Hide And Go Seek With God

I’ve come to the conclusion that up until recently, I’ve played the world’s longest running game of hide and go seek with God except I was always the one trying to find the best hiding spots.

As a kid I loved the concept of hide and go seek and played it all the time with the rest of the neighborhood children. All I had to do was find a great spot to conceal myself and wait until someone discovered me. Often, I was able to find those unique ones that the person who was “it” was never able to locate me in. And somehow I see the parallel in that now of how my relationship with God has been for a long time.

Growing up, I really didn’t think much of God. What I thought most about was what most kids probably do during their younger years which was to have as much fun as possible and to avoid homework, chores, responsibilities, and the blame for anything. The only relationship I had with God was the one in my United Methodist Church that I attended diligently with my family each and every Sunday in my nicest of clothes. And I hated it. My family forced me to go each week and the only things I can really remember about it were the boring sermons, the same worship format that always felt empty, and sitting through Sunday School dreading every minute of it. On top of that, at every family meal we sang our grace in a song, and at night, I was forced to do my pre-bedtime ritual of saying the “Now I lay me down to sleep…” prayer. What I never realized though was that during all that time, I hadn’t yet played that hide and go seek game with God, given that so much of my life was surrounded with connecting to a Higher Power. It was at the age of 17 though, when I picked up alcohol for the first time, that I found that first unique hiding spot from God.

Drinking alcohol and then finding drugs was truly one of the best hiding spots I had not only from experiencing that relationship with God but also from life itself. That period of my life lasted just over five years. And I find it rather comical to think about how those five years were similar to that of a game of hide and go seek. Many times when I got into one of my best hiding spots as a kid, I’d make noises after awhile when no one found me, all for the purpose of giving clues as to where I was. During my drinking and drugging phase of my life, often I’d come out of hiding for a few moments when life got out of control with my binges. In those moments I’d cry out to God to help me feel better. Other times when my exams were overwhelming me, I’d ask God to get me through them with good grades. There were plenty of other cases too where I came out of hiding for brief moments because of various troubles I was experiencing in my life. But in each case, when life settled down again, I’d go back into that unique hiding spot with the drinking and the drugs where I didn’t think much at all about God.

On the day I got clean and sober for good, I left that five year hiding place that had kept me hidden from God for most of that time. For a brief period, I sought a deeper relationship with my Higher Power as I tried to adjust to a life of sobriety and the fact that I had come out of the closet. But at some point, when those fears and pains lessened of dealing with a sober life and being gay, I found other addictions that were no different than alcohol and drugs. For the majority of the next seventeen years of my life, I jumped from one addiction to the next and each was like another special hiding spot in that game of hide and go seek with my Higher Power. There were plenty of moments throughout all those years when life got out of control and the drama became too great. In each of those times, I’d make all those noises to have God be able to find me. Most often, those noises translated into many torrents of tears and anguish filled prayers of saying “I’m sorry.” But in every single case, once I felt better, I’d always go right back into hiding from my Higher Power with some type of addiction.

There comes a time for most kids who like the game of hide and go seek, where they feel they are too big to play the game anymore. They essentially get tired of finding those unique hiding spots and spending all that time in those places alone. Instead, they trade in that game for doing more grown up based activities and living life in new and different ways. That moment happened for me at the end of April, 2012, when I had gotten too sick and too tired of being alone all the time and feeling miserable more than not. All those brief times I had come out of hiding and sought God since the age of 17, had proven to be the only good memories I really had during those years. It was enough to convince me that I didn’t want to play hide and go seek anymore with God. And it was then that I decided to permanently come out of hiding and never go back to any of those unique spots I had found to conceal myself from God.

Today, I can smile when I think of the times I actually play hide and go seek with my nephews when I’m visiting them. Usually I can see where they are hiding right away but sometimes I pretend I don’t just to keep the game going. It gives them an illusion that they’ve found some great hiding spot and generally it’s them who start making those noises to help me find them or sometimes they will re-emerge all on their own. Maybe this is no different than how God was with me for over 22 years of my life when I had found all those unique places to hide in with so many addictions? And now that I’m not hiding, I’m definitely doing a lot of seeking, and I’m finding that ironically, God really never goes into hiding, it’s only us that do.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Beauty That’s Only Skin Deep

Have you ever met someone who looked pretty darn good on the outside, but as you got to know them a little better, you realized their “beauty” was only skin deep?

Lately, there’s someone I know who has been quite a mirror for me that is constantly reflecting into my past where I once made great efforts to keep my outside image looking pristine, yet on the inside I was a complete mess. A few months ago, this acquaintance left their $10/month gym membership behind and joined a health club that cost $93/month to be a member. Their rationality was that they would be more motivated to work out on a weekly basis because of the higher cost of membership. On that note alone, it appears as if their decision did make a difference as they now head to that club at least three times a week. In addition, this person hired a personal trainer there who is helping them to work out once a week and I have observed them now in various conversations showing off their new muscles or talking about how good they are starting to look. While all of those changes may be good for them to become healthier, what hasn’t changed is all the chaos I’ve seen in the person’s life that most others normally won’t ever see. And all of that chaos is no different than what once existed in my own life when my outside image was just as alluring for so many.

A few years ago, before my physical body went into the toxic removal state it’s currently in, I would usually spend an hour or two every single day at the gym with maybe the exception of one day a week. There I would do an hour of cardio, I’d lift weights, I’d swim many laps in the pool, and I’d feel temporarily better after all of it as I headed back to my home after each workout. But once there, I would often unravel at the seams. Sometimes anxiety would set in and other times it was depression as I dwelled on my life and where it was headed. I’d overeat whatever it was that I prepared for as a meal and justified that action in my brain because of that heavy workout I just completed. Many of those meals were never well balanced and healthy for me either. I also procrastinated in my life doing my laundry, household chores, paying bills, and keeping my responsibilities that others were dependent upon me for. At night, my focus was on looking at porn, talking to those who sexually stimulated me, or going out on “dates” that really were just my cover for “hooking up”. The focus of most of my conversations with anyone during that time were either completely about me and the drama in m life or about me playing Mr. Fix It in the life of the person I was talking to. Ironically, the one person I should have been trying to fix was the same one I was looking at in the mirror each and every day. It was also the one that I instead spent too much time staring in, prepping myself, and worrying about my looks before I left the house. The reality was that inside I was a complete and total mess even though I looked pretty good on the outside.

I’m actually very grateful that I haven’t been able to work out regularly for some time now. It has forced me to be still more than not and spend time looking at what’s below my own surface. There, I have been doing a ton of work on removing old harmful patterns, toxic behaviors, unhealthy thoughts and desires, and all the things that have kept me feeling ugly on the inside even when so many found my outsides alluring.

In recent months, I have been feeling much lighter and brighter and am starting to see that I’m growing spiritually, mentally, and emotionally because of all that work I’ve been doing on the inside. What’s funny is that my outsides don’t look so sculpted and shaped right now. I’m a little saggy around the edges of my waist and I’ve lost any definition I once had in my pectoral area. And while I am bothered a little by this, I know that the work I’ve been doing on the inside is much more important for the journey I desire in life to be closer to God.

Working out all the time and developing an amazing physique that makes people look in your direction might feel great for a period of time. But if you are living in a very selfish and self-centered life that is shallow and often filled with many fears and worries, you might want to remember this next point. As you grow closer to any of those people who take an interest in you because of your looks, they will only eventually see your beauty is skin deep and that will never, ever, lead to any type of healthy and longevity based relationship.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Wrestling Away That Control From Your Ego

Have you ever had a confrontation with someone where your ego was screaming at you that it’s all their fault, but deep down inside you could feel your heart and soul trying to whisper just the opposite? I actually had one of those situations arise during an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) retreat I was on this past weekend where my own heart and soul had to end up wrestling my ego for resolution of a conflict that transpired between another person and myself. But before I mention the specific details of that situation, some background information might be useful for the re-telling of these events.

This AA retreat I was on actually had a name for it and was called a Matt Talbot weekend. Matt Talbot is actually the name of an Irish man from Dublin, who had become addicted to alcohol at a very early age in life around the turn of the 20th century. He later experienced a spiritual conversion and went on to lead a life of sobriety because of it. These retreats have been established based upon his spiritual experiences and are an opportunity for recovering alcoholics to enhance their spirituality and sober way of life, in a setting that promotes fellowship and sharing throughout the weekend. The people who attend these retreats are all recovering alcoholics. There are many different Matt Talbot groups that have been formed over the years in the United States, Canada, and Ireland and each continue to hold retreats throughout the year to helping those in AA recovery.

Today, I belong to Group #70, which meets at a retreat center in the mountains of New Hampshire twice a year. This wasn’t my initial group though as I first experienced a Matt Talbot retreat around six year ago in a different location with Group #5. And those experiences from that first retreat became the driving force for the confrontation that ensued this past weekend between this other man and myself.

It started late this past Saturday evening while I was sitting at a table playing some cards after the events for that retreat day had ended. I had begun a conversation by asking one of the other card players if they still went on Group #5’s retreats. He responded that he hadn’t in awhile but planned on going back. I proceeded to ask some of the other people sitting there if they too still attended #5’s weekends. None of them did and I took that moment to say I was glad that I had found #70 because of what had transpired during that one and only #5 retreat I had attended. Without anyone even asking, I explained I had been gay bashed by a member of that group behind my back during that weekend and hadn’t experienced much in the way of fun activities and fellowship there either. Suddenly from behind me came the stern voice of man who identified himself as someone who currently holds a position for that group. As he walked out of the room in frustration, he said in anger that I should be more aware of my surroundings. My ego quickly took control and tried to defend itself as I verbalized my irritation again about that guy who had been anti-gay and said things being my back. As my retreat brother left the room pissed, his last words were essentially to get over it.

For the next hour, the conversations I held with the people around me were all about trying to prove that it was his resentment and that I held no fault in the matter. Over and over and over again, my ego came up with all the reasons why I should be entitled to my opinion about my experiences from that #5 retreat. But there was a small nudge that continued to occur within me that kept trying to show me the part I played in this confrontation. My ego wasn’t having it though, so after an hour of getting nowhere with it trying to convince everyone I was right and that man was wrong, I decided to head to my room and pray instead. This alone was a major step of growth for me as I know that not more than a few years earlier, I wouldn’t have cared at all about that man’s feelings.

As I kneeled in my room and prayed, I asked God for guidance. And it was in those moments of silence, I realized I was still harboring a resentment towards that man from Group #5 who hadn’t liked gay people. I even became aware that I had in turn spent years bashing his group any chance I got because of him. Immediately, I prayed for love, forgiveness, and peace for that man who hadn’t liked my sexuality. I did the same prayer for Group #5, as well as for the other man who had gotten in the confrontation with me and I immediately felt better. The next morning, I asked God if an amends was in order and then went into my daily 35 minute meditation. It was during that meditation I received a very strong and resounding yes, as well as the words to use for that amends. Shortly thereafter, I found that man and did just that. And ironically, he made an amends back to me as well, and the two of us ended it with an embrace. As we walked away, heading to the next event, I felt a thousand times better than the previous evening when my ego had me in its grips.

All too often, during confrontations and storms like this that can happen in life for any of us, our egos do their best to take over control on how we react in them. It’s during those heightened moments where it’s always best to step away from the situation temporarily, to take a deep breath, and then to seek guidance to a Higher Power through prayer. In doing so, not only will the heart and soul be able to wrestle away that control from the ego, you will also end up feeling in the end, so much lighter and so much brighter.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson