Thursday, March 28, 2013

The beauty in the break-up mix: feeling worse to feel better

Over the years, I've talked to a lot of people of various ages about break-ups. From teenagers to middle-aged adults and a few even a little older, this is one experience everyone can agree just plain sucks. Everyone handles break-ups in their own ways, but there is one item I find that nearly everyone shares in common, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, or any other factor: the break-up mix. In my day, it was a mix-tape--then later a CD--of songs and ballads that were as dark and depressing as I felt at the time. Now, I love music, so my mix was a bit eclectic by most people's standards, but I definitely had some go to's that stuck with me over the years, including Air Supply's "All Out of Love,"  "Can You Stand the Rain" by New Edition, and "All Apologies" by Nirvana, amongst many others. No one's mix is the same, but you get the idea. These were the songs I often played while I was alone, not ready to see people yet, in the dark, feeling horrible about losing the absolute love of my life...again. "She was the one, I'll never love anyone again," I would say, but let's just say I have more than a few mix-tapes and CD's to my credit.

I think this is the beauty of the break-up mix. We often listen to them when the break-up just occurred, at a time when we are the most vulnerable, and we are not ready to face the world yet. The mix often made me feel so much worse than I originally felt, but sometimes you just need to feel worse before you can feel better. I know, this sounds completely counterproductive, but for some reason it helps tremendously. I always felt like I needed to spend some time--or in some cases a lot of time--wallowing in my loneliness and sadness for my loss, and there is some truth to that approach. You need to take the time to mourn your loss and work through the emotions that come with it. The time alone also gave me the opportunity to reflect on what happened, look back on some of the good memories, and most importantly, gave me the chance to lick my wounds and heal ever-so-slightly before I went back out into the world. The time alone listening to the most depressing mix I could come up with gave me the time to feel bad, but also gave me the time I greatly needed to pull myself back together again and eventually move on.

I want you to know it's okay to feel bad. It's okay to feel horrible about your loss. It's even okay to keep yourself in that state of awfulness, while you work through it. But, remember that the goal is to ultimately work through it. The goal is to use the time to heal. You see, the other beautiful part of the break-up mix is being able to look back at it, share it with friends, and be able to laugh, and kid, and look fondly at the whole experience. It becomes a "remember that time," "your mix was so bad," "whatever happened to so and so" kind of memory. The whole experience is an unavoidable part of life; but, and this is big but, you will make it through, and you will grow from the experience and learn to love again.

The darkness always gives way for the light, and the light can always find its way back into your life. Though things seem bleak and dark now, a new day will come, bringing peace, and comfort, and joy with it. I swear this is true because I have lived through it more than I care to admit. Don't feel bad about feeling bad right now, but don't close the door to your life, shutting everyone and everything out. Close this chapter of the story, and begin writing the next chapter of your life. The author of it all is not done with you yet.

For those of you who have no idea what songs I'm talking about and those who want a little nostalgia:

Air Supply - All Out of Love

New Edition - Can You Stand the Rain

Nirvana - All Apologies

Monday, March 25, 2013

A short trip into my dark past

This weekend has been upsetting yet still edifying. For me, this whole weekend has been a reminder of my past, which--for those who know me well--is generally not a good thing. Everything I have watched on television, heard on the radio, or read in a book brought up memories of my past. I wish I could say it was a completely happy experience, but that's just not possible with my particular background. However, the lesson I learned is that I need to visit some really dark parts of my past in order to work through them and share the experience with others. Moreover, at this point and time, I have the strength to do so, whereas in the past I could not say the same. I can even look back at some of the crazier things in my past and see the good that came out of it, and in a very few cases, I feel happy. The past does not define me, and while this may sound like a cliche, my experiences have made me the person I am today, so I would not change a thing.

Let me state something important here: this kind of thinking was not a possibility for me 10 or 15 years ago. Being in my own mind for more than 10 seconds or so would have been way too much for me to handle. In fact, an experience like the one I had this weekend would have probably driven me completely insane, or worse. For a very long time, I just did not feel like there was any hope for me. I had lived such a messed up life that I felt like that was all there was left. Gangs, drugs, violence, the loss of people in my life, desperation to live a different life, and the lack of hope were just too much. I could be out partying it up with my friends, and if a stray memory made its way in there for even a second, things would take a turn for the worse. I would either flip out, pick a fight with someone, or end up fighting with myself--a fight I have never won. Trust me; when you beat yourself up, no one emerges a winner. Now I look back, and I see how my experiences can be used to benefit others: see me in my brokenness, and see how my life has been redeemed. There really is a bright side, things do change, and you always have the opportunity to do something amazing with your life.

Over time I hope to share more with you, so you too can see that no obstacle is too great, and no life is completely void of hope. At the risk of sounding lame, when you hit rock bottom, there is no where left to go except up. Beware though, don't stay at rock bottom too long. Take it from me, as someone who forced himself to wallow in the depths for far too long. There is always reason to have hope, even if it is incredibly difficult to see at the moment.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

You can't run a race backwards

1 Corinthians 9: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Philippians 3: 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The thing about a race is that you have to stay on course. It's really hard to win a race if you are incapable of following the track. Your eyes need to stay fixed on the goal ahead, if you are to reach the end. You cannot stray to the left or to the right and expect to get there. Moreover, it's really difficult to get anywhere if you are always looking backwards instead of forward. You cannot see the path before you, if you are constantly living in the past. Now don't get me wrong; looking back with fondness at beautiful memories is fine, but spending all of your time looking at your life with regret is completely different. Regret is a stronghold because regret places your focus on the wrong things. Regret prevents you from living your life in the way God intended. Living your life focused only on the would've, could've, should've in your life is like trying to run a race backwards; it just doesn't work; trust me, I've spent a lot of my life living backwards.

You cannot change the past, but you still have the future to look forward to. It's not too late to get back on track, and live your life in the way God intended. God calls us all to greater things than this, so we must persevere and press on. God calls you into a life of abundance. He calls you into His presence to walk in His joy and peace. The path ahead is glorious, even you are struggling in the present, but you cannot move forward if you are still living in the past. Let go of the past and accept the things you cannot change because God accepts you as you are, and in this way you will find the freedom that comes from living a life in Jesus Christ. I pray you all experience and live in the love, and joy, and freedom and peace of God. I pray for extraordinary favor for each and every one of you.