where do we go from here?
August 20, 2009, 8:01 pm
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when i got back from alaska, the world had changed in my absence. i know that’s not true. i know i had been the one to change, but it felt easier to blame the world for turning it’s back on me rather than admit i had turned my back on it.

i’ll never forget the scene walking into the terminal when i flew into regina. about 25 friends and family were waiting and i can still hear the burst of laughter and joy as they saw me coming towards them. i like to think they were that happy to see me, but the reality is they were mocking my beard. 2 months in the bush without a razor will do that to you. i had forgotten much of the way the world worked. but it didn’t take long to readjust to the rat race. i greeted everyone and got in my 86′ hatchback corolla for the drive to dauphin (to drop off my dad who had come to visit me the last week in alaska), and then to winnipeg (to hug my girlfriend). i don’t know if it was two days without sleep or the pollution filled air, but something changed in those first couple days back. i felt lost. i felt like i had become this whole new person that nobody knew, and now they expected me to be that guy again. but i wasn’t. and so i had a choice. i could change their view of who blair roberts was and introduce the new me. someone who didn’t live a life of worry. someone who didn’t want any part of the rat race of our society. someone who saw beauty in simplicity. someone who had seen God in a couple months and wasn’t the same because of it. that was the new me. or…i could go back to being that guy they knew. and so i went back. because it was easier. it’s like climbing up a mountain. you have the best of intentions. you may even make it a pretty far up. and you get to that halfway point where if you go any further, you know it’s going to get harder. so you can either move up and fight. or you can go back the way you came. and it’s easier to walk downhill than up. and so i walked down. because to move forward would have been too hard. 

i moved to regina soon after and roomed with my big brother. i tried really hard to keep that worshipful and Christ-centered attitude I had found in alaska, but i couldn’t find it. i lost it and fell into a spiral. life quickly lost it’s lustre and every day became a chore. i came back wealthy, with almost $10, 000 in my pocket, but after about 3 months, was on my last gasp. new music equipment, a sweet dvd collection, and daily trips to BREWSTERS were my undoing (curses on you al pacino for your brilliant acting and BREWSTERS for your insane banana caramel xango cheescake!). i dropped out of college. i had an incident with a teacher who thought i had cheated. i hadn’t, at least not in my opinion. i got angry and quit. i didn’t have to. all they wanted was to have a discussion about it. but i was looking for a reason to leave, so i took it. i had paid for a semester of college and got no refund. i was broke. stuck. living a lifestyle that was destroying me. my only joy was seeing melissa, but i was even not treating her the way she deserved. there was something that was happening inside on me that i couldn’t put my finger on that was causing me to slowly take any little bit of strength i had and stomp on it until it was broken. i’m amazed melissa didn’t give up on me. i’m amazed and eternally grateful she fought through it with me. but to this day, i couldn’t figure out why this had happened to me. why had i gone through this spiritual high only to come crashing down so hard? 

i was at clearview camp this past week for high school week, and one of our late night camp fire chats was about how hard it is to follow God sometimes. chelsey (my brothers wife) talked about how hard that time in my life was for her and how mad she was at me. that shocked me. i had hardly known her at the time. she was just becoming a christian when i got home from alaska. and she had heard me speak during a quick devo at one of our concerts the week i got back from alaska. that’s right, i was in a band. google it. she said it was a weird moment for her because she thought we were cool, and she didn’t think you could be cool and be a christian, because christians were nerds (i think her first instinct was probably more accurate). and 2 months later, she watched me falling far away from Christ. and in that moment it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. selfish. i would never have known my actions at that time had affected chelsey in this way. someone who i hardly knew at the time. and so if my actions had impacted her in this way, how had they impacted the people that loved me most? how hard was it for them to watch me fall and struggle and not listen to them? the only focus in my life was me. i came back and got wrapped up in myself. it was all about what i could get from other people. it was all about what i could get for myself. selfish. i realize now that i didn’t really care about many people back then. my only concern was my state of mind. 

i’ve been thinking a lot about selfishness since this conversation. how many of our problems in the world could be solved if people could only see they were being selfish? would we need to debate the pros and cons of universal healthcare if we acknowledged the real reason we are scared of it is because we are worried about how it might affect us? if we realized that fear was rooted in selfishness, i think that fear would go away as the foolishness it is and we would see the value of supplying healthcare to those who need it. would we have teenagers who cut themselves (usually as a last resort to remind themselves they are alive) if we had a society that cared about their youth the way they care about their 401k’s and retirement packages? maybe our children should be more important than work, and they should know they are loved more than anything else in the whole world. i can’t believe i just made that idea up. i am so brilliant…and also guilty of putting work before my kids. would we have conversations about how annoying those people on the streets that beg for money are if we took a moment to see their value rather than assuming they have none? instead of assuming they’ll just buy booze, maybe taking time to talk to them could give them some dignity and tear the blinders off our eyes. would we need to go to war over natural resources if we were willing to ration and share what we have? would we need to fight our way through life striving to attain some outlandish goal of wealth and prosperity if we realized that happiness is found all around us and not in who has the most toys? selfishness eats away at us. it’s a disease, and our individualistic society does nothing but perpetuate this never ending cycle of destruction. 

when that lightbulb went off, and i realized that selfishness is the reason i fell so fast when i came home, i thought about what’s happened since then. i look at my life and realize i have been very lucky. things have fallen into place easily for me. great wife, great kids, great job. i’ve had a few moments where selfishness hasn’t controlled me. but for the most part, i still feel just as trapped as i did back then. i still feel as if i’m not getting enough of it, whatever “it” might be. i’m still scared. i’m scared that i won’t matter. that i won’t be recognized. that i won’t be happy. and so i live most days in order to please myself, so i can convince the world that i matter. but i’m tired. and i want to stop thinking about myself for a while. and so i wonder where i go from here, now that this lightbulb has come on. and it seems right to say i need to move forward living an unselfish life. but i don’t want to. cause it’ll be like climbing that mountain all over again, only this time it’s higher, because i’m starting at the bottom. so i’m going to try. and i’m going to ask that if any of you see me turning around to take the easy way out, that you stop me. i’m tired of starting over.

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looking back one more time
July 30, 2009, 11:08 pm
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i spent a summer in alaska. i was a fishing guide. the story of how i ended up there is too long, so i’ll cut out that part of the story. just know that i went unwillingly. i was invited and had every opportunity to say no. i was not an overly adventurous lad. i talked a big game, but when push came to shove, i usually just wound up sitting at home. so it was as much of a surprise to me as it was to anyone else that i went. i still remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as the float plane made the short trip to our cabin in the middle of nowhere. there was  nothing. the closest town was 150 miles away. and in order to get there in case of emergency, we had to hope out satellite phone could pick up a signal. and then we had to wait for a float plane which wasn’t cheap. and so as we landed, i knew i was in this for the long haul. 2 months. middle of nowhere. no fiance. no friends. no bad summer television or sports highlights. just me, my boss (terry), a dirty old cabin, and a rickety old boat. i have to admit it was a thing of beauty. i was honored and privileged to have this opportunity. i didn’t want to complain, because it was the chance of a lifetime. but still…i felt sick and alone. so as bad as i make it sound, i knew it was a moment of beauty in my life. i imagine it must have been the feeling that barack obama had when he became president. he must have said, “what a great opportunity for me, but…i have to deal with this mess?” so practically, i am barack obama. and while i was scared, i was also excited for a new period in my life. and so i knew it would pass.

Tundra_View_8this was my home for the summer. it doesn’t look like much, but it became my refuge. just out of view to the right was a big flat portion of the roof. it’s where i would sit every night to unwind, smoke cigars, and watch the sun go down…at least as much as the sun can go down in alaska in the middle of the summer. sitting on this roof were some of my best times. i could just sit for hours in total silence. reading a book. watching a bear swim across the river, seeing the seals pop their heads up to steal our fish. the loneliness seemed to melt during my time on the roof. because i felt like a small part of a huge world, but like my small part somehow mattered. you couldn’t look around and not see God or feel that he was right there with you. we built a small addition which involved crawling under the floor boards of a stagnant cabin. this was terrifying to me. i hate spiders, and while i doubt there are poisonous spiders in alaska, they have some mother lovin huge abs daddy long legs. i am still scared of spiders, but living out here helped me to appreciate them a bit more. there was the time when in an effort to clean out the cabin, we threw a bunch of boxes into the small attic. about a month later, we noticed a strong stench invading the entire cabin. i mean, i know we didn’t shower that often, but this was worse. being the grunt guy, i had the job of seeking the source of the smell. my search led me to a box we had thrown in the attic, which had a month overdue package of baloney in it. baloney packs a mean punch when left to rot. i buried it in the dirt about a mile from our cabin. a few days later i went to check on it only to see a deep hole had been dug by one of our bear friends and the baloney was gone. we lived with the animals, but mostly the bears. there were a few days where it was just me out there all alone. i wasn’t so scared at first. until on the first night the bear alarm screamed at me to wake up. i grabbed the shot gun and ran outside to see two bears running in either direction. the bear alarm was by our front door and detected any movement within 10 feet of the cabin. so i had a couple bears about 15 feet from eating my brains. i didn’t sleep much those few days. but this cabin became my home. you quickly forgot about your comfortable bed and warm shower when you bathed in a near freezing river  and slept on a gym mat on a hundred year old cot. life was simple. and i grew to love it. 

Tundra_View_10the boat quickly became my best friend. i was not a natural at controlling a boat. i spent the first week learning how to control the motor. often, i would turn the throttle too strongly, causing my boss to nearly fall out. after much frustration and embarrassment, i got the hang of it. the people that came were not always my best friends. they weren’t awful people. but the longer i lived in the middle of nowhere, the harder i found it to relate to people. i make it sound like i’m gandhi or something (minus the being an amazing example to humanity part). there was nothing self-righteous about it. i just became a little less jaded, and conversation about the chaos of the outside world scared me. and so as i drove the small motor boat up and down the river, my music became my conversation. my headphones would scream into my ears. old hopesfall, beloved, and yes, even some matt redman and hillsong united. as much as some worship music makes me want to vomit at times today (not because i don’t like  worship, but because of the whole “worship industry”. that is a discussion for another day), these musicians became my companions. weaving in and out of the shallow parts of the narrow river while screaming at the top of my lungs to hardcore music became my daily ritual. our key fishing spot was a 40 minute boat ride away, and so i had lots of time to rest in the beauty. watching the eagles soar above and driving past moose, caribou and bears on the river bank became the norm for me. instead of freaking out like i did the first few times, i would keep singing and wave to the animals as if they knew me. yes, i living in the bush does make you just a little bit crazy. just thought i’d state the obvious so you didn’t feel like you were judging me when you thought the same thing. the thrill of reeling in a fish is something that i have yet to find a parallel to today. the king salmon became my respected foe. many times i won, but often he would steal my hook and go tell all his friends what a chump i was. i remember the 1 hour battle i had with what i swear to be the biggest fish in the history of the universe. maybe i’m exaggerating about the last part, but i did battle a fish for a whole hour. i ran up and down the shoreline, trying to reel him in. but i couldn’t. every time i would think i was winning, he would make a run for it and take more of my line. eventually, he spooled me, which is the ultimate insult to a fisherman. once you’ve been spooled, you hang your head in shame. but i was not ashamed, because a worthy foe had beaten me on that day. and what did i have to be upset about. my arms felt like they were going to fall off, but i simply went back to my boat, and let the music take me home. 

i don’t know why i share this with you today. i’ve been thinking a lot about both the good things and the bad things of my past lately. there are healthy and unhealthy ways to think on the past. this was a beautiful moment in my life. i grew immensely in these two months, and i often wonder what it would be like to live that life. the life of a recluse, with no one but my family and i living with the beautiful creation all around us. but i’m realizing that the more i hang on to old memories, the more destructive they can become. and this goes for the good and bad. most of us are okay to let the bad things go. but if we hold to tightly to the good things of our past, then it’s hard for us to fully live in the present. our past wasn’t meant to be lived out today. and as much as we want certain parts of our lives to never change, they will. and we should be okay with that. i came back from alaska a changed man, but i also came back into a world that had gone on without me. a world that continued to move forward in my absence. the world will always move forward, whether we move with it or whether we live in the past. i loved being in alaska. but to live in that memory is to miss out on something right now. my beautiful wife. my amazing children. an incredible job. the past is the past. we should leave it there. so i decided to give alaska one more hurrah. it was an important time in my life. but not as important as right now. i hope our society can learn how to better live in the moment. not looking behind. not looking ahead. right here. right now. we can be thankful for our past. we can be excited about our future. but not at the expense of missing what is right in front of us.

so alaska can shove it. i live in regina.