Healthy Men. The power of forgiveness.

In real life I am a volunteer community chaplain. I have been involved with suicide prevention and awareness for over 20 years, and I’m also a survivor of domestic abuse, which led to my being homeless. I originally wrote this article for a men’s group; and so apologize in advance for the gendered tone, and fully state that the principals involved work for us all.

Over the years I have heard heart breaking stories of pain and hardship that people have suffered, and that people have caused, and stories where crap just happened through no fault of anyone or thing. (I’m a ex dairyman..so sorry if the word “crap” offends – but its second nature to me.) And I have learned that it washes off.

One of the greatest challenges that I believe men face is that of what do we do with bitterness? What do we do with resentment? What do we do with unforgiveness.?

In asking these questions I want to first state that forgiveness does not mean we sweep under the carpet what was done to us..nor what ever else we have done. It doesn’t mean that we pretend the crap that happened didn’t happen.

Instead before the process of forgiveness can start; we have to fully acknowledge the hurt, the pain, the heart ache, the heart break, and that we have a right to be hurt in our bodies, mind and spirit. Within a Christian framework, I believe that God has given us all our emotions and the ability to feel hurt, and pain – and that its natural to be angry with what happens to us, what others have done, or even with ourselves because of the stupid things we have done…and hold against ourselves.

Previously I wrote that I am a survivor of domestic abuse. For many years I was a victim. But gradually I worked through the pain, the heart ache, the hurts, the victimization and all the other crap that went with it – and indeed on many levels, I am still a work in progress.

I had a right to be angry. I had a right to be hurt. I had a right to feel like shit. I had a right to be confused. I had a right to cry. I had a right to feel depressed. –

But, I also have a right to be at peace. I have a right to be healed. I have a right to feel good. I have a right to have soundness of mind. I have a right to laugh. And I have a right to feel good in body, mind and spirit – and not tied to my past…nor defined by my past.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we are weak. I say forgiveness takes courage. It takes balls. It takes big kahoonas to start the journey of forgiveness. It takes determination to release our resentment. It takes resilience to let go of our bitterness.

The reality is though, if we want to be healthy men. If we want to be strong men. If we want to be honorable men. We need to start on that journey of forgiveness – so that what ever we have done, or has been done to us…doesn’t define who we are… instead it releases us to be who we are meant to be.

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Dignity and worth – or self destruction.

There is something incredibly beautiful and dignifying about the potential of a wholesome humanity. And there is nothing as ugly and soul destroying as when we lose our dignity and self worth.
 
Between the age of 17 and 30 I was a drunk. I had to drink. I could never stop at one. There were a number of reasons for my drinking; a lot had to do with self worth. A lot of it had to do with the deep sense of loneliness and isolation that pervaded me deep within – and that was counteracted with the comradeship down the pub.
 
The first few drinks would always settle my fears, allay my doubts, and give me dutch courage to be the first up on the dance floor, inviting a variety of girls to come and dance with me.
 
But by the end of the night I would be passed out in my own vomit. Or I would be scarred, bleeding, and angrily destructive having hurt myself, another person or been hurt through a fight of some description. One of my jobs involved my opening up the gates and buildings; and a number of times I was found hanging on the gate, passed out, or fumbling for the keys to open the lock. Another time I remember getting into the back seat of a car to come home, woke up with the urge to vomit, opened the car door to do so. I thought we were still in the RSL car park – but I had passed out, and instead we were going down a freeway doing 110kms an hour.
 
One one rare occasion I was the designated driver, and that night I didn’t drink. But the group of peeps I was with were doing so with vigor. One guy opened the back window, stuck his head out and vomited down the side of the car. The front passenger did the same, and the guy in the back said..”Hey, its starting to rain out here!”
 
And yet despite the headaches, feeling crap all the time, the promises to self to give up and not drink again – I could never break the cycle of self abuse that drinking caused me. Untill….
 
On the 9th of March, 1997 I was sitting in the back of St Mark’s Anglican Church, in Picton, NSW. I encountered God. His presence came over me with this incredible sense of experiencing God’s love, and I knew that Jesus was real, and that my sins were forgiven. And for the 1st time in 13 years, the thirst for alcohol was taken from me. It was gone.
 
Instead of having a thirst for what was causing me destruction; I was filled with a thirst for the things of God. And slowly God started filling me with a sense of dignity, worth, and a wholesomeness for life.
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Super Bowl

This is what Australians think of whenever someone talks about the super bowl.

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Prayer and Faith – Crutch or Freedom?

Some one once said to me that my faith in Jesus Christ, and my prayers were nothing but a crutch. My reply to him was:

My belief in Jesus Christ is based on historical fact. My prayer life is by no means a crutch – but is an outworking of the invitation God gives us to relate to him. Far be it that my prayers be a crutch – rather instead, my prayers are based on an invitation from God: to come to him, and invite him  to involve himself in every aspect of my life, and the lives of those I am praying for.

Not only are my prayers an invitation; they are based on hope and trust. For God takes my hopelessness from me and replaces it with hope. Hope does not disappoint me, for it leads to trusting faith, with the assurance that God has heard my prayers, has heard my groans and my sighs of life, has heard my thanksgivings and praise… which builds in me the assurance that he is for me; and not against me.

This frees me from the loneliness of the world. It frees me from its worry, its anxieties, its stresses, it’s strains…and so far from being a crutch…. it is true freedom

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Rest in His rest.

One of the most important lessons to learn in our Christian walk is to rest in God’s rest. When we learn to do that; every thing else falls into place.

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Expressing thanks. The Art of Manliness.

I came across this video on developing the art of expressing thankfulness. There is power in thankfulness. Christians are encouraged to develop thankfulness in all situations. And I think its powerful to develop the art of writing a note, to express it.

Regarding the point on what to write as part of your valediction; I have got in the habit of signing off all my letters with “Blessings Craig B” Actually I tend to always end a conversation with people with “Bless you…”

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We have to start, continue, and finish with Jesus.

I randomly opened up a devotional book that my wife is reading yesterday which is full of quotes from Charles Spurgeon. I was really encouraged by it and thought I would blog about it today. But, the problem is, I did not take note of what the page number is, and can’t find it this morning.

So I’m sorry I don’t have the reference to it. But, to paraphrase what he said, is to paraphrase what the Bible says about starting, continuing, and finishing with Jesus. Jesus tells us. He invites us. He beckons us. He encourages us. He kinda even urgently screams at us – to come to him just as we are.

It doesn’t matter how tall or short you are. How chubby, or thin you are. How muscular or not you are. How well, or sick you are. How rich or poor you are. How old you are. What your social class, gender, or nationality is. It doesn’t matter about your past and what was, or wasn’t done to you. It doesn’t matter what you have done; or haven’t done.

Jesus says, Come to me, just as you are; for I will give you rest. I will forgive you your sins. I will renew your hope. I will give you renewed, and new purpose.

And this invitation. This calling. This beckoning, for us to come to him, is a lifelong invitation for us to continue to come to him, as we are. For he knows, that we cannot come to him any other way.

And therefore, its on this basis our prayer life becomes powerful. Our prayers become full of hope. Our prayers become full of faith. Our prayers are based on the foundation of the relationship we have with Jesus; in that we come to him as we are. And because he knows who we are… he can’t have it any other way.

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