Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Second Question (Processing 2010 - pt 2)

I wrote Part 1 of this post back at the beginning of the year.  Been sitting on Part 2 for over a month now. Guess it should be posted before 2012 comes around.

My 2010.

With its varying degrees of ups and downs, people commonly use a roller coaster to describe life.  The hills & valleys come, but we understand, or at least assume, that one is a precursor to the next.

2010 was the unusual experience for me of the different altitudes not lining up one after the other and taking turns.  Instead, throughout the year they were continually jockeying for position, hence always occupying the same space.

Some of the endearing moments were incredibly special experiences with family: Florida & DisneyWorld, road trips, and exploring Chicago.  Others revolved around activity: starting my awesome job at Logos Bible Software, teaching a new class at Moody (Spiritual Life & Community), and having opportunities to speak at different New Life locations.  The pinnacle "friend" moment of the year was a road trip with some buds to see the Bears kill the Panthers.

At one point last year I blogged about how low of a month March was for me.  The truth is, March was the prelude of things to come for the rest of the year.  Some days it would be a mere feeling of sadness, other days a little more intense.  For example, after having a great week at work, I'd start wondering if I've ever really accomplished anything over the years; or after planning ahead for a few weeks, I'd start wondering if I could be used again.  It was a perpetual funk that would never completely exit.

Many of these high and low moments overlapped in time; as stated above, not really waiting for the other to finish its turn.

It was said, during one conversation I had with a friend, "Maybe you are in mourning and just not realizing it.  It's not like you've really given yourself a lot of time to think through all of the crap you've experienced the last 4-5 years."  Yeah, maybe that's it.

What I did realize is that the question which seemed to come at me a lot in 2010 was, "What are you doing?" However, very few were asking me, "How are you doing?"  I needed to focus on the second, but allowed myself to become too distracted by the first.  This to my peril.  The other paradoxical side of the coin though, I in some ways avoided people asking me the second question.  It's not like the question ever came a lot, but even if it had, I really didn't have an answer.

The hard thing to explain is that I really did have an amazing year.  It was just one that brought along with it a dark cloud, that, to varying degrees, never seemed to let up until around the holidays.

While Jeannette & I were hanging out with some friends for New Years Eve, one shared his story of "how life was."  Two completely different trajectories between us, but I was really resonating with a how he was putting his outlook on life and feelings into words.  He said, "It's like I know where I want to go, I just have no idea where I am."

Couldn't have put it better myself.  It was my two questions summarized in his one sentence: "I know where I want to go ("What are you doing?"), I just have no idea where I am ("How are you doing?").

So in 2011 I'm figuring out where I am.  I'm working hard to answer the second question.

From an article in Leadership magazine, John Ortberg said this:

I once was part of a survey on spiritual formation. Thousands of people were asked when they grew most spiritually, and what contributed to their growth. The number one contributor to spiritual growth was not transformational teaching. It was not being in a small group. It was not reading deep books. It was not energetic worship experiences. It was not finding meaningful ways to serve. It was suffering. People said they grew more during seasons of loss, pain, and crisis than they did at any other time.

"People said they grew more during seasons of loss & pain."  In this reality I have found both hope & joy the last couple months.

It's hard to bring all from above and others thoughts about the last year together into a cohesive conclusion, so I won't bother.  Here are some random ramblings about the last year:
  • Being honest about our feelings is more important than being accepted for our feelings.  This isn't to ignore appropriateness in how we share, nor wisdom in who we share to. However, in my opinion too many people withhold what they are experiencing.  I want to be a person known for being genuine.  I'm not going to fake it till I make it (that's just stupid advice).  Sometimes I won't be good at it and will need to regain focus, but that refocusing is what brings growth and change.  The reality is though, we can't regain focus if we can't admit we're out of focus.  We need to be real, especially during our broken times.
  • Be willing to share what you are experiencing.  Being open accomplishes two things: it allows others to help us, and it allows people going through similar situations to know they aren't alone.  Not sharing doesn't help you, nor others.
  • Don't let not knowing what to say or do stop you from checking on a friend.  Your lack of expertise is irrelevant.  Your presence and your concern is of utmost relevance. 
  • Sometimes people will make a judgment of your character and abilities without really connecting with you and finding out who you are or what is going on.  These people are not called friends, they are called idiots.
  • If I didn't return a call or email, please call back or resend.  Sometimes I was genuinely busy and might have missed something.  Other times I might have not been in the mood to talk.  This is all pretty much why the "Moss Updates" stopped coming. What do you say when you don't want to fake it, but at the same time don't have the words. 
  • My wife is my rock and anchor, I love her deeply.  She was always helpful, understanding, and loving toward me through this last year.  We have grown closer and closer as the years have gone by, but our relationship became incredibly stronger after this last year when I was feeling broken.  Our kids are our joy.   She is an incredibly mommy; being out and about with her and the kids this year was most meaningful to me.
  • John Ortberg's books should be read by everyone.  John is the rare leader who is really honest about his feelings and experiences.  By that I mean he shares more than just the general "We all have hard times."  One of my spiritual high points last year came when I read Orterg share that he went through a season very smilar to what I was going through.  Our details were obviously different, but not the feelings.  I wasn't alone.
  • Dan Allendar's books should be read by everyone.  I first heard Dan Allendar at The Story conference back in October, and I can honestly say it was one of the big turning points for me this past year.  His books Cries of the Soul and To Be Told are amazing, you should go to Amazon and buy them as soon as you finish reading this.  
  • And need to start listening to Mumford & Sons.  They were recommended to me by my friends Jeff and Kevin, and they have quickly become one of my favorite bands.  Their music has an amazing folk/rock sound, their lyrics are deep and beautiful, and their overall sound is incredibly unique and powerful.  Their song, The Cave, has been my life anthem the last couple months.  It's what my alarm brings in the morning to wake me up, my new ring tone, my go to song when I sense the funk, and my reminder to focus on the second question.   
My spirit is different going into 2011.  Refreshed in many ways, regaining focus in others. I am excited about today, I am thankful for my family & friends, and I'm doing my best to love God.  
The funk still comes around from time to time, but when it does, I say a prayer of thanks for how God continually showers down his grace and mercy on such a messed up piece of clay like me.

And then I crank up The Cave:

     But I will hold on hope
    And I won't let you choke
    On the noose around your neck

    And I'll find strength in pain
    And I will change my ways
    I'll know my name as it's called again

    Cause I have other things to fill my time
    You take what is yours and I'll take mine
    Now let me at the truth
    Which will refresh my broken mind

    So tie me to a post and block my ears
    I can see widows and orphans through my tears
    I know my call despite my faults
    And despite my growing fears

    But I will hold on hope
    And I won't let you choke
    On the noose around your neck

    And I'll find strength in pain
    And I will change my ways
    I'll know my name as it's called again

    So come out of your cave walking on your hands
    And see the world hanging upside down
    You can understand dependence
    When you know the maker's land

    So make your siren's call
    And sing all you want
    I will not hear what you have to say

    Cause I need freedom now
    And I need to know how
    To live my life as it's meant to be

    And I will hold on hope
    And I won't let you choke
    On the noose around your neck

    And I'll find strength in pain
    And I will change my ways
    I'll know my name as it's called again