Not Good to be Alone

Not Good to be Alone

There are men who’ve done amazing things in isolation. 

Adventurer Aron Ralston took a solo hike through Blue John Canyon and was pinned to the canyon wall when a massive boulder rolled onto his hand. After being trapped for days, he eventually opted to break and amputate his own arm. He survived. 

Or go back almost two centuries and you will find the story of Hugh Glass. He was a trapper who was left for dead after being severely mauled by a Grizzley bear. Glass clawed and crawled over a thousand miles, mostly alone and under-resourced. He too survived.

These stories provoke something in a man’s heart that is a mix of good and bad. The will to survive, the choice to confront pain, all good things. But we often take it further and glorify the idea of fierce independence.

Consider the following interchange between Alfred and Batman (The Lego Batman Movie)…

Batman: “I don’t do ships, as in relationships.”

Alfred (later that night): “Do you want to talk about how you’re feeling right now?

Batman: “I don’t talk about feelings, Alfred. I don’t have any, I’ve never seen one, I’m a night-stalking, crime fighting, vigilante and a heavy-metal rapping machine. I don’t feel anything emotionally except for rage, 24-7, 365, at a million percent. And if you think that there’s something behind that, then you’re crazy.”

It’s funny because it’s true. This is stance many of us take. But the drive for independence is a lie. It is a lie that gets most men killed (it is possible to die before your heart stops beating by the way). There is a reason the stories above are rare. 

It doesn’t matter how strong we are, how much gear we have or what we think we know. If I am standing in the middle of a dense fog, I need someone from the outside who can see me and show me the break in the trees. 

True, Glass survived. But wouldn’t it have been better if his own men had carried him out of the woods? Yes, Ralston inspires thousands when he speaks about his self-rescue. But had he gone into the canyon with friends he may have been freed within hours rather than days.

There is no way around it. We need God and we need each other. The good news is God is already closer than you think. And the best way to gain friends that will carry you is to become one yourself.

Fighting a Ghost

Fighting a Ghost

There was an old weight room at the place I used to work. It was the kind of room that made you feel stronger when you walked in. Cinderblock walls, dirty mirrors that no one bothered to hang and the smell of oxidized metal.

When I first found the space I discovered a heavy bag propped up in the corner. After tracking down some reinforced cord strapping, I removed a few ceiling panels and hung the bag from an open-web steel joist.

Once a week or so I’d visit the weight room to take out my frustration on the bag. It wasn’t always clear who or what I was fighting or why I was tense in the first place. I had an impulse to face an unseen opponent.

Evil is real and we were made to confront it. But it is not an enemy intimidated by a closed fist or the laces of my boot. It is a spiritual enemy older than the human race. It is an enemy who lies to us about who we are and who God is.

If we ignore that reality, we will either fight each other or we will resign altogether and loose a significant part of what we were made for.

Kicking a heavy bag is a good way to release stress but to deal with the real battle we need to train ourselves in the truth.

I Don’t Need to Run

I Don’t Need to Run

I live just south of Canada, where every fall, the wind knifes the trees making the leaves bleed.

They die and drop quickly leaving a million naked branches crossed like a chainlink fence against the milky sky.

Then the white overhead starts to break up and fall on empty flower pots and cars that sit outside because they leak oil.

I usually forget to lift my wiper blades and disconnect my battery so the incontinent car gives up the ghost.

Once we drove to Arizona in the middle of winter. I thought if I saw a cactus and some sand, I’d forget about the dead trees and cars.

But after we were there a few days we got stuck behind a snow plow. Turns out the weather from up north had been tailing us the whole way.

I used to think if I looked enough, I’d find a place where trees don’t bleed and shed their clothes. And cars don’t freeze to death.

But I’ve come to realize I don’t have to run from the cold, because I can build fires and replace batteries. And water the plant that sits under my window.

In the same way there is no need to run in fear. It don’t have to go off and seek a new scenario because the life of God in me can transform the current one. 

Organ Donor

Organ Donor

I am an organ donor. So someday when I die, they may cut me open. And I hope when they do, they will find the same things on the inside that they saw on the outside.

To quote Oswald Chambers, “We are only what we are in the dark; all the rest is reputation. What God looks at is what we are in the dark – the imaginations of our minds; the thoughts of our heart; the habits of our bodies; these are the things that mark us in God’s sight.”

Commercial Toilets and Sea Monsters

Commercial Toilets and Sea Monsters

A former boss once asked me to help fix a toilet (which happened to be in the woman’s restroom). Apparently the water wouldn’t stop running. I should mention at the onset I’m not a plumber. My wife and I swapped out a toilet in our first house and I’ve helped my friend Ken (a master plumber) replace a few residential toilets. By helped I mean mostly standing there nodding and saying motivating things like, “Keep up the good work, Ken,” or “A little to the left.” And even if I had more time in the field, commercial toilets are a different breed.

It’s goes without saying that fixing plumbing, electrical and/or mechanical systems was not a part of my job description in the aforementioned place of employment. I was an office dweller. But it was a church which means it was not uncommon for the lines of responsibility to get blurry.

The head maintenance technician was offsite so they patched him in remotely. This meant the instructions were coming to me second-hand. He told me to locate and turn a large hex bolt attached to the water supply coming from the wall (there were actually two bolts which proved important).

At the first turn water began to drip from the under-side of the bolt. I was told this was normal. By the next turn it started to spray, like a thumb over a garden hose. Apparently still normal. One final turn and the bolt sprung free, releasing a torrent that blasted me in the chest. As I stumbled out of the way I observed the water pressure was strong enough to span the full length of the bathroom.

The water level quickly began to rise around my feet, (at roughly the same rate as the panic rising in my ribcage). The other staff members fled and I was left to fight the flood on my own. Out of pure desperation I splashed around looking for the rouge bolt. I guess I thought I may be able to replug the hole. The icy spray stung my eyes as I struggled to force the bolt back in place. I dropped it several times, once in the toilet.

Right about now I am remembering how the ancient Biblical authors often used the language of raging, chaotic waters and sea serpents to describe and make sense of the unseen forces of evil in the world.

Anyway, I continued my valiant, yet fruitless, campaign for what felt like a long time until a coworker finally reached the water main and cut off the supply. It is a massive understatement to say my efforts were futile. But in the moment they felt legitimate. When placed in a situation that is quickly spiraling, the instinct is to regain control.

But what if we stopped striving. I’m not saying do nothing. Don’t stand there and let the water bore a hole in your chest. But rather than God- less self-saving, what if we sought help. What if we would acknowledge the beast is bigger than us and reach out to the one who knows how to beat it.

NOTE: At the risk of trying to squeeze too much out of this toilet metaphor, I’d like to offer one more take away for anyone faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem. Turns out there is wisdom in shifting our focus from plug- ging leaks to locating and addressing the source.

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