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Friday, August 26, 2011

I am Stepping up...

Stepping up., originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.  View the LARGE version

to the plate.
     In soooo many different ways. Dat's whats up. Tonight, on the Starbucks patio, I have coffee at my right hand, and a good cigar in my left. I have been in constant motion for days and tonight I have chosen to sacrifice a little sleep to get my bearings. I am taking stock. I am evaluating a few priorities and taking a personal inventory. 
     I have been accepted into the nursing program. It has taken me over three years to get here (really it's taken about eight... I needed a few years before I could even find the balls to listen to that quiet little voice in my head, and look at the picture I kept seeing...) When I began this journey, I wasn't even a high school graduate. Now, three years hence, I have graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Georgia Military College, and I am awestruck when I pause to consider the sheer enormity of what God has accomplished with an attention-deficit dyslexic who left home at seventeen without ever having learned how to live. I have a degree today, and I am engaged in seeking another one. I dream of one day being able to provide for a family, and impact my world in a positive way for the glory of my God. I also hope like hell that this is not entirely my idea, but my faith in this grows stronger with every miraculously opened door, and I have finally come to a place where I am at least a little bit comfortable with letting God handle his end and concentrating on mine. Concentration is not my strong suite, especially if I am distracted trying to handle God's business.
      As soon as I decided to go back to school, my dying marriage took a nose dive, and I ended up getting a divorce. As I was driving across town to have my wife sign the papers, I got a phone call. My father had died. The next forty eight hours were incredible, and I have never been the same. Depression seems to come and go, and returning to school after a twenty five year break has been indescribably stressful. I got more than a little crazy, and still have a difficult time remembering how I managed to get through school with the grades needed to make it into the nursing program at my college. Several times it seemed that someone else was in the driver's seat, and I am grateful. I have also become aware of how unlikely my success was, in the face of my lifestyle and attitude. The stakes are now much higher, both financially and emotionally. I really don't want to deal with the consequences of dropping this ball, and it has become important to come to clarity about my big picture, what I have been doing wrong, and what needs to change in order to pull this off.
     A little over nine months ago, I heard the clue phone start ringing, and when I answered it... it turned out to be for me. Whaddya know. The voice on the line basically said: "You're fucking up. Not only do I have a much better life prepared for you, but I have a job for you to do, and you're not doing it!"
     I argue with God often, (though he has yet to strike me dead, obviously.) This time, I took the divine asschewing without complaint. I knew I had it coming. I was miserable. I was wallowing in self -pity and had fallen into depression. I was drinking daily, and had returned to some old ways of thinking, which I've posted about earlier. In my anger and disappointment, my prayers became arrogant, accusatory, and infrequent. I began romantic involvement immediately, and began to take several hundred pictures a week. Anything to avoid dealing with multifaceted grief, grow the fuck up, and learn how to live. My life was a mess, and I was ripe for the divine wake up call. I had  gotten off track, to say the least. I am among other things, a mystic. Many of us pray. If the surveys are to be believed, even atheists pray, but as Andy Stanley says, a mystic is someone who believes God talks back...or talks period, I forget which. 
     C.S. Lewis tells us that God "whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts to us in our pain; It is his megaphone to rouse a dying world." My world was dying, and I heard the shout. I have, along with the every other living creature, experienced my share of pain. I have slowly, stubbornly learned to recognize the voice of my God in these instances, and further- have been growing ever more sensitive to the speaking and whispering. Still, he must shout at me from time to time, because, like D.L. Moody, the sensitivity to God's voice leaks out of me, through the many holes in my character.
     Anyway, I heard the message and made the decision to return to habits and disciplines that had brought me so far, and helped me so much in the past. I began to again seek personal growth, and the struggle to redefine and rebuild my life, this time with a commitment to surrender to God's design for the life of Chris Rauch. 
     Now, a decision is one thing, and for the most part, an indispensible prerequisite to intentional progress, but it is in the theatre of practical application that the rubber truly meets the road. In my resolve, I must answer the question: “How do I do this?" For me, the renovation of life is a process, and it begins with constructive action. I work out before I develop muscles. My inclination is to lose weight, develop muscular definition, and then start going to the gym, but things don’t work this way. I have to figure out what to do. To obtain knowledge I must go to those who profess to have it… and if I am wise, I will go to those professors who are actively engaged in ongoing practical application. The best hospitals are research hospitals, and the best universities are those that research the frontiers of knowledge. 
     Self-actualization, as defined by Maslow, is when the desire for fulfillment drives us to reach our maximum potential. When our life is lacking joy/fulfillment, this absence drives us to grow. So the question for me is "Who is busy today, taking practical action to reach self actualization? Who is doing the research?" 
     I find upon reflection that it is usually not the politicians, not the proponents of religious piety, and not the millions of couch potatoes that claim Oprah Winfry as their guru. In all of these cross sections of western society, those who actively seek personal growth are a tiny minority. Honestly, there is no demographic that that is not dominated by apathy, but there is a global community represented my members of all areas of humanity where the minority seeking to actively improve their lives reaches the point of statistical significance. This is the recovery movement. The Twelve Step Programs. It is the alcoholics, the addicts, the codependents, the gamblers, and the compulsively promiscuous, that are driven by the pain of their dysfunction, to apply spiritual principles in their lives and strive toward their maximum potential. These people with all their failings, are my teachers. 
     I'll post next on the twelve steps programs, and my take on how the steps operate, but it is late, and this post has gotten a helluva a lot longer than I intended. 

"Now, With God's Help, I Shall Become Myself" ~ Soren Kierkegaard.

       Good Night. :)

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