I spent the first 45 years of my life literally drowning.
Driven by a fear of failure, I was drowning in control issues, constantly working hard to manipulate the circumstances and produce favorable outcomes. This was true in both business and family. It was exhausting working so hard, presenting the appearance of having it together when everything was falling apart.
It was one crisp fall day six years ago in the midst of economic circumstances I never saw coming when I realized all the possibilities for manipulation had come to an end. There was no favorable outcome to be had. My publishing business would close, and my perceived identity would be lost. When a control freak obsessed with a successful reputation loses control of it all, things go dark fast.
Incidentally, I knew better than to put my identity in my business, but I did it anyway. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion. But I knew better.
It was, or at least I thought it was, the most tragic circumstance of my life. Depression is an awful thing. Certain personalities handle it even less successfully than others. I wouldn’t wish it on the strongest warrior.
My road to overcoming depression was long and winding. It mostly involved good people like my wife and mom never giving up on me, but there was only so much they could do. At a certain point the responsibility of crawling out of the mire was mine, and mine alone.
Getting better was a painfully slow process for both me and my family, and it’s really only been in the last couple of years that I’ve felt renewed, refreshed, and re-energized.
Almost all of it had to do with the ongoing process of learning how to walk by faith.
It’s one of those biblical terms that’s so easy to overcomplicate, label as ill-defined, and completely misunderstand. We over analyze so much today.
These are five steps that helped me understand more about walking by faith. It’s not exclusive to other things, but these were key:
- I had to realize a choice always existed.
- I had to understand that not only is it my purpose, moreover, it’s my very nature to glorify God.
- I had to shut up and listen.
- I had to come to terms with the fact that my life is more about others than it is about me.
- I had to learn to lean on God (not my own understanding) for the wherewithal to execute His purpose for me.
About #1: I’m a huge creature of habit. I like certain routines, am comfortable in certain ways of thinking, and yet while open-minded, am very slow to make radical turns in philosophical/moral thought. Maybe it’s more aptly described as just being set in your ways. Or maybe I’m just “hard-headed” as we say in the South.
I had to learn to let God confront me about these things. I had to comprehend that in just about every circumstance there’s a choice between righteousness and sinfulness. My inclination is to sinfulness. Alas, there is always a choice.
About #2: I had to wrap my mind around the truth that I was created and wired to deify/worship/revere (insert whatever word you wish) something. I’ve revered a lot of things in my life, but ultimately, I’m placed on earth to have a relationship with God. He doesn’t need my love or admiration. He simply desires it. That’s pretty huge.
So when I pray now, it’s not just a laundry list of asking for daily provision or this or that for my family. It’s just giving praise and glory to His magnificence. “Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
About #3: I had to learn how to stop running my mouth and my mind. I’m one of those people who, until you get to really know me, appears quiet, removed and fairly distant. I don’t know why it’s that way, but it is. Within my inner circle, the people with whom I’m most comfortable, I almost never shut up.
There are times when it surely appears God is silent. In fact I think there are unquestionably times when God IS silent. More often, however, I think, we mistake his silence for our noise and inability to hear.
I once calculated that I’d interviewed more than 15,000 people in my journalism career. That’s a lot of people. Honing the skill of the interview may be the most valuable professional thing I’ve learned in life. You have to listen. It’s the ONLY way you’ll ever know the next question to ask. You have to listen.
About #4: It’s simple really. The most profound thing I read in Rick Warren’s timeless book Purpose Driven Life, is this: We are most ourselves when we’re serving other people. It’s true. Not much else you can say. If you don’t meditate on anything else today, meditate on that. Here it is again: We are most ourselves when we’re serving other people.
About #5: I like reference points that get me where I’m going. Maybe it’s a blaze on a hiking trail, the North Star giving me reference to another object in the sky, or the GPS lady checking off certain markers along an unknown road trip. The one, singular thing I desire more than anything else in life today is a growing, developing, never-ending pursuit and understanding of the truth. Here’s my philosophy toward that end:
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” ~ Romans 10:17
The truth is, my understanding right there, in that verse above. All of it. Everything.
None of this is easy for me. It’s a work in progress. Always will be. But there’s nothing but time, right?