The holidays can be a dark, lonely time for many. I have received some heartbreaking messages lately and a few reminded of my own darkness. I wrote the following poem when I was certain my life would end at the barrel of a gun pointed by myself. Finding faith seemed like a joke.
I didn’t realize it then, but the struggle to hold on meant I was strong, not weak. When we are looking into the abyss and find a way to hold on, we are one step closer to freedom, and finding faith.
If you are in a dark place, hold on. The answer is closer than you might think. In hindsight, those thin beams of life usually turn into the flames that allow us to live again.
Finding faith can seem like an impossible journey, and the steps we take to move forward can bury us deeper in the quicksand of doubt. It is often when we stop running and start kneeling, down on our knees to listen, that we finally find the answers.
Faith by Silouan Green
From the book, Who Am I?
A shadow dimly cast
Thin beam, a pale reflection
No trumpets sounded
No proclamation of truth
Holding on to the only thing I could
Because there was nothing else
When I speak, we take a journey.
Almost regardless of the event and the title of my talk, it will be a journey of identity and purpose. A journey whose path will include a cold, hard look in the mirror.
As we roll towards the end of the talk, the hammer begins to fall.
“Most people muddle through life and wake up one day going, how did I get here?” I state as if it was stamped into granite.
Faces around the audience will get a blank, nervous, “oh my God, he’s talking about me!” look on their face. But there is hope in these looks. Hope coming from the realization, “I have just been muddling, he is right, but I can find a real purpose, my life can matter.”
If that blank stare is etched on your face, what are you going to do about it? We spend so much time trying to fit in, to impress others, to lead what the world thinks is a good respectable life, we can forget what is was like to live a life of wonder. As you’ve aged, has your world gotten bigger or smaller? Have your possibilities increased or faded away? How did you get here?
Look closely at your life. Do you have an overwhelming purpose that motivates you and orders your life? Forget about priorities, what do you actually do from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed? You say your kids are important, but how much time do you actually spend in conversation with them? Are you more concerned about a 401k you’ll cash in twenty years or so from now than you are doing something rich and rewarding in the next 20 days? Living life based on society’s expectations as opposed to a deep identity and purpose usually just means you are muddling.
Still not convinced? Most fathers would say their children are very important to their lives. But according to a recent study the average father only spends about 19 minutes a day in meaningful conversation with his children. That average father spends more time on the toilet each day than he does in meaningful talks with his kids.
Don’t run, face the truth, and do something you love. Go on a hike. Buy a good bottle of wine and watch your favorite movie. Get cozy with your husband and bang his brains out. Take the day off and do everything for your wife she hates doing, then take her to her favorite restaurant. Step out, dream, do something that is a step forward.
There is nothing you can’t do if you’ll just be honest with yourself and take that first step toward a new life. I see it everyday in the e-mails, letters, and phone calls from the many people I’ve met on the road the last few years.
We have one life, live free! Finding and following your true identity and purpose can unlock the burning desire within your own soul.
The spirit of dreaming, a short tale:
We are down to our last drop of water and the desert floor is a furnace beneath our feet. We’ve been traveling together for weeks, encouraging each other, lifting each other, fighting the growing desire to quit and succumb to nature. Together, we keep heading towards the distant mountains. The mountains we are all desperate to reach.
It seems like a single group purpose, reach the mountains. Reach the mountains we tell ourselves and all will be okay.
We struggle, we draw closer. We begin to notice that the “mountains” are not some singular object, but many different peaks and valleys and summits. I become focused on one particular majestic valley that would make a wonderful home. But I begin to notice that some of the others are focused on other places. Some want to travel beyond the mountains.
We trudge on, getting closer. We have been holding and pulling and encouraging each other so long it is familiar and safe. We can’t imagine traveling alone. Thankfully, as we draw near our destination the heat lessons and the walking becomes easier. We can talk more. Able to have conversations about things other than the necessities of staying alive, it becomes clear that our paths are diverging and soon we will not be traveling as one. Some of the group are angry, others have already checked out and are not listening, a few are afraid of being left alone.
In the midst of this discussion, the oldest of our group, an old feeble man who I’d been expecting for weeks to drop off and die at any moment, walks to the front. He begins to speak – slowly, determinedly, and everyone stops to listen. Until this point he had been mostly silent.
We’ve journeyed together, focused on those mountains. But we are individuals, each with our own dreams. We can decide to support each other, or argue about which direction to go. We can fight and bore our way into those mountains leaving some to fend from themselves, or we can help and encourage each other to settle in their own place. We can make that entire mountain range, and beyond, our community, or we can insist on our own vision for each other, and descend into loneliness and division. We can help each other dream, or we can kill dreams.
We were wore out and didn’t want to fight. We knew he was right. Our journey would continue together, but with different destinations. We decided to camp and spend a few days helping each other plan where their journeys would lead when we reached the foot of the mountains and left to climb our own peaks. Some would be journeying alone, others had the same destination in mind and would be part of smaller groups. But in spirit, we were still together, and we knew that whatever the future held we would be able to count on each other to make this entire country ahead of us a real community of hopes and dreams.
That is the spirit of dreaming, of family, and love we all need to cultivate with one another. Help each other dream, especially those we are closest to. Help them fan the flames of dreams and wonder, don’t be the one that stamps out the sparks that lead to wonderful, strange, unusual, joy filled lives.
Need a little motivation and direction for some outdoor adventures, a trip to Outside Magazine online is sure to motivate and direct you. I just like to visit sometimes and look at the pictures. Check it out – Outside Magazine click here!
“Forgive and pray, in order to live your life serenely.” From the writings of Saint Raphael by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos
Powerful words. But hard words. A drunk driver kills your daughter, a son dies fighting a confusing war in a foreign land, you cheat on your wife, you secretly take drugs, an abusive husband, etc. – so many evils in the world can make forgiveness a word that is easy to say but almost impossible to actually do sometimes.
You will not find true peace and joy unless you can forgive and pray. They work together. True prayer requires a heart of forgiveness, and forgiveness can be hard and overwhelming – forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, and the hardest of all, asking for forgiveness. Ego and pride kill our souls, and ego and pride are the things that keep us from forgiveness.
The act of forgiveness can be so hard in fact, that sometimes it can’t be done without long hard prayer. You might even make the case that forgiveness is only real if it is hard, and prayer is always necessary. I don’t know if that is always true, but I do know this, prayer and forgiveness are powerful tools in the journey of life. Tools we should use daily.
I see it most often with my wife and children. I can get so caught up in my world, my work, and my priorities, that everything becomes about me. Prayer forces me to humble myself and allows me to look in the mirror and realize that the breaks in our family relationships usually occur because of me. When I own this truth and simply ask forgiveness, it is like the weight of the world leaves all of our shoulders and is replaced by the uplifting power of joy and love. It also teaches those closest to us how to forgive and find peace.
Forgiveness heals wounds and connects souls. I’m constantly amazed how the gulf of an angry parent and child can be bridged by nothing more than simply saying, “I got too angry, forgive me. I didn’t listen, forgive me. I should have turned off the TV and played with you, forgive me. I’m not pulling my weight around the house, forgive me.” Those words used genuinely are POWERFUL. The result is a loving, warm, joyful family. And not just family, forgiveness can change the darkest heart to light.
Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Ask for Forgiveness. Do it prayerfully, genuinely, and with no expectations. Forgive and pray.
Get down on your knees and there you will find peace.
Your task, think of one act of forgiveness that you can complete today, and do it.
I’d love to hear about it.