Keep your Eyes Open

It is really easy to get lost in the stress of a busy life.

I fall for this too often. Between work, classes, scheduled fun, school events, leadership activities, and friendships, I find very little time to take a minute to breathe. It is easy to fall into old patterns of coping, specifically putting off dealing with stress and letting it pile up. 

Lately though I have been realizing, with the help of a lot of solid people in my life, that it is very important to take time to reflect and accept everything that is happening. My counseling skills professor claims that one of the more important things we can figure out as people is how to sit in a room with all of our issues and let them just be for a while. To be able and sit in a chair, lay in bed, stare at the ocean and acknowledge all of the things that have to get done, that are coming up, all the things that take up time and energy, are simply there and they aren’t going to crush us. 

In order to do that, however, I believe we need to be actively engaging in fellowship. I am the greatest offender of this concept, as I have a tendency to avoid anything except shallow fellowship and keep all my problems to myself. It is safer that way a lot of the time, easier even, yet my lack of vulnerability leads to more stress and just encourages the problem. It leaves me stuck in a nasty cycle of trying to take care of everything myself and never letting anyone in, which leads to stress, which leads to greater attempts to take care of everything myself, which eventually leads to more stress…and I think you get the picture. 

With all of this in mind I’ve been trying something new recently: Being honest about where I am. Maybe this seems like a completely elementary concept, but it is one I have never been able to grasp. I’ve always lived in a world of my own making that dictates I keep things to myself and don’t trouble other people. There is a lot going on behind this thought process that can be left to another blog someday in the future, but for the moment the important thing to know is that this thought process exists for me. 

Being honest has been hard but each step of the way I find affirmation from people I care about and who, get this, care about me in return. They actually find joy in helping shoulder the burden of stress. They actively pursue a relationship with me because they care, completely and genuinely. That’s the beauty of true fellowship: We find joy in helping each other. It isn’t merely a duty (you shall love your neighbor as yourself), but is something that we can find joy in. They get excited when I share with them and that means the world to me.

So, in saying all of this I guess my point boils down to one thing: Don’t get lost in the stress of life. It might be easy to just keep pushing through and going it alone, but in the long run it is going to leave you beaten, battered, and powerless to help others. Let people in, let them love you and care for you in the same way that you care for them. Life is a little easier when you’ve got friends by your side helping you along. 

Of Trains and Togetherness

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I’ve always liked the sound of a train horn echoing through the night.

There is something about it that is comforting to me, especially as I’m lying in bed in the middle of the night, feeling alone and disturbed after a strange or frightening dream. It is interesting because I have always lived somewhere where I could hear trains. It doesn’t matter how far away I am from the tracks. Somehow that long, haunting train call makes its way through the still night and greets me where ever I’m at.

It reminds me of when I was little, lying awake in my bed scared out of my mind of the things in the dark. Silence has always been scarier to me than the loudest of noises. There is something about dead air that leaves me feeling more alone and vulnerable than the onslaught of sound. So in the middle of the night, wrapped up in the terror of childhood nightmares, I would hear a train call in the distance and know that I wasn’t alone in the world. The sounds would break the illusion of silence and isolation.

Even now, at 21, I feel that same sense of comfort whenever I hear a train. I’m not scared of the dark anymore and it is never silent here in Southern California, but something about the sound of trains still soothes me.

I feel like there is a bigger metaphor there but I can’t see it. As it is, the sound of the late night train horn also brings me comfort because it reminds me of God. Not so much that God resembles a train horn or that he is calling out to me, or anything of the sort. Rather, it reminds me of God because it reminds me there are other people out there in the world. There are weary travelers on an Amtrak heading to their next destination. Tired freight train drivers making their way to their next delivery. Even when I’m alone in my room, bundled beneath my blankets, feeling completely isolated from the world I feel connected when I hear the sound of a train.

There are people out there in this big world that I’m a part of and through the lonely call of a train in the dead of night I’m connected to them and therefore connected to God. You see, I think that the best way to connect to God is through realizing we’re connected to other people. How are we supposed to acknowledge a higher power is with us when we cannot even acknowledge that real, tangible human beings are with us? We can’t. I can’t. I think in order to know God I have to know other people because we were created to be in relationship. We see God through being in relationship with each other.

So when I hear the old familiar sound drifting through the night air, meeting me where I’m at, all curled up in my bed alone, I remember that I’m not actually alone. It helps me sleep a little easier.