Here is the official book trailer for Never Alone!
Post it, tweet it, mail it…oh and watch it!
Official release coming this Friday so stay tuned!
Last night as my daughter crawled into bed with Lindsay and I (a nightly 3am occurrence), she surprised me by answering “yes” when I asked if she wanted to cuddle with me.
These moments are almost always reserved for Linds, except when she’s really tired, I bribe her with candy, or I’m the only one around.
But last night she sleepily nodded her head and reached for me as we settled into the mixture of blankets and pillows.
She laid her head on my arm as we both closed our eyes.
But I didn’t fall asleep.
I stayed awake, lying in the dark listening to my little girl breathe.
Her mouth was only inches from my ear and I could hear every part of each inhale and exhale as the oxygen went in and out of her tiny body.
I felt the warmth of her face on my shoulder, the weight of her hand on my chest, and the twitches in her feet as she drifted into her dreams.
It was by far one of the most intimate moments we’ve had.
As I stared into the darkness with my precious daughter in my arms, I kept wondering: Is this the kind of relationship God wants with me?
When it comes to how God sees His relationship with us, the Bible is full of parables, examples, and direct comparison to things like marriage and us being God’s kids, debateable the two most close, personal, intimate human relationships we can experience. It talks about how God wants to “know” us and “be known” by Him, using ancient words whose meanings for “know” are deeply intimate and personal.
Then I think of the moment I’m having with my daughter as I hold her close and feel her breathing.
Or I think of a passionate kiss with my wife after a time apart or a tender hug we share after resolving a fight.
I think of the physical heart-ache I feel when on the phone with one of my of closest friends as he’s crying on the other end, telling me about his dad in the hospital.
I think of all these intensely intimate moments between me and the people on this planet I’m closest to.
Is that what my relationship with God is supposed to be like?
I long to have a close relationship with God, but if I’m being honest, I’m not sure I know what it looks like to be intimate with Him.
I get that God is within certain elements of the intimacy we have with people, but what about just Him and me?
I don’t have an answer.
I’m not even 100% of what question to ask.
I just know two things:
1). I want to know God and grow closer to Him every single moment of every single day.
2). I will always treasure the few moments of falling asleep next to Eva I got to experience last night.
It seems like lately there’s been a tension, especially in Christian environments, around the way social media represents our lives versus the reality of our lives.
Each Instagram picture, Tweet, and FaceBook update can easily be framed or phrased in a way that has “reality tunnel vision” by taking a singular moment and broadcasting it to the internet, interpreted as representing an entire reality.
I’ve experienced this. A day filled with toddler tantrums, marital fights, a messy house, and unproductive work time ends up looking like a joyous family day as I post the one picture of us all smiling that we took in the morning or the day before.
A day full of stress, frustration, anxiety, and apathy doesn’t look that way when I post an inspirational quote or song lyric.
A day battling depression doesn’t look that way to anybody else when I post a funny license-plate picture, the one positive moment of my day.
Kind of like this:
Olivia Muenter wrote a fantastic blog about this that she entitled: “What I Instagrammed Vs What Was Really Happening or My Entire Life is a Lie.” In it, she takes a handful of pictures she posted and tells the true story around what was happening at each moment they were taken. It’s pretty brilliant…and convicting.
Also, Leah Ball and Andrew Young started a challenge for people, especially students, called the Real 30 Day Challenge. It challenges Instagrammers to take a 30 day journey of only posting pictures that accurately represent their real life with no photo manipulation or moment embellishment. Again, brilliant and convicting.
Both of these are incredibly inspiring and they have challenged me in my own social media boundaries. They have caused me to spend less time trying to make a picture of tweet perfect and just post it “as is.” They have challenged me to stop and think about posting something that would be a direct misrepresentation of a moment. And they have encouraged me to look at my overall persona on social media and ask the question: “Does this accurately represent Dugan? Or am I using it to make myself look better?”
However, I also want to say that I have found social media to be a powerful tool in my life when it comes to finding positivity.
There have been times when I’ve hesitated to post a happy picture or funny tweet because it doesn’t contain the full truth of my day or a moment. But the alternative means posting something negative or pessamistic, which is just as bad or worse. I realize you could argue that in those moments you shouldn’t post anything, but wouldn’t that just further enforce falsely representing yourself?
Instead, something I’ve realized is this: Sometimes posting something on social media helps me see the positive in negative moments of my life.
While I could post something about my frustration with my daughter being a whiny toddler that day, or something my wife said that upset me or that I chose to procrastinate on some work that day, sometimes it’s better for my heart to post a picture of Eva smiling, something hilarious that Linds said, or an article on leadership I found informative.
There are times when this might draw close to falsely representing myself or my life, but there are also times when it simply helps me find the one nugget of joy or beauty or positivity in a day when it would be easy for me to miss it.
There is clearly a line between “seeing the positives in life” and “falsely representing yourself”, which each person has to discern for themselves along with the Holy Spirit, but don’t confuse the two. There are times when you need to not post something because it’s a direct misrepresentation (fancy word for lie) but there also might be times when positing something is a tangible way to choose joy within your circumstances.
So when your kid spends most of the day throwing epic tantrums, post a picture of them smiling to remind you how much joy they bring to your life. When your spouse upsets you the night before, post something bragging about them to help you release any residual bitterness and remind you of your love for them. When you have a day feeling stressed, depressed, or frustrated, post a picture of your home, office, refrigerator, or car to remind yourself of all the blessings in your life.
And of course, in-between all these, make sure to post pictures of what you look like right after waking up, a full-body shot of the clothes you normally wear around the house, an unimpressive meal you ate, and a non-staged photo with your significant other (see below).
“I Married Up”
This term always carries with it a subconscious pressure to find someone so much better than yourself that if you don’t, you messed up or settled. Yes, it’s important to hold your spouse in a very high regard (Paul tells spouses to submit to and honor each other in Ephesians 5:22-23) but the term “marrying up” implies you have to make sure to find someone so completely out of your league to be happy. It also has a physical connotation to it, implying the person you marry has to be categorized as way above-averagely beautiful, otherwise you somehow missed it.
Instead, the Bible talks about a husband and wife being “equally yoked” together in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Contextually, Paul is talking about those who believe and follow Jesus and those who don’t, but some of the best relationship perspective I’ve ever heard came from my friends Bill and Treva who, in counseling engaged couples, would always prayerfully discern whether a couple was equally yoked, rather than simply looking at the black and white “letter of the law” in their relationship.
The person people chose to commit the rest of their lives to should be someone who is their equal. Again, not that husbands and wives can’t or shouldn’t think extremely highly of their spouse (because they should), but pre-marriage, there shouldn’t be this pressure to marry Superman or Superwoman. Instead, it should be about finding someone who loves God, becomes your best friend, and that you choose to love forever. Then through that, a spouse will be the most amazing person on the planet.
Instead of feeling a pressure to find someone who is way above you, spend your time finding the person who is right for you.
Happy Wife = Happy Life
I don’t like this because, as a husband, this phrase indicates that I should do anything and everything to make my wife happy. Granted, its a wonderful thing to want to make your spouse happy and something people in marriages should strive for. But this phrase can make it seem like husbands should do whatever, just as long as their wife is happy. Or worse, that husbands should passibly not do anything that might make their wife anything less than happy.
The truth is that a spouse’s immediate happiness isn’t always the most important thing. The most important thing is loving them. Sometimes loving someone will make them very happy, such as giving them a gift or speaking encouragement to them. But other times, loving someone won’t make them immediately happy. Bringing a child to get a shot won’t make them happy in the moment, but in reality is the parent loving them by helping their body stay healthy.
There have been many times when Lindsay has challenged my heart or behavior and in the moment, I didn’t feel happy. I felt hurt and defensive. But the truth is that she loves me enough to help me be the best man/husband/father that I can be, even if that means feeling unhappy for a moment or season. And I want that to be something my spouse does! I don’t want a wife that won’t speak her mind or be herself, just to keep me happy. Nor do I want to be that kind of husband. I want a marriage full of happy love but also tough love.
So, instead of just focusing on doing or not doing whatever in order to ensure a spouse’s happiness, a better focus is doing or not doing whatever to ensure a spouse is truly loved.
Happily Ever After
Fairytales are accurately named, because they aren’t real. Finding prince charming and living happily every after is only true in Disney cartoons from the 90’s. And modern movies (see: Chick Flicks) generally paint a picture of love and romance that indicates that feeling loved and happy all the time is the end goal and sole indicator of a good relationship.
But life won’t always be happy. Jesus even said so (John 16:33). Therefore, relationships (including marriage) won’t always be happy. That doesn’t mean a marriage should end or even that there’s something wrong with it. Entering into marriage with an expectation that everything is going to be perfect and all our emotional needs for joy will be met is unwise at best and destructive at worst. Emotional happiness isn’t the most important goal. Instead, we should strive to find joy in the mundane and even painful times. Speaking of which…
“The Honeymoon is Over”
I get it. There’s usually a literal honeymoon post-wedding that fits into the “fairytale” category of reality. It’s usually somewhere tropical with very little responsibility except having fun and putting on sunscreen (for us pale people). Then it’s back to marriage in real life, which is generally viewed as less glamorous and (therefore) less good.
But I don’t think this true. I’ve found that the best parts of marriage are found in the normal, everyday parts of life. Eating cereal for dinner while watching Friends, people-watching as we’re stuck at the airport, Netflix marathons, singing 90’s music in the car, and too many inside jokes that are so dumb, they’re only funny to us…and sometimes not even then!
This phrase sets up marriage as being great at first…then a slow decline. I think that’s not only false, but a really unhealthy expectation. Sure the honeymoon and first year or two of marriage can be especially fun since they’re filled with so many firsts. But sometimes the first year or two can be really difficult as two separate people learn how to live together, make decisions together, and love each other. And ideally, a marriage will get better over time! A healthy, growing marriage will only get better as a couple learns more about each other and grows closer in how to love each other. To me, the honeymoon being over is great! Then we get to be married and in love during real life and not rely on amazing circumstances to be our source of joy.
Marriage is 50/50 or 100/100
The original saying was: “Marriage is 50/50.” Then, more recently, it became: “Marriage is 100/100” meaning: both the husband and wife need to give all their 100% for a marriage to be successful.
However, over the course of my marriage, Linds and I have discovered that as each person goes through seasons, their spouse can often times step up to offer more support when needed. Last year, I went through a journey of discovering, through counseling, that I was experiencing depression and getting on the correct medication. During that time, I probably gave more like 80%, instead of 100%. The good news is that during that time, Linds totally stepped up and gave 120% to love me and our family. Similarly, when she goes through difficult or busy times and can’t quite give her all, I step my game up and make up the difference to support and love her.
I’m not sure if marriage is supposed to equal 100% or 200% or 633%, but either way, as the seasons of life ebb and flow, each member of a marriage can give more when their spouse has to give less.