Shadow Ender

This is a picture of my Shadow Priest, back when I played World of Warcraft like it was my day job. But that’s not really the Shadow Ender I plan on telling you about today. I did a thing this morning at church. Today, I got the opportunity to share a message that’s been slow cooking on my heart since late August. Below is the rough transcript of my sermon, delivered to you in vintage Sir Ender style, jokes and all.

 


 

First things first. I’m a millennial, so you know I gotta get a selfie.

 

Jack Preacher

Good morning church. Thank you to Pastor Keven for allowing me to speak this morning. The main reason I wanted to speak this morning is because you get some control over the music when you preach. I was hoping to delay the playing of Christmas music for one more week. Mission accomplished. I’ve noticed a trend with a lot of guest preachers where they briefly tell you their background, almost as if to give you their credentials to justify them being up on stage preaching to you. And since I’m not ordained, I suppose I have double the reason to do so. 

I grew up in the church. My youngest memories of church are at St. James Episcopal Church on Dakota and Cedar in Fresno. I remember that I’ve always had a bit of a Pharisee of Pharisees complex like the apostle Paul. I can vaguely recall attentively listening in church while other kids my age colored in coloring books their parents provided them just so that they would remain quiet.

After that church, my family bounced around a bit before landing at Woodward Park Baptist Church on Maple and Teague in Fresno. I spent the majority of my formative years at this church, and would eventually meet my mentor, John, who has been discipling me for the better part of about 18 years. John was my chaperone for my very first mission trip to Mexico with Amor Ministries when I was 12. I quickly became very involved in ministry. John equipped me to start teaching Junior High bible study when I was in 8th grade and I accepted a call to ministry the following summer at my next Mexico mission trip. 

I got involved in youth evangelism training through the SBC, continued to teach in Sunday School, and even had a brief stint on our youth Worship Team (Sorry, Nelson, you weren’t my first).

But my bread and butter became preaching. I had a tenacity for connecting Scripture to the Gospel, a skill which by the grace of God, I will demonstrate for you today. My claim to fame is my first sermon. John still loves to tell this story: We had gotten connected with an assisted living facility called Orchard Park and we would lead a worship service for them one Sunday every month. I delivered the first message there, and I preached on death. How we, as believers, have nothing to fear from death. How our ailing bodies will be replaced by new ones when we get to heaven. (With all the physical ailments in our church and on our prayer list, perhaps if you invite me back, I’ll have to give you that “new body” portion of it)

For those of you who don’t happen to know how I ended up going to church in Dinuba from Fresno, my wife used to be the youth pastor here. Well, she used to be my wife, AND she used to be the youth pastor here. Just about 4 years ago, we attended the Harvest Party together at Randy and Leah’s for the first time. I was hooked on you whacky Nazarenes once I saw Nelson’s board game collection.

When we interviewed with the board here, I joked that I felt like Abraham being called by God away from his family and out into the wilderness. I couldn’t have known then how apt of a description that was. And even though we finally have those traffic lights up on El Monte, I still think we’re out in the wilderness out here. 

 


 

On This Day…

It’s kind of funny the way things work out sometimes isn’t it? This message is a combination of one thing that happened to me almost exactly two years ago and one thing that happened just over a year ago. I realized that this past week when I was preparing for this message. And if you’ve been reading my blog, you know just how much I love those “tiny inconsequential things that happen to have the biggest impact.”

Two years ago, on November 17th 2016, there was a Renew conference at the Save Mart Center that I attended with the Huckabys. Francis Chan was one of the speakers and he delivered a very powerful message, one piece of which would ultimately change my life forever. I’ll come back to that later on.

One year ago, on November 19th 2017, our worship team played Reckless Love for the first time. Some of you, maybe even many of you by now, know that I have been attending a 12-Step / Discipleship program in Fresno for the better part of two years. In fact, we’re bringing it to DNAZ for the New Year… SURPRISE!!! This program helped to flip my relationship with God on its head. You’ve heard me testify about this a few different times now. While nearing the time of my commencement, in September and October of 2017, before I had ever heard Reckless Love, my prayers, praises and thoughts to God looked like this: “God, thank you for your kindness and goodness which have allowed you to be patient with me while showering me with blessings.” “I think about, remember, and am overwhelmed by God’s grace frequently.” When asked a question about how I feel after praising God, I responded “I always feel on the verge of tears, when I truly praise him, so overwhelmed by his goodness and love for me, of which I am so undeserving.” 

O the overwhelming never-ending Reckless Love of God
O it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety nine
I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still you give yourself away
O the overwhelming never-ending Reckless Love of God

 


 

How Jesus Made a Woman at a Well, Well… Well

Enough jibber jabber. If you have your bibles, open up to John 4. We’re going to be looking at the familiar story of the Woman at the Well. Because I’m a recovering Southern Baptist, I do everything in sequences of three. And I could not abide letting Keven get away with only two messages in his “Quit Church” series. So, I’ve titled my sermon “Quit Hiding in the Dark.” But because I think I’m clever and I really like wordplay, I’ve alternatively titled my sermon “How Jesus Made a Woman at a Well, Well…Well.”

My hope, as we look as this passage together this morning, is that we’ll each find a bit of ourselves in this woman at the well. That a piece of her story will be our story. And as she encountered Jesus, I hope that we will too.

When Jesus[a] learned that the Pharisees had heard he was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were), he left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria; so he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property[b] that Jacob had given his son Joseph.

Our first point today is that “There’s no mountain he won’t climb up.

A brief geography and cultural lesson here: As the crow flies, Samaria is directly between Judea and Galilee. However, back in that day, Jews and Samaritans were fairly bitter enemies, as we’ll see in verse 9, and they would actually go out of their way to avoid travelling through each other’s territories. It would be like traveling from here to San Diego but going 2 hours out of your way to avoid Los Angeles during rush hour. And you might be thinking, well, actually that makes a lot of sense. Because everyone hates bumper to bumper traffic. And that’s how Jews felt about Samaritans. They were the bumper to bumper traffic of the ancient world.

But verse 4 says that Jesus had to go through Samaria. I have this picture of an ancient Jewish Siri trying to reroute Jesus away from Samaria the whole time, but he keeps on plowing forward knowing exactly where he wants to go, even though it makes no sense in that time period. When I was your foe, still your love fought for me

Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from his journey, sat down at the well. It was about noon.[c]

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

“Give me a drink,” Jesus said to her, because his disciples had gone into town to buy food.

“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked him. For Jews do not associate with[d] Samaritans.[e]

10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.”

11 “Sir,” said the woman, “you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do you get this ‘living water’? 

These verses reveal a lot of additional context to this story. First, verse 7 reveals that the well is located outside of the town and this was likely not a short walk for the woman to get there. Verse 11 reveals that there was extra equipment needed to obtain water from this well, equipment that Jesus did not possess. Presumably, if this woman was there to draw water, then she had to have brought the equipment with her on this walk out to the well, likely a rope, a bucket, and a pitcher to transport the water. And she’s carrying all of this at noon, the hottest portion of the day.

One of my main chores at our house is doing the yard. Weed whacking, edging, mowing, fixing any sprinklers that my brother or I run over on a way too regular basis, the whole two yards, front and back. One of the things you quickly learn about yard work is that it’s better to start early. If I’m not finished by noon, I’m gonna be regretting it.

And we’ll find out in a bit why she’s out at the well at noon. All things considered, she’s probably lugging around 40+ pounds of gear, in the noontime heat, and this lazy, unprepared, Jewish man had the gall to ask her for a drink? I imagine she responded to his request with a sneer, or at the very least a hostile and caustic tone. Who did Jesus think he was?

Jesus, for his part, invites this woman into a life-changing interaction with him. He’s breaking no less than a handful of social, cultural, and religious rules simply by speaking to her. As I stated before, and as the woman herself asserts, Jews did not associate with Samaritans. They avoided them at all costs. Furthermore, in Jesus’ day and age, men only spoke to their spouses and female relatives. We can still see these social boundaries in place today throughout much of the Middle Eastern world. And finally, what we find out when we observe the Samaritan woman’s history, paired with what we know of Jesus’ identity, according to religious rules back then, Jesus should have avoided this woman like the plague. 

Which begs the question: WHY?

“There’s no wall he won’t kick down.”

There’s no barrier that will keep Jesus away from her. From me. From you. Jesus’ love for her would not be stopped. He will cover any physical distance to find us. And He will break through whatever it is that might be between us.

 


10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.”

11 “Sir,” said the woman, “you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do you get this ‘living water’? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock.”

13 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again.14 But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well[f] of water springing up in him for eternal life.”

15 “Sir,” the woman said to him, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and come here to draw water.”

16 “Go call your husband,” he told her, “and come back here.”

17 “I don’t have a husband,” she answered.

“You have correctly said, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus said. 18 “For you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman replied, “I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Do you see her hesitation here? Do you see how she tries to misdirect away from the elephant in the room that Jesus brings up?

The first six months after [Gone Girl] left, I avoided conversations about her as much as possible. We had originally met at the place where I still work, and so coworkers of ours would occasionally comment on her or ask me about her. I feared what people thought and what people knew or thought they knew, and I quickly became an expert at steering conversations away from her.

My mentor was raised Catholic and he could probably give you a dissertation on the difference between sins of commission and sins of omission. And I have a prelaw degree, so I was omitting the truth about the state of my marriage, not exactly lying, but at the same time not not lying.

It took a particularly nosy friend of mine to finally shatter through the facade I had tried keeping together. We were at a New Years Eve party my best friend was hosting, and she was making the rounds. She approached me and asked me where my wife was. I hesitated ever so slightly and told her, probably at her parents. She doubled down on her inquisitiveness. “You don’t know where your wife is?” She asked incredulously. At that point, I was caught, like a deer in headlights. “Well… no. She left me three months ago.”

We don’t know why this woman has had five husbands. Perhaps she left each one of them. Perhaps they left her. Maybe one died, or committed suicide. Maybe she couldn’t have kids and one of her husbands left her for someone who could. She might have been a black widow and she went around getting rich while getting away with murder. Or maybe she thought she had met Prince Charming and he turned out to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Maybe she just simply had bad taste in men. Now that’s one problem that I don’t have. I have excellent taste in men: Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds.

But seriously. This woman had a spotted past, one that was exacerbated by the culture of the day. And, with all of the other context clues in this passage, we begin to get a picture of a woman living in extreme brokenness and isolation. She comes to the well alone, which should have functioned as our modern day water cooler or office coffeepot. She comes to the well in the middle of the heat, probably to avoid the sidelong glances and whispers that she’s been enduring since husband #2. 

And Jesus, at a first glance, seems to put her on blast. Calls her out. Throws shade at her. Whatever terminology millennials are using these days. But, if we look at Jesus’ words and especially his other interactions with “sinful” women, we can draw from those conversations to imagine how he dealt with this woman.

John 3:16-17 says, 

 For God loved the world in this way:[e] He gave[f] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

In John 8, a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus and he is questioned about how she should be punished. And he tells the accusers that “he who is without sin should cast the first stone.” After they all leave, he tells the woman that he will not condemn her either and sends her on her way. In Luke 7, a sinful woman approaches Jesus and anoints him with perfume, and washes his feet with her tears and her hair.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—she’s a sinner!”

The Pharisee expected Jesus to recoil from her, no doubt as the Pharisee himself did. He expected Jesus to turn in disgust. But instead he forgives her sin.

I imagine that this Samaritan woman, (who, sidenote, identified Jesus clearly as a prophet, while the Pharisee failed to) I imagine that she expected Jesus to react to her as the Pharisee did. I certainly expected my friend at the party to react to me that way. But my friend didn’t, and Jesus didn’t react that way to the Samaritan woman either.

There’s no shadow he won’t light up

I told you earlier how my chore at home is yard work. Weeding is an interesting beast to tackle. If you let it get out of control, like I did, the weeds grow super long. The first time I tried catching up (which is not the verb you want to resort to when you’re dealing with weeds), we had to just use a lawn mower to level the weeds and make the task more manageable. But that doesn’t actually take out any weeds, I can just see the base of them.

My tool of choice is the hula hoe. You kind of scrape the dirt and try to grab underneath the weed and pull it out of the soil. It’s fairly easy, and fairly low effort, but it’s also not the most effective method of weeding, because you don’t always get the whole weed. The most effective method is getting on your hands and knees and ripping those suckers out and exposing the weeds to the power of the sun. Weeds get scorched in the sun pretty easily, but you’ve gotta expose their roots in order for them to die. 

That’s what Jesus does here. He lights up her shadows, her sin, her ultimate source of shame to kill her weeds, and to set her free from them and heal her.

 


 

At the very beginning of this sermon, I mentioned a message I heard from Francis Chan with the Huckabys. He preached about being one with one another and how that unity models the unity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He taught out of John 17:21-23:

May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. 

God used this passage on that night just over two years ago to light up my own shadows. After two or three weeks of the Holy Spirit working on my heart, I ended up in Pastor Keven’s office, exposing my own shadows, sin, and shame to him:

I have lied to a countless number of people. I have stolen from a kid who had very little when I was a teenager as well as from my best friend when I was an adult. I have cussed at my stepdad. I have held resentments and bitterness toward my family.

In my self-righteousness, I positioned myself like the prophet Jonah, who waited on a mountain for the judgment and destruction of Nineveh. I had felt that way toward my stepdad and my wife.

I have had other gods and idols before my God, looking to them for satisfaction and fulfillment, most notably through my job, my wife and our marriage, and the approval of other people.

I have been gripped by fear, manipulating and controlling others to protect myself.

I have withheld love from my family and my wife as a punishment for unmet expectations.

I have humiliated and cut down others, including my wife, using my words as weapons.

I have wielded anger as a weapon also, causing others to fear me. Just a few weeks before [Gone Girl] left, I punched a picture frame on our wall during a fight. I scared her. I could see it in her eyes. Truth be told, I scared myself.

I have coveted three of my neighbor’s wives, aching and longing for what they had when what I had fell apart. My lust has taken many forms over the years, most damagingly through an addiction to pornography that has consumed over 60% of my life, since the age of 11. According to the Bible, I am an adulterer, an idolater, and a fornicator.

I had such a low view of myself that I thought nobody could love me. My hidden sin had burdened me with immense shame and I was repulsed by who I saw in the mirror, and thought that surely a Holy God couldn’t bear to look upon me.

 


 

…BUT GOD

 
Romans 5:6-8 says:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

And Ephesians 2:4-5 says,

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

My name is Devon, and I have a new life in Christ. God is recovering me from an addiction to pornography, fear, and grief from a divorce. In Galatians, Paul writes that “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Our worship team can come back up now. We’re gonna sing Reckless Love, of course. And as we do, we invite you to come up and allow this overwhelming love of God to climb over mountains to find you, break through walls to get to you, and light up shadows to heal you. 

I don’t know what your shadows are. Maybe you’re an addict like me and you feel broken. Maybe your shadow isn’t your sin, but somebody else’s against you. Two years ago, God lit up my shadow of pornography, but he also used my friend at the party to light up the shadow of my rapidly deteriorating marriage. And it wasn’t until I started sharing what was going on that the shame of an impending divorce began to dissipate and my heart would start to heal. Maybe you’re trapped by fear or shame like I was. Perhaps you’ve been abused. Or did you abuse someone? Whatever it is, God desires to light it up and destroy it. Not to condemn you for it but to free you from the weight of it.

 


 

After Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman in verse 29, she leaves behind her water jar. Which is interesting because Jesus told her earlier, metaphorically, that if she drank of living water, the water he offered her, she would not be thirsty again. So she leaves it behind and brings anyone who would listen to her to experience what she experienced.

Jumping down to verse 39:

39 Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of what the woman said[k] when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of what he said.[l] 42 And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, since we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.”

In a second here, we’re going to sing one more song this morning and we’re gonna give you all a chance to follow in the Samaritan woman’s footsteps, to tell us what God has done for you.

Psalm 66 says,

Let the whole earth shout joyfully to God!
Sing about the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awe-inspiring are your works!
Your enemies will cringe before you
because of your great strength.
The whole earth will worship you
and sing praise to you.
They will sing praise to your name.”Selah

Come and see the wonders of God;
his acts for humanity[a] are awe-inspiring.
He turned the sea into dry land,
and they crossed the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him.

He rules forever by his might;
he keeps his eye on the nations.
The rebellious should not exalt themselves.Selah
Bless our God, you peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard.
He keeps us alive[b]
and does not allow our feet to slip.

16 Come and listen, all who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth,
and praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had been aware of malice in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
19 However, God has listened;
he has paid attention to the sound of my prayer.
20 Blessed be God!
He has not turned away my prayer
or turned his faithful love from me.

We’re going to sing He Is Faithful. For the past two years, the meaning of the song has changed drastically for me. The bridge says that “He has paid the highest price. He has proven his great love for us.” This speaks to his death on the cross. That’s how he proved his great love for all of us. But lately, I sing this song and I think about how he has proven his great love for me, Devon. How he lit up my shadows to free me from them. How my aunts let me stay with them for a year before asking me to pay rent. How I desperately missed my [Gone Girl] so badly that I slept holding a pillow to remind me of her touch, but I receive no less than 6 hugs for every Sunday from Heidi, her kids, and Kathy. How God anchored me to this church through one of Keven’s sermons about faithfulness.

So we’re going to sing about His faithfulness to us. And when we get to the bridge, we’ll give you some instruction, but we’re going to invite you up to share with us how God has proven his love to you.

Advertisements

Dear Agony

Hello again, my Dragon Army! As has lately been the case, it’s been a while. In my defense [against the dark arts] (How many times have I used that one already?), I sat down to start typing away at least twice last week and once last night, but I was thwarted by a faulty electricity situation, a bad motivator, and video games, respectively. And it’s the thought that Counts Dooku, right? Let’s get right into it.

(In honor of going to see Breaking Benjamin on Monday night with my mom, all the first halves of the section titles are taken from their track names)

 


Intro

If you’re just joining us, if you’ve successfully been clickbaited by my mostly irrelevant categories and tags, allow me to introduce myself and catch you up to warpspeed real quick (is it a nerd faux pas to use a Star Wars and Star Trek reference that close together?): My name is Devon, aka Sir Ender, and I have a new life in Christ. God is recovering me from (so far in this story, beginning two years ago) fear, codependency, shame, and grief from a divorce. More will be revealed soon enough. This blog is largely about my current goings on as I navigate the murky waters of forced singleness, as well as reminiscing about what happened two years ago in the separation and divorce from my spouse, affectionately referred to here as Gone Girl, giving God the glory and praise in the midst of the dark storm that, by his grace and loving kindness, I have weathered through faith.

If that piques your interest, but you don’t want to read too much to get really caught up, I recommend the No Longer A Slave, Liar Liar, and What’s In A Name? blogs for a barebones Sparknotes type of catch up. But I warn you, you’re missing out on all my lovely wordplays and puns. And if you don’t like those, you’re in the wrong place my friend.

 


Sugarcoat – Stressed Is Just Desserts Spelled Backwards

So, I may have lied to my therapist already. It was largely accidental, and mostly due to self-deception and shame not giving myself enough credit. In the most recent blog post, he asked me if I spend a lot of time as a Four, to which I responded that I didn’t think so, but I don’t think that I spend much time as a Seven either. But then the more I thought about it, and the more I continued to do over the past couple of months, I realized that I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. Sevens are very adventurous, and I tend to be a homebody (stay-cations for life!), and my Nine wing usually keeps me pretty passive and, dare I say, boring?

Yet, since September, I went to my first NFL game, by myself to boot (No, those aren’t my drinks):

my first music festival with my mom:

and I also rock climbed outdoors for the first time with my climbing buddy, his fiancee, and one of my really good friends:

Not to mention starting this blog.

If that’s a whole bunch of gobbledygook and you still haven’t caved to my strong recommendations for the Enneagram, suffice it to say that as a barometer of my health, I said I was averagely healthy, but through the lens of the Enneagram, my spiritual and emotional health may actually be quite thriving. And I wanted to call that out ASAP; self-fulfilling prophecy game can be too strong, but not today, not today.

 


Simple Design – Shoestring Attachment Theory

I had an interesting interaction with one of my twin cousins a couple of weeks ago. We have been DIY-ing a shed and bunk beds and stuff to fit all of us in the same roof (There’s 9 of us now!). I came to help out after I got out of church this particular afternoon, changing into my work boots and walking outside to join the family in the backyard. I hadn’t tied my shoes yet, and I started to do so. My 7 year old cousin looked at me, quizzically.
“What are you doing?”

“Tying my shoe, what does it look like?”
“… You tie it weird.”

“What? How do you tie it?” And then she proceeded to show me how she tied her shoes.

Now, look at me, I’m a man. Not much of one, but I’m a man. (Don’t worry, that’s not really meant to be self-deprecating, it’s a Daniel Tosh reference.) I don’t remember when I first started tying my own shoes, and I don’t know when I settled on the way that I tie them. Conservative estimate, 20-25 years. She’s seven, she’s been tying her shoes for two, three years tops? And you know what? Her way was simply better than mine. So, I started using her method immediately.

I’ve always had two issues with my shoe-tying method. They never stay tied, even though they’re double-knotted, and about 1/3 of the time, when I untie them, the laces get tangled and knotted in a way that I have to untie them manually. In the two weeks since I switched to her method, my shoes don’t untie by themselves, and when I untie them, they come undone easily with no complications.

Maybe you’re thinking, “So what?” And normally, I might agree with you (aside from the fact that I got straight schooled by a 7 year old). But, see, I’ve been reading about attachment theory since my therapist instructed me to (is that codependent? *shrugs*). And reading about that juxtaposed with this seemingly innocuous curiosity has been really eye-opening.

It’s like, I’ve been doing this for 25ish years. And I thought it was functional, even optimal. If my shoes untied spontaneously, I didn’t stop to fathom that perhaps my shoe-tying method wasn’t the best. I just assumed that all shoes must untie spontaneously.

When someone they know is emotionally upset, avoiders expect that person to take care of the problem on his own because this is what they do…. Since they spent much of their childhood being independent, they may find marriage constraining and entrapping without realizing why.

How We Love, pg. 63-64

Similar to my shoe-tying conundrum, my foray into attachment left me largely reticent to express my feelings and frustrations, and aloof to depend on my wife for comfort and emotional satisfaction. This had nothing to do with her at all, but rather the way I grew up. I learned to fend for myself early, and I thought that was the best way to do things, much like I thought my shoe-tying was the best way to do it.

If y’all have been reading my blog for some time, you know that I try to be honest, raw, and vulnerable. Depending on other people scares the hell out of me. People let you down, people betray you, people take advantage of you. These have been my experiences with relying on others. One of the hardest things about remembering what people have done for me over these past two years, not only in the blog, but in person, is that I’m fully aware of how much I needed these people. How much I need them. And that neediness is scary because people can leave or be taken away.

I’ll be interested to see what attachment style my therapist thinks dominates my personality, I waver back and forth myself, but I tend to think I’m what they call the avoider, which is pretty self-explanatory. Simply put, I tend to keep people at arm’s length. Relationships have offered very little way in the way of relief or comfort growing up, and I have continued to believe that is the case. That’s how I’ve tied my shoes for the last 20+ years.

 


Close to Heaven – Putting the Rad in Trad

I briefly mentioned above how I had rock climbed outside for the first time. Man, what an awesome experience. I’ve been rock climbing for just over 18 months, and this was something else entirely. I’ve never been more scared (due to unfamiliarity) and more exhilarated at the same time. I managed to flash all three of the routes we did that day, which made me feel pretty good about myself and the experience, and I am officially hooked on it. My climbing partner and I are going again this coming weekend.

“Ohhhhhhhh, I’m halfway there, Whoooooaaaaaaa–ohhhhhhhh [climb]in’ on a prayer!” Yes, I totally sang that in the middle of the route. Too good to pass up. My climbing partner is belaying me back there, and I think he’s unimpressed with my second set of selfies here.

With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.

Psalm 18:29, 33

I’ve spoken at decent length in previous blog posts about the Enneagram and Regeneration. Speaking about rock climbing briefly here provides a good foil to the previous section. With my largely passive, avoider personality, with a dose of shyness, I tend to have some difficulty meeting new people and making new friends, at least that I don’t have some sort of preexisting connection with. Rock climbing flipped that tendency on its head. Rock climbing is a pretty social sport. At normal gyms, people might largely keep to themselves, but at rock climbing gyms, there is a culture of connectivity. And while rock climbing can be done by one’s self, it’s far better with a partner.

I won’t spoil our main storyline on this side quest, but rock climbing drew me out of a shell I had not particularly desired to cast off. Organically. I made small talk (which I usually hate) with other regular climbers at the gym. We would occasionally climb together. We became friends. I would entrust them with my life, or at least the physical safety of my body, but I could probably die from a 40 foot drop. My climbing partner, we’ll nickname him Fox, gave me a particularly nasty fall of 25ish feet, which very nearly splatted me on the gym floor once. It took a couple of weeks to shake off the fear from that one, but now I’m even more comfortable climbing with Fox than even before that first fall.

It’s funny that while on the one hand, most of my conscious life has geared me toward self-reliance, independence, and self-containment, this newfound hobby and passion of mine has forced me to rely on others, even despite letdowns (literally!) and scares. To push through fear of falling, fear of failing (doing hard routes grates up against my One’s need for perfection), uncomfortability with small talk, training setbacks, etc.

And that’s part of why it helped change my life.

 


Breaking the Silence – Olive Branch Extended

Mid-October 2016. It’d been at least 5 or 6 weeks since she had really spoken to me. She resisted and refused to meet with a therapist with me. I was doing all I could to keep it together on the outside, but inside I was slowly breaking. I cried in my car, in the shower, anywhere private. I cried myself to sleep. I slept holding onto a second pillow because I missed her body next to mine in bed. I still didn’t understand what had happened or why she had left. I still had hope that God would do something incredible, but all signs were pointing in the opposite direction. I agonized over how much contact was too much. How much would push her away? How little would seem to confirm her conclusion that this was what I wanted?

I was reading a devotional about divorce or separation, and it recommended trying to rekindle old flames, stoking a fire by trying to recapture the magic found while dating. So, I reached out to Gone Girl and asked her if she’d be willing to go on a walk with me like we used to. She said she’d think about it.

A week went by. (This was how we started measuring time; days had long since turned into weeks) I probed again. Did you think about it? She said she was willing to meet me that weekend at Starbucks but she didn’t have a ton of time, she had to move into her new apartment later that morning. *Small glimmer of hope* Perhaps if she wasn’t living with her parents anymore, she would be able to think and see things more clearly. Without them breathing down her neck, the poison could slowly be siphoned out.

I've never been so wrong

 


Unknown Soldier – You’ve Literally Gotta Be Kidding Me

That meme is going to feature a lot in this blog, among the other things that I keep telling you you’ll keep seeing more of. It’s too good, too apropos for these situations with my Gone Girl. And this wouldn’t be a saga worth retelling without a Twist in My Story.

Late October 2016. Sometime between reaching out to Gone Girl and actually seeing her again for the first time in almost two full months, I had a conversation with Pastor Keven. We chitchatted a bit about I don’t know what, then he hesitantly “dropped a bomb on me, baby. [He] dropped a bomb on me.”

Quick backstory for context: Gone Girl was tentatively going through the motions of the Nazarene restoration process so that she could eventually pastor again. It’s very rigorous and there’s a ton of accountability built into it to monitor her “recovery.” She had been seeing a therapist, my pastor and our district superintendent were in communication with each other and with her therapist, and Keven would speak to me about anything relevant that might come up. Yeah, complicated, I know. Of course, if you’ve been reading along with me, this is maybe the least complicated this story gets.

So, anyway. Gone Girl had been going to another church in the interim, and apparently (though this is still highly disputed and relatively unconfirmed by anyone but her) somebody had called her new pastor, claimed to be me, and verbally ripped her to pieces. Slander, gossip, badmouthing, I don’t know what all was said (because I didn’t do it!), but needless to say that her new pastor got a very bad impression about me from “our” conversation.

Keven point blank asked me if it was me that did it. I can’t remember exactly if I laughed, but I had to have grinned at the very least.

That's not true

This might have been a very difficult accusation to disprove, but I had complete plausible deniability. “That’s impossible. I don’t know where she’s living, though I assume with her parents, I don’t know where she’s working, and I certainly don’t know where she goes to church. That’s simply not possible.” Keven immediately agreed that he was pretty sure that was the case, but he had to ask to make sure.

But if not me, then who?

Hijacked when you weren’t looking
Behind your back people are talking
Using words that cut your down to size
You want to fight back
It’s building inside you
Holding you up
Taking you hostage
Yeah, it’s worth fighting for
They’ll try to take your pride
Try to take your soul
They’ll try to take all the control
They’ll look you in the eyes
Fill you full of lies
Believe me they’re gonna try
So when you’re feeling crazy
And things fall apart
Listen to your head
Remember who you are
Three Days Grace, Unbreakable Heart

I only have two legitimate hypotheses. First, she’s lying about the pastor. There was no new church, there was no new pastor, and there was no phone call. That’s the simplest explanation. Second, IF the phone call actually exists and there was a mysterious person on the other end of the line, then she had to put someone up to it. Which really isn’t all that impossible or unlikely given everything that happened with the text messages. These hypotheses do complicate themselves later on, but I’ll leave you dangling on that one for a couple of weeks.

 


Defeated – The Last Time I Would See Her for a Year

October 29, 2016. To say that I was nervous about seeing her again was an understatement. She terrified me. I couldn’t even attempt to speak to her on the phone because she couldn’t be trusted to be honest about unrecorded conversations. Not that she would pick up anyway. She usually responded to any kindness or compassion with hostility and aggression via text message. At least we were meeting in a public place.

But that didn’t stop my subconscious from freaking out. I had a dream nightmare sometime before we met. She pulled a gun on me and shot me, claiming that I had attacked her and that she was only defending herself. But it was only a dream, right? Right!?

But if I didn’t see her again soon, I would definitely lose her for sure. Absence wasn’t making her heart grow any fonder.

I arrived early that Saturday morning, unusually early for a member of my family. My old bible study leader used to have a name for the time I would usually arrive at church functions. Devon o’clock. So I might usually run late for things, but today was not that day. I didn’t want to give her any excuses to doubt my commitment.

Our agreed upon time came and went. Five minutes went by. I texted her. “Are you still coming?” No response. Ten minutes went by. Still nothing. She usually didn’t run late, and we were meeting five minutes away from her parents’ place. I called her. Voicemail. Well, at least now I know where she works… She finally texted me back that she would be there soon.

She finally showed up, fifteen or twenty minutes late. I had consulted with Pastors Keven and Mike the night before on how to even start our conversation. Small talk or straight into it? They each said something different. Well, small talk couldn’t hurt, could it? I think I got two questions out with one word responses from her. And she looked impatient. Ooooooooookayyyyyyy, guess we’re jumping straight into it.

I don’t remember all of what we said. I tried persuading her about the text messages again. I thought if I could just crack that armor, everything else could cascade through and fall into the proper place. And these text messages were like the proverbial finger in the dike. I tried insinuating that maybe there was someone out there trying to sabotage the two of us. I knew that I wasn’t the mysterious person that called her pastor, but I didn’t think that she knew yet that I knew about that. So I tried playing it a little stupid and asked if anybody else at all could have sent the text messages.

We got nowhere, and it started heating up, so I switched subjects. I tried using logic and reasoning to prove that my motives were honest and truthful over the last two months. Why would I do this, this, this, this, and this if I wanted a divorce? I pleaded with her to believe me. I got emotional, teared up, cried, the whole nine yards. Nothing.

She finally responded. Something to the effect of, “It’s getting a little emotional and it’s hard to think clearly, but the one thing that is clear to me is that I don’t trust you anymore.”

Don’t don’t
Say it didn’t happen that way
I won’t won’t
Believe another word that you say

The All-American Rejects, Breakin’

And she got up and left. The whole conversation took maybe twenty minutes. Two months of basically zero communication, certainly no meaningful communication, and she gave me twenty minutes of her time to try to save our marriage.

 


Hopeless – Breaking’s What the Heart Is for

There have been a number of soul-crushing moments over the past two years throughout this ordeal. The first one wasn’t the first night that she left, after our fight. That hurt, but I was pretty optimistic that she would come back after she cooled off. It wasn’t when I found out she lied about what happened that night. It wasn’t when everything with the text messages unfolded, although that definitely threw me all kinds of sideways. It wasn’t even when I found out that everyone else’s suspicions about the existence of this other guy were validated. That sucked too.

But my heart wasn’t ripped out [like Magua cut out Colonel Munroe’s heart] until she said that she would only want to save our marriage to save her job. And then she put her wedding ring on the table and walked out.

I felt the same way this morning. It wasn’t the words. It wasn’t the fact that she said that she couldn’t trust me anymore. It wasn’t her walking out [again]. I wasn’t able to fully identify it until speaking with my brother long after. Only then did I have words for it.

In a clear view there’s a silhouette
And I watch you and I can’t forget
Knew we were done when you locked that door
Yeah I figured it out now
Breaking’s what the heart is for

The All-American Rejects, Breakin’

In retrospect, I was able to realize that her whole body language screamed at me that she was done with me. I had looked deep into her piercing blue eyes for the last time, eyes that once held wonder and warmth, hoping that I might see a glimmer of hesitation or regret or compassion or something, and instead all I saw was coldness and apathy. She was wholly indifferent to our marriage falling apart.

I’m not like you
Your faceless lies
Your weak, dead heart
Your black dead eyes
I’ll make it through
But not this time
Your hope is gone
And so is mine

Breaking Benjamin, Crawl

What Hurts The Most

I finally met with my new therapist this past Thursday. Took a bit longer than originally anticipated because I was given the incorrect number, which took about a week to figure out, and then it was another two weeks before he was free available for a first session. He definitely ain’t free. Still working on getting my insurance to cover it. Our next session is in 6 weeks in case they won’t. Give me some time to scrounge up the dough, the moolah, the quid[ditch].

Ok, yeah, that one was forced. They can’t all be inspired. I was looking back at a couple of my old posts (Do I have enough to have old posts yet? Since the last couple have been pretty sparse, do the rest count as old?), and I was straight up cackling at my “torn ACL-ohomora” comment. Now that was an inspired joke. My fantasy football woes and Harry Potter wordplay rolled into one neat little package.

Anyway, the session went great. A good chunk of the reason this particular blog post exists is so that I could cement some of the stuff we talked about in print, and thereby lock it in my memory. A blog is kind of like a digital, non-visceral Pensieve in that way.

I instantly got a great vibe from him, and it really just continued to get better and better. We talked Enneagram, of course. Not only did he immediately understand what being a One meant (Why do you think you’re a One? he asked), but he also recalled that I stress toward a Four and go toward Seven in health. (Do you spend a lot of time as a Four? I don’t think so, but I feel like I rarely act like a Seven…)

He had a workable knowledge of rock climbing basics.

I even made a Queen reference when recounting a childhood event. “When I was a young boy from a poor family… *slight chuckle*” And we briefly talked about our mutual excitement for the movie coming out NEXT week. And then he name dropped Rami Malek and impressed me with his cinephile chops. This was the only demonstration of it, so I’ll certainly be probing the full extent of his knowledge, but you don’t tend to know his name out of thin air.

But those are all mostly superficial.

After talking about what I was hoping to understand about myself with regard to codependency, he metaphorically crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. If you were diabetic, as your doctor, I would not focus on how diabetic you are. We would discuss your diet, your physical activity, etc, and we would seek to get you healthy. And as we got you healthy, we would find that you would no longer be diabetic.

I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. Essentially, my codependency is a symptom, but we’re gonna be treating the disease causing it.

To my brother’s delight, this means taking a hard look into attachment style theory. My therapist recommended that I read How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich and, people pleaser that I am, I went and bought it immediately after our session. Also picked me up a copy of Ian Cron’s Road Back to You finally as well. What hurts the most is not reading more about the Enneagram.

 


 

It’s Much Better to Face These Kinds of Things with a Sense of [Hope]

I was at a wedding this past weekend. I was IN a wedding this past weekend. It’s a cruel Twisted Fate that all but one of the weddings I’ve been to over the past two years, which now totals six, I have been in. It’s a funny thing, the way life works sometimes. Cycles, you know? Two years ago, that first wedding wrecked me, as I just fought not to take attention away from the bride and groom.

Image result for keep it together man

The weddings previous broke me all over again at various stages in them. The most common spot was during the vows. In my last blog, I shared the picture of Gone Girl and my vow tattoos, with a brief commentary on them.

FB_IMG_1539915905728.jpg

“In sickness and in health, until death do us part.” One of the most common and easily recognizable phrases in any American wedding. The idea that a marriage is for a lifetime[turner]. Each of those first five weddings was a [Tony] stark reminder of what exactly I had lost in September of 2016.

In the two years since, I have joked with my family and friends off and on about the gravity of what I’ve lost. This has mostly served as a shield for my heart. “If I don’t laugh about it, then I’ll cry about it,” I always say. I said that once. But when push comes to shove, or perhaps more specifically when bride comes to groom, my heart reveals the depth of my despair. My buried mourning rises to the surface and rears its head, breathing in fresh air.

Not only do I mourn what I’ve lost, who I’ve lost, but I also mourn the damage that I caused. Various members of my inner circle and I have joked about getting a cover up for my tattoo. And I’ve seriously considered it at least half a dozen times. I even have a pretty solid design lined up to represent one of the newer ministries I’ve committed to. But for me, I leave my tattoo behind as a clear reminder of how I messed up. If I fault my ex for not living up to her vows, then I must fault myself for not living up to mine either. My tattoo now reminds me to do better, to be better.

And so I have cried. The tears have freely fallen. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. I don’t remember if I’ve talked before about how I never used to cry, and certainly never in public, around people. For so many years, I viewed it as a sign of weakness, and, more terrifyingly, a sign of vulnerability for others to take advantage of. In these past two years, I have certainly cried more than I have throughout the rest of my conscious memory. (I won’t include my babyhood in that, because I’ve been led to believe that babies cry a lot. It’s somewhat hard to believe because all the videos and pictures I see show all giggling and laughing babies, and my trust issues lead me to believe that y’all are making it up to score sympathy points.)

I have mourned losing Gone Girl. I have mourned hurting her, deeply wounding her. And I have mourned the thought that I may never find love again. That’s what hurts the most. The possibility that I might perpetually be single. Forever alone.

That I may never get to be the good husband and good father that I’ve always wanted to be. I remember standing outside my best friend’s family’s laundromat talking to my brother about our life’s pursuits ten-ish years ago. When he asked me about mine, that’s all I had. I didn’t care what career I was in, how much money I made, how big a house I owned, what kind of car I drove. All I wanted was a family. And to be good at it.

Maybe that’s why weddings hurt so much. They’re a reminder that I was bad at it.

The wedding this weekend, however, was a nice bookend to all of that. The last several weddings have been rather bittersweet, but this one was almost ALL sweet. Very nearly [Headless Nick] all sweet.

As we took our pre-ceremony pictures, as the bride and groom said their vows, as they shared their first kiss as man and wife, as we recepted (Yeah, I’m coining that phrase today), I had a firm realization that I will have love again. I praised God for the beauty of the ceremony, his sovereignty in bringing these two people together through those inconsequential and seemingly unrelated choices that I’ve talked about before, and then I praised him for his faithfulness to his people. And in praising and remembering his faithfulness, I knew that I would have what I longed for.

 


 

God Is Never Late

I’ve been singing a new song at church for the past few months, called Yes I Will. The verse says

I count on one thing
The same God that never fails
Will not fail me now
You won’t fail me now
In the waiting
The same God who’s never late
Is working all things out
You’re working all things out

I almost always cry when I listen to this song. It can still be difficult to trust the lyrics. To trust God’s faithfulness and provision. To trust that he is working all things together for my good and his glory. That’s largely why that dream last month shook me so hard. I can’t see where the road is leading/will lead, and it requires blind trust to keep walking it. But as one of my all time favorite bands sings, Love is a lonely road.

Ah, but God blessed the broken road/ That led me straight to you. 

I was reading in my Bible this past week, and two specific passages jumped right out of the pages at me. The first was in Psalm 40.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

You seeing a theme here yet? I know that I am.

And the second was out of Romans 4.

20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

You’re strong! You survive! You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you! No matter how long it takes, no matter how far. I will find you!

If y’all recognize that ^ line, you’re officially my favorite people. No cheating; you can’t use Google or IMDB or anything like that.

I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know how much further I’ll have to run this race. But I know that one day I’ll be standing where those other grooms have stood, and I will weep with reckless abandon at how good my God is, at how faithful that he has been to me.

I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:6

Which is a really perfect verse, because at my next wedding, we’re singing karaoke at the reception.

 

Shaken, Not Stirred

One of these days, I’ll slip into a more regular rhythm with these posts. I think I drained a lot of my initial energy with just how much volume I pumped out those first 8 or 10 days. But I’m also resolute not to give up on this thing. It takes energy, but doesn’t everything worthwhile?

As an Enneagram One, one of my more frequent temptations is to give up or not even start things that I can’t do perfectly. I’ve been listening recently to this insanely talented artist who writes songs about the Enneagram numbers (thanks for telling me, friend! And a pox on the friend who deprived me of that knowledge for as long as we’ve known each other. You know who you both are!)

His chorus for the song about the Ones goes something like this: “I wanna sing a song worth singing, write an anthem worth repeating.” And that’s exactly how I feel with this blog. At times, it’s tempting to give up altogether if I can’t get into a regular rhythm like some of my fellow bloggers who I’ve followed as they have followed me. But if perfection is my [unattainable] goal, then grace for “failure” is my answer to keep going.

And I’ve gotten insanely great feedback from everyone so I know rationally that this is a worthwhile pursuit. But that inner prosecutor that always is there to accuse me loves reminding me that it’s not good enough, that it could always be better.

“Now hold on, let me finish, I’m not saying perfect exists in this life. But we’ll only know for certain if we try.” That’s another line from his song. That never-ending drive for better, for the best.

“The list goes on forever of all the ways I could be better in my mind. As if I could earn God’s favor over time.” Yeah, turns out I’ve known this song for 30 years, I just never knew it. It’s one of the things I love most about the Enneagram, it’s so exposing.

Have I sold you on it yet?


Thnks fr th Mmrs

For a season after Gone Girl left, I hated Facebook memories. They reminded me of everything I no longer had. Her name no longer tagged in our memories reminded me that she had blocked me and wasn’t speaking to me. The teasings and laughter we so often shared, a painful reminder that things were incredibly broken right now.

Now, I don’t really mind them. In fact, I usually welcome them. They serve as a good litmus test for my emotional recovery. Which is pretty nearly complete. I can’t recall the last time I cried over Gone Girl specifically. Not that I would see anything wrong with doing so, my grief is simply healed.

I still feel lonely from time to time. I sometimes envy friends and their relationships with their significant others, their growing families. Apparently, when you’re in your late twenties or early thirties, you’re supposed to start having kids. Not getting divorced. But then, I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum, he smiled ruefully.

Back in August, I got slammed with three back to back pregnancy announcements from two best friends and my sister. I cried pretty hard after hearing the third one and the weight of my own reality sunk in. But I met with my mentor, grieved my loss, and was able to hold my grief and my joy in both hands simultaneously. And when I heard the 4th pregnancy announcement a couple of weeks later, the grief was gone and I only felt joy for their joy.

This week, Facebook reminded me that Gone Girl and I would have been together 5 years. It would’ve been the 4th anniversary of us getting our marriage vow tattoos.

My favorite band is Hoobastank. They use that faux infinity symbol for the two o’s in their name. You Before Me is a song off of their 5th studio album. Her tattoo said “in sickness and in health, Til death do us part.” I guess her other nickname was “death,” he thought semi-snidely, but mostly wistfully.

Anyway, this time, the memory didn’t hurt. I just passively accepted its observation and went on with my day.


2 Years Ago

My Old Friend [D]Obby

A couple of friends recommended that I reach out to our old friend Obby. No, that’s not his real name, it’s a nickname we came up with for him in college that he hates. Or he hates the chant that goes with it. Not really sure which. Anyway, he was an LMFT so it made a lot of sense to reach out to him.

Through my newly discovered lens of codependency, I see again how clearly it’s been entrenched. “No urgency.” While I was insanely desperate. Trust has always been a hard commodity for me to find, and this was an old friend who already had my trust and had very poignant professional insight that I could use. My marriage was deteriorating faster than *SPOILER ALERT FOR AVENGERS CIVIL WAR* Spiderman in Tony Stark’s arms, but yeah, you know, no urgency. Imagine calling 911 because your house is on fire but you reassure the operator that you only want help if it doesn’t inconvenience anyone.

*****EDIT*****
I shared this memory with Obby on Monday, and he chuckled about my observation on codependency, remarking that he would have used the exact same kind of language had the tables been reversed. Misery loves its company! (Long live Red Jumpsuit Apparatus)
*****E[N]DIT*****

I don’t remember which day we met, but I remember that we got Deli Delicious for lunch. Almost exactly a year later, we would be sitting at the same Deli D and he would essentially commission me to go out and take Regen back to my church. Yes, it just so happened that I hit up not only my old friend and an LMFT, but also the director of Regen here in town.

14“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. 15Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.

Jeremiah 3:14-15

I returned to the Lord on the night that my wife left me. And He continued to make good on this promise. Obby was the 2nd in a long line of shepherds that would come alongside me during this difficult time. He continues, 2 years later, to lead me with that same knowledge and understanding.


On The Rocks

It was either my sister’s BFFEIH or my sister’s BFFEIH’s sister that shared their church’s post about their new fall discipleship classes starting at the end of September. I just happened to click on the link because why not? Looking back, with two years of perspective, it’s funny how the seemingly most inconsequential decisions can have the most resounding consequences. (I know that I’ve said that before, but it bears frequent repeating in my story.)

I clicked on the link and quickly skimmed their list of classes starting up. Marriage on the Rocks. This class name immediately stood out to me. Hmmmm, my marriage was certainly on the rocks. Perhaps I would check this class out and see what God might have for me here.

Turns out, in a cruel but still humorous, twist of fate, that the class was more geared for married couples who wanted to build their marriage on the rocks, like how the wise man built his house on the rock instead of the sand. Suffice it to say, I was in the wrong class.

And yet, I was also in the right one. I don’t know if it was my codependency and people-pleasing that kept me there, the welcoming atmosphere instantly created by a bunch of strangers that I didn’t yet know, or the compassion shown to me and crystal clear lack of judgment when it was revealed that, no, my wife would not be joining me for the class, not that first night and likely for the duration of it. Maybe it was all of them. Maybe God simply rooted me there for his purposes.

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.

Again, it’s funny how the smallest decisions can have the biggest impacts. Regardless of the reason, staying and attending the class for its entire duration was right on the Moneypenny.


A Crying Shame-us Finnigan

Remember how I said that the three things that helped me along in my recovery were Regen, the Enneagram, and rock climbing? Above, you just met the guy who planted the seed to get me into Regen. And that night I unwittingly walked into the class that would introduce me to the Enneagram. Turns out that Pastor Anthony and his wife were all about it and they would spend one class session about 75% of the way through the curriculum on it.

However, the Enneagram wasn’t the only thing they gave me. The people at that church were the first people to hear my story, to hear what was going on wrong with my marriage. And when they didn’t shrink away from me like I had leprosy, it was the first wave of defense against the dark arts the debilitating shame I felt.

The thing about shame, if you don’t know, is that it causes us to hide from others. Fear of judgment, a lack of understanding, anxiety, being a social pariah, etc. MY shame tells me that I’m not good enough, that no one will accept me, that if anyone knows what’s going on with me, I will be rejected.

And they are almost always lies.

Shame is a tool that Satan uses to isolate us and keep us from experiencing compassion and kindness from others, self, and God.

Shame can be palpatine palpable. For months, I dreaded people asking about my wife or finding out that we were separated. For months, I would skirt around vague questions that I could get away with, without outright lying to people (when I finally started Regen, I started copping to lying by omission). Honestly, some days even two years later, I still have to battle this shame. I chickened out of being fully honest just two weeks ago with a coworker.

Anyway, these kind people loved me. They didn’t ask me what I had done to cause her to leave. They didn’t question my sincerity. They didn’t look down on me for awkwardly being in this marriage class by myself. I was still ashamed that my marriage was falling apart, but dormant seeds planted and watered during this class would soon sprout and bloom and flourish.

The Phantom Menace

G’day! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Were you all disappointed that the saga didn’t continue on the last post? I mean, technically it did, just 2 years in the future from where we had left off the time before.

I like to think of these blog posts as the skeletal structure for a TV series. And there’s two things that are all the rage right now in television: remaking movies into TV shows and alternating flashbacks. And with some editing, I think I’ve got a decent enough suspense thriller to give Riverdale or Quantico a run for its money. Once I start watching season 2 of Ozark, I’ll have even more cannon fodder pudu for the imagination.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the story has slowed down substantially. It’s even slower than I remember. I thought that I had posted song lyrics pretty much every day two years ago, but it turns out that I did it in chunks every few days. And my communication with Gone Girl was largely one-sided until she elected to grace me with a response.

I have some gaps to fill in from the last week, but not as many as you might think or expect. I do apologize for the delay in your story, for if you have joined me on this journey then it certainly is yours as much as it is mine, I largely blame the jet lag as well as the rather rude interruption of the dream sequence.

The other hindrance to my work is a cause for celebration. I have temporarily lost the use of my mad science la-bore-a-tore-y due to our cousin finally getting out of the hospital with a clean bill of health! Praise God! It was looking real dire there for several weeks. But she is now home. A long road to full recovery ahead, but a wheelchair at home is still leagues better than stuck in a hospital bed. I am briefly displaced, but that is a very small price to pay for our recently doubled-in-size family fully reunited.

And now, without further ado, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Gone Girl and the 24th and a half CENTURY!


Two Years Ago

A Peace Offering (9/12/16)

At this point, she had blocked me and all my friends and family from her social media. Actually, she had deleted her primary account, created a new one/revived an old one, and then blocked us all on that account. Minimal contact. Minimal response when I tried to contact her, even with the most tender supplications.

Because of her demeanor toward me as well as the small issue of fabricated text messages, I was at war with myself. How much contact was needed to keep her persuaded that I still loved her and wanted her back? How much contact was too much and would push her away? How much and what kind of contact was wise, while still protecting myself from her?

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

This became my guiding principle toward my wife during this time. Be kind and gentle. Offer myself to her in humility. But also be shrewd as all hell.

Honestly, it still stings a little bit rereading the cold, businesslike manner in which she dealt with me. This was pretty much par for the course ever since the night that she first left. Either this emotionlessness or outright hostility. Hot and cold. Fire and ice. At least she was my song of fire and ice, he thought ruefully to himself (really vibing that adverb these days for some reason).


The Plot Thickens (9/16/16)

The top part was cut off, but basically she texted me to tell me that she had been thinking about reconsidering her decision to not reconcile our marriage. All she wanted was for me to tell the truth.

Too obvious?

My initial response was one of desperation. What truth did I need to tell? What secret did I need to uncover? At this point, I was willing to do anything.

But then she said I had to tell the truth about initiating the divorce and sending the text messages.

More confusion ensued. The absolute umbridge of this woman. Queue up another emotional teeter totter.

Pastor Mike came in pretty huge on this one. After filling him in on the latest, he cut right to the heart of the issue. “No matter what, you can’t lie and give her what she wants. I know you, and you’ll be tempted to, but your marriage can’t be saved on a lie.”

He did know me. I had already been tempted to give in that first week. And I wondered, would it be so awful if I could just get her to talk to me? Wouldn’t it be ok, if we could just get in a room together with some professional help?

But he was right.

We had a lot of back and forth. I wouldn’t lie, but I did try to give her outs to save face. I was halfway convinced that perhaps her parents were somehow behind it. I tried sowing doubt anywhere I could, perhaps if there was enough she might be able to believe me. She couldn’t, or wouldn’t.


I Have The High Ground (9/27/16)

Our communication fizzled out. I couldn’t lie and do the only thing she wanted me to do, and she wouldn’t believe me. Back to square -1.

I couldn’t resist. AT-AT this point, it was almost genuinely comical, and she set me up perfectly.

I could amend every single line in Episode III and make it fit this unfolding drama.

In case you’re wondering, I actually was smiling to myself as I texted her that line. She could break my heart, but she could never steal my sense of humor. I at least had the decency to shake my head at myself as I did, acknowledging my own naughtiness.

And that was the last meaningful communication we had for a solid month. The next time we would talk would be Halloween weekend, which in retrospect, was rather fitting.

Stay tuned.

I Had A Dream

The last few days out here in Dallas have been a whirlwind. First NFL game at AT&T Stadium (Texas really does do it bigger), 2 day Regeneration training conference, and now flying back home.

I forgot how much I love flying in general. Airport downtime, people watching, talking to strangers about whatever we fancy, etc. I used to travel a lot for work right out of college, but it’s been about 6 years since I’ve done any traveling, save for a quick jaunt to Arizona for a Star Trek themed wedding.

Some people find it a hassle having to arrive so early to move through security and then just sit here waiting for boarding. Not me. When life can be so busy, you don’t often have time to just sit and wait. I can read any of the three books I brought with me, I can work on my Regen stuff or my blog, I can tinker with my fantasy football lineup (mischief managed!), and, of course my favorite activity of all, I can people watch.

I’m such a wallflower, which, as I reflect on my extrovertism, is kind of paradoxical to me. On the one hand, I crave human connection. On the other, I have an odd fascination with watching it, rather than participating in it. I don’t know if it’s an exercise in empathy, trying to read body language and figure people out, or perhaps a mirroring move whereby I’m just looking for someone who wants to talk to someone else and daring them to make the first move. I’m enough of a Nine to contentedly cowardly shrink back from speaking first and asking a stranger about themselves.

That’s not to say that I can’t do it, but I need a solid prompt. Something to go off of. I had a lovely conversation flying out here with an elderly lady about her granddaughter who had just gotten married. I had seen her phone wallpaper with the bride and groom and I asked her which one was hers. After some more questions, the conversation fizzled out. I’m far too passive (codependent?) to offer information about myself that doesn’t seem desired. I can answer questions about myself just fine, and after 20 months in Regen, with a high degree of radical honesty and authenticity, but if you don’t ask? I don’t tell. *shrugs*

Perhaps it’s that lack of reciprocity that left me rather lonely on Sunday night. Flying out in the morning, watching families waiting for loved ones to arrive or seeing loved ones off, I felt the familiar void of missing my wife. No one to give me a goodbye kiss, no one to eagerly await my arrival home today. Surrounded by strangers, no one seeming to care about who I was, where I was from, or where I was headed. Uber drivers to the hotel and to the stadium who preferred social silence. (The passive-aggression of my Nine wing gave one of these drivers a mere 4 star rating because he was silent and it was hot and humid in that Dallas evening backseat.)

Even the few people at the Cowboys game who loved my “I Suck at Fantasy Football” shirt only desired a couple of seconds of me. Shallow. Surface level. Closed off.

As I people watch this morning, I partially blame the prevalence of cell phones. Everyone is glued to their phones, attentions invested in social media or news. Yes, I recognize the irony of critiquing this phenomenon while I furiously tap away at my phone screen to input keystrokes into my blog. Even those not glued to their phones have their earphones firmly implanted, signaling a desire to be left alone.

I think I’m more aware of this because of the contrast of Regen culture. I was surrounded by mostly strangers at this conference, and yet I quickly became known and came to know numerous brothers and sisters, and, by extension, came to love and be loved by these people. The questions “how are you?” or “how’s it going?” carry a lot more weight at Regen, and even its trainings apparently. We can lower our masks. We deeply care. We are loved by a good and kind God and thus are enabled to better love our neighbor.

I don’t know which factor influenced the dream that I had on Monday night. I had felt lonely on Sunday, but that feeling had pretty substantially dissipated on Monday thanks to having one couple I knew there from Regen back home to sit with, and a couple of conversations with people who just cared and wanted to share their story with me and, reciprocally, hear mine. So no, I don’t feel like I was lonely falling asleep that night.

It could have been the disappointment in that last minute loss to my fantasy football opponent. Da Bears’ defense had allowed me to pull off a monstrous comeback on Monday night only for them to step off of the Seahawks’ throat for 90 seconds and allow them to drive down the field and score one more time. After stat corrections, I lost by less than a full point. One of my more personally impressive fantasy football statistics is to score the 2nd highest points on a given week, and still lose. Thanks to the sheer bad luck of playing the person who scored the highest that week.

I’ve often said that luck is a skill, and I simply don’t possess it. Then again, in my other league, I scored the 2nd lowest this week, and secured a W thanks to playing the only person who scored less than me. Anyway, fantasy football losses are something I’m certainly no stranger to, I only jokingly brought it up. What better way to stall for time?

That leaves the third option. There was a woman at the conference who very strongly resembled she-who-must-not-be-named. Even after the obligatory first double take to confirm it wasn’t her, I kept seeing an uncomfortable amount of similarities. Entertainment Weekly, Extra Whip, Egg Whites, the EW. My ex-wife. Ender Wiggin………. whelp I officially ruined the EW nickname. That was a good one too.

Considering that Gone Girl was the primary feature of my dream on Monday Night[mare], this certainly makes a fair amount of sense. I haven’t seen her since December when we signed our divorce papers, and all of sudden I had a considerable onslaught of sensory input from her doppelganger that morning. Hair color, hair style, physical gestures, build, and her side profile was chillingly familiar.

One of the things I’ve always loved about people watching is finding dopplegangers. Of people I know or even just celebrities. That was one of my favorite parts of the movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, aside from any of the times Val Kilmer insults RDJ’s character.

But on Monday it backfired.

Maybe it was the wombo combo of the loneliness from Sunday paired with my brain thinking it saw her that day. Maybe it was sharing the vulnerability of that loneliness at Regen that night, peeling that mask off. Maybe it was my brother Jason that I met, who had an eerily similar story to mine, and so it was my empaTheo Riddick that betrayed me. Perhaps it was all of them, perhaps it was none of them.

But the dream was vivid. I have noticed that I’ve had an increasing amount of very vivid dreams, but the last one I had was back at the end of May. That one had disturbed me then, and when I finally woke up at 5:30 AM on Tuesday morning, I was even morr perturbed than the previous time.

I don’t remember how it started or the context in which she and I were physically close, but I remember her head on my shoulder, affectionately nuzzling me while we sat side by side. At some point, we ended up back at my fictional apartment. Soon after I found an apology letter from her in my room. It was folded up in that cutesy romantic style that we millenials used in high school. The one she used when we first started dating at work. The dream was vivid enough that I vaguely remember the substantial apology and even a Daughtry lyric in a corner. Though I don’t know which one, my dream brain simply noticed it.

It was the note that ultimately changed the tone of the dream. Up until then, it had been peaceful, serene, pleasant. The note seemed to Break the Spell. The grief and pain of the last two years seemed to come rushing into the dream, and I asked Gone Girl to leave my apartment. I seem to remember her protesting on the threshold, but I shut the door on her. The dream got weird after that but that was the bulk of it.

I woke up and felt uneasy and afraid. The unfortunate consequence of being lied to and lied about has left me with a great deal of fear toward Gone Girl. Even though two of the last three interactions with her in person have been pleasant, which is to say not absolutely awful, I guess I’m still haunted by the mystery of it all. Two years later, I still don’t have any concrete answers. No explanation or confession as to why. Why did all of this happen? To what end? For what purpose? I have my guesswork, and it’s reasonably plausible, but I still don’t know.

Over the past two years, I have trained myself and been taught through Regen to confess my fears to my God. And so I prayed as soon as I woke up.

One of my larger fears over the past year or so, after I reconciled with the idea that Gone Girl would likely remain gone, was that she would try to return after my hemorrhaged heart had already healed and moved on. And since that’s exactly where I find myself three months after our divorce finalized, this was pretty much the worst nightmare I could have drawn up for myself.

I don’t put too much stock in my dreams. In fact, I rarely do anything with them at all, when I can remember them. But for some reason, this one felt different. And that’s why I had to pray.

I’m afraid that she might come back. I’m afraid that God might ask me to wait for her to do so. I’m also, frankly, not happy about that possibility. I feel like I’ve waited long enough. I’m afraid that He might ask me to take her back. I’m afraid of how difficult that would be. I’m afraid that she might be insincere, on the offchance that she came back, that she would just be back for Round 2 of breaking my heart since she didn’t finish the job the first time around.

I’m afraid of dealing with her family again. I’m afraid of dealing with my own family again, if she were to come back. She wreaked considerable collateral damage there as well. I’m afraid of not having my codependent tendencies well enough in hand.

All of this to say that, at this point, it was just a dream. I’m going to do my due diligence and seek the will of my Father, my Lord, spend time in His Word, lean into his comfort and peace, and continue to confess my fears as they arise. There’s more to the story from the tail end of the conference, but I’ll update y’all on that once I get some direction.

For I Know the Plans…

I had trouble sleeping last night. Tossing and turning, waking up 3 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour, and half an hour before my alarm went off. I’m too excited for today, tonight, and the next couple of days, and I am wired.

For one, I should be going to my first NFL football game tonight, knock on [Oliver] Wood. Assuming my flight into DFW doesn’t get delayed. As a 49er fan, a Cowboys-Giants game isn’t ideal for my first game, but hey, when in Dallas, do as the… Dallans? Dallasans? Dallasites? Texans? No, that’s a different team… *shrugs* do what they do. I don’t really have a horse in this race, but then again, as a 49er fan, when in doubt, always root against the Cowboys. I might have another reason to root for the Giants, but more on that later hopefully.

Wait, Devon, you’re flying to Dallas for a football game? That your team isn’t even playing in?

Oh right, forgot that part. So, I’m flying to Dallas today for a two day training conference. The football game is just a cherry on top. It’s the conference that I’m most excited about and that was the main source of my restlessness last night.

I’ve spoken written a bit about Regen. Tomorrow morning, I will be walking into the church that started it all, Watermark Church. A guy by the name of Nate wrote the curriculum, created the program out of the framework of Celebrate Recovery, and then sent it out to a bunch of other churches looking for recovery-based discipleship programs. And a church in my hometown picked it up.

Years later (almost two years ago), I started attending it, and today, my church paid for me to fly out and attend this training conference, designed to equip people to bring the program back to their church. We’re planning on starting in January!

So what? Big deal, right?

Well, today [water]marks the culmination of the next step in my journey over the past two years.

“For I know the plans I have for you” -this is the Lord’s declaration- “plans for your well-being, not for a disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

When my wife first left me, it was awful, as you’ve all read and can surely imaGin[ny]. The heartbreak and eventual depression worsened as she ran further, and farther, away. But I knew that God would redeem my situation, some way, somehow. This conference is that redemption.

“You intended to harm me, BUT GOD [emphasis added, this will be an ongoing theme in my blog] intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:20

I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I’ve always felt that my life has mirrored OT Joseph’s. I’m not saying that my wife is potiphar’s wife in this reflection, but my anxiety did worry that I would find myself falsely accused and imprisoned when her first salvo of lies failed. I mean, would the Gone Girl nickname prove to be too apt, too on the money?

Yet, her actions would ultimately result in me walking into Regen in December of 2016, and almost 2 years later, and my journey through it would have my church send me to this training conference.

You have been so so good to me.

I’m humbled that God would use me, overwhelmed that he would choose me, and grateful for his salvation when she would accuse me (I grew up Southern Baptist so I had to have three points, and I’m a poet so it had to rhyme *shrugs*)

And so I’ve been praising God most of the morning, thanking him for his deliverance, praising him for his sovereignty and his wisdom, and yet again remembering all the little things that brought me here. Some of which you’ve already read, the rest which I will continue to reveal as it happened.


Musical Catharsis

You unravel me

With a melody

You surround me with a song

No Longer Slaves has become one of my favorite songs over the last two years. This lyric perfectly describes what worship music has done to and for my soul over that time.

Prior to my wife leaving me, I had developed a distinct disdain (I’m a big fan of alliteration as well) for Christian music. I downright hated Christian radio. There were a few smattering of songs that I liked, even enjoyed, but by and large, I could pretty much only enjoy Christian rock like Skillet and Red.

My separation and eventual divorce completely changed that, just one more thing I have to be thankful to God for. My car rides during this time would become my prayer time, my worship and praise time, and my gifts of desperation during which I would cry out to him through whatever song might happen to come on the radio. For the first year, I listened to almost exclusively Christian music.

The songs that came to me would unravel me. The one common denominator in all of my car rides was the flowing tears. I began stockpiling napkins in my center console from Starbucks and fast food places because I could barely keep up with how fast I would go through them. I still have a healthy stockpile, just in case.

In this time of sadness and anger, grief and frustration, and confusion, it was hard to know what to feel. What was even okay to feel. Music had always been cathartic for me. Helping me to connect with emotion that I had so often repressed. And so I began to sing what I can’t say. (U mad, bro?)[Personal foul: 15 yard penalty for targeting]

These songs would become my prayers. Prayers of praise, trust, deliverance, grief, sorrow, confusion, and faith.

Pretty early on, I began posting the most meaningful songs and lyrics on Facebook, preemptively taking advantage of Facebook Memories to landmark these days so that I could remember what I was thinking and feeling in subsequent years. Leaving behind a digital altar of sorts.

Many of you saw these lyrics and reacted to them. Most of you didn’t know what was going on. In the shame of having my wife leave me, I didn’t talk about it. Just wordlessly left behind lyrics and the occasional accompanying prayer without an explanation of why.

Allow me, now, to give you a peak behind that curtain. In between blog posts about what continued to transpire in the Gone Girl saga (and God willing, there won’t be a sequel), I’ll upload pictures of these memories and recall what they meant to me, how I was moved by them, and show how God continued to be faithful to me in the desert.


Blessed Be Your Name

Obviously, I’ve written at length about Genesis 50:20 above, so I’ll move onto the song. Blessed Be Your Name by Building 423 had always been a particular favorite of mine growing up. It had always made me think of my dad’s large absences from my formative years growing up.

During my adolescence and college years, I had learned to trust God on “the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering.” I would need this ongoing reminder when I was “found in the desert place, when I walk through the wilderness.” This was shaping up to be a real emotional doozy, but I had been comforted before. I would be comforted again.


Thy Will Be Done

This used to be a song that I absolutely hated. The chorus was overly simplistic for me, the rhyming scheme was whack and felt forced, plus you’ve got that awful grammatical error in the first line for the sake of the cadence (us Ones can have a very minimal amount of grace!). As Charles Barkley would say, turrible, just turrible.

I even remember lightheartedly arguing about it with my wife a few weeks prior to her departure desertion on the way to a funeral.

Our worship team sang this the first Sunday after she left, and this ended up being the first song that unraveled me. “I know you’re good, but this don’t feel good right now.” This wouldn’t feel good for a long time, I’d say about 8-9 months, and I would come to seriously question and doubt God’s goodness about halfway through that period.

To say that this didn’t feel good right now was the understatement of the year for me. I was broken, shattered, rejected, abandoned, ashamed. I was hurt, confused, blindsided, and even reeling, struggling to find an emotional equilibrium.

I cried in the car. I cried in the shower. I cried myself to sleep, clutching a pillow every night because I missed her body next to mine. I cried anywhere I was alone because I couldn’t bear to let anyone else see me grieve, to see me mourn. I was the happy go lucky guy and I couldn’t stomach not being that guy anymore. Yeah, this definitely didn’t feel good right now.

And the second verse perfectly conveyed my confusion. “I’m so confused [duh], I thought I heard you loud and clear. So I follow through, somehow I ended up here?”

I had dated three girls before my wife. Between the last girlfriend and my wife, seven years had gone by. I was picky, and I was looking for a gal that loved God and was actively involved in ministry. And for seven years, even going to a Christian university, I had not really found anyone that was available, interested, and fit that bill. And then I met her.

I first noticed her “I Am Second” bracelet. Then she was talking about “her kids” to a coworker. I was pretty sure she was too young to have children of her own, and a quick Quirrell (query) revealed that she was a youth pastor. I thought she was perfect. I thought I had hit the jackpot. I thought God had ordained this. Never have I been- oh wait, I already used that meme.

I thought that I had waited patiently, and God was rewarding my patience. And somehow I ended up here?! (After two years of processing this, I came to realize that in my pride and self-righteousness, I thought I deserved this perfect wife that I had waited for. And once I had her, I thought that I could just coast downhill into my happy wife, happy life. Perhaps I was just rewarding myself. Perhaps that’s why I don’t trust my own judgment, he thought ruefully to himself.)


Because He Lives


“Because he lives, every fear is gone.” Remember my pastor’s counsel the night she left? If I have this kind of fear, it is not from God. My God conquered death on a cross, and he could conquer the growing death of my marriage.

“I’m alive, I’m alive, because he lives.” Irregardless of the end result of my marriage, I was already being made alive again. My prayer life had been radically transformed. My faith had been renewed and was actively being reshaped. What she intended for harm, God would use to accomplish the saving of many lives, including my own.

“Let my song join the one that never ends.” Aside from the obvious hint to my wife’s old moniker, God used this tragedy in my life to create a new song in me. And that song, I plan on singing for years and years to come. Indeed, you are hearing it sung whenever you read this blog.