Reflections on MeToo

In my mid-twenties, I briefly dated a girl I had become friends with. They were fun dates, but felt more like hang-outs with a good friend than anything that might actually lead to a relationship. This may be why the dating didn’t last long, but we were still good friends after. On our third or so date, I took her to an Avalanche game, which was a great 7-1 blowout, amazing since they had been playing terribly that season. When the game was over I had wanted to walk down the street through the Auraria campus, where I had gone to school, and where she was considering doing her Master’s. I had assumed other people would be out and about, but I was horrified to find the street almost completely empty.

Oh, shit, I thought. This is going to look bad. We made it to the lightrail station at the other end, but the next train was scheduled to turn up a whole half an hour later. Our options? Wait, or walk to the West Campus station. How do you get to the West Campus station? By passing through the darkest part of campus, full of small houses and empty park spaces, then winding your way through several buildings. All at night, all in the dark. I found myself apologizing profusely, but she actually seemed much more comfortable than I did. You’d also just have to know her. We made it to the West Campus station and boarded a train soon after.

As a man, you are considered guilty until proven innocent. After all, if you were innocent until proven guilty, the only time you could be proven guilty was after you had become guilty. After somebody had been hurt. Therefore, you are assumed to be guilty until proven innocent. You live this. You breathe this.

I was walking through the grocery store one day. I needed to get through an aisle and picked the nearest one that didn’t have five people in it. Unfortunately, this one had a woman and her baby with a shopping cart. She left the shopping cart dead center in the aisle, and her baby in it, as she checked boxes on the shelf. Whatever, I thought, and squeezed past. She immediately made a startled, frightened motion, reaching quickly for her cart (or child?). It made me angry. Yes, I’m the bogey man, I thought. Or maybe don’t leave your stupid cart in the middle of the aisle next time?

When I was in college, I went on a group day hike with people from my campus. At one point, several of us were in a large passenger van, waiting for something. I was sitting in the back, looking outside, minding my own business, when one of the girls a few rows up completely freaked out. One of her female friends had reached around her shoulder from behind. She started laughing. “Oh, I thought it was him!” she said, pointing to me. I don’t remember it as vividly now, but for many years that memory would replay, a stunning testament that something was wrong with me. I was a fairly quiet guy back then, but why did that make me the suspect? Was it because I was male, or was there something scary about me as a person? Was something wrong with me? Did other women see me that way, too?

Guilty until proven innocent.

I’ve long contended that the worst way to be rejected for a date is to be told yes, only to later be told no. Many years ago (now), that happened to me for the second time ever. I didn’t know her well, and only got to know her through other friends, but I could pick her out of a crowd, “Yes, that’s the girl I want to know more!”, which is a great feeling, by the way, when you’re certain that you’re interested, even if it takes time to feel that way. The day I finally had my chance, she was leaving church, and I nearly missed it, so I rushed to catch up at the front of the church. We chitchatted for a bit, walking into the parking lot, before I asked her out. She said yeah, and we could figure the details out at another church event. Awesome!

But it wasn’t to happen. The story is confusing and emotional, but I never got a chance to iron those details out: the real answer was no. It hurt pretty bad to hear that, after getting my hopes up, but then it occurred to me: You asked her out in the middle of the parking lot, when hardly anybody else was around. Daytime doesn’t matter. How could she have known how you would respond? Of course she said yes. It was the safe thing to say at the time….

Oh.

I hadn’t thought about that. Hadn’t intended that. We just kept walking. It still hurt, but I understood. Alright then, I told myself. Nevermind.

You can see how women have been hurt. You see it in their reactions. Their attitudes. You hear stories from your friends. You don’t know what to do about it. Classmates, co-workers, friendly people on planes, when randomly they insert a story or a detail about their boyfriends in the conversation. A buffer. Just in case.

You understand. You aren’t offended.

You hate the stories of hurt because you hate that people are hurt. But you also hate the stories of hurt because you are also paying the price. It’s become your duty. Your duty is to understand and be okay with the extra space women need. You become a professional space-maker. A professional boundary-setter. Because you want to do good. You want to do the right thing. And if you don’t? You become one of them. You become somebody else’s #MeToo. You don’t want that. So you learn, and you learn, and you learn some more.

I have a female friend who has been proposed to by strangers in Wal-Mart on two separate occasions. It’s a joke among our friends. Something to remember and chuckle at. We laugh at it because it’s better than the alternative, which is being reminded just how fucked up our world is. There are enough reminders of that.

I had a group of friends I hung out with in highschool. Good, smart people. I’m thankful for them. But one of our members, for a time, had things rough. Her family was in poverty. Her window was broken and their family didn’t have enough money to fix it, so she was cold in the winter. She often went without food, and although we always offered to buy her a burger from McDonald’s ($1 at the time), she would usually shyly refuse.

She once described her ex-boyfriend and his brother as monsters. I feel like an idiot because I was only certain of what that meant in recent years. She disappeared from school for awhile, and when she turned back up, she had started smoking. We lost touch with her again soon after.

I was very hard-line anti-drinking, anti-smoking back then. But her case felt different. And I used to be a very judgemental person. That’s a story for another day. I’ve been learning over the past decade plus not to be. I guess I can be pretty critical of ideas I don’t like, but still. You build compassion as you go through life. I don’t know that it’s ever perfected, but it does build.

There was a day in youth group when a girl spoke up about forgiveness. Usually people are surprised by forgiveness, like, God really forgives all my sins? But this was different. It sounded that way at first, as she inquired about it. But it grew and grew. We, good youth group students, gave our best church answers because that was all we knew. “So no matter what you’ve done, no matter how terrible it was, you just turn to God and confess, and he just forgives you, and that’s it?” She was in tears. She was breaking down. Theology, theology. I never saw her after that day.

I hate theology. It’s still important. It’s still useful. I think I hate theology because it bores my brain, more than most subjects in existence. But I’m slowing learning to be cautious with the straight and narrow path, because you just don’t know what people have been through.

There are a million ruminations I could add. Stories, anecdotes. I think this is all I can handle for today. I build a space between the world and myself, a space to release. Not everybody gets that luxury.

Community

The past few years have been full of odd seasons. It all started with a mass exodus of friends from Colorado, coinciding with the disintegration of the young adult group at my old old church. This lead to a wandering in the desert, a desperation for community at my old church, and finally seemed to settle down when I began attending my current church.

I just…never got the feeling that things were finished.

I’ve been dying to write for the past few weeks, and today is as good a day as any. Tonight was the official last day of the young adult group at my church. We’re still hanging out going forward, but to be honest, there is a bit of a slump in my step as I breathe into the night air, wondering when things will finally settle down.

I don’t believe I have ever been truly depressed. I think every winter I suffer from a mild version of the so-called “seasonal affective disorder”, but that’s about it. Otherwise, I suffer occasionally from…extreme sentimentalism. I’m not even kidding you. Dwelling on the past too much can really make me sad. I had this big-time when I lived alone in my apartment, just some evenings all I could think about were the “good old days”, especially with family (oddly enough, I also remember experiencing that before I moved to the apartment…when I still lived with my family!)

But this season has now joined the others in being…very odd.

I had specific goals with money. I no longer know what those goals are, I just keep shoveling money into the retirement accounts. I had countries I wanted go to, but the overwhelming message from God is to let go of those because the time still isn’t right. It was originally my goal to be married before age 30, but that definitely wasn’t in the books. I thought my career would be further, too, but I’m still stuck writing boring database code when I could be building fun web applications. I’m currently in a lot of prayer over that.

And even thought it is very likely that our young adult group will in fact stay together, I just don’t know what my bigger community will look like going forward, even just having received the clear message that things are not done changing. Some day, my parents will probably retire to Idaho. Some friends may move to California, others may move to Colorado Springs. It makes you want to look to God and ask, “The fuck do you want from me?”

In the midst of it all are my own fears of what people think of me. For example, sometimes I’m tempted to remove the “harsher” posts I’ve put on this blog. I enjoy letting myself be raw and emotional, but it often causes friction, and a lot of those things aren’t necessary to say. And there’s always that temptation that if I can just manage to please everyone, to say all the right things, then everyone will think highly of me. But I don’t have perfect opinions. I can be arrogant in certain areas of life, while also being dreadfully insecure in others.

I struggle to feel like community is ever enough. I long for deeper connections, for deeper friendships. But sometimes you have to realize that people can’t necessarily provide that. It wasn’t until I learned about the Enneagram and realized I was a 6 in that system that some of my past begin to make sense. I think a lot of my social searching has just been a searching for something to be loyal to.

You could put a theological spin on it, but I hate theology. Theology isn’t the heart, the soul; it’s the “supposed to be”, the theory behind the real bread and butter. Don’t theologize community to me. I’ll fight you.

This is a just a vent post, musings. Fortunately, there’s nothing cataclysmic about the de-official-izing of this group, but it makes me think about the bigger picture, where things in my life are going. More questions are on the horizon.

The Edge of Forever

People think you’re weird if you spend too much time ‘taking it in’. We go to our locations, snap our pictures for instagram (if that’s what you’re into), and go home. But I remember when I was a child when I didn’t have the option to get up and leave. I remember I would be present where I was and take it in. I have a lot of memories and impressions where I don’t know exactly what they were from, but I believe they came from really sitting in the present and feeling them, whether it was a scene outside, a colonial poster from a book, or paintings on our walls.

When I was a child, there was one particular day when Mom took me to our local Toys R Us. The land the store was located on was elevated above the other stores in the area and was made of a tan stucco or concrete color with a vast parking lot. This was back in the 1990s when retailers more frequently placed products outside for display, and I remember the mood of the sun over the displays. I found a Crash Dummies toy I really wanted. I’ve always described the setting, how it felt, as if being at the edge of the world, but in a more dream-like way, as if being at the edge of forever. Above was the great void of the sky, and beyond the parking lot must surely have been the great void where the Earth dropped off. Between these voids was the light of the sun, warm on my arms and warm on the boxes and the plastic that sat on the shelves.

It’s entirely possible I’ve confused the details of that memory, but the feelings, now you never forget those. This scene and how it made me feel has been a key element for many of the stories I’ve wanted to write, and every now and then I come across it when the sun is beating down on suburbia, or when the zoo has those fake African huts made of stucco. Sometimes at the junk yard, or the flea market.

As I was snowshoeing today, I looked up a smooth, sloping hill to see a solid field of unbroken snow. The clouds above blew flurries up and over the mountaintops, and the sun shown down from above. And on the way back I paused here again to really take it in this time. The sun was going down, and through that frosty mist high above, you could, at times, see the disk of the sun. I felt that I could have spent hours there, taking it in, but somewhere inside, I almost felt like crying, because there’s so much we don’t, or even can’t, take in.

Sometimes I feel you better watch out. You could be laying in your bed, or your tent; you could be shopping at the mall or watching the rain, and you could turn right over and slip off the edge of forever.

Updates and Reflections on 2018

It seems a bit odd to be writing this on Christmas Eve, as I have really nothing to reflect on about Christmas itself. But I am sprawled out on my parents’ guest bed in my old bedroom and I felt it was fitting to write here what’s been on my mind this past week.

Updates!

Since the key purpose of this blog is to write about money, I suppose I should say something about it. I suppose. Seven days from now, as long as I’m not laid off or fired, my final HSA contribution will pass and I will hit the golden trifecta of maxing out my 401k, Roth IRA, and HSA. Holy heck has it been a crazy ride. You’d be surprised how fast those pre-tax 401k contributions add up, too. Yeah, yeah, markets tanked in October, people are freaking out, I’m not worried about that. In fact, I’m kind of hoping it drops a little more so that when my limits reset in January, I’ll be buying in a down market.

The G-IRA is complete; I’ve hit my giving goal. My big G-IRA “distribution” was a huge success and the target individual (TI) was completely caught by surprise. Bam! Probably the most fun I’ve ever had giving. Not easily replicable, however. With that done, I originally wanted to spend the rest of the money on some attempts at prophetic giving (taking expensive stuff to strangers, listening to God to hear who to take them to), but for whatever reason that felt really off this year, it just didn’t feel right for the time, so I spent the rest on Christmas gifts for my family. No regrets. And I mean, TI could have taken a fraction of that money and bought a really great [thing] instead, but the real power of the G-IRA is that you have no reason not to go big for someone else. I wish I could say it was purely from the love of my heart, but really what made it easy was just the fact that the money was going to be given to someone anyway, so it may as well have been spent going big for TI. Go big or go home! I think I will be doing a G-IRA next year, too, but I feel like God is giving me a larger target, and that scares the crap out of me. I mean, it’s exciting, but it’s also like, “Nooo! Why?” We’ll see. I mean, this is voluntary after all. But that push, man. God’s all about pushing those boundaries.

On a side note, my church is pretty awesome about giving. They just gave 20g’s away to people in need yesterday. I like this church. Anyway, I’ve got a post I want to write on that soon.

I did finally buy a Playstation 4 for $200 during Black Friday, which is half of what I was thinking about paying back in the Spring, when I wrote my anti-lifestyle inflation post using the PS4 as an example. I think waiting to get 50% off was totally worth it. And I am happy to have a PS4. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

Reflections!

Two periods really stood out to me this year. The first is when I changed the water pump on my car. It was unplanned but I ended up here at my parents’ place while they were out of town. The job was relatively simple, but was temporarily full of despair when I sheered the de-tensioning bolt (I don’t know what else to call it) off my drive belt tensioner, which sucked but really only meant one thing: I had to buy another tensioner and change it myself. The job was slow but otherwise went smoothly. I had a decent amount of peace about it, and two nights in a row, I slept like a baby, right here in this bed that I’m sitting on. I didn’t have a Bible with me and I hate reading the Bible on my phone, but my parents have a few old topic-specific Bible verse books on the bookshelf, so I browsed those. I watched several Disney VHS tapes from when I was a kid. I don’t know how to describe it all. It was probably the most peaceful weekend of the year. It’s like God was here in a profound way. It took me away from my normal settings, just lead me to a place of rest. And there hasn’t been the slightest of leaks from that water pump since 😉

The second was hanging out with my sister’s family. I got to spend time with my oldest niece, who is growing up way too fast, and got to see my new baby niece, who is the smiley-est baby ever and really warms my heart :). And I got to pet the cat. And hang out. Have long conversations, watch my brother-in-law beat this cool, kinda-eerie side-scroller video game, eat good food, and see life outside of Denver, which is starting to boil with overpopulation and insanity. It was also the first time in many, many years that I’ve been on a plane, and I really, really miss flying. So I want to add a part 2 to Thoughts on Travel someday. That was overall just a great week, and much needed.

And yes, 2018 has brought many changes. Whereas 2017 was the year of carnage and death and good friends being complete retards and following God’s call to move out of state, 2018 has, in fact, been the water in the desert. I was keeping a foot in my old church because I still care about people there, but I always knew I was never going to fit into the ecosystem at that church, no matter how great the leadership was or how welcoming the setting. Instead, I now spend that night of the week as part of a rag-tag group of crazy dreamers who get together once a week to seek God through dream interpretation. Oh, I know. Sounds crazy if you’ve never read the Bible ;). But it’s pretty amazing what God is doing in people’s lives.

Spiritually, God has been doing a lot in my life through identity this year. This is good, because when people are truly grounded in their identity in God, they are rock solid, and they have space for others. They can also let go of old friends and move on. 2017 really shook me to the core. I think that’s the closest I’ve ever been to true depression. I’m actually of the suspicion that my community life is not as deep as I would like because that is simply the season I am in, and there is great room for growth in fostering new community.

It has been a date-less year, stacking onto the others, and I think maybe for a reason. Hey, I know some great girls, but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense emotionally or logically, and sometimes the door is simply closed and you can tell. There hasn’t really been anyone to ask out. Sometimes I’ll meet a girl and think, “Hey, God, what about this girl?” And I get a dream that’s all about my identity, instead! In general, it’s a painful topic for me, but I think that’s what the message of identity is about. People who are grounded in their identity are truly safe people who have space to see and address the blessings in other peoples’ lives. And in their own. You can’t confuse your core identity with the various facets of your life. Your job is not your identity. Your friendships are not your identity. Your wealth is not your identity. You love-life is not your identity.

Actually, fun story. Only once this year, as far as I’m aware, has God answered a question about a specific girl. I had a dream one night in which I was in a location owned by friends from an old friend group, and I think it was the only dream I’ve ever had in which that girl was present. But when I looked closely in the house, and I had to look closely, I could see fine white spider webs all over, like fuzzy mold. I got the vacuum to clean up the webs (I am a bit of a cleaner in real life), but it wasn’t working, and the vacuum broke down. I kept trying to fit different mechanical pieces inside to fix it (perhaps different arguments as to why I should pursue her), but nothing worked. Later I got dragged into this zombie game by a family member of one of the friends, and then I woke up.

I don’t recommend bootstrapping your dream interpretations if you haven’t done it in a group, and non-Christians (or some Christians) will think I’m insane, but really the larger message of the dream was that in that girl’s life there are a lot of spider webs, which might be thought of as snares or as neglected spaces into which undesirable things have moved, and, most importantly, I was unable to clean up those spider webs. In other words, I’m not capable of dealing with her issues. Being involved in that location only got me stuck playing games. (“You’re playing love games with Old Gregg?!”) That was crazy. The message seemed pretty clear to me. And if you’re still skeptical, well, let’s just say that’s not the first time God’s answered a question about that girl telling me ‘no’. But this all lead to an interesting extension question: so what are the spider webs that I have in my own life?

Just a little dream nugget for the blog. If you don’t keep a dream journal, you might consider doing so 🙂

As mentioned last post, I have also learned this year how to change lug bolts, which makes me feel pretty bad ass. It’s still tough to recommend, but it’s a great feeling when you pull off a new job on the car and now have that much more skill and ability.

Huge progress on my open source inventory system. Oh, man. It’s so close. I’ve been working on this for two years, but only this past year has the technology clicked. A lot of great blessings through this, so praise to God. I feel like a real developer now and orchestrating the whole project has been a huge lesson in perseverance and humility. Engaging, though, I’ll give it that. Really excited to see what this can do for the company I’m volunteering for.

Times are changing again. I may no longer be in the desert, but the change isn’t over. I may be losing some friends to another dumb state, and I’ll be seeing two friends much less since they just became parents. But tenacity! I still very much care about my old friends, but there is a way forward and going backward isn’t an option.

Dreaming Again

When I was in 8th grade, I asked for a new and intriguing video game for my birthday: Xenosaga Episode I. It was a space odyssey anime full of intriguing characters, vicious aliens, mysterious artifacts, and, you know, the fate of humanity. But it was also full of really sweet mechs. I was hooked.

I had hoarded Legos as a kid, so I was amazed one day when I stumbled upon the Foundry DX, a website created by a guy named Sun Yun who had built many classic “giant anime robots” out of Legos. He revealed some of his techniques on the website, and I immediately started putting my Lego collection to the test as I tried to build the VX-7000, VX-10000, and the AG-02. When Xenosaga Episode II was released, a whole new line of more powerful mechs was revealed: the E.S. series.

For the first and really only time in my life, I became entrepreneurial. Getting the form factor for Lego minifigures had been difficult, but I had built a mech I called the Aleph, belonging to the “Achan series”, loosely designed after the AG series from Xenosaga. The VX series was just awful to build and had way too many sharp corners for 90s Lego pieces to handle. It’s too bad. The color scheme for Aleph was questionable, but it was a very solid unit. Over the course of about a year, I bought all the pieces to make 10 of these units, and used a sort of Lego CAD program called LDraw to build the instructions. I’m not shitting you. My hope was to sell the units for $100 each, and I had to put $250 into the pieces, not counting the labor of building those instructions. They were on market for a few months, but none ever sold. Eventually I pulled the plug on the whole thing and gave up, but I’m still proud I pulled it off up until that point. I was in 10th grade. I think your mechs have to be from a franchise that has a solid fan base, while mine were just obscure hybrids. There is a market for user-built instructions these days, but I’ve not felt too inclined in that direction yet.

I experimented with other designs:

A redesign of the Achan series Daleth, supposed to be a more bad ass model than the Aleph. I still like this design as a torso. This was more inspired by Armored Core than anything else, though the head was VX based, since the Daleth was started as an attempt to build the VX-7000.

 

Some of the Aleph units, with one of the old CDs. I no longer have those, but I still have the files I put on there

 

My favorite mech was the E.S. Asher. The opening sequence for Xenosaga Episode II is still one of the most pivotal story experiences that has shaped my life, if you can get past the cheesy dialog. Two of the characters, on assignment, take the E.S. Asher from a ship in the upper atmosphere into the clouds and then down into the war happening below.

 

the forlorn legs of the E.S. Asher. Damn, those are sexy legs.

 

The printout is actually of the E.S. Asher as it was redesigned for Episode III, but the general form was the same. I always preferred the Episode II version

 

Asher shell attempt. No space for a pilot? Unacceptable! Plus, this just doesn’t meet my standards for quality. Hmph!

 

When I let go of my old video games in my mid/early 20s, I took apart what I had of the Asher legs. But I kept them in a plastic bag…just in case. I let go of a lot back then, but unfortunately I let go of the fun I used to have, too. I wouldn’t build another mech until 2015, when a friend at work kept referring to one of our contractors sounding like a robot. So I went home and built Selectron, a mech heavily influenced by Armored Core. It is probably the best mech I’ve ever built, and departs from the standard of having an anthropomorphic head.

Selectron. “select sympathy from emotions; Error: table or view does not exist” (Can you tell I like blue?)

 

Anyway, I’d like to get back into it. I just received a huge box of Legos from a friend who is moving to misty isles, and some of those pieces may actually help me build the scale that I need for the E.S. series. Long story short, I feel God is opening the doors to dream again. It’s easy to get caught up in career and money and friendships and all that. I’m also starting to give myself the freedom to be an anime fan. For whatever reason I’ve long thought of that as an undesirable thing, but that doesn’t make any sense. I really enjoy anime in general, and it’s often a great place to look for amazing mech designs. I’d like to broaden my horizons.

Dream Interpretation and Hebrew

The Background

Dream interpretation is definitely a more charismatic topic in Christianity. Most of the churches I have been to have ignored the subject entirely, perhaps tacitly admitting that God spoke to people in the Bible through dreams, but largely ignoring the possibility that God still does this.

For less than a year now I’ve been a part of a church that believes God speaks to us through dreams, and the interpretation groups I have attended have really opened my eyes to how dreams so frequently point us toward God if we are willing to listen.

You have to realize that in my late teens and early twenties, I struggled tremendously with believing Christianity. When the leaders in my youth group couldn’t answer my desperate questions, I set off on my own to find answers and even walked away from church attendance entirely for about two years. I had learned that the ancient world could actually be studied and that this would shed light on the Bible, so I poured myself into study: the history, archaeology, and languages of the ancient world. These subjects were fascinating, but those years were terribly lonely.

Now, dreams had a large role to play in me abandoning this quest. This is a very long story, the bulk of which I will not discuss here. Let’s just say that you can only wake up praying in a language you don’t understand and crying your eyes out after so many vivid and spiritual dreams before you realize that God just is, and that he speaks to us. The pressure I had placed on myself to study those subjects was so great that one day I was looking up at my bookshelf and I heard the still-small voice say, “What if you just got rid of these?” Within a month they were all gone.

Hebrew

Flash forward to 2018. At the beginning of the summer, thanks to a heads-up from a friend, I discovered that the local seminary was offering a Hebrew class in the evenings. It was even on a day that I was free! Sure, I had studied Latin, Greek, Middle Egyptian, and various bits of cuneiform script, but I had never actually gotten to take a Hebrew class. This was perfect!

There was just one small problem: I hate school. Over the past decade plus, I’ve managed to turn any subject that interests me into an obligation. Last year, I took a 10-session, non-credit Conversational Chinese class at the local community college. Asia is the only continent I would actually pay serious money to visit, and I thought, “Gee, this may be the only chance I get to take this class, and it couldn’t hurt to be familiar with the language of the politically-dominant country over there, could it?” Sure, until session #4, when I was already tired of studying. I pushed through to the end, but it was grueling.

So I have been worried about this Hebrew class. It is 16 weeks, is graduate-level, and costs a lot to take (~$700 total). It is very easy for me to want to know something, but it is sometimes very difficult putting the effort into learning it. I have been praying that God would tell me whether this class is something I should audit or not. There is still a lot to learn for my career, and Hebrew does nothing to contribute to this, and I have desperately needed a season of rest.

So two nights ago, I had a dream.

The Dream

In this dream, I was in an old location. I was on the second floor of a large wooden building, sort of like a house. There were a few old people, many mysteries, a monster, some sort of forbidden room, a large old balcony, and danger. It was incredibly fun. The clearest thing I remember was being on this huge patio out back, where I found an antique pistol. I was like, “Sweet!” and went to shoot it off into the air, but the bullet just slid out when I angled it down. See, I had forgotten the black powder. The bullet was modern, was not rusted, didn’t have a primer, and seemed to be made of solid gold, but had a dent on its side. I held onto the gun and kept going about the dream.

You see, though, when I woke up, I could hardly remember any of the dream. I just had these brief flashes. I grew really agitated and angry. God seems to do this to me so often, where I have a complex dream and can’t remember all (or sometimes any) of it. This dream felt so important. Why couldn’t I remember everything?

Now, as I’ve gone to more and more dream-interpretations sessions, I’ve learned that sometimes how we interact with the dream has something to reflect about its meaning. At the first dream interpretation session I’ve gone to, one guy had a dream that had featured violence and cutting, as with a sword. Then before the dream concluded, he woke up. This was in fact part of the dream, continuing the cutting theme. His dream was cut short! So not being able to remember a dream may actually be part of the dream’s message.

I was frustrated at God yesterday because at the end of the day I had still not remembered the key pieces to the dream. That’s when it hit me.

I had specifically been praying that God would answer my question about taking this Hebrew class through a dream. The thought briefly crossed my mind when I woke up, but I ignored it because what do Hebrew and guns have in common? But you have to realize that my love of archaeology and history is represented by that location. It was old and made of old boards, like in the late 1800s. It had all these themes that really make me come alive. But it was a faded dream, one I could barely remember.

In fact, studying the ancient world is a faded dream of mine, the excitement for which I can barely remember. That antique pistol? You can still kill a man with that; it still has potency. In the same way, Hebrew may be ancient, but it still has potency. It can help you study the Old Testament, can potentially even bring you closer to God if you use it right. But I was lacking spark, or motivation. Just like Hebrew, it would become a cool item to set on the shelf, but without that black powder it really had no power in my life. And that gold bullet? Think of gold as symbolic for money. It was dented on its side, and this class will put a dent in my wallet if I take it. This is wordplay, a common theme in dreams.

I don’t believe God is telling me I can’t take this class. But I think he’s warning me. “This may be cool but it isn’t useful right now”. The passion I once had for this subject has faded. It’s going to cost a lot, and I know it’s going to take up a lot of my time. I don’t think I really want to take this class.

I have one more thing to say on this. I desperately need a season of rest. I have always been studying, always learning. Some of this has been good, most of this has been bad. When I am lonely, study feels worthless. I really care more about people than knowledge, but I spent so many years trying to believe otherwise. The more I have to read, the less time I spend with people. This has always, always been the case. Also, I want to get into better shape, and the more I have to read, the less time I spend being active. This has always, always been the case. The more I have to read, the less sleep I get. This has always, always been the case.

I was going to go to the dream group last night, but this incredible drowsiness overtook me and I ended up napping for two hours. I believe this happened for a reason: I need this next season to be a season of rest if I want to focus on what matters most in my life right now.

Conclusion

It kills me, it really does, but I’m going to drop that class. I think God has put the love of archaeology and history in me for a reason, but whatever that reason may be, now is not the time to focus on those things. And obviously, the whole point of this blog is to talk about money and what God is doing in my life through that. Very recently God has brought to my attention some great opportunities for giving that I’m really excited about. But to stay on this trajectory, I’ve got to be focused on the things that push me forward in my software development. I can’t be committing huge chunks of time to things like this. I need to be resting more in general, but even dedicating an equivalent amount of time to studying the technologies I need to know will put me miles ahead of where I am now.

You have to focus on what’s in front of you, not what’s behind. Someday, when it’s appropriate, I may get to travel back.

Comfortable in Your Own Shoes

“What this is really about is learning to be comfortable in your own shoes,” the pastor said across the desk.

These words would stick with me through the years. You see, early in my twenties, some of my greatest fears and anxieties collided in the same semester. It was a nightmare. There were too many forces at play. And there were really only two options for handling that: lose my mind, or figure out what in the hell was going on inside of me. I was an angry and self-righteous person, and I struggled to understand where I really fit in to the world, struggled to understand why I never seemed to identify with people or feel any true sense of self-worth. I had a pretty strong ego-shield that had kept me afloat for years, but you can’t outrun your insecurities.

It’s been almost a decade since those office conversations. I like to think that I’ve learned a lot and have gained some significant insight not just into how I think but into how others think as well. I wouldn’t push that latter claim too far, but I enjoy sharing about my life because I think it encourages others to look into theirs.

Mis-identity is very prevalent. It’s rare that I see someone going through what I went through, but there are some predictable ways that people behave under similar circumstances.

For example, people enjoy taking sides in order to establish their identity, to feel comfortable with themselves. You see this when people vehemently subscribe to sports teams, or political opinions, or product preferences. They can all be part of our identities, but they also make easy rafts to cling to in the ocean of our minds. You become defined not so much by the position itself as by the position as it stands in opposition to another team, or opinion, or product. These are easy examples, but this also happens with ways of life and is the whole source of the “culture wars”. It’s the belief that there is only one way to do this or that. One way to go through life, one way to make or spend money, one way to do church, etc. If only you can see your way of doing things as the only right way to do things, then you can rest easy, believing there is something good about you. But this fails the moment the symbol fails.

When we aren’t taking sides, we may be standing too strongly on our own ground. You see this with the claim, “That’s just who I am”. As opposed to external identity found in symbols, this sort of identity is internal. It requires no rhyme or reason and operates on the assumption that who we are is fixed and is somehow in-tune with nature or our “destiny”, if you will. This allows for a sense of independence but falls short because when you fail you must face the fact that who are you are isn’t enough, and all you can do is return to the greater question of your identity.

“Am I valuable?” This is the question at the heart of our identity seeking. But it’s a trick question. The fact that you are asking it means you are uncertain that the answer is yes.

I’ve heard for years that our true identity and our true value come from God. While I believe this is correct, it is also a very churchy answer and doesn’t really communicate any explanation for itself. I think it’s important to realize that having value to God is different from being able to climb a tough mountain, or deserving a promotion, or standing any chance with that really attractive girl. I think we conflate the two perspectives (intrinsic value vs. acquired value) because as human we go through life with associations, abilities, and achievements, which dramatically shape us and influence our lives. But we hold to this, struggling to see our value without it all. I believe this is why the wealthy and successful sometimes struggle more than the poor: they experience some great blessings in their lives, but they confuse this for the message of the blesser: you are valuable!

I’ve been thinking lately about what this looks like in practice. I think it helps to cultivate a perspective where you put less stock in both your successes and your failures. Both are teaching agents, but if you can laugh at both then you’re in a good position to see that they don’t scratch the surface of your greater identity. Secondly, when I feel pressured to be someone I’m not or to live a style of life I don’t want to live, I can refocus on what God has put in front of me, who he has made me to be, and on what my goals for the future look like.