Author: DwightClough

My search for meaning as a Christian

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’”
—Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning

In theory, your search for meaning ends when you find Jesus. Meaning is part of the gospel. Come to Jesus and you find meaning.

It didn’t work that way for me.

Back when I came to Jesus, I didn’t even know I was looking for meaning. After all, I was only ten. My search for meaning—that magical something that makes life worth living—started later.

It started here: As I was growing up, my mother told me I was smart.

Smart is good. Stupid is bad. If I could be smart, I would be okay. Combine that with faith, and I thought the path to meaning was to become a smart Christian—a Christian who knew all the answers.

That’s why I went around asking questions. Who are the sons of God in Genesis 6? What’s wrong with hyper-dispensationalism?

Answer: People didn’t know, and people didn’t care.

As I matured, my questions matured: What is the purpose of the church? How do you know if you’re filled with the Holy Spirit?

Answer: Dwight, go away and leave me alone.

Hmm.

Somewhere in there, I got married. When the “happily ever after” part started to wear thin, I realized I had a wife to fix. For me to be okay, my wife needed to be okay. And she wasn’t. So I had to fix her. But even though I was a smart Christian, a churchy Christian, a color-inside-the-lines Christian, I didn’t have the ability to fix my wife.

I had to employ outside help.

That was interesting. But not in the way I expected. The outside help opened my eyes to a new reality. My biggest problem was not lying in the bed next to me. My biggest problem was closer. My biggest problem was myself.

Ouch! (Did this ever happen to you?)

So I looked for a way to fix myself.

And, though I wanted to find it in the church, I didn’t. I wanted to find it in my faith. But I didn’t. So I looked elsewhere.

I saw a picture of Arthur Janov, looked into his eyes, and thought, “Wow, he’s alive. Whatever he has, I want it.” Maybe you remember him. He was the author of The Primal Scream.

Anyway, I tried primal therapy. That was a trip. I almost got excommunicated from my church for doing that. Again and again, I was called up before the tribunal and asked to recant.

I didn’t. Recant.

Sorry.

Throughout this journey, the majority of people around me were busy living their own lives and not paying much attention to mine. But those who did pay attention were, I think, bewildered.

“Dwight, if you would just follow the rules, you would be fine.” I did follow the rules. I was what you would call a super compliant child. I followed the rules so much that I lost my own identity.

“Dwight, when I came to Jesus, I found meaning in life. You’ve already found Jesus. Quit bellyaching.”

Okay.

“Dwight, what you need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues.” (Here I must break my customary silence on this topic.) Guess where I started speaking in tongues? In the middle of a primal therapy session! Life is rich.

“Dwight, when the music starts, just lose yourself in worship. It’s not about you anyway.” Yeah, sorry. Maybe I have a defective worship gene, but these song services mostly don’t activate it for me. Again, sorry. Besides, I don’t want anybody, except maybe God, hearing me sing. Long story behind that.

“Dwight, you’re on mission. You have a world to change.” Yep. I have a love/hate relationship with faith-based activism. Yes, we need it. Yes, we need to engage. I get that. I do that. But how many activists do you know that you actually like—I mean like to be around?

Some feel it’s wrong for people to find meaning or happiness. A visiting pastor spoke of his youth director who didn’t find his work fulfilling. The pastor’s response: “I didn’t give you this job so you could suck fulfillment out of it.”

Love, I guess, gives no thought to its own happiness. Or maybe that’s duty. I’m not really sure.

Speaking of love, “Dwight, you’ll find meaning in the friendships you’ll form in the church.” Yeah. Great people in the church. You may be one of them. But I’ve discovered that people who are good at making friends will make friends at church or anyplace else. Those who aren’t are out of luck. But I digress. And, please, don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for my friends. But that’s not where I found meaning.

Anyway, did primal therapy fix me? Yes and no. A little. I’m glad I did it. Not sure I’d recommend it. My therapist died suddenly, unexpectedly, and I was left to sort out that loss alone with God.

Speaking of God, since I was a super compliant child, I tried hard to be a super compliant child of God. “Anything you want me to do, God, you just name it, I’ll do it.” That didn’t work so well. Maybe you can read between the lines and figure out why.

I was headed for heaven. I said the prayer. My sins were forgiven. But I didn’t really know what I would do once I got there. I knew God loved me. I mean He had to. That was part of His job description. But did He like me? Nah. I was never good enough. Never. Forgiven, and then tolerated. So, when I got to heaven, I hoped I might be invisible to God just the way He is invisible to me now. That way, I would stay out of His way. If I could find some little house on the outskirts of heaven and go for a walk every day—that would be good enough for me.

I don’t know when exactly God started meeting with me. Certainly when I got into TPM—we used to call it Theophostic—but I think God was knocking on the door all along and only slowly did I grow the ears to hear it.

He told me all kinds of things—things I don’t have the power to share with you—only because you need to hear them from God Himself. He told me that He likes me, that He likes hanging out with me.

Wow. I just wandered around for two years trying to take that in. God likes me. He wants me around. Wow.

All these hurting places inside—just like the storm on the sea of Galilee—they were crashing against my soul, tearing me up, but Jesus just said, “It’s okay.” Then the water was still, and the wind was gone.

See what I mean? I can’t tell those things to you. Only God can tell those things to you.

I live on the edge. I’m not sensible by anyone’s definition. Someone said I’m one of the biggest risk takers they’ve ever known. I can’t explain my life to anybody, because it just won’t make any sense.

But it makes sense to God. We talk about it. He coaches me. He encourages me. When I get beat up, He patches me up and sends me back into the game.

I search here for words. Peace. I’m okay inside. I love my life. I’m deeply grateful.

How did I find meaning as a Christian? I guess Meaning found me. Meaning knocked on the door. I walked over, hesitant and afraid at first, and opened the door.

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Can you hack a relationship with God?

Can you hack a relationship with God?

“Hack,” of course, has several meanings. Here’s the meaning I’m thinking of:

Noun: a good solution or piece of advice.
Example: Here are 50 life hacks that will change your life for the better.
Cambridge Dictionary

I was pondering this today, and I realized this is what I do. I write hacks, life hacks, for your relationship with God.

For decades I searched for these hacks—these secrets that enable people to get what the Christian life promises but doesn’t always deliver. How come some people have peace while others have panic? How come some struggle with addiction, while others skate through life addiction free? Why do some connect with God in an intensely meaningful way, while others go through the motions?

We are told the answer is “try harder,” but I’ve discovered a completely and amazingly different solution.

Life hacks. Life hacks for your relationship with God.

That’s what I do.

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Can you hear me?

This has really come into focus for me lately. People, for the most part, don’t get what you’re trying to say. I like to pretend that people get everything I try to say the first time I say it, and to repeat myself is to just be annoying.

Not so. Whether teaching, social media, sales, or just a simple conversation with your family, people struggle to understand one another.

First of all, there are so many things vying for our attention that we struggle to establish our own relevance. Like the teacher’s voice in the Charlie Brown specials, much of what we try to say is just background noise to others.

Then people just don’t get it. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought I’ve explained myself clearly, but, when people give me feedback, I realize they took my words and injected their own meaning into them—meaning I never intended.

Finally, some people second guess our motives. We mean well, but our message is received as malice rather than medicine. This, unfortunately, seems to happen most with those who are closest to us.

Even Jesus had to deal with this. He was constantly misunderstood. His motives were suspect. His message wasn’t heard.

I could, and sometimes do, get discouraged by all of this. But, in a way, I’m energized by it. It says to me that tomorrow is a new day, and tomorrow I find a new way to say what I’ve been trying to say all along. The next day, I’ll get up and find another way to say it. Eventually, I (and you, if you persist) will break through. People will begin to understand. And then, things will change.

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How do marriages get better?

In my 40+ years of marriage, I’ve tried out all kinds of wrong ideas on how to improve marriage.

I got into marriage thinking my wife would be a little god who would always make me feel good inside. After all, that is what “happily ever after” means, right?

Somewhere early in our marriage I came to the startling realization that I had married a faulty god. She didn’t always make me feel good inside. Clearly something was wrong. Clearly she needed repair.

So I set about trying to fix my wife. If only she would …

I tried reasoning with her. I tried pleading with her. I tried arguing with her. I tried praying for her. I even got her into therapy.

That was a wild ride. Not long after therapy started, the therapist turned his eyes to me, and I was jarred with the reality that I needed therapy.

Ouch!

Did therapy help our marriage? Yes it did. Some. It got better, but we still had a long ways to go.

Then we went through a long period of time where we worked on our marriage. We worked on communication skills. We studied personality types and temperament types. I’m an INFJ mel-chol in case you’re interested. We studied Love Languages. And so on.

Did all that work on our marriage help? Yeah. A little.

Somewhere in this journey I woke up to discover that love is not about how the other person makes you feel; instead it’s about how you treat the other person. I remember a sermon: Are you a love consumer or a love provider?

Again, ouch!

I’ll skip over some other twists and turns and go straight to the single thing that truly transformed our marriage:

In 2001 we started having life-changing encounters with God. Individually, Kim and I started meeting with God and walking away from those meetings healthier, happier, stronger, more at peace.

A funny thing happened as a result of those meetings: I no longer needed Kim to be a little god. I no longer needed to put her in charge of my happiness. That set me free to love her and to enjoy her company more than I ever had before.

So “happily ever after” happened a very different way than I expected. It happened as God gave both of us the inner wealth to enjoy life, to enjoy each other, and to love each other without needing the other one to make us feel good inside.

I want that same inner wealth for you.

Dwight

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What’s it like to experience a life-changing encounter with God?

My obsession and my calling is to lead others into life-changing encounters with God. What does that mean? What does that look like, feel like, taste like?

It’s kinda like falling in love. All of a sudden, the whole world is different. The colors are brighter. The songs are sweeter. Everything inside has changed.

It’s like getting married—you know that henceforth life will be different, there’s no going back to the old life—and who would want to?

It’s like learning a wonderful secret—something that was hidden from you for years, but now you know. All things are different because now you know.

It’s a little different for each person, but for me I’ve had times when I’ve felt the deepest anguish, and then, in the next moment, I was laughing out loud, because Jesus walked in, and everything changed.

I want to suggest…and I want to insist…that God has many, many such life-changing encounters ready for you. They’re yours. You can have them any time you want.

Quiet miracles I call them. I’ve experienced hundreds of them, and, as a result, I’m a very different person today than I was years ago. I want that for you.

Dwight

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Do you have an elevator speech?

Do you have an elevator speech? Something that sums up who you are and what you do? If so, I’d love to hear it or read it.

I’ve been working on one. This is what I have so far:

Ready for a better life? Maybe it’s time to fight back. Or maybe it’s time to heal. Or maybe it’s just time to take that next step.

What if you could meet with God and go away from those meetings stronger, healthier, happier? I show you how to do that. I’m an online teacher; through my courses and subscription you will learn how to understand and experience Christian transformation.

My students and subscribers don’t want fake religion; they want the real thing. They’re tired of try hard. They have the guts to be honest with themselves and honest with God.

When life’s biggest bullies gang up on you, I help you find a different level of Christian faith giving you the breakthrough you need.

You’ll find the resources I offer at DwightClough.com.

What do you think? Any suggestions? Any thoughts on elevator speeches?

Have a super day!

Dwight

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Before and After

Do you ever pause to think about where God has taken you? I was working on some resources for my Inner Wealth subscribers, and I came up with this list:

BEFORE: I was obsessed thinking about people who had hurt me.
NOW: I almost never think about people who have hurt me.

BEFORE: I could never relax, day or night.
NOW: I’m deeply at peace.

BEFORE: I was easily offended and often angry.
NOW: Most of the things that once bothered just don’t bother me anymore.

BEFORE: God seemed disapproving and aloof.
NOW: God likes me. He likes hanging out with me. Wow!

BEFORE: Sin, confess, sin, confess, sin, confess, sin…
NOW: Very little desire to sin—as a rule.

BEFORE: I needed my wife to change in order for me to be happy.
NOW: I’m deeply grateful for my wife. I like her. If she never changes, I’m okay with that.

How about you? What’s your list? What has God done for you?

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Who has the power to make you feel bad?

If someone is rude and condescending to you, where does that leave you?

Or if you’ve been pushed out of something you care about by someone who thinks life is just another episode of Survivor, what happens inside you?

Who has the power to make you feel bad?

When I was growing up, my mother said I needed to learn to be thick skinned. But somehow, I never learned. Sure, I went through a time when I tried to pretend that I didn’t care what others thought of me, but that didn’t work very well.

People still have the power to hurt me.

But a funny thing happened along the way. I learned that I have some options. I have some power over that hurt. I don’t need to wait for Mr. or Ms. Mean Person to come back to me and apologize. There’s something I can do instead.

But it does require that I stop pretending. It does require that I face up to those hurt feelings inside. And it does require that I take those hurt feelings to Someone who has a lot more power than I do.

I’ve done that now hundreds of times with all different kinds of hurts. And yet the process still amazes me—how I can go from anguish one moment to laughing out loud the next, how I can go from stressed out to not-a-ripple-on-the-pond perfect peace.

I’ve helped others do this, and seen the same kind of quiet miracles replicated in their lives.

It has been my life’s mission to help others discover this journey. I’ve written books, taught courses, published websites, and generally tried to grab people by the ear and say, “Stop and listen! This could change your life.”

Today, I launched a new resource to help people experience this kind of transformation. I call it Inner Wealth. It’s a subscription that gives you access to videos and other teaching that explain what it means to walk with God in this way.

I toss it out there to you, in case you want to check it out.
https://bit.ly/Godslove4u

Dwight

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Why does God require the impossible?

In case you haven’t noticed, God regularly not only requests but also demands that we perform the impossible.

Here’s a partial list:

  • We are to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) I can’t do that. Can you do that?
  • We are to forgive those who wrong us. (Matthew 6:14-15)
  • We are prohibited from worrying, even when we don’t know where our next meal is coming from. (Matthew 6:25+)
  • We are to get happy when we’re persecuted. (Matthew 5:12)
  • We are to get happy when everything goes wrong. (James 1:2+, Romans 5:3+)
  • We are to repay evil with blessing. (1 Peter 3:9+)
  • We are not to fear the threats of evil people. (1 Peter 3:14)

Jesus tops it off by saying we are to be perfect even as God is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

I can’t do any of that. I’m gonna guess you can’t either.

So what gives? Is God out of touch? Is Jesus delusional? I don’t think so.

For several weeks I’ve been putting together a subscription package called Inner Wealth which I plan to launch Monday, December 3, 2018, and, in connection with that, I’ve been thinking through topics like this.

Why does God demand the impossible? I think it’s an act of kindness on His part. He’s hoping for a certain kind of response.

For many years my answer to God was, “I’m trying really hard, God. But I guess I’ll try even harder.”

Wrong answer. You don’t accomplish the impossible by trying harder. In recent years I’ve learned that a different response is needed.

It all starts with honesty. When there’s someone I can’t love, I gotta be honest with myself and honest with God. I tell Him how that person makes me feel, and what goes on inside when I’m around that person. I tell Him not to justify myself, not to make excuses, but instead to acknowledge the limitations of me without God. Then I invite Him in to do what only He can do.

I’m thinking right now about a dramatic moment in my life when someone deeply embarrassed me in front of 300 people. I was mortified. But there, with 300 pairs of eyes looking at me, I looked heavenward in my helplessness. Then this amazing thing happened. God gave me a love and respect for this person that I didn’t know I could have. My whole outlook changed. I saw her through God’s eyes. Wow!

So, no, I can’t do any of these things any more than you can—I can’t do them any more than an infant can assemble a car engine.

And that’s okay. Because Jesus stands ready to rewrite what’s possible in our lives if only—in that moment—we’ll invite Him in.

Be encouraged!

Dwight

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Could they both be right?

In Acts 15:36-41, we read about an argument. Two leaders, two different ideas. They can’t agree; they go their separate ways. Call it the first church split. Paul and Barnabas had been partners. Now they’re ready to return to their mission field and check on the churches they started. Barnabas wants to bring John Mark along. Paul says, “No way. He’s a quitter; he will slow us down.”

They can’t agree. So they split up.

Here’s my question: Which one was right?

You could argue that Paul was right. After this incident, Barnabas drops off the radar, and the rest of the book of Acts is all centered around Paul. Paul writes much of the New Testament.

But you could argue that Barnabas was right. By investing in someone who got off to a bad start, we end up with John Mark, author of the first Gospel written which became an important source for both Matthew and Luke. Even Paul, at the end of his life, admits that he needs Mark (2 Timothy 4:11).

Could they both be right?

I think maybe yes they could. And I wonder in this day of conflict, debate, controversy, and polarization, if maybe what we’re seeing is not so much “I’m right, and you’re wrong,” but more “I’m right, and you’re right; we’re just right in two different ways.”

I don’t know. It’s just a thought. What do you think?

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