Posts Tagged ‘loneliness

14
May
13

Death, sorrow, baby einstein, sundresses and hope

In the midst of reading about an abortion doctor crushing innocent babies because their parents decided that the babies were an inconvenience, and thinking about lots of personal and family related problems that require much attention, prayers and miracles, I was sitting on a public bus going through the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark with tears in my eyes. Tears of pain. Tears of anger. Tears of frustration. But also tears of hope. My iPod was playing a song that seemed so out of touch with what I was thinking about, Steven Curtis Chapman’s Our God Is In Control from his majestic album, Beauty Will Rise. God is in control? Really?

As I sat there and pondered this, a beautiful 5-year old girl smiled at me. I had noticed her running to catch the bus with her dad who looked like he had the day off. They made it, and the little girl in a flowery dress was beaming with pride when she walked through the bus and found two available seats. They sat and talked, and got off at the center of the city, ready to explore. She smiled at me, jumped down from the bus, and walked happily away with her daddy. Just the way life should be.

Early this morning Marcus and I were watching a Baby Einstein DVD about colors while eating breakfast together, and my 15-month-old son got very excited when the color yellow was presented with a picture of a field filled with yellow, perfect daffodils. He was so happy. So out of touch with everything that was going on in his daddy’s head. He came with books and toys for us to play with. Laughing, smiling, ready for a new day.

“This is not how it should be. This is not how it could be. Our God is in control. This is not how it will be. When we finally will see. We’ll see with our own eyes. He was always in control”, the song was playing in my ears. It’s true. This isn’t how it should be. Death, disease, pain, lack of finances to pay for health insurance, fear of losing your job, intense loneliness, fear of going through life all alone and depression. None of this was part of the original package. Sin, destruction and death entered the world. And it’s so easy to be swallowed up by the existential hopelessness that is our lot if we don’t know God. If we don’t know someone who is in control. In control even when it sure doesn’t look like he is.

The little girl is right. Marcus was right. Life is good. Yellow is a wonderful color. A day out with daddy is wonderful. It’s epic. It’s eternal. It’s what will last. Yellow daffodils will last. Death and sorrow will wither and pass away. Wearing a sundress with daddy and laughing at his old jokes won’t.

And life is found in the midst of this tension. The tension between aggressive diseases, unbelievable cruelty, loneliness, shipwrecked marriages and daffodils, teddy bears, sundresses and wonderful, patient dads. Hope and light is breaking through. Jesus is real in the midst of this mess we call life.

Torben

31
Jul
12

Coming home?

In the history of this blog these past six months have been the longest hiatus without any new blog entries. In some way it surprises me. A Ukrainian friend of mine wrote me shortly after our son Marcus was born and expressed that he was looking forward to hearing me blog about my experiences as a father. For some reason that hasn’t happened. Some friends said to me that it was – of course – just because I am not sleeping quite enough these days that I don’t have many philosophical thoughts about life. It would be easy to agree with them, but I know that’s not the truth. The truth is that it’s been bugging me that I can’t seem to organize my thoughts and figure out what’s going on inside of me. I can’t seem to focus on what I want to be all about. I can’t seem to move in courage and faith into the things of God that I know he’s inviting me into. I’m afraid. Afraid of more loneliness.

A few thoughts on fatherhood now that I might have your attention. I love being a dad to beautiful little Marcus. He is a great joy to behold, even as I write where he’s laying on the floor playing in his Tennessee Volunteers pj’s that our dear friend, Tim Huddleston brought to Marcus from the Smoky Mountains state. He’s great. He’s fun. He’s lots of smiles and craziness. And yet, I’ve been almost perpetually disappointed in myself this past half year. Disappointed in my reactions when things are not easy. Disappointed in my lack of patience. Disappointed that I don’t seem to do what I need to be doing most of the time. Disappointed that my flesh is as ugly as it is when it comes to anybody invading my space and making sure that my schedule and my ideas can’t happen. Having a baby surely, at least in my case, has forced me to stare the beast of my flesh even deeper into its ugly eyes. It ain’t pretty. My wife, Jeannette, has been great at encouraging me and reminding me that I’m doing a great job as a dad. I don’t know if I believe her most of the time, but I also know that it’s been good for me with all the reminders of how Jesus deals with me when I scream, whine and won’t surrender to what’s really best for me. Marcus is a baby in my arms. And often I’m a baby in Jesus’ arms. I want to surrender, but I end up working against what I really want, just like Marcus does when he is sleepy and can’t seem to surrender to the sweet release of sleep. It’s humbling for sure. I’m glad Marcus is as forgiving and forgetting as he is. I’m glad that he always receives me with a smile and a giggle. I wish I received Jesus’ invitations with the same cheerfulness and trust. Maybe it’s trust that Jesus wants to teach me. Despite having known Jesus intimately for many years, that issue remains a problem. It’s hard to trust him. It’s hard to let go.

Coming home to Denmark has been a challenge. Is this really home? I haven’t lived in this country the past nine years, and I feel so different than I did as a young twenty-something year old sans wife and baby back in the day. Some people have said that it must be nice to be home, but I never know how to reply to that question. Sure, there is something familiar about being here in the country of my roots and with my mother tongue being spoken everywhere. But I don’t know if I feel more at home here than I do everywhere else in this world I’ve been. There are huge blessings connected to the life I’ve been living these past nine years. I love my global perspective. I love the familiarity I feel with people and cultures from around the globe. I love that I have friends where I know their hearts from Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Ukraine, the Philippines, and countless other countries. There is such a richness to that. But there is also the other side of that same coin: I belong everywhere, and in a sense, I belong nowhere. It’s been lonely since coming home. I’m struggling to find my feet under me. What am I to be all about this next year in Denmark. How do I connect with people I run into? I’ve had fun trying to talk more to people that I meet out and about. Danes normally don’t initiate conversations with people we don’t know. In fact we’ll go to great lengths to avoid conversations with strangers. But my theory has been that if someone initiates a chat, Danes are like everybody else and enjoy a little conversation. So far my theory has proven valid.

It’s been four years since I wrote this blog entry about a line that Jesus challenged me with from the film version of C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian. (I’m back again after a short break. Marcus just needed some kisses and hugs from his Daddy that helped assure him that’s he’s okay. Don’t we all need those times? Often?!). I’m still there. Four years later. I’m still afraid to jump fully. Some people say to me that I’ve jumped much further into the crazy waters of faith than they ever have. I know the truth is that I’m still, in many ways, standing at the edge, afraid of losing my footing completely if I fall deeper into the ravine that is Jesus’ love and Jesus’ invitation to truly let go and learn to live with him as the only center in my life. I hear his invitation, I know he won’t force me, and yet I continue to hesitate. I wonder how I would react if someone continued to hesitate to accept an invitation I extended four years ago? I’m glad Jesus doesn’t have my temper and my impatience. I’m glad he understands. I’m glad that he, despite what my flesh and unfortunately much of Christian tradition say, is never disappointed in me.

He knows I’m afraid to lose more than I feel I have. I have friends all over the world, but few in my home country. I have lots of people who care about me and us, but very few that I could call on a gray Wednesday. I have lots of people who look up to me when it comes to faith and living radically, but few I can share all my fears and struggles with. I encounter many individuals who find my story of living on support and pursuing the Kingdom of God full strength on a global scale this past decade fascinating, but few people who know how to relate to me and pursue a friendship once they hear the same story. While living in the United States I often wished that I could answer: “my name is Tom Smith, I’m from Wisconsin, and I work as a teacher” when asked to introduce myself. Somehow “my name is Torben Riis Jensen, I’m from Denmark, and I work as a missionary and Christian counselor” seemed to make it harder for people to relate to me…These days, I’m running into that here in Copenhagen too. Copenhagen, as the capital city of Denmark, is a modern, cosmopolitan city, but still it’s difficult for people I meet at church to know what to do with this scruffy-bearded young(ish) man with his tales of living in England, Ukraine, and the United States, and his stories of encountering people in Greenland, South Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Moldova. Connection points are few. Sometimes I just wish I were a school teacher…(and no, I’m NOT attacking school teachers in any way, shape or form, it just happens to be a job that most people can relate to without too much explanation 🙂)

Why do I even write this? What do I want? Your pity? No. Not at all. I guess I don’t really want anything. It’s just how life is. Just how my life is. Nothing too unusual about it. Nothing that lots of people can’t relate to. But it is my reality nonetheless. Sometimes it’s nice to be seen as unique. It used to mean a heck of a lot to me. Now I don’t need it (as much) anymore. But that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily change.

So Jesus invites me, again, into deeper life with him. Away from people. Away from friends and family. Into places I fear. Into places in the depths of my heart that will challenge, bless, and change me. I fear that change. I fear the increase in loneliness that (sometimes? often? always?)follows when you dig really deep into the beauty of Jesus. Most people will not understand. It’s how it is.

So where is home for me? Jeannette and I followed this past season of American Idol religiously. And in God’s great sense of humor he’s using the winner’s, Phillip Philipps, first single to encourage me. I thought the lyrics to Home would bless Jeannette as she’s struggling to settle into unfamiliar surroundings here in my home country. But the truth is this ain’t my home anymore than it is hers, and I can’t help her the way I wished I could. But somehow Jesus is speaking to me through this song. Maybe he’s the one who is gonna make this place our home. At least for a season. I hear the demons that fill me with fear. Fear for today. Fear for tomorrow. And I have no answer to their lies. Maybe Jesus will take care of us on this unfamiliar road as well?

Blessings, Torben

31
Jan
12

in the middle

It’s 2:22 in the morning, and our 12 day old son Marcus has decided that Daddy doesn’t need much sleep this night. Maybe he’s right. I have a hard time sleeping anyway. Lots of thoughts about my place in this world seem to be going in circles. My wife just warned me to not go in through the door called ‘despair’ that we both know is in this room of thoughts and questions. She knows and I know what’s behind that door. I have often walked through that door when I’ve wrestled with questions of belonging as I do this early morning. It’s not a good place to go to. There is nothing to gain behind that door. Or behind the door next to it titled ‘hopelessness’ for that matter.

So instead I choose to listen to my heart and the questions I find there. Earlier tonight I found myself doing a round of Facebook-stalking of friends, acquaintances, and random people who don’t have a very high security level on their profiles. Don’t judge me. You do it too. And I left that tour feeling rather lonely. Without a group to belong to. I used to wear that as a badge of honor that I didn’t belong to a group. That was part of being young and independent minded. I loved playing the devil’s advocate no matter what people were talking about. And I loved being seen as ‘unique’. Now, I feel more unique and different than ever, but it’s not something I’m longing for. Big parts of me wish I belonged with other people in some kind of group. I wish I could associate myself with any sort of group and say that I firmly agree with everything they stand for. I can’t, however. I’ve written about it previously that when it comes to theology and the things of life with Jesus, I’m most definitely not able to find a group or even a person to fully associate myself with. Sometimes people ask me for my theological point of view on this or that, and I rarely know what to say. It’s not that I’m more wishy-washy than I was 15 years ago. It’s not that I’ve lost my cutting edge since I turned 35 a few days ago and officially entered the fairly un-sexy group called ‘people in their mid-thirties’. I feel passion like never before inside of me. I see Jesus setting me more and more on fire for truth. But I can’t seem to find a group to associate myself with. I feel like I’m stuck in the middle somewhere.Too liberal for the conservatives. Too conservative for the liberals. Not hip enough for the trendy. Way trendy for the hicks.

Having lived in three different countries, England, Ukraine and the United States, these past 8 years, and having spent time in more than 40 other countries doesn’t make the pursuit of finding a place to belong easier. I’ve experienced that strongly these last few weeks since our beautiful son (I promise to write more about him later on!) was born. I love that I truly, without it being an empty clichĂ©, know people all over the world. I love that people from more than 20 nations were celebrating Marcus’ birth with my wife and I on Facebook and through emails. But the reality of having friends all over the world. The reality of being married to a person from a different country than my own. The reality of constant traveling and experiences that most people will never be able to understand. All of those realities are part of me feeling stuck in my own little world. I love that I’m a world citizen. I love that my perspective is global. I love all of that, but it also makes life lonely at times. Even though they wish they could be here with us, we didn’t have friends from Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sweden, Germany come to visit us and celebrate our son’s birth. It just didn’t happen. So feelings of loneliness creep in. Feelings of belonging anywhere and not belonging anywhere. It’s part of God’s gifts to me that I’ve never been a stranger in any of the many countries I’ve had the privilege of visiting. I love that. I love how comfortable I feel all over the world. But that’s also part of what makes me harder to relate to.

I’m in the middle. I don’t know how to associate myself with a group of any kind. I admire people who can do it. I honestly do. The types who ‘like’ lots of pages on Facebook and feel connected to other people who do the same in cyber space or in real life. I don’t ‘like’ many groups. I just don’t. I don’t even know what to do with myself in grace circles these days. I see things differently from other people. And again I see that I used to be proud of that fact. Now, I don’t have to be different anymore. I wouldn’t mind agreeing with lots of people about lots of things. I just don’t. I find myself in the middle. In the middle of nowhere.

I’m glad that I’ve found Christ in the middle of nowhere. He is fairly unique too. And he’s been crazy enough to create me the way I’m created and invite me on these different journeys that have helped shape who I am and what I believe. He likes me. Just the way I am. He will always like me, even if I never find a group to belong to. Even if I never start sentences with “we believe…..or we think…” as opposed to “I believe…I think….”.

Some people will read this and see me as just another post-modern fool trying to be different. And 10 years ago I would have agreed (secretly, of course!) with that verdict. But not today. I find less and less pleasure and pride in being different. I just am different, and that’s okay. It remains a dream for me to someday be in some kind of community where true transparency and honesty rules and where I can have a group of people where I can truly share heart aches, pains, questions, concerns, joy and laughter. Until then I’m okay in the middle. With Christ.

Blessings, Torben – who loves being a Daddy, but wonders what my son will think when he reads this in 20 years from now…

13
Nov
11

though i feel alone

A great song to remind myself of important truths!

 

Blessings, Torben

18
Nov
09

Up

It’s not often that I watch a cartoon that I really enjoy and keep on quoting, but these wonderful scenes from the latest Disney Pixar movie “Up” I just can’t get over 🙂 The movie itself is an interesting creation with very serious themes such as death of a loved one, loneliness, an absent father, inability to have children, and how to let go when a loved one dies mixed in with lots of silly stuff and laughable characters. The movie is held in a surprisingly melancholy tone, and yet it’s uplifting with beautiful, bright colors and delightful music throughout the movie. It’s definitely worth watching!

Meet Russell and Mr. Fredrickson:

And the dog, Doug:

Blessings, Torben

25
Jan
08

The quote of the week

I will introduce a new little thing here on abrokencup.wordpress.com. I love thought provoking and challenging quotes from people a lot wiser than me. And I love many of the wonderful songs that are to be found on youtube.com, so from now on I’ll post the quote of the week and youtube video of the week each Saturday. 

Hope you’ll enjoy it!

To open yourself to another person, to stop lying about your loneliness and your fears, to be honest about your affections, and to tell others how much they mean to you – this openness is the triumph of the child over the pharisee and a sign of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit – “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom(2 Cor. 3:17) 

Taken from Brennan Manning’s masterpiece Abba’s Child  

Torben 




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