Monday, February 20, 2012

I Really Hope So

Have you ever lost something? I'm constantly losing things. As I grow older, I find myself losing more and more it seems (probably not a good sign for my old-age years....) Something that really interests me is this: we rarely notice that we have lost something until we need it. We don't realize that we don't have our car keys until we are outside of the car door in the pouring rain. Our wallet doesn't cross our mind until we're in the drive through at Arby's and we have no way of paying for our meal. I guess it makes sense because most of us don't take a constant inventory of what items we are carrying with us, but the trend extrapolates to more important things I think. The process of losing something doesn't happen quickly, and it is normally not noticed at first. Take a marriage for example. Most marriages that fail do not fail instantaneously. There are small things that lead to bigger things that lead to real issues. Couples probably do not consciously think that the small arguments that they experience could be precursors to divorce. That is probably irrational in the moment, but looking back, I have heard many couples chock up the failed marriage to the "little things." 

Time for some life story (enthusiasm ensues.) The biggest thing I ever lost was my faith. That is a bit of an overused phrase that means a lot of different things to different people. I did lose my faith in Christianity and stopped attending church, but it is a lot more than that. I lost my faith in people and in the world; in an innate goodness that I once believed people were born with. No longer did I look at people and see creatures capable of good, I saw hypocrisy and underlying motives and selfishness. Partly because all of those things were present in my own life, and I assigned them to the other people that I met, but I also experienced some deep hurts from people. To digress, I lost my faith in the world. It was not a decision made in haste or overnight though. I didn't wake up one day and decide to be a bitter, cynical, depressed jerk. It was a long process of events and walking away that led to where I was. And I didn't admit to myself that I had lost faith in everything until I was in the darkest place of the journey. I think that's how it goes when we lose things. I didn't fully realize that my hope was gone until I reached for it and it was gone. I needed a handle to anchor me, and it was gone. 

The scary part of the story is that I didn't know it was gone. It was almost like one of those falling dreams where you get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and then wake up. I leaned my life back and there was nothing to catch me. 

How does this apply to anything? It seems so easy. As if we merely acknowledge that we have lost something, and then go find it. You realize that your car keys aren't in your pocket, so you go back inside and find them on the counter. You reach for a wallet that isn't there so you drive all the way back to work and eat up (pun intended) half of your lunch break and silently curse the world (yeah, this happens to me at least once a week..) But what happens when you  really can't find what you're looking for? When you spend hours looking for it. It's maddening isn't? There is nothing worse than scouring a house for an item that cannot be located. I remember once at band practice I lost my car keys, and we looked for almost 2 hours before I found them...on the dash of my car. I was so incredibly furious. Where does this leave us in life when we can't find what we're looking for? Is there a kitchen counter of life where all of our problems can be found? For a long time, I didn't know the answer to that. I searched high and low for an anchor, but came up empty. 

Eventually, just like my car keys, I returned to the source to search for my lost faith. It was the most sensical decision I have ever made. If I had lost faith in people, I needed to return to people, not alcohol or sex or any of the other routes I tried. Just because one person hurt me, it doesn't mean all people will. Losing your keys on Monday doesn't insure that you will lose them again on Tuesday. Life is an imperfect organism that is constantly dealing out ill-conceived situations, but it doesn't have to drive us to give up. You can't find God or hope when  you aren't looking for them. It's as simple as that. If you put on a blindfold and intently stare at a mirror, you will not see yourself. No matter how desperately you concentrate, you cannot see through a blindfold. In the same way, I could not have found my faith by continuing to wear a blindfold. 

I hurt for those of you who struggle with locating hope and faith. It is a battle I know very well, and I understand how desperate and bleak it can be. I'm definitely not an expert in this, or any, area of life, but let me offer this one thing I have learned: look at what you are looking for. It seems trite and too easy, but it makes so much sense if you dig deeper. If you are looking for a mountain, you can't stare at the ground and merely wander around. You might get lucky one day and walk into it, but the odds are slim. Instead you could look up, and see which direction you need to walk. It doesn't change the fact that you are far from the mountain, but it does give you a direction to walk in. The same goes for life. When you raise your eyes from the ground, you will not instantly be back to fine, but you can enjoy the hope of having a new direction to walk in. 

Don't give up, friends. There is always hope, we just are not always looking at it. 

God, give us the strength to lift our eyes and look for hope and faith.

(I really appreciate you all reading today. You can follow me on Twitter at @matthewhillec if you'd like to.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

There's A Wall There....Trust Me.

I think the only person in the entire world that understands the reference in the title is my older sister. It will come into play though, I assure you. Have you ever noticed that trust seems to be making itself very scarce these days? It seems like hearing that "trust issues" were the culprit in a failed relationship is an almost daily occurrence. I certainly cannot speak for anyone else, but in my own life it has been a huge stumbling block for me. I think at the root of the issue, trust is nothing more than knowing another person; knowing someone, but also becoming comfortable with that other human knowing you. The last half of the definition is the kicker for me. I love getting to know people, but people getting close to me scares me to death. And I know I am not alone in that regard. We are a protective race. This protective nature leads to us guarding our deepest self. There are obviously people who are more comfortable with opening themselves up to trust, but I think, on a certain level, a majority of people are nervous about letting someone else get to know them on a deep level. 

As I personally grew into my adult years, I never gained a firm grip on how to trust people. I chose instead to construct safety barriers. As people grew closer to me, they become acquainted with pre-determined answers and traits that I was comfortable with and that I could control. The thing about barriers is that they become taller and more complex as life progresses and and soon they become walls. Further down the line, they close all around you. What does it mean to be walled in? For me it came in the form of distance. Distance from people who I wanted to be close to, but for some reason I could not make myself grow towards. Distance is a quiet menace. It hurts, but at the same time it is incredibly difficult to pin down. It can be felt, but not seen. People who attempted to get close to me could definitely feel that there were walls between them and me, but there is nearly nothing you can do about someone who closes their self off from the world. Since those days, I have made steps towards becoming someone who trusts, but still there are things that I do not understand about trust. I think that trust is a process though. Perhaps it is not all meant to be grasped at once. Trusting too soon can lead to being hurt and betrayed, but refusing to trust leads to bitterness. Somewhere in the middle there is a healthy place that we are all looking for.

My dad and I work together (and by that I mean I work for him) so we spend a lot of time together during the days. One day recently I was loading an axle into the back of a customers truck. Let me frame the scenario a bit. The truck was brand new and very fancy. By my best estimate, it was probably worth roughly 60,000 dollars. The axle going into the back of this truck was worth close to 1,000 dollars. I was driving a forklift worth several thousand dollars, carrying the axle towards this brand new truck. As I approached the back of the truck I saw my dad. He was standing to my left. When I was in position to load the axle into the truck, something unfortunate happened. I had to raise the axle to such a height that I could not see the truck at all. Without prompting, my dad appeared at my side and said these simple words, "Come on in. I've got you." So without a clear view of the truck, axle or even people for that matter, I began to drive forward. In fact I took my eyes off of the ground in front of me and focused all of my attention on my dad's hand. He was slowly waving me forward and directing me. In that moment I realized that I was learning what it means to trust. There was a ton of money at stake if I hit something with the gigantic forklift, and yet I wasn't watching it at all. I know my dad on such a level that I knew he would not let me hit anything. 

I think trust can work like that with anyone. For a lot of years, I could not make myself believe that anyone would ever care enough to put me in front of themselves. That is a vital component to trust. That day, my dad put me in front of himself and took control of the situation. He was the one making sure that the truck, the axle, and everyone involved stayed safe. I was only watching his hand. I often wonder of God in heaven is begging me to take the same approach with him that I take with my dad. What would my life look like if took my eyes off the things that I think are important and instead watched for God's hand; slowly waving me away from danger. It's a powerful thought to say the least. 

I know that I am not the only person in history to ever build walls around myself. It happens all the time. I am learning every day what it means to trust people, and how to deconstruct those walls. I look forward to meeting and trusting new people, and I know that we all have the ability to trust. Don't rush into it or out of it. Trust is a lot like a turtle (just wait my friends...) slow and steady wins the race. Just start the race.

(Thanks for reading today. Follow me on Twitter if you wanna chat: @MattHillEC.)