Posts Tagged ‘ thoughts ’

Mental Anesthesia

Where is the existential unrest? I miss it. I have become too numbed by circumstance. I am too fatigued by the day-to-day to dream and question and remember the injustices that lie parallel to my reality and how much I once longed to intersect with them for hope of somehow raising them to my plane or higher. Maybe my trip to the Dominican Republic will revitalize the me that felt angered by corruption and was filled with a fire to uplift the survivors of marginalization and the victims on their way to survivorship. Where has she gone? Why is her voice so faint? No… absent? Or rather, whose ears am I now activating and how did the messages they carry come to dominate my worldview? I feel nothing. I resist nothing. Everything is “cool.” Why question anymore? Why not just appease? Just accept?

I am numb.

How unbelievably tragic.

The recent death of my father has made me think a lot about life. I suppose that is the natural response when someone dies – think about life, realize we truly are not invincible, that our days are numbered and therefore, we need to cherish and live them to the fullest. All the clichés that, in reality, should not lose their meaning. I suppose I have joined the ranks of mourners struck by such realizations. But for me, they have had a more positive effect, and, it is conflicting to say and likely sounds incongruous, but in a way I am thankful for his passing for this lesson that it is teaching me. I have largely wasted the past 4 years of my life due to fear and doubt. But I am slowly realizing that everything that matters so much to me – my intellect, my work, what other people think about me – are nothing but trifles in the major scope of my life. What I need to return to and inhabit is my conviction that my life contains the potential and power to impact others for good and that therefore, my focus needs to be on placing myself in a position of access to the resources that will better their lives. It truly is as simple as that. I am so sad that this conviction has only returned after his passing, but feel a burning commitment to carry it out as his legacy.

Hmm… wow. Lightbulb moment. In light of my dad’s death, I have been thinking that the timing of my pre-scheduled trip to the Dominican Republic is quite odd. However, I realize now that this may very well be perfect timing and may supply the tangible encouragement to fully occupy the person God intends me to be and the good qualities that both my dad and I have sought, but been unable to attain. He certainly has them now, in the presence of God’s glory. I pray it doesn’t take death in order for me to attain them.

May he continue to live in peace.

I need to, I will…

M

Your Greatest Ally

“Instead of seeing yourself as your greatest enemy, see yourself as your greatest ally. Because no one knows you better than you do.”

~ A1chemist (me)

A New Take on Emotional Purity

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is a wellspring of life”

– Proverbs 4:23.

A close girlfriend and I were chatting a couple of weeks ago about Godly relationships, singleness, and Christian friendships. When we got to the topic of male-female friendships, she posed an interesting question to me:  “how would you rate your emotional purity in your relationships with male friends?” This was a concept about which I had never heard or thought. I inquired more from my friend, but she encouraged me to search the Word on my own, something for which I am so grateful.

Side-note: I think we need to do this more often with each other. It is so easy to just rely on each other for explanations of the Word, instead of finding the truth ourselves. In encouraging each other to independently meditate on the Word, we encourage growth in our brothers/sisters’ relationship with Christ. Now that is love.

Back on topic: So, in thinking about emotional purity and comparing it to physical purity, I garnered that the basic concept is not revealing too much of your emotional self or fostering too much emotional intimacy with male friends, so as not to raise one’s expectations (for singles) or the temptation (married) for a committed relationship. It seems especially important for women, since we are the more emotional sex. But I’m not going to get into emotional purity for married women in this post… I’m single, so I will mainly address the emotional purity of single ladies (“all my single ladies, now put your hands up!” – sorry. i couldn’t resist, haha).

Not Your Buddy

By chance, I found an article on Boundless.org, which describes the reasons for this purity:  Not Your Buddy. At first thought, this explanation of emotional purity made sense to me, especially given that I had begun harboring some similar concerns in my own life. It made sense to just avoid conjuring any emotions by keeping distance between yourself and guys and not revealing anything too personal to them. However, new clarity came through a discussion with my mom and challenged this notion.

When I described the above definition of emotional purity and how it may be wise to back away from friendships with males, she immediately looked dubious. “I don’t think I agree with that,” she said. “It seems to me like the problem is expectation.” She left it at that, giving me something more to think about on my own. After pondering it for a few minutes, I realized that I agreed with her more.

The real problem isn’t having relationships with guys or even opening up to them. I think guys can teach us women a lot and provide us with different ways of thinking and seeing our situations (and vice versa!). Yet, we say that we should limit our emotional selves regarding our friendships with men because we as sisters can start to expect more from our brothers… and by more, I mean a romantic, committed relationship. We start interpreting their communications as laced with romantic interest and start expecting that they should return our friendliness and interest with an advancement toward a relationship. I have personal experience of this. I know, I’ve done it too. But I would encourage you to consider what is going on in this case… to consider how we as ladies may be contributing to this potentially hurtful situations with our expectations.

It seems like we ladies are always one step ahead of ourselves. If we have something good, we wonder what the next step will be and try to put a rush order on getting there, rather than enjoying where we are and what we have now. And even as the Boundless article said:

“You never have to wonder if your brother is romantically interested in you”

… because, being a Godly man, if he’s interested in you, He would let you know. So what are we doing by feeding our expectations and getting frustrated when the guy in mind doesn’t fulfill them? If he hasn’t explicitly expressed his interest, then that means he’s not interested in that way. <– now, there may be aberrations to this if we consider the shy guys who are too afraid to be open and blunt with the girl they’re interested in, but that’s more than I care to get into right now.

To further this point about the danger of expectation, I would encourage you to think about our female-female relationships. Oftentimes, when we become close to another female, spend more one-on-one time with her, and reveal more about ourselves to her, what do we begin to develop? It’s the same deal here:  Expectations. Oftentimes, we ladies find ourselves hoping that she’ll call so we can chat or disappointed when she doesn’t pick up because we have something from our day that we’d like to share about. We expect her to make time for us when we need her, or hang out with us, and are a little disappointed when she can’t. Expectation also arises in the development of a close, female friendship, not just something that we must face in our friendships with men.

I guess I just can’t help but think that we are restricting ourselves from what could be a spiritually beneficial relationship just because the person we would share it with is of the opposite sex. Must the rules really be different just because he is male? I think it is better that we recognize our tendency to expect more than we have and challenge ourselves to grow emotionally and spiritually.

And if you find yourself developing expectations or confused by his behavior with you, then you should be mature about it and talk about it with him. If he’s a brother in the Lord, I would think that your feelings would be important to him and that he would be more than willing to curb his actions in a way that wouldn’t suggest that he wants more than a friendship. I know, I know. “Easier said than done.” Trust me, I realize that. But I just have a hard time accepting the easy way out of avoiding meaningful spiritual relationships with men altogether. I think we as Christians should strive to harness our own weaknesses and grow beyond our faults.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is a wellspring of life”

– Proverbs 4:23.

This verse is often quoted as a defense for the first definition of emotional purity that I shared at the beginning of this post. However, I think this verse can also be interpreted as a warning to guard our hearts from ourselves and our own actions. How are you contributing to your heart’s unhappiness and vulnerability? Why are we so quick to point the finger?

When I continued this talk with my mom, she said something to me that stuck out. I really want to adopt this type of living for myself:

“Don’t expect more. Only give more. If you give without expecting return, then your giving is great and you are never disappointed. Because the only person you can control is yourself.” ~ Mommy 🙂

There is joy in giving, and only disappointment and dissatisfaction in expecting. Only you have the power to control your mind, your will, your emotions, and your worldview. We must be constantly striving to place these things in the Lord. He is the only One from which we should expect anything because He is the only One who cannot disappoint us.

How are you seeing your situation? How are you approaching your male-female relationships? What changes can you make within yourself to improve them?

And yes, I realize this may sound idealistic to many. We are human and therefore fallible. But what are we doing when we use that as a crutch? When we focus too much on our flesh, we face the danger of using the fact that we are not perfect as an excuse for not trying to live up to a higher standard. In striving to be like Jesus, are we not aiming for perfection? This is the same thing. And like I wrote in another post, when you focus on the limiting factor, that’s the thing toward which you begin gravitate. So I will set my eyes on the Lord and focus my sights, and thus the direction and movement of my whole being, on His ideals and on becoming the person that He says I am in Him.

But by all means, I am not an expert on emotional purity. These are just thoughts of mine and I would love to hear your views as well! I’m always open to differing perspectives.

4/15 – Today, I found a blog post on Emotional Purity by a fellow wordpresser, Dan. I thought it was excellent! I totally agreed with his emphasis on having self-control. You might want to check it out:  Sparky Danny Man’s Take on Emotional Purity

An Old Dog Abandons Her Old Tricks

For all the growth I have made this semester, I have still been held up by old vices, which is extremely disappointing. I feel the Lord changing me, changing the person within me, and oh… God, I am so eager for it! To be new, fresh, unhampered by the past. And I know I can be. I have tasted newness this semester. But, man, can I be my own worst enemy. But I am determined to win this battle against my old self, and to do that, I need to purge.

My real weakness is that I feel too much. I identify with people, imagine their situation, imagine myself in their situation, try to come up with ways to help and guide them, feel utterly helpless if I can’t succeed in helping them, need to let them know that I am there for them, and then must follow through in being there for them fully. An extreme empathizer. So much that, as a school psychologist pointed out earlier this semester, I allow my own happiness to depend on others, which is so detrimental to myself.

I think this disposition is why I so easily identified with my mother, who in her adversity (being married to my dad), had so much need for empathy. I imagined myself in her place and tried to emotionally fill the void that my dad had created within her. Because I identified so strongly with her, I paid more attention to how my dad treated her than I did his treatment of me. And also, because I identified so strongly with her, she became an example of the kind of person I should be, while my dad became the example of the person I didn’t want to be. I put her on a pedestal.

When I was a little older (~late teens?), my mom told me that she is not the person that she used to be, the person she was before and in the early years of her marriage. But the only person I saw and could remember was this new person she had become. A woman who strived to be wholly self-sufficient, independent, emotionally guarded, masking and denying her true emotions… A necessarily strong woman. A private woman. A dependable woman, who denied herself her own desires and happiness, ranking them after those of everyone around her. Growing up, she was the image of what I thought I should be, of what I wanted to be.

But I realize now that I have truly identified too much with my mother. I have become her in many ways. The qualities that I once viewed as strengths have become faults because I have adopted them too intensely.

INDEPENDENCE –  I always feel like I need to be self-sufficient. I don’t like to ask for help for anything, if I can help it. And I don’t allow others to do niceties for me. For example, I remember when I was moving out of my room at the end of my freshman year at college, a friend scolded me for this. “Let us help you!” he said. “You don’t have to do everything by yourself!” I had tried to move my heavy boxes by myself instead of taking up their offer to help.

Don’t get me wrong, independence is an admirable quality and I am glad that I am equipped to and comfortable with doing things for myself. But sticking too firmly to it has been detrimental (i.e. because of my independence, I have purposely created distance between myself and my friends). This is something of which I am coming to the full realization. I shouldn’t allow my independence to divide me from the people I care about.

When I think more about this trait in relation to my mom, I also realize that she was so independent because my dad didn’t fulfill his husbandly role as God describes it. So she had to step up and lead my brother and I. This example, a woman leading her family, only added to my view of female independence and encouraged me to believe that I shouldn’t depend on any man to do anything for me. And because I didn’t know what that looked like… to have a man lead his wife and for her to be able to depend upon him… I now even find myself resisting guys’ attempts to do something for me. I probably appear less “feminine” to them when I hold doors open for them, rather than allow them to open a door for me. But after years of seeing my dad not do such niceties for my mom, I don’t expect it from any man (except my brother, who my mom brought up to be so courteous) and just automatically do such things for myself. But I don’t like that I am this way. Again, I should be willing to allow people to display their courtesy.

WALLS – My mom set up emotional walls after she realized that her emotions were not appreciated by my dad. He couldn’t be trusted with them. So she entered into  subsequent friendships with a walled heart. Encouraged others to do more talking, so that she wouldn’t have to give too much of herself away. Basically Proverbs 4:23 to the extreme.

I am the spitting image of her example. Growing up, it was emphasized that our private business was our business and not to be shared with others (we had extremely gossip-y neighbors). But I have carried this mandate with me into my young adulthood. I let others do the talking, which is fine because, being an extreme empathizer, I like to hear about their experiences and like bringing them pleasure by showing my interest in their life. And I think I don’t share my emotions partly because I don’t want to run the risk of discovering that they won’t be appreciated by my listeners.

But I have realized that this stunts my growth. Part of being in a relationship with someone is giving of yourself. And part of growing as a person is learning how to trust others with parts of yourself. I think a lot of my past friendships ended because I was unwilling to do this – unwilling to open up and show the other person that I trust them enough to let them see me. Trust. Now that is something that requires true strength. This is definitely something I have been working on building.

This reminds me… I recently read a quote that said something to the effect of… “the problem with [emotional] walls is not only that they keep people out, but they keep you in.” This could not be more true. It definitely has been pretty lonely being the only person who knows me.

DENIAL+MASKING – this falls in line with building walls. My mom was a master actress. Being strong for my brother and I, she denied many of her emotions and masked them. She always appeared strong. Always appeared happy. And she was both of those things. But there was a storm inside. Since I am older now and our friendship has matured, I see this more. She will sometimes say things that hint her desire for affection, but then quickly denies it and masks it. But I know her well and can identify when she’s doing this. And I think she does this because deep down she doesn’t feel that she is worthy of having her desires… or, perhaps more correctly, that it isn’t possible for her to ever have them.

I think out of all the qualities I have picked up, this is the one I need to change the most because, I realize now, it leads most directly to self-sabotage. I deny myself of my desires and convince myself that I can’t have them or am not worthy of them, and then mask that I have a desire at all. For someone who so strongly values communication, this tactic makes me a complete hypocrite because it keeps me from communicating with myself and with others, who very well may be able to deliver what I want. It is a breeding ground for mixed signals.

The truth is, it is not that I cannot have what I desire… but that I do not allow myself to have what I desire, and what is perhaps even available to me. So I create my own unhappiness, not my situation or any other person, etc. In living this way,  I  also offend God by not accepting and trusting His ability to deliver my wants, if they are right for me. So I tie not only the hands of those around me, but His hands as well. I deny myself happiness and love, so that in the end, all I have is my independent self, sitting within all those walls I have built. Alone.

—————————————————————————————————————-

I realize that I have been living as though I am a woman in a wrecked marriage, perhaps thinking deep down inside that behaving this way will prevent me from acquiring her unhappiness. But, my God. It’s all SO wrong… couldn’t be more wrong than this. And I just praise the Lord that He is bringing me to the full realization of these things NOW, while I am still young. I need to live up to a higher standard – to God’s standard. I am resolved to not look to any other person as a model for how to live, because we are each fallible in our own ways. God is the only one worthy of a pedestal!

We can’t help what situation we’re born into, but we can help how we allow ourselves to be affected by it. And I choose to love myself… fully love myself and believe that I am worthy of happiness and all my desires and that I can and will indeed have them, if not today than someday! All according to God’s perfect time.

Wow, when I re-read this, I wonder who on earth would want to have such a complicated person in one’s life. Yes, I suppose I am quite a complicated mess right now, but I know that God is a good janitor. The best, actually. And now that I have finally given Him the master key to my building, I know it will clean up better than “just fine” 🙂

Future Post:  Traits I’ve picked up from Dad.

Garden Principles I: The Curses of Adam and Eve Explained

It is truly amazing just how much we can learn from the first 3 chapters of the Bible. It’s jam-packed with so much information and explanation, if we only open our hearts and pay attention! 🙂

There is just TOO much to talk about in one post, so I will be doing a series of posts on this topic. This first one will focus on qualities of men and women, and specifically the dynamics between husbands and wives.

So, a few weeks ago, I attended a Christian Conference on the East Coast. Since it was over Valentine’s Day, the focus was on Gospel-Centered Relationships.

On the first day of the conference, the pastor focused on the importance of the marriage vows and how it mirrors Christ’s covenant with His bride, the church. (Beautiful, right?) But… I will talk about this in a future post 🙂

On the second day, he discussed the Garden, Adam, and Eve. Let’s begin…

So, looking at Genesis 1:27-28, we know that men and women were created as equals and, more importantly, without distinction beyond their physical capacities (i.e. childbirth = female specific). It tells us:

(27) So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. (28) And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

So, with that passage, we see that in the Garden, God did not make a distinction between men and women when he commanded “replenish the earth, and subdue it… and have dominion over…” He did not specify that only Adam or only Eve would have dominion, but rather, that they will both have dominion.

Now, let’s fast forward to the fall in Genesis 3. The pastor brought up an extremely convicting question that I had never before thought to ask. When discussing Eve’s temptation by the serpent in Genesis 3:6, he asked, “Where was Adam when all of this was happening?” We are always so quick to see Eve’s action and blame her for the fall, but where was Adam when she was being tempted? This is a point that stuck with me, and it will come up again shortly.

Next, we discussed the curses that God imparted on Adam and Eve, which was the beginning of non-physical distinctions between the sexes. To Adam, in Genesis 3:17-19:

(17) And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; (18) Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; (19) In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Thus, the pastor explained that Adam’s curse is job-oriented:  he will struggle to work the land (have a job) and will be concerned about providing for his family (being successful). This can be seen in men today. Men are more task-oriented than women. And not to say that women are not ambitious or do not value their jobs, but research has supported that men are more systematizing. The pastor mentioned research by Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice), which I have read and definitely agreed with most of it. There has been some controversy over her work, fueled by the fact that she for a long time refused other researchers’ requests to view her data. But, if you want a more modern source, check out Autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen, PhD. Absolutely amazing theories (and evidence) on differences between the “male” and “female” brain.

To Eve, in Genesis 3:16:

(16) Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Now, when he talked about this verse, he brought up an extremely important observation. If we fast forward to Genesis 4:6-7, we see that the same phraseology is used to describe the relationship between sin and Cain. God says:

(6) And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? (7) If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

The same language! Just as sin desired Cain, God cursed Eve to desire her husband. Now, our fleshly reaction as women (and men too) is to be upset that we would be compared to sin or said to have the same action as sin, but I would encourage you to stay open and stay with me here!

The pastor broke down what exactly is implied by desire. When we think about sin, what does it aim to do? It tries to manipulate us, control us, have authority over is. This is it’s desire for us. Thus, in the same way, women are cursed to try to manipulate, control, and exert authority over their husbands, but again mirroring Genesis 4:7, her husband will rule over her:

Ephesians 5:23 – For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he (Christ) is the Saviour of the body.

Thereby, the pastor explained that women would hence be focused on her relationship with her husband and their family dynamics. She would be more invested in the emotional sector of their relationship. I think that most of us can see this in our lives today. For evidence, just look to your friendships and the other social networks that women form with each other to vent about what? Their relationships. Their family-life. How they are feeling.

This is a good point to break on (and plus I have to run out for a meeting!). But this was the primer. In the next post, I’m going to talk about what God revealed to me  from this pastor’s teaching and how understanding the Adam and Eve’s relationship in the Garden is 1) crucial for understanding a husband and wife’s relationship today and 2) crucial for viewing and accepting Ephesians 5 within a Christian context. Actually, in my opinion, Ephesians 5 shouldn’t ever be taught outside of Genesis 3. But we’ll discuss that more later.

1 John 2:17 – And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof:  but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Love is…

“Love is not an emotion… it’s an ability.”

~ Dan in Real Life

Love Is Like Old Wine...

Thoughts from a Christian AGAINST Proposition 8

What say Christians on Free Will, the God’s gift of choice to every person born on this planet? To look around at our society, it would seem that many Christians have wholly forgotten the significance of this universal right. Instead, many strive to usurp their Christian morals upon others, disenfranchising others of their right to choose their own lifestyles, whether it be for or against God.

Asserting our beliefs upon others will not make them Christian. If God doesn’t do it, shouldn’t we take that as a hint that we shouldn’t either? Do we honestly believe that it will make for a genuine Christian? Sure, forcing Christian morals upon others will cause them to act them out. But what does this accomplish? An action is nothing if it is empty of self-determination, of choice. It is empty of a surrender to God’s will and His ways. You can’t make someone adopt such a position. If anything, I would think trying to force them to act out our morals would only build resentment against them and against God.

So this brings me to the real point of this post: Proposition 8. Unfortunately this proposition passed in California, largely due to the efforts of Christians and Christian organizations who feared that gay marriage would detract from traditional marriage (as defined by God between a man and woman), and would corrupt children and the future generations.

As a Christian, I must agree that “marriage” is only recognized by God as between a man and woman. This is how He intended it. But this is what we as Christians believe. Why should we mandate this for the rest of the nation? And even if gay marriage were legalized, I really don’t understand how this affects traditional marriage between a man and woman. It doesn’t cheapen it. It doesn’t reduce its legal rights. Heterosexual marriage would still be the only type of marriage recognized by God. How does this hurt traditional marriage? That just doesn’t make sense to me. That said, why should we restrict people from the legal rights of a marriage union just because we as Christians don’t recognize marriage as same-gendered? Again, this imposes our beliefs upon others, which does absolutely nothing for them spiritually because they have not accepted and chosen these beliefs as their own.

As for the concern that gay couples would corrupt the children of society, I just cannot believe this. I feel that many Christians would be apt to say that an atheist couple would corrupt children because they lead them away from God, but we don’t see legislature against atheists having children! Therefore, what I really interpret this opposition to mean is that gay marriage would corrupt your OWN children (speaking to Christian parents). To this I say, where is your faith? And where are you, as a parent, in the life of your child? There are so many things and behaviors in society that we as Christians do not agree with and must try to steer our children away from. But we cannot make all of these things and behaviors illegal just because they’re construed as spiritually immoral according to our Christian standards! We simply cannot force others to conform to our standards. Yes, Christian parents, this means you will actually have to talk to your children, be proactive in raising them according to God’s teachings, and help them navigate the ever-changing social mores. But trying to limit another’s personal freedoms for your own parental convenience is not the answer. This is extremely discriminatory, judgmental, and coercive, three things God has taught us not to be.

I have really tried to temper my emotions as I wrote this post, but it just really upsets me that many Christians are supporting a proposition of hate, judgment, and coercion. These are not Christian values to me and it upsets me that Christ’s name is being attached to such actions. We have been called to love others, whether they choose God and His path, or whether they choose their own lifestyle. We are to tolerate all lifestyles other than our own and not force our beliefs upon others because no matter how hard we try, we cannot MAKE someone Christian. They have to surrender their will into His and choose to strive toward Him.

Worried Christian parents, as this world is changing, I would encourage you to place your faith in Christ and lean on Him as you raise your children. I pray you teach your children love and tolerance of EVERYONE, and most of all, respect of everyone’s right to exercise their God-given Free Will, whether or not the choices and lifestyles they make/have align with your own.

Signed,
A Child of God who isn’t afraid to shy from controversy along her path to true enlightenment in Christ Jesus

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream

Everyone on the face of the Earth has a treasure that lies waiting for them.”

“In order to arrive you must follow the signs.
God inscribed on the world the path that each man must follow.
It is just a matter of reading the inscription He wrote for you.”

“The glory of the world is transitory, and we should not measure our lives by it,
but by the choice we make to follow our Personal Legend,
to believe in our utopias and to fight for our dreams.
We are all protagonists of our own lives,

and it is often the anonymous heroes who leave the deepest mark.”
(from Paulo Coelho’s acceptance speech to Brazilian Academy of Letters)

“The closer you get to your dream,
the more your Personal Legend becomes your real reason for living.”

The Alchemist

For the past two years, I have been searching for some person or word inspired by God to restore meaning in my life … I have found what I was looking for in Paulo Coelho and his novel, The Alchemist. After reading this book, I felt like I came alive again. I had feared that I would not find a way to dig out from underneath the negativity I had piled upon myself, and oftentimes felt tempted to surrender to an ever imminent feeling of defeat. And then, I learned of this book from a friend… it couldn’t have been suggested at a better time because, as I mention in my first post, I am trying to pull my life together.

I had heard of The Alchemist earlier in my life in passing… you know, like one of those books you know the title of and recognized it as a classic work of literature, but don’t know what it is about and don’t really have any inclination to read it. The Alchemist was that to me, until a dear friend of mine just recently suggested that I read it. She had just finished it and suggested that I read it, saying it was a story about a boy’s journey to realize his dreams. Normally, I don’t think that would have really caught my interest, but for some reason, I was intrigued by this description, likely because I am in a state now where I am trying to flush out my dreams and determine in which direction God will have me travel. I would like to thank my dear friend, for she has given me a gift that I could never have anticipated… the gift of hope and anticipation for greatness in my life!

I thank God for the gift of new perspective. My eyes have been renewed by seeing life through the eyes of a simple shepherd boy who had hope and faith in a dream larger than his present circumstances could ever foretell. Despite the immense difficulties that threatened to thwart the realization of his destiny, he persevered and chose to continue his journey instead of accepting defeat. To quote the book, “…he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure. ‘I am an adventurer, looking for treasure,’ he said to himself.” For him, quitting would take the fun out of his journey. As stated in the book, “It is precisely the possibility of realizing a dream that makes life interesting.”

That scenario speaks to me directly. In these past years, I have burrowed myself into a state of such deep regret that it has immobilized me. I have fixated on the mistakes I have made that I have allowed them to hinder me from moving forward. But looking at the shepherd boy fills me with such inspiration. I need to actively learn how to see my mistakes as moments of life experience, moments that carry lessons to be used as examples of how not to handle things next time… the key point being that I should not shelter myself from situations that will test what I learned from my mistakes, but face them head on with a new and greater awareness!

What I also love about how Paulo Coelho depicted this situation is that he was very real about it. Before coming to this state of hope and determined persistence, the shepherd boy was tempted to yield to the resistance created by his mistake. After being robbed, he thought regretfully to himself:

“When I had my sheep, I was happy, and I made those around me happy. People saw me coming and welcomed me, he thought. But now I’m sad and alone. I’m going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I’m going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine. And I’m going to hold on to what little I have, because I’m too insignificant to conquer the world.”

I absolutely LOVE that Paulo wrote him realistically. I know that everyone of his readers must have been able to relate to this feeling of despair and utter regret, knowing that we had things better a time before our present misfortune and disparaging ourselves for allowing us to get to this state. It’s human nature, and like us, the shepherd spoke ill of his future and for a short time there, was tempted to believe it. He even thought to blame God for his misfortune, saying that “this was the way God repaid those who believed in their dreams.” But instead of succumbing to the temptation of quitting, he realized that his destiny still remained and that a treasure was waiting to be found, by him. So instead of stopping his life story there, he had faith in his destiny, proclaiming to himself, “I am an adventurer, looking for treasure.” This unfortunate event was only a mild pothole along the road.

His outlook of transcendence is an example to me, to us all. He acknowledged his part in his misfortune and decided to learn from his mistake of so easily trusting a stranger. Yet, he did not fixate on his mistake. Rather, he looked for beauty in the seemingly lowest of moments. He focused on the positives of his experience, centering himself on his accomplishment of reaching Africa and coming that much closer to realizing his destiny.

I hope that in life, I can face each day with such optimistic vigor. In every day, every moment, every breath, there lies beauty. There is always something to be praised. The challenge is to train your eye to see it. Once you can accomplish that, beauty is all you’ll come to see, in every circumstance. God is EVERYWHERE. He is not hiding. Rather, it is our human eye that fails to recognize his presence in every living moment. Here is an analogy to better explain my point. Don’t credit this to me; I may have heard this from somewhere a few years back. I am realizing this now: When you are driving, your hands naturally guide the vehicle to whichever point upon which your eyes are fixed. So if you are fixated upon the car approaching you in the opposite lane, your hands will naturally reposition the car toward this oncoming car. But if you are focused on the lane you are in, you will continue to safely drive the course. I have been focusing on my past mistakes, and have thus been living in the past. My life has been unable to move forward because my gaze is pointed on what is behind me. I feel closer to God after reading this book.

I may have finished reading this book Friday, June 20, 2008, but its words and the images it evoked still replay in my mind. I am certain that this book and its author have become bright threads in the tapestry of my life journey. The story was especially affecting to me as a Christian. I felt closer to God after reading this book, and that feeling still remains. Reading it, I just knew that Paulo Coelho must be a Christian because he speaks in the language of Christ. I cannot even express how much this blessed me. As my faith diminished during the last two years, my relationship with God grew gradually more distant. It was not until last January that I felt an undeniable separation from God, which truly scared my. I committed myself to seeking the Lord and have been praying for redirection in my life. I was feeling like my life was headed back in the wrong direction when I learned about The Alchemist. Reading it, it was as though my soul was being cleaned throughout and uplifted in encouragement. As I said earlier, I felt closer to God, which I so desperately needed. I heard Him through the words of his creation, Paulo Coelho.

I know that I am destined for something amazing! I was under so much spiritual fire in these last two years and at the point of almost succumbing fully to its will, when God sent me this light to guide me back to the path on which He has destined me to be! Wow… my destiny MUST be something amazing and important that the Universe conspired at this exact time to remind me that my dreams are realizable… the time when I most needed such encouragement! I just have to trust undoubtedly in the strength God has put within me and trust that He has portioned me more than the right amount to surpass ALL of resistance’s efforts to prevail against me. Thank you, Lord for this new view on life! It is the same life, but ahh… it looks SO different to me now. I never thought that I would reach this point of sublime certainty in my clarity and clarity in my certainty of Your truths in my life. But Lord, am I ever paying attention to Your signs now.

I highly recommend this book as a read for EVERYONE. I especially think it should be a necessary read for school-aged children, whose dreams are so vibrant and fragile, full of fervor but slipping so easily to the wayside as they grow. The lessons it teaches are invaluable. Also, I particularly recommend the book to those walking with Christ. You will be greatly blessed to see how God’s words flow through His faith-filled creation, Paulo Coelho.

I feel it only fitting to end this post with the words of the man who inspired both this post and this blog. Be blessed and may God bless you and Paulo Coelho, right where you are now.

Life

What is this force that drives us far from the comfort of the familiar
and makes us take up challenges instead,
even though we know that the glory of this world is only transitory?
I believe this impulse is called the search for the meaning of life.
Over many years of seeking a definitive answer to this question in books, art and science,
and in both the dangerous and easy paths I have followed,
I have found many answers.
I am convinced now that a definitive answer will never be given to us in this life,
but that, at the last, at the moment when we stand once more before the Creator,
we will understand each opportunity that was offered to us.

– Paulo Coelho

Marriage & Timing

It’s the summer, and as I mentioned in a previous post, summer = marriage is on my mind. Another blogger had a link to this article about the right timing for marriage: Get Married or Break Up . I agreed with some of what the article said, but then I disagreed with other things it said.

I agree that the longer a couple is dating, the more difficult it is to maintain the dating relationship. To me, the ultimate purpose of dating is to marry, so naturally, I believe, the dynamics of a relationship progress toward that ultimate goal. I do believe that at a point, two people can reach a point where they’re just acting through the motions of their dating relationship. It fizzles, if you will, and that ultimate (marriage) connection is just not there. But I just don’t agree with this timetable that they’ve set up. It adds so much pressure to dating. Like, “a year’s gone by and he hasn’t proposed. Time to hop off this boat so I can make the next sail in time.” I just can’t accept that you’re supposed to know if you want to marry someone in that short of a time! I’ve always said to myself that I would wait at least 2 or 3 years before even getting engaged. But I also feel premature in such conclusions since I still have yet to even go on a date with someone. Yes… entering my 20’s without even the experience of a date. Perhaps I just can’t relate to the mindset of the dating person. Is it possible to really know after only 6 months or a year that you want to marry someone? Since entering college, I’ve heard so many accounts from adults of how they and their spouse married after only a couple months of dating. This seems like such a foreign concept to me

Haha, right as I typed that Coldplay’s song, “Death and all His Friends” played my playlist. The line, “Let’s get married,” stuck out like a sore thumb. haha. That and “don’t worry.” Is it trying to speak to me?

By the way, the song is so beautiful. I suggest you take a listen if you haven’t heard it yet. Actually, listen to the whole album (Viva la Vida). The entire cd is fantastic.

COLDPLAY\'S NEW BEST ALBUM!

But back to my topic, maybe I have qualms about marrying quickly because of the advice I’ve received from my mom. My parent’s marriage has had it’s ups and downs… or perhaps I should flip that around. There seem to be more unhappy times than happy. She’s always advised me to pay close attention to the character of the person I date and not to write off tell-tail signs as insignificant traits. In other words, maintain a level head in love. I think this is great advice, personally. I have friends who are willing to overlook some major personality flaws just to keep the person they’re dating, which is a risky thing, in my view. But, given the importance of learning a person’s character, how on earth can a person accomplish that in 6 mos to a year’s time? That just seems way too short when you factor in the reality that people are not always their most honest self at the beginning of a relationship and take time to peel the layers to reveal the truth. Some people can’t even accomplish that after a great period of time and you end up with some surprises regardless. But still, isn’t it better to reduce the surprises as much as possible by dating longer?

Now I totally agree with the article when it talks about the increased difficulty to remain physically pure the longer a relationship continues. I have abstinent friends who have warned me on the difficulties of withstanding sexual temptation once in a relationship. So sex definitely poses as a reason to push for a fast marriage, but then… listen to what was just said? Doesn’t that imply that sex should motivate a couple’s marriage? As if they’re getting married for sex? So, I have to shoot that reason down as well. If you’re dedicated to fulfilling Christ’s mandate for physical purity in marriage, then I would hope that you and your partner would each dedicate yourself to remaining pure. Now please, don’t mistake me for some doe-eyed naive girl. I am a realist, and although I am abstinent, I realize that sexual temptation is very real and can only imagine how much more intense it is when one is involved in a relationship. I’m sure there are times when some Christian couples come darn close to going all the way, but, as a woman of faith, I know that faith can overcome one’s physical desire. Although I would hope, my Christian brothers and sisters, that you wouldn’t let yourself get so close! “Don’t start none, won’t be none,” I always say!

If you’re not a Christian, having a spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, then what I just said may not make any sense to you. You may be asking yourself, “How on earth can faith defeat my in-the-moment physical need for sex?” It can and it does for those truly devoted to abstaining from sex.

This next article, however, I agree with wholly: Get Married, Young Man. In fact, after reading it, I feel a peace about not dating now, about the whole “timing of marriage” issue, and about my concerns on when I’ll start dating and finally marry. I’ll explain more on this later. Right now, it’s time to get intimate with my pillow. SLEEP!