Today, I Hope.

Emotional roller coasters are my least favorite kinds of roller coasters. My friend was shocked to hear that because she said I was "such a feeler."

I've come to realize that my emotional distress comes from desires to have something that is absent in my life. It's been an issue since I was a child. My mom said the first time I broke out of my crib was when my older brother was given my leftover macaroni. I bust out of that prison like Houdini, ran over to my brother, and sunk my teeth deep into his shoulder.

Obviously, my wants have matured a little bit since then, but even now, my fight against envy is still one of my most painful. It may be spurred on by something new that I think will satisfy me or by something I've lost. I've asked that the fight ends, but my desire to not have this struggle anymore has also caused me grief. After so many years and so many fights, I carry cuts and bruises that don't seem to heal.

Even wanting a flaw taken away has imprison me, blinded me to the hope that is mine, made me think I was unstable because I lacked instead of know that I was stable because I hoped. I'm accepting that the fight may never end, that some cuts may continue to bleed for the rest of my life, but I rest assured knowing that my feet are planted on unshakeable ground.

So today, though the thorn in my side stings a little more than usual as I'm reminded of what I lost and my heart still weighs heavily on my, my soul rejoice because through this hope I lack nothing. Indeed, I lack nothing.

"He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."

An Endless Endeavor

In a few months, I am finally going to get to see my favorite band The Head and the Heart. They're promoting their newest album, and they released a single that I immediate fell in love with. The music, the lyrics, it's all good. It's called All We Ever Knew, and it tells a story about something that happened in the past that didn't work out and finally deciding to make the decision to leave it behind and make up for it.

Yes its time to wake up from this
Its time to make up for it
All we ever do
Is all we ever knew

You can read all the lyrics. It's uncanny how relatable it is for me. That's one of the reasons I love the song so much, but as hopeful as the song sounds, I do not agree with it.

The song speaks truth that life is hard and things get destroyed, people hurt. And yes, we have to wake up from dwelling on our past. My own transgressions that I wish were buried still linger in my waking thoughts and haunt my deepest dreams. It's good and right to pray for freedom from these things. But the lyric that says it's time to make up for it, that's futility.

How long would my list of things I must make up for be, and how often would I add to it? Sounds exhausting, yet I try. I'm sobered when I see that some things cannot be made up for by man, but somehow I manage to tell myself that if I become this certain person then the pain that I caused to myself and others will stop and I'll finally be free. And instead of freedom, I am enslaved to an endless endeavor.

I've come to accept that some of my actions may have lifelong consequences, to myself and others, and the thorns in my side may never be removed, and that sucks. It really sucks. But I need to stop putting my faith in the idea that I can make up for it and put my faith in the truth that it has been forgiven. Whether or not I still feel the pain, it's forgiven, so I will rejoice in that and not in my futile endeavors. It's time to wake up from that.

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rust upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."


Someone once said to me, "I hate you." I'm sure that most people have probably had that thrown at them, whether jokingly or via spiteful dishonestly. But in this case, there was none of that. No insincerity.

The feeling wasn't mutual. I'm generally not a hateful person, or at least toward people. I mean, the things I hate are usually certain TV shows, like The Big Bang Theory, or routine activities like brushing my teeth or putting on my socks, but those disdains don't really leave me scarred. For me to have such animosity toward a person, he would have to intentionally try to hurt me, and it has happened before.

This guy, I met him freshman year of college at the pool table I would frequent in my dorm lobby. He would walk in the room, loud and obnoxious, wearing cut off Abercrombie shirts and acting like he owned the place, a stereotypical jerk. To top it off, he was really bad at pool, so his confidence had no foundation.

One night, I was waiting for my turn at the table. The guy was playing, and I was up next after him. When he finished his game, he made up a reason not to step down from the table, so I stood up to him, despite him being much bigger than me. When he told me, "do something about it," I complied by grabbing the triangle out of his hand. Immediately, he jumped on me, and after shoves and words were exchanged, he walked off. That's when I started to hate this guy, to the point where I wished harm on him. He deserved it, right? How dare he treat me like that! I believed those feelings were justified because I was the good guy by doing the right thing. He was the bad guy.

I tell this story now because I look back on it, and all I can really think is how ridiculously trivial the whole situation was. We fought over a game, and I walked away pridefully, holding onto this hatred against this person, a person who I haven't even seen since and will never see again. And honestly, like his arrogance, my pride had no foundation. I didn't stand up to him for goodness' sake. I just didn't like him and wanted to do what I could to ensure he didn't get his way.

Then years later, which is an embarrassing length of time, I finally let it go. There was no epiphanic moment. It was insignificant, just like the event that caused it. But what allowed me to relinquish such bitterness was the opposite of that. I found myself on the receiving end of somebody's hatred, and the way I saw that guy was the way somebody was looking at me. This was different though, because it was coming from a friend, and I deserved it.

That hatred seemed irredeemable, but it immediately started a work in me, plowing through any pride I had, showing me I was never anything more than a bad guy. The worst parts of me were exposed. All the times I chose to be selfish and treat others cheaply were summed up in those words.

This all took place a while ago, and I still often dwell on my regrets and sorrows and wish that all this had never happened, but then who would I be now? Probably still some jerk, shoving people around trying to get what he wants.

One was Vengeance

If I get murdered in the city
don’t go revenging in my name.

One person dead from such is plenty.

Revenge has never been something that I've cared to partake in. I do think it's wrong, but that's not the reason I choose to abstain. It might sound like I'm trying to be high and mighty, but I assure you that my reason will make you think otherwise.

I think the idea of getting revenge is sweet. If somebody were to wrong me, I would love to get payback, and most people would tell you that that's okay and right. It's the plot to so many movies where we want to see the avenger succeed. We always root for that guy. The thing that stops me from doing so isn't my religion or any moral guidance. It's because I don't want to deal with the aftermath of my revenge. The revenge to my revenge, I guess. Maybe it's because of cowardice, or laziness.

Is it flawed to think this way? I tend to let a lot of things go that I shouldn't. It kind of just makes me a pushover. This might be mainly because I don't really ever get wronged so horribly to illicit a strong reaction. I'm blessed that way. But for the sake of not having such a boring post, let's assume that somebody does do me dirty, and I become overwhelmed with anger. I suppose I could be the "bigger person", but I feel like that title can only apply if your reaction to wrongdoing is to extend forgiveness. I think I'd be very tempted to extend secret disdain and passive aggressiveness. I was taught to love my enemies, but even in doing that, my intent might be to make my enemy feel guilt and shame and grovel at my feet instead of to bring harmony. Maybe I'm wrong. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Maybe I don't believe in seeking revenge because of the implication it would have on my life. I'm sure if I ever carried out my vengefulness, I would initially enjoy it before the guilt trip, but then I couldn't complain if someone did the same one me. Hah. I say "complain" like I would be in a position where I didn't deserve what's coming. The truth is that there are people I have wronged who deserve retribution, no matter the size of my crime. I really hope they get it, though, but in the form of my sincerest apologies. I pray that I learn to give that, truly. If not, then surely evil and vengeance shall follow me all the days of my life. But like I just said, can't complain.

Cheery post, I know. Thirteen more to go.

Names That Fell

It’s funny how I’ve been working so hard to become a robot for the past year, yet I only listen to music that will illicit some sort of emotional response.   All the signs of an emotional person were there. Now I find it humorous how I ignored something so obvious, but I digress.

Music has to really move me before I get really into it, the lyrics and melody. This makes me kind of picky. I even find it difficult to listen to “workout music” while I’m working out. I know it’s supposed to get you “pumped”, but is pumped an emotion? “I am feeling pumped.” I guess it’s slang for excited. Anyway, that kind of music doesn’t really do anything for me. I have to be able to listen to the lyrics and hear some truth that is not about topics such as big booties or making fat stacks of cash, both of which are quite unrelatable for me.

Upon discovering a new band, I will play their songs while reading their lyrics. I’ll analyze each line and try to figure out what the songwriter is trying to say and how it relates to my life. Sometimes I’ll realize something about myself that I hadn’t realized before. It’s amazing how someone can take a feeling and turn into something with rhythm. Once I’ve done this for every song, I will pretty much listen to the same band over and over until I find another one I can do the same thing for. Ideally, I’d find a new band immediately, but I usually have to stumble across or be introduced to new music. This is mainly because I prefer to listen to something that I know will give me what I seek rather than start searching for it again. I’m afraid of trying something new and wasting time, so I like to play it safe. It’s silly, I know. I’ll work on getting over that.

So I didn’t make any new years resolutions this year. I never do, but I will right now, a month into 2016. I want to be known better, which means being voluntarily open about your life. I’m going to use a song to get my point across. It’s called “Names that Fell” by Zach Williams, the lead singer of one of my favorite bands The Lone Bellow. This is one of those songs I had to sit down and study for a second. I didn’t really know what it meant, but I was pretty surprised once I looked into it. Zach is basically looking at a tower filled with 14 men. Each man is a sin that has plagued him or his fathers, but the tower falls, killing all the sins that so desperately wanted to have a hold on his life. He watches gladly. What I’m going to do is write a letter to or a story about all 14 of these men. Vulnerability, yay.

Now that I have posted this, I have to do it. Have fun getting to know the worst parts of me.

So here’s the song. And here are the lyrics, shortened because it repeats.

I got my eyes pealed on a watchtower
That bent then broke four years ago
Their were 10 to 15 men inside
That screamed their story were untold
And I looked one right dead in the eye
While two more said please don’t let us go
But the truth be known I didn’t mind
Watching that old belfry fold

Their knuckles white
Their faces red
And all in unison they said
“You’ll never win
You’re way to old
Your father’s sin gave us your soul”
But two men stood up beside me
We stepped back to watch and see
That belfry start to sway and lean
All in unison we screamed

Upon a rock on which we stand
I see that belfry in the sand
Four years have gone
The sand is old;
It’s covered all my sins with mold
And steady comes the midnight tide
To slowly crack the belfry’s pride
Three men and I tell stories told
Of our father’s sin still trapped inside

One was vengeance
Two was hate
Still we pray they’ll never wake
Three and four was envy and lies
These were the names that fell with the bell chime
Five was greed
Six was lust
Seven was the name I’ll never trust
Eight and nine was envy and pride
Ten was jealousy that binds me
Eleven and twelve was pride and betrayal
Thirteen was the sloth that killed me
Fourteen was the judgment that tried
These were all the names that fell with the bell chime

New, Sharp, and Having Teeth

If I were to describe the person I wanted to be by the time I left college, he would be buff. His eyes calm, yet they pierced your soul with his caring gaze whenever he looked at you. Mature beyond his years. He was a good friend, always lending a shoulder to cry on and dropping wisdom to sooth weary hearts. His words carried much weight. Above all, he was spiritual, every day striving after things not of this world. He never worried, for he knew all of his afflictions were temporary. He could slay his struggles so well that he may not even have had any, almost sinless, yet humble. He stood atop a mountain, doing all in his power to help those still stuck in the valley get to the top also.

The four years of college came and went, and I grew to know the person who emerged from it very well. Success, right? I found what I was looking for and became a man, yeah?

Nah. Unfortunately, the me I knew was nowhere close to that image I had of myself. That image was still only real in my head, but I wanted to believe he was the true me. Despite having absolute knowledge of my struggles, I wanted to believe and live like I was more capable than I actually was. My solution was simple: don't tell anybody. Not my friends. Not God, like He didn't know. Just pretend and try to figure it out by yourself.

When you live a life like that, knowing yourself doesn't matter. It's useless, actually.

I so desperately wanted to be that person other people looked up to and God was lucky to have on His side. The eyes of super Daniel were always on me, glaring with disappointment. The weight of his gaze was crippling, and I became so frustrated with myself and with God. I wanted this process of sanctification to be easy, but it usually involves swallowing your pride. I didn't want it to cost me anything. I hoped that I would just become better without having to lift a finger, just like everything else in life (sarcasm).

I finally realized that I had wasted four years of college and then some pretending to be somebody I wasn't, and it truly cost me. I missed out on deeper relationships and lost friendships and intimacy with the only One who can perfectly love me. I finally let go and decided to be honest with myself, my friends, and my God. I allowed myself to be known. Every struggle, every insecurity, every sin, every joy. My relationships have not been the same since. I've never been so close to my friends. Sometimes I feel like I barely knew any of them until recently, yet I have lived with them for years. With God, I had to realize that He is not "lucky" to have me and won't be. I don't say that out of self-depreciation. I say it out of truth, which I spent my whole life proving, yet He delights in me. I allowed Him to take His rightful spot on top of the mountain, and He watches. His eyes calm, piercing my unworthy soul with nothing but love and compassion. The weight of His gaze is light and so gracious.

Since then, I've had the privilege of getting glimpses of who I used to be. I thought that it would cause me to crawl up in shame, but instead all I could do was rejoice. The person I was is unrecognizable to me now. I can actually see that I am a new creation, and for the first time in my life, I am pleased with who I have become. I don't mean to sound prideful. It's just the truth. The valley is now far behind me, but still, I shall not grow content with my current view. Slowly, but joyfully, I ascend.

Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
new, sharp, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff;
you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
And you shall rejoice in the Lord;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

Isaiah 41:15-16

Inspiration for post:

"The Truth is a Cave/The Valley (Reprise)" by The Oh Hellos

Courage, Dear Heart

I have this thing about feelings, which is that I don’t really like having them.

Up until this past year, I think I lived the lie that seeking what made me feel good was what was worth chasing. As it turns out, this can lead to living a very selfish life. It can cause a lot of pain and very bad decisions, but by the time I realized that, it was too late. In an attempt to not repeat the past, I tried not to ignore what I felt.

It became a beast I was unwilling to let loose again. I rationalized this, thinking that it could protect other people from what I found I was capable of doing. I was being selfless! I could do anything and make any decision not based on emotion, flying around, hoping to protect people from me. Spock! I was Spock.

I give myself too much credit, though. People don’t need protection from me. I was really just trying to protect myself, being selfish and trying to pass it off as being righteous, but it kept me safe, invincible, though a little cold.

I’ve had lots of conversations with a good friend of mine about how we deal with our emotions. What we usually conclude is that hers overflow from her, which, to me, sounds exhausting. I, on the other hand, just ignore them, which, in retrospect, sounds unhealthy. I did not want to admit that feelings need to be dealt with whether or not a decision is based on them, but that would have required more self-examination than what I was comfortable with… which is usually none. I was placing feelings in a space outside of reality, like they were something that was optional and should not affect everyday life. Unfortunately, this does not prepare you for when that box you keep so well hidden starts to overflow and becomes very real.

I’ve come to see that I can’t just ignore this. When I’m hurt, there’s a real, bleeding wound. Ignoring it will be life-draining. I want it to be tended to, perfectly sewn, made stronger. That cannot happen if I’m ignoring this core part of who I am. I want to become a man who loves radically, weeps unashamedly, laughs uncontrollably, agers without sinning. There is joy in all these things! There is life and freedom, even when it hurts. Indeed, it comes with that risk of suffering, but even then I pray that I consider it pure joy. What a marvelous opportunity.

Inspiration for post:

"Hello My Old Heart" by The Oh Hellos

Relevant quotes:

“…for the first time, let’s just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are and that will be better. OK? I think that will be better.” – Andrew Largeman, Garden State

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart offlesh.” – God, Ezekiel 36:26