A few days ago, a guy at my school killed himself. It’s breaking my heart to see my people, my fellow students and friends, dying on the inside with no one seeming to care. These thoughts were inspired by and are dedicated to Zach Holland and the UMM school community.
And he was dancin' naked.
Let's just say God appreciated the heart behind it.
Sometimes we don't realize that there's a lot of partying going on in the heart of God. Sometimes we need to take a deep-dive into the basic truth of his love for us and the joy stemming from that, rather than into all the nitty-gritty theology that affects our day-to-day very little.
Here's 3 songs I love because they put the "party" back in "christian". Or something like that.
Holy Ghost Party (Forerunner Music & Cory Asbury)
So many good songs on Joy. This is definitely one of them!
Real Love (Hillsong Young & Free)
God's love for you is for real. It's worth celebrating!
It Is Good (Matt Maher)
I listen to this one and wonder what kind of concert I missed. And then I wish my church did this kind of music.
I really don't know what to write right now. Something about relationships. Something about how being is better than doing. It feels ironic, since I'm sitting alone at the computer, doing something.
I've had an internal dichotomy taking place for some time: on one hand, I feel so much passion for sharing the things that go on inside my head. Not to brag at all, but I find that world to be captivating. I have a stubborn, enduring sense that I could help by sharing my perspective. I also have the same sense about other people sharing their perspectives too, if they could only see it.
But on the other hand, I'm so tired. Tired of doing. Tired of producing, delivering. Tired of laboring. I don't have the energy to be the "ideal Avery". I am discovering that, if I want to stay sane, I have to say no. No to good things. And I hate it. I love being part of people's lives and the activity and the growth and eventfulness. And resting feels like the opposite.
Resting means being alone. It means sleeping. It means putting good ideas on pause. Saying no to friends who want to talk. It even feels opposed to forward motion. No projects, no results. It feels like maintenance. And I hate maintenance. Why simply maintain a level of good when you can chase a level of great? I don't care if this is the right way of looking at it, it's the way I most often see the world and I need to be honest with myself.
Saying no is the worst. Missed opportunities is what is, in my mind, associated with saying no. However, saying yes to everything is not much better. Saying yes to everything, in my experience, burns a person out. I got away with it for a couple of years...when I was finally able to drive myself around, I had the freedom to say yes more. I worked, I was in multiple bands (simultaneously at times), I went to school, I had friends, I went to church and youth group, and so on.
It sounds so pathetic and just normal. Like, isn't that just a typical life? Then why am I feeling now like even the basics is too much? If I used to say yes, then what's changed? My workload hasn't exactly grown proportionally to the weight I feel.
There's something missing.
One of my best friends and I had a couple of conversations about meaningfulness. What does living a meaningful life mean? There are a couple of ways that word can be taken:
a) the events that take place in your life have a meaning or reason behind them. Cause and effect. A plot, of sorts.
b) the events that take place in your life and the way you live is worth living. A meaningful life is one that's worth living.
Make sense? My friend and I agreed that the second definition of a meaningful life is the one we're after. I would venture to say, though, that a life worth living will bring to light the plot that's taking place. You'll start to see the flow of meaning coursing through your story. The events and circumstances will start to make sense. Often in retrospect, sometimes in the present, and hopefully in the future (vision, direction, purpose).
What am I getting at? I've devoted a lot of time to deriving the cause and effect kind of meaning from the events in my life. In fact, my mind is so used to attributing a significant cause to the things I see happening that I need to be careful not to fall into the ditch of superstitious, suspicious, in a sense conspiratorial thinking.
Not that I'm paranoid. I'm more trusting of people than most people I know. Mostly because it takes too much energy to be paranoid. The fact is, I have a strong appetite for knowing why my life is unfolding the way it is and has. I know I'm not alone, even though shockingly and frustratingly few people will honestly admit to this hunger. Tangentially (look that one up!), this is a strong undercurrent in what I feel passionate about sharing with people: you are part of a story that's bigger than yourself. Another topic for another time.
As much as I've sought after understanding why the events in my life fall as they do, I'm realizing that I need the second definition of meaningfulness, too. Or maybe it's because I am seeing the cause and effect more clearly that I am drawn to the second definition more strongly than ever.
I wouldn't say I've lived a life entirely not worth living. It's more that my appetite for discovering what is worth living for is growing into the fierce, gnawing hunger that I have primarily experienced for the first kind of meaningfulness.
Here's what I'm learning: relaters do better than doers do. Saying that actually makes me feel small. As I wrote that, I realized that my focus is still on doing. A better, more accurate statement may very well be closer to "relaters are generally happier, more joyful, more secure, and more at peace than doers." Way. Less. Catchy.
It's surprising how easy it is to trick yourself. I tricked myself for a long time by telling myself (and others) that "it's all about relationships". The "it" being life. A meaningful one. The problem is that I didn't believe it, and my actions showed it.
If you ask me today what "it" is about, I'll give you the same answer. Just don't be surprised if I add that I struggle to believe it myself, even though I know it's true.
The happiest, most joyful people I know are ultra-connected to people. They're genuinely, authentically connected to people in their lives. Not a broad social media following or even a lot of real-life friends. More that the friendships they do have are sacred, precious ground that is carefully protected and cultivated amid the craziness and tumult of life.
For these people, a relationship is better than a personal achievement. I would say that for them, a relationship is better than personal success, but that would be false because good relationships are their definition of success. Relating to people is what motivates these people, and the reward always lies within some sort of interaction with others.
Further, the happiest, most joyful people I know are ultra-connected to God. No, not ultra-spiritual or super religious. Being ultra-connected to God is like being ultra-connected to people. The relationship is the motivator. The relationship is what makes life worth it. The relationship defines success. The reward always lies within some sort of interaction with the other person.
Don't be deceived; the order in which I mentioned connection to people and connection to God is no indication of their relative importance. Connecting relationally to God always has to come first, because he defines what a good relationship looks like.
I'm hungry for connection. I'm hungry for the joy that comes with the relationship. No joke, the idea of simple, pure joy is confusing to my tired brain. You mean, just let yourself be at peace and secure and rejoicing...all the time? Like, normally? What?
I'm also so sick of the devil stealing my joy. I'm sick of believing his lies over and over again. He's never said anything true to me. I'm sick of walking around and letting the spiritual deadness and dormancy that seems to be the acceptable and embraced norm both inside and outside the Christian faith determine the state of my soul. It should be the other way around. Light overtakes darkness, so hope should overtake cynicism. Truth should overtake deception. Love should overtake fear.
I am not leaving on a hopeless note, only an honest one. I truly believe God will not stop being faithful to me, and he is leading each of his children to experience joy in their relationship with him. I've been learning about his love for me: I am his beloved. That's who I am. That's who you are.
I experience joy sometimes, and I experience worth-it relationship with God and others more and more as time goes on. Those ideas are not entirely foreign to me. I just want them all the time, and I, being the human that I am, tend to see the road ahead rather than the road behind. Impatient? Yeah, probably. Idealistic? Certainly. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
Only by God's grace, I am able to grow deeper in love with him on a daily basis, and both my being and my doing will continue to reflect that. If you want this too, I invite you to join me. It's only impossible if you reject the one who declares himself the doer of the impossible and the personification of pure love and relationship.
According to the internet's most popular free source of generally reliable facts, Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced 19 films in the last decade, with 13 on the way. Put together, those 19 films have grossed over $16.8 billion at the box office. In terms of dollars, MCU has created the most successful film franchise. Ever.
Heartache--the word I chose to refer to the feeling that something's missing--is not the end of the problem. Just like when a plant withers and dies for lack of water, when we start to hurt because it feels like we're lacking something, it's not the pain that's the issue. It's that we're lacking something. I believe this is important, because I know how easy it is to waste time looking for what's going to make the pain go away in the moment without looking for why it's showing up in the first place.
The reason I'm writing is because I've wanted to write for a long time. I just didn't know what to say or how to say it, so I didn't write a whole lot. Not openly, at least. I'm not sure how much more I have to say now than I did a year ago, but today in asking God if he wanted to show me anything (more on that later), I think he said essentially this: Avery, you're free to share. It doesn't have to be perfect. My love and my words are the perfect parts.