Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tonight. Love.

Tonight. Tonight I'm thinking about love. Tonight I watched a movie in which, as in all movies it seems, two people fell hopelessly in love in some grossly misconstrued recreation of reality that could never happen in this (the real) world. Love is something that I never write about, because I didn't believe in it for a long time (And because I'm not Cory Copland...Sorry I love you dude); at least I didn't believe that it was for everyone. Sure, people find other people that make them happy and start families with them. My parents just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. There are happily married couples all over the world. I've just been in too many unhealthy, failing, and plain bad relationships to not see that there are negative aspects to love. I couldn't list the number of people I've wronged and hurt through relationships. The relate part of the word is what has caused me to stumble. I'm great in a relationship until I get to the moments where things get deep and serious. Insecurities come to the table. Girls find out that I'm an emotional, thoughtful, sensitive guy with who's prone to crying in movies, not talking for days, and general moodiness (I just shattered any chance of meeting my future wife here.) Things end up not working out, and yet I fall for the same type of girl over and over.

Now that I've ranted a bit, I'm going to shift gears. I'm still shooting from the hip, and this will be a very raw post, but I'm going to be a bit more organized. I've wondered so many times why the girls that I fall for, do not fall for the kind of guy that I am. I think I'm relatively good looking, I play guitar in a band, I ride motorcycles, I buy girls nice things, I dress cool, but nothing seems to help (I promise I'm not being conceited, there is a point to this.) A thought sticks out. I have these lists of good and bad points, but in my own experiences, they have not really led to me being broken up with. In fact, I have never been broken up with. I've always ended relationships, or they've ended mutually. I wonder then if girls are my problem or if I am my problem. I say that I'm emotional, sensitive, quiet, and often incredibly hard to read and understand, but I am the one who always bails out of relationships. I say that girls don't fall for me, but maybe I don't let them. This is getting pretty girly pretty fast, and I apologize. I do need to get this all out of my system though, so please bear with me.

Here is my thought: what if the things that we are most insecure about in our own lives are the things that prohibit us from having healthy relationships? I know that there are a few of you perfect couples out there who talk about each other's problems at length while you braid each other's hair and eat grapes (what the heck? I shouldn't write this late at night...) but for the rest of us HUMANS, it's not always that simple. I think one of the main reasons that I don't do well in relationships is that I'm scared of myself. I'm scared to make the same mistakes that I've made in the past; scared of hurting people. But I'm also scared of my own flaws. I'm scared that my emotional tendencies will ruin more relationships; worried that my thoughtfulness could again be seen as condescension; scared to return to unhealthy patterns. Am I insecure? Definitely. Have I ever admitted that? No. Well actually yes, now I have to all of you. I always said this was an honest place, and I will continue to make it so. Because this is hard for me to write about.

So where does that leave those of us who are too scared of ourselves to fully open up to a relationship? I'm not sure to be honest with you. We've all heard that we need to "get to know ourselves" before we date. I believe this with all of my heart, but I think it is easy to know yourself and hard to find the next step. I think and write everyday. I know myself so well that it hurts; too well probably. I'm painfully aware of my every good and bad point, so there must be a step beyond simply knowing yourself. Perhaps it is defining yourself. What I mean might be better explained with a story:

Say you've created a product; a vacuum cleaner (purely arbitrary.) You know this product through and through. You were present at every stage of its development: the initial designing, prototypes, all the way to its completion. You know its every success and failure along the way. The thing is, now you have to market it. You have to take the hundreds of tedious bits of information that you have on this and transform it into something that people can understand. Instead of telling people about the speed that the belt turns or the capacity of the tank in cubic millimeters or how many man hours goes into making ten units, or how many prototypes you went through before arriving at this final product, you would want to tell people something more helpful like, "Hey this machine will clean your carpet. It's stylish and relatively cheap." You don't have to be worried that it will break or fall apart like it did in the developmental stage because those issues have been fixed. 

I think the same could be said for our lives. ( Just to clarify, I don't think we should turn ourselves into vacuum cleaners.) Instead we could stop overemphasizing the small flaws that we have. We could be okay with our ineptitudes and not let them throw a wrench into our relationships. You know what ladies? I am emotional, but I'm also a guy who is eligible to date. I love baseball, I love big cities, I love boots. The same can be said for girls. Maybe you've been really used by a guy or you have issues with your father or you think you're too emotional or whatever, but you also love volunteering at a pet shelter and you love to paint and deep down you still love Avril Lavigne. Why can't those things be just important to us as the failures? I don't want anyone to be conceited, but own your strong points. Ladies, be excited to tell that cute guy that you love to paint. Guys, be excited to tell your lovely lady that you love baseball instead of being scared of letting your emotional side shine through and having to end another relationship. 

(Just to come off of my rant for a bit and clarify, I don't think you should do anything you feel is wrong. If you have issues that you need to work through, by all means work through them. That is part of the getting to know yourself process I think. Don't skip to the definition stage if your aren't ready. Don't put yourself back in a situation where you could get hurt again. that is counter-productive and will only hold you back. Now back to your regular programming.) 

We should not be so scared of getting to know a new person at a deep level that we run from someone who might be good for us. We should not nit pick other people's lives and find small things to justify ending or bailing out of a relationship. Don't date someone who isn't right for you, but don't be so quick to assume that someone isn't right for you. And don't be scared of getting to know someone new. 

Why do we have to be so incredibly attentive to the things in the past that ended relationships, when we could instead be excited about future ones? There is always room to grow. I'm still not sure how I feel about love. Some people say you only love once, some say you love many but fall in love with one. Some of us have no idea (that would be me.) But regardless we were all created with the ability to love and be loved. God put inside of us the potential to care for others deeply, and to share a marriage with a person that he created. Have my emotional tendencies ended relationships? Yes. Will they end every relationship I'm ever in? Absolutely not. Some girls will not like it, but one day I will find a girl who does. I'm not broken, and none of you are either. We all have flaws, but that should not and does not disqualify us from being happy. God loves each of us with our flaws and failures, and we should learn to love each other with our flaws. Chances are, we will never find a perfect, suitable significant other, so don't look for one. Look for someone who sees every part of you and loves it. And in turn, see every part of yourself and love it. (There's the Oprah Winfrey ending we were all waiting for.)

Thank you for reading my rambles. You can follow me on Twitter at @matthewhillec

Monday, May 28, 2012

There's A Wall There....Trust Me (Part II)

I will say it again on this post, if anyone catches the classic animated film reference in the title, mad props. It was time again this week to learn a lesson in trust. I ride motorcycles with my dad a lot, and as cliche as it may sound, there are a lot of lessons to be learned on the road.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my dad and I got the chance to go for a ride one evening. As we rode out of Benton, a string of thoughts started forming in my head. I immediately knew it was forming into a post, so I payed careful attention to what was happening (and the road of course.) We were riding on a road that had a speed limit of 40 miles per hour, and I really wasn't paying attention to my own speed as I was following my dad. I did happen to glance down at one point though, and I noticed that we were going 10 over the speed limit. It is uncharacteristic of my dad to speed, and shortly thereafter we did return to the speed limit. In that moment when I realized we were speeding, an interesting thought came into my head. I wasn't in the least bit worried that we were going to fast. I trust my dad more than anyone in the entire world, and I knew that he was being careful and "monitoring the situation" as he puts it. I knew that we wouldn't get pulled over, and if we did he would take responsibility. I was completely comfortable riding within the safety net of my father.

As we continued to ride, I noticed other nuances about our riding that I never took the time to think about previously. We always ride in staggered formation. He is always on the right and I always take the left; every time. I find myself following his path around bits of sticks or gravel in the road without even having to notice them myself. I mirror his movements, and thereby avoid danger. I don't always have to pay as meticulous attention to where I'm going as I would if I were alone because I don't have any fear of getting lost with my dad. Every other time that I've ridden bikes with someone, I've been in the lead. I don't trust anyone but my father to lead me. I don't feel comfortable following anyone else.

Towards the end of the ride, something landmark happened. We were a few miles from home when my dad made an unexpected stop. He pulled into a parking lot, and I was 75 percent sure that I knew what was happening. Let me frame the story a bit. My dad has an incredibly cool Harley Davidson, and I ride a slightly less cool Kawasaki (Okay, it's significantly less cool.) It's always been that way, and there are no hard feelings; he just looks way cooler everywhere we go. I had never riden any of his Harleys before then. Not because he doesn't trust me, it's just a whole different kind of riding when the bike weighs over 700 pounds as compared to the 400 pounds mine weighed. Bearing that in mind, we pulled into a parking lot, and in the way only my dad can, he simply said, "wanna switch?" I was floored. On the inside, I was so nervous about the potential to wreck his prize bike that I nearly lost control of my bowels, but I pseudo-suavely got on and pretended to be nothing short of confident. The next ten minutes of my life were some of the greatest I can remember (okay that might be a bit severe) but in all honestly, it was incredible to finally ride a real man's bike. As I stepped off the bike in our garage, I couldn't stop thinking about losing my Harley virginity (okay I'm sorry that was raucous...) But I couldn't stop smiling. Most importantly, I was completely in awe that my dad entrusted me with his motorcycle.

Though the experience alone was superb, I couldn't overlook the deeper implications that had been bouncing around my head as we rode. I wonder how my faith journey would be different if I looked at God like I like at my dad when we ride? How badly does God want me to accept his safety net just as fully as I accept my earthly father's? I put up no walls when I'm around my dad, and I know that I can be the same with a God who has no sense of condemnation; only a love that knows absolutely no boundaries. He is ready to trust me with his plans, and his gifts; his spiritual Harley Davidson if you will. My dad knows that I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I haven't always respected him like I should, and yet he overlooks those things and chooses to be my mentor and my friend. Our Heavenly father is no different. He is begging us to trust him and follow in his footsteps; his tire treads. He wants to be the only one that we trust enough to follow.

God loves us more than we can understand; more than we can accept at times. I've run from it; we've all run from it. That doesn't change the fact that it steadily follows us into the darkest places we can find, all the while retaining as much candor and intensity as it ever has or will. While we choose to follow people and things that have underlying agendas and will take abrupt turns without warning, God shows us his path from the beginning. It is straight and flawless. We can follow him around the obstacles that the world throws in our path. Often he doesn't reveal the intricacies of his entire plan at once, but it doesn't change the fact that his path is set in stone. Just like my dad may not tell me from the beginning where exactly we're going to ride, I never have to worry that it will be on unsafe roads or in places that we should not be. How he leads does not change, and God is the same way. We can cease our worries about getting lost. And most importantly, we can appreciate the fact that, just like our motorcycle trips, every step and every mile takes us closer to home.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

I really appreciate you all taking the time out of your day to read. God bless each of you. You can follow me on Twitter at @matthewhillec

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Danny Roberts Theory

I've had something on my mind for a while that I haven't been able to fully think through until a couple of days ago. My friend Danny and I recently had a conversation about originality. I made the point that anything that the world deems original is really just derivative of previous thoughts and ideas. In the moment, I was probably getting a bit pretentious with my thoughts, but we were really having a meaningful conversation, so the idea stuck with me. I spent a lot of time pondering the implications of what I had said. Do I really think that there is no way to be truly original anymore? Have all of the good thoughts and ideas been used already? Initially this was my conclusion, but as I gave it more thought I came up with a new idea: originality necessarily must be derivative to be significant. Let me explain with some examples.

Think with me for a second. I think most of us remember when the first iPhone came out in 2007. It was revolutionary; mind-blowing; the first of its kind. If asked, anyone would say it was completely original. It began the smart phone arms race that has led to the most technologically-advanced cell phones of all time. But think about something else with me. The iPhone changed so many things, but it was still a cell phone. It still operated under the premise of text messages, phone calls, and emails. There were many aspects of the phone that had been used in many cell phones predating it. This is where my point comes in. In order for the iPhone to be as significant as it was, it had to establish reference points so that consumers could grasp what it entailed. It had to have a tangential point of contact with ideas that people already understood, or else it would have been useless.

Imagine someone inventing something that has no reference points. You see a commercial on television for a new product, but it is an unidentifiable shape, the commercial is in a language that no one on earth can understand, and at no point does it visually describe what the product is or does. This manufacturer has created something completely original, but at the same time completely isolated it and eradicated any chance of making money. There were no reference points in language, comprehension, comparison to other products, or even how to purchase the product. In essence, there is no way of spreading this "originality."

This concept makes me think of Delaunay Triangulation. You might be wondering what that is, but you actually know (I promise.) We've all seen a movie where brilliant CIA agents track a cell phone call to catch a criminal. They use this triangulation method to do so. Basically cell phones connect to the closest cell masts that they can find to make calls. To triangulate a call, these agents just reference the signal that they are picking up to the closest cell phone masts determine a location. (It's actually a bit more complicated, but I don't think any of us are going to be doing this anytime soon.) To get back to the point, this method takes a signal that is in an unknown place, and makes sense of it by referencing it to know points. I think truly original ideas should work like this. They stand alone upon first examination, but they can be compared and referenced to known ideas in order for them to make sense.

This brings me to what I really wanted to say. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said, "No finite point has meaning without an infinite reference point." If all physical ideas must be predicated upon previously known building blocks, it makes sense that in order for us to live original lives, we too must have a reference point. To be significant, we must be compared to significance. I think Sartre hit upon a brilliant thought. How can anyone view our lives as great if someone before us hadn't done great things? The notion of great had to come from somewhere. You could compare an extreme act of courage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; an act of humanitarianism to Nelson Mandela;  or any other of the thousands of examples that history provides. These are all valid reference points, but where is their reference point? Where is the origin of their originality, if you will? Sartre spoke of an infinite reference point. The interesting thing is that he was not referring to God. Sartre was one of the founding fathers of existentialism and believed that every human was responsible for themselves and their actions; "condemned to be free" as he put it. He did not believe in a creator or ascribe to religion. His idea then seems to have fallen short. He didn't seem to have an actual infinite reference point.

To consider any one person, idea, or concept as an infinite reference point is falling short as well I think. Every one of these has come from somewhere. Every idea is predicated upon preconceived building blocks, every person influenced by those who came before, and every concept conceived my those individuals who have been influenced. That leaves the question, what is the infinite reference point? You don't have to agree with me, but I know what my infinite reference point is. It is faith in a God and a love that predates all origin; that IS origin. There is no other example of  a thing or person that has no predecessor. Again, you don't have to agree. I welcome disagreement wholeheartedly. I know that I have tried so many things in life to find fulfillment, to reference my life against, and they've all fallen short except faith. It is available for all who are willing to receive.  

Thanks so much for reading today. God bless you all. Follow my good friend Danny on Twitter if you want to find a truly intelligent, gifted individual @xdannyrobertsx. And, as always, I'm at @matthewhillec

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I Want You

I had an interesting thought last weekend as I was walking around the beautiful campus at Hanover College in Indiana. Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and truly wanted that person? Not in a perverted or sexual way, but in a way such that you desire every part of them. You want to have their attention; their thought space; their love; their laughter. Every fiber of you wants every fiber of them. Maybe that's creepy or obsessive, but I think when you truly love someone, it is an accurate description of what you are feeling. Let me interject here and make it clear that I am not a relationship expert. In fact I am a relationship saboteur. I have dated far too many girls, made a lot of mistakes, and ruined some great friendships, but I have been in love once. I don't want to delve into what I believe love is; suffice it to say that she was a friend who's bond to myself could only have been formed through years of shared experiences. But I digress, that was how I felt about her.

For whatever reason, that idea was bouncing around in my head as I walked. I had a lot on my mind, and I was in an incredibly quiet, contemplative mood. Out of nowhere I had a heavy thought: what if God wants us with an equal desire as I just described. What if he truly, deeply yearns for every part of us. Often in relationships desire can be masked by surface-level emotions. Sometimes I can want someone so bad that it induces anger or sadness or frustration. Those emotions are not a summation of how I feel about this person, rather they are byproducts of my desire and the obstacles that stand between us. That was unclear, so let me try again with a story. Say you really like a girl name Jane. She is everything you want, but she is sending you mixed messages. You want so badly to be the only guy that she's thinking about, and sometimes it upsets you. Other times it makes you mad because she tampers with your emotions. But, underlying all of these emotions is desire; the desire for her to be yours, and it drives you through all of these emotions.

I think the same can be said of God. He is a jealous creator. He wants us so desperately that he can resort to extreme means to garner our attention. I wondered, as I walked, if we mistreat God in the same way that we mistreat each other in relationships; sending mixed signals. Being flippant with our emotions. How frustrating must that be for God? It drives me crazy when people are unable to make clear decisions. I know that not everyone is driven by the desire to be cut and dry with their whole lives, but decisiveness is needed in some cases, and I think God is screaming loud that he wants our attention. Wants us to make up our minds and stop second guess our every decision.

As I continued to let this thought simmer in my mind, it developed a bit further. In my own experiences, I've found that unrealistic expectations are often to blame for failed relationships; guys or girls that expect far too much from their significant other. When, however, a relationship advances to the point where you truly want someone, these expectations begin to fade. You don't so much care if they're perfect or if they've made mistakes. The negative becomes less important and is masked by your infatuation with the positive. Again I think the principle parallels with how God sees us. He doesn't focus on the reasons that we've run from him or the times that we've stumbled. His eyes are set on our potential to love and be loved by him.

I've yet to find a lasting, true love in human relationship in this life. Perhaps I will or perhaps I won't, but I've placed that secondary to finding a true love in a God who is infatuated with the future; not the past. People will always fail; always change, but there is a God and a love that are the only true constants we have in life. And they are free. God wants each and every one of us. He gave up his son so that ALL people would have the opportunity to have true life. ALL people.

"...God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved..." (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Thanks for reading. If you love Twitter, chat me up @matthewhillec