Currently, my mode of transportation is a borrowed bike… btw, Thanks Brian! I have had to get used to it and one of the most difficult adjustments is the seat. The seat is long, thin, and hard. After riding for a while, its like a permanent visit to the proctologist. No wonder Lance Armstrong had testicular cancer…. But I am thankful, nonetheless. One advantage in particular is that the gears work, so the 9-10 miles per day goes more quickly. The different gears also make going up hills easier…. notice I didn’t say easy, but easier. I am able to downshift and the peddling is easier, but faster. I hate hills and wind…. don’t really love rain either. The best way for me to attack a hill is to look straight at the concrete several feet in front of me, and put my mind in neutral. Once I reach the top, I can either stop peddling and coast, giving my legs a rest, or shift into a higher gear so I can build up speed for the next hill. Deciding which to do, coast or push ahead, depends on how many days straight I’ve been making the ride, and how tight my schedule is. I usually give myself plenty of time to get where I’m going. I would rather be early than late. I strive to control that piece. But the consecutive days of physical effort depletes my 48-year-old energy level, so I listen to my body, and give it a break. When I was 24, I pushed my body beyond what my mind believed was possible, and my body responded better than my belief. At 48, my body still responds, but my mind understands that I need my body for the rest of my journey so must not disrespect its complaints. I don’t have to give into the pain right then, but know I must give it time to repair itself.
I have this twisted relationship with myself. Sounds a little schizophrenic doesn’t it? But, really, I am my own harshest critic. Many times, nothing I do is good enough for the tyrant in my head:
“Your blog is too serious and is a real downer… People get tired of sadness, and sorrow, and loneliness, and blah, blah, blah… You need to be funnier. That’s what the cool kids do…”
“Why do you stay up so late…”
“You eat like crap…”
“Why do you keep doing this…”
“Why don’t you do that…”
“You said you wanted this dream, now you don’t…. You are never going to be satisfied…”
I can be my own worst enemy. I know what some of you are thinking….”That voice is just the enemy of your soul, trying to discourage you…” And I know there is truth to that. But I have fought this battle for my whole life. It has become a cognitive habit and even a spiritual one. Sometimes I am able to replace the voice with one of gratitude to God. Sometimes, God speaks peace to the war in my mind, like last night… Standing outside in the quiet of the night, I heard the voice of God in my head say, “Be kind to you, Larry.” I know it was God, because I have also heard the message from other sources:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 13-14.
“…you are an amazing and wonderful man…” a text from a friend.
“I see in you the Imago Dei… the Image of God.” in a conversation with a friend.
“One of the ways other people have described you to me is kind. I think you need to be kind to yourself.” an old email.
A friend who introduced me to the song “Still Unbroken” by Lynard Skynard and explained that the song reminded her of me.
And so the battle goes on within. My brother says I think too much and don’t act enough. paralysis by analysis… and I then add that to my self-criticism. While there is some truth there, I also know that one of the strengths God has designed me with is a voraciously curious mind. I always ask “Why.”
The battle is worse when I am tired or my emotional energy is depleted.
The best way I have found to go forward, is to look a few feet ahead of me. To try and make the next good decision, and lean heavily on God and the encouragement of a few trusted friends. It’s the same way I ride uphill. I trust that the hill won’t last forever. I get up after every fall. I use my pain as a way to understand what other people feel. I have struggled with the decision to write this post. I’m always afraid that people might see this blog as a downer, and decide to steer their mouse in another direction. But I’m trying to see things clearly and then communicate what I see. Ultimately, God gives me the faith to see the beauty in life, in struggle, in celebration, in nature, in people, in what is. But learning to see it is the struggle, and I get ambushed sometimes by “what is” as it lives in juxtaposition with “what was.” And that can really hurt, especially when I thought the hurt was past. Set backs happen.
Hollywood paints a picture of life where people have jobs but never seem to actually work. Washington tells us what the bill says having never really read it. Even the church teaches about a healthy life, yet lives breathlessly and in individualized relational cubicles with clear yet impenetrable walls. Rock bands talk about sustainability and global warming and world hunger yet stage stadium concerts which wield a huge carbon footprint and enormous budget to put on.
Somewhere in what is, God walks. He speaks in the disonance. I keep coming back to the fundamental essence of living: Listening for that Voice and responding. The past week has been one of ministry, reaching out to the future, falling back down the sides of the hole, catching myself, and listening for God’s voice… and hearing it. Of realizing I am tough and persistent. Knowing God loves me.
The top of the hill must be up here somewhere…