Thoughts: “Questions We Can’t Stomach or How to Glaze Over Things That Matter”

But who do you think goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

I was asked this question repeatedly this week. It’s a question that has created a lot of hurt in our world, a question that is looking for a means to an end we could never understand, but we can’t be comfortable with not knowing, we can’t be comfortable with believing that the evil of this world can be forgiven. This question sparks a lot of things within me: my chest aches in sorrow because there are people who believe that this is the ultimate goal; Heaven and Hell. My brain is wracked by the apathy and calloused acceptance of the thought of people being tortured by fire and fiend for eternity. My skin burns with rage for people’s inability to see that it’s not the point.

This post isn’t about whether or not I believe in the existence of Heaven or Hell. It’s not about how Heaven or Hell works or how it “brings glory to the Creator”. This question got me thinking quite a bit, I posed myself with a question: Why are we focused on the future and what we don’t have? When will we be grateful?

There’s a huge problem with human thought today. We can’t handle being uncomfortable, we turn our focus to how many likes we have on a photo, how clever our hashtags are, making our lives look picturesque and interesting. It’s kind of pathetic. Our days can be completely ruined because our data was throttled when there are people who don’t even have paper to communicate with one another, or someone put mustard on our McDoubles that we specifically asked for no mustard when there are children who work in sweat shops just for a few measly scraps of food, or we get furious because we have to wait in a line for 3 minutes at H&M to purchase a $20 scarf when the most prized possession that a kid in the Republic of Congo is a Nike t-shirt from 1980 that someone so kindly “donated” to United Way.

We have a perspective problem. I will go out of my way to avoid a panhandler because I don’t want to take the time and effort to help this person when it would take maybe 5 minutes tops and I work at a fucking homeless shelter with loads of resources. But my time is too precious. All the time I spend eating food that’s not good for me, watching reruns of American Dad (a show I don’t even really care for honestly), and God forbid I give up my time to indulge my porn addiction.

It’s no wonder I’m so cynical. I can’t see the good in this world because I’m such a big part of the problem. I’m over here watching porn indulging in the dehumanizing and devaluing of women, feeding into the ideological zeitgeist of acting like human trafficking isn’t a thing, eating fast food like twice a day and then throwing away half of it when there’s kids that I work with that are just getting out of a situation where they didn’t even have food, sitting on a phone all day and complaining that there’s nothing to occupy my time when there’s people out there who can’t even enjoy life because they’re working 3 jobs to avoid being evicted.

Sometimes I really wish I were one of the people who pretended that the world was a peach and their only problems were that they didn’t get whipped cream on their pumpkin spice latè. To live in ignorance so that way I weren’t always ruining moods or killing vibes. I would do so much to just be light-hearted. I just really want to not hate everything.

So who do you think goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

To be honest, I kind of wish we all went to Hell. That may sound pretty extreme, but with the way that our American culture sets us up, we’re really not that far off. We live in a world where we don’t bat an eye at those on the street starving, backing politicians who would sacrifice honorable military lives for oil and petty squabbles, charging ridiculous amounts of money for medical services because of a piece of paper some lady got from an Ivy League college.

I’m trying really hard to turn this around but I am just so pissed.

So who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

If Christ came just to sort people into heaven and hell I think I’d rather believe the universe was a spontaneous event and be content with secular humanism. There has to be more to this life than just Heaven and Hell. I’m not gonna sit here and say, “Golly gee, just think on Heaven and the blessings to come.” This is what a lot of Christians do to cope with the world and feel better about suffering. But this thought is passive, it solves nothing and only makes apathy and being calloused okay. It’s non-committal. It’s passing the buck so we don’t have to have any more responsibilities. There’s no love in a mindset that focuses on Heaven and Hell.

My life and thoughts have changed a lot in the past year. I have been doing what I can to focus on Christ and the love of his actions. I’ve been trying to find Christ in the Old Testament. I’ve been trying to understand why he loves the way that he does. It’s shifted my perspective a lot. I find that the more I focus on letting religion go, the easier it is to see Jesus. I can love more fully, I can escape from these things that I do that are not productive and be grateful for what I have.

“I’m trying my best to be a better man. Despite all my fears, I really am.”

I’m trying to be more hopeful, trying to be more light-hearted, trying to be more grateful, trying to help others where I can. I’ve found a few people who help me do that. People I love and cherish, people who have the most gorgeous souls, people who love so deeply, people who make me feel light-hearted and loved. It’s a tough transition for a cynic, but it’s a worthwhile one.

It’s funny how the people who don’t know Christ have more willingness to love than those who do. It’s intriguing how those “destined for Hell” bring so much of Heaven to this earth. I just want to call for a perspective change. Be more grateful, love people, be involved and informed, soften our hearts.

We’re more than just being separated into “elect” and “fallen sheep”. We’re more.

Thoughts: What Kind of Mop Do You Use to Sop Up Wasted Love?

“Were you there when I was hungry? Were you there when I thirsted? Did you have my name in your actions instead of your mouth? Did you love me when I had none?”

I can’t help but struggle with the concept of love. Watching Romantic Comedies, listening to As Cities Burn’s “The Widow”, having a heart-felt conversation with my roommate, bickering with my mother, having lunch with my grandmother and aunt, struggling with a desire to be loved as much as I love others. I’m always wondering where the reciprocation is? Caught between hopeful expectancy and melancholy apathy.

I know love is self-sacrificing because I’ve given myself so many times. I’m always surprised at the amount of me’s that I can pull out of my chest, like the machine from “The Prestige” is just pumping away right behind my sternum. Giving my clones away to passers-by like a man in a hotdog suit. “It’s by one get one free!” I call out after them, only to see the flyers of me discarded on the ground as they round the corner.

So I quit giving myself away. This paper-man had lived in so many different garbage cans by now that Oscar was getting upset for encroaching on his realty. So I moved upstate, into the seclusion. There was fresh air, there were song birds calling at every moment, there was the gargling as the rivers rushed about to meet their mistress the Atlantic, no reason to shave the forest that grew from my chin. I was akin to the stones and conversed often with the elk. We would talk at length, but the pines always brought back the same question from the elk’s mountainous hideaways:

“You know you weren’t made for solitude. You call to us like we can save you. We weren’t made for your companionship and we weren’t made to piece you back together. You always tell us of this man who made us as if we don’t know him. You call him by name, but his name is all you know.”

Elk always were the wise and mysterious sort. It was back to the Midwest where I would try and find community, where I would try and make a home. Find a cozy house with good bones, work harder at knowing Christ, find time to figure out what I believe and how love really works.

Sometimes, I like to lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling. It’s nice to look  at the bumps and ridges. They’re like their own little landscape, like another world inverted from ours. It often reminds me that that’s how I see things, like Death Cab’s “Lack of Color”, always fixated on the wrong things. I wonder how God does it. How we’re so small he can see us all with one gaze yet we’re oh so much more than bumps on the ceiling.

How do we love so effectively as you do? All I am is a mess of depression addled nonsense. I know I am more than that but how? Everything we are pushes against you as if our poles were magnetized to be opposite. The Creation has continued to sing you a love song since your thundering voice sounded those billions of years ago and all we do is sow in the discord. Every time I love, I love too much. Every time I guard myself I become calloused and cold. How can I be compassionate and look after myself at the same time?

There are few things I get anxious about, but love is one of them. It’s messy and I often times don’t know how to do it. I’ve messed up a lot of relationships and friendships. I’ve been too selfish, or too forward, or too vulgar. I’m constantly stewing in what I could or couldn’t have done, Bugs Bunny cutting up carrots as I yammer away, unknowingly boiling alive.

I’m really hoping that someday I will understand how to love fully. How to be compassionate and invested for the right reasons. How to keep a healthy distance to allow myself to grow and flourish just as much as those I give love to. Maybe someday I’ll realize that I’m not the only one who struggles with this and maybe one day this will allow someone to be honest with themselves, that’s all I can really hope.

Thoughts: Temporary Ground

Finite beings with finite feelings, is there really any love in us at all? We claim to love, put it on a pedestal, give it names spoke in whisper. But do those names mean anything? Because our love isn’t valid unless it’s bought for 5.95 out of a People magazine. Our sex isn’t good enough out side of a Cosmopolitan dream.

Living in a world where I can’t express how I feel towards others. Not a single word of encouragement or beauty or it’ll be awkward. Can’t tell a woman she’s beautiful, can’t tell a man he’s admired.

It’s not that we don’t want the attention. That’s all we ever want is attention. “But with strings attached? That’s absurd!” Always thought of but never heard. Ultron couldn’t have said it better, funny how a made up animatron can be so human. More human than most I’d say, because at least he’s honest.

Strings: what a thing. Connection. We can’t handle that. “You want to tell me that I matter? You want to tell me that I’m loved? How can you parade around such infinite claims when my death’s just around the corner? Crafted from the same explosion as the stars, we’re just star dust. And even eons from now, stars still burn out.”

How abysmal. How tragic. How selfish. We can’t even accept love because we’re afraid we’ll lose it. You want to talk about temporary ground, well we’re all standing on it. The claims you stand on are just as temporary as the dirt. Funny how we can be offered something so beautiful, a soft kiss on the cheek, a summer’s eve spent by the pond, holding-hands on the train as the sun streaks through our hair, a cool real bow on a gift someone went out of their way to get you, words about how lovely we are from the lips of someone we respect and love, yet we can’t accept those things because then we would mean something. And when we mean something what we do has worth. It has weight. It has consequence.

“Well what if we get hurt? What if we cause the pain? What if we’re left out in the rain, sitting by the fields where we play ball? What if our hearts are broken?”

So what if?

“Then let’s break everyone else’s heart first. Keep your veins filled with your own sentiments. Keep your words to yourself. I’ll keep you 12 inches away, so when I need you I can use you. But when it’s all said and done, I’ll get out my ruler, and at 12 inches you’ll stay. Cut you out of my life so I don’t have to feel the pain of knowing you love me. Out of my sight so I don’t have to remember that I was worth something to someone, so I have nothing to lose.”

I know we’re stuck on temporary ground, but why does that have to be so lonely? Why can’t I tell you that I love you, why can’t we make mistakes?  Why can’t things be awkward? Why can’t we sort it out? Why do I have to suffer with not being a part of your life? If there’s one thing that Christ has taught me, and one thing I know is true, is that he is not temporary. “Everything is temporary, except for Christ, and that’s what I’m clinging to.”

Those words give purpose to everything. In Christ everything is infinite. Through him, I don’t have to worry about loss, I don’t have to fear consequence. Such beautiful words from the mouth of such a gorgeous person. Someone who’s always spoken life into me when I’ve needed it, especially when they didn’t know I needed it. Someone who is so dear and so infinitely wonderful.

Make things weird. Let people know how much they mean to you. Don’t live in a calloused world, we have enough pain without people numbing it out of their thoughts. Feeling is a great thing, don’t let others fade like the McFly’s in Back to the Future. Sometimes heartbreak will happen, but heartbreak creates heartache, and heartache leads to passion for a better world. Love is a hard path, but it’s the only path that actually leads somewhere.

Thoughts: A Scatterplot Faith in a Straight Line World

You said you want to hear my story, well that’s fine. I’ve told it so many times, pedaling it for nickels and dimes, believing that’s what it’s worth. Some spare change. I could spare change, there’s so much it’s fluid. Never having a single constant, never feeling at home. I thought I had it a few times, warmed my feet at the hearth at the promise of safety emblazoned my face and pierced my bones. It was just enough to feel at peace, just enough to feel released, just enough for some relief. But soon it was back out into the dark, back out into a void of lamplight and concrete. 

I often tell myself it’s my fault. You’re the one who can’t stay. They’re right when they say you’re flighty. They’re right when they say you don’t belong. You’re love wasn’t needed and it sure as hell wasn’t wanted. Did you truly believe your Christ was worth following? Look at where you are now: cursed to wander and wander. Christ had no place for you on this earth. You had no comfort in store. 

No community. 

No constants.

And I’ll believe every word I’ll tell myself, because that’s all I’m hearing. That’s all that’s reinforced around me. I don’t want that to be true.

Is it selfish to want a home? Is it selfish to want to be wanted? To want to throw off every weight of sin? To want to endure but not be able to? I’ve been running this race for so long, yes I know I haven’t shed blood, and yes I know you’ve called me son, but damn it, I’m so tired.

I can’t be honest with you because it’s not seemly, I can’t wear a mask because it’s not honest. Caught in the middle of some sort of existential keep-away, always the monkey in the middle. You throw the ball too high, how can anyone expect to catch it? Then when we’re fed up with playing we’re shunned.

Jesus why would you love this lot?

Why would you love me?

I’ve been told so many times that I drag your name through the mud. Told I’m a bad influence. That I’m a bad Christian.

When can I be loved for being honest? When can I say that I’m suffering and feel like it matters? When can I be human again?

It’s so hard to have so much knowledge about you. I see who you are, but when I put that into action I become a monster.

Can you be more than just words on a page? Can you be more than just subjective theology where you’re only one thing to one person with one goal and one dimension? Where’d your mystery go? Didn’t you know, we figured you out. We’re your God now, and we’ll use you to lord over those we don’t agree with.

I’m not trying to say I’m right. I’m not trying to say others are wrong. I just need to say what I feel.

I’ve been following your voice around for a decade now. Wandering aimlessly on trust, taking the criticisms along the way. I’m just ready to find an address with my name on it. 10 years is a long time to wander. My feet are tired and I need to rest. I remember you said your yoke was easy and your burden light, mine is not, and it feels like it always will be.

Do you know what it’s like to always be sad and never have a way out? I just want to know what it’s like to feel joy and purpose.