Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Spiritual Hamster Wheel


Last night, I got into a pretty major fight on Facebook about vaccines. Danny, who sort of acts as our pastor, put up a post with loads of pictures of kids in iron lungs, with sarcastic comments about how fun it was back in the day when there were no vaccines and how brilliant you are if you don't get them now. I don't know why it triggered so much anger in me, but it did. I think it's mainly because I have talked with him, in person, about how much it bothers me that people post things like that to Facebook, how I feel it pits parents, who love their children and only want what's best for them, against each other, it makes assumptions that people who are well researched and informed are nonetheless imbeciles if they come to a different conclusion than your own.

It blew up quickly. He himself never responded, but his wife did PM me, trying to communicate that she thought it was being blown out of proportion and that my responses did not embody the Spirit of Christ. I didn't respond well to that either. I said a lot of things, and I could have said them more kindly, but I actually *did* demonstrate more restraint than one might imagine.

I confess, I called a woman stupid. (I apologized later.) But what I really wanted to do was tell her to fuck off. And I didn't. I feel I deserve props for that.

This morning, I got a text message from Jessie (Danny's wife) inviting Trever and I to dinner on Saturday. I asked if it was just to hang out or if there was something specific she wanted to talk about. She said both, that after the Facebook debacle, they are not the kind to shy away from tension and would like to talk it out around the table. This made me anxious. I felt hesitancy, the kind you feel when you know you're in trouble and your mom asks you to come to her bedroom to "talk". I tried to explain that sentiment to her, but it came out more like, part of me thinks this is a good idea and the other part feels like I am walking into a trap. This offended her. She said it hurt her that this is what I think of them and if that's the case, there is no reason to try to get together anyway.


I have always thought of myself as a pretty decent communicator, but now I realize I completely suck at it.

I tried to fix it, I apologized for my choice of words. It seems like we are all waaaaay too sensitive just now, powder kegs ready to blow up at any instant.

I told her if she really thought good would come from it, I would come and she basically said if she didn't think so she wouldn't have asked in the first place. I texted Trever for feedback because I'm scared of screwing this all up, but no response yet. Sigh.

Update: He thinks they will excommunicate us but still thinks we should go. Great.

I also have a thread on my page with almost 100 comments about people's thoughts on cuss words. I got everything from they're fine in moderation to they're never okay and here are Bible verses to prove it to it's not about the word, it's about the heart/intent. Really overall pretty interesting, and I'm not sure what I make of it all. Mostly I think cuss words are off putting and offensive to some people so that automatically means you should use discretion. But I also know the Bible teaches that whatever comes out of your mouth is from your heart, and so I think cuss words can be particularly effective at demonstrating that. The truth is, I have some stanky junk in my heart.

This last year I have clawed my way through an existential faith crisis. I have become bitter, angry, frustrated and frightened. I have felt acute, painful, very real loss. I have reached out, made myself bare, shared and shared and shared until I have overshared everyone to death and accomplished nothing except to annoy the hell out of everyone. I'm the here-she-goes-again girl in my Bible study group.

I tried talking to Jessie about this last night and she essentially told me they don't know what to say to me, that when they have tried to offer a consolatory verse I tend to rebut it, that I am dissatisfied with their advice or their attempts to comfort or pray for me... and she is right. I am dissatisfied. But to be fair to myself, I never expected any of them to fix anything for me, to pray me well or answer my questions or eradicate my doubt, I've just wanted them to care. And for everything she says about how they do, I don't feel that way, I feel like they'd all be happy if I'd just shut up for once.

I should shut up sometimes. I know that. I annoy the hell out of myself a lot of the time so it is not surprising I annoy others too. I wish I were different. I want to change. But I feel like I am living out Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, repeating the same things over and over, trying to make things better and failing, a lot. I'm hoping to have a spiritual breakthrough because my health is not changing. That's the nature of chronic illness. It isn't going away and I've GOT to find a way to change my attitude toward it, but in the process I have lashed out at others unintentionally and alienated myself from good people. I'm unhappy and it shows.

I wish hearing/reading things like "God's grace is sufficient for you" was enough for me. I wish I read the Bible and sang hymns and felt comforted. I wish I connected with God in any sort of meaningful way so that I didn't feel like I was at least partly making it up in my head.

The church doesn't know what to do with me because I am an anomaly. I know the Bible, I've read it and memorized it and recited it back and forth, up and down, yet I struggle to believe. I'm fluent in Christianese. But I feel there is a profound difference between believing IN God and BELIEVING GOD. I want it to be personal for me, I don't want to know more ABOUT Him, I want to KNOW Him, if indeed He can be known, if it is true He is a relational God and Christianity is all about a love relationship.

The thing is, Bible study is mainly for learning more about Him. It doesn't satisfy me, and at times it feels dishonest, like I'm an intruder in the group. I feel that way when we sing, too, so I close my eyes tight and try to block everyone else out and be genuine and sing straight to Jesus Himself. Sometimes I manage to feel like I have done so, other times the words rings hollow, like they contain secret meaning and intimacy for everyone else in the room but I'm not in the club. I've just bought the club T-shirt and so I blend in, incognito.

I desperately want this, so much so that no matter how pissed off everything makes me, I continue to go, week after week, hoping, praying, straining to find God in all this. I can't walk away. Intuitively, I know He's real, He's present, He's waiting for me to get my shit together and trust Him. I feel like I've been playing an extremely long game of spiritual Marco Polo, and my arms are exhausted from treading so much water, leaping out and catching nothing, yet I'm too stubborn to get out of the pool.

I have always loved Jane Austen's character, Jane, from Pride and Predjuice, or Elinor, from Sense and Sensibility, or even Louisa Alcott's Beth. They are all sweet, kind, gentle to a fault, mild mannered and loving. That's what I wanna be like. But I'm not. I'm Elizabeth, I'm Mary Anne, I'm Jo. I'm a loud mouth. I'm rough around the edges. I'm passionate and at times obnoxious. I use the f-bomb too much. I say VAGINA a little too loudly in restaurants. I make stupid decisions and say all the wrong things then cry myself to sleep.

I write so I can think, so I can figure things out. Hence, this blog, and all the years of personal journals I have kept. I have made Trever swear to burn them if I die before he does, because if you think I get personal here, whoa boy, those journals would shock the heck out of you.

And I am BEYOND grateful to have Trever, because neither he nor I play well with others, and yet we seem to tolerate and even like one another. Eighteen years and counting.

I am tired of everything, most of all myself, and I'm stuck. The searching is wearing me out. I feel like I am missing something, like there's just this ONE THING I need to hear or understand and then something will click and it will all make sense and life can be good and normal again. But I am not able to find that one thing, and every day I wake up and search some more, like I'm on some sort of spiritual hamster wheel. Except I'm not even consistently going in the same direction; sometimes I jump on and go one way, sometimes I go the other, sometimes I try to jump onto the top and hang down limply, sometimes I ignore the wheel all together and try to break out of the cage. And I fail, every damn day.

I had a brief conversation with my friend Michelle yesterday. She was particularly distressed by my cuss word thread. We discussed it a little, and then she said something I don't understand. She said her heart, even though she is a Christian and made new in Christ, is still desperately wicked, and this is why she has to die daily to herself. I'm honestly baffled. I mean, if you believe Christ gives you a new heart, why are we stuck with rotten, evil, wicked hearts that we have to die to daily? Why are we never free of them? What did Christ's sacrifice at the cross actually accomplish? I don't get it, at all.

This reminds me of the brief conversation I had with my step-dad this weekend, when I asked him why he believes in God. He basically told me he just does, he doesn't know WHY. Maybe this is the essence of faith and maybe this is why my overly-analytical brain struggles to grasp it. He also confessed to feeling like he lacks fire right now, and this made me feel sad for him, even though it was also oddly comforting because I relate.

I'm spiritually anemic, I'm lethargic, I'm listless, I'm acedic.

I don't mean to get all that on anyone else. I have though, and I'm sorry.

I don't know how to move forward or where the path I'm on leads. One step, one breath at a time. That's all I got left anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I found it. Oh, you have no idea the trouble you have caused me, looking for this stupid little poem that I buried in a pile of autobiographical philosophical reflection. Literally searched for hours through 10 years of badly organized journals... Anyway, this is what I keep thinking of when you talk about how you feel hollow right now.

    God commanded and it was done;
    But Moses’ nephews, Aarons sons,
    couldn’t leave well enough alone
    They had to *light* the sacrifice

    God himself had said that he
    Would light the altar with his glory.
    But Nadab and Abihu did not believe.
    They were drunk when they came before Him

    When the fire of God came down,
    It burned them in their arrogance.
    The glory of God will not be wasted, and
    They had already lit the sacrifice

    But in these days, when we offend,
    The complacency so thick around us,
    He doesn’t dare release his wrath
    To many would be left in ashes.

    He simply leaves.
    And I can hear on either side
    The sound of people worshiping
    While I –

    I cry out and beat the wind
    Seeing, hearing nothing
    Wishing for the fire to fall
    And consume his sacrifice


Your kind thoughts...

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