It has been about two months since I started my latest adventure: a new job. On the one hand, I really can’t say it is new because I’ve been doing the job for months, but only recently could I actually claim the title (and get business cards – woohoo!).
I won’t bore you with the beginnings of this transformation, except to say that emotionally, it took me on a roller coaster ride I wasn’t prepared for. Part of the ride had me trying to find meaning and purpose in the tasks I was doing, hoping that I would not be confronted with those words any employee dreads: “we don’t have any place for you”.
When I thought about my journey, it reminded me of Jacob. Short story on Jacob, he was the “non-favored son”, who ended up trying to find his place in his family line. Originally he tried to do it by manipulation, but eventually tried to do it right. However, even when he did try to do it right he found himself on the outside of where he wanted to be. Jacob was so affected by the path his life had taken, and the fact that he felt like he didn’t have any rights in his own life he ended up wrestling with the angel of God all night…
I won’t let go until you bless me…
People have used this verse out of context as a selfish formula for a life of extravagance, but that was the furthest thing from Jacob’s mind. Jacob wanted restoration – to his uncle and ultimately to his brother. He wanted to get out of the limbo he was experiencing, the desert of his life, and feel the joy of being with those that he could call his own.
I remember the day my new boss told me that I had the job. That day, nothing changed, and yet everything changed. Internally I felt that I finally had a place – I no longer had to try to prove that I could do the job – I had been affirmed. I had been invited into the organization. With that I experienced a feeling of belonging. It was a good feeling. Still is.
There is something special that happens when someone, especially someone you respect and honor affirms you and your place in their life. That person could be a boss, a close friend, a loved one, or maybe someone you are developing a relationship with. That affirmation can happen in many ways – in a hand written letter, like the one I received recently from someone I admire. It could be an opportunity given to participate in something new, or something as simple as a hug. It doesn’t matter so much how they come. What is important is that they do come, and what happens when they do.
Affirming people is more than just words. My boss could have said he liked me and my work and still let me go. Affirming people is an outward demonstration of the other person’s value to you. It is declaring not only that the person is important in general, but that the person is important to me.
Jacob fought all night because he needed affirmation. It could be said that he had been fighting all his life for the affirmation, which is why he was such a brat. What might his life had been if he had been freely given the affirmation that he, and we, so need?
I would bet that I am not the only person who has felt like Jacob, who could benefit from someone giving them a home – a place of belonging. This makes me also think of how I can be that for other people. Because of this, I have started to be more intentional about being affirming to people around me. It is a challenge, but one well worth the effort.
There are so many people that I have in my life that are affirming, it would take forever to list them. However, I do want to note some that are making it a practice of affirming others:
Estrella Azul – Estrella recently updated her religion as “Love”, which I think is so cool. Not only does she make it a habit of affirming friends and loved ones, but she regularly participates in moreloveletters.com, which, if you don’t know about, you really should. You can see more of Estrella’s work at http://estrella05azul.wordpress.com
Hannah Brencher – founder of moreloveletters.com, Hannah started a movement all designed to bring those with love to give together with those needing love. Hannah’s movement has gotten such notoriety that she has appeared on Ted Talks. If you need to put anything on your bucket list, participating with Hannah in brightening up someone’s life with a love letter needs to be that one thing.
J. Clement Wall – Inspiring people to love, and to love well is a worthy task for anyone, and J does it as well as anyone could. Starting with the Love Project, and moving to A Human Thing, J challenges us to reach out, to challenge ourselves, to love in unconventional ways. J calls forth the best in people, and invites us to do the same in others. You need to be a part of this love phenomenon.
Chris Michaels – Many people have a testimony that comes when everything “gets better”. Chris’ testimony kicked in when everything was going crazy, and fueled a fire in him that is touching many people. “Picked for His Purpose” is bringing the community together to feed the less fortunate by simply allowing Chris and his volunteers to pick and prune people’s fruit trees, and give the fruit away to food banks or anyone in need. In a short very short time, Chris and crew have donated close to half a ton of fruit, and show no signs of slowing down. You can find out more about Chris at http://chrisamichaels.com, or picked4purpose.org.
7 Replies to “Finding a Home”
Kenneth. This post spoke to me on so many levels, I’ve got chills. It’s as if you crawled inside me and my life, then spilled it all over your page. I don’t even know where to begin!
For the past few weeks, in the most random places and times, the story of Jacob has come to my attention, like an arrow pointing. At one point, I finally surrendered and opened up my Bible to read and meditate on his story. It ended up being a confirmation for me, because I recognized myself in Jacob, and that I’ve been in a mighty wrestling match in my relationship with God, and I won’t stand down. That isn’t to say it’s coming from a spoiled brat place, like I’m over here standing with arms crossed, pouting, with an “I ain’t gonna move until I get my way” kind of attitude. It’s more…convicted, …more…a feeling like standing up to a parent, saying, “Enough! This is MY life, and I will have a say in it!”
The irony, (and there always seems to be some sort of an irony with God), is it was me who needed to make that choice, to stand up and make that claim. It’s about choice, our free agency, and USING it. I don’t believe God wants us following blindly, accepting our fate from a place of tradition handed down by our fathers, not asking questions, or even using Him as some sort of escape, like a drug, from the hard realities of life.
“…because you have struggled with God and with humans…”
I didn’t choose God….and I have struggled with Him for precisely this reason. In many ways I feel He showed up from some dark, left field. And while I’m grateful in many ways that He did so, in other ways I feel like it happened against my will…I didn’t freely CHOOSE Him. I certainly didn’t invite Him. But there He’s been, around every corner, with His lurking Presence…I’ve felt like Jonah, not being able to escape Him! In many ways I’ve felt a victim to Him.
His showing up changed everything about me and my life, and nothing has been the same for the past 20 years. I have felt no affirmation, particularly from my family, or my fellow human beings, and recently, I realized I don’t even feel affirmed by Him. I don’t really care if others don’t believe, and I’m certainly not trying to convert them, because if there is anything I do know, it is that God will, and does, make His presence and existence known in His own time, in His own way, without any help from anyone. I am living proof of that!
I apologize for going long here, but your post is working like a leaping point for me, where it narrows down to one fine moment of clarity of choice, or decision, and I’m going with it as it presents itself.
I felt caught up in the Great Wind of God, and at the same time, the wind of the world, both seemingly at odds, with a contrast so great, I haven’t known how to bring the two together. I’ve felt stretched, like I needed to make a choice between two lovers, my heart breaking while I rode the fence. How could I choose one over the other when I loved both? But I felt like a choice was being asked of me.
I recently read The Fifth Mountain, by Paulo Coelho, and in it, again, Jacob’s story was mentioned. The story is about the prophet, Elijah. At any rate, when I got to the part that mentions Jacob, it hit me so profoundly, I got up and read the story of Jacob in the Bible, and I was inspired to write the following, which I’ll leave you with, having taken up enough of your space here. In the end, I think, it’s about balance:
When The Moon Turns Red
I am the line between light and dark.
I am the bridge, the balancing point, where two becomes one.
I am the Red Moon,
when the two finally clash and spill blood,
joined in battle as one
until the Light blesses the Dark.
A new creation is birthed,
a new name is given.
I am the point where the new name is born.
I am wanting to enter into a long dialogue with you, and at the same time be quiet and just listen. So much is being said in your struggle, so much good stuph, so much discovery… about self, the world, about God. I’m sitting with you, learning from you, both wanting to end the struggle, but even more inviting you to go deeper in the struggle. Mayne cuz I’m having to do the same – maybe we all are.
Thanks for bearing your soul… it’s ringing inside of mine
Aw, Kenneth, your words are like a balm to my soul. Thank you for your kindness. Dialogue — I’d love — my choice would be to have dialogue.
Where did this passion for God come from? It snuck up on me, like an untended ember in a slow burn, that spreads underground, through the roots of trees, in the forest before it finally surfaces in flame.
Again, thank you.
I love your description of the passion for God. I know sometimes it may not feel like it, but picturing it happening, and knowing that it happens all the time, is just awesome to me.
Dialogue… we are definitely gonna have to do it sometime. I am so intrigued by what I see on the surface, knowing that it goes so deep .
This blog post is *so* You, Kenneth! Finding a home like that isn’t easy, but you seem to be doing well. I wish I could be closer and help make your days easier.
Not getting the affirmation one needs can and usually leads to grudges, and so on. And it’s a darn shame, because it isn’t really that hard to show someone we care.
Also thanks for the mention, and as for noticing that I changed my religion to Love on Facebook? That, as well, is *so* You. No one else noticed.
Thanks so much Estrella. Of course, having you closer would be wonderful, but having you as an affirming friend is a close second :-).
You’re so right about what lack of affirmation can lead to. We are all susceptible to it too, if we’re not careful. If only we could be equally susceptible to giving affirmation.
I’m hoping that others noticed, but just got caught up, or their app didn’t give them the updates that a desktop would (that’s usually the case with me… I miss a lot cuz I use apps that are minimal in what they show me). You have a solid base of friends and followers, for good reason. Maybe they just assumed that you’ve always been that way 🙂
Yes, so true “If only we could be equally susceptible to giving affirmation.” It has everything to do with one’s mindset, I think.
And, I’m not saying that was a bad thing – just that you noticed *and* said something about it. I’d rather have people actually not notice than, say, contact me about that “not being an actual religion” or such thing. Luckily my dear Facebook friends are way too sweet to do that. Just sayin’ though 😉