Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Now We Here (Part 2)

Greetings from Iceland! This is part two of a multipart series I started a few months back. It's super delayed, but some time on a plane enabled me to complete it. I'll add some Iceland updates and complete this series soon!


The boys high-fived, hugged and chest bumped as the girls looked on with varied levels of disinterest and disappointment. We had just won the daily lottery to summit Half Dome. We failed to win the preseason lottery and the ladies responded with contentment, while the men responded with sorrowt. Now, roles were reversed. After our initial eruption, I had two thoughts. First, six months ago, this news would have caused me an anxiety attack. Second, I hoped I'd make it to the top.

Some of our crew was a little panicked about the trip. The nerves were understandable. The hike to the summit is about nine miles with approximately 4,800 feet in altitude gain, then you have to come right back down. Additionally, the last section features an extreme amount of exposure (Close proximity to steep drop offs). I pulled the team together to take a temperature of our feelings and try to encourage everyone. It was a strange moment, reassuring everyone that we could complete the trip while knowing that I may have to sit out the last, most intense section.

The first 8 miles are a pretty standard hike, but the end is something terrifying and special. First comes the Sub Dome. This is a snaking section of switchbacks, with smooth, featureless granite sloping into oblivion on either side. Were you to fall off the trail, you wouldn't stumble off a sheer cliff, but it is unlikely you could recover your bearings before the surface became sheer. After completing the Sub Dome, you arrive at the half dome cables. The cables were erected because the last 400 feet of the climb is so steep that it can't be summited without technical climbing experience. In order to complete the climb, you must pull yourself up with the cables whilst walking. I knew that I had the first 8 miles in the bag, but I wasn't so sure about the Sub Dome and cables. All the same, I was excited to give it a try. I couldn't believe that I had reached a place where this was an adventure I could even consider.

Making progress against my fear of heights allowed me this opportunity. It all started with my bike and the Golden Gate Bridge. After freezing up on my first try, I wasn't able to give it another try. As I mentioned before, the bridge is a gateway to miles and miles of amazing riding in Marin. I was invited on countless rides, but could never go along. Then one Friday evening in January, things felt different. I will explain more in another post, but I simply believed I could make it across the bridge. That night, I didn't decide I would give it a try. I decided the next morning I would ride across the bridge. That was exactly what I did. In fact, I rode across it and back twice just because I could.
It's really hard to explain to the casual observer how much this meant to me. I conquered my fear (to a degree), I could now do something most normal people could do, and this completely changed my experience as a cyclist in San Francisco. Cycling is one of the great loves of my life. I would argue the Bay Area is one of the best places in the world to ride a bike, and it was now mine to explore.

I am slayed by the fact that I get to stare off the side of this bridge.
At first, the trips weren't easy. I was racked with nerves each time I crossed the bridge. Since becoming funemployed, I have been riding far more. At this point, I've likely ridden across the bridge 50 or more times. Now it feels casual and normal. Each trip over the bridge is a joy. Taking in the bright, Art Deco design of the bridge itself, along with the amazing natural views makes each time with it special. You really can't beat the people watching either.

It was with this progress that I knew I could take a crack at Half Dome and maybe, just maybe make it to the top.

The night before the hike, we were up late making lunch and getting over-prepared for the day. We wanted to be sure we had every contingency covered. After some words of encouragement, everyone seemed on board and excited. We had a 4 am wake up call to eat breakfast, caffeine up and get to the trailhead. Everything went off without a hitch. We made easier progress than everyone expected and enjoyed spectacular views on our way up the trail. I merely enjoyed the company and scenery and gave little thought to the challenge at the top.

The sun sets on half dome the night before our departure.
After roughly 8 miles, we hit the tree line and my feelings started to change. The trailed ambled through some areas with a little exposure, so I got a sense for how high we were. Additionally, the Sub Dome and cables finally came into view. They were more intimidating than I expected. I began preparing my buddies for what I believed was inevitable. I wasn't going to make it. They coached and encouraged me. I felt emboldened as we reached the base of the Sub Dome. As I've done many times when I felt I was facing insurmountable person odds, I simply muttered to myself, "F--- it," and started up the granite steps carved onto the sub dome.

At first, I was shocked by how comfortable I felt. The first few switchbacks were surprisingly breezy despite looking intimidating from the tree line. My buddies were right. I was wrong to think I couldn't do this.

Views got a little scarier. I observed to Drew that it appeared if one were to fall from where we were hiking, one would likely die. Rather than argue this perception, Drew responded, "Yeah, but we walk around every day and we never fall. There's no reason to believe you would." This response did nothing to dispel my fear. With each step, I felt anxiety rise higher. Unwelcome but familiar feelings crept in. Finally, I was well beyond my limit. I sat down at a switchback, hoping to regain my composure, while Drew coached me.

After taking some time to calm down, my nerves had receded but were still beyond fever pitch. I could resume my climb, but I knew I would only become increasingly unstable. The problem with my fear of heights is that it takes such complete control of me that I actually lose the ability to control by body. In a cruel, self-fulfilling prophecy, my panic turn me into a more likely victim of the fate I fear.

Next time.
I asked Drew to walk me part of the way back down the Sub Dome. When I regained my composure, he took off back up the hill and I finished the brief hike down to the tree line.

I hung out, had some lunch and sunbathed for a couple hours while I waited for the party to return. A smile resided on everyone’s face. My dear friend Stacey had been convinced she wouldn’t make it to the top. She fought through her fear and came back proud of her accomplishment. I was proud of and happy for everyone. We all dug pretty deep and impressed ourselves that day.

I include myself in that last sentence. I don’t consider my inability to get to the top a failure. I consider it progress. There was a time when I would have gazed up at that switch back trail and rather than saying, “F--- it,” I would have said, “F--- that.” This time, my fear was considerably reduced and I pushed against the fear that remains. I am also able to celebrate my friends. There was a time when I would have been so bitter over my handicap that I would not have been able to feel joy with them. Finally, I don’t feel defeated. Half Dome and I will have another date. And another one after that. And another one after that. And another one after that . . .

It’s important to note that this progress wasn’t simply a result of facing my fears. It involved a far more expansive story. A story I will tell next.

The crew on on Half Dome.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Started at the Bottom (Pt. I)

I sat trembling, my board dug deep into the snow. I stared down the hill. The grade wasn't even that steep. What was this? A blue? Possibly? I had ripped down far steeper, more technical slopes before, even going as far as finding small rollers and launching myself into the air. Today, I was incapable of any such maneuvers.

I briefly considered asking ski patrol for a ride down. Apart from the involuntary tremors, I was completely paralyzed. Is this what a panic attack felt like? Why was I completely incapable of snowboarding down a mountain? I had not only managed to do so before, but thoroughly enjoyed the hundreds of hurried rides I'd taken down slopes. Everything I felt was strange and unwelcome, but there was nothing I could do to stave off my fear. I was terrified to ride a snowboard. Until this day, I had always loved snowboarding. I resolved to get down on my own power despite my mind and body's rebellion, in order to preserve some semblance of pride.

The next hour was pure mental agony. I'd ride down the mountain a few hundred yards until my anxiety hit fever pitch, then I'd pull over to the side and sit until I calmed down enough to get up again. I picked my way down the mountain slowly, it was a ride that would have taken me 15 minutes tops, once upon a time.

I had a fear of heights as far back as I could remember, but it was reaching levels I never before experienced. A few months earlier, I planned on going for a casual bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin with a buddy. If you live in SF, the bridge is your gateway to hundreds of miles of beautiful, rural roads. We took off to spend the day up north exploring, without much concern for the trip ahead. We cruised toward the bridge, excited for all that lay on the other side. As we crossed the threshold onto the bridge, I felt a surge of fear and anxiety. My legs locked and my bike rolled to a stop about thirty yards from the beginning of the bridge. I could barely stay upright. I dismounted and ashamedly walked my bike back to solid land where I waited for my buddy to come back. I could see the lack of understanding on his face, but he did his best to console me. I rode back home, dejected. He headed back north for his day of riding.

In my weird world where I'm deathly afraid of heights, the bridge made some degree of sense, even if it was frustrating. Having a snowboarding trip ruined was inexplicable. My fear had reached it's zenith. Apart from this, there had been other worrying signs. I was constantly imagining worst case scenarios. Social functions had become more full of anxiety and self-consciousness than ever before. On a daily basis, I was gritting my teeth to get through activities I had once found enjoyable.

Although it would be a long process of small steps and decisions, it was that day, sitting on that mountain, miserable, defeated, handicapped, that I decided things needed to change.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Fight

I felt my ribs collapse inward before they sprung back out to their proper placement. My mind raced, considering two very different questions: Have I ever felt like this before? Yes. Perhaps once or twice. The feeling was not enjoyable then, but I got through it. Is everything okay? This was more of a physical systems check: Are ribs meant to bend this way? Am I still in one piece? I felt sore, but everything seemed alright. No real damage done.

I barely had time to find the answers to these questions before he was bearing down on me again. You would never guess the damage Ed can do by looking at him. He walks a little pigeon-toed and has the look of an athlete, but one whose prime as has passed. He's gregarious and always greets his friends and trainees with a smile. He has an inherent sensitivity to him, which made the damage he was doing all the more disconcerting. In truth, this kind, gentle man is a former heavyweight boxing champ. Now, his 5'10", 230 pound frame was coming for me, his eyes weighing my movements, strangely detached from the pain I was feeling.

Please stop hitting me.

It was all I could think to say. Admittedly, Ed hadn't hit me that hard, that many times. However, it had been a long time since I was struck in any way. The feeling was shocking and uncomfortable. I was also aware there were a couple spots, my right ribs specifically, that could become more serious issues, were they to continue receiving targeted blows. I bit my lower lip. A man doesn't step into a ring willingly with another man and then beg to stop being pummeled a minute in.

I did the next best thing after begging for him to stop. I ran. While Ed is bigger and stronger than me and has quicker hands, I am taller, faster and can cover more ground. I made the space in the ring my friend. I must have been hilarious to watch. A lanky kid gets struck by a former professional boxer a couple times, turns wild-eyed and runs around the ring avoiding contact.

Ed patiently, and possibly sadistically, told me to stop running. I stepped back in, covered my right ribs as best I could and got hit for another interminable minute or so. The bell rang. The round was over.

I stepped out of the ring and sought one of our other trainers immediately. Where had I gone wrong? What could I improve? How could I make sure this pain and embarrassment didn't happen again.

Laura explained some technique and strategy to me, but also made Ed's story clear. Reminder: He was, in fact, a former professional heavy weight boxer. He was going to get some serious blows in on me. Also, getting punched hurts. No one likes it. And when you step into a ring, getting hit is something that is bound to happen. With the wisdom Laura had imparted, I stepped back into the ring with Ed a few minutes later. I did my best to protect my sore ribs, fight smarter and stand in with this man who I knew was going to hurt me. Later that day, I was nursing a bloody nose and my sore ribs, but I couldn't wait to get back into the ring.

I only started boxing a couple of months ago and I really love it. I need to stand in a ring and take some more blows to be confident that I'm tough enough for it, but this is something I could stay with for some time. It's strange, I never really expected it. While I have a notoriously short temper, I am a nonviolent person bordering on a pacifist. I don't take much joy in hitting others. That first day I sparred with Ed, he screamed "Hit Me!" an awful lot. I'm just not actually that interested in dealing blows.

Interestingly, it's taking blows that is more intriguing to me. Don't misunderstand, getting hit is the worst. However, the character it builds, at least for me, is something I love. When you step into a ring, there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. You are confined in a small space with a person who wants to hurt you. One must learn to absorb blows, fight through pain, and simply bear living in an uncomfortable place.

Boxing has become a metaphor, a microcosm of life for me. It has come to represent what long stretches of living can feel like. When we hit tough spots, especially if we live in a community based on Christian faith, a lot of empty platitudes are thrown around:

God never gives you more than you can handle.

All things work for the good of those who love them.

Everything happens for a reason.

When God closes a door he opens a window.

The list goes on.

First off, why in the hell would I want to jump out of a second story window when there was a perfectly good door that God chose to block for some sadistic reason? Second, these platitudes are mostly not true and certainly not helpful.

As Laura counseled me, sometimes there isn't much we can do. I was fighting a 230-pound former pro boxer. He was going to hurt me. That was that. This world is chaotic. We were not built for it. We were built for paradise. What we got is a broken world full of broken people (And don't forget we are all broken and do our fair share of damage to others). It is going to hurt us, and sometimes we have absolutely no control over the pain that is inflicted on us.

We want to make ourselves better, we want to strike back, we want pain to end, but often, it is not time for these desires to be fulfilled. We simply have to learn to live in pain and discomfort and make it to the next round.

The peace that passes understanding is another concept that is thrown around the Christian faith. It seems like an almost unascertainable state of being, one where we live above the pain around us in a deep peace. The pain simply can't touch us. I've developed a new definition for this type of peace. It's living in the depths, feeling the pain, but somehow finding a way to keep moving. To stand in and wait, sometimes for what seems an interminable amount of time.

There are so many ways we can learn these lessons. I'm surprised I didn't learn some of them earlier. I'm thankful for boxing. I'm thankful that it's taught me in a more acute way that pain is a part of life and sometimes the point isn't to win, or improve ourselves, get better or reduce our pain, but simply to survive the moment. In doing so, we learn and grow in more ways than we ever could have hoped.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


My Boy

The first time I met Wadah, I thought he was blind. He failed to respond at all to his surroundings. The way he moved about and lack of response to stimuli clearly communicated he suffered severe disabilities. It was upon learning his name and attempting to interact with him that I was informed he could hear but did not respond to his name. Next, I heard his story.

Wadah was found abandoned in the middle of the road. No one knows how old he was when he was found, but MODUC, the orphanage where he lives, estimates he was one and half. He was between a tea shop and a garage and his hands and knees were completely calloused from exclusively crawling around on rough surfaces. It’s hard to know the extent of Wadah’s disabilities, but as a friend pointed it, it’s likely they were confirmed the day he was abandoned.

Last week, I was able to visit MODUC again. This time, Wadah was in a small building, holding onto the shirt of a slightly larger boy. This boy had been close by Wadah on our last trip, and it became clear he had a vested interest in his small friend’s well being. Wadah watched us give the other boy a deworming pill and held out his had to receive one as well. He took it and chewed it as the boy before him did. Although his senses and processing are clearly limited, we were able to see on this trip that he is better able to observe and participate in his surroundings than we initially thought.

I believe there’s great power in physical contact. My first inclination upon learning he had some sensory perception was to snatch him up and love on him, but I hesitated. Moments later, we were called into another building for a meeting with Mother Bae, who runs the orphanage. As we waited for Mother Bae, I saw the larger boy and a few other children who had been with us in the first building come in through a back door. I looked through the side window and saw the stream of youngsters continuing. Bringing up the rear was Wadah. The orphanage estimates that he’s about five now, but he’s the size of a three-year-old. He walks slowly and tentatively. On the left side, he is flat-footed, but he walks on his right toes as if he was wearing a single high-heel. His spine curves to the side from his hips to his neck to straighten out his top half and maintain his balance. There were steps down from the first building and steps up into the one where we stood. He dropped down on all-fours to negotiate them.

As I saw Wadah coming, I waited by the back door for him to arrive. There are two common hand greetings in Liberia. One is an elaborate hand shake that ends with the participants snapping off of each others’ fingers. The second is a fist bump followed by two to three taps on the chest with your fist. In my experience, the second is more common amongst children. As Wadah rounded the corner, I squatted on my heels to get a little closer to his height and held my fist out. He looked up at me, gave me a pound, tapped his chest twice, and went on his way to another room where all the children had gathered. I was elated that I got to interact with him, but disappointed that it seemed our time together was over.

I sat down with the adults as the meeting started. A couple moments later, Wadah was leading a few of the children back into the room. They quickly surpassed his slow, tentative steps, so he dropped down on his hands and knees to crawl, moving more speedily and making up ground. He stopped about ten feet short of where we were meeting. I stood up and walked over to him and held my hands out to him, inviting him to come into my arms. He held his open arms up to me in reply. I swept him up, hugged him, carried him over to the meeting and sat him on my knee. He sat quietly and comfortably, finding spaces for his hands in mine. He eventually settled with his small hands holding one finger on each of my much larger hands. I hope he felt as joyful as I did as while we sat there together.

Quite literally, God only knows what Wadah has been through in his short life. In all likelihood, he was born with disabilities that were drastically exacerbated by malnutrition and neglect. He has and will face many challenges in his life. Thankfully, Wadah has a tremendous amount of heart. One of the most attractive things in the world to me is when broken people (and puppies) do all they can to overcome their circumstances. Grit, gumption, will, being a badass, whatever you want to call it, Wadah has it.

What breaks my heart is that Wadah will not get the help he needs to experience the fullest possible recovery from the birth lottery he largely lost. I’ve found myself hemming and hawing about the concept of adopting from a place like Liberia on this trip. Adoption saves children in some respects, but it can steal them from a country that needs them in another respect. Liberia has a whole generation of amputees and heroin addicts, child soldiers from civil wars that laid waste to their country. I believe orphanages and schools here need to be strengthened so the children of the next generation can help rebuild this country.

However, Wadah and many of his peers need involved care. After in effect watching a man die in a critical care unit last week, I can speak first hand to the fact that medical resources are limited here. If I could take Wadah home this week when I head home to SF, I would. I’ve found myself daydreaming a couple of times that I could come back for him one day.

I’ve spent a lot of time in other countries feeling that I was helping to solve others’ problems. I met homeless families in Mexico and assisted in building them homes. I did the same for folks on an Apache reservation. In eight countries, I’ve helped bring savings and loan programs to folks who did not have formal financial services available to them. I’m thankful for these opportunities and I’m proud of much of the work that I did.

Thinking about Wadah makes me wonder what more we can do. It also makes me feel trapped. There is so much more than Wadah’s life at stake. I’ve spent nearly a month in a country that was formerly a shining star of Africa, but now lacks basic infrastructure. I’m just not sure where to start, but I will say that if you or someone you know is interested in adopting Wadah, I can do my best to help.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Two Weeks

Yesterday marked two weeks that I've been in Liberia helping my friends at Partner Liberia. The trip began with a reunion of friends. Scott and Mike both hold full time jobs back in the states, but spend 15-20 hours a week on their work here, along with spending a couple months here a year collectively. Since, I've met many more intriguing, caring individuals.

Sam lived and worked in Denver for 30 years and came back to Liberia because retirement in the US was "too slow." The man is a wealth of proverbs and fries some of the best fish I've ever had. I also met Wadah. Wadah was left for dead in the street when he was roughly one and a half. He was taken in by an orphanage with which we partner. At three, he is just now learning to walk, although he can't speak and may never be able to. Josu is nearly as much a pistol as any little girl I've ever met. At 4.5, she pretty much runs the orphanage where she lives. A few nights ago, I ran the bar at an expat restaurant and spent the evening convincing everyone to order one of the three drinks I can actually make (Yes, bourbon straight up was one of them).

Josu owns my glasses, like she owns pretty much everything.

I have one move with kids. That's to hoist them in the air. It worked with Joseph.
Sam dishes out wisdom and delicious, golden fish.

Beautiful, miraculous Wadah.

These glimpses into the past two weeks are barely an introduction to the fullness of this trip. I've aspired to write bios of the folks I've gotten to know and post photo journals of the places we've seen and adventures we've had. The truth is, I feel strangely detached.

I've got a few ideas about the drivers behind this detachment, and I need to spend some more time exploring those causes. In the meantime, I'd love to share a few things that have struck me long with two realizations I've had on this trip.

First, helping orphans is awesome. I've spent years doing nonprofit work. This is a climate where effectiveness of different types of development and aid are consistently called into question. I've held exceedingly critical opinions of aid and development work. James 1:27 says: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. As far as I am concerned, there is no argument against providing vitamins, water, food, immunizations and micronutrients to orphans. Spending time with these little ones gives me a deep joy and sets my heart on fire.

I'm reminded again that I won an insane birth lottery. A couple of years ago, I was in the worst financial position of my life. I had to sell my car and watch my expenses closely. I never feared going without food or medicine that I needed. I got laid off a few weeks ago and I get to patiently go through a job search and will likely have a job soon after my return home, at a significant salary increase, in support of my desire to make a long-term life in San Francisco. Yesterday, I sat by in a hospital as a man's fate was determined by a lack of medical resources. He died hours later. Just 100 feet from where I sleep, a Liberian man sleeps in the the same complex on a deck chair.

Part of my desire to spend a month in Liberia was to hit a reset button of sorts. I've had a lot going on lately. I figured I'd come here, I'd live a different life and get some perspective. For a month, I'd be Liberian. The truth is, there is no "being Liberian" for me. I'm an American. I eat out at expat restaurants and bars. My accommodations have electricity twelve hours a day, along with running water, which I'm willing to bet 95% of the Liberian population doesn't have. This is definitely a case of being in but not of a world. It's a strangely insulating experience. While this country is beautiful, there's a great deal of injustice and suffering as well. For me, they feel at arms length.

Now for the two, rather random realizations that have come upon me in this swell of experiences and emotions.

I love San Francisco. So, so much. It is a magical place. I can identify some of the qualities I love about The City. It's a whimsical place where people put disco balls in the bay windows of their Victorians. It's surrounded by more natural beauty and adventure than one could discover in a lifetime. Beyond that, it just possesses a je ne sais quoi. Something unidentifiable and captivating. In a place of transience, it's my deep hope and prayer that the people I love stay and that we continue to build a life and a community. I want to be in this city forever.

I really can't wait to be a dad. I've met two or three children in orphanages whom I would absolutely take home tomorrow if I could. I have tremendous confidence that I am going to be a great dad when the time comes for me. This is an amazing time in my life, as I can feel the love inside of me getting bigger. I can't wait to share this love with little ones. I hope there comes a day when I have one or two of my own and one or two from a place like Liberia.

Jackie enjoys the swing set provided by Partner Liberia.

Friday, February 12, 2016

It All Starts With You

Quick Update: I am on the first leg of a 40 hour voyage to go help a couple of my best friends in the world serve some folks in Liberia right now. I really can’t describe how thankful I am. I just got laid off on Monday, which I thought could never, would never happen to me. Everything is in flux. There is more change than I can handle. In the midst of all this, I have the chance to go to a beautiful country and serve with two amazing dudes. Here I am, jobless and facing other severe life challenges, and I cannot stop spontaneously smiling. Swoon. I. Can’t. Even.

Thank you to everyone who helped support me and make this trip happen. If you’d like to support Partner Liberia (and me, while I work with Partner Liberia and look for more permanent work), please go to and give. Thank you!

Most times, a post named like this one is a Tony Robbins-esque motivational piece. It will tell you all you’re capable of and how nothing can get you where you want to be apart from hard work and determination. This is certainly not one of those posts. This is a post about relinquishing your powers, abilities and determination and allowing yourself to be washed over by the beautifully terrifying flood of grace.

A couple of years ago, I decided I had no need for God. I can’t say that I stopped being a believer. At my furthest, I called myself a deist. I was confident that there was a Creator. Someone who not only set this world into motion, but who kept it all bound together. This god was a living embodiment of love and a common thread flowing through all of humanity. He was the mold from whom we were built, leaving his imprint on all of us. Despite those qualities, I ceased to believe in his sovereignty and his concern for us. I thought of him as disconnected and disinterested. He was someone who set this cosmic plate spinning and subsequently set off to tend to other things.

I still believed Jesus existed as well. I believed he was an amazing person who set the standard for how we were meant to live. I wanted to to be like him. The thing is, without believing that I had God’s help, it was on me to be like Jesus, to be the man I was meant to be.

The result was a tremendous amount of disappointment and frustration. I tried to love others despite myself. This is what that sentence means to me:

I had very low opinion of myself. My self worth and confidence were in shambles. Massive cognitive and emotional dissonance existed between who I was and who I perceived myself to be. I found myself to be, in short, a stupid asshole. This type of perception led to two separate results. First, perception became reality. Most people probably didn’t notice, because I still fought to be good to others, but I was growing decreasing tolerant and caring inside. I could find a way to be bothered about nearly everything. I became short tempered and constantly anxious. Criticism was my language of choice. Next, I projected my view of myself onto others. I thought myself selfish, intolerant and irrational, so I assumed everyone else was the same. I approached every situation with this contextualization.

The example that most easily comes to mind is the terror I was when driving. The insulation of being in a car freed me to feel okay about treating people terribly. If someone cut me off, there was no way it was an accident, there was absolutely malicious intent. They got the finger. If I was at a four way stop and a driver proceeded ahead of me out of turn, I tailgated them as long as we were headed in the same direction, to make perfectly clear that they were in my way and inconveniencing me. In some situations, I managed to behave better, but I had to fight my initial instincts. My first thought was always that others were trying to do me harm and I would fight against that instinct and try to treat them well. It took so much effort to be good to others. The cycle exhausted and defeated me. It drove me to the end of myself.

About two months ago, I realized I just couldn’t live in this world as I desired without help. I found myself screaming into an abyss. I desperately wanted to love myself and my fellow adventurers on this beautiful, spinning ball of chaos. I wanted to help restore Shalom. I invited God back in. I chose to believe that He is a good, loving father and that he made me beautifully. I chose to let his grace, steeped in folly, drown and kill the striving, unhappy man I was. As Aslan did to Eustace, He’s peeling back the layers of a tough, hardened monster. He is leaving me with the truth that there is nothing I can ever do that is so great that He will love me more, there is nothing I can do that is so reprehensible that He will love me less. I now get to live in the freedom of being His beloved son.

Being the son of the author of the universe is a freeing experience. Accepting His unconditional grace is transformative. Now, rather engaging in the Sisyphusian task of digging up and displaying love for others, I get to let His flow through me. It’s far easier and more effective than I ever could have hoped. Turns out, Jesus’ yoke actually is easy and his burden actually is light. There is nothing you can do to earn and display this transfiguring grace. All you can do is accept it. And that starts with you.