Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

Lent begins tomorrow: a good time for reflection, humility, and commitment. I want to admit my pride. I haven't considered myself prideful because I haven't had much to be proud about over the last number of years. And yet, I'm realizing that much of my paralysis in living healthfully, much of my failures and seemingly endless re-commitments, have to do with my ego. My past identity as the athlete, student, and homecoming king (physical appearance and success); and as the nonprofit servant and leader (having the respect and admiration of other people) became idols, the Counterfeit Gods of Tim Keller's book. They may not have even become my idols until I began to lose them through depression and weight gain and drinking. But my nonacceptance and disdain for being unrespectable and overweight have kept me in this prolonged struggle. I did not experience sorrow for where I was or things that had happened... I experienced despair. And that comes from having an unhealthy relationship with what I had lost. I valued those things so much that without them my pride would not let me live in peace where I was. My despair caused me to not be available to God or to truly living.

So now, at the beginning of Lent, I commit not to losing weight, or having success, or gaining the respect of others, or even to being healthy. All these things can become counterfeit gods. I do choose to be at peace because of who God is and what He thinks of me. And I know that as I make myself available to Him, life will be abundant.

Today I did that by catching up with some work responsibilities, exercising at the gym, making time for reading and reflection, eating healthfully, and being in community with my men's group.

Monday, February 14, 2011


It is clear to me that I have used my past wounds from relationships as an excuse not to engage in life. I think that I have a lot of fear about my own competency to live up to my potential. As long as I was involved in a painful relationship, I sort of had an excuse to opt out of the bigger picture. I am choosing now to be done with the past, and for the first time, I believe that I am. I thought my next post would be about this really evil thing that my ex did to weasel her way into my day over the weekend. But it doesn't matter. It hurt, but the relationship is over. And I'm better for it. It's well past time to move forward.

I injured my foot during my senior year of high school football and was put in a cast. I missed two games and was supposed to miss more. I was convinced that the doctors were being overcautious, so the night before our game against our rivals, Emerville HS, I cut the cast off of my leg. I scored four touchdowns and two 2pt conversions, and we won the game. We went on to our first league title in school history.
I've allowed myself to be on injured reserve for so long that I've atrophied both spiritually and physically. I have not been behaving emotionally like the man I'm capable of being and was raised to be. 

It's time to cut the f ing cast off.
I know what to do and I'm excited.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

After the Storm

It is most difficult to see things through proper perspective in the midst of negative emotions such as pain, anger, jealousy, insecurity, etc. Even during these periods, the truth can (through the Divine) pierce through like a single ray of sunshine through a dark storm to elucidate our plight with truth for perhaps a moment and provide some peace. I have written about times such as these over the last month or so.
But lasting proper perspective typically takes time. I have survived the last month of anger, pain, mourning, but I am not proud of the shape I'm in on the other end. I feel like I'm starting over in some ways because I made emotional survival a priority over health and fitness. So I drank and indulged in comfort foods to escape the worst of my emotions. But things are beginning to appear to me in their proper context, and the crisis, what felt like a violent storm, is over. I feel like I am in the aftermath of it, surveying the damage.
I haven't felt like writing because there was not much to say. I was hurting and getting through it.
I have a lot of work to do now.
One night a few months ago, I had one of those glints of perspective that I have often thought about since. I was reading an old French book on prayer called, Lord, Teach us to Pray by Paul Claudel. The book is out of print, but I had seen it in a library one night at a Catholic retreat center, and was able to find a used copy on Amazon. I was reading it for probably the third time, when I came across an aside by the author, saying that he could hardly read Ezekiel chapter 16 without crying. Well, I turned to it, and in it the prophet is speaking as God to Israel. Read it yourself, but here is the unpoetical gist of it:
It unfolds that a man takes in an abandoned and penniless child, gives her everything he has to offer, even making her his wife, and she ends up not valuing any of it and whoring herself out to his enemies.
As this story was unfolding, I welled with emotion. "Oh my God, I know what this feels like!! It's an  awful feeling, and it is what SHE HAS DONE TO ME!"
All of my painful and self righteous feelings came to a crescendo in that moment. And then...
The warm hand and silent voice of God came over me saying, "Gabe, this is what you have done...to Me."
I collapsed, and the perspective that I needed washed over me in a way that is a signature of our powerful and gentle and loving God. I had done that to him. Things do not happen in a vacuum. The road that led me to that vulnerable and miserable place was one I chose. Had I remained dependent, had I waited on God, I would not have been in such a place, and I knew it.
Could it be as simple as I had been taught as a child? "Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you."
It is a beautiful and mysterious God we worship. A simple faith, but infinitely layered and complex.
I wore a letter-man jacket in high school on which I had had inscribed "Isaiah 40:31."
I am finally learning what it means to 'wait on the Lord.' I had to review over the last ten years of my life and identify the things that I have 'waited on' in order to begin to understand it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


It doesn't feel like winter until I awake in the crisp air of the Bay Area where I grew up. Enveloped in fog with the cool moisture all around, it feels like early morning all day long, until darkness arrives without warning. It slows everything down. There is no time. It is a season that brings on reflection, whether I welcome it or not. Every emotion sits with me more succinctly. The joys of being an uncle to my niece and nephew are more touching. The warmth of family more comforting. Laughter is richer. And sadness deeper.
Christmas Day was surreal. There was happiness in gift giving and playing with the kids, but every time I was by myself in the car or in the yard, I found myself unable to keep from crying; tears down my cheeks like I can't remember having in a long time. I am in mourning. I hiked in Muir Woods today, and could not escape for one minute a thought of the girl and her daughter that I loved so much. In what little sleep I have had, my dreams have been tortured with visions of another man making love to the one that I loved. Her deceit and coldness have cut me to my knees, and I'm so ashamed that my emotions are so debilitating. I am a strong man, and could stand up to almost any test save this one. But we do not get to choose the ways in which we are tested, nor the condition we are in when the test comes. But we are responsible for meeting the challenge with the strength we have. My self criticism and shame over being so affected by this situation is hurting my ability to grow and recover. Today, I lived in my pain without trying to distract or numb myself. I surrounded myself with redwoods and creeks, but allowed myself to be in mourning over my loss, without the guilt usually associated with that pain. I allowed myself to feel the pain of rejection and regret. The realizations of the last few weeks are still new to me, and it is right for me to feel this pain and loss.
To choose to love is to take a risk. I never had thought of it like that. I guess I thought that if you loved, good would eventually come of it. But love is so powerful, partly because it is a risk. I would be foolish to sign up for a relationship like this one again, and had I been healthy, it would not have lasted a month, but I am not ashamed of the way I loved. I am proud of it, actually, but I risked the loss and pain that I feel now. I made myself very vulnerable to my insecurities by sharing so much of myself. This is the consequence. I will find ways to love and to serve, but out of health and strength and led by God instead of my own weaknesses. The more I allow myself to feel and experience the dark of this night, as painful as it is, the sooner morning will come.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stop being so hard on yourself, you stupid f%#*!!

Wow. Rough few days.
But I'm still here. I'm finally feeling some closure and maybe even some healing over the "relationship." The panic is gone, and I am very grateful for that. I'm kind of excited about moving forward.
One of the things I was reminded of this week, as I stumbled Thursday night, is to check in with the tone of my inner conversation. I'm talking about the way I talk to myself that sets the tone for my attitude toward and treatment of myself. I'm a real sonofabitch in the way I talk to me. How many times have I passed a mirror, and snarled "Ahh! You FAT mother Fr!!?" Usually multiple times a day. There's also the old, "What the f is wrong with you!! Get your sh together!!!" which has become a classic in the household of my mind. "You stupid F!!" has also been moving it's way up the charts.
If I was in a relationship with that voice, it would be an abusive one. I might even have to go to a battered woman's shelter for a while. ("It's not the voice's fault, it's mine for never getting my sh together.") So, this week, in the realm of my mind I will attempt to not just bring flowers to myself and promise that this time things will be different. I will check in with the tone of that voice. A friend told me this week: "Gabe, be gentle with yourself." To be honest, I recoiled a bit because the concept did not strike me as very manly. But I'd much rather have a cheerleader in my head than an angry, foul mouthed accuser.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Back from a few days of vacation in Mexico, and all of my problems and anxieties met me upon my return. The tortuous thoughts that I am a failure. The beautiful girl and her sweet young daughter that I poured more than three years and a countless sum of emotional and financial support and investment have replaced me with someone else unceremoniously. The reason I had distanced myself over the last few months was because I was afraid something like this might happen (albeit not so soon), and I knew it would be a nightmare for me emotionally.

The way this girl had treated me over the years embodied and affirmed every single one of my insecurities. And my remaining in the relationship and coming back for more time and again is perfect evidence of my disrespect for myself and treating myself badly. She was like a harmful drug I was addicted to. Because of her decision to remain single for a year, and leaving me pleading messages to get back in touch with her because she needed me in her life, I set my fears aside and responded to her. Imagine the horror of finding out that not only had she began dating again, but that a man moved in with her and her young daughter. She used to agree with  me that sleepovers would be harmful to her daughter and unhealthy. After just a few short months she now has a live in boyfriend who has already left a wife and two young daughters who live hundreds of miles away. The pain becomes exponential as my obsessive thoughts find a myriad of reasons to feel a failure, devalued, replaced,  fearful for her already pained little girl who has been abandoned twice before by "fathers," etc., etc., etc.

I know what you're thinking... Why not be glad to be free from this burden of being under-appreciated by a girl with a lot of baggage who treats you poorly? Well, I loved them both. I truly believed that she was afraid to love me the way I wanted because of the pain in her past; that if I just could prove my sincere motives and love to her enough, she would let down her walls. Instead, she's giving all of the love and respect that I wanted, that I feel I had earned, to someone else. My soul is screaming in agony. If the enemy had designed the perfect plan of attack on me, my cryptonite, it would be this girl, in her situation that I wanted to save her from, treating me the way she did, and doing what she is doing now. I truly believe I can't handle this. And I can't. God must save me from this. Last week, when I first found out, I was in a panic, and God wrapped his arms of peace around me. I have faith that God will redeem this, and me, because of that love and peace He allowed me to experience that night. I knew even then that it would continue to be incredibly difficult.
"You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." Psalm 71
"Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord!....I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay."      Psalm 70

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


In the midst of my anxieties, peace is the single greatest gift I can be given. Sleep has been difficult to come by over the last few nights. I have asked for peace at times like this in the past, and it has not come. So I know what it feels like to drown completely in obsessive thoughts, anxieties, insecurities. It is as if God, knowing that I have experienced this hopelessness, is on a loving mission to prove to me now, in the midst of this storm, that He is who He says He is. Prince of Peace, Emanuel (God with us). Just as the fleeting warmth of the other night had passed, and the daggers of anxiety had returned to torment, His presence surrounded me. The situation remains the same, but God granted me His perspective. It changed everything. I walked today for two and a half hours in total freedom. I did not think about what streets to avoid so as not to be seen by someone I've been hiding from. I was fully in my self, my body; God's hand upon my shoulder. I feel the prayers of others, and the strong man forged by the Creator is surfacing, strong only inasmuch as I am dependent upon Him. Freedom through surrender. Peace in the midst of struggle. The mysteries of God.