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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

and when you pray,

pray that i will pray.

if you do so, you will be touching upon the greatest struggle of my life... so thank you in advance, friend.

Monday, November 27, 2006

autokrator

today's epiphany begins with the affirmation that the human person is ridiculously complex.

i've spoken in earlier posts about the holistic nature of the person, especially as that idea contrasts with Greek philosophy's dualism and the Enlightenment Project's reductionism/deconstructionism. but let's not forget how complicated, how dynamic, how malleable, a person can be.

i think you understand how true this is, and how profound that truth is. how long would it take for you to comprehensively explain yourself?

"well, that depends on what exactly i'm explaining..."

everything about who you are, leaving out no detail or explanation, so that when you were finished, your audience would have absolutely no questions left to ask, no matter how intelligent or how much time they had to think about it.

"that's preposterous. can't be done!"

exactly. moving on, then.

given the complexity of the human person, i have to ask... just what does it mean that i am independent? what in the world am i saying when i speak these words: "i decided to ________." ?! there are dozens of influences guiding every decision i make! it would take days to fully explain why i decided to lock my door today. it isn't just a question of what i wanted to protect... it's a question of why i wanted to protect those things. and who or what taught me the importance of doing so? how did i learn that certain things are mine and other things aren't? do the multiple thefts that occurred on campus last year have anything to do with it? does it matter that some of my things can be replaced, and others can't?

nothing is as simple as it seems, it seems. ;)

so: to claim that i am in charge of myself, what does that look like? let's try this analogy. picture a vast medieval kingdom, wherein the monarch has just passed away suddenly (assassination is suspected), and there are 7 lords, each ruling over a particular fiefdom thingy. all seven of these wish to rule the kingdom, and each one has a different way of accomplishing this goal. they each have a different motive.

to complicate things: you are the king's child, only 10 years old, rightful heir to the throne, and yet in danger of being assassinated just as your father was. you know the first thing about ruling as monarch... but that's all you know. the first thing. and now you have not only a kingdom to rule, and a shady death to evade, but seven fiefdoms to 'reconquer.' you have some knowledge of each fiefdom thingy, but your informants give you mixed information so that it's difficult to determine just who's right about who, and to what degree.

every person who says, "i am in charge of myself," is that royal child, even if they have no knowledge of their dire situation.

~ ~ ~

autocracy is anarchy in disguise, even from itself, so that when it looks in the mirror it can fool itself into thinking it has authority, when in actuality it is simply waiting to be assassinated.

to be a disciplined person is not to be in charge of yourself; it is to be in submission to some higher power which overrules your pitiful, fragmented self-government. to be disciplined is to naturally go against your own will in moments where the self is in opposition to the higher authority.

who called all the shots in your kingdom today? who did you have to answer to? when did you-- as an imperfect, flawed being-- go against your nature, even when you didn't have to?

~ ~ ~

"God wants us to become the kinds of persons whom He can trust to do whatever we want." - Bill Dogterom, University Pastor at VU

"Jesus Christ is LORD." - the most ancient confession and doctrine of the Christian Church, born in the time of 'Lord' Caesar's ultimate authority

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

goodnight

today hasn't been the greatest day, but it hasn't been the worst either. i think these words best describe it (or me in it): fragmented, complex, melancholy, mildly bitter, angsty, funny, awkward, complacent. so while it's true that i looked forward to the completion of my day (in my connecting with you), it's also true that i was mostly un-talkative.

i think i'm in a season of that... i just haven't felt like talking with people recently. i conversed with Dogterom today, and even though it was intensely encouraging, even talking to him felt... off? i feel like i've been out-of-tune with life or myself or both, of late.

maybe this break will help...

sorry i haven't been very me lately. i hope we can phone while i'm home; i hope i have the right kind and amount of energy.

you might find this most recent post interesting... or maybe not. but my hope is that you and i will not only seek together, but also find together. and here i might have to address a wider audience for a moment, as i close this post: i have every intention of faithing with you in every way that i can. don't let your own limitations (whether real or self-imposed) keep you from acting on that which you are seeking to believe in, because if you didn't believe in it already, you wouldn't be seeking it.

we are not agnostics. we are blind treasure-hunters. don't let anyone keep you from living the way you know you should... don't even let yourself keep you from it. God Lloves you enough to be patient while you stumble through the dark, and i'm depending on His faithfulness in the midst of my faithlessness, as paradoxical as that may seem. are we not paradoxen ourselves, wanting to have faith and yet rejecting it when it presents itself, because it doesn't meet our epistemological standards, or because we cannot accept the simplicity of revealed truth, or because we cannot accept that faith is a matter of our own responsibility and not dependent on our feelings from moment to moment?

that last is particularly important for me, such an inconsistent person.

see some of you soon. i arrive in Fresno at 7:50p.

i Lllove you all.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

home of the wind

i fear the way of wishful thought
though my fickle heart knows every turn
of the trail that twists 'round rock and tree
of the trail that makes my dry lungs burn

~ ~ ~

i'm pretty inconsistent. you'd think that as a person grew up, they'd become more themselves; they'd develop more and more patterns. their character would begin to harden. they might change their major a few times, but at some point they'd stick with something and say, "alright. this is where i'm at, and this is where i'm headed."

is ten-teen too young to be able to say those kinds of things?

~ ~ ~

sometimes i feel like a pastor's kid. i always memorized the verses and went to the all-nighters and earned big points for my team at summer camp. i went from attending VBS to serving at it; i went from singing Jesus Loves the Little Children in kindergarten, to leading worship for a hundred people. i came to a Christian University and major'd in Religion.

and now i'm thinking about leaving the church so that i can find God.

~ ~ ~

the old wood splinters against my hands,
tearing at flesh and mind and soul
the dust attacks my light-cursed eyes,
burning like freshly kindled coal

~ ~ ~

a retreat. maybe... a month long? more? by myself. solitude and silence for a month. fasting, prayer, meditation, introspection. Rest. i think i need something like this. maybe after i get a job or two, i'll be able to afford something like it.

the thing is, Christianity makes sense to me historically. past, future, i get it-- God is the Source and Goal of all creation. He is man's telos, and man's rest. we are His image. we're even invited into His family. everything about life makes no sense without God. and yet, my intuition, as its own entity, struggles every day to push me away from this faith that i have been seeking with such strong, universal intent.

everything depends on this, i tell myself. my relationships, my career, my self-worth, everything.

but then i ask myself, Q: "what do atheists say their lives depend on?"

the atheist's life revolves around his wife, or his kids, or his job. that's his whole telos. if he's good at fixing Jaguar cars, then that's his purpose. if he loves his wife and his wife loves him, then that's his telos. or let's say it's a woman, and let's not do atheist... let's say Buddhist. her religion gives her purpose.

some people are unsatisfied with these... but not all! the church has been indoctrinating me for the better part of two decades that nothing satisfies like Jesus, and that life is completely meaningless and shallow without God directing it. "unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain that build it," says the Bible.

well, actually, atheists build houses every day. really nice ones. and not just houses: whole lives. they build happy families, and automobiles, and websites, and TV networks, and daycare centers. and many of these are very successful. so actually, Bible, you're wrong! (sorry to burst your bubble.) the righteous don't always prosper (as you say; i'll give you that), and the wicked sometimes have great lives.

so basically, i'm having to unravel all these lies that my own faith has been feeding me. i've been doing that for a few years now, and i sometimes enjoy it because i hate being wrong. but the thing is, i need some 'right' to fill in the gaps, and for some reason i can't seem to make it fit. my body's rejecting it; it's like a transplant, right? it's like i'm trying to re-arrange my whole life in light of the Truth, but when i move the couch over to the corner, it sticks out five inches past the doorway, and this rug just doesn't look the same in the kitchen as it did in the den.

so i'm pretty much sick of it. i'm tired of Christianity. i desperately hunger for God, but there's just way too much religion in my life and little-to-no relationship. i believe i'm built for both.

almost all of my loved ones will have their own little grey clouds following them around now, if they read this blog post, but i have no choice. don't worry, the weather will clear soon, when the dramatic-ness of this post fades. at the dinner table this Thursday, don't forget to thank God that you have the ability to believe in Him. thank Him for giving you faith.

God have mercy on me, the one that's leaving the ninety-nine. i hope He understand that it's only because i need a clearer view of Him. (i'm tired of staring at sheep-bottoms all week long. no offense meant to you, sheeps... and e-props/kudos to you, Zaccheus, because i think you were on to something.)

~ ~ ~

one more thing that inspired this post. i told you i'm inconsistent? well, i'm sort of wondering now if i have that spiritual gift that Paul claimed to have.

I Corinthians 7
1 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

are you serious? single-ness (and the ability to resist or even remove from oneself the desire for marriage) is a gift from God. interesting. i know what i want for Christmas...

seriously, if you weren't trying to live for God, who or what would you try to live for? i can't think of any telos that would beat 'God' and 'family,' but if any of you can think of one, i'd be greatly interested. comment or g-mail me.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

who will be the greatest?

so you're having casual conversation with a few friends after church, just shootin' the breeze, making fun of each other, trying to figure out where you're going to lunch that day... and you get around to talking about cell phones. there's some debate as to whether cingular or t·mobile is the bes--

"my sister just got a new cell phone. it's absolutely amazing; she paid like $3,294 for it, i swear it's incredible, it's got-"

uhm, excuse me? why did you interrupt?

"well, sawr-ree! i just remember something i--"

but couldn't it wait?

"but i want people to know!"

"why?"

"because... what if they don't notice me?"

"then maybe you're not noticable!"

"that's bad! i want to be noticed!!"

"then stop trying."

"you're insane."

"yes... but that doesn't exclude the possibility of me being right."

"...smart aleck. ok fine, how is that going to help me be noticed?"

"it probably won't."

"then what the heck!?"

"why do you want to be noticed?"

". . ."

"yes?"

"i guess it's because i want to feel loved."

"and i'd say that's a natural desire... at least for fallen humanity. it's also a dangerous one."

"how can it be dangerous."

it's dangerous because these are the things that it drives peeps to either 1) become people-pleasers, or 2) believe that they can't be loved at all. it's also dangerous because it's the opposite of what we're designed for and called to.

"what do you mean?"

well, here's an analogy. do you want friends?

"uhm, duh..."

then you should stop trying to get people to be your friends.

"uhhhh yeah, that makes alot of sense... =P "

it does. for those of us who aren't just naturally cool and charismatic, being a friend is the focus we need. why? not just because it's right/good to focus that way, but also because it is what will ultimately fulfill us.

trying to make people like you will sometimes work, but it's all based on your performance. the better you perform for people, the more they'll like you... at least until you mess up. it's like having a career in acting, or music. the better you perform, the more successful you'll be.

but a performance-orientation is unhealthy for your personal social life. it will conceal from you your true worth as a person, and hinder you from developing your real identity. outwardly, people will see you as someone with alot of personality, but just as Bruce Wayne isn't Christian Bale, that person that everyone likes won't really be you, even if there's alot of apparent overlap between the two personalities.

it's a common paradoxical truth: if you find yourself wanting something*, walk away from it. why? because your motivation is wrong, and because you'll probably find it if you stop looking.

*something = to be loved, to feel special, to be liked, to be served, to be encouraged.

in this case, the opposite of seeking encouragement is not seeking discouragement... it's giving encouragement. the opposite of trying to be liked is not trying to be disliked... it's liking others. this is the kind of thought-process Christ had in mind when he said things like,

Matthew 10:39
Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Luke 9:25
What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?

John 7:18
Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.

Matthew 6:33
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 18:1-4
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom."

children are what? not 'innocent' or 'naive' or 'full of faith' or 'pure' ...but humble. = having nothing. i can just see the disciples trying to shoo them away without touching them, the least and lowest of society. and Jesus is telling them that children are the greatest in the kingdom!

if you would feel loved, search your heart and ask yourself why, and consider this: the more you try to feel loved, the less everyone will truly value you, including yourself.

realizing that trying to feel good about ourselves is an unhealthy pursuit, will free us to find the self-confidence we need. i say that in bold because, for me, this is all about freedom. the freedom to be who you are is the same freedom that will let people enjoy you (notice the upgrade from 'liking' you). freedom from a social life of performance is freedom to live a full and healthy social life overall.

1 Corinthians 10:24
Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

it is good for us to seek the good of others! it's not only Right; it's Good, as in 'healthy' for us! so really, when you purposefully seek the good of others, you're accidentally seeking the good of yourself.

~ ~ ~

the bottom line in all of this? if you feel like you aren't loved, good. you've come to the right place. if you feel you aren't special, excellent. maybe you aren't! =)

now that you've realized that, you're free to be special.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Remo, tremo, sento...

HAHAHAHAHAHA =D

i'm laughing at Josh Groban. care to join me? => okay, maybe not. in fact, i may have offended you at this point. but just give me a little time, and i'll explain everything. including the universe and God and stuff. deal? deal.

such a weird mood... it's been awhile since i pulled an all-nighter, all alone. LOVED IT. it's 8:08a right now, and i have class at 9a, but first i need to write a conclusion for this 9-page paper that i spent about four hours writing.

and guess what i'm going to do with it when i'm done?!

...

i'm going to record the entire thing and post both voice and word for you to enjoy! so exciting. you can't wait. your can't-wait-y-ness is as strong as these words are bold!

yeah, i'd better get back to it. my stummy's almost ready for breakfast, and that's how you know for super-darn-sure that isaiah is not himself.

until then! *salute*

(wait... when's then?)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

follow-up

Bonhoeffer gave me an epiphany last night, and it said this to me: stop looking for theophanies.

the truth is, i think i’ve been looking for God to show Himself to me, when really i should have been focused on showing myself to Him. or, put another way: i have to disagree with Augustine. he says not to understand in order to have faith; he says to have faith in order to understand. i need to reject both-- i want to have faith for its own sake! or maybe for Christ’s sake? for truth’s sake? for righteousness’ sake?

i think i’ve been seeking faith as a means to an end... namely, an experience of God. i think about all the songs i sing, where the lyricist wants to “see Your face” or “feel Your touch.” i think it might actually be an idol! are we asking God for signs and wonders, as if His son wasn’t enough? as if His grace isn’t enough? and i’ve argued (with myself) that if i don’t experience God’s grace, i can’t know that i’m receiving it. and i’ve argued that i can’t force myself to believe, to take a ‘leap of faith.’ i’ve described my spiritual life as a leap of faith that never brings me to the ground; i just sort of float there, in the air, waiting for something to happen, and when nothing does, i fall on my face, rather than landing.

my religion has been teaching me that when i am faithful, i experience God. however true this is, i think it can become manipulative. people can learn to be ‘faithful’ just so that they can experience God. but this isn’t what i’m after, is it? is it what i’m supposed to be after? what does the Word say?

the Word takes it for granted that God exists, and that He does what He says He does. what i’m wondering is, do i need to be checking on God to make sure He is faithful, or can i just assume along with Scripture that He is?

i have to think on this some more; and, i have to be careful when i’m reading any devotional material, or taking any spiritual advice. i have to remind myself: “we’re not seeking an experience. we’re seeking to become faithful followers of Christ.”

if i can keep this in my head, i think it will change my life.

sorry

it's true; sometimes we have to apologize for things we haven't done. like tonight: there was something i didn't do. i didn't converse with you.

i could have. i saw all kinds of opportunities too. we would've laughed together alot, and you probably would've stayed on the phone longer. in that sense, something good came of my depression, but that doesn't validate or excuse or redeem the bad things that came of it.

it's been awhile since i've been this depressed; it's a combination of alot of things. i'm hungry, i'm tired, i'm anticipating a heavy work-week, i took an evening nap...

...but worst of all is this feeling of disappointment, and i realized tonight that it's been the main source for most of my depression over the years. here's the disappointment:
all the Christians around me act like God interacts with them personally, and they all tell me He relates this way with anyone who desires it, if they are willing to follow Him the way He asks. well, i've been at this for years, and you know, i am maybe somewhat willing to accept that i can't make myself believe the way everyone else does, all the time. sometimes, rarely, i have moments where God seems very real and very present. but those are far too infrequent.

okay, well, maybe i can handle that... but it gets worse. following every one of those good moments is the following reflection: "it only
seemed like He was present." translation: He wasn't. it's just that, somehow, my imagination won a small battle, and my mind had to give a little ground. but it always takes it back afterwards, so that for every step forward, there's a step back.

this is so stupid. i want to give up, but can't, because i'll Die without this; i don't want to give up, but i have to, because the disappointment is Killing me.

but back to the apology: it would've been more than one-word responses, had i been thinking less selfishly. i could have been more myself for your sake, but i was too wrapped up in my bitter misgivings, my resignation to perpetual spiritual poverty.

"blessed are the poor in spirit." not really, actually.

i promise to be better in the future.

Love,
isaiah

Thursday, November 09, 2006

an imperfect model

but it's helpful. here's how it works:

let's say you are an evangelical preacher/pastor somewhere. traditionally, your week builds up towards Sunday; that's sort of the climax of the weekly rhythm. ideally, your energy would build up toward the morning service, where you pour yourself out through your sermon and everything. after that, you begin preparing for the next Sunday.

i realize things aren't that simple, but bear with me; it's just an example for the sake of the analogy.

pastor Dogterom's advice for you, if you are ^ this pastor ^, is this: never resign on a Monday.

"why not?"

because Monday, being the day following Sunday, is your low point. your adrenaline was at a high on Sunday. in order to recover from this, your body (your whole self, really) needs to experience a low in order to balance you out. Dogterom draws this figure on the board:



and you're thinking, "what? i thought i was taking a class on preaching, not mathematical psychology, or whatever it is we're talking about."

but the truth is that your body is often very mathematical, and there's a lot of psychology that's involved in being a pastor. even if you never counsel anyone, you should know some psych. why? so that you can understand yourself.

so there, at the high point of that wave-y diagram, that's your Sunday. and the dip afterwards: that's your Monday. the bottom line is that an energetic high needs to be followed by a corresponding low, if you're to remain balanced.

"what do you mean, a 'low' ?"

a depression. yeah... it's bad. that's why you don't want to make any big decisions on Monday. you'll be depressed, and that's no good for making big decisions-- e.g., your own resignation. don't reply to any letters/e-mails on Monday. don't fire anyone. don't do anything but Rest.

- - -

i'm not a pastor/preacher, but i am human. but my week doesn't build up to Sunday; it builds up to Monday through Wednesday. LoL i'm serious; that's how it works. Monday requires non-stop work all day; Tuesday, same thing, if i do my homework. Wednesday, same thing, if i do my hw. Wednesday night is sort of my high, because i have Beauty & the Christian Life, which is always alot of fun, and then a new episode of LOST with friends afterwards, which is always exciting and intense.

where does that put my low, usually?

i don't feel so bad about not doing much homework today. i'd rather not have this limitation at all, but i honestly, actually need Rest. i got 8hrs, counting my nap, but then i napped again for a few hours! what is that?? it's my body balancing itself out, somehow.

i said the bottom line already, but here's the lesson: a high is often followed by a low, and sometimes even the other way around. so when you experience either of those, and you don't know why, ask yourself how your day went yesterday. it might clue you in.

*returns to doing nothing*

Friday, November 03, 2006

prayer

it's about trust, it really is.

Q: whenever you feel... less than confident in your prayers, why is that?

this is my dilemma: i'm not very good at making myself believe that a human being can 1) actually experience spiritual realities (i.e. divine realities, or God), or even more difficult 2) know that le has done so, once le succeeds.

there's this thing called epistemology. it is my constant fascination, and my relentless tormentor. an espitemologist would want to ask this single question: "how do we know what we know?" or perhaps "how do we know that we know?"

it amazes me, how answering that can be so intriguing and so frustrating. how do you know that you exist?

"that's easy! i can see myself."

that doesn't mean you exist; it just means you think you do.

"how could i possibly see something that doesn't exist?!"

we do it all the time. it's called variance of opinion (at least, it's called that now; i think i just coined a phrase, at least for this specific usage). if two people disagree on something, how do they find out which person is correct? that's a fairly easy endeavor when it comes to calculus, or whether a certain move in a chess game is within the rules or against them. but what do you do when the correct answer cannot be proven?

when it comes to spiritual reality, here is the rule: it cannot be proven. it can only be believed.

well, if we are only believing it, and many people believe many different things, then how can we proceed with any amount of confidence? here's the rule for that: you cannot believe in a spiritual reality without risking foolishness.

geez... it's an effing paradox!! i'm sorry. usually i love paradoxen, and usually i am safe and conservative in my choice of individual words. (actually, i don't know if that's true... comments?) but this time, it's just too much. rationale tells me i'm a fool for thinking (or feeling!) that God is present, but Proverbs makes this statement quite boldly: "the fool says in his heart, 'there is no God.'" isn't it annoying!?

i hate being incorrect. i don't care whether anyone catches me being incorrect; i just hate incorrectness itself! and i love it when something is gotten right. it doesn't matter whether i'm right, or someone else is right; the state of someone being right is a big happy for me, and i'll go to great lengths to experience it. i find deep satisfaction in knowing. the problem is that God can't be known like that.

He can't; argue if you want, but it all comes back to that thing about proof versus faith. my intellect despises it. why can't God prove Himself? why does He hide? why did God make the spiritual reality so much less tangible, if it is the reality upon which this wholly tangible world rests? in other words, why is it that our world (the one that seems real) depends so much on His world (which doesn't seem real at all)?!

"in Him we live, and move, and have our being." we are contingent, as Rybarczyk and many other theologians would say. frankly, i'm glad; i like the idea of our selves and our surroundings being grounded (ontologically speaking) in His self and His surroundings. i also hate it because it means we have to take a breath underwater.

does that image work for you? imagine waking up one morning, completely submerged in the ocean. everything's black, and you have no idea which way is up. first comes the simple realization: "hey... i'm underwater." then comes the question. "why am i underwater?"

then comes the panic: "i can't freaking breathe!"

so you're floundering around down there, feeling around for something solid to grasp, trying to ascertain the direction of gravity's pull so that you can make an escape attempt... when all of a sudden you hear a chorus of voices, all speaking. some are more vehement; others sound apathetic, or despairing, or full of joy and excitement. some are pleading with you; others are mocking you. a few are foreign tongues. you hear your mother's voice, your best friend's voice, your pastor's voice, but more than that, you hear the voices of well-meaning strangers. or maybe you hear tones of condemnation and hopelessness, above those.

all of the voices are telling you what to do, or what not to do. and how to do it. and why.

finally you discern this small, scrawny whisper. you're not even sure that it's speaking English, at first, but you find you can interpret a possible meaning. it repeats its own words, and, with a bit of uncertainty, you grasp the phrase:

"take a breath if you want to live."

and that's all it says. 1st reaction: "if i do that, i'll let water into my lungs." 2nd reaction: "this person wants to kill me." 3rd reaction: you suddenly realize that you'll be choosing to breathe, not just right now, but during every moment of every day of the rest of your life down here.

what will you choose?

journal - journey

exactly one month and one day ago, while writing in my journal, i came to this conclusion:

“i think i've killed my heart.”

i think i can elaborate on that, now. i think i came to trust entirely in my thoughts, and not at all in my feelings. after all, “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse-- who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). i’ve been that way for most of my life, especially since 9th grade when i started to make my faith my own.

i think one of the spiritual themes of my life is captivity vs. freedom. most of the time, i treat myself as a strict master would treat his slave. ...no, that’s not quite the right analogy. maybe i’m more of an authoritarian parent, or even government!
Authoritarianism describes a form of social control characterized by strict obedience to the authority of a state or organization, often maintaining and enforcing control through the use of oppressive measures. The term may also be used to describe the management style and personality of an individual who seeks to dominate those within his sphere of influence and has little regard for building consensus.

In an authoritarian form of government, citizens are subject to state authority in many aspects of their lives, including many that other political philosophies would see as matters of personal choice.”
- from Wikipedia.org (emphasis mine)

this describes me perfectly! i seek to dominate myself, sometimes through sheer force of will, and almost always through the use of oppressive measures. i make no allowances for mistakes-- everything must be done perfectly, and if not, then i’ve failed. i think of every endeavor in terms of success and failure. if i burn my toast in the morning, i throw it away and begin again. when singing along with my favorite music, if i miss a note, i go back and sing it again, and again, until i have it right. if someone says “hello!” to me on their way to class, and i half-heartedly mumble a response, i berate myself for the rest of the day, reminding me to smile warmly and speak clearly the next time i greet someone.

everything i do is calculated and controlled. i can’t walk at all unless i know where i’m going; i question every thought and feeling, until i have a complete answer. i have little regard for building consensus, unless ‘consensus’ simply means making everyone believe one thing (which it doesn’t). i keep my heart in a cage when it comes to spiritual matters, because i’m so guided by my intellect and reasoning. it would be foolish to trust my heart; what can it possibly know that my head isn’t capable of grasping?

many things, it turns out, although i’m just now beginning to acknowledge it.maybe by allowing myself to really feel failure this morning (rather than just dwelling on it mentally), i broke myself. maybe i’ve finally come to the point where i can neither give up nor keep going the way i’m going. something about my confession to a mentor of mine may have unlocked the cage i keep myself in. whatever it was, it enabled me this morning to spend a long and heartfelt time in God’s presence, and that’s extremely rare for me in this chapter of my life. it felt amazing.

my first thought, of course, is “what makes you think God was present?” and i have no answer that would satisfy, logically speaking. i simply believed Him to be here, listening, even guiding me in my prayers and reflections. i don’t know how it happened; i struggle so hard, internally, to force myself to ‘believe.’ it seems like so many Christians around me find it easy to believe in God, and that’s discouraging rather than encouraging, because 1) i haven’t the slightest clue how they do it, and 2) no one can explain it to me. “you just have to have faith,” they might say. it’s like the ultimate mystery, the way a human being can access the realm of the divine.

mystery doesn’t sit well with my brain, and if i trust only my mind, then my heart’s longings will never be fulfilled. in fact, they’ll only drag me down until life is nothing more than a struggle to survive.

that’s why my life is about captivity versus freedom. i have a choice between trusting my heart (the biggest mistake ever, in my mind), or following the advice in Jeremiah 17:9. the latter path, though it’s been the path much more easily chosen, is certainly suffocating me, while the former path seems treacherous beyond anything i’ve seen, yet claims to be vital to the success of my endeavors. my prayer now is that the heart i’m putting my trust in is God’s, and not just mine.