Get Out Of Your Head

I remember back when I was a teenager and just starting to like the idea of dating.  I can remember working up the nerve to call a girl or to ask her out in person.  I was not confident in this area.  What I would do of course made it worse.  I would speculate in my head over and over again about how the conversation would go.  Then after a couple of almost dials, I’d let if fly.  You know what never happened one single time?  It never went the way I made it up in my head.  Never.  Not once.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my head and what I’ve named “the pretend“.  It started when I was a kid as imagination.  And there is nothing wrong with imagination.  But as we grow older we have to move into something very important.  We have to live in the real.

Here’s the thing, the key to health in anything, be it business, ministry or our personal life is to define the reality and then deal with it.  It’s one of the key’s to mental and emotional health.

But there are all sorts of ways to avoid reality.  We can choose to hide.  We can do this by “escaping”.  We might escape to fantasy, video games, alcohol, drugs, porn, comics, you name it.  Or we might just spend all of our time alone, consciously or subconsciously avoiding real community.  Some of us have more conversations with people in our heads than actual conversations with people.

I remember this man I knew who was always mumbling.  What I realized later was that he was carrying on a conversation in his head.  If you saw it on the street you would think that guy was crazy.  But if we do it all the time in our head silently are we crazy?

It’s not healthy.  The worst thing about this “pretend world” is that it strains our minds.  And I remind you that it is absolutely not real.

As a single person in today’s world living in our own head is a real trap.  Married people can fall into it as well to be sure, but when half of unmarried people live alone there is often no one around to physically engage.  Many of our jobs have us working basically alone.  We drive in our car alone.  We go home alone.  We eat alone.  Go to bed alone, wake up alone and do it again.

There’s a reason that in prison the worst place to be is solitary confinement.  Even if we are called to celibacy, we are not called to that.

I struggled with this immensely at different times in my life. I would have conversations with people in my mind over and over again.  This was especially true when I was mad, or when I if I need to have a conversation with a girl I liked.  I would turn the conversation over and over again in my mind.  This sort of process is unhealthy.  It took me more into my own head, more isolation and frankly a lot more stress.  The reality is, from a practical standpoint, never one time did a conversation go the way I thought it would.  Not One Time.  

I remember when God started showing me it was wrong.  I can still remember the first time I prayed against it.  I was driving and getting onto a highway and I literally just prayed, “God, clear my head.  Help me to live only in the real, no pretend.”  I kid you not it was like BOOM and there was silence . . . and peace.  After that, God began to walk me out of it.

We have to submit our minds, imaginations and speculations to God.  It’s a fight but I’m telling you it’s worth it.  We need to engage God and we need to engage others.  We need to shut off the computer, the ipod, the car radio, all of it, and engage the real.  It’s not that God doesn’t want us to ever day dream or use our imagination.  But just like the rest of our life, it needs to be submitted to Him, and the incessant analyzing, conjuring, and practice conversations that won’t happen are not a part of that.  We need to take every thought captive.

The more we let the pretend (in all it’s forms) run rampant, the more it will wear us down and isolate us.  This is bad for our work, play, ministry and dating life.  You will not be who you need to be in any of those areas if you don’t pull this area under control.

So how do we fight this.  Here are some practical things:

  • Pray – this seems so basic, but I mean this in two ways.
    • Pray against this specifically.  Submit your imagination and speculation to the Lord.  Ask Him to fill your mind with peace
    • Pray about the things that you are over thinking.  Instead of speculating and imagining things, lift them up.  Don’t practice the conversation, pray about it.
  • Instead of practicing the conversation or confrontation, write down the main things you want to make sure get said and then move beyond it
  • For me, I needed to turn off the fast music when I drove.  Anything that sends you into the pretend, turn it off.  I actually do better with talk radio – because I have to engage and listen.
  • If you work alone, go to where you have to interact with people.
  • Have people in your life.  You must have community and people to engage with.  Everywhere
  • I would encourage you to not live alone.  I know some people love it.  I think it’s dangerous on many levels.

Do you have more conversations with real people or in your head?  When do you fall into the pretend?  What thoughts are not submitted to God?

Should We Touch Each Other?

In the movie Tommy Boy Chris Farley’s character says to Rob Lowe’s character as they are introduced as brothers, “brothers don’t shake hands.  Brothers gotta hug.”  This is of course followed by a very awkward moment as Farley’s youthful innocence meets Lowe’s disdain.

In the Church, as well as society as a whole, we have a touch problem.  It’s real, and we need to actually start addressing it.

A few month’s ago I wrote about The Snuggery.  This is literally a place where you can go and pay money to have someone snuggle with you.  No lie.  Look it up.

As crazy as that sounds, it makes perfect sense.  We live in a world more and more devoid of proper touch.  There is a lot of abusive and sexual touch.  There is very little good touch, if we can even figure out what that means.

But the value of touch in our lives can not be understated.  It is vital and we can’t hide in a corner as the Church and just tell people no.  We need a different answer.

As a guy touch is even more complicated because touch is also a strength thing.  Here’s what I mean.  A lot of times as a young boy or teenager, touch means getting pushed around.  Are you tough enough means can you take a hit.  Are you strong enough means can you dish one out.  We get all sorts of answers to these questions growing up and those answers stay with us, even if they aren’t true anymore.

I was never a wrestle around kid.  I didn’t really know how to get hit or hit back.  Looking back, I wasn’t really weak over all, but I thought I was.  That affected how I viewed touch as I got older.  How you interact with other men physically matters and affects your confidence.

Then there is the touch of the opposite sex.  This is also all jacked up.  And in the Christian circle we are basically told don’t touch each other.  That sounds good, and I get it, but at some level, with no physical interaction at all, we just end up pushing people into a weirder and more awkward place.  If we accidentally equate all touch with shame or sin, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

When you throw in how isolated we are in daily life as singles this can be a disaster that just continues to build.  It hurts.  Touch matters.  The reality is people are doing something with their need for touch.  Touching the wrong way, burying the desire in escapism or fantasy, or just falling into isolation and awkwardness.

Many of us basically work alone.  Then literally half of us go home alone, eat alone, go to bed alone, and then get up alone and do it all again.  That does not lead to healthy touch. That leads to isolation.  Is our advice to single people going to be don’t touch?

We need a different answer than that.  The Church, and we as single people, need to engage this issue.  We need to talk about a right thinking about touch and then we need to live it out.

Touch is all over the Bible.  Jesus is constantly touching people.  This is actually one of the amazing things about Him.  He became flesh.  He lived in a place and at a particular time, just like you and me.  He sweat and smelled, and got tired and sore and He touched people – literally.  The leper, the blind, heck, even the dead.  And he was touched. Women of ill refute, came and touched him  – with their hair and kisses.  Scandalous.

I’ll admit to not having all the perfect answers to this but I believe it starts with something Zack Eswine writes in his book Sensing Jesus.  He writes, “in the New Testament, two kinds of physical touch are set in brutal contrast”.  He points out that the misuse of touch used “to consume or preserve it’s own selfish wants, lusts, desires or agendas” and in contrast a different kind that “envisions a way for Christian community to recover in Jesus how humans were originally meant to touch each other.  Physical touch is meant as a holy act.”  He goes on, “Jesus touched people.  He touched bodies.  But his was not the sexualized touch of a pornographic mind, a controlling cling, or a predator heart.  The way of Jesus’s touch graciously intends to reform our own.”

Here’s my take.  As the Church (and especially if we are going to reach out to the half of the country that is unmarried) instead of running from touch, we need to reclaim it.  In other words we need to own the discussion and do it well.  We need to freaking lead instead of reacting in fear.

This will mean confronting wrong touch and helping both the wrongly touched and the toucher deal.  As men it means dealing with our insecurities and learning our strength and then offering it – physically.  With the opposite sex on a date it means reaching for her hand without thinking about reaching into her pants and realizing that they are not the same thing.

What we can’t do is say, don’t touch, don’t experience that or grow in it, and then if you get married don’t worry, it will just turn on.  That’s ridiculous and irresponsible.

What do you do with your need for touch?  What would holy touch look like?  What have you learned about touch in your life?

Who Diagnoses Your Life?

One night a couple of years ago I began to have severe pain in my abdominal area.  At first it was small, but as the night wore on it got worse.  I remember being at the gas station and barely being able to get out of my car.  I went home and went to bed.  I was breaking into chills and sweat.  As I laid there I began to think of the possibilities.  Could it be my appendix?  An ulcer? Worse?  Was it food poisoning?  I thought about what I ate that day and self diagnosed that indeed that Ranch dressing and salad was the culprit.

I stuck it out and the next day felt a little better.  But I was still hurting some.  I took it easy, went to the bathroom about 10 times and by the next day I was practically normal. Looking back I think about how stupid this was.  What if it would have been my appendix?  At what point would I have self diagnosed that?  At what point would I have called for help?  The funniest thing is I actually know doctors.  It’s not like I even had to start with the hospital.  It could have been disastrous.  If I’d gone down that night in my house who would have known.

It’s one of the perils of being single.  28% of Americans live alone.  That means that somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of singles live by themselves.  This can be bad for practical reasons as I’ve written about here.  There really is a safety factor.  What if you fall or pass out etc.?  What if I had self diagnosed wrong?  Who would know?  On top of this many of us work alone, or at least without a big office?  How long would it take for someone to know you’re missing in action?

But the safety factor pales in comparison to two others.

The reality is it’s pretty easy to get isolated.  Now I don’t mean that you don’t see or work with other people.  Of course we communicate and live in the real world.  But it is very easy to avoid real community and therefore end up without anyone speaking into our lives. As bad as self diagnosing a physical problem wrong could be, misdiagnosing our lives is worse – and we all do it.

All of us are deceived about our own story.  We misdiagnose both our sin and our wounds.

We look at our sin as minor and we never know the impact it has on others.  There is sin in our lives that never even sees the light of day because no one else is there to view it.  We might literally not even know we are doing it.  There is often no one to see it or call it out. There is no one to confess to.  We desperately need this.

Maybe worse, we end up believing lies about ourselves that affect everything we are doing.  If we only have our view of our story, we are in real trouble.  Things that were never our fault end up being.  We end up agreeing with ideas about our hurt that simply aren’t true.  We can spend our whole time fighting against things like, “I’m ugly”, “I’m stupid”, “I suck” etc.  It’s hard to see God’s view of us if we don’t have people in our lives who know our story and can speak into it.

In short we will take responsibility for stuff that isn’t our fault and brush off the stuff that is.  Everyone does this, married and single, but as a single person we are more likely to face little or no resistance to it.  And that is a problem.  We can hide if we want to – and we often do.

Some of us are thinking food poisoning when we need to be thinking appendicitis.  We need to reach out for some help.  Even if we have tried before and gotten burned.  We have to fight for community as a single person.  There is no doubt that it is harder.  Maybe not if you are 25 but as you hit 30-40 it is harder as a single.  I’m not whining, that’s just reality.  The Church culture is not set up for us.  28-40 is when all your crap hits the fan and you can not face that alone and win.  You just can’t.

If you misdiagnose your life at 25 you have a chance.  Do it at 35 and you’re screwed.  

1 John 1:5-7 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

As a single we have to find this.

Who besides you has a view of your story?  Who helps diagnose your life?  Where are you being deceived?

Focus On God’s Family

When I think back over my 20 years of singleness, one of the hardest things to deal with is loneliness and living life without a “nuclear family.”  It means you keep switching who you live with, hang out with and often go to church or small group with.  There is very little built in permanence to our relationships as an unmarried person.

This is exasperated by the transience of our society.  We move a lot.  Sometimes this is because we refuse to just settle in and settle down, but sometimes it is harder to stay put. Why can’t you move for that job promotion or calling?  You have fewer ties.

I remember when God was calling me to a new place in my career at age 30.  One of the biggest things that held me back was that I didn’t want to start all over relationally.  When you are married and you move, you have to start over, but you get to do it with someone. You still wake up with the same person, even if it is a new place.

The Church has a huge opportunity here.  But mostly we fumble it because we are focussed on the wrong family. 

As I mentioned last week many churches have family as an idol.  As pointed out by John in the comment section, some churches flat out say this, calling the family the foundational institution of society.  Most churches won’t say that in writing, instead they just imply it by almost everything they do and talk about.  But this is not right and not from the Bible.

Jesus almost never even mentions the nuclear family, and when he does He is usually talking about it mattering too much in the wrong ways.  Now to be fair that was a different culture in which family was more central than in our current one.  However the way to fix the lack of family in our culture is not to focus on it, but instead to focus on God and His family.

Jesus certainly does.  In Matthew 12 Jesus is speaking to people, sharing truths with a crowd.  His nuclear family shows up and they want to talk to him (or maybe reign him in a little).  Jesus responds, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  Not exactly the answer we’d often hear today.

This is so important.  It’s part of what makes the Gospel scandalous.  This idea that there is new order coming, a new Kingdom where things are different and where all are welcome. He promises that those who have left all (including family) for the sake of the Kingdom will not be left out.

Again, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t teach about how to have a Godly marriage and family.  FAR FROM IT, or as Paul would say, BY NO MEANS.  In fact marriage was ordained by God (pre-sin) and it and the family can be a picture of the Kingdom when done right – so we need to learn to do it right. But what it does mean is that we have got to start from the premise of the bigger picture. A right theology of marriage, singleness and family can only start from having a focus on Jesus and His family first.

The Church should be a place where everyone feels welcome.  But right now that is often not the case.   And the reason isn’t because single people care less about God.  Here’s the truth – one of the hardest things to do as a single person is go to church alone.  It’s scary.  It’s easier to go almost anywhere else as an unmarried person.  School, work, the bar, the concert, the movies – all easier.  Especially for a non-believer (you know those people we are supposed to be reaching out to).

I’ve lived this.  When you move to a new place, church hunting as a single is brutal.  You have to be super motivated to make it happen.  Friends, when a single person shows up at your church, they are either really trying or really seeking – you need to go get them because if you do, God will move.

This starts by focusing on the Church family.  This is why it’s so important for married and singles to be friends.  As I’ve mentioned before, all my mentors have been married.  I have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and even kids that are married as well as single.  They are my family just as much as my blood family.

We singles need to do our part.  The Church should be our permanence. That’s the promise of the Gospel and the way it’s going to be in the end anyway.  But when the focus is on the nuclear family and not the Church family we don’t fit.

What is your church’s focus?  Which family is first?

Would Jesus Snuggle?

The other day one of my friends posted a link on facebook that just stopped me.  I wasn’t even sure exactly what to do with it – it’s just dumbfounding.  And yet . . . it’s not.  Which is why she posted it.

There is a new place called The Snuggery.  Basically the idea is that we all need physical touch and intimacy.  It brings healing and comfort.  But sense most people don’t have it, this lady has started a business.  I’m not making this up.  For $50 you can have a 45 minute snuggling session.  There are two professional snugglers.  You can snuggle with both for $100.  Again, I’m not kidding.

It’s not to be sexual and it must be fully clothed (pajamas are ok though).  Just wear what you are comfortable in.  You can talk or not talk.  Whatever you want.  You just snuggle. You get to be touched.

I’m literally not sure whether to laugh or cry.  Seriously.  In a way it breaks my heart.  This is where we are at as a society.  We are this alone.

Now I guarantee there are some married people who haven’t snuggled at home in a while, which is tragic.  But as a single person this is a huge issue.

I mentioned this in one of my first blogs.  One of the absolutely hardest things as a single is the lack of touch.  And the older you get, the more this is true. What these ladies have right is that touch matters.  Under the heading of WHY SNUGGLE they list out the benefits of intimate, nonsexual touch.  They aren’t wrong about any of it.  And as their lead sentence says, “Why Snuggle? Quite simply because it makes us feel good.”

But if you are single what do you do with this?  If it is true that we need touch, what do we do?

The problem is exasperated by several things.  First off we have had a lot of bad physical touch in our culture.  Over the course of their lifetime 28% of kids age 14-17 have been sexually violated in some way.  This doesn’t even begin to include physical abuse or physical neglect.  That is the world we are growing up in.

Secondly, we have a much more isolated world.  We are way more likely to work alone, and 28% of us live alone. (Now if half of us are married that means that 50% of single people live by themselves.)  That does not lead to good touch.  It leads to isolation.

Finally, partly in response to all of the above and the sexually immoral culture that we live in, the Church has told us not to touch anyone.  Kiss dating goodbye.  Don’t touch or it could lead to sex.  I get it, I really do, but man, if we don’t touch at all, that can’t be good.  We can’t live in fear and call it religion.

I can speak from personal experience here.  I went 10 years without kissing anyone (age 25-35).  Most of that was spent with very little touch.  There were lots of reasons.  But to be honest as I turned the corner of 30 I was messed up, and I’d say lack of touch contributed to that.  I remember feeling awkward even hugging sometimes.

I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure how to fix all this.  I’m not suggesting the Church start establishing Christian Snuggeries.  But I know that we need an answer.  We need something different than “don’t have sex” and “don’t go to far”.  Why should two women be addressing this while we stand on the sidelines?

Appropriate touch is vital.  I can’t remember where I saw it but there is a video of nuns in a poor country taking in dying children.  You know the first thing they did?  They hugged them and held them for extended periods.

In Mark 2 a leper approaches Jesus.  Back then, lepers were separated out and seen as unclean.  They were to avoid contact with the “clean” people at all costs.  In fact there was a six foot rule that said no one was supposed to be within six feet of them.

But as this guy approaches Jesus, he doesn’t move out of the way.  Now Jesus could have said the word and this man would have been healed of leprosy.  But he still would have been untouched, and maybe people would have wondered, “is he really well?”

In one of the most simple, powerful moments in Jesus’ ministry, he reached out and touched the man.  He knew he needed more than a physical healing – he needed to know he was touchable.

Somehow we have to rescue this.  We have to know that not only are we “Christian” or “Saved” but that we are touchable.  Whatever message we send the single person, that has to be part of it.

Have you ever suffered from lack of touch? Where do you go for appropriate touch?