Lovers, Not Thinkers

When we place the entirety of our value on how well we can store and recite information from our minds, we miss out entirely on who we are. We miss out on how we are actually constructed. There is an entire part of ourselves found within our hearts we, and others, end up discrediting because of the lack of interaction with our own inner-heart.

We are lovers. As in, we are beings worthy of love.

My natural tendency is to construct logical arguments based on volumes of facts and ideas I have circulating in my mind. What’s great about the culture I grew up in is how it applauds and rewards thinking. School reinforces my value as a thinker for 25 years, because I can remember facts for a test and can construct a term paper by creatively combining ideas I lodged in my brain over the course of a semester.

I’m a thinker, and I’ve been rewarded as a thinker. Even in church.

Within the confines of Western society’s tendency to favor memorization and regurgitation over experiential and relational, the church is rewarding thinkers as well. The mediums we engage in clearly favor an earnest note taker like me who records volumes of sermon notes from the lecturer who stands on the pulpits speaking to the class. My N.T. Wright and C.S. Lewis books sit highlighted on my shelves. My blogroll continually feeds me daily on things currently happening in church culture.

But if instead I am primarily constructed as a lover, if I am worthy of love, where do I experience this? In very personal one-on-one times with God? In a prayer closet tucked away inside my home? At an awkward social-media-length distance from friends?

Silent Planet is quickly rising to the level of my favorite band. Ironically, they are named after a C.S. Lewis book. And the lead singer Garrett Russell is no ordinary metal-head screaming lyricist. Garrett is a deep thinker who is extremely well read and profoundly poetic.

In the following interview, Garrett starts off by describing why he refers to his fans as lovers:

We call our fans lovers because we believe that human beings are not so much primarily thinkers as we’ve been taught to believe in Western society . . . but instead that we are not thinking beings but relational beings and that our true identity is found in our relationships that we have.

Garrett is speaking profound wisdom. We are not thinkers only. There of course is tremendous value in being good at thinking. There is true worthiness of learning as much as we can with the abilities we have been given.

But at some point…at some point we can’t just hang our hats on what we think we know. We have to place everything on the line with Who we know.

If we know Jesus within the context of relationship then the dynamics begin shifting. We realize our volumes of books can only go so far. We realize our notes can only be studied over so many times. We even realize our bibles can only be underlined to the point of breaking through the pages.

As primarily relational beings we need to be willing to get real with ourselves and with each other. As images of God, either broken or restored, we have to be willing to plumb the depths of our relational selves. It is how we will connect with each other. It is how we will heal with each other. It is how God created someone right next to you, in community with you, to show you how they overcame a terrible situation you thought only you went through.

How beautiful it is Silent Planet calls their fans lovers. It allows me to take that little step more towards realizing I am loved.

It helps redefine my true self as primarily someone to be loved rather than someone to be thought about. It gives me permission to enter further into relational community with others knowing my words will only go so far. My thoughts can only carry our relationship to a point. But it will be seeing us all as lovers, all broken and scared images of God, which will strip away mere thoughts.

This Is Not A Before And After Picture. This Is A Journey Worth Taking.

There was a reason for the photo I took on January 7th, 2016. But maybe there were two reasons, and the other reason would begin showing itself later as the calling collided with action.

I asked my roommate at the time to take the picture in 2016 because I was updating my LinkedIn profile and wanted something more professional looking. I never took pictures of myself back then.

I thought the 2016 photo and several others I took that evening looked great. And they did. They were some of the better intentional photos I took of myself in recent times back then. I had a fresh haircut earlier that evening. I had a nice pull over on. I was forcing a smile.

Not at all during that night did I consider this a before picture. It wasn’t just a poorly lit attempt at a more professional looking picture of myself. It would in fact take on the role of a before picture.

In the weeks following I began shedding my first few pounds as I was hitting the gym every day during the week. It was a lot of weight lost at first actually. That may have been all I needed for momentum, because I was addicted at that point. I was finally putting in the work in gaining energy. It’s all I wanted to do as a goal really. Workout, get the workout high with the oxygen flowing and the heart pumping. I certainly was putting in work to back up what I knew needed to happen for a long time.

But the ‘work’ to change happened a long time prior to this early 2016 picture. That’s kinda why it’s not really a before picture to me in some ways. It is an in the middle of picture.

The ‘work’ prior to what was about to unfold physically was ‘work’ instilling a sense of value, a sense of purpose, a sense of beloved-ness back into me. It was a small community of men going through life together, becoming vulnerable with each other, and coming alongside each other where my predicament was given a space to be voiced out loud, as funny as it sounded out loud to me.

In this group of guys they steadfastly, with immense compassion, allowed me to not only voice how I was aware I had gained a ton of weight (because its physical anyway, we can all see), but begin for the first time figuring out why. But more important than the why, more important and vital than the forensic analysis of figuring out and tracing and decoding the faults, shame, and lack of personal disciple was the compassionate message voiced out loud every time we would meet.

You are greatly loved by Jesus.

Of course I knew that growing up Christian. Of course that was a matter of fact. But little did I know how much I needed to hear it from friends out loud. Not just read it or ponder it or even hear it verbally from someone standing on a stage. I had no idea how much I needed to hear from people who I call friends say out loud in the same room to me ‘Father, Papa, Abba, Daddy, He loves you. He really does.’

The strength in this consistent message is profound when it comes from those you call friends. It is nothing to read about anymore. It isn’t a sermon to study notes from. It isn’t a study bible highlighted over and over. It was verbally communicated across a room from friends getting real with each other. And profoundly, getting real with their rescuing God, Who, lovingly wants us to know our value with our hearts and not just our heads.

That was the ‘work’ setting itself up for what follows. What follows is only a physical manifestation as well, like how you could see I was out of shape from the outside previously. The physicality changes dramatically and that’s what we get to see and celebrate in our culture and that’s it. Or so I thought.

I didn’t get back to where I was physically once before. I blew past it. The shirt I am wearing on the right in the January 2018 picture today, two years to the exact day from the before picture, is a shirt I bought ten years ago. And it sort of barely fit back then. It’s thermal wear, but it didn’t matter, it was going to be worn underneath anyways. Today though, it fits like a glove.

I also didn’t get back to where I was ten years ago mentally. I feel like I am 20 years younger actually. My mind is sharper than it’s ever been. It’s kinda scary how mentally focused I am now a days. Like good scary.

There is much ‘work’ still to be done. That is what life is for in the here and now. I don’t want to kid anyone in thinking everything is fine right now as I type this out. I don’t want to say hey, workout and that leads to healing. That was my story. It is my story. But even that is only a sliver of my story and merely a physical manifestation of my story.

But I know the following now more than ever. As Viktor Frankl maintains in his book Man’s Search For Meaning, there is profound meaning inside the suffering of life. There is redemption available from the suffering. And there is the opportunity to help guide others because of the sufferings we face.

Jesus offers a Love so strong it will go to the most amazing lengths and depths and heights to reach where you are.

I never knew it was going to be a before picture. That wasn’t it’s reason. Maybe it will serve many other symbolic ‘befores’ in my life.

TwoYearChange

This Is Not A Weight Loss Post – You Are Loved

 

I’m so glad I am wearing that orange and blue shirt again. For the past five years, I’ve tried to get back into it. It even became the shirt you have hanging outside the closet to remind you every day ‘this is why you need to drop some pounds, to get back into this shirt!’ It’s size large and represents one of the last large shirts I purchased.

As of yesterday, I just dropped below 210 for the first time in over seven years. 2016 was the year I was fed up. I’m down over 65lbs since November 2015! I want this to encourage anyone out there looking to take on a new year’s challenge. You really can do it. Whatever it is, if you dedicate yourself you can get there.


And this is where I don’t tell you how I did it, but more how I was capable of doing it at all. The guy in the picture on the left would have told you I knew God loved me, I knew I had value etc. etc. Of course I know that, the bible tells me so! Growing up Christian and as analytical as I am by default it was a fact. If I were taking a test and had to answer “Does God Love You?” I’d circle in the yes answer. It’s something we’re pretty good at in Christianity, stating values and facts and outlines and creeds. But do we believe it in our core how God loves us? In the middle of an argument with our spouse? Do we believe it when we are seeking revenge against someone who has done us wrong? Do we believe it when we have nothing (or too much of something)?

If you had gazed into my eyes three years ago and said “Jesus loves you, you know that right?” I think I’d start looking down, away from you and off into the distance.

It was inside a very close community of men doing an unusual take on the classic church men’s group where I first started to share how I’d hit fast food lines on the commute from work 4-5 times a week (in case you were wondering, there are generally five days in a workweek). As other guys would share ‘real’ struggles out loud, I always thought I was making something up, like it didn’t sound like that big of a deal. But what I know now is back then I was wounded and had no idea.

It was the consistent message in these groups about God’s view of all of us that turned the corner for me:

You are loved.
You just are.
Right now, as overweight as you are,
As drugged up as you are,
As depressed as you are,
As stressed out as you are,
As broken and wounded as you are, YOU’RE LOVED RIGHT NOW.
He actually loves you, not theoretically.

Then I changed. Then I picked up the pieces. Safe community helps flush out things you either have a perfected way of covering up or had no idea you were concealing in the first place. And your launching point, mine at least, is understanding change only happens once you know you are simply loved as you are. Knowing Christ loves me and it’s day five in the gym sustains me to day 15. It’s a great paradox: ‘you are valued the way you are, now you are free to change!


Not exactly a seven step diet and exercise plan, but it’s the only thing I know that’s true. Whatever it is you are maturing towards, whatever it is you need to breakthrough this year or this month or the rest of this weekend, just know you are valued. Burst into the new year knowing this. You are loved. You actually are.

Right Brain Love

Within this segment, around the 9 minute mark, J. Kevin Butcher talks about the left-brain-knowing God loves you versus the right-brain-knowing God loves you.

It’s amazing to reflect on how easy it was for me to be rooted theologically, and yet not actually take to heart what that theology was telling me. It’s telling all of us God loves us, and wants us to stop harming ourselves because of the wounds of our past, self inflicted or committed by others.