All of us are on a journey of some kind.

When we were children, our journey was school. Then we grew up and our journeys became college or careers.

After college, things got a little more complicated. The journey became marriage or children. Maybe some of us took a journey through a crisis, a sickness, or some other unplanned detour.

All of us are on a journey of some kind. Some journeys are the kind you plan, and others just happen whether we are prepared or not. Cheri and I took a five year journey to have our little boy.

As a teacher, I can tell you how silly students sound when they complain about how hard school is. Kindergarteners do it. High schoolers do it. There is nothing in a day of kindergarten that appears difficult to me anymore. And when a high school complains about how hard things are, or how tired he is or how he has too much to do, I think that’s how high school is supposed to be! That is the journey through school.

As for those more grown-up journeys, the journeys with children, the journeys with infertility, the journeys with all the other little things that life throws at us, what I am starting to find, and I suspect is true of much of life, is that journeys are hard. Journeys are hard and they make you argue with your spouse or they take your spouse away from you. Journeys make you say “why me” and can throw you into despair.

But journeys also seem to have some sweetness to them, for people who are willing to find it. There are plenty of people people who seem to be utterly broken by infertility. They despaired of life and cried, “why us?” And then there are the couples who watch as their marriage actually grows under the stress and the heartache. The pain provides a kind of fertilizer for their relationship.

I have become convinced that we are all on some kind of journey. All journeys have something to give us, some sweetness to enrich us. But there is one guaranteed way to miss it:

Having a martyr complex.

martyr

People who travel humbly, knowing that life has always entailed difficult journeys will find the sweetness, despite the heartache. People with martyr complexes will not. Martyrs will live in the difficulty, will sit in the dust and wonder why they are on this journey, wonder why they are being singled out of seven billion people to have this problem (even while there are real, actual martyrs in the world.)

The fact is, we are all on a journey. And journeys are hard. They take something from us.

But we have a choice.

We can be martyrs.

Or we can be journeymen.

This summer, I’m going on a diet.

Wikipedia defines Superfoods as "a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits."

Wikipedia defines Superfoods as “a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits.”

I’ve tried for most of my adult life to eat reasonably well, but this is the first time I’m going to really try.

See, it’s not that I’ve become obese yet. But my famously skinny Appling genes just aren’t keeping up as well as they used to. It’s hard for genetics to keep up with my lifestyle of too much desk work, too many kids offering birthday treats and not enough opportunities for exercise.

It comes down to the fact that I just don’t like how I look. Cheri’s going to do it too because she doesn’t like how she looks after the pregnancy. So we are planning a sugar cleanse and then a month of paleo dieting.

As with everything, there are amateurs like us, people who are just dipping their toes in the water. And then there are the hard-bitten devotees. You find these kinds in the gym, but also Comic-Con, or museums or message boards or even church.

As I dip my toes in the water of trendy diets, though, what bugs me is just how obviously apparent it is that food has become a national religion.

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I used to think that self-righteousness was a Christian thing.

You know, it’s us Christians who are always pointing the finger, placing the blame on others, belittling and marginalizing. And really, that reputation is deserved to a degree.

Self-righteousness gets misdefined though.

It’s not just a holier than thou attitude. It’s not a belief that I’m right and you’re not. It’s much more than that.

Self-righteousness is the belief that I can do it myself. I don’t need other people. I am self-reliant.

Self-righteousness is the belief that I can do what I want. It does not matter that I am a created being with a purpose. I don’t have to be bound by those purposes. I can make myself whatever I want. Therefore, self-righteousness is a denial that we are creatures that are made to be a certain way.

And because self-righteousness is the belief that I can do it myself and I can do what I want, then self-righteousness is the belief that I can save myself. I don’t need a savior or a redeemer. I am good the way I am. I am perfect. I will save myself, either through religion or diet or sex or something else.

I started believing I could do it myself when I was two. And I’ve never quit since then. At times over the last four months of fatherhood, the only thing I could do was let go of my precious self-righteousness and say, “I’m really bad at this.” 

Self-righteousness is not a Christian thing or a atheist thing. It’s not a gay or straight thing. It doesn’t belong to a race or class. It’s a human thing. We are all doing it. We shallowly believe that self-righteousness is merely judging other people. In fact, it is the belief that we have no judge. 

self righteous

Perhaps that is the greatest threat to our culture today. And that’s where we can start. As Christians find themselves further away from the culture, relinquishing our self-righteousness might be the only thing we can do. We can’t act humble for a couple of weeks, though, expecting people to suddenly think we are great. That’s not how it works. It might take a generation, or two, or ten, of Christians actually relinquishing their self-righteousness, of actually preaching Jesus’ righteousness and not our own, before people will listen again.

It’s been a great week, as I and perhaps thousands of other teachers and schoolchildren see the end of the school year, the light at the end of the tunnel. We are just trying to crawl to the finish line at this point, but we know we are going to make it.

There were a lot of great things that fueled, challenged, inspired or motivated me. Here are the highlights.

On My Calendar

Tomorrow, I’m so excited to be taking part in a panel discussion on keeping your relationship together through infertility. Three years ago, I attended the conference, put on by the Kansas City Infertility Awareness Foundation. I didn’t expect 200 other people would be there. It was the beginning of my eyes being opened to see this great need, a huge number of people who believe they are suffering alone through childlessness.

On My BookshelfAll-Groan-Up-Cover-For-Web

I’m so happy for my friend, Paul Angone! His book, All Groan Up has finally been released. It’s been a long road for him to get this book out to the public. I can’t remember when he approached me for an endorsement. But it’s a great gift for grads, both high school and especially college.

In My Blog Reader

Perhaps the most impactful thing I read this week came from Rachel Boldwyn, as she shares what appears to be a completely counter-cultural philosophy on teaching children to share. When was the last time we really examined the assumptions we have about teaching selflessness, and are we really doing the opposite? A must read if you have or deal with young children.

K.C. Proctor has been on fire, producing his book and podcast on parenthood from a dad’s perspective. I loved this post, Three Stupid Words Every Dad Should AvoidDads, really. Get these words out of your vocabulary today.

There are hidden opportunities in our churches for serving and loving others. Nish Weiseth discusses the opportunity we have in the families with special needs children, families who usually are shuffled around or pushed to the edges because people don’t want to get involved with their stuff.

Finally, Abby Norman shares some real ways to be counter-culturalHint: it doesn’t have to do with hair, clothes or music.

That’s it from me. See you next week!

Does our generation suck at marriage?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last week, I found this article by twenty-nine year old Anthony D’Ambrosio. He met his wife in 2004, married her in 2012, and here we are, three years later, and he’s divorced.

Thus, he says, the millennial generation’s marriages are doomed. Marriage “doesn’t work” anymore. We just can’t handle it.

Now, I take exception to that, as I’ve been married nine years and counting. I know, not a huge number, but nearly a decade is nothing to sniff at either. D’Ambrosio made a few good points, but I wondered…

…Are we really a generation headed for relationship armageddon?

I don’t think so.

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This weekend, Cheri and I took the boy to the antique mall.

We had something specific we were hunting for, but we also just like to look at old stuff. It can be a revelatory experience to see your Grandma’s heirlooms, or the precious items you had in your home, sitting on the shelves of an antique mall with a five dollar price tag. Suddenly you realize that your family had the same mass-produced stuff that everyone else had. It’s just the memories that you attach to those items that make them valuable.

While hunting for “unique” items, we found this Barbie doll, part of the “My Favorite Career” series. This “Rocket Scientist” Barbie was released in 1965.

"Yes, I am a Rocket Scientist!"

“Yes, I am a Rocket Scientist!”

Now, who am I to say that the little girls who received this doll were not encouraged to think about their career choices? For all I know, Rocket Scientist Barbie did her job, and she looked good doing it.

But Cheri and I had a good chuckle at what Barbie is saying on the box: “Yes, I am a Rocket Scientist.” We couldn’t help but think it sounded a little defensive. “Yes, I am a rocket scientist!” As if no one at the cocktail party believed her when they asked what she did. They assumed she must have mistakenly said “rocket scientist.”

Part of the fun of looking at old things is seeing just how silly so much of it looks now. Watch any of the old shows on Netflix, Dragnet or Hawaii Five-O. They are pretty silly. Sometimes they are painfully silly. But people enjoyed them at the time, without any irony.

That’s the challenge of doing creative work. Very little of what we do is going to last. Our work becomes dated. It goes out of style. It becomes silly to the people who find it later.

There are two things that do not become dated:

Wisdom

and Beauty

Wisdom and Beauty are completely fair, completely timeless things. Styles and tastes in beauty change, and peoples’ perceptions of what is wise changes. But Wisdom and Beauty are like objective truths.

temporary

If we want our work on Earth to last, to matter, to be a little more permanent, to not become kitsch in an antique mall, it’s best if it is pursuing Wisdom and Beauty.