The tension of dependence vs. independence – How my worldview and career blend together

So false alarm…that is NOT going to be the name of this site. I’m choosing a different name, and the next good idea (of which, I have so few when it comes to naming) will result in another name change, for now. (I’m very open to suggestions!)


However, the reason I wanted to make this one blog post so centrally important is because, on some weird level, this one blog post is going to explain…… The way I see things. The way I do things. This blog post is going to explain two very core values of mine as to how I see the world. If you want to understand how I see the world (I know, I know, everybody ever wants to know how Carson Clews sees the world.) (I promise that was sarcasm, not arrogance), this blog post is basically handing you those “glasses” that I wear, in a sense.


First things first, I am an evangelical Christian, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. My purpose in life is to glorify God. When I successfully act like Jesus, I want people to know who Jesus is and that His Spirit lives in me. When I fail to act like Jesus, I want people to know who He is and the grace He approaches me with when I fail.


Secondly, my chosen career, something I’m pretty passionate about: I am a taekwondo instructor with the ATA, and I really love martial arts and therefore I really want to teach people who also love martial arts.


Those two elements explain the direction I want my life to go.


Big sidenote: “What about your wife and kids, Carson? How dare you not mention them in the direction your life is going? I mean, I understand the Jesus being more important thing but are you saying that your career is more important than your wife and family?”

No. I buy into John Eldridge’s (author of “Wild at Heart”) teaching that my wife is my companion on this adventure. My wife is not the adventure itself.

But this is a sidenote here, so I will cover this in better detail in a separate blog post.


So I love Jesus, and I also love teaching martial arts.

Does anybody see a contradiction in those two, however? If you look right at the surface, you’ll see this one: “Didn’t Jesus teach people to turn the other cheek? Where does self-defense get into that?”

I will cover that one later, because there is a much deeper contradiction between those two.


What does God want me to be about?

Let’s keep Christianity as simple as possible: Anybody in a deistic faith (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.) basically wants to do what God wants them to do. However, they believe different things about what God wants them to do.

Amongst themselves, I wouldn’t say that Christians widely disagree on what God wants…however, I would say that Christians seem to emphasize different things. Does God want me not to smoke? Does God want sexual purity? Does God want my church attendance?

Any Christian knows that what gets us in the door is faith. God wants us to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. However, it is very easy for us to forget that faith is not just what gets us in the door, but how we are supposed to live our whole lives.

At first, we figure that faith means “belief”. But soon we learn that this definition is incomplete. The book of James teaches us that faith without works is dead. Yet, we also hear stories of Pharisees who did MANY actions in order to secure God’s nod of approval…and they didn’t get it. So God didn’t want just “belief.” He also doesn’t want just “actions”.

So we find a synonym for faith that fits the biblical examples given: Trust.

Or let us use another word: Dependence. If the trapeze artist is not willing to fall into the net, his actions reveal that he does not trust the net.

What God wants from me, in a nutshell, is for me to depend on him. And to teach others to do the same. Everything else He wants from me falls into that umbrella. And anything I do in which I don’t depend on Him is out of bounds concerning what He wants from me.


What is martial arts about?

Most people automatically say “self-defense!” But that’s too narrow. Most people know that there is more to martial arts than self-defense. But can all that martial arts is about be “rolled up” into one concept?

Actually, yes. Yes it can. In fact, before I was in taekwondo, this was one of the questions on the Instructor Certification test:

“What is the endgoal of all martial arts training?”

The answer? “To create an independent human being.” Every single thing that martial arts teaches can be tied into that one concept.

Will a person be okay if they cannot defend themselves? Yes…my daughter Alsea is doing just fine, and she doesn’t know self-defense. But that’s because we are here, ready to protect her. She cannot protect herself.

I, personally, do not have a gun. Fortunately, other people, police and military, are protecting me. Someone will be okay as long as someone else is ready to defend them. But what happens when we need to defend ourselves?

Will a person be okay if they are not self-disciplined? Yes…as long as there is someone there to discipline them. As long as mommy is there to get them out of bed and get them to school. But martial arts is meant to take those people and make them self-disciplined. To teach them self-defense. To build their self-confidence, as opposed to them needing to find their self-esteem in the eyes of others.


So now, we’ve found our contradiction:

  1. God wants me to be dependent on Him. (See Judges 7…the battle with the Midianites is a prime example of that. Emphasis on verse 2)
  2. Martial Arts training wants me to learn to be independent, and to teach others to do the same.


…so my whole mission in life, my whole direction, is a contradiction.
…or is it?


Continued next post

Mother’s Day: To Moms Everywhere

“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles.  A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom.  The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”
– Sloan Wilson

The above quote is one of my absolute favorite quotes in the world of parenting. But we’ll back back to that later.

My first Mother’s Day as a father…(yes, I know that sounds weird)

This Mother’s Day is an interesting Mother’s Day to me. Granted…I am not a mother. Mother’s Day is not about me. However, Mother’s Day is a day that we celebrate mothers for who they are, as well as for the influence that they have on the lives of their children. In fact, not just their children, but those around them.

The reason this Mother’s Day is so unique to me as opposed to…well…all the other ones that I’ve lived through, is because this is the first Mother’s Day with these two factors in play in my life.

  1. This is the first Mother’s Day in which my wife is now a mother.
  2. This is the first Mother’s Day in which I am a father.

So I find this Mother’s Day interesting because although I have 27 years of experience looking at Mother’s Day through a son’s eyes, I have one day of experience looking at Mother’s Day through the eyes of a father, and the eyes of a mother’s husband.

Support and Freedom…a tall order

So back to my original quote, which, again, is one of my favorite parenting quotes of all time. My daughter, now almost 10 months old, is now “boosting.” She can crawl across the floor in seconds…but does not prefer to crawl. Abrielle would much rather prefer to stand next to furniture and walk around it.

Now, sometimes Abrielle makes dangerous decisions. There is a lamp in the main living room of our apartment, four to five feet tall and held by one pillar. And guess who likes to use it to stand up (and then pull it?) Yup. And there are a couple things around the apartment like this.

And then you have me, the dad, whose thoughts can usually (not always, but close!) be summed up like this:

Oh, just let her pull the thing on her head. It’s a learning experience.

Oh, she’s going to slip on that one thing on the ground. Well, losing your balance is part of learning balance. It’s a learning experience.

Oh, my daughter has cornered my cat (who has a history of violence when cornered) and is trying to pull its fur. Well, this will be a learning experience for her.

But then you have Sarah, the mom. And take a guess where Sarah’s thoughts look like.

“I know where you’re going with this, Carson. Her thoughts are the exact opposite.”

Well, not always, actually. Sometimes, she makes the decision to protect. And sometimes, she makes the decision to just let it happen. But that’s the amazing thing.

You see, I know that mothers have that protective instinct, one that comes in a different flavor than the protective instinct that dads can have. I love my daughter, but I can handle Abrielle crying without a sweat. Yet for Sarah, her brain is wired to Abrielle’s cry. Simple crying because she bumped her head pretty much tears at Sarah’s heartstrings.

I never really considered that for a mother to allow her child freedom takes a LOT of self-discipline.

And I’m sure that for Sarah, Barb, and Teri (Abrielle’s mother and grandmothers), as well as for all mothers throughout history, this balance of support and freedom is a tall order, a difficult line to walk. Allow your child too much freedom, and every other mother at church and every other mother at the grocery store will secretly talk behind your back about what an irresponsible mother you are, because if THEY were that child’s mother, then surely that child would never throw a fit at the grocery store. But limit your child’s freedom too much and they will spend their teenage years, six out of the 18 years you get with them, resenting you.

Should you let them date before a certain age? What age?

Should you regulate what clothing they wear? How much? And how do you pull that off?

A tribute to mothers, and my mother, in times where they chose freedom…

As I analyze my own mother’s parenting style in comparison to other mothers, it would be an understatement to say that I was given an incredible amount of freedom. Enough freedom to make other mothers cringe, and I mean cringe, when they hear about it. And my mom defended that freedom she gave me.

She never made me go to church and sit in service. And she got flak for it from other church moms. Yet she defended her decision and my freedom, even though her personality was not one that handled conflict well.

She let me ride my bike pretty much anywhere I wanted to.

She always told us when we asked about it: “We want to let you make your own decisions…as long as you are willing to accept the consequences of those decisions. We won’t protect you from the consequences.”

And I am not saying that she did everything right. And I’m not saying that for a mother to give more direction and rules is wrong. But what I AM saying is that now that I am a husband to a mom, and now that I have a kid of my own, I have an inkling more understanding of how emotionally difficult it must have been to give us those freedoms.

My dad and I would make fun of Mom because when I was first driving at 18 years old, she didn’t want me going certain places because I “had to cross Sunnyside to get there.” For those of you that don’t know South Salem, Sunnyside is one street west of Commercial, about 5 blocks from the house I grew up and two blocks away from my current apartment. I thought “Mom, I’ve driven to North Salem. I’ve driven to Albany. And you’re afraid of me crossing the road next door?”

(In all fairness, if you are crossing the road using Boone Road, it really is a pain in the butt)

Now, as I see Sarah’s handiwork of rearranging the living room so that Abrielle won’t pull my stereo headphones down onto her own head, it makes me realize…man, how much gall must it take for any mother to let their child drive, at any age?

I thought I was thankful for these freedoms, and I was. But now I have a new picture of what every mother must emotionally go through in order to “let” their child do things. The willpower it takes to resist that protective instinct…wow.

A tribute to the mothers, in times that they chose support and boundaries…

I have been involved, majorly or minorly, in youth ministry for almost ten years. I have gotten to observe, talk to, and know many middle and high school teenagers, past and present. And although this will be hard to believe, they never seem thankful for boundaries.

I certainly can’t blame them. I wasn’t thankful for boundaries either.

I didn’t hear sentences like this:

“My mom won’t let me stay out that late. But it’s because she loves me and wants to make sure I’m okay.”

“My mom won’t let me date until I’m 16. Which I think sounds like a really good idea, because if I were dating I wouldn’t be able to focus on other things.”

“My mom said I can’t hang out with you unless there’s an adult present. But that makes sense, because I know that I actually am pretty easily susceptible to peer pressure.”

Nor have I ever heard a kid say “My mom won’t let me eat any more than ten of these chips, but I know it’s because she wants me to be healthy.”

Children and teenagers (and adults, too, by the way! Don’t forget adults!) naturally hate boundaries. Yet, where would any of us be without them? (This is the thought line that I am currently on for my blog series, “Freedom from Freedom”) Where would we be if we only ate whatever we wanted? Where would we be if we did exactly what our bodies told us to? Where would we be if we did exactly what we wanted to whenever we were angry?

So to the mother who endures the thankless task of making and enforcing boundaries for her children, despite the temper tantrums and the cold shoulders and the passive-aggressive wars, thanks for what you do. Happy Mother’s Day.

To the mother who fights against her own strong instinct to protect and to “do it for us” in order to let us flap our own wings, make our own mistakes, and grow, thanks for what you do. I, for one, never sat there and considered how difficult that would be.

To my own mother, Barbara Clews, who 99.9% of the time knew the answer to any question we could possibly have, who allowed us the freedom to pursue what we wanted and become who we wanted to become, who plugged in to our schools, our church activities, and our friends, who taught us what a servant’s heart looked like by simply living it out, who didn’t alienate my friends no matter what they said or did, but rather loved them like Christ loved any inadequate sinner. It is an understatement to say that your legacy left a mark on Dawnine, Tara, and me. That legacy is obvious when we watch how Tara loves and teaches Kellen, and I hope to pass it on to Abrielle. I might’ve grown to be better at Bible trivia than you…but I have become convinced that Jesus builds His Kingdom on people like you.

To my mother-in-law, Teri, who set an incredible example of putting thought and care into pretty much every action, every word, every meal, and everything. Who stayed with us for two weeks plus to help us with our newborn daughter, but had the wisdom to say “I’m leaving on Thursday, because I know you guys are ready,” even when we didn’t feel ready. Who came down for my own mother’s funeral service even though she had only known me for less than a year, and only met my mom once. You have set an example of discipline and love. Your love for Jesus Christ is evident in your words and actions. Best of all, you made a hot daughter. Thanks for that, by the way.

To my wife, Sarah, who does so much as a stay-at-home wife and mom but then actually says crazy things like “I just want to make sure I’m not wasting ‘your’ money.” I couldn’t attack the day with energy without the house being a place of rest both physically and emotionally, so as far as I’m concerned, the paycheck is as much yours as it is mine. Who wakes up early every morning with Abrielle so that I can sleep. Who encourages me and believes in me, even when I am feeling quite inadequate. Who is always googling something new about taking better care of Abrielle. Who lets me have my GameFly membership, and who encourages me in my walk with Jesus. Thanks for being Abrielle’s mom. And thanks for being hot.

But not thanks for squirting breast milk at me. That’s just weird. Abrielle says that it’s a waste of precious sustenance, and she’ll not endure it any longer.

Happy Mother’s Day