Typically, if I get anxious, I can’t write. Nothing ever sounds good enough and I don’t even bother trying.
Fortunately, my profession, my daily work, involves writing. But, it involves writing for a place, a company and local news geared towards a small community.
And that’s kind of what I’m learning about this anxiety and writing stuff.
Truth is, I love writing, and I shouldn’t worry about the critiques or the opinions of other people. It is my calling, my gift. But, writing what interests you and also what may interest your readers helps too.
It also helps that I know that I should be “anxious for nothing” and that God has not given me the Spirit of Fear!
To add, the past few weeks have allowed me time to really reflect, to remember that I have the opportunity to tell the stories of those who have gone before us. I’m talking about the stories that tell a part of history that many people are uncomfortable about reflecting on … really telling the truth about life and what’s really more important!
Hopefully I’ll have more than enough opportunity and time to do that here too!
A few days ago, during an early cold morning, I noticed the sky with the color and hue that’s always been my favorite moment. I never really bothered to take too many photos of moments like this and began to wonder why.
So, I actually pulled out my iPhone and took a few pictures.
The first photo I took was one of the light pole at the curb I was parked on as the sun peaked some of its rays over the horizon of my block. The sky was a kind of blue color that I absolutely loved. The light on the pole was the perfect touch to an ongoing sunrise.
Those are the moments I love. It actually hit me in my core to see this. I literally stopped in my tracks and just took the time to internalize the moment.
It was like God gave me yet another gift for the morning … I was awakened with health and strength … and this scene right here was an extra gift to the morning. It was not a rush morning. It was a morning that started off peacefully. And this photographic moment was a perfect addition to the day.
After taking it in, I took the photo, feeling as though I didn’t have the moment for too long and needed to record it.
Normally, I’m not that impressed with smartphone photos and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. And yet, it seemed like every new phone being advertised from the Google Pixel to the latest Samsung presented itself the opportunity for me to get a phone with a much better camera, which in my head meant I would automatically have the best shot.
But, the morning I took the photo of the sunrise with the light pole in the foreground, I realized that I was looking to a machine to actually give me the best shot, rather than actually working to make the shot look amazing!
This led me to question the way I approach any of my creative work, be it my writing or drawing or anything.
What do I value? What do you value? And why? This photographic moment has even moved me to assess my Faith and spiritual matters.
I didn’t have to work that hard with the sunrise. But, I did need to allow some creativity, some effort and some time and patience to have the very best shot. The phone was built for what it needed to do as far as the camera function was concerned. But I can’t count on it to be creative for me alone.
I’ve taken hundreds upon thousands of iPhone photos of people, moments and opportunities. But I couldn’t remember the last time a photographic moment like the one with the sunrise was so very good.
Now, I see the use of my iPhone differently. And I’m learning to see other things a little clearer too. The insatiable need to “update” or “upgrade” is slowly diminishing as value and purpose is being adjusted.
My life is not perfect. But, I am where God wants me to be. Whenever I get doubtful of that, I am immediately reminded through His Word and through past experiences that God knows what He’s doing with me.
But, I’ll be honest, if it were up to me, it would be easier. Things would be almost “perfect.”
It’s that endless search to be “whole” in some kind of way … and we quickly look to things, possessions, opportunities and things of the like to do so.
I would have the abs I want. I would have the muscles I want. I would have the clothes I want. I would have the phone I want. I would have the computer I want, the car, the house, and so forth and so on.
But, that’s not perfect. That’s just stuff. I would stay on the topic of material possessions, but that’s a whole other discussion in of itself.
I’ll admit, the places and plans that we have for our own lives sound “perfect,” but I am beginning to see that those thoughts come when we seek to have a life that’s without challenges and trouble. I’ve been guilty of this more than not.
In so many ways, it’s like God has been keeping me from trying to have it so “perfect” down here on earth and in my own definition in an effort to keep me from missing the experience of relationship and life with Him and Christ Jesus both here and in heaven.
And, then there’s the irony around this desire. We simply cannot and will not be able to experience the “perfect” life by way of material possessions or life circumstances that are consistently in our favor.
1 Peter 5:10 (NKJV)
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect,establish, strengthen, and settle you.
Interestingly enough, I have found out over the years that I have learned to walk out my faith in Christ, that “perfection” requires a bit of suffering.
I acknowledge that I don’t know what kind of suffering you’ll experience. The New Bible Dictionary defines “suffering” as “conflict, pain, corruption, drudgery and death.”
But, we have God’s Grace (God’s unmerited favor) on our lives to get us through those periods of suffering.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities,that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
God will “perfect,” or make us whole, suitable, adapted for something! Our understanding of why we are still here, being the best we can be, living the life we’re supposed to have, starts with God in Christ Jesus!
He’s the only one whose able to “perfect” our hearts and our minds so we can keep from running to “stuff” to help us perfect something to our own adaptation.
Along with perfecting us, God will establish, strengthen and settle us, meaning that he will make us strong and make us rooted and grounded in Him as we focus on Him rather than the circumstances.
My experiences of bullying was both verbal and physical.
It happened consistently in elementary and middle school. Fortunately, it didn’t really happen all that much during high school.
I usually describe myself as a “different” kind of kid growing up. It was the only way I could really explain why I was such a target for bullies. I look back now after sharing my story with my wife, family and friends, that it wasn’t so much that I was “different,” but that I was genuinely being more of myself than majority of my classmates.
They were the ones with the problem. Not me. And it took a long time to grasp hold of that reality.
I wasn’t into sports. I loved writing and drawing. I loved reading. I was into cartoons and comics. I loved keeping up with current events. I was really into science, technology and sci-fi. I even had a bit of an obsession with Nuclear Power and Nuclear Energy. I was a regular boy … but my classmates thought I was weird, a freak of nature, different.
I can vividly remember my time at S.S. Conner Elementary. Whenever I said my name, some of the boys and girls in my class would mock me … repeating my name and what I would say and how they thought I sounded. I wore glasses, sometimes had a nasally speech, and would often be called “Steve Urkel,” the kid that was on ABC’s Family Matters.
When it came to classroom seating or classroom projects, the kids would act repulsed and disgusted to be around me.
I would be called names like “gay,” “stupid,” “slow,” “retarded,” and the list went on and on.
Sometimes, the fights got physical. Whether it was on the playground or on the way home, I would sometimes be followed around by a group of boys who would try to fight me and often hit me, laughing at me, mocking me.
During that time, I would tell my parents and they would talk to the teachers and the principal.
The solution for my bullying problem was often: “just ignore them!” And to make matters worse, sometimes the teachers or other adults around just wouldn’t care to do anything about it.
It felt like people who were in authority failed me.
Once, I was told by one of my parents, “if you let yourself get beaten up, you’re getting a spanking.”
So, I spent a large amount of my childhood avoiding physical conflict out of fear of getting hurt and out of fear of punishment.
That threat only made matters worse.
Middle school was the worst time for me. When I was going to Gaston Middle School I would take the school bus. The bus was usually very full and on really hot days, incredibly humid and uncomfortable. Kids would purposely try and keep me from sitting down, sometimes tripping me as I walked down the aisle.
If I sat in the front or near the middle, I was safe most of the time. I had very, very few friends and the ones I did have we mostly hung out at the bus stop for survival, hoping we wouldn’t be talked too or talked about.
I would hope and pray every single day that the kids on the bus, especially the ones in the middle section and the back of the bus, wouldn’t speak to me or get eye contact with me. When they did, they would talk about my looks and belittle me in any and every way to make me feel embarrassed and humiliated.
I remember the soul-stinging remarks of one kid who stared straight at me and said in front of everyone, “if he and I were related, he would kill himself.”
Some would ask me, “why do you act white!?” and “why do you talk white.” Others got personal, even sexual with their comments, but I would never answer or make conversations apart from telling them to “shut up” or “leave me alone.”
Many of those days and nights ended with me angry, sad, frustrated, crying and embarrassed and disappointed over the fact that I couldn’t do more about my bullying situation.
Most of my survival of those bullying experiences involved me going to the counselors office where sometimes I would sit, hang out and talk out some of my thoughts and frustrations. Some teachers and other officials took a liking to me, even though my classmates would not.
At the writing of this article, I’ve worked out a lot of issues in my life that came from bullying, from abuse and from the anxiety that weighed me down and the thoughts I had about the adults in my life then and now.
Growing up in the church and maintaining a real and whole relationship with God and being a follower of Jesus Christ, my mind and heart has been changing in the following ways:
My life has purpose, value and worth!
I am more of who I was made to be and daily living to be who God made me to be.
I forgive my bullies. (THIS took some time. Read the article below)
I forgive the adults who failed me growing up.
And the latest one … I’m learning that there are times that you will have to fight … and sometimes those fights are not with fisticuffs (fists). The fight can also be spiritual and internal. A fight for your heart and mind is going on.