Semicolon Tat

semicolon 2

(Originally published this summer.)

Some people think of the phrase “I love you” as a game of ping pong. Remember Atari? Yeah, you probably do. I don’t. But there was a similar game on Nintendo later on—paddleball? Or was that the Atari version’s name? Who knows. That’s really irrelevant. 🙂

Those people see the phrase “I love you” as almost insignificant. Just words, going back and forth, being hit or even sometimes dodged by the other person…and then they smack them like a ping pong ball, right back at the person who just told them that. Out of reflex. Out of habit.

Maybe that’s because they have heard it all their lives, and they are so used to hearing and saying it that over the years, it has lost its meaning.  Maybe they just think that’s the way it is supposed to be done.  I don’t know, but in situations such as these, those meaningful words ring so surface, so shallow, so hollow.

But to me, that phrase is priceless. I could never hear it enough—I could never say it enough. There are too many deep connections, heartfelt testimonies of grace and power and God’s unfathomable grace in those words. John 3:16 is the best example of this phrase, ever.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…”

To me, that 3-word phrase “I love you” is like when you pull two mirrors together. You put one in front of the other, reflecting back into itself—over, and over, and over, and over….

And the more you move, the deeper that hall of mirrors goes. And, the more you turn away, the more mirrors pop up. It just gets deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and you wonder if you will ever see the end. It’s unfathomable. I could get lost in that tunnel, looking for the end—and never finding it.

The phrase “I love you” is not something I am used to hearing. It’s not something that, as countless times as my friends hear me tell them—that I will ever get tired of telling them. Because it matters. Those three words have so much power, so much compassion, so much undeserved favor—otherwise known as grace—in them that the words just penetrate deeper and deeper into the relationship over time. At least, for me. At least, until the other person gets so sick of hearing it that it becomes apparent. And then I stop saying it, and then the relationship feels so shallow—so mundane, so surface-level that it’s almost not even worth the friendship.

Because, as a deep-feeler, and introvert, and a person who needs desperately to share that love that wells up within them for others—shallow friendships and shallow relationships are just not worth the time. If you can’t be genuine and real with someone, what is the point? If you can’t express the deep-rooted love that comes from mutual edification and mutual respect, sharing in life’s joys and trials together, then what is the point?

Life is about more than just telling someone you love them. Truly—life is about showing others that you love them. I don’t think there’s any deeper meaning to life. That just about sums up the reason that we exist—the reason that God chose us to be His witnesses.  And I feel it is the very reason that He has a future so unimaginable in front of me that I cannot begin to fathom what He has planned. I just have a feeling it is going to be big.  I do not intend at all to say that I am the only one that He has big plans for–nor do I intend to come across that way.  But speaking for myself, I just feel He has something big for me somewhere down the line.

Why do I feel that way? Because I am constantly under such tremendous attack. Well, I say “constantly”, but it’s not perpetual.  It ebbs and flows like anything–like any Christian’s walk.  But I feel that, like a ton of others who are walking this road of recovery with me, it is more often than just the average Joe Christian’s attacks.

Yes, we all struggle, we all go through trials.

But when the thoughts hover ever-so-near your conscious, threatening to take you out of the game permanently, it’s called spiritual attack.  When you aren’t sure that you want to keep continuing this journey, and you think about the fact that that gun is just in the next room. “What would it take?”

I’ll tell you what it would take. And I’m talking to myself here, but feel free to listen if you struggle in the same way. It would take a shallow, egocentric, greedy, and idiotic mindset to do something so dumb.

Sure, it may feel comfortable to feel depressed—because that is just what you know. It may feel enticing to just revel in the depressive state of self-hatred and self-loathing.

But have you ever stopped to ponder why, just why exactly does it feel good to be depressed? Why does it feel good to feel so horrible about yourself that you think it is better to just give up, to run away from this life? Mind you, this beautiful life that Christ has bestowed upon you? The glory that you get to wake up to every day. The sunsets that you get to take pictures of in the evenings. The sunsets that He springs on you as you are out driving and He draws you so close to Himself as you go chasing them down, all around town, getting the best pictures you can, to relish in those moments with Him.

Those moments truly do feel wonderful—there is nothing like being close to the Holy Father and our precious Savior, Jesus! But why does it feel good to go from that into a deep state of depression, where you think it would just be better if you ended it all?

Why?  Don’t you know that all sin is pleasurable for a time?  It doesn’t matter what the sin is, even the writer of Hebrews talks about the deceitful pleasures of sin–though they are temporary.  They are not–and never will be–fulfilling.

Excerpt from Hebrews 11:

24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward

And from Hebrews 3:

12Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

And don’t you know that all Satan wants to do is to get us distracted, off of our focus, and turned inward on ourselves?

Instead, we need to be looking toward Jesus, our Protector, our Savior, our Redeemer, the Precious Lamb of God who came to this earth to sacrifice His life for our sakes!  For my sake. He came from heaven, humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross for my sake, and so how dare I take for granted the grace that He so freely gave me?

But I do. I take His grace for granted. And I stay stuck in this mindset far too often. And when I find that I am doing that, it’s in those moments that I really see my need to get outside of myself–and focus on helping others.

–yes, even as much as it just killed me to write those words. After all, I am an introvert. I am a loner. I am not typically one that you would think would be “all about community” and “helping others” and “focusing on others”.  But yet, as Christ followers, that is our mission.

And yet, even though I am an introvert to my core, I am also all about community. I believe whole-heartedly that we have to help each other. I believe without any doubt that we have to take a stand against the enemy for each other, on behalf of each other. I believe without a shadow of a doubt that we have gone through struggles so that we can turn and strengthen our brothers and sisters when they go through similar trials in their lives.

I am also about deep-feeling relationships, finding genuine friends that have that capacity to go deep into the friendship with me. I have a desire that not many understand—the compassion to love deeply, like those mirrors. I tell my friends over and over and over again that I love them. Not because I want to hear it back—though yes of course it is nice, it is wonderful to hear.  Yes sometimes I do need to hear it back.  But if it’s purely out of reflex, I’ll pass.  It is genuinely good to hear those words when they come as part of the natural flow of conversation, instead of a ping-pong ball being whacked back in my direction.  I have found that when I tell someone else that I love them, Christ just pours His love back into my heart so that I can continue pouring it back out to others.  When I see someone struggling and I can come alongside them and encourage them to keep pressing ahead, it is a beautiful thing that Christ does in both of our hearts.  (As long as I am receptive to His work, and not trying to do it on my own.)

So, in those moments of despair when I think “how many steps would it be to walk into the next room”, I choose instead to stop and reflect on my life. On the lives that would be affected. And as tempting as it is to say that “no one would care” and “it would not matter” and “no one would even notice”, I know it isn’t true. Those are lies straight from the pit of hell.

In those moments, I have to choose to take captive the thoughts that invade my mind—thoughts that try to portray themselves as my own. Thoughts that are really just lies that tell me that I am no good. I have to take them captive to the obedience of Christ.

I have to instead think about all my family, and all my friends that really, honestly and truly would be affected. And I think about this group of people that I love so dearly. I feel that I have a responsibility to them, and to God. To reach out to my community of fellow sojourners in this walk, if I am in desperate need of reminders that I am God’s child and I can be transformed–yet again, and again, and again,…and yet again.  In Christ.

As long as I keep returning to the throne of His Grace, He will keep transforming me.  Little by little at times, but sometimes by huge strides.

But when I stay in my stubborn heart, rebellion, and pride, my heart grows calloused, and hard toward Jesus.  And pretty soon I look around and I am encased in my own turtle shell of despair and unhappiness and self-loathing and self-hatred.  And in my turtle shell, it is SOOO hard to find Him.  And sometimes in those moments of the deepest despair, I feel like I am only two steps from walking away from Him altogether.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Luke 13:34

I realize this verse speaks to the people who did not know God–they thought that they did, but they did not.  However, I find a comfort in that verse because even in their deepest rebellion, it is evident that God loved them so much He longed to gather them in His arms.  It was their pride and their rebellion that kept them from Him.  This verse reminds me that all I have to do is ask Him to take my rebellious spirit, to help me draw near to Him, and melt my calloused, cold, and bruised heart for Him once again.  And He always has.  Every time, without fail.

One of the wonderful things about Jesus is that all you have to do, trapped inside your turtle shell or hanging from the edge of the cliff–all you have to do is call out His name, and He comes RUNNING!  He is there to meet you, to melt your heart back into His, to wrap you up in His arms and hold you so tightly that you never–ever–want to leave again.

Yes, we will go through periods of rebellion in our lives, but we shouldn’t stay there.  Because of Jesus’ great sacrifice for our sakes, we have an obligation out of love–not duty, but love–to honor Him and glorify Him through our lives.

It would be entirely opposite of honoring Jesus if I were to take my own life.  So, that is what my future semicolon tat is going to mean—one day, whenever I get one, this is what I want. Something that reminds me that it is not entirely up to me. It is up to me to reach out when I am feeling lost and all alone and depressed.  It is about the community that I live in and walk through this recovery process together with. It’s about pulling together, and being there for each other in our times of need:

“to guard, to keep, preserve, keep safe, to walk closely with another.”

4933 syntēréō (from 4862 /sýn, “closely together with” and 5083 /tēréō, “guard, keep”) – properly, preserve close together (with close care); keep intact (safe).

sýn (a primitive preposition, having no known etymology) – properly, identified with, joined close-together in tight identification; with (= closely identified together).

tēréō (from tēros, “a guard”) – properly, maintain (preserve); (figuratively) spiritually guard (watch), keep intact.

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