m sure a restaurant like the Rainforest Café has great food and great atmosphere. The rich can eat there and look good doing it as much as they want. But would it satisfy their stomachs any better than Applebee’s would satisfy the stomachs of the ghetto residents?

And what of Donald Trump? Can we honestly believe that he doesn’t spend the occasional Sunday sitting in his living room in just his underwear while drinking a beer?

Rich men look down on poor men, while poor men envy rich men, but why? Who’s the better of the two when all things pass away? Doesn’t Jesus promise riches in Heaven to all that believe in Him? Should the fact that I sleep in a garage bother me when this same garage kept the rain off my head an hour ago? Don’t mansions and wooden shacks provide the same primary amenity: shelter? Why should status get in the way of respect?

I’m not writing this out of any particular emotion. It was just something I thought about while I took my walk, and thought it was worth sharing. Pride and envy, evidently, have their place in the Seven Deadly Sins for a reason. When all that’s stripped away, we still have our identities and our love of others to discover, two things that are glossed over when societal corruption gets in the way.

A Digression into My Heart:

Having said all of this, I find it’s still hard to accept that reality, especially when circumstances test its mettle.

After a season of peace, I started getting antsy about my life’s place again. I’m a struggling writer with this beast of a project I can’t seem to finish (I have twenty of these chapters to edit). I wait tables for a living, which, quite frankly, I hate doing. I no longer appreciate living in South Florida. I’ve pushed people I cared deeply about out of my life. I’ve been waiting for God to heal my broken heart. I’ve felt, in a sense, disoriented.

Last Monday, a friend of mine in Washington (the state) used a phrase that encouraged my rediscovery of joy in the Lord. He said, as a prayer, “Lord, be who You are through me.” He wasn’t saying, “let me emulate You.” He was saying, “Live through me. Let who I am be who You are through me.” It brought the essence of identity back into perspective. He also told me about a change that he had made in his own prayer life. For years he prayed that God might take away the things that caused him to stumble, but the Spirit told him recently that there was a better thing to ask for. Instead of asking for things to be taken away, the prayer should’ve been, “Transform my heart so that these things no longer sway me.” Perhaps that was asking for things to no longer define us, but letting God alone define us, making our hearts pure and un-butchered. That was the way I understood it anyway, that taking things away was merely a plea for escape, whereas transformation invites strength in character.

I’ve spent the last week dwelling on these prayers, allowing God to reshape who I am. Not that anything of the sort would happen overnight, but I certainly felt more peace over my circumstances lately: accepting my place in South Florida, but waiting on an opportunity to go somewhere else; accepting my position as a server, but trusting that the season will end soon; accepting the abandonment of trusted friends, but believing that God will eventually send someone into my life who understands who I am and can accept it. Allowing God’s peace into my life allowed me to have a great week, too.

Of course, being that I’m human, those feelings of contentment have the ability to waver. This weekend proved that.

With me knowing my weakness, the walk, therefore, put me into a moment of reflection. Why am I so eager to bolt out of here? Perhaps the fact that I escaped my moderately quiet bedroom to hear loud rock music blasting through the house influenced my relapse into ill-content. Why am I so hell-bent on getting a solid career? Perhaps the looming debt I can’t penetrate because my income is so poor from serving cheapskates entered my mind for a moment. Why am I so torn asunder from weak-hearted women? Perhaps thinking about the friends who always had the right thing to say, but didn’t want my friendship anymore sent me into a moment of despair. Trying to find contentment in the things that tested my will for years was a battle in of itself.

But it’s one I’ll always have to fight.

A Conclusion of Points:

As I said earlier, I’m not writing this with any particular emotion. I just think I’ve learned some great lessons this week and I wanted to share them with whoever might listen. I’m not perfect, never will be, and this blog isn’t trying to convince others that I am. But I am more valuable than I might appear (in a spiritual sense; I’m still pretty broke financially), and I think I deserve to respect who I am. It’s no one else’s place to judge my heart or my character, and God, quite frankly, has me where He wants me. My job is to remember that and to take joy in it and to keep inviting His healing when things go wrong.

Even in Heaven, I’ll be who I am, even if my Cherry Coke won’t follow me. There’s no reason to start compromising my identity over stupid stuff now.