The Fight

The world is a dark place.

Sometimes you wonder if Thanos was on to something.

Maybe Daenerys was justified.

After all, the evil in this world seems to have pervaded every aspect of humanity. The government oppresses the weak. Leaders of the church abuse those who they swore to protect. Brothers turn on brothers for their own gain. World leaders murder their own people over who they love and call it morality. Political systems are built to increase the power of the few at the detriment of humanity itself.

But just as the dark seems to have won, just as the last few specks of light seem to have flickered out, you see them.

Children rising up and demanding change in the name of a better future.

Women coming forward to testify on the horrors they’ve endured at the hands of men with the hope of gaining an equal ground.

Corporations donating their tax breaks to the protection of our world.

Men with their husbands and women with their wives showing the world that love is love and only light can come from love.

What Thanos didn’t see, what Daenerys was too blinded by her own ambition to realize, was that humanity becomes the strongest when the darkness closes in. We gather together and fight for the lives and dignities of all people in all places of all walks of life. Together, as one species, we stand up and tell the darkness it won’t win. We look in the eyes of the evil and let it know it has met its match.

So even though the powerful voices in our world tell only of the darkness and our powerlessness to defeat it, we rise together and prove that we can.

Humanity is one. And we are bringing light to defeat the dark.

Why the tattoo?

People ask me why I have the tattoo that I do. Here’s my reason:

Isaiah 40:28-31 says,

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

My entire life I have wished I could fly. Not just in an airplane or with an epic jet pack, though those would be great as well, but I myself, with no outside assistance, flying through the air. Not even in the Superman type of flying where I can soar through the sky at inhuman speeds, though that would also be cool. More in the way of floating.

I’ve suffered from depression for years. There are seasons of wonderful reprieve, and there are seasons of terrible darkness. As I have had to cope with the dark seasons, I have learned of the peace that can come from a long walk to nowhere particular. In my darkest moments, this is my therapy.

A few months ago, I began to process through some things that I had suppressed my entire life. All of the pain that I had hidden away came crashing to the surface and poured into the forefront of my mind. The feeling was overwhelming, and there were nights that I couldn’t imagine continuing. A few nights in particular, I strongly considered taking my life.

On one of these nights, I did what I always do and went for a walk. As I slowly walked down the dark street, trying my hardest to avoid openly weeping in front of some stranger’s house, I closed my eyes. I continued to walk down the street with closed eyes, aware of my surroundings yet no longer fully present.

I pictured myself slowly rising, my head turned heavenward as the earth slowly fell away. The pain, fear, despair, hopelessness, and desperation fell with the earth, leaving only me and my breath. I was weightless; the problems of the earth below had no hold on me. For the first time in what seemed like a long time, I was free. I slowly kicked my feet back and forth, the rhythmic sway in tune with my heartbeat. For a few seconds, in this mesmeric trance, I was free.

I know I can’t fly. I know I never left the ground. My feet were still chained to the pavement, with no hope of defying gravity. My problems never really fell away.

But for a moment…

These verses remind me that even though I’ll never be able to fly on my own, I can still find freedom. I will get weary. I will stumble and fall. But if I hope in the Lord, he will strengthen me, and I will soar. No longer bound to the earth and its entanglements, but finally free.

I may not be able to fly. But through the Lord, I can be free.

That’s why I have this tattoo.

The Uncanny Valley

As I walk outside, I notice.

Something isn’t right.

The sky is oddly yellow; the trees a shade or two off. A slight breeze bends the blades of grass, a little too much.

This must be a dream.

The birds aren’t chirping and the crickets’ song is a key too high. The world around me has an almost manufactured feel, as if created by an imperfect and fractured mind.

A mind like mine.

I look around me, taking in this uncanny valley of dream-reality, and begin to realize…

This isn’t a dream.

This is reality.

And a storm is brewing.

Paintings, Light Breezes, and The Little Engine that Could

As many of you know, I have been struggling with depression for years now. It was only within the last couple of weeks, however, that I was diagnosed with Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Basically this means that I will most likely struggle with depression my entire life. While this is a scary thought, and certainly a daunting challenge, this news was somewhat of a relief to me.

Yes, I really did just say that. I was relieved to learn that I have this condition. It validated my thoughts; it gave me an assurance that this wasn’t just all my own twisted way of messing with myself or getting attention. I have a legitimate mental disorder that causes my brain to throw me into depressive states and hinder my ability to come back up to a normal state of mind. It gave these thoughts and these doubts and these feelings a definition. I can’t express enough how important that was to me.

I have been trying my best ever since to shorten the depressive states and to make them less frequent. Obviously, I try to distract myself. To quote Car Radio, one of my favorite songs by Twenty One Pilots, “silence is violent.” When I find myself alone and bored, my mind quickly plunges into a depressive state. Here is a sample of just some of the thoughts that plague my mind:

Why is nobody here? Do they all think I’m annoying?
Are they only my friends because of some obligation or pity?
Does anyone truly care about me?
Why do I have to even do any of this?
What is the point?
When can all of this just end?

These are the thoughts that constantly plague me. They have lead me to some dark places, and they only get worse. I can’t control these thoughts, I don’t want them to come to me, but that’s how depression works. So, to battle that, I have decided to fill my life with as many positive reminders of the sanctity of life as possible.

To that end, let me tell you a little story. One of my best friends also suffers from depression. A good portion of our conversations revolve around this very topic. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, the importance of someone that understands can’t be overstated. Anyways, we were both pretty bogged down in life and whatnot, and I decided we were going to have what I so eloquently call “A Night of Spontaneity.” Basically, we met on campus and my friend had no idea what we were going to do. We walked to the Kroger off campus and each purchased something that reminded us of our childhood and brought up positive thoughts. She bought a Finding Nemo coloring book. I bought The Little Engine that Could. This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and still is to this day.I remember reading this book and thinking that it meant I could fly, or I could become President, or I could bring my stuffed dog to life. Now, this book means so much more. It reminds me that I can beat this; that life is not impossible. I don’t have to just wonder when this life will end, I can try and enjoy it. I can live.

The other day I went to a local park with my friend Matt. We sat down on a bench and looked out over the fields at the white, puffy clouds floating lazily across the sky. The way the light fall breeze combined with the breathtaking view laid out before us made me stop for a minute. Finally, I had a moment of silence that didn’t end with me questioning everything and falling deeper into the darkness that engulfs me. I felt God’s creation, and for a moment, I felt like I could fly.

Last night I went to an open mic night with two of my closest friends. One of them was performing (and did a fantastic job). Soon after I walked in, they had a raffle and gave away a painting that one of the artists had painted. As soon as I saw the painting, I could feel my mood improving, I could sense once again that little bit of light that was piercing the darkness. There was just something about the painting that made me feel at peace. I knew that I wanted that painting. God must have known as well, because out of about 30 people that were present, I won. This painting (pictured above) is now prominently displayed in my dorm room. Every time I look at it, I feel a little bit of peace.

You may wonder why I am telling you all of this. I mean, who cares? It’s just a bunch of odd, quirky little experiences. Well, here’s something else you should know: I am a very sentimental and symbolic person. I always have been; I always will be. These little symbols help to remind me that life is not only possible to accomplish, but worth the fight. I still have down days and I always will, but it’s the little things that bring me back up.

If you are struggling with something like this, then look around. Tell someone. Let them know. Don’t do it alone. And find your own Paintings, Light Breezes, and The Little Engine that Could. It may save your life.

Recovery

As many of you know, I struggle with depression. In fact, I have struggled with it for so long that I hardly know what life is like without it.

It’s become a part of me.

This year has been especially rough. I have not been my usual self. My friends began to worry about me and my family began to notice a change in me. Every day I thought about the futility of my life and felt completely alone. I overthought everything from jokes to quick glances. Everything somebody said or did was, in my depression soaked brain, a statement of their disdain towards me. I worried that every relationship I have ever had was just a superficial relationship out of mere obligation and pity. I had become susceptible to the idea that I was worthless.

That’s what it’s like to deal with depression. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. There is no trigger, nothing to indicate when it will hit me. Most of the time I am overcome with loneliness, doubt, and self loathing. I doubted my faith and felt abandoned by my God. That alone threw me even deeper into the pit of depression.

At least, that’s what it was like before.

4 weeks ago, I started attending therapy through the Counseling and Health Services offered by my university. 4 weeks ago I was in utter despair and lost in my depression to the point of thinking I would never see happiness and joy again. I spent more time collapsing in on myself than anything else, and I was pretty much at the end of my road. Remember, this was just 4 weeks ago- 4 sessions with my therapist.

I am not ashamed to admit that I need therapy or that I am depressed or that I don’t have all the answers. God created us to rely on Him. As a ministry major, I have always had this idea that I need to have my life together all of the time and never waver or struggle, and if I do I could certainly never show it. My job- my entire future- depends on helping others through this very same storm that has been plaguing me for so long. It is through that storm that I am growing into the minister that God intends for me to be.

4 weeks. 4 weeks ago I was broken, battered, bruised. I had no hope, no ambition, my entire life was full of apathy. Today, I am writing this with the joy of being able to say that I am in recovery.

This does not mean I am cured. I still have dark moments, dark days, and crippling thoughts. But I am once again able to experience hope, joy, ambition, life. I can finally see the end of this road I have been traveling for so long. I don’t know how much longer I will be struggling with this, but I am finally able to say that my struggle is turning into strength. It’s a long, arduous journey, and it’s one that we can’t travel alone.

If you are struggling with these same issues or any like it, please let me or someone else know. You can’t recover on your own. We weren’t created to do this alone. We are creatures of community.

It’s a long road. Don’t do it alone.

I love you guys. May God grant you all peace and joy. Thanks for your continuing prayers.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10

The Bare Foundation: 5 Building Blocks of Faith

Struggling with faith is something that every Christian will go through at least once in their lives. It’s a difficult season of life to be in, and once there it is very difficult to come out of it. Most of the time there is no indication of when it will come or go, and it hits you like a train. I would be lying if I said I haven’t struggled with it in the past, especially when I felt I was fighting a losing battle with depression. But here’s the thing: It’s normal.

As a matter of fact, I would say that it is an important part of growing in your faith. When we are children (whether literal children or children in our new lives as Christians), we have a faith that is built on what others have told us to be true. This isn’t inherently bad, it just means that we need to at some point own our faith. At some point, we have to move on from what everyone else is telling us and come to our own conclusions about the God that we love and believe in. More times than not, that requires a crisis of faith, a return to the Bare Foundation on which our faith is essentially built.

So, for those of you who are currently struggling with a crisis of faith, I thought I would share some of the aspects of my Bare Foundation. These were put into words by a friend of mine that has also struggled with this, and I agree 100% with the statements made. So here we go.

1. The Universe had to be created by some sort of intelligent being… it just doesn’t make sense otherwise.
I know that there is a lot of argument between the Creationists, the Evolutionary Theorists, the Big Bang believers, and so on. The argument is often made that it takes too much faith to believe that there was an intelligence behind the creation of the universe. To me, however, it seems that there would have to have been so many random coincidences for the creation to have happened the way that it did without someone or something guiding it along. To believe that all of those occurrences just happened to lead to the creation of life is above and beyond the faith required to believe that an intelligent being created the universe. I am choosing to believe the more logical one.

2. At the very least, the Bible is a collection of stories about the Israelites and their God.
The stories within the Bible were written by many different people from many different walks of life and time periods. It wasn’t readily available for just anyone to read what had already been written to check for consistency. With that being said, the common themes throughout the Bible are staggering. Many things that are prophesied in the Old Testament come into being in the New Testament, and the stories that are repeated in the New Testament are repeated very consistently. Not to mention, the stories and histories within the Bible are consistent with the historical context of the time period in which they were written. The stories about the people known as the Israelites and their God are eerily similar to us today. Again, too much of a coincidence to ignore.

3. The stories about Jesus in the Bible can’t be a scandal… there were too many people involved.
The Watergate scandal only had like 5 people involved… and it still managed to be blown open within a matter of months. There were thousands of people that witnessed Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. If any of it was false, somebody would have noticed and made a huge deal of it, effectively destroying the credibility of the entire book. Considering no such evidence exists, there is nothing to indicate that these stories are false. We must believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life free of sin, was crucified, dead, buried, and rose again from the dead 3 years later.

4. If we are to say that the stories of Jesus are true, then we come to the conclusion that he loved humanity.
Let’s be honest. If any of us were told that we were going to be killed for something that every single person on Earth has done except us, and it would completely absolve the others of their debts, we would most likely run the other direction. Jesus could have very easily refused to be crucified for the sins of everyone but his own. The fact that he did (which we established already) speaks volumes about the amount that he loves humanity. To sacrifice yourself for the benefit of everyone else through one of the most torturous deaths known to man takes an unearthly love. A love from God Himself.

5. Jesus is fully God and fully man, so therefore God must love us that much as well.
Again, we are relying on the idea that everything the Bible says about Jesus is true. With that being established, we can’t argue that Jesus is the Son of God, in fact the incarnation of God Himself while still being completely human (yeah, very difficult to process, but we can’t understand everything). Since Jesus was so unconditionally loving that he endured death for us, we can say that God is equally loving. This love is impossible for us to comprehend, and to experience it is inexplicable.

There is still a lot of faith required for an unwavering faith in God and his unconditional love for us. However, to me, there is nothing wrong with that. If God were to give us all of the answers, we wouldn’t need to rely on Him. Whatever love we would have for Him would be an obligatory love that comes from an undeniable fact. If we didn’t have faith, our love wouldn’t be genuine. Life with genuine love is so much more fulfilling, and therefore life with faith is fulfilling.

I don’t have all the answers, but I hope that this can help some of you come back to your Bare Foundation. It’s on that foundation that God will build an amazing life of faith.

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” -Romans 1:17 NIV