Monday, September 10, 2012

The Chicago Blues

This is going to be a short one.  I’ll start (as it seems I always do) by apologizing for not writing in so long. I let m life become too busy too often. Now on with the show.

I was in Chicago a couple of months ago, and some events transpired that gave me a case of the heavy heart. I had a few hours to myself one day, and I ended up taking a walk through the northern part of the city. I was letting my thoughts ramble around my head, and didn’t even notice myself smile and nod to a man who was in his front yard. This type of thing is not out of the ordinary in Arkansas where I come from. I wasn’t trying to intrude on his privacy or make him uncomfortable, I just enjoy acknowledging other people. What I received from him was an indescribably cold stare. He looked threatened and defensive as if I was challenging him to a fight. It caught me completely off guard. I lowered my eyes and kept walking. I decided to try the same thing again a few minutes later, and I got a response similar to the first. I didn’t understand at all. I wasn’t dressed offensively; I had no motives; I couldn’t see any reason for them to have treated me as they did. As I walked more, I made it a point to make eye contact with other walkers. I never once got a smile or a nod back. Women looked at me like I was a rapist, men gave me hard stares and moved quickly by.

As I thought about it all later, my heart hurt. Not because people had been cold with me. I have something of a titanium spirit at this point in my life. I’m used to opposition, and it no longer bothers me as it once did. Instead, I hurt for those people. Either something had happened to them that made them so unreceptive to human contact, or they had been raised to not trust other people. I understand that Chicago is a much different place than Little Rock. There are far more predators on the streets, and it is a more dangerous place. Still, I hurt for those people who didn’t seem able to receive a loving smile or a genuine greeting. It seems unnatural to me that human connection can come across as a threat. I hurt for people who cannot see it as genuine. I hurt for our world where we are brought up to shun actions of true kindness and look for the ulterior motives that are sure to be found.

I’ve had a phrase in my mind the last few months. “Let no man or woman live unseen.” It is only seven simple words, but to me it means everything. If I had a mantra, this would be it. I think it is our duty as humans to love one another. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Whether you believe in God or not, this advice is solid. To love those around you just as much as you love yourself is a powerful notion. Whether they receive that love or not is not the issue. We must continue to give it. We live in a terribly broken world in desperate need of people who are willing to give instead of take.

Maybe this all sounds too trite to you. Love people? Of course we’re supposed to do that. We’ve been taught that since kindergarten. I agree, but I don’t think very many people actually do it. How many individuals do we pass by every day and not see? Try something. Try to keep your eyes open and count how many people you see every day. It soon becomes an overwhelming task, but do it anyway. Then count how many of these people you have interaction with. It is incredibly convicting to look at the results. We see so many people every day, and so often we let them slip past us unseen. Not all of us have lived the unseen life, so we can’t fully understand how much it hurts to be passed over. I have lived that life though, and it cuts so deep to honestly think that everyone who passes over you places more value on their daily tasks than on your human life.

This is a problem; a big problem. Our world is a decaying place. It is full of people trying to advance themselves. It is daunting to imagine changing the way that things are. To be honest, you can’t. You cannot change the entire world. There are seven billion people on the planet. Based on the average life span, you would have approximately a quarter of a second to speak to each person on earth. And that is assuming you start from the second you are born and never sleep for over 72 years.  It is impossible, but that isn’t the point. You cannot change the whole world, but you can change your world. You can affect the slice of earth that you dwell in every day. How? See people. Truly see them. Talk to the guy that you order your lunch from, the girl crying at her locker in the hallway, the man who looks overwhelmed at your job. What is the point of living a selfish life?

“Let no man or woman live unseen.”

Follow me on Twitter here

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I'm going to be very honest. I'm going through a lot of tough stuff right now. Life isn't what I thought it would be when I was 20 years old. It is supposed to be fun and carefree, but it's not. It's been almost two months since I've posted here. I just haven't felt like writing. I haven't felt like doing anything. There are so many serious, adult things going on that I never foresaw. I guess this is what growing up does to you. (I promise you this isn't got to be as emo as it sounds. At least hopefully.)

Life becomes a very complicated thing as we grow up. The last few months have been hard. I've seen people fail that I really looked up to. I've failed people that I really care about. I've gone back to habits that I thought I'd never go back to. I've been stuck in a stagnant state. There is nothing as disheartening as not growing. There are so many things that I want to accomplish. I want to grow closer to God, discover His plan, become the man that I need to be; but I've been so stuck in a rut. I get in these cycles too often, and it kills me. I have to watch the people that I love and care about move on with their lives, and everything in me wants to be right beside them. For some reason, though, I sit idly by. I've been letting life pass right in front of my eyes without saying a word. I feel like I'm behind a glass wall watching everyone live their lives. 

Needless to say I've been on a journey since I last posted. I'm really not as depressed as I sound. I don't sit at home in a dark room and drink whiskey by myself or anything like that. Life has just been throwing me some serious curve balls. Things have started changing though, and I've finally taken steps to grow in my faith and as a person. I'm beginning to grasp the concept that change is normally not an instance, it's a process. It takes time; it takes failures; it takes incredibly hard learning experiences, but it can start to happen. What I really want to say is this: I've seen some of the lowest, darkest places in this life, and I hurt for those of you who get caught up in those places. I know how hard it is to be free of that trap; I really do, but it is worth every day of pain that I takes to find a better life for yourself. It is so much better to look back upon the days of being stuck rather that being in them. There is a God above us that is dying for us to take his hand and allow him to lead us out of the valleys of this life. 

We live in an imperfect, broken world. Every day that we're alive brings us one day closer to the day that we'll die. My worry is this: I don't want to waste the time I have left here on earth by digging myself deeper and deeper into a dark hole. I hate that I've done that, and I hate where it's left me. I've hurt so many people; ruined friendships. I've hurt myself and gotten so far off-course. I'm so completely in love with a girl that I can't be with because of what I've done. It hurts to mess up our lives; I understand. Sitting around and letting ourselves grow more and more desolate in our pitiful traps is not the answer though. 

Please know that I'm not trying to judge anyone for what you've done or where you are. And I know that where we are in life is not always completely our fault. I've been there. I am there now as a matter of fact. All I want you to know is that you are so deeply worth fighting for. Never let anyone tell you that you aren't. You deserve to get up and change how things are. Don't settle for what you've become if you know that you were meant to be something more. 

"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." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Thank you for reading, and may God bless you all.

You can find me on Twitter here

Monday, June 11, 2012

Change Part II

Let's be honest, how many of us have had problems with getting over an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend? I think that is an experience that a lot of us can share. If not, God bless you. You are an incredibly lucky person. It's rough though isn't it? The smallest things can remind you of them: TV shows or movies, certain restaurants, even smells or tastes. It is evidence of just how close two people can be intertwined; how deeply we can affect another human. 

Sometimes I look at myself as being two separate people. It is childish I know, but I look at the good side of myself and the bad side. Almost an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other scenario. While I know that it is more complicated than that, it doesn't change the fact that it helps me to frame my thoughts. There is a part of me that wants to grow; to change; to fight new battles and see old ones conquered. This side of me is the good side. It longs for new places and people; longs to see God's plan come to fruition in my life. There is also the side of me that holds me back. The side that reminds me of my failures; that is comfortable in the past making the same mistakes. This is the bad side of me. It sees no value in change.

To jump back to the beginning for a moment, I sometimes wonder how deeply the halves of myself affect each other. It is so hard for me to let things in the past go. It is almost like breaking up with someone in a way. In order for me, or for anyone, to separate with the past (the bad side of us) we must lose a part of ourselves. It's hard. It's painful. Often it leads to losing people and things that are dear to us. I know and understand this well. So many times I've made efforts to change things about myself only to run back to them when I'm lonely or upset. It's human nature to find things that are comfortable and that we feel safe around. But there are times in life when you reach a place and you know that things have to change; when you understand that you are in a unhealthy pattern and you want to get out of it. These are the moments that feel like we are breaking up with ourselves. In a lot of ways, it is worse than breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It changes everything about your life. You have to change the people that you hang out with, places you go, maybe even jobs. Or maybe it's not that severe for you, but you're ready to change habits or tendencies that you know are not healthy. I know how you feel. Anything and everything reminds you of your old ways. It is impossible to forget the past, but even separating from the past is incredibly difficult.

These moments define our lives. All too often we change momentarily, only to fall back later. I've done it time and time again; most of us have. This example has helped me to think more clearly about these moments. Imagine that you have a friend who is in an unhealthy dating relationship. She is dating a guy that is clearly no good for her. He is pushing to her to do things that are hurting her. She's pulling away from you and her other friends, even her family. The patterns that she is forming with him are hurting her life. Nothing hurts worse than seeing situations like these. You do everything that you can to reach out to your friend and let her know that she deserves better and that she could be happier and healthier without this relationship. Why is it so hard to see similar patterns within ourselves? It is a baffling question, but one that could prevent so much pain in our lives. What if we all pretended that we had two halves, a good side that wants to change and a bad side that does not (please...just humor my childish examples.) If we lay out all of the decisions that we make, and honestly examine the evidence that our lives create, I think we would be startled to see that the halves of ourselves are in a bitter gridlock. The trade win for loss, but in the end both cannot have a significant foothold in our lives.

Just like it's not easy to part with a significant other, it is equally as hard to part with habits and patterns in our lives, but it's necessary in order to grow. I don't want to seem like I think that I have it all together. I surely do not. There are things in my life that need to change. I just want to share how I'm thinking about change, and how I'm preparing my own life in this state. Know that you are not alone in this life journey. Never be afraid to let the past die. It doesn't deserve to have a hold on your life that slows you down from change. I know that we don't all believe the same here, and, as always, I respect that, but just know that I believe there is a God who sees us as we are, and loves to help us change. Don't be afraid. 

Thanks for reading today. Connect with me on Twitter: @matthewhillec