Sunday, March 31, 2013

Turn and Look

He turned and looked.

In arguably one of the most intense betrayal scenes in history, Jesus turns and looks at Peter after he denies him the third time.

Can you imagine?

"I do not know Him...," Peter muttered. "I am not one of them," he insisted. "I do not know what you are talking about!"

He pleads ignorance. He denies his role among one of Jesus' elite crew. He denies even knowing Him.

And Jesus turns and looks at him.

Can you imagine?

I wondered what His eyes held in that look. Was hurt etched upon them? Was there, even in the pain, still an understanding, a compassion, a love for Peter?

A pastor recently hi-lighted this scene for me, and as I sat in the service, I felt heavy tears stinging at the back of my eyes. Because I, ashamedly, understood Peter's betrayal. I knew the many times that I had pleaded my own ignorance, I knew the many times I had not wanted to be considered one of Jesus' elite crew because it didn't feel 'cool', I knew the times I had denied knowing Christ through my actions and words...directly going against the very things that I knew the Lord was asking me to do.

Perhaps my words weren't as blatant of a denial as Peter's, at least not audibly. But there have been many times where I've thought, 'I don't care what You say, God. I'm going to do this my way. I'm going to live in this sin. I'm going to choose evil over good... at least this time.' 

And He turns and looks...
And then He goes to the cross, and He dies for me... for my sin. His blood is spilt, His body broken.

Peter's response is not foreign to my own. He goes and he weeps bitterly.

I don't understand it.
I don't understand why He would ever endure what He did for us. But, I know that He did. I know that in Him death is conquered, that there is victory, that there is hope, that there is redemption.

I know that He has chosen me, even when I don't always choose Him.
And I fall flat on my face, humbled because of His choice... weeping bitterly.

But the story doesn't end here. It doesn't stop with betrayal and death and hopelessness.

There's much to celebrate today as the resurrected King calls us to something greater, as He calls us out of the darkness of our betrayals and our sins...because in Him we have new life. Every time.

There's hope. Even for the worst of us.
Rejoice--because Christ the Lord is risen today!

Let it mean something to you.
And when He turns to look at you, even in your darkest moments... I pray that you would look back, that you wouldn't run, that you wouldn't hide, that you wouldn't despair, that you wouldn't turn away.

He has more for you than the betrayals and the sin that we so easily get entangled in.
Live in the hope... in the joy of your salvation. And let your life be changed as you look at an empty tomb that reminds you that death couldn't defeat Him and neither can your own darkness. He has paid the price.

It is finished.
Turn and look... for He has risen.

He has risen, indeed.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Girl Friends

I have a hard time making good girl friends.

I could blame it on a number of things (like the fact that I grew up with three older brothers, or that I'd much rather do sporty/outdoorsy things than get my nails done)...but, I think there are quite a few girls out there that share my sentiments who would rather get their nails done and who have no brothers. I kind of think it's a challenge that many a girl encounters in life, in one season or another. I am not the exception.

So what is it that's so challenging about female friendship?

I kind of think that on some level, most girls are territorial, jealous, or easily threatened (or maybe all three). I'm noticing it now more than ever since I've just moved to a new location and am attempting to make friends with people. There's a difference in entering into something all at once with a group of people vs. entering into something when almost everyone else has already been there for a while. Lots of times girls already have good friends and they aren't really looking for more.

Suddenly I'm walking into scenarios where I immediately feel as though I've just invaded a private dinner party, even though I had an invitation to attend. Why? Mostly because of the women. I can almost feel them sizing me up. If my appearance doesn't already condemn me (for one reason or another), there then becomes many a different area in which we shall now be competing, regardless of if I'm even aware of it or not.

I've just entered into a den where a lionness is determined to protect what belongs to her. This is her scene and her friends (especially the guys, in case I was thinking about getting any funny ideas...). Okay, it's not usually that extreme, but I can definitely pick up vibes when I'm not necessarily wanted. Tolerated? Sure. But not least by the majority of the girls. There are, of course, the obligatory questions that the ladies ask in order to appear somewhat interested in getting to know you (or at least in order to not be completely rude to the new person on the scene).

I know that I'm most likely reading into things...but I also know that many of you ladies know exactly what I'm talking about. It's hard to get to know other women, especially when you feel like you're invading their space. Why would they want to be friends with a new girl who could potentially change the dynamic of what they've grown accustomed to? Why would they want to be friends with a new girl who could potentially become decent friends with the guy that they've been interested in for years? Who wouldn't feel somewhat threatened by that?

I get it.
I, shamefully, have probably made other girls feel this way, even if it was unintentional. It's inexcusable to me now. (I'm so sorry if you're reading this and I've ever made you feel like this...)

Instead of being driven by a desire to know people and to care for them deeply, I've often been more concerned with maintaining my comfort zone and having everything (and everyone) around me precisely the way I wanted. Because....what if a new girl came in was better than me at sports, or writing, or connecting with other people, or discipleship, or having fun, or being adventurous, or being funny, or being laid back, or being a Christian? What if other people liked her more than me?

I think the threat of the new girl makes us feel as though our current relationships will change and we will soon be substituted for her and it causes us to panic. Immediately we feel replaceable and that our friends will start choosing her over us.

Sometimes our natural response to a new girl coming into our scene reveals just how insecure we really are...

Fortunately, I've met a few ladies who have welcomed me in with open arms and made me feel very included in their lives and other friendships (with guys and girls alike). The differences in these interactions have caused me to recognize how cold and unwelcoming territorial, jealous and easily threatened women can be. It's caused me to be aware of how cold I can be to other women, even when I'm the new one.

It's a good wake-up call for me.

The female friendship is tricky to navigate and I think it takes time. Time to sort through all the issues that arise when you're still getting a feel for the other person. But, I think that both sides need to be willing to make an effort. I think the new person needs to be proactive in pursuing friendships and not getting sucked into believing that everything she thinks everyone is thinking about her is actually what they are thinking about her. Oftentimes it can be misconstrued out of insecurity or simply not knowing the other women well enough yet. I think she needs keep trying, even when people seem too busy or that they already have a lot of friends.

I think the old person needs to be proactive in making new people feel welcomed, in engaging in meaningful conversations, in inviting the new girl to future activities/gatherings (shoot, if you don't, it may very well end up being your good guy friend extending the pity invite to the new girl because no girls want to be her friend...don't you love the 'ol backfire?). Maybe she will change things for you a little, but maybe that's okay...maybe you'll be surprised by the friend you gain in being willing to give a new girl a chance.

I know I've been abundantly blessed by the women who were willing to give this new girl a chance. I know I've been continually impressed by their maturity and their desire to include me and not exist in a world where they let the fear of their current relationships changing threaten them.

Reach out to the new girl.
She's not intentionally out to get you, or to be better at you than everything, or to steal your guy friends, or your best female friend away from you. She's, more than likely, just wanting a friend...wanting to find people to connect to that she has things in common with. Give her a chance. Don't allow your selfishness, your controlling nature, your jealousy or your fears to get in the way of loving her well.

And yes, I'm willing (and need) to take my own advice.
Female friendships can be really, really beautiful things. I've come along way in the last ten years of allowing them into my life and understanding the importance of them. You, as a woman, need them...and don't try to convince yourself that you don't.

Let's be people who love others well (regardless of their gender). And I think we may be a bit surprised when we are willing to love those women who we feel most threatened by and most jealous of.

Ahh... the lessons of life...

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Protecting Him?

I wouldn't ever claim to have a 'savior's complex', but sometimes I probably think I need to save people (as if I ever could...). Sometimes I think, even more than that, that I need to protect them.

I wouldn't necessarily go down in history as the worst person in all mankind, but I'm certainly not the best. I've had my fair share of crazy antics and made many a mistake, not to mention the heartaches that stem from broken trust, betrayal and general feelings of rejection. Sometimes I'm oblivious to the wounds that I still carry and sometimes I'm acutely aware of them.

The times I'm most aware of them are the times when I'm contemplating entering into another relationship. There have been a few guys in my life who I've encountered that had never really dated anyone prior to me and that fact alone caused me to halt.

Hold up...
Because, while I'm bringing in all of this junk... your slate is clean?
While I've kissed more guys than I'd ever care to admit, you've never kissed anyone?
While I've been heartbroken a countless number of times, you've never really been hurt?

I don't think you can handle this.
(Destiny's Child's lyrics to Bootylicious are bouncing around in my heard right now in a completely different context, of course).

My most recent encounter with such a guy involved a lot of fear and a desire to protect his pure-ish heart from all the of gross plaque on my heart, especially as we discussed the possibilities of a relationship. I didn't want my past, my hurts, my broken experiences to play such a fatalistic role in romantic comedy where the other lead is full of optimism and joy. Where he saw opportunity and hope, I only saw hurt and despair.

I hurt people. All I have to offer you right now is broken trust and jaded views on how relationships ought to be. You don't deserve that....
I couldn't bear the thought of stripping such an innocent soul of its goodness and pureness...and that result felt quite inevitable.

His words surprised me: You don't have to protect me. I know the risk involved. I can handle it.

I didn't believe him instantaneously... but, somewhere within me, I knew he was right. Not only did I not have to protect him, but I couldn't protect him. It wasn't my job. And, despite his experience or inexperience with relationships, he did know heartbreak...he did know rejection...he did know loss. Who was I to declare our different pasts to be a point of incompatibility? Who was I to decide that my pain and my tragedies were somehow worse than his, regardless of how and with whom they played out? Who was I to think that my sin and my brokenness were too unbearable for anyone else to tolerate?

Not too long ago I was talking to a girl who mentioned something similar: "I just feel like I've dated a lot and he really hasn't...and I just don't know if he can really handle all the stuff in my past." And, too often, I fear that we truly believe that and so we don't disclose important parts of our pasts as we enter into relationships. We think we'll tell them eventually. Or, we close ourselves off entirely from ever dating the person because we've convinced ourselves that we are too much for them in way or another.

Bad idea.
Wrong idea.

He can handle it. He probably wants to handle it... so maybe you should let him. Maybe it'll be a lot for him to soak in at first, maybe you'll need to give him time, and maybe it'll end up being too much. Regardless, he'll know. And he'll appreciate and value the honesty. And it's okay.

If there's anything I'm sure of, it's that honesty is vital in relationships. I'm not saying that you should go tell the guy that you've been on one date with every dark corner of your past... but I am saying that when he asks, you should tell him. I am saying that when you feel like you should tell him, you probably should. I am saying that it's not your job to keep certain things from him because it would be too hard for him to know those things....I think he's more than capable of deciding that for himself.

Full-disclosure when it's the right time. I'm a fan.
Don't avoid something good because you're scared he can't handle you and all your junk. Let him decide, okay?

You don't have to protect him.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, March 25, 2013

When Texting is Bad

Dear Jimmy,

So, that's not actually your real name and I don't even know you... but I heard about some text messages you've been sending to one of my friends, and, well... we need to talk.

I imagine that you're sending these particular text messages because you're a little shy or insecure and you're trying to get a feel for if this girl would even give you a shot? It's understandable. We live in a time where it's become very easy to minimize risk as we try to put our heart out there... a time when we are able to take much precaution as we face possible rejection. It's usually easier to take small, risky steps than it is to take a giant leap. I get it.

So, you ask her to be your friend on Facebook. She accepts. Things are feeling good, huh? While you might be aware of her every move on the social networking site, you gotta play it cool. Only 'like' things, or write on her wall every so often... if you do it excessively, you'll most likely look too desperate. See if she responds back to your comments. If she does, it seems safe to take the next step. You might instigate a Facebook chat... which eventually leads into suggestions for group hangouts (those are always safe, right?) meaning you'll need her number.

Okay, okay... so I don't know exactly how it all played out and maybe you exchanged numbers under the guise of friendship without any of the romantic feelings even being there from the beginning. Maybe they've slowly developed over time and you already have this basis of a friendship established and so moving out of the 'friend' zone feels a bit tricky.

No matter how it happened you now have her number for one reason or another. Here are a few tips on what to avoid if you truly want to capture the heart of the lady you are most certainly interested in:

  • DON'T hypothetically ask her out over text messages, Facebook messages, emails. Don't put 'feelers' out there just so you can get a better idea of what she's going to say if you do decide you want to ask her out. Not only does this make you appear as though you're not sure if you're even interested, but it sends a thousand different messages to the female which puts her in utter turmoil until you clear the air (if you ever even do). 
  • DON'T ask her out over text messages, Facebook messages, emails. It's a big deal for you to ask a girl out, I get that... so, make it a big deal. Do it in person, if you can. You can even call her (I mean, you already have her phone number). It's important for her to know that you're making an effort, going out of your way, taking a risk and putting yourself out there. Don't let yourself just 'happen' into a date--be intentional about it. Plus, things always get misinterpreted and confusing over these forms of communication. You don't want her thinking that you're kidding when you're not or, for your sake, having to wait to hear back from her for a response! 
  • DON'T make her take the risk first. I believe your exact texts were, 'So are we ever gonna go see a movie?... Would you want to go with just us?...Wouldn't that be a date?' By asking her those question, you're making her take the risk first, which most girls aren't inclined to do. In her head she's now thinking...'Well, if I tell him I that I do want it to be just the two of us, he might think that's too forward or he might have completely other intentions... and if I don't tell him that, then I may miss out on an opportunity to be alone with him...'. Utter turmoil. Man up. Tell her your intentions. Tell her that you want to take her out on a date, just the two of you. Tell her that you'd like to get to know her better. And then let her respond. 
  • DON'T be afraid of romance. Despite what some girls (like me...) say about how they hate romantic gestures, little things can go a long way. I don't necessarily mean expensive jewelry or a radio over the head outside my window type of gesture (at least not initially), but almost every girl loves feeling doted upon. Make her feel special in some way. It's risky, yes... but, it's only going to help your chances of scoring the date. Write a note, say kind things, give her a little something that you know she'll appreciate that lets her know that you were thinking of her. You can actually probably tell from her response to this gesture if she'd even want to go on a date with you. 
I get that it's all risky which means that it's all scary. I get that there's the possibility of rejection and that your pride is on the line and that maybe you've even had some bad experiences in the past. I get it. 

But, c'mon. 
If you really want to pursue a girl and pursue her well, you gotta just go for it. You have to decide that she's worth it (even if the result is catastrophic and it's completely a one-sided affair) and go for it, no matter the outcome. You'll survive it... I'm sure

I used to boldly declare that I truly believed that any guy could get any girl if he just pursued her well. And, I still kind of think it's true, although I realize there are some exceptions to the rule. My point is mostly that if a guy pursues a girl well... if he is honest and upfront with her about his intentions, if he makes her feel like she's the most beautiful and wonderful thing, if he pushes her towards being a better person, if he inspires her, if he takes risks for her, if he just decides she's worth it no matter the cost... that most guys could get most girls. 

So, Jimmy. 
You like this girl, right? 
Stop testing the water and just take the plunge. Stop hiding behind your phone and your computer. 
Ask her out. 
What the worst that happens? If she says no, now you know. 

There's obviously a lot more I could say and a lot more specifics I could delve into...but I think the thing you need to take away the most from this is to stop texting weird/flirty/unclear things to girls that send them into a tizzy. If you like her, do something about it. An actual something, not just a sort of something. 

That's all for now. 
Good luck out there. 


Oh, and Jimmy...? The other thing is that you can't really screw it up. If she likes you, it doesn't matter if you text her or email her or say all the wrong things at all the wrong times. It'll work out. Take some comfort in that. 

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Action Required

'Jesus, I love You.' 

It felt strange for the words to come out of my mouth, but maybe even stranger that it felt strange at all. I couldn't remember the last time I had uttered them, honestly.

Sure, there's been the 'ol, "Jesus we love you" moments in praying out loud with others.... but I hadn't made it personal to just me in a long while. At least not audibly.

As soon as they came out, I immediately wondered, 'Do I...?'

I don't really use the word 'love' a whole lot...unless I'm talking about food, of course. When it comes to people, it's a scarcity in my vocabulary. I want it to mean something, I want it to be significant. I want it to be believed by the recipient that I mean what I say and that I'm willing to back it up with my actions.

Loving others is a big deal. They can never be just words... but there are always actions required. Actions that require selflessness, and sacrifice, and patience, and kindness, and perseverance, and hope when things feel hopeless, and trust, and not keeping track of all the crappy things. It's hard...and, to be honest, I'm not sure I'm even capable of it on my own.

So, if loving others is that big of a deal... when I tell Jesus I love Him...what does that make me responsible for?

'If you love Me, keep My commands...' 

Loving Jesus isn't all about this emotional connectivity that feels all fluffy and good within. Does it happen sometimes...? Yeah, sure. But, it's not the basis for how God knows I love Him.


Do I love Jesus?
Do I keep His commands?
'His command is that you walk in love...' 

I can tell Jesus I love Him all day long, but until I follow it up with obedience, it seems empty. It seems just as empty as the casual 'I love you' to a friend or an acquaintance that I merely say the words to because that's what Christians are 'supposed' to do.

When I tell Jesus I love Him...I want it to mean something, I want it to be significant. I want it to be known by Him that I mean what I say and that I'm willing to back it up with my actions.

We have to be willing to be people who walk in love...not just people who are willing to say they love.

Action is required.
Make sure your words match up with your actions, whether you're talking to friends, family or the Savior of the world.

It matters.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Straight A's

It's been almost seven years, but today I broke back into territory I had almost forgotten.


It was complete with the Blue Book and a number two mechanical pencil (there was a lot of despair in my head on if I should use a pen or pencil, actually). While I felt adequately prepared going into the test, I couldn't help but laugh when I saw the first thing at the top of it. Oops. I guess I hadn't realized we were supposed to know that. Or that... or that... 

There was probably a little panic that set in once I was aware that I felt like I only really knew half the answers, had pretty educated guesses on the remaining three quarters....and was essentially guessing on the last bit. Panic, mixed with some chuckles, every time I encountered another question that I knew I was going to have to guess on. 

I had a decided a few days ago that I needed to learn how to let a test just be a test and not define my worth by my GPA, though (which is probably why I could laugh a bit). There's this terribly prideful part of me that longs for straight A's as it would seem to present a direct correlation to my intelligence and/or my work ethic. How sweet would it be if I could say that I had made straight A's all the way through graduate school, right? 

But I was struck by the insignificance of it. I was reminded that other things matter more...and that I am defined not by the grades I can churn out. 

Because, even if I could figure out a way to earn A's in every class I'm in, I wonder how much I'd actually be learning in them. I want to do well and take all the reading and paper-writing and test-taking seriously, but I think that too often we become anxious and stressed over things like this in our life that don't hold eternal significance. 

I can't remember the grades I made on specific tests and papers in undergraduate school (except for that one appalling 'C' on got on that one paper...), and I certainly can't remember what specific grades I got on things in high school. Realizing this has been enough to allow me to breathe easier now that I'm in graduate school...

I want to learn.
I want to absorb new things and being open-minded to different ways of thinking. I want to know Jesus Christ more. Perhaps that gets reflected in test-taking occasionally, but I'm not convinced that it's the thing we should base our progress in this area on. 

My point? 
My point is simply to not get sucked into letting the grades define your existence. To not let your anxieties over school eat your stomach into ulcers. To not be so determined to get the good grades that you forget to soak in the material as a result... to not become the Pharisees who could churn out the obedience to the laws with ease, without really absorbing the heart behind it. 

Be diligent in your studies, work hard and persevere in them... but don't be consumed to the point where you forget that other things matter. Don't get so lost in your books that you forget other people exist and are in need of your friendship and love. Don't get so anxious about grades that you're impossible to be around because of your constant worry and inability to discuss anything non-school related. Don't use school as an excuse to not care about others or make time for them. Don't forget to have fun, to take breaks, to let other things take priority over schoolwork when they need to (but, if you're a may need to make sure schoolwork takes a priority more than it does...). 

Bear fruit in the way that you live your life, including the way that you go about being a student. It's weird territory (I'm realizing this again, now that I'm back in the midst of it). Don't be so inwardly focused that you forget to see people and let them matter abundantly more than that extra ten minutes you could be studying. Take time out for the Lord. Take time out for other people. 

If you get a B, I think you'll survive.
Be willing to drop your pride, especially if that means building up someone else.

There's more to life than good grades. 
Let's not forget it. 

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I had an image the other day where I was virtually stabbing myself in the heart.

Die, die, die, die...

Over and over again.

Morbid, right?
Notice I said virtually. Which mostly means that in my continued desires for relationship and family, I suddenly had the urge to Kill Them.

I don't know how to kill desire, though. You can ignore it, you can run from it, you can hide its existence... but to kill it? To have it be gone forever? With no possibility for return?  To put it to death for once and for all...?

The visual of my heart being stabbed, while gruesome, seemed to arouse something within. It's as though my heart, in between each blow, was crying out, trying to say something.

Because, while I wanted to be done with the desires, with the 'wanting but not having' tension, with the  unshakeable feeling that my heart is truly evil and it cannot be heart was pleading its case. It wanted to be heard before I stifled it out completely.

This isn't bad, Debbie. These things that you want, they aren't inherently bad.

It hit me.
It's how I choose to respond to the desire that typically leaves me in a bad spot. It's how I choose to respond to desire when I'm not getting what I think I want. It's how I choose to respond when things aren't going as planned.

In the moment, I was choosing to respond by killing the desire. Moving to Africa seemed enticing (for a thousand reasons, but one of them probably felt like running away from any possibilities of marriage/family). But sometimes I choose to respond in other ways. Sometimes I take action...trying to do anything and everything to satisfy the desire. Sometimes I just pretend the desire doesn't exist. Sometimes I choose to get so busy and involved in other things that I forget that I even have the desire at all.

But it always comes back.
You want this.

My brother told me the other day that I was handling things pretty well. When my mouth dropped in shock, he went on to remind me that at least I wasn't sleeping around and trying to date any guy with a pick-up truck (that's not on my 'list', by the way...). It seemed absurd, as those things weren't even thoughts that crossed my mind... but it made me realize that I could choose to respond in ways other than what I'm doing now.

I don't know what your desire is right now....but I'm very aware that there are a lot of people in the world who want a lot of different things, and a lot of those things aren't bad (and, even if they seem bad, I wonder if the root of those desires are actually good). Maybe it's a spouse or family, maybe it's a particular job, maybe it's a baby, maybe it's a good friend, or maybe it's something else that you don't really have control over acquiring. But, how we choose to respond could probably be better.

What do you want?
What is your desire?
How are you responding to your desires? Do you acknowledge that they exist? Do you allow yourself to exist in the tension of wanting but not having? And, how do you live out of that?

Are you trying to kill the desires, or forget that they're there, or embrace them to the fullest? Do you allow yourself to mourn the unfulfilled desire? Are you honest with the Lord about your desires?

I know that I've really pushed for honesty with the Lord lately, but, gosh...
Get alone and be honest about the desires of your heart, the things you really want. Cry. Be angry. Beg. And then trust.

It's so good.

Stop trying to kill the desire.
Stop trying to pretend it's not there.
Stop trying to take control of it and fulfill it in any way that you know how.

Let go.
Every day, if you have to. Multiple times a day.

The desire isn't bad, my friends.
But, how we respond to the desire is pretty key as we seek to live lives that are about abundantly more than ourselves. I think we'll find, in the end, that when we are willing to release and truly surrender our desires over to the Lord, actually trusting Him with them...that we can relax and know that they rest in the hands of Someone who understands them and us more than we ever will, even if that means not getting what we think we want when we think we want it. As my brother said, 'His intentions are better than our expectations.'

He'll take care of us.
And if you don't really believe that...? Maybe make that your prayer tonight... that you would believe it.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, March 18, 2013

Friendship and Dating

The comment: 
I'm a guy, and I have good female friends (contrary to societal stereotypes). We have fun, and we grow together, whether in a group or one-on-one. And sometimes that growth is intentional. One or the other will ask questions, notice habits, pray for the other, and so on. 
But it's not dating. It's not pursuit, and it's not courtship. It's friendship. It's a relationship or relationships that are deepening, and while one or another may eventually lead to romance and dating (not marriage-lite), it's not there. 
That is explicit. There is no wondering about status or intent. And while we may get to know each other as friends at a slower rate than dating, it does protect us from heartbreak, from emotional and physical mistakes that may happen once the "dating" label has been applied, and so on. 
So are we talking about the same thing - intentionality, fun, and growth possibly leading to more, whether or not we apply the term dating immediately or down the road, or are we on separate paths? 
I love that you brought this up. A lot.
I think, if I'm understanding you correctly, that we're on two separate pages.  As I read this, I laughed, recalling a woman who I met recently who adamantly declared that males and females can never just be friends. She insisted that one person always ends up liking the other, if there's not already a mutual attraction between the two. I'm pretty sure she believed that there was never any exception to the rule, either. She might be right.

Honestly, you're potentially the type of guy that many a woman love to rant about. Why, you ask? Because you're the type of guy that we're never really sure of your intentions, because we're just friends (we think). But yet, we hang out a lot and we have fun and we grow together and we challenge each other and inspire each other... we connect with each other. I'm willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, any girl will be interested in the guy she spends this much time with and invests this much of herself emotionally/spiritually in. Most of us are suckers for that kind of connection and intimacy, regardless of the label that's placed on it.

You mentioned that there is 'no wondering about status or intent', though. I'm assuming that you then have made your intentions clear from the beginning of the friendship, or else you have assumed that you don't need to clarify because it's clearly just a friendship?

If it's the latter, here's a bit of a heads up on how lots of us women think: if you haven't told us that you're not interested (and even sometimes when you do), we either think you are or that you could be...especially if you're pursuing us in any capacity (including mere friendship). You're someone that wants to know us, truly cares about what's going on with our hearts, wants to spend time with us...and that affects us greatly (whether we want to admit it or not).

Dating, to me, is much different than this male/female deep friendship. It's intentional from the beginning. It's a, 'Hey, I want to get to know you better to see where this could go because I think you're awesome' type of mentality that allows there to be no room for confusion or games or over-analyzing what the relationship is or isn't. When you're in the middle of a good male/female friendship, I'm pretty sure that at least one party is thinking (or has thought at one point) about the possibility of more and is wishing they knew if the other person could have any romantic interest in them. But, most people will probably lie if they're ever confronted by the other about it, especially if they know or suspect that the feelings aren't reciprocated.

The truth? I've had more heartbreaks not being in relationships than I have had in them... because I've been such good friends with guys that I came to care deeply about. The friendship didn't protect me from heartache. The pace at which our relationship grew didn't protect me from the heartache. The friendship may have protected them from having to be a part of it, though. They didn't see the tears shed or have to hear the emotional dialogue about whether or not I could/should remain in the friendship or not.

When it comes to males and females, I'm afraid there's very rarely safe territory. I'm currently struggling myself with how to navigate through the muddy waters of becoming friends with men as I'm in the process of meeting new people. I was actually talking to my brother and sister-in-law about this last night. My question? 'How the heck do I be friends with guys without them thinking I want more and without me wanting more and without me thinking they want more?' I'm not sure it's possible for none of those things to enter into the equation at any point. I'd be a fool to think (especially at this point in my life) that male/female friendships are ever simple. They rarely are, especially the more you hang out one-on-one and really invest in each other.

So, sure. Maybe you aren't making out or crossing any other physical boundaries... but be careful about the emotional boundaries. Be careful about how much of your heart you share with each other, how much time you spend with each other. And, just be aware. Even if you think things are fine and that she totally knows that you only see her as a friend, she may be a lot better at pretending than you realize. Or, in some instances you may be the one pretending that you're all fine and dandy being friends when you really are interested in more.

On some level I just think everyone should be clear about their intentions from the beginning and remain honest throughout the friendship/relationship. Then there's no room for misunderstandings and being in the constant state of wondering. There will probably still be heartbreak, as that's inevitable anytime you get to know someone well and vice versa. But, it's part of the risk that we enter into. Be willing to have some hard, awkward conversations...especially if you really care about the person. Honesty is always best. If you aren't interested in ever dating a girl, even if she's a good friend, do her a favor and make sure she knows where you stand.

Recognize that girls are typically more relationally wired and, if we're attracted to you at all and you're wanting to know us better, the chances of us liking you are going to be pretty high (and, even if we aren't attracted to you initially, the more we get to know you and the more you want to know us... we suddenly might start finding you to be super attractive). Consider that while it may not be affecting you emotionally, it may be all-consuming to her.

Mostly... just don't be naive as you enter into friendships with females, even if you aren't intentionally trying to date them. We have the tendency to over-analyze, fall easily, and we love feeling connected to people (especially men). Be honest about where you're at. I think most of the women in your life will appreciate it.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, March 14, 2013

'I suck' Moments

As I was driving through Cambridge tonight, a car slowed down in front of me abruptly. Really? 

It's kind of my response to a lot these days, especially while I'm driving, or people watching, or dealing with long waits.

Did you really have to pull out right in front of me and go the speed limit?
Did you really have to stop for the full three seconds when there was no one else at the intersection?
Did you really think it was a good idea to wear that?
Did you really think writing a check was the most considerate thing to do in the 'express lane'?

C'mon people...

And as I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of me, all the while muttering under my breath...I noticed the old woman crossing the street laden with grocery bags. The driver in front of me had seen, while driving, this woman waiting patiently with a heavy load to cross the busy street. He had seen her and he had taken the time to stop.


Do you ever have these, 'I suck.' moments?
Because, that was certainly one of them for me. Even if I had noticed the lady, I probably wouldn't have even thought about stopping because I was in such a hurry, and so focused on following my GPS as not to get lost in an unfamiliar city.

The other day I was running late to class and the slowest person pulled out in front of me. By slowest, I mean that they were going the speed limit and so I felt rather unjustified in my frustration. Nevertheless, I tailed them closely...hoping that they'd get the hint that no one goes the speed limit around here. I suddenly realized that I could be following a fellow student, or, worse yet, a professor and as I imagined the shame of pulling up next to them in the parking lot I began to let my foot off the gas pedal, putting some distance between our two vehicles. Eventually they veered off a different direction, but it was another 'I suck.' moment for me.

Even worse, not long ago I was looking at the back of a woman's head, wondering why she would ever wear her hair like that. Was it a braid or a pony tail that she was trying to accomplish? A few minutes later I realized she was blind.

I suck.

I've been put in a place, over and over again, where I'm reminded that things aren't always what they seem. I'm ever-aware of my impatience, my harsh judgments and critiques, my thoughtlessness....and, most disgusting of all, my selfishness mixed with my pride. It's ugly.

They're little things, on some level... but, they're also significant. It's a commentary on how I view the world and people around me. It's a reminder that my flesh is so very quick to react and how, despite how I might be viewed by others, there's still a lot of work to be done inside of me.

I sometimes think we're unaware of our own darkness until it's suddenly brought into the light. We're unaware that the thoughts we think about others are harsh and ugly until we realize that maybe they can't help what they look like, or the noises they make, or the wounds that they bear...whether physical or emotional. How often do we not think twice about our immediate assessments and judgments of others because we have no reason to?

How often do we justify our anger and frustration when people are abiding by the traffic laws? How often do we justify our impatience when people take longer to do something than we think they should? How often do we justify our pride when people seem to be doing something in an illogical, nonsensical way?

I guess I've been reminded lately that I don't always know the whole story. I don't know why the lady at the grocery store needed to write a check, but I do know that she was willing to engage in a conversation with the girl who had Down's Syndrome who was bagging groceries when I was not.

It's a reminder that life isn't about me. There are other people, with other agendas, with other problems and heartaches and reasons for doing why they do what they do in the way that they do it. I might not always think it to be the best, and it might sometimes inconvenience me... but does it matter? Don't they matter abundantly more than my time, my agendas, my pride...myself...?

I know that I'll inevitably have more 'I suck' moments. It's part of being human.
But, I'd like to have less of them. Less, because I'm seeing people, taking time for them, and serving/honoring them... even if it's in the way I think about them or talk about them, recognizing that I don't know their story or the method to their madness.

This is one of those times when light penetrates the darkness, and while it sucks to see what lies there... it's necessary if you ever want to get rid of it. And then, in having them, immediately replacing the guilt and shame with moving towards better.

When I saw that the car was letting the old lady crossing the street, my own shame was replaced immediately by inspiration. It was a 'pay it forward' moment, almost. I wanted to be aware of the people around me enough to stop, to make time for them, to serve them. It was a small gesture, it was a small sacrifice... but it was really beautiful to me.

And here's where my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness, because without Him I'd be left in a constant state of 'I suck' moments.

To Him be the glory.
Have I mentioned how thankful I am for second chances...?

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to Get a Date

What if I told you that I held the secret to getting a guy to date you...?

Just follow these five steps and it'll guarantee that the man you've been crushing on will fall head over heels in love with you...he won't even know what hit him.

Would you want that?
I mean... really want that?

If you just wore the right clothes, or did your hair a certain way, or knew the exact point in which to smile (you know, the point where your eyes meet from afar and you break into a smile that's more than just a smile, and he simply cannot resist you). Or maybe it involves the perfect reason to 'run' into him or contact him or hang out with him. Maybe it's a certain phrase that you have to say in this specific way at this exact time in your interactions with him.

Would you do whatever it takes to get him to notice you? To ask you out? To want to be with you?

'Cause here's what keeps happening in my head lately (ready for brutal honesty?)...

I meet a guy, am initially attracted to him, and determine that I would like to get to know him better. This whole 'getting to know you process' would be much easier if he would just ask me out on a date on his own, right? Unfortunately it doesn't really ever work like that. Instead I'm stuck within the confines of random encounters that are few and far between.

Somehow, I think the burden lies on me.
My first reaction is always to jump to, 'What can I do...?'
What can I do to get this guy to notice me, to want to talk to me, to ask me out on a date?

And lately...?
Lately, I'm frozen right there... because I catch myself entering into controlling, manipulative mode.

Because, if you're a lady, there may be times when you've gotten exactly the guy you thought you wanted through some amount of scheming and interfering and placing yourself in the right situation at the right time. Maybe you've played the 'damsel in distress' card, preying upon the male's desire to come to a woman's rescue and be the hero. Maybe you've found yourself suddenly interested in all the same things that your crush is interested in, just to have an excuse to spend more time with him (''re into baseball, too...? I had no idea...').

Let's face it... we're sometimes pretty good at getting what we want.

But lately...?
Lately I've been reminded of the countless times that I got what I thought I wanted through the manipulating and the controlling....and I've been reminded of how wrong I was. Every time there's been heartache, disappointment and rejection as the things I tried to make happen eventually faded into nothing, or broke into a million pieces no matter how hard I kept trying to put it back together and make it work. It's as if the harder I tried to make everything fit into my plan, the more I felt like a toddler, cramming the rectangular shaped objects into the circular hole...frustrated that it just wouldn't fit.

As my natural desire is to go immediately back into that place of 'how do I get what I want', I've been freezing...because I'm now so aware that I don't know what I want/need.

I've been so wrong in the past, why would I ever think that I would know now?
So, as I meet new guys that I find attractive, and cool for a lot of different reasons...instead of jumping into the 'what can I do...?' mode, I'm trying to live in a place of letting things be what they are.

Does it mean that I don't get excited and hopeful when I run into them? Hardly. But, it does mean that there's a relinquishing of control that's continually necessary. It means that there's a constant voice in my head reminding me that I don't always know what's best for me and that what I think I want isn't always what I want.

I don't want to hold a key to the secret of how to get a guy to date me.
I want him to ask me out because he wants to, and not because anything I did or said manipulated him into doing so. I want him to spend time with me because he wants to, not because I did something to make it happen. I want him to call me or text me or email me because he's thinking about me, not because he feels obligated to respond to me.

It just seems better that way.
More... organic.
More... mutual.
More... freeing. it's not me making it happen and that maybe (since I've clearly been so wrong in the past) there's something to letting things come my way instead of forcing it to come about in my way.

Maybe you should try it, too.
And so we keep waiting. But, in the process of waiting, we stop getting ourselves in the middle of relationships and heartaches that are often spawned from our urges to jump the gun and make relationships happen that shouldn't be happening in the first place. We stop trying to cram the wrong objects in the wrong holes and getting frustrated in the process.

There's no secret in getting guys to date you. And, the harder you try, I think the more often you'll be disappointed and heartbroken. Sometimes guys just aren't gonna like you. It's okay. Oftentimes you'll be thankful for it in the end.

Let it go.
Let it happen as it happens (even if that means waiting a while).
I'm pretty hopeful that it'll be worth it in the end.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dating isn't Marriage

I've had more than one person in my life lately agonizing about dating.

'I'm not completely sure how I feel about him yet. He sort of does these things that are annoying...'

It's the gist of the freaking out, without all the specifics.
You might know what I'm talking about. I've done it a lot, too. The trepidation you face when you're considering the possibility of dating someone new...regardless of how well you know the person. The chase is over, you know that he likes you and he knows you like him... but the next steps are still a bit unknown.

Do I really want to do this? 
You ask yourself....and your friends....and your family...and the Lord... at least 100 times. You run through everything you know about this person, regardless of how well you know them. You run through all the possible outcomes. Sometimes you've just met them, sometimes you've known them for years. No matter the length of time, you either conjure up things you think you know about them, or you suddenly turn the things you already do know about them into bigger deals then they really are. You develop strange hypotheses on 'if' the relationship happens then 'this' will inevitably happen and before you're even dating, you've plotted the whole thing out based on your fears/superficiality/past experiences/future plans/hopes/others' opinions...

All of a sudden, this person whom you've perhaps been crushing on for a while (that maybe even seemed unattainable) is suddenly a reality. OR... all of a sudden, this person that you never even noticed/considered before is wanting to date you. What are you going to do?

As much as I question dating, I also think that if you're gonna date... you need to date.

Here's what I mean by that: dating doesn't mean marriage.
Yes, I know that oftentimes we don't want to date unless we're serious about marriage, but sometimes I think that restricts us from dating without these ridiculous expectations already placed on the relationship. Before we even start dating, the relationship is smothered because there's been no chance for it to even breathe due to all of our over-analyzing and irrational assumptions of what could/might/should happen. Dating, like I told those I had these conversations with recently, is a way of determining if you could marry a's not declaring that you're going to marry them.

Too often I think we get swept up, before we even date someone, in wanting/needing to know if we are going to marry them or not. Too often we get hung up on these little details and quirks and superficial things without allowing ourselves to really get to know the person on the other side. Too often we enter a mode of self-preservation and we don't think our little hearts can handle it if it's not going to work out, and so why even bother in the first place...

Calm down!
Sometimes a date is just a date and agreeing to a dinner or a walk doesn't mean that you have to know if you're going to marry someone or not. I'd venture to say that it's okay for you to date someone when you're unsure if you could marry them. If you know that you couldn't and wouldn't marry them, that's when you shouldn't be dating them. Up until you know that, though? Date.

I think it's the unspoken agreement that we all sort of sign our names to when we decide to date. It's the unspoken risk. It's the...'I don't know if this is going to work at all, but I think it's worth the risk...I think you're worth a shot. I can't promise anything, but I know that I'd like to get to know you let's figure out what this connection we have is all about.'

What's even crazier about the arrangement is that it can be fun. It's a time of firsts, it's a time of opening up your heart to the unknown of what could be. It doesn't need to be over-analyzed and over-processed and over-discussed to where you've sucked the life out of any possible enjoyment that the relationship could have (yes, I've done this before). It's a time to just... let it be what it is. Dating.

It's risky.
It involves two people who are broken and jacked up....two people who are annoying and have hundreds of quirks and strange aspects to their personality... two people who are journeying through life trying to figure out what the heck they're doing...two people coming together with all of that and trying to communicate well and love each other selflessly. It involves hope, but it involves heartache and misunderstandings. It's not always going to be the gushy, mushy romantic comedies with a happy ending and barely any conflict. It involves discernment as you navigate through the things that are worth fighting about and necessary to let go of.

And, when you face those moments of trial and, at the end of the day, have to decide if it's still worth it. You have to decide what matters. You have to decide if the things that bother you (because there will always be things that bother you) are too much for you to 'put up with'. You have to decide if the relationship is worth fighting for (because it will be a fight at times). You have to decide what you can sacrifice and what you simply will not (because, yes, you'll have to sacrifice things).

BUT... you have to decide to date someone before you even get to all that good stuff.

I say do it (I mean, if you're attracted to them and you've liked them for a while or you're really interested in getting to know them better based on the things you've seen in them).
Because, if you don't, you may always wonder.
Don't be wishy-washy or over-complicate things as you process through this decision.

You don't have to know the outcome. You just have to be willing to give it a shot.
Take a risk.
Give 'em a shot.
Enjoy the early stages of dating as you get to know someone (and be willing to look beyond the little idiosyncrasies, especially if you can rationally recognize that they are insignificant in the grand scheme of their character/integrity/spiritual walk/etc.)

No one is perfect.
Can I get an 'Amen'?

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, March 7, 2013


'Can you tell me why you have seven pairs of Chacos in your closet?'

It was one of the first things someone said to me when I moved up here. Mostly I wanted to ask him why he had been looking in my closet, but since I was still new here, I refrained. And since he had said 'Chacos' and not 'sandals', I felt like I was in good company.

Because, when you've worked at a camp as long as I did, you start to form collections of random things that don't always fit into the 'real world' (at least not in excess). Chacos, frisbees, nalgenes, athletic shorts, t-shirts, swimsuits, etc. I'm 28 and I don't even know what 28-year-olds are supposed to wear, nor do I really own anything that's suitable for this 'new' life. It's kind of been this hilarious process of asking my younger roommates for fashion advice, for clothes to wear (I didn't grow up with sisters, so this has been a very stretching situation), in addition to delaying the inevitable shopping trip to make my wardrobe match my new lifestyle.

Because, when you've worked at a camp, you know how to do things like belay, and facilitate group development, and lead debriefs, and help bring fuller meaner into weird experiences (like putting twenty kids on a tarp and asking them to flip it over without anyone stepping off of it). You know how to lead small group discussions and Bible studies and sit in awkward silence while you wait for people to muster up the courage to respond to a challenging question. You know how to ask open-ended questions and you know what it means when someone says the phrase, 'challenge by choice'.

Because, when you've worked at a camp, you know how to work hard. You know how to scrub toilets and mop floors. You get a little excited inside when someone mentions the word 'Hobart' because it brings back a million memories of dish room antics and the hours you spent sorting, spraying, unloading, and putting away hundreds of dishes. You know that all the long hours and the manual labor is a part of something bigger and that makes the aching backs, the sweat, the tired feet worth it.

In my earlier years at camp when I would facilitate groups (especially the school groups), teachers used to always ask me what I was doing next. It was always as though camp could never be the end goal for me. While it wasn't, I often remember wondering what in the world I would ever be equipped to do. My degree was a BA in Communications and I wasn't really sure what that really meant, let alone what type of job I could get with it.

So here I am... 7 months after leaving my job full-time at camp, with a strange assortment of belongings, with a skill-set that hardly seems applicable to anything having to do with graduate school, but with a mentality that things are worth it when the end goal involves the Gospel.

In the last few weeks I've gotten two new jobs. One involves me working with youth who have significant emotional, behavioral or mental health needs in a one-on-one setting. Would you believe that my background and experiences while working at camp helped secure the position? Things like how I learned to work with students who have ADHD or knowing how to respond in situations when abuse is reported...

The other job involves the outdoors, college students, high ropes, group development, and camping. I'll be a co-instructor for a college course where we will take mostly freshman through a seven week long class that 'uses adventure learning and a supportive Christian community to promote spiritual growth, personal discovery, character formation, and an appreciation of the natural environment'. Here I will get to wear my chacos, use my nalgene, belay, pitch a tent, lead group development (complete with all the ridiculous games in my repertoire), mentor and build relationships with college students. Could anything be more perfect? 

I say all of this because I couldn't have planned any of it more perfectly myself. I honestly feel like all of this has fallen into my lap. 

What provision... 
I'm still astounded by it. 
Because although I left something I loved for something new, I still get to be a part of things I love in a different and new capacity. I still get to step fully into things that I am passionate about and weirdly skilled in (because who would have ever thought that I would get to bust out 'Little Sally Walker' again?). 

Take heart. 
You may feel like the degree you're getting, or the skills you have, or the passions you keep coming back to won't go anywhere in life... but I think you may be wrong. I think you may just be surprised when you realize how in the craziest ways God will present you with opportunities to step into those things even further. How your past experiences will not have been in vain. He can use the most random of things (like knowing how to belay, or deal with child abuse, or lead a debrief, or understanding the need to be flexible with each individual, or wash dishes with a Hobart, or clean a toilet well...) for His glory in new, exciting ways in your life! 

It's crazy. 
Crazy good. 

Be willing to step into those things, even if it looks a little different than what you've known or what you've expected. 

You may just get to wear those Chacos again to work....which means you'll definitely be glad that you still have seven pairs of them. 

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Lately everything feels too personal, or too spiritual, or too pathetic, or too intellectual (not because I'm intelligent, but because all the stuff I'm trying to process through in classes and reading has me at least trying to think more intellectually) to write about. 

How much is too much? How much is not enough? How much of it even matters? 

What, if anything, even relates to people anymore without droning on and on about the same things again and again? 

Life is good
But there's still inner turmoil and angst that surfaces every so often. 

I still go back and forth between the extremes of thinking that I'm awesome and that I'm the worst. I'm scared of making commitments to any sort of obligation here that's not school or work related. I'm scared of making commitments for the wrong reasons. I'm scared of making commitments and then having something better come along later. I'm scared of missing out. I'm scared of settling. 

I think about guys a lot. Upon arriving, I felt like I was warned by practically everyone about the 'types of guys in seminary'. I've tried to avoid circumstances where I'm manipulating or controlling things and tried to exist in a place of allowing whatever happens to happen. I've tried not reading into things or hoping for things, but I can't shake the feeling that the guys I think I'd like to get to know are the very guys that would never consider getting to know a girl like me (these are the days where I feel like I'm the worst). I try to be friendly, but not too friendly. Mostly I just feel like I'm waiting. Some days I'm content with that and other days I get a little impatient...a little hopeless. 

I think about God a lot. There's so much here. So much lately and I don't even know where to begin. I've realized that seminary can wreck you, hopefully in ways that are good. I'd like to think that the wrecking happens so that things that were not good and true can be destroyed and that the rebuilding of solid foundation can begin. It's exciting and terrifying and causes my mind and heart to be in places of extreme intensity countered by moments where I don't want to think about anything at all. 

There's been a lot of self-examination lately, too. I realize that who I am when I meet people may not be a true representation of myself. I find myself extremely sarcastic, as though that type of humor can connect with everyone and make them think that I'm funny. It doesn't usually work. I'm guarded in conversations with people, subconsciously scared to really let them in. They don't know me well enough yet. It'll happen. But, it'll take time. I feel like I came in mid-year and the last thing I can do is expect people to want to be my friend. Fortunately there are a few that I have connected with. 

And then there's this blog. 
A blog where I'd like to be real and honest with you about everything going on with me and my own thoughts on issues in life...but lately I feel more than under-qualified for the task. I don't know anything. And my thoughts feel too scattered and, oftentimes, too depressing to share with the entire world. 

I'm reminded that it's easy to put on a pretty happy face when there's a lot going on under the surface. Even if it's not bad stuff going on under the surface, it can still be overwhelming. I've found it's pretty valuable to have people to talk to, and have been thankful for the people in my life that I get to share personal things with, no matter how shallow, desperate, ridiculous and confusing they are. Even if I don't have one person that I share everything with, I know how good it is to have different people for different things. 

But lately?
Lately some of the best conversations have been in my car. I already told you about one a few weeks ago. They keep getting better. 
It's probably one of the best things I can encourage you to do: keep talking to Jesus. No matter what, no matter where you're at, no matter what you're thinking. Just today I began a pretty heavy, tear-filled conversation with Him about predestination and free will after an intense lecture. 

You aren't too much for Him to handle. Your life isn't too messed up. 
You can't say anything that's too surprising or tell Him something that He doesn't already know. Show emotion, don't hold back... even if you aren't sure you actually believe in Him right now. 

Start the conversation. An honest conversation. 
You won't regret it. 

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Loving Bad Guys

It's no surprise that I love television. And movies. And musicals. And books. And...any other escape from reality (that comes in the form of stories) that you can think of.

But, mostly what I like about these things are the ways I get to learn about people who are, oftentimes, so very different from me. Of course there's always the occasional character that I identify with, or the ones that I wish I could be like. I know that it's fiction, but I also know that we write what we know. This fiction that we get so wrapped up in is most likely someone's reality, in some capacity.

One of my favorite things that happens in stories is when we get a fuller glimpse of the antagonist. When we get to see why the bad guy is the bad guy. There's usually always a reason, and the reason is always heartbreaking. I usually end up loving the bad guy, while simultaneously hating him. I usually hope for change, I hope for a happy ending for their story...mostly I just love redemption.

For example, I remember always holding out for Sylar in Heroes, desperately sure that he could, indeed, be good. Or how, after watching Wicked, I've changed the entire way that I view the Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West (maybe she wasn't so bad after all...she just had some sucky circumstances that were impossible to sort through). Or even Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th, who went all murder crazy on some camp counselors after her son drowns due to their negligence (okay, I never rooted for her, but there's at least some partial understanding of how she got to where she did...). Most recently there's been a certain fondness developing for Lemon from Hart of Dixie as we catch glimpses of her broken past and the ways it has shaped her into a controlling, mean and selfish southern belle.

It's the same reason why I loved watching The Dark Knight, or X-Men: First Class, or The Amazing Spider-Man... there's something really powerful to understanding the depth behind each character's story, to understanding their backgrounds, the significant events in their lives that made them the superheroes we love today (despite how fictional they may be).

I don't think we always get to know the past of the bad guys because sometimes it makes us feel for them in ways the writer doesn't want. Sometimes it makes us cheer on the bad guy instead of the good guy and then the whole story, at least how they intended it, gets screwed up.

I've been wondering lately what it would look like if we rooted on the bad guy more often. Not necessarily the bad guy in fictional stories...but maybe the bad guy(s) in our own lives. Obviously, when we're watching a show or movie, there's a certain element of comfort as we are only witnessing these character's stories unfold without having to do any real work...but isn't it powerful when we finally see why a character is the way they are? Isn't it, oftentimes, a little heartbreaking, too?

Maybe it's someone at work who you have a hard time being around because of their constant pessimism. Maybe it's the brat who thinks they should get everything they want all the time. Maybe it's the woman who is controlling and nagging, seeking perfection out of everything and everyone. Maybe it's someone who is actually just mean to people. Maybe it's the crazy driver who just cut you off. Maybe it's the waitress who was a little short with you when you were ordering. Maybe it's the cashier who didn't even look you in the eye as they checked you out.

They aren't so much 'bad' guys, but they're people that we often shut out, disregard, get annoyed with, get angry with, tip less, talk bad about, distance ourselves from. They become people that we tolerate because we have to, but very rarely are they people who matter to us. Very rarely do we regard them as people who have stories, who have souls. And very rarely do we ever take the time to get a picture of their realities, of what's going on beneath the collect scenes of their pasts that have contributed in making them who they are today.

But what if we did?
What if, like we are forced to sometimes in these fictional stories, we took the time to figure out why people are the way they are? Would our hearts break as we encounter stories of brokenness and pain? Would we hurt for those who have lost, for those who are desperate, who are poor, who are lonely, who have been abandoned, rejected, forgotten, betrayed? Would we maybe even identify with them...?

And what if we offered them hope instead?

Maybe it's an idealistic world I live in...but I'd like to think that if we were willing to dig below the surface or if we were willing to respond to others' rudeness, thoughtlessness, sharpness, bitterness, anger with grace, and kindness, and compassion... that maybe lives could be changed.

It's not the first time you've heard it, I know.
But, I think it's always a good reminder.
People are people.

They matter.
Even the bad guys.
Because, at the end of the day, we're not so different than them. The same grace and love that saves us is for them, too. The same blood that was shed for us, was also shed for them.

What if we lived like we believed that?

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