After There’s Nothing Left: This Gets Personal

There is a line from Shakespeare that reads “How do I love thee…, let me count the ways.” In an oddly related way, this is how I often think when I ponder my own sin(s). Here is a list of some of the areas where I have struggled.

  1. A Need for Significance. For me, this has not been as much a need to control, to be in charge, as a need to make a difference. To be sure, nothing is wrong with this. Nonetheless, when it becomes a compulsion it ceases to be a gift to enjoy and is degraded to a self-promotional lust for influence.
  2. A Desire to have the Best. Have I mentioned I like Volvos? A well equipped XC60 with heated-massaging seats and all the goodies to bathe you in luxury. Then there are well made watches— Patek Philippe, Breitling. True representations of God’s handiwork in creation. Or, so I tell myself.
  3. A Sense of Self-Worth. Too often has the value of myself come from what I’ve done and the things I possess. But accomplishments and possessions weigh in very lightly in the grand scheme of the universe. My self-worth is turning out to be what I pass on to others.
  4. Aloneness. Throughout my life I have been in leadership positions. I have become self-sufficient in many ways. Although, in recent years, I find myself surrounded by a host of people to whom I can delegate much of the responsibilities of leadership. Nonetheless, I find myself feeling terribly alone far too often. It is not the case; I know that. My aloneness is an irrational feeling of isolation which leaves me in a state of despondency and depression. It is a struggle.
  5. Sexual fantasy. In a sense, I’ve told you nothing. What man does not struggle with this!?! For many this can be the same as drug addiction, or alcoholism. That was what it was like for me for many years. Now, not so much. But remember, I am a man just past 75 (stop laughing). If you are reading this in your 20s or 30s, it is still, probably, a very strong siren yowling in your heart and head. Do not let it take over your very being. Its cost…, could be your future.

      These things drain my soul. There will be similar things in your life that will drain your soul. So when you find yourself drowning in self-pity and depression, you should probably do a lot of soul searching. But you may also throw guilt on yourself as a way of understanding your failure. In reality you may or may not be guilty.

      Remember, our Lord is overflowing with compassion and forgiveness. He only calls to us to turn to him… and ask.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— what forges forgiveness?

Things that keep me from fulfilling God’s design.

Continuing, there are a number of things that are at war within my soul to prevent me from fulfilling God’s design for my life. Maybe you have some of the same.

  1. Doubts. The Christian faith is, well, exactly that— faith. As a former philosophy major I know full well that there are a number of things in our experience that cannot be verified. Faith is one of them. So also are love, history, time & space, and an after-life. To be sure there is evidence for their existence, but no empirically verifiable proof. Thus, I could be wrong about this whole God thing. But I do not believe so.

      I have come to realize that empirically the most anyone can hope for is certitude, not certainty. Even in the sciences there is more faith than we might imagine. Get used to it. The more we examine a thing the more we influence its behavior. And this raises the level of doubt we have about the accuracy of our findings. My faith truly is faith. So at times I fall into a sea of uncertainty and doubt. Is this all real? I hope so; truly, I hope so.

  1. Fear. Flowing out of Doubt is Fear. Intensive doubt leads to fear. Irrational fear, in my case. As I have written these pages I have faced fear as I have not known before. Not of any specific thing, just fear. For many others, their whole lives are gripped by fear! They live nary a moment absent of genuine, all-consuming fear. Fear of going outside. Fear of groups. Fear of driving on a freeway. Fear of others. Fear of being known. Fear of failure. Fear of being wrong. Fear of never being good enough. Fear blinds people of seeing what it is God has for them. It binds them in boxes too small for God’s plan for them. So they settle into those boxes and dare not to look beyond. They lose so much.

      Fear can be overcome; but it is not a comfortable climb out of that box. It is a considerable challenge. You will need someone with a rope, a guidebook, a gentle hand, a commanding, encouraging voice. And someone to give you a push through. But anything, ANYTHING, is better than the confinement in your box of fear.

  1. Arrogance. I’ve often found myself arrogant, too full of myself, to listen to others. (Others have mentioned this to me with little subtlety.) I’ve stubbornly stuck to my own way of doing things that just could not work. But it was my way. I lost a lot of friends acting this way. I also failed a lot more than I needed to. If only I had listened. But, no, I knew it all. It has taken me a long time to learn the words, “I was wrong. Forgive me. Are you still willing to help me?” Arrogance is simply an admission that we are insecure and therefore we must know everything; thus, we don’t even ask for the simplest of directions. Directions to a location, how to sew on a button, how to repair a lawn mower, or how to mend a damaged relationship.

      It takes a strong person to overcome arrogance. A kind of self-blindness comes with arrogance that prevents us from seeing anything from any other viewpoint other than our own. Some of us don’t even want to hear, let alone consider, another opinion, another way of approaching a problem or situation. We dig in our heels and insist on our way, period. If our souls are ever to truly rest then we must give up our arrogance and become part of the human family: not as its center, but as a fellow traveler, learning from others who are much further along in their journeys than we might be. I’ve learned this the hard way. DO NOT follow in my footsteps.

  1. Disapproval from Others. Let’s be honest, we all want the approval and acceptance of family, friends, work associates, and from those who lead in whatever field of common interest where we invest our lives. This is a normal part of socialization. We want to be a part of something: it’s called being in community. In many ways human beings are defined by their inter-connectedness, their histories, their commonalities, their family & kinships, their relationships…, everywhere. So when we come up against the disapproval of someone important to us, it is a mortal blow. We feel less of a person, unacceptable, at least for the time being, if not permanently. A simple parental “No” to some children will shatter them to the core of their being. For other kids, it will present a challenge to circumvent in some clever, devious way. We are all so very different when it comes to disapproval.

      Most of my life I have met with disapproval in seemingly larger doses than normal. My father rarely approved of anything I did. In his eyes I could not even cut the grass right. When I bought my first car, a Volvo PV544, I was realigning the steering wheel when he screamed obscenities at me to let the entire neighborhood know that I could not do anything, ANYTHING, right. I knew right then and there that I would be on my own in life. During my college days my academic advisor encouraged me to drop out. “You’ll just never make the grade or measure up.” So encouraging. ( I completed my first Masters Degree before he did.) In my first professional job I was informed that I would need very close supervision. This devastated my confidence about ever getting things right. Then again, I saw my immediate supervisor three times that first year, once the second year, and only twice the third year. Odd definition of “close supervision.” I thought. I just kept pressing on and getting the job done.

      My personal need for the approval of others has faded over time. I still like to have people approve of me; I just don’t need it. Approval or disapproval have been supplanted by knowing who I am and knowing what it is I am supposed to be doing on this planet. I know God’s design for me. Do you?

      It’s really quite refreshing. Soul-lifting, actually.

      There are a couple more things that keep me from fulfilling God’s design on my life. Thus, plunging me into further depression. Therefore, sadly, there will be a section “c” to this present section.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Confession- a way out of depression

After There’s Nothing Left: flat-2-fantastic faith

Sistine Chapel      As promised, here some of the things I am doing to restore my faith from flat to vibrant. These actions have made a major difference in both recovering from depression and restoring my soul.

1.       Interfacing with a diversity of people. Surrounding myself with only like-minded friends would never expand my understanding and acceptance of them. I learn from those who are of a different mindset, a different culture and temperament. Maintaining this balance in my life seems to reinvigorate me; it draws me to a place where the earth and its peoples come into clearer perspective. I regain a sense of mission in life and what my role is in the grand scheme of things. (That’s why I still have to get above 14,000’ at least once a month.)

2.       Seeking more times of solitude. Please note that I am a genuine extrovert. Though significantly tempered from earlier in life, an extrovert in every sense of the word— grabbing life by the bal…, er horns and going for it! Ergo, solitude, for me, is difficult, yet critical. I tend to end my days earlier (usually with a wee dram of fine single-malt Scotch), pondering if I had made any difference this day, as its hours and minutes tick away. God willing, I have.

      If you are primarily an introvert, you need not heed this advice. It is true that you need solitude as much as us extroverts. But you also need to get out more and engage with God’s creation in the lives of others. And I’m not sure the single-malt Scotch would be a good idea for you; unless you are with someone.

3.       Furthermore, I read the Bible differently now. I read it not so much for content, or information, or to support a theological position; rather, I read it to see and sense how Jesus moved.  I track his movements, not topologically, but relationally. How did he interface with people? How did he meet them on their own grounds, in their own life situations, and reveal himself to them? Why did they respond the way they did? Why did he use questions and metaphors (parables) so much? Why was he cryptic on some occasions and not on others? What pushed him to seek time alone with his Father? And an especially important question for me— How did he love people, no matter their cultural diversity?

      In a way, I enter into the text of Scripture to feel its pulse as much as I used to analyze it for its content and truth. In my book CLUELESS CHRISTIANITY, I have a chapter subtitled “-the non-propositional nature of Truth.” If you enter into the times and culture, the life-situations and heartbeats of a text, you will see what I mean. When Jesus said, “I AM the way, the Truth, and the life.” he wasn’t kidding. He was shocking.

4.       I pray differently too. Though I have special times for deep, concentrated confession, worship, and intercession, I have also learned to “pray without ceasing,” as it were. That is, I arise each morning in an attitude of prayer (…er, after coffee) and maintain it throughout the day. This often becomes difficult, to say the least. It is often interrupted by lust or laziness, hunger, counseling, that guy who just cut me off, or writing (like now). But the attitude of constant prayer, that is, an open channel between myself, and Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, is always, ALWAYS open. I do not believe I have ever had a simple two way conversation with anyone where the Spirit of God was not involved in the discourse in some way at some time. I’ve also learned to keep quiet in prayer. I now wait for God to speak. That’s important, and takes time.

      Granted, this three-way-open-prayer exchange has some side effects. We always have to listen, even if ever so briefly, to that funny little voice in the back of our head, before we respond to the person in front of us; which, of course, is a good thing for an extrovert. On the down side, having an open channel to God on an ongoing basis does ruin our enjoyment of sin. It truly, really, just is not as much fun as it used to be. This too may be a good thing for us…, and for me.

5.       Finally, I have been listening to astute Christian leaders from around the world [Ian Montgomery- Peru (now Vermont), Vaclav Havel- Czech Republic (through his writings), Phill Olsen- South Africa (now stateside), and Leonard Sweet, (Rings of Fire)] who can feed my soul. It would not be an understatement to admit that there are many men and women around the world who have a more significant grasp on Scripture, on the interface between the Christian faith and our world’s cultures, and on their own lives, than I will ever have. Thanks to the Internet I can now access many of them as I drive, sit in my study, or in front of my fireplace on a cold winter’s morn. I have learned that I know very very little. Thus, I avail my mind to learn from others, some of whom I find myself in cordial and vast disagreement. But that’s OK. My faith is being challenged, probed, assaulted, and fed. Thus, it is moving from flat to fantastic. Hopefully, by the time I am finished writing this book (yes, these EMPulsi are coming out in book form…, hopefully before I die), flatness of faith will be a thing of the past for me. That would be nice.

      Simply put, we need a faith that is Alive! Vibrant! and Full of Life! We need to live as if we are truly forgiven; for, in fact, WE ARE!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Things that Keep Me from Fulfilling God’s Design.

After There’s Nothing Left: Resentment and UnForgiveness… on my part

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  Throughout the course of my days I have come across individuals whose lives are filled with anger, resentment, and revenge. Over time, I watch as it eats away at them, devouring their energies and their spirit. To my amazement and sorrow these people hang onto their anger and rage like a dog with an old bone; and they keep gnawing at it. I try to tell them it will eventually destroy their spirit…, but they do not want to hear it. They would rather chew on the rot and feed their infection.

      Then there are also those who never, ever forgive. They hold a grudge, remembering “what you did to me” so long ago; and they want pay-back. Someday, somehow, “I will get you back for that!” I have had people write me asking my forgiveness for the anger they felt toward me 10-20 years ago. I cannot even remember who some of these people were. But I am glad they got it off their chest.

      But what a way to live!

      Far too many people let this life-sucking resentment-of-another consume their lives. When people live for revenge there is little energy remaining to live for anything else. The sad reality is that many of these people do not want to give up their vengeful spirit. So they remain angry, seeking to undo another person’s happiness or livelihood!

      What a way to die.

      One form of resentment should be more aptly branded as embittered jealously. You not only want what someone else possesses, you are incensed that they have it and you do not. Whether it’s their house, their car, their wife, their job, or their happiness, I deserve it more than they do. Allow me to pose a question— Then why do they have it? Maybe what they have was never meant for you for any number of reasons. The truth might actually be that you DO NOT deserve it more than the other person. Could it be that you have not worked as hard for it? The problem we are missing is that we have grown so accustomed to the infection of comparison-itis that we have lost our own way along the path hewn out for us. Most of us have our own idea of success. What we do not seem to grasp is that another’s success does not necessarily reflect on ours. In fact, we may already be successful but don’t want to accept God’s definition of success for us. Ask the unemployed Ph.D. raising four kids, or the under-employed executive working in a Third World country restructuring their government in the midst of a military upheaval.

Success is not always ours to define. Resentment will leave you with nothing but emptiness and unfulfilled longing. But in periods where soul reflection becomes necessary to your very being you must fight yourself to attend to these deepest of soul-sucking demons. To NOT address them is to pass over a festering wound and pretend it will go away if you pay it no heed.

During his college days John Steinbach (The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men) was told by a professor that the day he became an author pigs would fly. In each subsequent book Steinbach wrote he penned this Latin insignia in the front—

Ad astra per alas porci

-to the stars on the wings of a pig

      For those who need to let go of some resentment— Fly Free. And when you feel the urge to dump a little pig-poo on those who poo-pooed you in the past…, DON’T. Hold onto the grace you have within.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Flat Faith, pt.10.

After There’s Nothing Left: Feeling Like a Failure

my-failures    So many people constantly struggle with guilt. I am not one of them. Mostly. Through years of rejection, depression, trial & error, and simple stubbornness I have somehow overcome my sense of failure and risen to a place of significance. Well, in some circles.

  When I listen to people who constantly struggle with a sense of failure I can barely fathom the depths of their sense of worthlessness. It must be terrible to never feel good enough, to feel always judged and condemned by either God or others…, or both. I wonder how people live who struggle with guilt all the time; so little joy, so little lightness-of-being. Only weight. There was a time in my life when I made so many mistakes that I felt like I had perfected failure to an art-form. Not that I no longer made mistakes; only now I’ve learned from them; and I do not let them weigh on me as much.

      I’ve learned to distinguish between a sense of failure and real failureReal failure must be admitted and addressed, especially if you are the cause behind it. Personal failure in relationships is tragic. Most people find it quite difficult to own up to their complicity in the breakdown of a relationship. It is just too painful. Some people simply get angry and blame everything on the other person. (Isn’t that helpful?) Their insecurity leaves deep scars across far too many lives. Real failure requires fortitude and maturity to first acknowledge and then to correct if it is possible. In some instances, this is not possible: in others, it remains open to the one who failed to come clean and seek reconciliation and resolution. Real failure has consequences. Never doubt that: do something about it.  [Please note—you may need help.]

      A sense of failure, usually has its birth through multiple failures, real or perceived. Though it is possible to feel like a failure and withdraw into a shell from the very first moment, it is not typical; it takes at least two or three close-together events to drive a person into a personal cloister of private self-doubt. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a sense of failure is significantly different than actual failure. When I was in my teens I felt like a total failure. It didn’t matter that I was a fashion model and drove a Volvo; I felt undesirable. It didn’t matter that my SAT scores were 686 & 782; I never showed them to my parents because I thought they meant a D and a C. I felt stupid. I felt I was a failure and that is how I lived. I was an ugly, insecure, scrawny 134 lb. failure. Throughout most of my college career I continued in this vein until it dawned on me how much more the other guys were studying— and I wasn’t. Hummm!?! My sense of failure slowly turned into “Well, maybe not so much.” What a revelation!

      One of my seminary brothers, during lunch, in a conversation with someone else, simply remarked “God don’t make no junk!” he probably never knew I overheard his comment; but that comment mulled around inside me and took root. I wasn’t junk. The God Creator of the universe had made me. Therefore, I did not have to be a failure. Neither do you. Remember, FAILURE simply means you have not discovered what you are designed for yet. Remember— “The only BIG risk in life is not taking any.”

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Resentment and Forgiveness…, on my part, pt.9

After There’s Nothing Left: Grappling with Regrets

   There are many issues we will each face when we genuinely set out to reflect upon the state of our soul. The issues will be somewhat different for each of us, given our personality differences, genders, cultural backgrounds, and life experiences. Here are some of the issues I’ve had to address as I’ve sought to grapple with my own soul-regrets. This is #1.

Trying Too Hard for Too Long.

   Some of us, myself included, gnaw on a bone until our gums bleed and our teeth fall out. We have a stick-to-it-tiveness that borders on obsessive compulsive disorder. We cannot simply just let some things go. We seek resolution rapaciously! We want projects, businesses, relationships…, everything to simply WORK! And to work RIGHT! Problems bug us relentlessly. They must be solved! Completed!

      But after a time, our efforts having produced little, if any, resolution, or movements toward forward progress, we start to wear down. Our spirit and our efforts start to fade. I have found this exhaustingly true in my life. Earlier in this book I quoted Romans 12:18— “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Ever since becoming a genuine Christian I have tried to submit to this dictum. Not always successfully, mind you, but I have tried to conform because it makes relationships in business and personally work so much better.

      My dilemma is that not everyone seeks the depth of resolution I seek; not everyone cares about living in deep peace with other people, even when the other genuinely wants to live at peace. To this day there are people in my life with whom I have no resolution, no closure, no relationship. In their minds, it was not necessary, or, it just didn’t matter. Some, sadly, would rather continue in their anger with me. Or, worse, they simply pretend nothing ever happened. I really do not know what to do with that.

      With some people, I have tried too hard, too long, to resolve our differences. The probability of ever seeing resolution with these people is nil to nada. I eventually must come to a place where I give them up. Regrettably, I often still hang on, hopeful for something, anything. Years! In the end, I give up. And I hate it. Lack of resolution eats away at my heart, my soul. Nonetheless, there are other things to which I must give myself, my energies, and my creativity.

      This is one of the foremost issues my soul has grappled with for years. Maybe one day, I will find the resolution and closure, or renewal in some of the relationships I seek. But, for now, I must give up trying to do all the work myself. I see no other recourse than to leave it in God’s hands and say— Good-bye. How do you handle it?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Feeling Like a Failure

After There’s Nothing Left: On a Personal Note – Soul Reflection.

tumblr_mulyawTZb31sieg5zo1_500    When my soul comes to rest, as it must, it must take time to reflect on itself. Self-examination, cross-checking purposes, strengths, weaknesses, areas of temptation, and, of course, its own weariness. For some people this is something that must start in isolation, alone in a study or private place. My heart and mind are too prone to wander. I’m different; my soul reflection, at least some of it, must be done in intercourse and dialog with someone else. He/she must be a person of safety, of integrity, and of gentle truth. Not someone who will reply to my revelations— You’re a jerk. Rather, Well, that IS an unusual perspective. You get the drift.

      Identifying such a person, who has trudged through the mud of life, who has a number of arrows in his back, and one who has that humble wisdom which only comes from forgiving and being forgiven, is hard to find. Thus— I search for a comrade-in-arms who will bounce my soul off myself with gentle reflection and forthrightness.

      One such person comes to mind is David H. We have been friends, Christian brothers, fellow journeymen, and comrades-in-arms for the past 50+ years. We first met 1964, when he had just returned from a cross cultural mission. I was the measly cook at a Retreat House along the banks of the Hudson River. It was about 3:00 in the morning when we ran into one another wandering the House, each of us pondering quite different issues. David, wondering what had happened in American culture in the time he had been in Columbia: I was struggling with the way God seemed to be directing me in life. We stayed up late, each disclosing our struggles, one to another, for reflection and feedback. This formed what became a life-long bonding between us.

      Throughout our subsequent journey we kept a low profile together, imparting concerns about culture, family, and personal struggles, for the rest of our lives, to this day. I don’t see Dave as much as I used to. I miss him. Time to get together again, I believe.

      Another more recent friend is Laurie B. He is Canadian; and I LOVE Canada! Eh! After three years of being encouraged to meet, Laurie and I finally got together when I was an instructor at the eXcel Leadership Training Course for The Salvation Army. We hit it off immediately. Common interests, similar approaches to life, even wives who were a lot alike. As with Dave, Laurie and I had similar issues with our children and our admitted cluelessness on how to proceed in some areas. He and I shared deeply about our personal struggles, our sense of “getting up there,” age-wise.

      I must also bring into my entourage of Soul Reflectors one Julie E.M. Julie entered our lives when she was just ten or eleven years old. Things had not been good with her older sister; Julie sought a solace and perspective from Starr, my wife, and me. She spent a great deal of time in our home from the time she was eleven through Middle School, High School, and even during her college years. When her doctoral work took her to Madrid and Seville, we had to communicate across the Atlantic. Our relationship wasn’t always that smooth either; she vanished off the face of the earth for a good five years. But when she resurfaced she was full of life and yearning to get back in touch. Our friendship has now lasted 40+ years. So far.

      Soul Reflection requires mirrors like these people. These are three of my most important reflectors. But I would be quite amiss if I would omit from this list my wife Starr. Far and away, she is the closest, most perceptive, unapologetically honest reflector I possess. She knows me completely! At first, being known that thoroughly, that intimately was scary; now it is a place of safety. In our marriage, at least, we reveal ourselves to one another completely: no hidden areas, no concealed lives, no secrets. Except professionally; we maintain a shield of confidentially about those we counsel. Everything else is out in the open. EVERYTHING. We have weekly (and daily) check-ins, of course, but more often than not, we simply sense what is going on in the other person, set aside our life’s agenda, and ask, Is there something you want to talk about? Is something troubling you? The two of us have become one, in love, and in spirit. Thank God for Soul-Bonding! [She is still the most dangerous woman I know.]

      Taking time for soul reflection is never wasted. It serves as a periodic check-in with who you are. If you do it with trusted confidants, like I do, make sure they ARE trusted confidants. And NEVER keep anything from your wife, husband, or that person in your life with whom you are completely safe.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Grappling with Regrets- part 7  

After There’s Nothing Left: Deterrents to Soul Rest

bricksIt will come as no surprise that there are deterrents to soul rest. Deterrents— work, people distractions, hindrances, impediments, problems, complications, barriers, and hurdles— all of which must be addressed if you are determined to enter a time of soul rest. No one is more responsible to provide for your soul rest than you; no one will push you into it; no one can make you want it. Albeit, they might point out to you that you are desperately in need it, it is still up to you to carve out the time and space to make it happen.

You may face seemingly insurmountable obstacles that will call your attention elsewhere; good, meaningful, productive things. But they are not what you should be doing if your soul is in need of rebuilding and refreshment.

Furthermore, do not discount the spiritual realm of restraints to your soul rest. There is a constant background war going on for the right to destroy your soul and drag you into hell to serve as an amusement for true evil. And you do not have to wait for the afterlife— it can happen just as easily in this life. You cannot stop feeding your soul, stop caring for it, let it become overwhelmed, exhausted, and depleted. You will be surprised at just how simple it is to slip into this darkness.

Our Lord God reminds us in I Peter 5:8 to—

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASV)

Do not disregard the possibility that you have a target on your back with our adversary’s arrows are ready to release.

Soul Rest is imperative for anyone seeking to make a difference in western society or in the troubled emerging nations of this planet. For it is the foundation of maintaining a healthy, balanced, realistic and wholistic perspective on our individual role in the work of Christ among the human race. One of our adversary’s most effective maneuvers is to wear us down through meaningful service to those around us, especially within church walls. Our job is to be wise enough to see when enough is enough. You and I are quite expendable in the grand scheme of things. Soul rest extends that expendability just a little longer.

Know your place.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Soul Reflection part 6  

After There’s Nothing Left: TRAGEDY

Mural_del_Gernika    Tragedy has such an all-encompassing way of devastating the soul; it destroys and shatters the very core of life; it wretches the gut, evoking extreme sorrow, weeping, and a disintegration of the spirit.  It leaves us, ostensibly, with nothing. We know it isn’t true; but it definitely feels that way.

      There was a time in my life when I took a two-month leave-of-absence from work because of issues with exhaustion and depression. My wife was pregnant with her first child, ever, and I was facing TMJ (Temporomandibular joint disorder) surgery that would leave my mouth wired shut for at least eight weeks (turned out to be twelve). Two weeks into my leave of absence I was dismissed from the company I had worked with for 17 years…, with two-weeks’ severance pay offered.  The surgery for my TMJ was already scheduled for the following month. The morning of my scheduled surgery my wife called from home (at 5:00 a.m.) to tell me she had lost her only pregnancy. We wept. We were at the bottom. We knew the only way we could go was UP. That somehow sustained us; that, along with the company of close friends, our trust in the God who made us, and our church. Over the next few weeks we adjusted to our loss, my intense pain from surgery, and the hope that God would not leave us alone. He did not.

      Over time our pain lessened, in all areas…, somewhat. Though to this day we still wonder what might have been had things been handled differently.

      The point is this— that Tragedy had a significant effect on my soul in a way immeasurably unlike anything else. Taking some time for soul rest, and recovery, following the devastation wrought by this kind of tragedy, or one like yours is imperative. You will not only need rest for your soul, but people who care for you, and even counselors who can guide you through its stages. (See Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, 1969).  Do NOT expect your soul to automatically reset, or recovery to come without difficulty. It will not. Do not deny your pain. Live through it as best you can.

      But, as a genuine Christian speaking, I can assure you that a personal faith in God makes a big difference. Reaching out to Christ for solace, comfort, and direction will help a lot.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Solutions— part 5, Deterrents to Soul Rest.

After There’s Nothing Left: resting your mind, body, & emotions

lonely-feeling-wait-tranquility-royalty-free-thumbnailAspects of Rest— (mind, body, physical, emotional, a person in community)

How do you rest your mind? How do you rest your body? What about your emotions, your sense of individuality, and your social relationships? Let’s look at these various aspects of Rest individually—

  1. RESTING YOUR MIND.Resting your mind does NOT mean you stop thinking! God forbid! Unless, of course, that is all you do, 24/7. Resting your mind may involve reading in a genre totally different from your normal sustenance. Try a science magazine. Racial justice, or political speculation? Switch to fiction, fantasy, or even a sports magazine. While we’re at it…, obsessed with sports? Take a breath…, w-a-l-k a-w-a-y! (This may require medicinal, medical, or mental assistance.)  Delving into an area of thought totally foreign to your field of interest can free your mind to make connections you might otherwise miss. Tunnel-vision will  creep into all our ways, given enough time.

There is a field of study known as Synectics. Ever hear of it? It is the application of the principles of one field of study to the problems faced in another field of study. Getting outside your box, resting your mind, may be just the thing the doctor ordered. Most of us never grow inside our own boxes; we just think we do. To have our field-of-focus sharpened it is absolutely necessary to be a part of something of a totally divergent character. Like bridge design & ocean surfing, or homemaking and marksmanship.

  1. RESTING YOUR BODY. Ceasing all exercise is not the answer. Curtailing, moderating, working on another body part, etc., are much preferable to becoming a couch potato(e). Besides, any sudden STOP in exercise can have serious consequences for your overall health. For some of us, exercise is what keeps us going, gives us stamina, makes us strong. It is an intrinsic part of our everyday routine. We would feel sluggish without it. But for others, exercising can feel like a hundred pound albatross draped around our neck, dragging us to exhaustion. For this latter person, starting an exercise program might be the way to rest their body. Lack of exercise is not rest; nor is it sloth. We do not rest our bodies by stopping. We rest our bodies by balancing feeding, what we put into it, with exertion, what we ask of it. But I will never discount the value of just lying on some tropical beach in the Caribbean waiting for that pineapple drink thing with the umbrella in it. Just don’t lie there too long.
  2. RESTING YOUR EMOTIONS. Resting the emotions is simpler for some of us than for others. Some of us barely allow our emotions near the surface of our daily lives; thus, forcing them deeper within. They still churn away, to be sure: we may be aware of it— we may not. Some of us do not want to be in touch with our emotions. Too unruly; easier to merely retain them on the surface and maintain our inner composure. But that can only take you so far. In my work as a counselor I have witnessed those moments when deep emotions have been exposed for the first time: amazement, anger, elation, Ah-ha!, rage, sorrow, collapse, restoration…, all come to expression in one form or another to connect a person’s inner world with their outer world. People leave my office with a new sense of resolution about them. Not that everything is, in fact, resolved; but it has turned a corner. I love corners.

Resting your emotions involves giving up resentments, past wounds, and that inner tumult that wracks your heart on a regular basis. To a quite serious degree, if you are to rest your soul, you must bring some degree of resolution to those things that churn & turn within. In the Bible, God admonishes us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)  So, do what you can; but be advised that some of the resolution you seek may never come. Then, you must learn to live with it. That is the stark reality.

  1. RESTING YOUR PERSON IN CONTEXT. All of us live in a context; that is, we have a rubric of relationships that we classify in various categories— home, family, work associates, “buddies,” girlfriends, fellow sports enthusiasts, computer nerd groups, gamers, fellow Christians, etc.  We do this to manage our relationships, to keep them straight…, and to keep them separate.

There are also some people in our life who fit into these quite extreme categories.

  1. Truly Special People. These people are always there for us. OR, They have influenced us is significant ways. We need them in our lives; and we most definitely want them there.
  2. Quite Exasperating People.  These are people who want you to always be there for them. You are not important— they are. Given the opportunity, they will drain you of every ounce of your energy…, and then they will ask for more. Unless they are paying you, avoid this lot! You have neither time nor enough strength for them.

[For a more exhaustive delineation I refer you to Gordon MacDonald’s Restoring Your Spiritual Passion. It’s not easy to find.]

      Resting your Person-in-context involves a separation of yourself from some, if not all, relational communities for a time of aloneness. We ALL are so over-contexted in this hyperventilated life-pace we try to maintain.  Be still…, remember?

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Solutions— part 4, more Unpacking Soul Rest.