Today I want to speak directly to you. Some of you have been here from the very beginning, with the first posts about therapy and redemption. Many of you arrived here in the spring and early summer after “Marriage is for Losers” took a trot around the globe. And others of you have joined us in recent weeks, with posts about pain and overcoming.
With content from marriage to parenting to pain and therapy and purpose, you might be asking yourselves, what is going on here at UnTangled?
I know I would be…
“IT WAS JUST A MISSION STATEMENT.”
The film Jerry Maguire infused pop culture with a number of phrases that have stood the test of time, like “Show me the money!” and “You complete me.” But beneath the football story and the love story, another story was playing out.
The film opens with an early-middle-aged sports agent in the midst of an identity crisis. In a moment of inspiration, he pens a manifesto—a mission statement—for the future of sports agency. He calls for fewer clients, less money, a life of sincerity and passion. He titles it, “The Things We Think and Do Not Say.”
And it’s a total disaster. By the end of the week he has no job, one client, an alienated fiancée, and only his loneliness to keep him company. As he walks through the devastation of his life, several scenes find him muttering, “It was just a mission statement.”
I loved that movie. Saw it five times in the theater.
Because I think I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who will risk everything to follow the cry of his heart, even if it leaves him broken and alone.
THE THINGS WE THINK AND DO NOT SAY
There are at least two reasons I should think-and-not-say what I’m about to say.
First, I’m going to speak to you directly from my heart. And therapists aren’t supposed to do that publicly. Therapists are supposed to pick and choose rare moments of self-disclosure. I recognize the wisdom in this. But I also think we need to know our helpers and healers are human—they think and feel and cheer and tremble like the rest of us.
Second, I’m going to tell you the life you want—a life filled with passion, peace, and purpose—cannot be obtained by seeking passion, peace, and purpose. I’m going to break the golden rule of blogging. I’m going to complicate things.
I want to share with you my hope for redemptive living.
I hope you’ll stick around for the journey! But if nothing else, I hope you’ll remember, “It was just a mission statement.”
THE GOOD AND EMPTY LIFE
In these days, the hearts of people are filled with a deep, yet vague, sense of longing. In an age of instant recognition, overwhelming connectivity, and startling wealth, we find ourselves with an aching hollow inside of us. Whether secular or religious, conservative or liberal, native or immigrant, we seem helpless to escape the gnawing.
And everyone has an idea about how to fix it. But the solutions are like bailing water on the Titanic. The ship is sinking and the band plays on. And we all know it, and we’re all frustrated and scared, and so many of us are wondering, “What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t the advice work for me?”
I think it’s because the solutions are always focused on finding the good life.
And the good life is a hollow promise. It’s empty of passion, peace, and purpose. If we watched a movie about a person who lived the good life—raised in wealth, protected from hardship, inheriting the family business, retiring early and becoming a great shuffleboard champion—we would not come alive inside. We would be bored. Restless. We would want more.
We would be craving a story about redemption.
THE REDEMPTIVE LIFE
The redemptive life has three movements, and each movement ambushes us with the desire of our hearts.
First, the redemptive life always begins with brokenness and pain. In our favorite stories, the character we love begins broken and haunted and full of demons. We ache for the character, and the aching is the seed of passion—a word literally meaning “to suffer.” To feel alive with passion, we must first feel our pain.
Second, the redemptive life always contains a moment of confrontation. A moment in which the character we love stops running from the slobbering beast-of-pain at his heals, turns around, stares deep into its eyes, and sometimes even growls back. This is the moment when a redemptive life really begins. And this is also the birthplace of peace. Because peace is not the absence of pain. Peace is the deeply held confidence that all of our pain can be faced.
And finally, the redemptive life transforms the pain into something beautiful. And the moment of transformation is also the conception of purpose: a sense of purpose throbs within us when we face the pain and realize the transformation of it will be the direction of our lives.
But here’s the catch: our hearts cannot yearn for both the redemptive life and the good life. The desires for both cannot coexist in our souls. I know. I tried.
I remember the day when I turned to my wife and, voice cracking, stepped into all the pain I thought would annihilate me and said, “My whole life has been one long lonely scramble for perfection.”
One continuous hunt for the good life.
I remember the months that followed, facing the isolation of my shame—my deep-in-the-bones sense of not being good enough. And I remember how my heart began to rupture, as a desire for comfort and ease gave way to another desire—a yearning to walk through the world with open arms, leaving cashiers and waitresses and customer service representatives and friends and a wife and children feeling overwhelmed by grace and marked by a sense of belovedness.
REDEMPTION BEGINS WITH YOUR STORY
We sabotage the redemptive life by starting too big. We try to fix the world before we have learned to redeem our own stories. We must find the quiet space inside of us, where we can finally touch our own pain. And we can’t go there alone. We need someone or Someone to be there with us—a loving witness in the painful silence and a source of strength when our knees get weak.
Only when our compassion has been refined in the fire of our own souls will we be prepared for authentic togetherness in our relationships. Having first learned to face and transform the conflict within our own hearts, we will be prepared to redeem the broken relationships in our lives with love and patience and hope.
And when redemption has ruptured our hearts and healed our relationships, only then will we be prepared to step out into the pain of a world waiting to be transformed into something beautiful. In fact, then, we will want nothing else.
A PLACE (AND A POST) FOR YOU
If you are ready to forsake the good life in favor of the redemptive life—if you are craving a story with passion and peace and purpose—there is a place (and a post) for you here at UnTangled.
If your story is riddled with brokenness and shame and fear and anger, and you are seeking a quiet place in which to turn around and face it, there is a place for you here.
If your life is filled with relationships crying out for healing, there is a place for you here.
If you look around at a world mired in pain and suffering, and your heart ruptures and you feel compelled to enter into all that darkness with a redemptive love, there is a place for you here.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
You may find yourself today at a fork in the road. Down one path lies the good life. And down the other lies the redemptive life.
I know which path I want to walk.
Want to go for a stroll with me?
Comments: Does this excite you? Confuse you? Make you scared? Angry? All responses are welcome. Please feel free to share in the comments below.
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