I asked God recently, to help me work on three areas that I felt like he was pointing out were holding me back. I asked to be more courageous, more honest (especially with myself, in a good way instead of bashing myself) and to have more humility. These are dangerous requests. See, God only has one mode of teaching and that is through our experiences. He is not merely going to sit you down and say, here read this great book and then you'll have it.
Instead, he takes life and turns it inside out to give us opportunities to expand in those areas, then waits patiently for us to learn the lesson. Wash, rinse, repeat. So, two weeks ago (about, I did not write down the moment, ironically, I write everything else) I started making this my daily prayer, God teach me to live the truth boldly and with humility.
The first thing that happened was in my work. I am a home repair and remodel carpenter, and freelance writer. Things are pretty cyclical in the self employment business and nothing sucks worse than an election year. Everybody is nervous, they know what they want, and are willing to pay for it, until they suddenly are not, and that has been happening a lot this past Summer. Consequently, we find ourselves a bit behind. This is not because I am self employed, I actually make more that way than through any of the jobs I have been offered, (if you know of one that pays really well, has a flexible schedule and doesn't mind hiring neurotic artists, let me know) but it may have something to do with the eight kids and the monstrous old Victorian house that eats energy. At any rate, the big jobs started drying up. I have had a couple, but I had to fight tooth and claw to get them, and then a few have done the, yes, as soon as possible, but we have to wait for money, thing.
There is no shortage, however, of lesser work, the kind I think of myself as having outgrown about fifteen years back in my twenty-five year carpentry career. Welcome to humility training one o one. So, I take what I can get, and do it to the best of my ability, working as if for the Lord, and not for men, right? Wrong, I get depressed, and barely drag myself out of bed. Instead of seeing His hand, I curse “the enemy” and push the lesson away. But, it keeps coming back, and I am going to have to deal with my pride, either this way, or the hard way when things get really tough.
Next up is courage, and for me, this is not about being timid, or fearful in the traditional sense. I have not written anything on this blog that I would not say in front of a thousand people, and that's saying a lot, because I don't hold back much, except the really personal stuff, like this. So, he begins to challenge me with all of the ideas and projects that I started to do with Him in mind. Things that represent, to my way of thinking, huge personal risk of humiliation when no one pays attention. Yes, I am the guy who rarely gives all, so I can say to myself (if it falls short) well, at least you tried, and if you had given everything, it surely would have been a rousing success!
So, my list of personal improvement projects gets shifted from one place to the next, I'll start this one today, sort of thing. But it's time to set a schedule, quit running things by the seat of my pants. I am getting too old for that. What's sad is I can see that this kind of thing works. I see it all around me! I know that when I wrote an actual business plan for my theater, and committed to it, it happened, without my even needing to organize the effort, it flowed! Time to get it down on paper, it really is like magic what happens when we take our daydreams and commit them to the real world. That, in and of itself, I believe, is the first step of manifestation in a lot of cases.
Last but not least is the truth. I have always given a lot of lip service to loving the truth.
Funny how sometimes you write a sentence, it impacts you, and then nothing else seems to follow it up quite right, so I will just let that one set there on its own for all to see. In my life, the truth really is important and I want to be someone who seeks it out, no matter what it does to my beliefs, or my carefully crafted delusions. I want my beliefs, and the ideas that I live by to contain as much truth as I can find. I really do. I am willing to discard any belief that in my experience proves out to be untrue.
This one is something really hard for me, and that is to truly believe in the skills and talents that God has given me. I did, once upon a time, I really did. I followed them to the ends of the earth, believing that some day, it would all work out, and I would be able to share them with the world, and still eat and have electricity. When that dream died and we had to close our theater, a huge piece of me went with it, and it's time for me to get it back.
The truth is, I am a gifted actor and story teller. I am a highly skilled theatrical director, scene designer and acting coach. I have over a thousand former students, dozens of whom are pursuing professional careers even as I write this. But, when I look at it most days, all I see is the fact that I had to close the doors because not enough people shared that belief with me. That hurts. It turns what others see so obviously, and remind me of, into stinging arrows. I didn't make it that time. Or the time before that.
So, as I write this, I am struggling with God on some dreams he is reawakening. I am dreaming again, but for me, they all hold an element of the nightmare for the moment. I don't know what it is about the artistic temperament, maybe it is how long we live with our work before it is born into the world, but I, for one, take this failure very personally. Even though I know that the art was not the reason it failed. It was a business, and businesses do that from time to time, often outside of our control.
So, right now, I am a big ball of emotion and spiritual awakening and my moments are sometimes painful realizations of what it will mean to become these things. And some days, it almost overshadows the glory of an image I am beginning to see, of who I will be at the end of this. Almost. But I refuse to give up. I have come too far. I have lost too much and suffered some really deep things, but I survived, and I didn't survive to just go on surviving. There has to be more, there will be more, there is going to be much more. Now, if I can just stay out of the way, and keep my mind in the right place long enough for Him to finish this next phase of me!