A Threshing Sledge

This will be kind of a part 2 to my last post, so check it out if you haven’t. I’ve realized that I use music to process my thoughts/emotions, so I will once again be using lyrics by The Oh Hellos to tell my story since I’m all about that band right now and they inspired me to write this. Enjoy.


 

If I were to describe the person I wanted to be by the time I left college, he would be buff. His eyes calm, yet they pierced your soul with his caring gaze whenever he looked at you. Mature beyond his years. He was a good friend, always lending a shoulder to cry on and dropping wisdom to sooth weary hearts. His words carried much weight. Above all, he was spiritual, every day striving after things not of this world. He never worried, for he knew all of his afflictions were temporary. He could slay his struggles so well that he may not even have had any, almost sinless, yet humble. He stood atop a mountain, doing all in his power to help those still stuck in the valley get to the top also.

I was young and naive
as I was told, so I believed
and I was told there’s only one road that leads you home

and the truth was a cave on the mountainside
and I’d seek it out until the day I died

The four years of college came and went, and I grew to know the person who emerged from it very well. Success, right? I found what I was looking for and became a man, yeah?

Nah. Unfortunately, the me I knew was nowhere close to that image I had of myself. That image was still only real in my head, but I wanted to believe he was the true me. Despite having absolute knowledge of my struggles, I wanted to believe and live like I was more capable than I actually was. My solution was simple: don’t tell anybody. Not my friends. Not God, like He didn’t know. Just pretend and try to figure it out by yourself.

When you live a life like that, knowing yourself doesn’t matter. It’s useless, actually.

I was bound and determined
to be the child that you wanted
but I was blind to every sign you left for me to find

I so desperately wanted to be that person other people looked up to and God was lucky to have on His side. The eyes of super Daniel were always on me, glaring with disappointment. The weight of his gaze was crippling, and I became so frustrated with myself and with God. I wanted this process of sanctification to be easy, but it usually involves swallowing your pride. I didn’t want it to cost me anything. I hoped that I would just become better without having to lift a finger, just like everything else in life (sarcasm).

and the truth became a tool that I held in my hand
I wielded it, but I didn’t understand

I got tired of giving more than you gave to me
and I desired a truth I wouldn’t have to seek

I finally realized that I had wasted four years of college and then some pretending to be somebody I wasn’t, and it truly cost me. I missed out on deeper relationships and lost friendships and intimacy with the only One who can perfectly love me. I finally let go and decided to be honest with myself, my friends, and my God. I allowed myself to be known. Every struggle, every insecurity, every sin, every joy. My relationships have not been the same since. I’ve never been so close to my friends. Sometimes I feel like I barely knew any of them until recently, yet I have lived with them for years. With God, I had to realize that He is not “lucky” to have me and won’t be. I don’t say that out of self-depreciation. I say it out of truth, which I spent my whole life proving, yet He delights in me. I allowed Him to take His rightful spot on top of the mountain, and He watches. His eyes calm, piercing my unworthy soul with nothing but love and compassion. The weight of His gaze is light and so gracious.

but in the silence I heard you calling out to me

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of getting glimpses of who I used to be. I thought that it would cause me to crawl up in shame, but instead all I could do was rejoice. The person I was is unrecognizable to me now. I can actually see that I am a new creation, and for the first time in my life, I am pleased with who I have become. I don’t mean to sound prideful. It’s just the truth. The valley is now far behind me, but still, I shall not grow content with my current view. Slowly, but joyfully, I ascend.

we were born in the valley of the dead and the wicked
where our father’s father fell to the crimes he’d committed
we were young when we heard you call our names in the silence

still you lead me, never leave me
never leave me


Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
new, sharp, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff;
you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
And you shall rejoice in the Lord;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

Isaiah 41:15-16

on the mountain

Courage, Dear Heart

I have this thing about feelings, which is that I don’t really like having them.

Up until this past year, I think I lived the lie that seeking what made me feel good was what was worth chasing. As it turns out, this can lead to living a very selfish life. It can cause a lot of pain and very bad decisions, but by the time I realized that, it was too late. In an attempt to not repeat the past, I tried not to ignore what I felt.

The Oh Hellos will help me tell my story.

Hello, my old heart,
How have you been?
Are you still there inside my chest?

I’ve been so worried,
You’ve been so still,
Barely beating at all.

It became a beast I was unwilling to let loose again. I rationalized this, thinking that it could protect other people from what I found I was capable of doing. I was being selfless! I could do anything and make any decision not based on emotion, flying around, hoping to protect people from me. Spock! I was Spock.

I give myself too much credit, though. People don’t need protection from me. I was really just trying to protect myself, being selfish and trying to pass it off as being righteous, but it kept me safe, invincible, though a little cold.

Every day I add another stone
To the walls I’ve built around you
To keep you safe.

Hello, my old heart,
how have you been?
How is it being locked away?

Don’t you worry.
In there you’re safe.
And it’s true, you’ll never beat,
But you’ll never break.

I’ve had lots of conversations with a good friend of mine about how we deal with our emotions. What we usually conclude is that hers overflow from her, which, to me, sounds exhausting. I, on the other hand, just ignore them, which, in retrospect, sounds unhealthy. I did not want to admit that feelings need to be dealt with whether or not a decision is based on them, but that would have required more self-examination than what I was comfortable with… which is usually none. I was placing feelings in a space outside of reality, like they were something that was optional and should not affect everyday life. Unfortunately, this does not prepare you for when that box you keep so well hidden starts to overflow and becomes very real.

I’ve come to see that I can’t just ignore this. When I’m hurt, there’s a real, bleeding wound. Ignoring it will be life-draining. I want it to be tended to, perfectly sewn, made stronger. That cannot happen if I’m ignoring this core part of who I am. I want to become a man who loves radically, weeps unashamedly, laughs uncontrollably, agers without sinning. There is joy in all these things! There is life and freedom, even when it hurts. Indeed, it comes with that risk of suffering, but even then I pray that I consider it pure joy. What a marvelous opportunity.

Nothing lasts forever.
Some things aren’t meant to be.
But you’ll never find the answers
Til you set your old heart free.

Til you set your old heart free.


Relevant Quotes:

“…for the first time, let’s just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are and that will be better. OK? I think that will be better.” – Andrew Largeman, Garden State

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – God, Ezekiel 36:26

Daniel vs. the Slope, and Life

I was sitting at the airport in denial, hoping that airplanes can fly straight through blizzards.

They cannot. Our flight was canceled, and the next one was two days later, which would cut deeply into the trip. After several hours, those of us stuck at the airport miraculously caught flights leaving later that day. Some lucked out on standby, while me and another person were able to take the seats of people who canceled their trips. We were on our way to Denver.

My friend and I were twelve hours behind schedule and the last ones to arrive at the cabin in Breckenridge, but we made it. There was fresh snow covering everything, a rare sight for a Texan, but there was no time to play. Our cozy beds were calling. We needed our energy in the days to come.

Two days later, we’re taking lifts up the beautiful snow-covered mountain, snowboards strapped to our left feet. Countless YouTube videos had prepared me for this moment. People say that everybody falls when they get off the lift for the first time, but I would be different. I would float off that mobile bench and blissfully slide atop the fresh powder. The moment for me to jump off comes and… I actually don’t remember what happened, but for the sake of the story and probability, I’ll say that I fell.

Minor setback. I got up and strapped my other foot onto the board. I stood up the way that the YouTube videos showed me, and I was ready. I gazed upon the slope before me, ready to conquer this mountain that had been calling me for the past two days. I slowly made my descent.

The next several hours were series of hard falls, some done intentionally to prevent a collision with a tree or person. I sat in the snow, cursing and punching it for doing this to me. The YouTube video made it look so easy. I considered signing up for lessons, but my friend who is a seasoned snowboarder gave me some pointers. Once again I stood up, determined not to let this mountain defeat me.

By the end of that day, I could leaf down the slope heel side without falling. The next day I tested my ability on the steepest of green (easiest) slopes. I flew down that mountain, still only on my heel side, but I was feeling confident. My goal was to move up to the blue slopes the next day, but I still had to get my toe side down, which I decided I would practice for the remainder of the day.

For those who don’t know, when you are on your toe side, your back is facing the bottom of the slope, so you are basically going down the mountain backwards, meaning that if you fall, you flip over and land on your back. This happened to me many times. I had to take my helmet off a few times in order to clear the holes of the snow that was packed in them from having fallen on my back and hitting my head so many times. I fought off my frustration, knowing that I would get it down. Little did I know that my zeal would be my downfall.

Once again, I found myself getting off the lift at the top of the slope, this time with ease. I felt that my boots could be a little bit tighter, but I wanted to waste no time getting back on the slope. It would have taken a few seconds to turn the knobs on my boots that tightened the straps, but instead, I specifically remember thinking these words right before what would be my last slope of the trip:

“My boots are tight enough.”

I started down the slope with exceptional speed. I was going quite fast, which was starting to scare me, but I thought it was time to put my toe side brake to the test. I turn, but I am not slowing down enough. I leaned even harder into the mountain to the point where my face was only a few feet from the snow. I could feel the snow being violently scraped by my board, yet it seemed to do nothing to slow me down until my board finally caught some snow that it could not move. My board stopped in its tracks, but I kept going. I flipped all the way over and landed onto my back harder than I ever had before.

I laid there for a few seconds before sitting up. My left ankle hurt, but not enough for me to stop. I stood up, and then it hurt enough for me to stop. I decided that my snowboarding endeavors would have to continue the next day, so I started walking down the slope. With each step, the pain grew more severe. I probably walked about ten or twenty feet before I had to sit down. I knew it was bad, but it couldn’t have been that bad. Snowboarding boots are incredibly rigid. They prevent any movement of the ankle. It’s pretty much impossible to break your ankle while wearing them.

Unless the boots aren’t tight enough.

Somebody passing by saw me hopelessly sitting there and went to get help. People on the lifts above me started to shout at me and ask if everything was okay. It was not too long before a worker came on skis, pulling a medical sled behind her. I laid on the bed of the sled, and the worker wrapped me in a yellow tarp. My face was still exposed, so I could see the hundreds of people who stared at me as we passed. It probably looked like she was relocating a corpse.

I arrive at the medical center. I was too banged up for them to do anything, so they were sending me down to the clinic in town. I was given the option of either walking to the bus or getting put in a gurney in the back of a van. My denial and pride led me to choose the walk to the bus, which lasted me about two steps.

After the van ride down the mountain, I found myself lying on one of the many beds at the busy Breckenridge medical clinic, awaiting a doctor to show me the results of my x-ray. My ankle was broken. They didn’t have any cast boots in my size, so they had to make a splint that I would not be able to take off until I got back home. But before that could happen, they obviously had to remove the boot I was still wearing. They had to pull my broken, swollen foot out of the very narrow, stiff hole of the snowboard boot. The pain was so excruciating that I made them cut me out of my sock.

Needless to say, the rest of the trip was not that great. I appreciate my friends’ efforts to try to pump some life back into me, but being on crutches at 10,000 feet makes you too exhausted to enjoy much. We left after a few days, and the next few weeks were Vicodin.

That whole experience played into a lot of fears I still have. Snowboarding was something I really wanted to do. At first I was really bad at it, but I worked past that, which is something I seldom do during the initial difficulties of any new challenge. I guess I could say that that is a victory in itself, but once I found out I was more capable, I set a higher goal which I was determined to reach. I fought so hard for it, but in the end I failed. I did. I was defeated, and it hurt both emotionally and physically.

I’ve been asked if I regret going on that trip or it I’m scarred for life. The answer to both is no. Would I do it again if I knew the outcome would be the same? Definitely not. But I can never know that, and assuming that I’ll fail at everything is keeping me from doing anything. This trip was two years ago, and my ankle is fully healed. It’s actually my good ankle now, and I’d definitely be willing to test it out on the slopes once again. I’d be putting myself in danger of more falls and risking more broken bones, but that’s the truth with anything we want to do. I will not be so easily discouraged, and I believe it will be worth it. It took me too long to realize that. God, help me.

broken ankle


Forth, and fear no darkness.
Arise, arise, riders of Theoden!
Spears shall be shaken. Shields shall be splintered.
A sword day, a red day, ere there sun rises.

 

Two Journal Entries from January 1, 2001

Exactly 15 years ago today, an 8-year-old me wrote this.

First entry:

1/1/01

Im am still awake five minutes after midnight1 just to write this. It the years 2001 and I am reading2 the fourth book of Harry Potter which is called Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I am on chapter 25 (Veritaserum) I am 3 chapters away from finishing the book. Can you guess how much chapters there are. Don’t forget to ask Jesus into your heart because having Jesus in your heart is the greatest gift of all3.

See ya later

Second entry:

1/1/01

Sorry I got ya in one day4. I forgot to tell you about two other toys wegot. For all of us we got a Furby5 its like a toy that is a robot its really cute and you can feed it by pushing down on its toughng6. We also got a vegietales Larry Boy Mobile Larry Boy can fly out of it and the wheeles pop out and then wings pop out. I finished the Harry Potter book. Dont forget to pray to God every day7.

see ya

1This year, I slept 60 minutes before midnight since I volunteered to work the next day. Adult life.
2At 8-years-old, “reading” meant looking at the words in order and not taking in any information. I still “read” sometimes.
3Such wisdom. Not sure why I was writing this to my journal though.
4What? What does that mean? Got who? Got what? This doesn’t make any sense!
5Haters gonna hate, but our Furby was awesome.
6“Tongue” is a very hard word to spell.
7Thanks for the reminder, little guy. I will try to remember.