Default Settings

This weekend it was beautiful in Denver, so Shelley and I took the boys for a hike. The area, known as Red Rocks, is a gorgeous setting. It has huge rock outcroppings, a path/trail that the boys can handle and then a popular amphitheater. We wanted the boys to see it, but as we crested the final stairway I was reminded what makes the place so popular.

It’s not because of the concerts that go on there, but instead because it is a workout mecca. The steep seating sections, the stairs and the atmosphere make it virtually an outdoor gym so people flock to it especially when the weather is nice. And by people, I mean the fittest of the fit. There were skimpy shorts, workout clothes and entirely too much skin showing. I had a moment of panic, bouncing my eyes in every direction, wondering how Shelley was feeling, thinking I should cover my kids’ eyes, yet not wanting to cause a scene with any of it.

For a minute it felt like I was in some overpowering situation where these evil people were casting a spell on me drawing out the lustful urges inside and creating an out of control monster. Like somehow seeing these people and being in this setting should cause fear and intimidation. For years that was my default setting; to be in a situation like this and freak out for nearly having an anxiety attack.

Then I gained some clarity. I didn’t need to freak out. I’m not an out of control lust monster. I don’t have to live in fear. I am a dearly loved, infinitely valuable child of God. My worth and value are rooted in my identity in Christ, not whether or not I lust and not in my physical fitness. These people aren’t evil either. Some of them are probably followers of Jesus. Some of them have a struggle with vanity. Some have no idea what it means to leave something to the imagination. But they aren’t evil.

The default freak out setting can change and instead become a calm, secure, grounded setting.

Does that mean I can be reckless with my eyes? No. Does that mean we need to hang around the place for any extended time? No. Does it mean I need to cause a scene? No.

Remember temptation and lust have no control over you. You don’t have to live in fear and anxiety. You are a child of the risen King, dearly loved and infinitely valuable. You’re not a monster or a pervert. Your default setting can change and become calm, secure and grounded.

3 things my sons need to hear

3 things.001

We have 3 boys and my middle one, Harrison, turned 4 recently. He is so excitable, energetic, fun, cranky, deliberate and fearless. When I think about what his future holds I’m filled with excitement, speculation, hope, expectation and also some trepidation. I’m scared he’ll end up struggling with the same junk I have. I’m fearful he’ll be unfaithful to his wife, assuming he marries. I’m even more concerned over the self-hate he might have to deal with from the shame of his behavior. So, along with my other 2 boys, I have begun the process of (hopefully) preparing him for the road ahead. Specifically, I’m trying to prepare him to not need porn, sex, etc. as a way to cope with life. Here’s how I’m approaching it…

The issue with using our sexuality sinfully is not a problem with sex. It is not about sex. It’s about what sex (and sexual things from lust and fantasy in the mind to the act itself) does to us emotionally. I ended up using my sexuality as a mood-altering drug, and further, as a way of coping with insignificance, inadequacy and a sense powerlessness. If I want my boys to avoid getting tangled up in the web of misusing their sexuality, I need to first address these underlying issues. Since I can’t reason with my 4 year old, and his understanding of himself is in part formed by the feedback he receives from me, I’ve decided to tell him what he needs to know about himself. The hope is that my words (reinforced by my actions towards him, of course) will sink into the deepest recesses of his heart and soul. My words to him are setting the model for God’s words to him. In all likelihood some concept of who and how God is will be predicated on how he experiences me. So I want to be incredibly intentional about what he hears.

Since being born, almost every night (I’ve missed a few here and there) I tell him (and my other boys) these 3 things:

1)   I AM PROUD OF YOU. Just because you’re you. Just because you’re my son. Not because of anything you say or do, but just because you’re you.

2)   I LOVE YOU TO THE MAX! Nothing you could ever do or say would make me love you any less, and nothing could ever make me love you any more. I love you to the max.

3)   I BELIVE IN YOU. And I know you have what it takes to make it as a big boy.

What message does your child need to hear from you? Remember, its never too late to tell them!

Attitude of Gratitude

We’ve all seen and read devotionals, psychology articles, etc. that point toward the benefits of practicing gratitude. But, did you know gratitude can be a helpful component of trust building and marital restoration?

If you’ve violated trust in your marriage, when was the last time you told your spouse you are thankful they didn’t leave you? I mean directly and to the point; “Shelley, I want you to know that I’m thankful for your willingness to stay with me, and for working through the pain I’ve caused you”.

Likewise, when was the last time you told your spouse what you are thankful for about them? I’m not talking about being thankful for what your spouse does, or does for you, or how they make you feel; I mean practicing gratitude for who they are.

A lot of wives want their husbands to want them. In the wake of betrayal, I often hear wives say they want to be wanted for who they are; not what they do, nor what their body is like, nor how they parent, or how they keep the business afloat, or their cooking. To hear, directly, what you love about your wife and that you appreciate the difficulty of choosing to work through things can be healing to them. It can build trust.

We get to benefit from practicing gratitude too. Sometimes I need a reminder that I’m thankful Shelley didn’t leave. Sometimes I need the reminder that her character traits are honorable, cherish-able and unique. In the end, we both benefit.

As an example of practicing gratitude, here’s a recent text I sent Shelley. Maybe you can steal some of it for your own:

——— I cannot imagine life without you. I don’t want to imagine life without you. You said recently that its scary to let yourself need me, and likewise, I think its a little scary to let myself need you too. The intensity of emotion I feel when I think about you leaving, or blowing up our lives again and losing you, is unreal. I don’t ever want to put us or you in jeopardy again. I sure do love you. thank you for not leaving me.——–