I dislike the person I am becoming

I am a Senior Supervisor (Senior Supervisor of Subscriber and Tech Services for short.). That’s it. For at least two years, I have been doing manager level work. I am routinely asked why I am not a manager, and I have (perhaps foolishly) turned down two invitations to post for Manager roles. Now I am frustrated, and my frustration is bubbling over in unhealthy ways.

I work a ridiculous number of weekends, many of which are late evening/early morning software deployments. This coming Saturday night/Sunday morning will be my nineteenth working day in a row, and I don’t get comp days. (Someone should force me to read my own writing on Sabbath.)

I increasingly dislike the person I am becoming. As I crammed work between taking Caiden to a carnival and Isaiah’s birthday party last weekend, I was short with Erin for suggesting we prioritize the party preparations and with Caiden for acting like a normal four-year-old.

Until now I have believed I am managing the work. When I was at the carnival and party this weekend I was present. The phone was away. I did nothing related to work. But the pace, oh the terrible pace is what will do me in. The pace is what keeps me from being the caring husband and father I want to be. I want to lovingly correct my son when he interrupts our conversation. I want to respect and listen to my wife when she offers wise advice. That is who I want to be

I have found family to be a barometer for my soul. I am more myself around them than anywhere else. If my veneer is going to crack and the true state of my heart is going to leak anywhere, it will be with my family. That is both terrible and wonderful. Terrible because they are forced to experience it. Wonderful because I care about my s*** leaking on them more than I do anyone else.

I know the husband, father and man I want to be. It is obvious this morning just how much of God’s grace I need to become that person. So I will practice those disciplines that make me available to God’s transformative grace. If that means I work less and stay the Senior Supervisor of Subscriber and Tech Services and never become a Manager, I am okay with that, because I am more than a Senior Supervisor. I am a husband and father. I am a disciple of Jesus, his representative to the world and that is who I really want to be.

Book review: Killing Lions

I have been reading and listening to John Eldredge for almost thirteen years. His books, teaching and boot camps have played an important role in my life. Recently I have been enjoying “& Sons” an online magazine featuring brief articles from John and his three sons and short films about the journey to manhood. And now John has written a new book with his eldest son, Sam.

41UkeX6yCHL._AA160_The central question of a man is “Do I have what it takes?” We often find the answer as God speaks into our successes and failures while we face down challenges in life. Killing Lions is a series of conversations between John and Sam about some of the common challenges faced by young men today including work and money, women, identity and how we make decisions.

In my experience, these areas are some of the key battlegrounds for men. I know they are for me. John and Sam expose the lies we struggle to deny and the truth we have a hard time accepting in each of these categories. While the book is primarily written to young men, these battles don’t end when we hit thirty, and I (37 years old) found its teaching incredibly valuable. I found it particularly helpful to pause and consider the questions posed by John throughout the book. Questions like, “What is your greatest fear, as a man?”

There are a couple places where the book feels a little redundant, and the chapter “A few questions about God” felt out of place. While these questions and answers are good, I’m not sure they were a great fit in a book about the journey toward becoming a man. But this is a minor complaint.

If you are a man or have sons, I highly recommend this book. It serves as a wonderful companion to Wild at Heart/Fathered by God. If you are looking for something to get you thinking about how to define masculinity and what a boy needs to become a man, I doubt you could do better than the combination of Killing Lions and Wild at Heart/Fathered by God.

I’ll end the review with a handful of my favorite quotes.

“We find that honest work and its fruits are very good things. This is crucial in the move from boy to man. Money forces us to grow up; it is a constant does of reality, and reality is a gift from God. It has this marvelous way of grounding us.”

“But the false self – even when it is built on some part of genuine gifting – will never settle the issue inside. The horrible thing about chasing validation through money or work or women is that you can never let down; you have to keep peddling for fear of falling off.”

“This can be a very revealing experience: How do we handle defeat? Because for men, it sure raises the issue of validation… We must ask God what he thinks of us. That famished craving for love and validation must be spoken to in a defining way.”

“How would you live differently if life was as epic, mythic and urgent as Halo?”

The transformation of Sorrow and Suffering

When interpreting pain, context is everything. If the greatest good, our most basic longing and God’s deepest desire is a dynamic, interpersonal, and intimate relationship, is it possible that sometimes, the way to bring this about is pain? Is it possible sin, our broken relationship with God, is like an illness that requires surgery, a painful cut necessary to being about wholeness

One of my all time favorite books is Hind’s Feet on High Places. Written over one hundred years ago, it is an allegory of the Christian life. In the story, Much Afraid anxiously waits for the day the Great Shepherd will take her to the High Places, heal her and make her lovely. When the day comes, she is deeply troubled to learn the Great Shepherd will not walk with her the whole way. He will always be near, and will come in a moment if she calls to him, but he will not walk with her on the paths to the High Places. She doesn’t, however, walk alone, and her companions trouble her.

(Forgive me the length of these passages, but they are just too good to edit down any further.)

“Here are the two guides which I promised,” said the Shepherd quietly. “From now on until you are over the steep and difficult places, they will be your companions and helpers.”

Much-Afraid looked at them fearfully. Certainly they were tall and appeared very strong, but why were they veiled? Why did they hide their faces? The longer and closer she looked ta them, the more she began to dread them. They were so silent, so strong, so mysterious. Why did they not speak? Why give her no friendly word or greeting?

“Who are they?” she whispered to the Shepherd. “Will you tell me their names, and why don’t they speak to me? Are they dumb?”

“No, they are not dumb,” said the Shepherd very quietly, “but they speak a new language, Much-Afraid, a dialect of the mountains which you have not yet learned. But as you travel with them, little by little, you will learn to understand their words.

“They are good teachers; indeed, I have few better. As for their names, I will tell you them in your own language, and later you will learn what they are called in their own tongue. This,” said he, motioning toward the first of the silent figures, “is named Sorrow and the other is her twin sister, Suffering.”

I am not willing to accept that God does not introduce any pain into our lives. This is not a popular opinion, and it is certainly not a pastoral approach to pain. Interpreting specific pain in our lives is a deeply personal activity and should be handled with a close friend or spiritual director. I don’t know the context for the pain you have in your life, but I know one thing. Regardless of your pain’s source, God, is strong enough to redeem it. He is good enough to transform my pain and yours into something beautiful.

When Much-Afraid reaches the High Places, she is healed and given a new name, Grace and Glory. And the Shepherd offers her companions now that she is on the High Places.

At that Grace and Glory regarded him earnestly, and there were almost tears in her eyes, for she remembered Suffering and Sorrow, the faithful companions whom he had given her before. It had been through their help and gentleness and patience she had been able to ascend the mountains to the High Places…”

Now she was here and they were not. She opened her mouth to make her first request, to beg her Lord to let her keep the companions he had chosen in the beginning… Before she could speak, however, he said with the same specially lovely smile, “Here are the handmaidens, Grace and Glory, whom I have chosen to be with you henceforth and forever.”

Two radiant, shining figures stepped forward, the morning sunshine glittering on their snowy garments, making them dazzling to look at. They were taller and stronger than Grace and Glory, but it was the beauty and joy in their faces and the love shining in their eyes that caught at her heart…

“Who are you?” asked Grace and Glory softly. “Will you tell me your names?

Instead of answering they looked at one another and smiled, then held out their hands as though to take hers in their own. At the familiar gesture, Grace and Glory knew them and cried out with a joy which was almost more than she could bear.

“Why! You are Sorrow and Suffering. Oh welcome, welcome! I was longing to find you again.”

They shook their heads. “Oh no!” they laughed. “We are no more Suffering and Sorrow than you are Much-Afraid. Don’t you know that everything that comes to the High Places is transformed? Since you brought us hear with you, we are turned into Joy and Peace.”

“Brought you here!” gasped Grace and Glory. “What an extraordinary way to express it! Why from the first to last you dragged me here.”

Again they shook their heads and smiled as they answered, “No, we could never have come here alone, Grace and Glory. Suffering and Sorrow may not enter the Kingdom of Love, but each time you accepted us and put your hands in ours we began to change. Had you turned back or rejected us, we never could have come here.”

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