Stability, Maturity, and the Words We Say

Not a dreadfully long time ago, I found myself with a massive case of writer’s block. Ironically, I wrote a whole blog about that one. Nobody was surprised.

Not long before that, I had started experiencing the same issue as a musician. In my defense, I had just spent the previous three years writing academic papers for my theology degree. My creative energy had been redirected into something very different, and I had have not yet learned how to balance the two.

At one point, I was talking to a drummer friend of mine, and he mentioned that I might be able to find new inspiration by thumbing through old lyrics and demos I had written. The thought of doing that was kind of daunting. Hundreds upon hundreds. a wide spectrum of styles and emotions. Honestly, I didn’t want to get into it, but I knew eventually I would have to if I had any desire to write music again.

At some point, I did. It kind of started with me just wanting to consolidate all of my digital files and reduce the number of cloud storage services I was needlessly wasting money on. It didn’t take long for that simple task to turn into a sorting of everything I wrote.

Some songs I determined were worthy of eventually recording and publishing. Others weren’t ready for that. Still others were just bad writing. Yet there remained those that were good, but they were made just for me—too personal and specific and raw and intimate for anyone else’s ears to take them in.

I don’t know if it’s related or simply the byproduct of my heart practically begging to start again, but I started doing the same to my blog—drafts, previously published, all of it.

I’ve spent quite a while wanting to change what I’m doing here. I’ve been blogging for the better part of a decade with starts and stops along the way. It was never without purpose. If not to give hope to someone who doesn’t have it, why write anything at all? Why say anything at all?

In so doing, I’ve been sorting through the things I’ve written. Whether or not they’ve seen the light of day beyond the pile of drafts hidden behind my WordPress site and in the corners of literally every cloud storage app, they were meant to be something good for people.

The further back I went, however, the more I realized how wrong I was about what I was doing. I meant well, but I was blind to the words my fingers were frantically tapping into the strange world we call the internet. No matter what I meant to say, my words meant something else entirely.

I think I was aware of what was happening at the time, but I wasn’t quite conscious of the implications. For example, I remember a long span of time when I would make political assertions to support religious views rooted in ancient texts that spoke to a world and circumstances very different from ours, albeit that the overall state of humanity is not much different, nor are our innermost issues. Or I would rant paragraphs upon paragraphs about how badly certain people screwed me over through my life and how deep and lasting the effects were, hoping that someone else who had suffered like I did would see that it can be survived and healed from. Valid though it was, I don’t know that I was doing the right thing.

While I generally had good, valid reasons for writing many of the things I did, my motives were not always singular. Yes, I wanted people to feel seen and to know someone out [t]here relates; but sometimes, it was my own cry for help, hoping all along that the people who hurt me would hurt the way I did. Yes, I wanted people to know Jesus better and see him in the details of their lives through which they struggled; but I often carried an air of arrogance that I was better than the hypocrites, better than the prosperity preachers, better than any of those who are the enemies of true doctrine and the message of the gospel—in reality, enemies of Christ. But while it is good to know whom to keep close and whom to lose for your own good, whether they are false teachers or friends, there is a good approach to that, and there is a bad one. There are good motives, and there are bad ones, and it is not hard to mix the two.

Scripture speaks of double-minded people. They are unstable in all their ways (James 1:5-8). The preceding verses explain that this is because doubt splits his mind. He’s not sure of the goodness of God; therefore, he cannot ask things of the Lord in faith. So, whatever part of his life he approaches, he does so with instability. He can’t do anything else because he is torn between the message that God is good and the likely experience that he is not. His motives, his thoughts, his feelings, and his actions are inconsistent.

Scripture also states that those who are “untaught and unstable” twist scripture (2 Peter 3:14-16). What else can an unstable person do? After all, he has no point of reference for what is true, not really. He is receiving mixed signals from his experiences, so he cannot discern which is true.

If a double-minded person is unstable in all his ways, I’d venture to say that scripture is far from the only thing twisted by the unstable man.

Not only the things he reads but the things he writes.

Not only the things he experiences but the things he does.

So very much of what I have written has been about people with whom I have fought vehemently or resented for misleading others with their teachings. The oldest of what I’ve written (much of which I have erased or discarded) was unhelpful in the way it was expressed. Attempts at writing hope from pain were often riddled with slander against the people I hated and frustration at the things I didn’t understand, to the point that it was more tantrum than thought. Yet again, James corroborates this. He says that it wasn’t meant to be that our mouths brought forth both blessing and cursing (James 3:10).

As I looked back on some of the things I wrote, it was hard for me to even understand some of the things I said or why I said them aside from the frustration. At the end of it all, even the meager hope that I was trying to offer was shredded by my own razor-sharp rage.

What I didn’t expect was how long I was dragging out my own issues and how much pride was intertwined in my words because it was what was in my mind. By giving into my chaos and ranting like a lunatic, I was never able to truly see the parts that I got wrong. Certainly, the trauma I experienced was not my fault, but it gave voice to the part of me that thought I was better than everyone else because I had been hurt.

There is a logic to that, though. Evildoers don’t do evil to people who deserve it. That’s why they’re called evildoers. Therefore, we who suffer must be better than those who cause our suffering, right? And in a way, sure, some philosophical arguments could be made for that, but that’s not the part that matters. What matters is that our pain can blind us to the fact that we’re all human. In human terms, we can make each other out to be better or worse than the next guy based on the impact of our sins and good deeds, but not in light of the cross, where Christ died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Therefore, the question is not whether one person is better than another.

All of that is to say that not only did I twist my experiences into misunderstanding, but I twisted my behaviors and my identity.

We’re going to replace some words now. Instead of “instability,” we’re going to speak in terms of “immaturity.”

I spent a huge portion of my adolescence and young adult life trying to make myself heard because I thought I was shortchanged, and I thought I was being shortchanged because the people around me were bad, and therefore, I was good better than them. But someone who hasn’t grown up enough to discern cannot tell he is being unstable. He simply does, and he does what comes naturally for someone who is unstable because he hasn’t grown up. Self-expression is messy because it isn’t developed. The emotions are too much, and they can overwhelm the already-immature mind to such an unstable point that we are blind to the destruction we might be wreaking with our words and our arrogance, whether or not there is any coherence to it. We become so consumed with what evil has been done to us that we become blind to the evil we do in retaliation—in my case, in writing.

(None of this is to say that immaturity is an excuse. It’s just a fact. Immature, unstable people make immature, unstable decisions. Forgive me for stating the blatantly obvious at the risk of sounding reductionistic and condescending. I don’t mean it that way. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and give credence to the reality that we are complicated beings with complex motives and psyches, but sometimes, it helps to simplify.)

So much of it was just plain unnecessary, at least not in the way it was done. I didn’t have to publish everything. I didn’t have to say everything I thought or felt, which is very interesting because I’ve always been very quiet despite being very extroverted. Part of that was because I spent a long time being silenced in school or church or the world by all kinds of people, but part of it is just that I always loved to learn, and you can’t do that if you’re always running your mouth.

Still, this is another example of how mixed my motives were. Despite how much of my need to speak my frustration was out of a legitimate need to speak up or reason things out loud, there was still a lot that was either an implicit begging for sympathy (which isn’t something that is bad to want, just not exactly healthy to beg for) or a need to slander others and gossip about them while playing the “righteouness” card and keeping their names anonymous.

And what did speaking in my immaturity do?

Thankfully, it wasn’t all bad. I learned how to have a voice and how to articulate my feelings and work through my theology verbally, not to mention figuring out that I process most things verbally. But it wasn’t all good either. No matter whether my enemies read what I wrote or were affected in any way by what I had to say, and no matter how much of my actions and motives were good, part of me was still just masquerading my demons as angels. Enough of what I was doing and saying was good that what was bad seemed justifiable and, therefore, not actually evil.

But I was lying to myself—lying to mask my doubts about the people in my life, even God, even life itself. I was even unwittingly lying to mask how unstable I knew I was deep down. And the funny thing is that, when I went back and read through everything I wrote, though I had only set out to save what was worth it and dispose of the rest, most of what I found was just a flimsy mask. I could see right through to the instability beneath it all, even to the immaturity that kept me from staying stable and making the right decisions in the first place.

And the worst part was that the more I gave place to those behaviors, the more I corrupted my own soul. It didn’t make the things I ranted about go away. It simply made me numb enough to let it all fester. I was only digging myself a deeper pit to hide in and burying myself in the words I said.

At the end of it all, it’s hard to know what to take away from it all, and it’s hard to draw firm lines to clarify when to speak up and when to shut up. All I have is what I remember, and I have plenty of regrets.

I regret baring the things I couldn’t let go. I could have simply put it in a journal. I probably should have seen see a therapist for some of it. Doing that, like writing the things I did, is my responsibility.

I regret gossiping about people and slandering those I hated. I should have confronted those people when it mattered and forgiven them so much sooner. I should have reconciled things or just accepted the loss. I should have dealt with the bitterness and had compassion on them because I’ve been as lost as them before—ironically, precisely while I was dehumanizing them.

However, I do not recant everything I’ve said, nor do I repent of everything I did, because it wasn’t all bad.

I do not regret that I was developing a willingness to be open about my issues.

I do not regret that I was learning to voice my pains.

I do not regret standing up for myself or exposing lies and injustices where they were.

It just could have been in a lot better way, which sometimes would have meant keeping it to myself, talking more to God, confronting people directly, and being more honest and open to mentorship.

As with most things, very little we do or experience is purely good or purely evil. I guess that’s the part that is difficult to accept about double-mindedness, mixed motives, or even hypocrisy. We have to accept that the things we do and even the motives we have are neither all good nor all bad, and it is those parts that must be made amends for and nailed to the cross of Christ, which is already done and we have only to accept.

I guess that’s also the hard part about maturing. You begin to realize that you have a lot further to go than you thought, no matter how far you’ve come. Then again, no matter how far you have to go, you’ve already made it this far. You realize you’ve done bad things and good things, and you learn to accept that they came from the same person. You said things you regret, but you don’t regret everything. In fact, some of the things you said to or about someone else changed your life for the better, or it changed theirs.

Regardless, accepting this reality can be the first step to becoming a whole person, to not living a double life, whether or not you intended to. You can begin to see that God’s image in you still lives and that, yes, he is indeed still making you more like him, even if it doesn’t feel like it when you are forced to face your own double-mindedness. And the beauty of it all is that within your self-contradictions, God is closing the gaps with his grace. That’s how much he loves you, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’re trying to figure out, no matter where you are in your journey.

It’s funny how God doesn’t turn back time and undo your sins. He doesn’t make it so it didn’t happen, but he doesn’t stop growing you, not if you’re in Christ. You can, like me, obsess over everything that went wrong and air every grievance you have and complain that nothing is good or nothing ever will be, and you will never get that bit of life back. You can unpublish an article, but if it was read, it was read. You can burn books, but you can’t erase history. What you can do is choose whether or not to move on, to accept that God made you good, that you fell, and that by the power of Christ in you through faith in his resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, you can move on.

It’s just up to you to do it—to call on his name, to get up, and to move on.

[…] He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

P.S.: Some afterthoughts.

What does this mean for me? Where do I go from here?

Do I stop writing? No. I write better: with dignity and a sense of what, where, and when is appropriate.

Do I throw away everything I’ve written? No. I just put things where they belong, even if it’s not here. God fulfills his purposes, whether or not they are seen by anyone but me and him.

I’ve been wanting to lean further into writing theology. I don’t want to rant or exactly keep a public journal. The only thing I don’t want to change is whether I’m vulnerable with my own struggles or my own faith because that’s where a relationship with God exists—not just the easy stuff or the pretty stuff or the good stuff, but the darkness and the pain and the fight. And I think I’ve already begun. At least, I’m trying.

(Tangentially, I’m setting a goal to publish once a month, but I’m not planning to chastise myself if I don’t meet it. Writing is not worth my mental health suffering.)

To be honest, I’ve been uninspired for a while, and I think that a lot of that has been because I have been too afraid to look back. I haven’t wanted to accept how much I messed up along the way. But in going back through, accepting it for what it was, and finding a way to move on, which involved a lot of deletions and a handful of revisions, I think I’ve been able to lay some of my worries to rest. I’ve made amends with who I was. Instead of resenting him or looking down on him for his immaturity and instability, I’m just glad that he grew up, and he still is.

To anyone who has stayed through the good stuff and the nonsense, thank you. Better days are ahead.

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