Single…But Lonely?

This was my first post in my blog site “The Unwarranted Bachelor”.


Being single and alone is painful. This I know from experience. It’s what we do during these turbulent times that shapes who we become. And in Whom we place our trust defines who we are. I know people who’ve decided to remain single for a time after a breakup. I know others who’ve blindly jumped into the next relationship.

For me it was neither of these. I find myself single for another reason. Even if I wanted to deliberately be single or have a girlfriend is irrelevant. At least so it seems. My current circumstances are forcing me to rely solely on God.

Whatever the case may be in reality I remind myself of the Apostle Paul and the Prophet Jeremiah. One chose to never marry for the sake of the Gospel, and the other was instructed by God to remain single.

When we find ourselves alone we need to pray and ask, “Father God, how long?” and “How can I bring You glory in this?”

If we place our trust in God ahead of our desires of the mind and flesh He will answer us. By trusting Him we open ourselves to receiving the answers we need.

On the other hand, if we hunt after self-gratification during such times how can we trust ourselves in times of plenty?

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Childhood Depression

Originally published in “The Unwarranted Bachelor” in 2016.


My childhood was divided between two cultures. The one my immigrant family belonged to and, Canadian, the one that surrounded me. From this stemmed many problems for me, more than I can or dare to remember.

Starting kindergarten with a limited understanding of the English language was one of them.

I’m not sure if this was the root of my constant bullying, but I do remember one bully in particular using this against me. You can imagine, the kid told the teacher, “He did it on purpose.” I didn’t know the meaning of “on purpose” at age six, and I got in trouble for accidentally stepping on the kid’s untied shoe laces.

Eventually my temper reached the boiling point. I snapped at the bullies and, again, I was the one at fault. I’m noting saying I wasn’t to blame, but the older bullies were so well versed in their tactics that they knew how to manipulate the teachers.

By the time I reached grade five I was known as the kid with issues. I always had limited number of friends, and among them an even smaller amount of true friends.

Surrounded by bullies and loneliness seems to sum up most of my childhood and early adulthood.

The catch-22 of adolescent depression: get bullied for being different; lonely for having no friends; trying to stand up for self; get bullied for your reaction. And the cycle goes on.

Eventually I learnt how to deal with them and my depression, but no thanks to the education system. They did try but failed. The bullies always seemed to get away with it.

As an adult I still suffer from depression and loneliness. This I will never deny. There are times I still can’t think straight and I react negatively. Thanks to my fallen and sinful human nature.

How did I find my escape as a teenager? God the Father and Christ the Son. Faith in the Triune God helped me get through it. I stumble most when I lose focus on Him.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, ESV).

When I find myself in my darkest hours I need to turn back to the Light. It’s not always easy when you find yourself alone in the world, but Jesus is here to help and guide to back to the Way (John 14:6).


Light Beyond the Darkness

Originally published in “The Unwarranted Bachelor” in 2016.


Darkness creeps in and no one sees it. Why should they? They’ve all turned a blind eye to us. Depression is not real they try to convince us. Not real? Now I know you are a cold-blooded reptile, one who can neither sympathize nor empathize with others.

We all react to our (and that of others) depression differently. And the world reacts in response to it in just as many different ways. This I can tell from experience. During various eras of my life I’ve experienced and responded to the darkness in different ways.

As a child I went through phases of sulking in the corning and exploding at others, sometimes verbally and other times physically. (I’m not giving any excuse for my behaviour, just stating facts.) My actions did hurt others and drove away many so-called friends. At the same time their rejection of me and misunderstanding of depression did hurt me.

Sulking in the corner or withdrawing deep into oneself is a sign of low self-esteem or simply shyness. But children and adults like these tend to be number one targets on bullies’ attack list. In turn, a bully tends to dominate due to their low self-esteem with the explicit need to feel better by causing pain to others.

When darkness is given a seat in our minds it’s never satisfied. Depression wants to rule our lives and beyond. Shedding this lie is not easy, and for most people it is impossible to do on their own. During my early adult years I had friends who helped my through two episodes. For this I thank God.

My advice to anyone who is suffering through any mental illness or as a loved one who is experiencing such darkness is this: friends, family, love, understanding.

The times we desperately feel like being alone are the times we desperately need a friend in our lives. I’m not saying we need to be surrounded my people twenty-four seven but we do need people who won’t always push us aside.

With friends in our lives we need love as well. This love is from God and works through others and also in us. This love can change our depression into joy. Like the song says, “Joy comes with the morning.” This morning is the light at the end of the tunnel of depression.

I want everyone who is depressed to know there is hope for you. May God bless you even in times when you don’t feel His presence.


Bouts of Depression

Originally posted in “The Unwarranted Bachelor” in 2016.


Depression is one of those topics no one really wants to talk about. Many people go as far as to claim the psychological condition isn’t real, people only use it as an excuse or a crutch.

Most, if not all, people in the West go through moments of being depressed. These are times of sadness or regret. People need down time to recuperate from whatever is going in their lives.

How is this different from depression? Medically speaking, I can’t say for certain. I’m not an expert by any means. But from experience I can say a lot. Depressed moments require moments rest and rejuvenation. Depression needs a lot more than that.

As you know, I have suffered from depression most of my life (childhood and adulthood). It runs in my family. Some friends have speculated it may run in my people and culture. To be honest I believe depression is a result of the Western Civilization’s materialistic greed. (That’s a topic for another day.)

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, just ask any good family doctor. While meds can help in some cases, they don’t help in all. All some people need is understanding friends and family. For me it was a combination of both: meds and friends.

(Please remember: these are my thoughts and experiences on depression. Please refer to your doctor for advice.)

How can one tell if a friend is going through depression or is merely depressed? The best sign is their level of rational. How logical or illogical is their rambling? My closest friends can tell you that I have been illogical many times. I talked about people hating me, ending my life, the world is better without me… In essence I felt sorry for myself and that was all i could think about.

People who are suffering with depression speak as if the world revolves around them and only them. Whereas people who feel depressed have a moment of sadness without making things all about them.

Everyone has a different trigger. The bouts of depression I feel last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. I thank God, my Heavenly Father, that I don’t suffer too long any more. In the past my depression would last from a few weeks to a few months. In high school years had gone by and no one seemed to care I was suffering.

What were or are my triggers? In primary and secondary school my depression was linked to the amount of bullying I received from peers, older students and teachers. In adulthood it was the fact I was alone, and it hurts when everyone around me was in a relationship. I wasn’t happy or pleased with my lot in life back then. What about now?

Yesterday I felt depressed over what I’d call stupidity. Being alone in a world that puts too much emphasis on relationship was the catalyst. The cause was my desire to experience true, loving relationship.

While depression is a thing of my past, I will never say that I have totally triumphed over it. In fact, it is only by the grace of God that I can detect a wave of depression and true it into a moment of feeling depressed.

My journey in and through depression as been long and difficult, but it isn’t over yet. I pray that my experiences can help others overcome it or aid them in helping their loved ones.

 


Bible Passages: In Context or Out of Context?

Everybody has a favourite Bible verse or several that they keep referencing to. Whether you are a pastor, missionary, seminary professor, student or the average pew dweller, you must have at least one passage you have memorized. We find them engraved on plaques, in greeting cards, on calendars or quoted on other items around the house.

But how many of the most popular ones do we know the biblical context? How many of them are loved by some and others keep them out of their lives?

“Which verses are you referring to?” you may be asking.

A popular one that we see around, especially in late spring, coinciding with graduation season, is Jeremiah 29:11, which is a promise of God’s plans, His will for His people. 

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:10-12, NIV. Emphasis added.)

According to several folks I know, this passage holds absolutely no promise for Christians today. What is their reason? The historical context of Jeremiah is the prophet warning the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah of their impeding doom. The Babylonians are coming and will destroy the nation. In verse 10, Jeremiah prophecies the length of time of the exile, 70 years. The kingdom of God’s people is destroyed, which seems to go against this promise of prosperity. According to some people I’ve talked with in order to hold on to this promise you have to be able to “remember” your time in the Babylonian exile, which no one today can.

Instead of dismissing Jeremiah 29 as a promise only for the exiles or the returning exiles, why can’t we take a promise for ourselves? What would the spiritual implications or personal context for twenty-first century Christians be?

“The plans I have for you, to prosper and not to harm…” says the Lord (paraphrase). God’s plan is for us to prosper… God’s plan in for Him not to harm us… So what’s the issue here? Just because the Lord’s plan is for something, does that necessarily mean in the physical sense or in monetarily? By no means.

Although the “Prosperity Gospel” movement has claimed this promise for themselves, in a twisted  and materialistic sense, that does not mean that we cannot hold to this promise in a spiritual sense.

Here is a popular phrase from Joshua 24:15 (one version), which many who reject the Jeremiah passage hold on to.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The problem is there are major sections of the passage missing. Missing to fit their personal theological views? To each their own reason.

Here is the full passage from Joshua 24:

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (vs. 14-15, NIV. Emphasis added.)

While Jeremiah was written to the exiles, Joshua was written to the Israelites who had just conquered the Promise Land. If you dismiss Jeremiah for the sole reason that you cannot remember being in the exile, then we have to reject this passage on similar grounds, we cannot remember our time as slaves in Egypt.

Why is one passage rejected while the other is not? Is one more inspired? Can it’s promise be more easily understood or applied today? Absolutely not. Both passages are in equal standing.

Instead of rejecting passages due to false gospels claiming them we need to studying all the contexts of the passage in light of how it fits in the grand picture of God’s redemptive story. Once this is all said and done, we can safely look at how it applies to our personal lives, and our culture.

We can examine many more passages that are accepted and rejected. I will leave it at this. When you are reading your Bible, studying it alone or in a group, please remember the four types of contexts before you claim it or reject it: historical, cultural, literature, and theological. The final one is personal context, this is when you can apply the truths found in the passages to your own life.

God bless.


Temperaments

This post was first published back in 2016 in my other blog site “The Unwarranted Bachelor”, under the title “Life-Long Temperaments”. This has been edited and renamed for “Writings of Seb”.


Life goes on. Mistakes are made. God forgives.

With my recent move and my struggle finding employment my past mistakes are floating up to the surface of my memory. Some are fresh, within the past year, while many are nearly two decades old.

Most of these mistakes are temperament related. As a child I had a bad temper, which has  morphed into new forms of reactions for the years, but in essence it hasn’t really disappeared entirely.

My entire life I’ve struggled with a negative temperament.

As an adult, I fear my past has finally caught-up with me.

For each one of us, whether Christian or not, there is always at least one thing (a pet peeve) that irritates us the most. How do we react when other folks act in a manner we don’t appreciate? Or if they speak in an unwholesome way?

The truth behind this is we are not “our brother’s keeper” when it comes to the general public, our co-workers, or anyone else who is our equal. The fact is there is someone else who is in charge of them.

I’m not speaking about ignoring accountability with our fellow humans, that’s an entire different story. What I am speak about is changing them. We cannot correct everyone. We need to choose our battles. This is where I’ve struggled with in the past and I find myself doing so more often than not.

Why do we tend to fight up hill battles? Why not fight those that are truly worth fighting?

We, as humans, have the innate need to be “right on everything”. This is true for the theologians, scientists and philosophers. Everyone has an opinions, and everyone has a temper.

My explosive temper is my “thorn in the flesh” (or personality). This doesn’t have to be true, but it has become a part of my mentality. How am I doing to try to mend this ingrained mindset?

The hard truth is: alone it is difficult to fix. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26b, ESV). If this is what we believe, then why is change still not happening in our lives? I can’t answer for you, but I can answer for me. I’ve been separating my “Christian life” with the rest of my life. Why?

While this may be an infection within churches, this is no excuse for me.

(I guess this post is more of a confession than anything else.)

The reason why I keep finding myself in the pits of anger issues is a lack of relationship with God. What does God have to do with this? You may be asking yourself. In reality, God has everything to do with it, but not responsible for everything.

All the while, I’m striving for a positive temperament.

As a Bible believing Christian, my relationship with Jesus Christ should be first in my life. The lack of it, from my end, is I am not pursuing it as deliberately as I should be. Reading the Bible; praying to God; in essence communicating with the Most High is what I struggle with the most.

When I lived in Alberta, a good eight hour drive to my dearest friends, I tended to not regularly speak with them. We still had a relationship, but it wasn’t growing. My relationship with God fell into the same pattern.

If God feels far away, who moved? The answer is always I moved.

When I move away from God my old nature rears its ugly face. This has happened again and again, and I hope I have learnt from it by now.


God, my Heavenly Father,

You are Almighty, Creator of the universe. I am but part of Your creation. Forgive me, oh Lord, when I have acted contrary to this. Forgive my stubbornness, forgive my perfectionism, forgive me when I act like I know best. “Give me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence. Let my past misdeeds not affect my future forever. Give me a godly temperament, one that reflects You to those You’ve placed around me.

Amen.


Concerning Bullies

This post was first published back in 2016 in my other blog site “The Unwarranted Bachelor”, under the title “The Nature of Bullies”. This has been edited and renamed for “Writings of Seb”.


Bullies can come in all shapes and sizes…and ages. As a kid, growing up in southern Manitoba, I experienced taunts from all age groups, this included teachers. You know those people who are supposed to teach you things? Those who are supposed to protect students from the mean students (to some degree)? Yup, those teachers.

I know there are children out there who take it upon themselves to bully teachers. This I’ve also witnessed. But why do teachers take the sides of the bullies? Or become bullies towards their pupils?

I can’t answer for them. What I can do is tell you my experiences and hopefully share some advice.

As a child, from an immigrant family with English being my second language, I was a slow learner. (This was especially true in grades one through four.) With that I was a slow reader. I actually couldn’t read properly until mid-way through grade four. I never told my teachers and they never really seemed to care.

The only students that they cared about was the smart kids and the special needs kids. (That was the term used for such children back then, and if it offends anyone than so be it.) I found myself in the middle and thus I was left out of their care.

As a child that is how I felt. My learning disability was kept a secret as much as my childhood depression was hidden from the world. So it seemed to me.

Back on topic: a teacher, who believed she was constantly the focal point of mockery, was a major culprit in this. As a slow reader and a slow note-taker, it took me ages to copy her lectures from the board and go on to the next section. One day when such a thing occurred, and I hadn’t finished jotting everything down and hadn’t opened my textbook to the page she demanded me to read, she snapped. “You think you’re too good to open your book?”

That day I knew she hated kids and despised her job. The question I have for such teachers is: why are you teaching our children if you loath them so much? Get out now before you destroy their lives forever.

I was afraid to tell the right people about this incident. Instead I handled it the best my young mind knew how. I exploded at her just as I did against all others who bullied me. My low self-esteem got the better of me then and, unfortunately, I find that this training is still prevalent in my way of thinking today.

Old habits die hard.

Being shown that one doesn’t matter, or is demonstrated to be a waste of time and space, remains in the subconscious far too long. A child grows up with the training of adults and his/her mind is moulded more by the negative experiences as with the positive. This is a sad truth.

What can a child do if a “trusted” teacher or other role-model is the bully?

Nothing! That is towards the culprit.

Everything! This is to get help. Children, no matter their age, need to be encouraged by their parents to share how their days went. All information given are clues parents need to be open to hearing.

As parents (which I am not one yet) we need to listen to our kids more than we need to probe them for information. If something seems amiss you, as loving parents, need to relay this information to someone at the school or school board who can do something about it.

Parents, ask questions about everything. Be in your children’s lives from the beginning. Foremost, be their parents; not their best friends; not police officers nor their lawyers. You need to find a balance to deal with bullies and help your child deal properly with bullies of all ages.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, ESV). Too much caring and too little caring can both lead a child to anger. Be careful.

When I say don’t be “their lawyers” I mean two things:

First, don’t ask leading questions. Especially when your kid doesn’t want to talk and you suspect the reason. Usually your suspected reason is the wrong reason. Never put words in their mouths just as you don’t want them to put words in your mouth.

Be respectful of them.

Second, don’t always take their word as hard core evidence in any case. If something in ongoing you will know. If it’s the first time a teacher bullied your kid (according to his/her account), listen but don’t go witch hunting that second. The story your kid just told you is from his/her recollection of the day’s event.

Always check the facts.

It may be difficult to sit by while your child is bullied, but what if your little one directly or indirectly asked for it?

One last thing to remember: what your kid believes is unfair treatment may not be unfair treatment. But teacher-bullies do exist and they need to be removed from their teaching posts, a.s.a.p.


DISCLAIMER: I am no expert in the field of mental illness or of childhood counselling/caregiving. All of my posts are solely my experiences and/or my opinions. There are a lot of people around who have opinions on anything and everything. Please, be careful and don’t believe all you read as fact or dismiss it as fiction.