Monday, December 14, 2009

Dry-Oh-Nine

Those who know my wife and I well know that for the past  year we've politely declined to consume any beer, wine or drink containing alcohol. When 2009 started we dubbed it "Dry '09," and pledged to abstain from any alcoholic beverages, even wine for communion and champaign for wedding toasts. I think as humans we're pretty good at following absolutes because their limitations are so clear, so needless to say its been two weeks short of a year since either of us has had a sip of beer, wine or alcohol (even non-alcoholic beer made me feel guilty so I made it off-limits). The whole idea was that this year we would sacrifice something we loved in order to see growth in other areas of our lives.

The idea of fasting is an old one. The ancients used to fast from food, drink and sex for edification purposes pretty regularly. The idea is that when you sacrifice something you need or love, you will be blessed and that through fasting you may garner wisdom, have an epiphany, develop deep gratitude and ultimately grow in your relationship with God. The idea of fasting apparently has many benefits which effect both the physical and the metaphysical. I don't claim to know much about it, but I know enough to know that it's probably a good thing.

I read a book once by the Chinese missionary named Brother Yun. At one point he decided to fast from meat and eggs until the Chinese church was united as one. This tells me that people fast for results they don't fully have control over. There are stories in the Bible that mirror this one. It's sort of like an appeal to God, like a bargaining tool, "I'm giving you this thing that I love, so that you will bless this other thing."

Kristie and I both loved tasting wine and craft beers. It was sort of a hobby of ours. Whenever we would go out to eat or have a date night, well made adult beverages would probably be on the menu. This isn't to say I never drank the cheap stuff, I've had and abused my fair share of substance, but as you get older your tastes get refined as well as your motives, and you start to realize the days of 'yore' are no longer 'yours.' If you're wise, you start to learn moderation. If you're a fool, sadly, you won't. I naturally want to be a moderate, because extreme anti-ism for me is easy and I don't want to be a fool either. Moderation requires discipline and maturity, something that sounds very attractive to me. Moderation when it comes to consumption of just about anything feels like a wise idea.

Now I realize some of you reading this are underage, some are parents, and some are quite conservative. For the underage kids, I do not in any way condone underage drinking, or drinking at all in the way youth culture generally portrays it. For the parents, an honest conversation about it won't hurt your kids, trust me. I wish my parents allowed for more honest conversations about it, it could have saved me a few years of foolishness. For the conservative folks, especially the ones who think the entire idea of drinking was cooked up by Satan... you're probably going to find this whole post uncomfortable.

In our culture, band culture, beer is a fact of life. Christian band or not. Every night you play a show at a club, people are there to have a good time. They're there to blow off steam. It could be the only good time they're planning on having all month. The problem with that is that it makes the atmosphere of every night on tour a Friday night, even the Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Every night the promoter goes, "Where do you want your beer?" Subsequently, it is easy for a touring person to assume that life is solely about the "Hang." The "Hang" is what usually happens pre and post-show. The "Hang" is fun, and for me it has developed some lifelong friendships with guys in bands we've toured with. People in our industry rarely "Hang" without sharing a beverage or two. Say if I were to meet a good friend who was coming through town on tour, I would probably meet him at a local bar where they had quality beverages, and that is where our "Hang" would take place. There is something communal about sharing food and drink together (in Acts 2 it says twice that the early christians "broke bread" together), and dare I say there is also something communal about sharing a buzz together? Yeah, I said it.

I've seen some musicians moderately manage the "Hang" for years. Take Stephen Christian from Anberlin for instance. Every time I've seen him he's managed the "Hang" without abusing a thing. Some other musicians take it overboard. Their life becomes a party, and if you've seen VH1's Behind The Music, you know where that road eventually leads. I've always respected those who act moderately, those who know when enough is enough. 

People who make mature decisions are attractive.

The last several years of my life have been an attempt to rewrite my future. After abusing everything I got my hands on in my teens, I've tried to slowly learn the art of moderation. The idea of addiction fascinates and terrifies me at the same time. Those of you who know our music have heard and maybe related to our songs about addiction. It's a topic I relate too as well as I've known many addicts myself. Because I am terrified of addiction I have a habit of quitting potentially harmful things before they take ahold of me. When I was eighteen I decided that smoking weed created a barrier between Kristie and I, as well as between God and I, so I quit that (see post "Honesty Breeds Integrity"). New Years '04, when I was twenty I quit smoking cigarettes. I never really liked needing to smoke, and all it took was a friends bet that night for me to give it up. Of the five of us who 'quit,' I was the only one who made it, probably out of sheer stubbornness and disgust at how smoking could control a persons life, but I beat it nonetheless.  So I guess you can say I was set up to win in "Dry '09." My track record as a quitter is pretty solid.

I started to feel convicted during 2008. I would ask God, "What do you want me to give you so that I can grow spiritually again?" and a little voice would say, "Give me alcohol," and I'd be like, "Shut up me, I'm trying to listen to God." Well, that little voice kept saying it, and it wouldn't go away. Nearing the end of 2008 I gave up and decided it was in fact God telling me this. Usually a surefire sign of that 'little voice' being God is this: If what you are hearing is a good thing and you don't want to do it, chances are that you aren't the source. I'm usually the source of indulgent, ego stroking ideas that end up being curses... not the difficult, sacrificial ones that end up being blessings.

I guess my fears were that the dynamics of my relationships would change. Would I have long talks late into the night with my friends, or would I get tired and bored and dispirit? Would I lose some friends because of our lack of common ground? Would I be able to be social without my 'social lubricant'? The more I thought about these fears the more determined I was to destroy them. The fact that I actually gave them a thought told me that this social experiment was the right thing to do. I needed to go back to square one, to erase my history and start over if I was ever going to be a true moderate. I needed to start with a clean palette. 

So I decided to follow my convictions, and to give alcohol to God for one year. Kristie, being the incredibly supporting wife that she is, said "Me too!"

The truth is it was quite easy. Turns out I wasn't an alcoholic at all because I barely missed it. After a couple weeks the idea of drinking in social situations was a distant memory. Water and Diet Coke simply filled the natural "hand to mouth" inclination when we went out, and I didn't feel like I was acting stuck up or isolating myself at all. People seemed to respect my decision and left it at that. Our year unfolded into an incredible journey that I really believe we would have missed otherwise.

I never thought we would witness the amount of blessings that we did. I thought maybe I'd get that feeling that God was close to me. Some of you know this feeling, its like an unexplainable high filled with joy and peace... something that God gave me as a baby Christian to show that He existed and He loved me. I was expecting this, but I didn't really get it. I got more. 

Kristie and I have both seen our lives grow in dramatic ways. For years Kristie had felt like she was missing some avenue of expression or hobby that acted as a creative outlet. This year she found that in sewing (You can see her work at http://www.crimeredesign.etsy.com). It's been a blessing for her to be able to create things for people to wear, and I can tell it's real because she gets extremely excited (school girl giddy) upon completion and sale of her art. This is an aspect of her life that was missing before Dry Oh-Nine.

This year I started this blog as an outlet for my thoughts. I'd never written publicly before, but Dry-Oh-Nine changed things, and it turns out my mind woke up a bit. This blog has been an incredible blessing for me, and without our sacrifice I can't say that I would have been inspired to create it, let alone write in it as consistently as I have. I also produced my first full band this year, which took a huge amount of effort and time, through which I learned that producing is a real passion of mine. This is time I probably would not have carved out in 2008. On top of all this, I wrote and recorded a new TCC record this year. I wrote prolifically for a few weeks straight at the beginning of the year, something I'd never done before, and I feel like we've delivered another (yes, I'll modestly say "another" because our other records are also great) solid release.  Also, I organized week long a band trip to Haiti (see post "Haiti") which became an amazing blessing for all us in the band. This is something I probably wouldn't have chased after so fervently in 2008.

In our marriage we've experienced new heights of love and a true sense of joy this year. If you've followed along with this blog, I apologize for my sometimes incessant gushing over my wife, but it is truly the result of Dry-Oh-Nine and I blame this year for my sappiness. I can start to see the shape of our future together, or rather the potential of it to amaze me. Kristie and I can both say that 2009 has been the most pivotal year in our marriage, and that we've seen more growth in our relationship in this year than any other year of being together. 

The fact of the matter is that we've seen real change and growth far beyond what we expected going into this year and we don't want to brush it aside. I truly believe that our sacrifice to God was met, accepted and turned into a blessing in our lives, and I would be remiss if I did not give Him the credit.

So, with that said we welcome your prayers for "WET-OH-TEN!"

I'm kidding of course!




7 comments:

  1. I enjoyed that :]

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  2. It's amazing how we can hang onto such little things and let them dictate our lives. And how, in giving up so little, God can bless us sooo much greater. Congrats on your Dry-oh-nine, and thanks-because I think a lot of us have benefited from it.

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  3. Matt,
    Wonderful. Quite refreshing really. I enjoy your point of view, thanks for taking the time to post. Also please gush about your beautiful wife all you can, it's deserved and very sweet. Thank you for your blogging and all you bring to the table. It is for me rays of hope and light.
    God Bless you both!
    Merry Christmas and looking forward to a wet-OH-10 myself....haha!

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  4. Matt,

    You've illuminated yet another reason why you're such a blessing to people. The choices you make (seemingly effortlessly, ie: quitting smoking) speak to your strength of character.

    I'm now almost five years into the life altering decision I made to drop an addiction, and the blessings of that choice I made continue to rain on me regularly.

    It's funny, when you're in the midst of an addiction, it's so hard to imagine your life without it, and hard to imagine where the strength will come to get out of it, but when you're free from addiction and look back, you realize how much better life is without it and how it was actually REALLY easy to stop when you finally and ACTUALLY made up your mind to do so.

    God bless you and Kristie in this magical season. I pray that God finds a very special way to honor you and your wonderful wife for this Christmas and New Years. Know that you’re always in my thoughts and prayers.

    Scotch

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  5. "The more I thought about these fears the more determined I was to destroy them."

    I read that sentence twice...
    I've never seen things that way.

    Thank you for your blog.
    Sometimes reading your posts makes me want to become stronger, all through God's grace.

    Thank you for your vulnerability. I appreciate it.

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  6. Matt, I hope I am not delving into a matter too personal, and maybe you have already talked about this in another blog, but I just have to ask. When are you going to have children? Very personal, I know. I understand the need to wait and be a full parent, that a life on the road would be difficult as a parent. But your convictions on life, the way you live, and the relationships you make just constantly say to me, "Matt is gonna be an awesome dad."
    Sorry if it was too close for comfort, I just had a feeling that I should say it.

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  7. Wow. Dude. 3 years ago, when I was eighteen, i took alot of time out of my life to think and pray about concepts of life, truth, morality, love and humility (regardless of what i was "tought" growing up. Beliefs have to be yours...not someone elses). I obtained that truth and in depth and am still learning as I grow on from age 21. But there is something sad about knowing particular truths to the depth that I do when you realize you're all alone in your realizations. But this, for me, makes me all the more passionate about particular truths that even the best of men are blind to. One of them being alcohol. (Dont get me wrong, I love my beer. I will have a beer or two socially every night till I die if opportunity permitted) but during that time I had come to the realization of the effects and abuse of alcohol involving impairing free will, rational thought, self control, our true personalities and the strengths we all hold that make us individual. Without in any way shifting my love for a social beer with a friend I had come to the realization that drinking in excess to the point where one thinks, says and does differently then he would usually is not only wrong and immature, but like giving the finger to God and basically saying (excuse the implied language for the context I use it in) "F#ck you and who you made me to be" (better yet, "who I have chosen to be"). The only problem with this simple realization is that I have no support in that truth and it eventually, after a year or so, got to the point where I would feel sad for my friends while they did what they knew to be "fun" While i did what I knew to be fun (chillin out with a beer, maybe a smoke and talkin). More so I began to feel abandoned in this and the many other realizations i had made for myself a couple years before.

    My point is... Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to realize that not all people are either totally and ignorantly blind or irrationally conservative (all extreme rules "just because" with no explanation (to much letter with no spirit (religion but no Faith))) Thank you for being able to know truth and really "know" it for yourself and explanations. I dont know how I stumbled upon this tonight (I have not read most any of your blogs before or after this one) but it definitely helps my irrational feeling of being alone. In, not only what i have found to be right, but in the method of how to find those truths. One of the only people that I have ever found mild support from...and he just happens to be the singer in my favorite rock band: (who would have ever guessed)......

    This may not make sense to you and it may sound like what you and the world would call "conservative" (contrary to its actual definition) but..... This particular random post of yours humbles me in many ways (most of which I can not explain). Thank you for that. You're cool as hell. God Bless

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