The month of September is an awareness month for suicide prevention. Today our center, Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast, hosted a much needed conversation with two of our counselors about this topic. Please watch and add your comments.
(Post #10 in a collaborative series)
Guest Blogger Eric Vorhies
The things that the 35-year-old Eric would tell the 20-something Eric would need a TLDR (too long didn’t read) section. Don’t go to college unless you have to, travel before having kids, don’t eat too many gummies (they will lead to cavities), learn more about leadership, manage your time better with routine and discipline, stop eating dessert after every meal, etc. There are specific reasons for each of these, and for the ones that I did not share. BUT the problem is that the 20-something Eric wouldn’t have really heard these nuggets of wisdom. He was too sure of himself. So, I have narrowed it down to two things that I wish I could tell myself when I was 10, 15, 18, 21, 25, 27, even yesterday: choose your treasure wisely and stop seeing the world in a binary way.
The Treasure We Choose
Jesus tells a parable in Mt 13: 44-46 about people finding something valuable and doing whatever it takes to obtain it. Elsewhere, the Bible tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be. Look…the Bible has a lot to say about treasure. So much so, I think I got lost in the things that I treasured. Now, I didn’t treasure ridiculous things. I like movies, playing frisbee, hanging out with friends, and sleeping in…you know, the normal stuff. Those things are important to me; but when I consider the value that my treasure had, it feels empty.
Before you think I am crazy, let me explain. Friendships are good. Relaxing is good. Exercise is good. What I did wrong is nuanced. I regret making those things the goal in and of themselves. When relaxing or friendship becomes the goal, I subtly shifted from serving God to serving myself. Subsequently, those things are then viewed from a self-serving perspective.
Something needed to shift. That’s when I realized just because we treasure something doesn’t mean it has value. To find treasures of value, we have to pursue God to discover what He values and treasure those things. When we do, everything else becomes a by-product of that pursuit. For instance, the more I pursue God, the more I understand His grace and His love for people. Therefore, I serve at my church, I lead a small group, I foster kids, I push myself to become a better parent and husband. And all the while, I have found more peace and patience, deeper friendships, stronger relationships, and a faith that comes from God because I have reached the end of my rope so many times that I have nothing else to do except trust in Him.
So, I would tell myself to treasure things that have real value, relentlessly pursue them, and learn how to merge what you are naturally passionate about with that pursuit.
There Are Two Kinds Of People In This World
Yes/no. Black/white. Right/wrong. True/false. Iphone/android. Are there really only two options for everything? I used to think that in very mathematical terms. If I put in the right information into a solid equation, then I can predict the outcome. If it failed, then I had a bad equation or didn’t have the right information. A better understanding of the variables and their relationships was the solution to the world’s problems. The thing is…the world is messy. It’s messy in such a way that it shouldn’t always be seen as a problem to be solved, but rather a tension to be managed.
Can’t find the perfect person to date? The perfect church? Your dream job? Well, that’s because they don’t exist. That’s a problem you can’t solve. So you manage the tension. I have learned this is the most deeply personal and profound way that I could. Here’s the truncated version: We fostered a teenager. It was amazing for 1.5 yrs. After getting guardianship, she developed mental disorders. I became a parent of a child I never thought I would have. In a nutshell, I have quit judging other parents…and people in general.
That’s what having kids does to a person. See a frazzled woman with a stain on her shirt — yeah, she could be just some unhinged woman, but she’s likely just a mom. Some guy sleeping in church…of course he could be bored out of his mind, or maybe he didn’t get any sleep because his 5-year-old climbed in his bed and was repeatedly kicking him throughout the entire night.
The world is messy. People are suffering and hurting. Some of them do not have the tools or capacity to know how to respond. So, rather than turning from the mess and complexity, the 20-something Eric needs to embrace it. But not as a problem to solve, but as a tension to manage. A tension that will never go away. But it can get better. And when it gets worse, that’s okay too, because I can always get better also.
I get it. 20-something Eric would not have listened well through this either. So, the bullet points:
- Treasure the things that God says have value
- The world’s messiness isn’t something to be solved but a tension to be managed
Hopefully, the words of 40-something Eric will be more like, “always have ice cream with your pie,” or “it’s ok that you bought that tool for that thing that you never actually fixed because your neighbor got a lot of use out of it.” I just pray to God that these two are burned into my character at this point. Otherwise, I will make some easily avoidable mistakes.
Covid-19 Update: I wrote this before the pandemic. I have learned some new things, but I will spare you…except for this one last one: Wisdom is a depreciating asset. I am glad to have re-read this today because it reminded me to look at the season I am in now with a fresh perspective. So, be open to re-learning something that you already knew.
I turned on the TV earlier today to jump into a football game my friend urged me to see. The first thing on the screen was a LIVE press conference on Baynews9 with the Polk County Sheriff regarding a deputy-involved shooting in Auburndale. In his talk he used a phrase that was new to me: Suicide by Cop.
What wasn’t new to me was his comments on the uprising mental health crisis and its impact on police work. My professional friends working in law enforcement and counseling know this all too well.
The reason I’m posting this is twofold.
- We should cover this ongoing crisis and all those impacted in prayer.
- We should do our part to raise awareness.
(Post #2 in a 4-part series collaboration)
By Frank Welch (bio below)
When I was a teenager, I was pretty confident. I had the great blessing of growing up in a Christian home with my mom, dad, and little brother. There was a lot of love in our house; and I had great friends who also cared for me. But best of all, I knew my Savior Jesus Christ, and that He loved me more than I could ever imagine. During this time in my life, it felt natural to really enjoy just being alive.
However, as I got older and started my adult life I started to see the world a different way. My family is still very loving and I still have incredible friends, but there are a lot more people in the world than just them. There are people across the world who are suffering and dealing with persecution for their faith. There are also people in the world committing a lot of evil.
There are times when I struggle with the darkness in the world. Please do not think too highly of me, but I do not get mad at God for it. It is when I see the way other humans treat each other that I feel a deep sorrow in my being.
Of course, none of this is a secret to God. He knows that I can get discouraged when I see the evil things people do to each other around the world, and even in the city where I live. And when I do, He shows up and helps me find my joy and my confidence again. This is how I know God knows me. He pulls me out of the dark times in my life and guides me back into His light and fills me with a hope that comes from who He is.
One of the best examples that has happened to me recently in life is that I used to struggle with negative thoughts that dragged me down and almost depressed me. To get through that, God guided me to memorize scriptures that give me hope, such as Romans 5:5, 12:12; John 12:46, and Matthew 5:14.
He also led me to create a list of phrases that I say every morning so I start the day in a mentally healthy way. This idea came from a video I watched about a pastor who does this same thing. So, the idea is not originally mine, but it greatly blesses me. Some of these phrases include: “Christ is stronger in me then the wrong desires that are in me,” “I am blessed beyond measure because the Holy Spirit lives in me,” and “The world will be different and better because I served Jesus today.”
God knows I need His love and His encouragement to get through life. He also knows just when to give the encouragement I need. Without God’s encouragement in my life, I do not know how I would have made it to where I am today.
Blogger Bio: Frank serves the students of First Baptist Bradenton. He and his wife Shelby met while studying at Florida Southern College and were married November 12, 2016. Frank can talk all things Marvel.
Today is another big day in the life of Tom Brady. Just so happens, I came across an interview of him from last June on demand this afternoon. Seemed appropriate to check it out.
Regarding the outcomes of championships, he was asked two interesting questions: how high are the highs and how low are the lows. About the highs, he didn’t make any distinction from his different experiences of highs; they last the same. However, he answered differently about the lows. For example, when they lost the Super Bowl in 2007 he said his low lasted about a month. But when they lost last year to the Eagles, it was half the time, about two weeks. His explanation-stage of life. Last year he had his children to pay attention to, to help them understand what failure is and how to deal with it. Eleven years of personal development had shortened his low time (my paraphrase).
Trying to avoid the lows is like trying to avoid raindrops. Impossible. Failure happens. Disappointments come, some expected, some not. The opportunity we have is to choose how we respond to them.
I’ve noticed this myself. My lows have gotten shorter. The low in my 30s was almost twice as long as a low in my 40s. After that one, I determined to be more proactive in addressing my lows. I leaned into the verse about the sun not going down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26) and looked at how that could apply to my lows. Interestingly, the lows continue to be shortened.
So what changed? What did I stop doing? What did I start doing? Here are a few things:
- I stopped being too concerned about what people wanted from me or could do for me..I started being more concerned about what God wanted for me and what I could do for people.
- I stopped allowing the decisions of others to determine my steps…I started listening more to the Holy Spirit to determine my steps.
- I stopped giving self talk free reign…I started admonishing myself based on what truth God had for me.
And my lows continue to shorten.
Want to shorten yours? Take some time and answer these two questions: 1)What do you need to stop? 2)What do you need to start?
I’ve traveled to Jordan twice this year. Much could be said about traveling to that part of the world. One thing I noticed the first time and then even more the second time is this: Arab men know how to do community.
They enjoy talking to each other. They enjoy healthy disagreement. They share the good and the bad. They lean into one another. They plan time together. From my experience, they do it better than we Americans. So I’m doing what I can now to change that experience.
We have an opportunity. If the opportunity could be boiled down to one word, I believe that word is trust. Much like we have to grow our trust in God, we should pay attention to grow our trust in one another. It’s quite possible that the former is needed and necessary in order for the latter to happen. So how do we go about growing these trusts?
TRUST BY SHARING YOUR FEARS
Yesterday one of my friends did this with me during a breakfast conversation. He shared a fear he’s dealing with, and I’m the first male that knows. He seemed to feel better just because he had a brother to share his fear with. Scripture tells us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Imagine how lighter the community of men would be if we shared our fears rather than bearing them all alone. What if we started by sharing our fears with God and asking him to give us the courage to share them with a brother?
TRUST BY BEING HONEST
We have the habit of not being real, not being completely honest and transparent. Guys, you are not going to be weak by being real. You are going to be stronger because you are not denying the truth. The truth can only set you free when you speak it and live in it. Earlier this year I watched a brother go through a trying season, life threatening, because he refused to be honest. Imagine how stronger the community of men would be if we embraced honesty. What if we started by being honest with God and humbling ourselves to be honest with a brother?
TRUST BY TAKING THE CHANCE
As I’m writing this, the news is reporting the murder/suicide of a deputy sheriff’s family in a nearby county. Familiar story-no one knows why, no one suspected it, no one saw it coming. We can grow our trust in numerous ways of taking chances. What if we took a personal chance by considering a mental health check up as much as a physical one? What if we took a chance by pointing out odd behavior to our brothers? What if we took a chance by asking how to pray for one another? What if we took a chance to follow through on a Holy Spirit nudge to reach out to a brother? Imagine the impact to the community of men if we took more chances. What if we started by asking God to give us a chance to take today?
“It’s important to remember to silence your phone before getting in bed.”
That’s what I told myself at 2am this morning. A not important notification chirped me out of sleep. Before looking at the phone, I had guessed it might be about 5. What? And so my mind started. It was the final round in a wrestling match.
This match started two months ago. I can tell you when and why, but that’s not the point of this post. The point is to learn from the match. The match was a mental one involving my talking self, my listening self, and God. If that sounds confusing or you think I need help, stop and read my last blog post.
My listening self actually wanted to talk when I woke up. He started it. And my talking self wasn’t ready to listen. He demanded God to join in. It was exhausting. But guess what? When it was over, not only was this round over but the entire match was over.
How did that happen? Because I told myself to stop listening to myself. And more importantly, I invited God onto the mat. The result was an answer that can only be explained by knowing God got involved. It was one of those, “How have I not seen this before? This could have saved me from years of wrestling.”
Takeaways from this scenario:
- Keep wrestling. The winning is in staying in until the final round.
- Be willing. Answers come to the persistent.
- Invite God. He’s good for anytime, even 2am.