And other disquieting, random thoughts on Christmas Eve. It occurred to me recently that pretty much everything I’ve written, books and blogs, are about me. At least I’m usually the central character–sometimes the hero, but as often as not the anti-hero. But you know what they call someone who thinks it’s all about them–it’s a nar…nar…nar…cis…ist–noooooo–am I become that which I hate the most?
Apologies for myself: (1) Years ago, when I briefly majored in English Lit, we were taught that writers should write about what they know best. In spite of being a psychologist and frequently engaging in the rape of other people’s minds, the only subject I really know a lot about is me. (2) And when I write about me, please understand that sometimes I’m really trying to find the Jesus in me. (3) I keep thinking about getting a tatoo for my left forearm that would read: “It’s Not About You”–sort of a reminder. I understand that being filled with ego, the self, the me me me, is the antithesis of the childlike, conceit-less humility that is necessary to be filled with Jesus, and I’m saddened by the lack of progress I’ve had on becoming ego-less. (4) Also, if anything I write is moving, seems winsome, helps with coping or lends any clarity at all to life it’s very likely the work of the Holy Spirit. I only take credit for the pompous, pedantic, incoherent junk that appears under my name.
Disquieting thought number 2: I’ve never personally led anyone to the Lord–that I know of. And I’ve really only tried a few times and it didn’t go well, and so I’ve excused myself by saying that witnessing isn’t my gift. I know, that’s pretty lame. It seems remotely possible that something I’ve written did that, but in any event I can’t pat myself on the back for the work of the Holy Spirit. A friend of mine was fond of quoting the scripture that said something like if we were ashamed of the Lord He’d be ashamed of us on Judgment Day–that made me feel great. With both my clients and acquaintances I try to reinforce some smidgen of faith they might already have–fan some ember into flames. But I still hope and pray that at some point I can personally help someone find Jesus.
Disquieting thought number 3: Whilst squirreling around on the web the other day I came across an interview of Tullian Tchividjian, and what he said reinforced something that had been mulling around in my thoughts a lot of late. Tchividjian is not exactly a household name but he’s actually pretty famous. He’s the grandson of Billy Graham, author of several books, and the pastor of a large church in South Florida. The subtitle of his current book is: “How Suffering Sets You Free.” That echoes the title of my book about coping with depression: The Unwelcome Blessing. In a nutshell, what he’s saying is that the Lord’s work in our life is about destroying our idols and He accomplishes that primarily thru suffering: pain and worry and illness and defeats and trials. I guess I’d known that for a while but it’s not something one wants to think about much–the sufferings of Christ overflowing into our lives (2 Cor. 1:5) and the fellowship of His suffering (Phl. 3 :10). We’d rather focus on an upbeat prosperity gospel that says the Lord wants to bless us with many good things in this life–like health, wealth and great relationships. But I’ve been thinking about it because those closest to me are undergoing trials of illness, physical pain, broken family relationships, bankruptcy, etc. Watching those you care about the most hurt and not being able to help is painful indeed. And as for me, I remain pretty much perpetually unhappy, and at times downright miserably depressed, due to feeling alone in the world and empty–craving a relationship and never finding one. Heck, at times, going for months without even a meaningful date.
Well, I attend the men’s codependency group at Celebrate Recovery and that’s certainly appropriate, but I can’t honestly say that in two and a half years I’ve had more than a few minutes of “sobriety.” It’s obvious that my idols have to do with loneliness, intimacy and relationships, and if there’s any hope to be found in emotional pain then I should be quite cheerful about my prospects. I suppose when I no longer care about a relationship that’s when the Lord is likely to bless me with one.
Disquieting thought number 4: I’m terminally vain, and I don’t much like looking like a senior citizen. I don’t mind being old, I just don’t like looking old. I probably look five years younger than my actual age, but I’d prefer looking 47 again–or even 52. Those were pretty good years as I recall. Ladies age 35-ish, just a few years ago would hit on me and now they hold the door for me and address me as “sir”–I hate that. And over the past few months my almost daily workout at Planet Fitness has become the high point of many of my days. Vanity’s consort is an insecure ego, and that’s why I like to have beautiful ladies around me. Okay, so I’m Shallow Hal. My one and only wife was quite stunning and most of my girlfriends have been “lookers.” I figure when a really attractive lady is within 3 or 4 feet of me I must look better myself.
Also, I think it would help my ego if I were friends with some really famous people. I don’t know anybody famous but I have some friends who do, or who at least are within one or two degrees of separation. I have a good friend who knows the Tchividjian guy I mentioned earlier–and as the grandson of Billy Graham he’s evangelical royalty. I have another close friend whose son-in-law is a nephew of the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen–and if you’re over age-50 you understand that’s Roman Catholic royalty to the max. My friend Lisa Hill has worked in the movie business and knows some really famous people like Jack Nicholson and Anthony Hopkins. I think that’s pretty impressive. Sometimes when I shake Pastor Joel’s hand I think he’s probably recently shook hands with President Obama–as he’s one of his official spiritual advisors, and then I think maybe some of the prez’s narcissistic charm will rub off on me. Recently, one of my clients said that I was famous because I’d written a couple books. That made me laugh out loud. She didn’t understand that the books are self-published and that sales are in the dozens. In any event, I like to regale people with stories about people who know famous people even if I don’t know them. That’s probably another one of my idols that the Lord is working on.
Anyway, I think I hear reindeer hooves on my rooftop. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll meet Santa. He’s pretty famous and I’ve been hoping to meet him since I was about four. MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY–or at least you five or six who will read this self-indulgent drivel all the way to the end.