Row

During class today, I just got really sad. It was around 7:41pm and if I had been alone, I would have probably cried, but I carried on in my usual rambunctious nature. I journaled during the last group’s presentation. I needed to get words out. I remember why I journaled as a thirteen-year-old. I had no one to talk to. I have talked to a lot of people in the past three weeks, but sometimes, it still feels like I have no one to talk to when I really need to talk. My struggle is in my general distrust of people. So sharing sorrow and opening myself is a long-term process. I disclose only when I feel safe. There’s an article about a baby seal that took three years to photograph because it took that long to trust the photographer. I’m a baby seal. I know I am wrong. I know it. I don’t need people to tell me I am wrong. I need people to prove me wrong.

I left class and just sat in my car listening to the same song. Row by The Autumn Film.

She hid under her covers
In fear for her life
The water rushed over
While she capsized

May your heart hold on
When it gets hard
And may your pulse stay strong
When you’re falling apart

Row, row, row your boat
Row, row, row your boat
Gently, gently

All these words transcendently resound my life.

Songs turn into pictures in my mind. I see a girl departing an island, she should have never ventured to in the first place. Leaving the island and entering the ocean again was a wise decision, but came with its challenges. Exiting the island meant two things: (1) she opened herself to the ocean never knowing when and where she will drop anchor for a final time and (2) she exposed herself to the harshness of the seas. If departing was hard, she immediately enters a storm in her little rowboat. There are moments where the eclipse of the waves seems manageable, but there are other moments like these lines where she capsizes. The winds and waves crash and collapse and overturn her little boat. So, she just holds her breath as she manages to turn herself the right way up once again to fight the wind and the rain and the salty ocean water. With tears of determination in her right eye and tears of pain in her left, she just keeps rowing. She just keeps rowing, slowly, painfully, gently.

I finally drove away to pick up Chick-fil-A. I needed a change from my steamable Veggie Pasta meals. I went home and ate dinner in my bed like I always do and watched Totally Spies to numb whatever I was feeling until I garnered enough emotional and creative wherewithal to document it and share it with people on Friday morning.

There’s no perfect resolution to a storm except to keep rowing. So, I will keep doing exactly that.

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Grave Friday

This is the first Easter season in three years where I have done nothing. Good Friday is perhaps my favorite day in the Liturgical Calendar. I am often akin to melancholic expressionism. So for all believers who have an unshakeable gloominess, Good Friday is for you. This particular Good Friday has been challenging. All of the personal events of my life in this past year have shifted my eyes from a Suffering Saviour to my personal suffering.

This particular Good Friday, my focus has been on the grave, not the grave of my Saviour, but my grave and my graveness. I have felt hollowed out for sixteen months. It is of my own doing. You cannot live sinfully and expect to feel alive. I have attempted to maintain appearances of wellness. Every night I crawl back into the grave and find it dug deeper than the night before, making it harder to leave for the next day.

After some time, it is now too deep. I crawled in for a night and awoke and could not exit again. So, I lie there, looking up to the sky hearing familiar noises knowing life is continually moving forward, as I lie in the grave. I don’t even know if people know I’m here. Time progresses, I give up hope that anyone will pass by and look down and see someone is in this massive pit.

Until He does. He has always been someone I was drawn to in life. He can save me and pull me out. On this Good Friday, He does something different. He crawls into the grave with me and nestles me. He knows me all too well, but today He takes my deadenness. He somehow lies beside me and over me. His hands are holding mine and washing a prodigal clean, writing in the sand, and healing the broken.

He does not belong in this grave. He tells me I don’t belong there either.

We don’t get up immediately. He tells me we will get up soon.

So, I wait but not alone. Never alone.

To those who read and weep for you are in personal graves of sinfulness or sorrow, depravity or depression, loneliness or feeling lesser. Join me in remembering a Saviour who joins us in the grave if but for three days. Who grabs us by the hand and pulls us out. Whose life gets transferred to us.

It is a Good Friday indeed.

The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb

He crawls into the grave with us.

Ashes, Ashes, We all Fall Down

I enjoy ranking things. Friends, today topples the rank of worst Valentine’s Day of my life. I have spent literally every Valentine’s Day without a valentine and this one can, by golly, this one can bury itself in a massive pile of elephant shit, light itself on fire, and burn until the ash blows away into the wind back to the hell hole from which it came.

It was not my intention to be this bitter. My bitterness towards today is not correlated with my singleness. In fact, I made all the attempts to have a good Valentine’s Day and was met with frustration every step of the way. Some of it internal frustration; some of it external frustration. I should have known when I was crying by 9am this day would smack of all thing wretched. Still, I pressed on foolishly assuming that there would be something redemptive about today. NOPE. Everything in me desires to list off hyphenated four letter words creating conjugations of curses that make the sky roll back and swallow me whole because existing in this time in this body in this place raises a fury that was simmering but is now coming to a boil. I fear it’s potential of splashing over, burning those attempting to cool it. I know some already have been seared. The workday ended with me being both empty, but filled with anger; scared, that my general reset button was broken and I was going to completely lose it: my mind, my will, my spirit, my hope, my breath, my life, my me.

I left to go to yoga and while zooming down Emancipation decided Ash Wednesday service was where I would be found at 7pm. Here’s are my reflections from that time.

Ash Wednesday is a liturgical reflection centering on our mortality. We all are going to die. Death takes us all. Sometimes one by one, other times in shootings, and tornadoes. Every man both rich and poor, male or female, will taste death. However, as melancholic as Ash Wednesday is meant to be, I find the Christian perspective on death to be rather hopeful. Death is hideous and ugly. It’s a dastardly thief. As a child, I struggled with suicidal ideation. I plotted death a couple of times and once sat alone and behind a countertop with pills in hand staring and still. Death has always felt like a door. By the end of the hour of the liturgy, I sat through the last readings to write words that felt true of the space and season I have lost myself in…

Death does not scare me, for I know that it’s the only passage way into life. It s life that cause me the most unrest. We are all heading to death, why fear a door. I’d rather fear the journey. I am mortal searching and hoping for immortality. I am done being dust. I feel like dirt already. When will I be clean? What becomes of my dust when I am dust no more? Death reminds me of life. Life reminds me that I am broken and I need life. More that love, I need life today. 

It’s the end of the day. I have holed myself in my room hoping to keep myself at bay…hoping for redemption on this day…hoping for the ashes on my head to cover me up…hoping tomorrow I’ll have a bit more love to give, but much more to take…hoping for life on planet earth just to be okay…hope

GOL: Philemon

Dearest Philemon,

I think of you often and am really happy when I do. People tell me about how you get Jesus’s message, you are internalizing it, and living it out. It makes me really proud. Because of this, I don’t want to force you to do something. Rather let me tell you and you can decide on your own. I tell you this because I love you. Onesimus your former slave ran away and has become a part of the family. It’s awesome how much more useful he is as a brother than a slave. I’m sending him back to you even though it feels like I am ripping out my heart. I would like to keep him, but I feel like it wouldn’t be honest. Maybe the divine reason he ran away was so that he could become a son to me and brother to you.

If you still think the same of me, welcome Onesimus as a brother. If you have accounts to settle with him, write me back. I have some to settle with you. LOL. I know you got my message and will do more than welcome him as a brother.

Prep a room, I’m coming over semi-unannounced.

The clique says hi,

Paul

Grace Abounds

Today was a difficult day. My sleep rhythm has been off since Sunday. Every night, I have tossed and turned in my bed. Eventually drifting off to sleep. Arising again at 5:30am, with the expectation that today would be different. Work has been a general build-up of stress. My plate remains full always. Monday to Friday has been full of meetings. Some, I have led; others I have sat through. Meetings have thrown off my eating schedule. Around 3pm is when my numb headache settles into a lingering headache.

School feels overwhelming. I still suck at Crossfit, but that’s nothing new. Some days are better than others, but today I especially struggled. It’s 11:52pm, and I have a parent seminar topic to teach from tomorrow at 10am. I have zero slides created. When I realized this at 4:45pm, I sort of lost it. I felt all of me closing inward. My chest constricted. My brain was sprinting. My forehead was sweaty. I felt anxious and scared and lost. I erupted. A lot of my lava landed on others. I felt alone. I ran to my car to make it in time for class and ran over my work phone.

By the time, I pulled out of the parking lot, I was in complete tears. As I race down 610 to DTS, I was sobbing, yelling all the things out loud that my brain was telling me about myself. I’ll spare the gory details.

I sit down into Soteriology (the study of salvation). My professor speaks of the nature of Christ’s grace, and I just weep. If there was ever a day, I needed people to be gracious to me, it was this one. There were moments, I felt it. There were others, I didn’t. However, I thought of God’s grace. God’s grace is salvageable. God in some miraculous feat, managed to pull this damaged days and salvage it into something good.

It’s a miracle every time, and I appreciate it.

Brokenness & Idolatry

When I get lost, I lose myself. It is not that I have wandered and need to return, I feel more like the prodigal son who has forgotten he was someone’s child and completely gone rebellious. I don’t know if this is for everyone, but when sin takes over my life, I just don’t feel like me anymore. Well, at the very least, I don’t feel like the me, I was intended to be or have been for a while.

I am lost. Last year, I spent time generating themes for my life. There were four and they were cyclical: chaos/erosion, creation, brokenness, restoration. Chaos or Erosion is external. It is the process of my life in some fashion being completely dissembled. It can be through displacement or job loss or broken relationships or switch churches. Sometimes, it is erosion simply because it’s a natural progression or wearing away. Creation is the process of something being generated out of disorder, finding my current job, developing a personal sense of authenticity, finally getting counseling. Brokenness is my least favorite. Brokenness is internal; it points at my sin and depravity and does the most damage. Brokenness has been the most haunting of my seasons. Broken is how I came to Christ. Broken is how he finds me time after time. Brokenness frustrates me. It preys on every wicked desire for self-sufficiency that I have. Brokenness points a hard finger to God demanding that He back off and let me do this myself. Extended periods of brokenness lead to numbness. I am numb, and it’s my fault. I don’t state this condemningly. I did this to myself. I’m in bad need of a spirit defibrillation. I know, I am made alive in Christ, but sometimes, it feels like I am barely hanging on. Restoration, God is a good God. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast compassion. Restoration is entirely the working of God. I wish, I could jumpstart it, but I know that He will come.

I am in between brokenness and restoration. It is in this limbo, I have felt God nudging at me. Reminding me of who I am, “You’re a worshipper”. It’s my primary identity. I was created for worship. My open hands moved towards an idol that I worshipped wholeheartedly. It’s only in repentance, I find restoration. It is my hope that it comes soon. Brokenness is completely unideal. I feel like if we as humans were more honest, it is not that our success that drives us. It is not our desires, but the brokenness that drives us to idolatry, but no idol can fix it. No job, no relationship, no item, no person can set our wayward heart set straight. My only hope. Our only hope is in someone completely external. Oh, Lord let it be you.

Before, my idolatrous season began, I wrote a song named Idolatry. As I look back on the lyrics, I had idolatry more right than wrong. May it not overtake me once again.

Idolatry, you pull me straight down to my knees

I worship you, hoping you’ll make me complete

Your siren sound, echo my unanswered prayers

Those hollow words, I’m helpless you leave me so scared

I’m paralyzed; you’re draining the life out of me

I cannot move, silently suffocating

Another drink, pour it up watch it go down

Your praise begins, prostrate I lay on the ground

I will return, for you are my stale daily bread

You’re killing me, but you also keep me well fed.

God,

I always need You, but I need you especially in this place, where I feel fragile and fragmented. Mind me of the work of Your blood. Help me to understand it, trust it, and live in it, not just for today, but especially for tomorrow and the days after.

In Christ,

Amen

To Be Broken is to Be Human

Oft in my writing, I am found in the middle of my brokenness. Historically, I have leaned into it to understand the actual problem. When does it end though? When will I lean out and into something that feels whole and complete and healed? Leaning into brokenness often feels like leaning into emptiness. Boy, have I️ leaned into the abyss this year.

People will say, we are all broken, as a word of solidarity. However, it negates the uniqueness of each of our brokenness. It disregards the individuality of it. In a family, two children can go through the same thing and be broken in different ways. The more, I have leaned into my brokenness and explored it, the more I can relate to others. However, there are moments where I have leaned to deeply in, passed the brokenness, and into depravity.

This is a year where I have been starkly reminded of sin and its effects. Sin ravages and leaves people broken and empty. I don’t mean that in a condemnatory way, I say it experientially. Sin broke me and consumed me. Often in the Epistles, we read of the brokenness in the churches and say proudly, “Don’t be THOSE people”. It’s too late. We are THOSE people. For those who “excel in self-righteousness”, the Epistles tell you who to point a judgmental finger towards. For those who “excel in the righteousness of Christ”, the Epistles remind you of how easy it is to fall into sin. For those who have fallen and broke, the Epistles remind you that other believers are broken as well.

We Christians come from a foundational, historical, and present community that has practiced all sorts of abominable and immoral behavior. It brings comfort to know that I am not the first or chief among sinners. Paul took that title for me. When I fall broken, I arise with a number of thieves, adulterers, murderers, liars, rage-filled monsters, who somehow received the healing salve of the Savior. Who knows, I will break again.

Yes to be broken is to be human

But to be healed is to know divine

Merry Christmas Eve,

Tosin