Tag Archives: The Broken Way

Our Only Real Hope for 2017

Do you do New Year’s resolutions?

I sort of do. I set some intentions based on who I want to be, goals I’d like to accomplish, and barriers I’d like to overcome. It’s nothing super specific or targeted. But this year, with one girl just entering the ‘tween years and one full-fledged teenager, there’s a certain urgency to get busy making that progress toward better health in every area.

I guess the question is, What will we need most in the coming year?

IMG_6452There’s the usual things–eat better, workout more, use better tracking and measures for both. But if these are just ways to improve myself, that’s going to fail. It’s not motivating enough.

Similarly, I know that if I want to improve my parenting, my relationships, my work and my play, I need a higher purpose.

I looked back to previous years’ posts and I saw how I fell short. Maybe it’s because of all the challenges I faced. I got sick, got busy, got distracted, and I forgot God and caring for others around me. Other factors conspired too: bad weather, discouraging words, circumstances. At times I was handed heavy weights of pain.

It was frustrating. But not all those challenges produced were such bad things. They slowed me down, made me reckon with the reality of life.

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Being sick forced me to slow down and just be with God. Being overworked forced me to pray and fight distraction. And being distracted made me better appreciate the value of the gift of time.

If I can simply remember that nothing worthwhile comes easy, that time and again it’s proven–no real struggle, no real progress–maybe I can slash failure out as a possibility for 2017. What I seem to need most are reminders–monthly, weekly, and daily–that every struggle is a chance to depend more fully on God, to embrace my inadequacy.

Why can’t that be my resolution for 2017?

I could seek out the struggling more, stand with the suffering. I could believe that some struggle is necessary if I’m going to appreciate and love God properly. I could trust that without trials and burdens I wouldn’t realize how much I need God.

Is this the good, the true, the beautiful higher purpose to be sought in this new year? To know that struggle and pain brings deeper dependence on God? Isn’t that the freedom from all fear of failure I’ve been seeking? This year, can I resolve not to forget and not to get busy with plans and avoid all the struggle, and miss the real point?

This year, I want to do more than plan to avoid struggle. I want to plan for a new resolution. I want to track my progress toward a higher weekly goal: to remember that God is with me in all things. 

This year, I could resolve to set aside selfish goals for a higher purpose.

…To know that when pain and difficulty come, I can remember to stay open to God’s voice and listen to it, ready to see what he has for me and others there.

I’ve said it all my life: no pain, no gain. Can I lay down my life in this way? Even invite struggling with others, the needy, the ones I’m here to love?

I don’t want to go on protecting my life, seeking my own gain, improving my status and reputation, striving for bigger and better in all things.

I want to resolve not to do that this year.

I want to resolve to remember God’s higher purpose and stand with the suffering.

I want to do this expecting something totally different come next Christmas. I want to finally let go and live what I believe. Because this I know:

Embracing struggle and pain and continuing to hope that God has a higher purpose for it all is our only hope of true progress this year.

This old world will break our hearts and make us despair if we don’t commit to this harder way. If there’s a spark inside you to do something different this year, don’t wait to fan it into a flame. Follow that voice of inspiration, and seek this higher purpose. The new year of blank days stretches out before you….

The new year of blank days stretches out before you….

We can resolve this, and know the thrill of freedom from any chance of failure. With this hope, there is no fail, only gain.

For it’s all for a higher purpose, in all He has in store for us this year,

Mick

p.s. I’ve been heading this way for a few months now, inspired by Ann’s most recent memoir, The Broken Way. If you’d like inspiration in following this idea in 2017, I can’t recommend the book any stronger.

The One Responsibility for Writers Seeking a Higher Purpose

“The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which the Enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

Your affectionate uncle,
SCREWTAPE

I remember his eyes the clearest.

They were dark, scowling, and said I had pain coming.

Last night I woke from a dream of facing the playground bully I feared over 30 years ago. He wasn’t the only one I’d face, but he was the first, the first to send my heart racing, my mind scanning for whatever I’d done to deserve this singling out. The attention he called to his domination was as painful in the dream as it had been at my small Christian school. The shock of it, the crippling fear of all the eyes on me completely outweighed the injustice of his anger.

And with no adults around, every kid in the grassy lunch area waited to see what I’d do. The dream brought it all back perfectly preserved, packed away with the animating reactions, the old jagged terror exactly the same. His taunt convicts me again today.

“Whatcha gonna do?” 

The undeniable truth had rung and reverberated inside me: there was no way out of this without much suffering.

And this morning it’s a potent reminder: there are many things to which God calls us every day that will require some suffering. To love Him and others as ourselves. To treat others as we want to be treated. To seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. To act in defense of the defenseless. To offer help to the hurting, disadvantaged and foreigner in our midst. These make up the most important things we have to do today. And they are all the same thing requiring the same thing: a commitment to accept and even embrace the inevitable suffering they will require.

The bullies can be opposed with kindness. But when we don’t heed that call, we slowly become deaf, our effectiveness becomes dulled, and our hearts harden.

With every bully, we have to oppose them with kindness, a love that’s stronger than their fear and rage. Every day the question is posed again: will we now do what we know we must? Will we resist, deny, wait, excuse, reconsider, protest, confuse, delay, distract, misread, ponder, challenge, evade, escape…

Or will we act?

I can’t deny I feel Ann’s book working on me still. Even through the recent election, I’m still thinking and fighting to integrate what it’s taught me, to allow it into my life. It’s a big undertaking, and the change is profound. I see two paths lie ahead. One is a move toward life. To do otherwise is to pursue death.

We have only to pursue that which we know to be true. Yet so often we don’t do what we must because we fear suffering. We act in self-preservation. This I know: the longer I avoid doing what I know in my head is right, the sooner my heart will stop feeling what is right. And my mind, my precious mind I protect and cherish above all else, will close.

Can I forfeit my biggest idol to truly live?

There’s a verse I remember my mom teaching me in childhood: “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” To do what is necessary, what is better for someone else, that is the goal. To make someone else’s life better with love.

Children naturally love to do this. But do we listen? They are not second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. They are first class because they know the secret to love. The poor, weak and needy are not second-class citizens in the kingdom. They are first class because they have experienced the secret too. Every disadvantaged person knows what it is to be afraid, to be on the outside. They know something about being bullied and about the importance of giving to the needs of others. They’ve felt it personally.

That experience forms my beliefs about how to write and sell books of a higher purpose. Instead of the typical self-interested work and self-promotion, I think if we’d return to the essence of love, writing and sharing words could be a way to escape bullies and return to a childlike love of others. Having been an outcast, a poor one, a weak one in need, showing the marginalized how to be empowered and win others’ hearts, this is what our books could be.

There are always good reasons to sell out. But don’t they all have to do with giving in to fear? We fear others having more or knowing this and that and we don’t. But if we could know how kindness defeats fear, we’d have something they didn’t, a knowledge and wisdom of a mindset that liberates and frees us to truly live. If we’d focus on this love against all bullying fear, this is what would become unique about us, defining our passion and loves, and connecting them naturally with others’ needs.

Isn’t this the secret to true success? Being kind to others, even when they’re mean? Applying your natural childlike passion to make others lives happier, however you do that best? However brings you the most joy? Didn’t we know this before the world stole it, that this is our true work?

I know, in my single-mindedness to escape fear, I’ve turned writing into an idol. I’ve allowed it to keep me from what I should be doing in the world, turned it into a retreat from the world and a fighting weapon instead of a cup of water to ease the suffering of those around me, even those closest to me.

And even in this confession, I know it only has so much power to convict me to change. I won’t stop writing because I can’t, but will I do the hard thing necessary to join my true life and make the most of my opportunities?

Will I use the fresh conviction I’ve experienced this time? Time will tell. The season of thanksgiving is here. Will I focus on my true work and love despite what suffering I may face, even the small injustice of politicized talk? Is it too much to ask? Can I allow being right to slip from my hand so I can pick up being love?

Every moment is a crossroads. Will I let fear bully me, or will I meet it with my conviction that kindness is Jesus’ way? Every minute is another decision. Which way will we go? The paths diverge and we must take one or the other. One leads to life. The other…

There may be no way out of this without much suffering.

So be it. Will you take the broken way anyway?

Will we now do what we know we must? 

For the higher purpose…?

Signed,

a very humbled writer

A Word for Writers on Healthy Integration (or More Accurately, the First Word of Likely Many More).

“It’s always the vulnerable heart that breaks broken hearts free.”

 

I read a new book recently and it changed me. It helped me realize something I hadn’t before.

dsc_0037Books often do that, of course, but not in a quite so fundamentally altering way. You know how when new information comes, there’s always that period of instability before you can even recognize what’s happened? And then comes an undetermined time of processing it before you can assimilate and actually use that new fact or element of knowledge from your newly expanded and solidified position?

Yeah, that happened recently. And I realized I don’t think about that enough. I’m guessing you probably don’t either, or at least not consciously, with intention to do something about it. I assume you already know we all face the requirement to assimilate new info, whether or not we always do it. After all, that’s sort of the whole point of this walking-around-upright-and-aspiring-to-social-respectability-for-doing-something-useful-with-these-opposable-thumbs gift of consciousness, isn’t it?

dsc_0066So, because integration is a hidden process, it’s underappreciated. But I think it’s one of the more important processes to explore for how vitally essential it is to our lives, our minds, our hearts, our strength and our souls.

Because my postulate is that to love God well in all those areas absolutely requires good integration (vs. bad or simply lacking).

So one of the takeaways of this book is that integration is really all about consistency. That is, you can’t be well integrated in life and able to use your newly gained knowledge, abilities and wisdom without consistently doing the work to integrate new knowledge, abilities and wisdom.

Right? I know–it’s neuron-stretching. But when you realize this, you see why with all this new information continually coming at you, and faster today than ever before, the sheer effort to synthesize it with your existing life is overwhelming. We resent, resist and actively fight against the onslaught every day. But how many of us realize this invisible duty to take it in and deal with the anxiety that causes? And isn’t it even fewer people who actually think of ways to pursue better integration of their expanding understanding, and then follow through on what that new awareness dictates?

dsc_0027Is this important? Do you agree? For years I’ve believed that what we need most are strong examples of people doing this and making the effort, so we can see the positive change and the new intentions and how they play out in someone’s life. If we could watch a “good integrator” working to apply his or her learning in their life and see what the results are, wouldn’t that be of priceless value in our info-choked lives?

I wonder what could be more needed–of course, such a personal story would be one of the hardest things to write, to say nothing of ensuring the picture was vulnerable and honest enough to appeal in today’s culture. Clearly, an exemplary integrator would have to struggle to be authentic and laid bare. She’d need to care little about the judgment that would follow when her experiment in allowing change by an invisible hand to grow her awareness was misunderstood, maligned and even denounced.

But that’d be the cost, and it’s ultimately why I’ve grown to love inspirational memoir. Because it’s instructive in the ways I need it to be most–to see it, feel it and experience it for myself. Who can’t identify with this deep need to live more “wholistically?” You don’t have to be a writer to know this training is among our primary needs for survival now, since we’ve become largely safe and comfortable in our modern world. The great danger we face as humans isn’t physical or even ultimately intellectual–it’s spiritual. It has always been thus; we just haven’t been so capable of focusing so much attention on it before. dsc_0018

Which is why we’ll rip apart at the seams if we don’t get clear on how to do this mental work real quick.

Anyone coming to this work of demonstrating healthy integration, i.e. spiritual growth, will pay a price. Family and friends will oppose your efforts, see them as variously selfish, self-immolating, demanding, unreasonable, or even unhinged. There’s no easy response to why you’d choose to pursue this. Many won’t see it as growing our ability to identify with Christ’s wounds, yet isn’t it ultimately just that? To see more of the real world and experience the only real way to break our prejudices and privileges, and finally feel what another feels?

The connections there aren’t immediately obvious, but that’s why I’m compelled to commend this book to you. What I aspire to with Higher Purpose Writers is exemplified in Ann Voskamp’s new memoir, The Broken Way. Her example has shown me we need more Christ-followers willing to follow, to leave comfort and seek to know what we tend to miss as disintegrated, disembodied members of the body. So many members of the body are being dismembered and must be reminded, that is, re-membered. So many are being distracted and so many haven’t been given “the easy setting” like us. And what we need is more people willing to show the struggle to suffer in solidarity with them, without judging or arguing with their politics, or believing falsehoods to sidestep our mandate from God.

Simply, we are to love our neighbors and enemies as ourselves. And we need to integrate this knowledge to get involved in saving lives.

This book is the reason I began feeling disintegrated and stopped posting several weeks ago. dsc_0034As with One Thousand Gifts, The Broken Way forced me to recognize it and do something about it. After writing about writing for over 20 years, one of my main takeaways is clear: writing can create an eddy to remove you from where the river of creative flow is taking you. Without attention to integrating your spiritual knowledge, it can prevent you from facing your deeper fears and producing more good work of a higher purpose.

The Broken Way revealed to me I hadn’t yet integrated my knowledge about God with my own living of life. And that’s the opposite of being truly helpful to anyone in the real world. Maybe it’s not uncommon and we all experience such disintegration every day. We all know it’s incredibly hard to do the work of waiting and gathering and then considering all the factors of an issue, let alone to integrate the new awareness that arises slowly without being distracted and derailed. We grow too complacent, disinterested and convinced it’s unproductive navel-gazing. Maybe we also grow too afraid of inspiring others to conjure white padded rooms for us as we slip into self-important delusional behavior. But we can’t allow our fears to win. We can’t give in to our doubts that acquiring a fairly complete picture of our true work in this world, and integrating it, is possible.

dsc_0051Our hearts and everyone we’ll ever meet must follow this process of being transformed by the renewing of our minds. And it feels to me today on the cusp of another election (God help us) and the dawning of a dark and dangerous day for the west, it’s time to own my disintegration and get living again.

So for the next few weeks (possibly months), amidst myriad other tasks, factors and worthy and unworthy colluding distractions, I plan to follow what promises to be an epic interior journey, one I’ve never really embarked on before.

It may be only my fellow God-haunted nerds and misfits who see it and feel this excitement, but oh, my fellow Inspired aspirants, it will be epic…

More certainly to come. Will you join me?

For the higher purpose,

Mick

P.S. Please do check out my friend Ann’s book. It’s sure to sell well anyway, but as my favorite of 2016, at the very least it’s helped to make the year far less disappointing on balance.