Category Archives: Mental Health

Bottling God

I remember being in church once and really sensing the presence of God. You know that feeling? Your singing a song, or saying a prayer, and you know in your bones—God is here. I felt that and thought, “If I could just bottle this, and take it with me, I’d be a much better Christian.”

Because the reality is that most of life isn’t mountaintop moments. It’s waiting in line at the grocery store, it’s being told I don’t have a job, that my blood work doesn’t look right, that my expenses are exceeding my income.

And what I’ve found is that if God isn’t with me in those moments, the church stuff doesn’t really matter. Pump me up on Sunday, but if I can’t find God come Thursday, I’m in trouble.

What I’ve been learning is that I didn’t need to bottle up God in church so I could take Him into the world. What I needed to do was open my eyes and see that He was already there.

sorry.

I heard of a woman who received a nice settlement from a lawsuit. Afterward, she was still furious. Her lawyer asked, “What’s wrong? What you got was more than fair.”

“What I wanted,” she said, “was for somebody to look me in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry this happened.’”

We all know this.  But saying sorry is hard, isn’t it?

In a book called Being Wrong, author Kathryn Schulz writes: “As a culture, we haven’t mastered the basic skill of saying ‘I was wrong.’”

Think about that. We fly robots to Mars. We cure disease. We’re the most advanced people in the history of humanity.

But we can’t say sorry.

Why? Maybe it’s because our culture is upside down on the issue. There’s a famous line from the movie, Love Story – remember it? “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Uh, what?

Love means having to say you’re sorry all the time. Preferably every fifteen minutes.

There’s a thousand answers that could be given for why we don’t do it, so let me focus on one: pride.

Pride trivializes God’s mercy in our lives.Pride makes it hard to appreciate what God has done.

We’re like the young rich man who can’t follow Jesus because his heart is consumed by wealth. He’s spiritually blind to his need for Christ. Why follow Jesus when you already have what you need?

Dorothy Day said the closer she grew to God the more she could acknowledge her sinfulness because she saw that God never abandoned her to sin but repeatedly extended his mercy.

That’s the secret. Drawing closer to God allows us to see ourselves for who we are: fragile creatures in need of grace.

It’s tough to say sorry when we’re doing life on our own. Easier when resting in God’s mercy.

It comes down to pride. We don’t apologize because we see it as weakness. But it’s not.

A recent study on leadership found that admitting fault and apologizing creates solidarity, innovation, and openness to change.

So, saying sorry literally makes us more creative and successful. Sorry isn’t weakness; it’s power.

When we need to say sorry, who keeps us from doing it? Nobody.

We hold all the power. And that’s the problem, because our tendency is to address our weaknesses and struggle with them. But there is often little moral effort where we are strong.

But in scripture sin resides not so much in our weaknesses but in our strengths. Because God doesn’t kick us when we’re down. He lifts us up.

Think about Jesus with the adulteress, refusing to condemn her, daring others to throw the first stone. He whispers something hidden in her ear, then says, “Go and sin no more.”

Scripture is filled with a God who grieves with us in our weakness and offers grace to help us overcome.

It’s when we sin in our strength that God drops the metaphorical hammer. When we simply don’t bother to do what we can.

The rich man could have followed Jesus and given his money to the poor, but he doesn’t. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite could have cared for the wounded man, but they don’t. In the last judgment scene of Matthew’s gospel, those who are condemned are told their fault lies in their unwillingness to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked.

The story of sin, like the call to repentance, concerns those areas of our lives where we could have tried harder, precisely because we were able to do so. Christ judges not the weak heart that struggles, but rather the strong heart that does not bother.

We hold enormous power over one another. We can withhold an apology and wreak havoc. Or, we can trust God’s mercy, lay down our pride, and offer this little word of healing.

The choice is ours.

 

 

Grinding.

One of the biggest myths of our culture is that nobody loves their work.

It’s not true but a lot of people believe it; in part because so many people hate their jobs. A job, for a lot of people, is nothing more than a means to do an end. And to a certain degree, that’s ok. Sometimes a job is a paycheck and those paychecks serve crucial and often providential purposes. Having money is a good thing. And nobody should be criticized for doing something they don’t like in order to make ends meet. In fact, they should probably be praised.

But not everyone hates the work they do. Certain people refuse to approach work as simply a means to end. Instead, the work is an end in itself because it’s also a passion.

Two nights ago I asked a buddy how his day went. His eyes popped bright. “Great. My day was great,” he said.

My buddy is in the midst of a grueling medical residency and he works ridiculously long hours. So I asked him if something special happened; what made it so great?

“I got to operate all day.”

Think about that. The guy was on his feet doing things that are beyond complicated, while under enormous stress, and he loved every second of it.

Why? Because he’s living his passion. Is it hard? Yes. Frustrating and exhausting? Yes. Is it work? You bet.

And he loves it.

I think we have a duty to find work we love. I truly believe that. Even if we can’t do it full-time, it’s still our responsibility to find some kind of work we enjoy. Because if we don’t — if our joy only comes from non-work activities — we miss out on a really rich piece of life. There are few states of mind so fulfilling as having created something excellent, and reveled in the process.

Why am I talking about this?

Because writing is work, even though it’s a passion.

People ask me a lot about how often I sit down to write.

My answer is always the same: Every day.

There are  geniuses who can sit down on a whim and crank out a masterpiece. I am not one of them. If I write anything of value it’s because I’ve worked really hard. Period. To create the art I love so much I must place myself in front of the keyboard and  grind the words out onto the page.

Hour after hour.

Day after day.

Just like any other job.

Great writing, 99.9 percent of the time, is a product of hard-fought work — not sudden epiphany with a glass of wine in hand. Although, it’s really sweet when that happens.

Einstein put it this way: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

That’s the  question: How long are we willing to sit? How bad do we want to see our vision realized?

I want it bad.

You?