You Are Loved (The Take Your Face In My Hands And Look You Straight In The Eye Kind)

There are so many out there in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Blogosphere land that haven’t been told something in quite a while. And if you are one of those who has a parent, partner, or a committee that sits inside your head, that doesn’t acknowledge what a great person you are, or are trying to be…please take a quick moment and soak in some of these things that are true about you.

You are most likely doing the best that you can right now…and that is saying something. Are you perfect? Nope. Join the club. Yesterday I found myself confessing to a friend that I have had zero passion for life recently…and he confessed the same right back to me. So if you are also feeling the drain…don’t beat yourself up. There are worse things in life, I promise. You’ll get there…just give it time.

So if you’ve been holding on to a dream for 20 plus years (or maybe it just seems that long) and it has not come to pass…man, that’s tough. But I want to remind you that believing for something great requires an incredible amount of strength, risk-taking, passion, high character, and so much LOVE. Most often those dreams are within us so we can either be a part of something great going on in the world, or so we can CHANGE the world. So keep dreaming and loving. Don’t feel guilty for not being where you want to be. Just keeping hoping for better, because that hope within you will NEVER be wasted. THAT HOPE will eventually find its way into this world in one way or another, I promise you.

ALSO, If you haven’t been told “I love you”…and I mean where someone has taken your face in their hands, looked you straight in the eye and said “I love you,” then I say this with so many good thoughts for you, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done.


Do I know you? Maybe not. But do I love the core of you that needs to be fulfilled…that needs another person to validate you? I do. And you are loved not only by me, but by a much more powerful force that is beyond this world – beyond our lives, our pain, sorrows and joys.

I have a good friend who believes this power is the collective love of the goodness of people. She does not believe in the same God I believe in, and you may not either. I DO see this power as God, absolutely. And whether my friend is right or whether I’m right, I believe that WHATEVER or WHOEVER is out there is loving and kind, has your name and number, and is looking out for you and for me.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE WORN OUT: Right now I’m thinking of you especially. You may be the single mom or dad without much space to breathe, let alone to be what you long to be. Or you may be sitting at the bedside of a dying loved at this very moment, or be going to appointment after appointment to extend your own time on this earth because of a life-threatening illness or disease. Or you may be hiding in your office at work each day, wishing to God you could find some kind of meaningful purpose for your life. Or you may be sitting up late nights, drinking or using, or sitting in front of naked women on your computer screen day after day to fill some sort of absence within you…my god….bless you. You are not alone.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE SELF-MEDICATING TO NUMB THE PAIN…I am so sorry for whatever has created this void in you. Abuse, neglect, chemical imbalance, divorce, tragedy, or depression. I want you to know that you may not get well on your own. It is more likely that you won’t – that you are going to need help. IF you need help, this doesn’t mean you are weak-minded. It only means you have an illness.

You can’t cure diabetes by the power of positive thinking and you can’t cure this addiction either. Trust me…from one user to another…it is not going away on your own strength. And even if you manage to control it for a time, even if you manage to white-knuckle it and stop, unless you get help you will either go back to it at some point or live in misery without it, because YOU ARE AN ADDICT AND ADDICTS NEED A PLAN TO RECOVER. You have to replace whatever it is you are using to cope, with something healthy if you are to find serenity.

I know what it’s like…and also that there IS a way out. For me it was recovery…it was AA and the God I found there…it was accepting hardship as a pathway to peace…going to a GOOD therapist…bringing God into my life in an ever increasing way…learning that “one day at a time” meant exactly that. And then understanding that “reasonably happy” was all I needed in life – that I didn’t need to be REAL happy, because REAL happy is what children search for, not adults. Adults know the world is broken and they accept hardship as the pathway to peace.

Growing up was the best thing I ever did. I grew in small amounts through my 20’s but never really dug in until my mid-30’s.

What about you? Is it time?

From my heart, (and I swear I’m not just trying to be nice here) from deep inside…I absolutely believe there is SO MUCH MORE WITHIN YOU, even if you don’t. Maybe you’ve wrecked your life completely (I too, almost ruined everything). Or maybe the grind of trying so hard to be “good” or “behaved” has sucked the life out of you and all you want to do is pack a bag, get on a plane and escape to a place where you won’t have to pretend anymore – where you won’t have to answer to anyone.

KNOW THIS…you are NOT terminally unique. You are NOT in the minority. There are so many around you everyday (yes, you are one of many) that feel the Exact. Same. Way. It is not BAD that you want to run. It’s NORMAL. YOU are normal.

Now…as honestly and straightforward as you can answer…

Are you WILLING to move forward?

There comes a day when we must grow up…a day we must take responsibility for our lives. This has nothing to do with making more money, positive thinking ourselves out of our problems, or getting on an exercise routine.

This is about SOUL work.

It’s about going inside ourselves – about putting our ear against our hearts until we can hear the erratic heartbeat within…and then DOING THE WORK of knocking it back into rhythm…maybe for the very first time in our lives.

There is a motto in AA that says, “WHATEVER IT TAKES.” I talk to people all the time who are at the end of their rope, and when I tell them they are going to need to make changes, they often repeat these paralytic reasons that seem to be written on their heart:

“I can’t afford counseling.” Or, “I don’t have the extra time for recovery groups or meetings.” Or, “I don’t know where these meetings are.” Or, “You don’t understand the intense pace of my life.”

I see the empty look in their eyes. They are only afraid. Afraid because they actually HAVE tried to change and now realize True Change will require a different kind of work – a kind of work they didn’t expect – a kind they don’t feel ready for or capable of.

Listen, I get it…I understand. I AM A PASTOR OF A CHURCH. I stand up front each weekend and proclaim that God is enough for us all. Do you have any idea how humbling it was to attend AA meetings?!?!

What if someone from my congregation were to see me at an AA meeting? It’s a real big church. There are six to ten thousand of them roaming all over my town and I frequently see them at Kroger, the gym, at the movies, Starbucks…all over the friggin place. What if they found out I was a big ole drunk? Who might they tell?

Oh yes…I definitely understand the fear. I understand not being sure-footed. I understand the stigma. And I understand feeling like it will just be another uphill battle you will inevitably lose. So once again I say:


 And when your recovery stalls or gets really difficult (which it will) may I offer:

It’s painful before it’s peaceful.

Sit in front of that phrase for a moment. We’re so afraid of the pain, aren’t we? But anything worthwhile is painful at first, and we’re going to be okay.

To Those I Love…I tell you this, looking you straight in the eye…your face in my hands…we are DESIGNED to work hard…and then…to OVERCOME.

You CAN do this.

 Just make sure to keep “One day at a time” in your back pocket. And when a particular day gets to be too much for you, keep “One MOMENT at a time” in your other back pocket. And when you can’t seem to manage even one moment…if the day has taken its toll and you’ve had all you can handle, skip dinner and GO. TO. BED. Phone a friend. Get to a meeting…PRONTO.

Moving your life forward, as with anything worthwhile (diet and exercise…getting a degree) is not rocket science. You have to do the work. You have to go to meetings, FIND the meetings, PAY for counseling, FIND a mentor, MAKE NEW FRIENDS WHO DON’T COMPLICATE THE NEW LIFE YOU ARE PURSUING, end any and all unhealthy relationships you’ve been too afraid to step away from, or SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES in the relationships you’ve committed yourself to.

Is any of this easy? Of course not. But it’s better than staying the same. As you may have heard, “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.” –Henry Cloud


At the very moment you decide to begin changing your life…count on this…

Paralytic reasons will come crawling out of the excuse barrel in your head.

Truly, they will. But if we are serious about changing, it will be our job to figure out how NOT to believe their lies.

My biggest initial paralytic reason was that I simply didn’t know HOW to get better. I wanted to get better but was too afraid to move – too afraid I wouldn’t get it right. (I say initial paralytic reason because as we press into our recovery, we’ll come up with plenty more. Paralytic reason #2 for me…that my congregation would “find me out”…came crawling out of the excuse barrel as soon as I decided to start attending 12-step meetings.)

But in order to change, we must put our excuses for NOT changing to the test.

I had to do whatever it took, even when the possibility of being found out felt so REAL. And it was real. What if they found out the truth and tossed me out on my ear? Well…if they had, I imagine it would’ve helped me to see I was going to need a spiritual community that understood addiction – that accepted and believed that no one is immune.

I’ve been sober for seven and a half years and my sobriety tokens mean the world to me. Every once in a while I pull them off my shelf and stare at them. They not only represent my beautiful day-by-day victory, but remind me of so many failed attempts from before the day-by-day victory.

I never let myself forget the failed attempts. I keep them close, because I know there will come a time that I’ll have to try again…and again, and again.

Because getting better will NEVER be a one-try thing.

Moving our lives forward happens little by little. We go to a 12-step meeting and we hate it…SO…we try another one. We go to a therapist and we hate him or her…SO…we try another one. We start moving forward, get some traction, begin to see change…and then get comfortable, stop doing the work and go right back to our old patterns…SO…we start over.


Why? Because maybe THIS time is OUR time…the time we’ll get it.

But even if it’s not…we NEVER stop trying.

Three steps forward, two steps back.

You get the point, right?

I hope you know you are worth it. You are SO VERY worth it!


Peace and love, recovery and healing. HOPE for a life that is peaceful and reasonably happy…for a soul that recognizes and accepts hardship as the pathway to peace.

You really are loved…the take your face in my hands and look you straight in the eye kind.

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