It's me, your child - I
Have a few things on my mind
Right now I'm faced with big decisions and I'm
Wondering if you have a minute, 'cuz
Right now I don't hear so well, and I was
Wondering if you could speak up
I know that you tore the veil
So I could sit with you in person
Hear what you're saying
But right now
I just can't hear you...
(Sara Groves, "Hello, Lord", from Conversations)
If one man calls you an ass, pay him no mind
If two men call you an ass, pay them no mind
If three men call you an ass, get yourself a saddle...
When one person writes and says, "So...what's up?", it's easy to ignore it. Five people, it was pretty easy, too, to be honest. But when one email came from Canada, one came from Australia, and a bevy of emails came from people I hardly speak to any more, it was pretty hard to miss the notes of care and concern.
I am grateful to God for your concern, and your inquiries - even if I'm not grateful for much else, right now.
Yes, I am physically all right. No heart attack, no seizures, no strokes.
Yes, I'm still sober. No drinking, no drugs, no public lewdity.
Just an ever-increasing spiritual and emotional darkness that flowed into my soul over the last year, and just cut me off almost completely from the sunlight of the Spirit. If you have never known truly spirit-killing depression, I am glad for you. If you have, then you know where I've been.
How bad did it get? Pretty damn bad, actually. First, I stopped going to church; then I stopped praying; then I lost any belief that God even wanted to hear from me. Oh, I still said God wanted to hear from me; and I believed that God wanted to hear from you. I was being beaten to pieces by a battle between what I wanted to believe and what seemed to be absolutely, unarguably true.
I still have a shelf full of books on prayer; they mocked me in the silence. Trust me, there is an immense difference between knowing about prayer, actually taking the action to pray, and believing that God would want to hear my prayers. And when you've lost that belief, it's almost impossible to even "go through the motions" or "fake it till you make it," you know?
And in the midst of all this, I found an employer who was the perfect synergy of codependence and compulsive activity. My reason to get up and go to work became like the song from the musical Oliver:
I won't betray their trust
Though people say I must
I've got to stay true, just
As long as they need me....
The Employer (to protect their anonymity, too) became very much like an octopus - spraying inky blackness all around when threatened. Which, given the brokenness of their systems and procedures, was constantly. So yet another life-sucking vampire came into my life. In addition to being at work one to two days a week until 2-3 AM, I found myself not sleeping. That was when my brief adventure with anti-depressants turned me from a listless, uninspired, withdrawn, depressed man into a listless, uninspired, withdrawn, depressed man who couldn't sleep. That helped a lot, I've gotta tell you...
I stopped doing even the most basic of things - returning phone calls, cleaning the house, doing the laundry. It got pretty ugly. A series of increaingly strident demands from Codependent Associates made it even uglier. It culminated with a 32-hour marathon to meet an impossible deadline. And of course, being Dudley Do-Right, I made it...but at what cost, I wonder...
At one point, in a one-on-one with my Dilbert-esque boss, I told him that in the Spanish Inquisition, they would take heretics, place them between two immense planks, and then place large rocks on top of the top board, to crush confessions out of them. The only difference that I could see was that the Inquisition actually allowed people to DIE... whereas The Employer didn't seem that civilized. Like the sainted martyr, we indentured employees were evidently just supposed to say, "More weight...."
I wish I could say that it's all better now.
It is, in some ways. I actually started taking my blood pressure and diabetic medication again. (There was a nearly-disastrous time when I wasn't even doing that....)
Tomorrow will be my first day back at church in, oh, forever and a day, it seems. It will be interesting...the church also has a counseling center that may well provide some guidance out of the darkness.
And throughout all this, neither drinking nor suicide ever looked like serious options (though there were times when they both looked like "the easier, softer way.") That, in itself, is a gift, I suppose. (Although one might argue that my overeating and "just forgetting" to take life-prolonging medicine might have fit in the latter category...)
But the work situation, the financial situation, and the whole "WTF am I supposed to do with this insistent yearning to ministry" thing, still seems unsolvable. There are other issues - some involving one of my sisters and her health, and a couple others that don't bear mentioning yet - that are equally vexing.
It still ain't too pretty.
Like Tom Cruise in a scene from Top Gun, it seems like my fighter-jet of life has gone into a flat spin. I can hear the engines trying to re-ignite; the nose of the plane seems to be pulling up. But I've lost a lot of altitude, and there's no ejection seat in this situation....
Part of the spiritual sickness, of course, is that I would have rather had a gasoline enema than admit any of this to anyone. But I was also losing any ability to "fake it till I made it" with my writing. (Not to mention that being at a PC for 10, 12 or 18 hours at a time meant that the last thing in the world I wanted to do was sit back down in front of a PC.
This last week, though, I got several emails that basically said, "Car 54, where are you??" I got a phone call relayed by a reader to one of my old friends, basically saying, "Where's Steve?" But I have to admit that in the end, it was my Canadian blogo-sister, Erin, who sent the email that put the icing on the cake. She wrote:
If you're just too busy to write, maybe you could poke your head up so we won't worry.So now you know...it's definitely the latter.
If you're not alright, maybe you could poke your head up so we could know how to pray.
Either way...missing your presence...
Tonight - well, earlier this morning - I pulled down my trusty (and dusty) copy of Prayers for Daily Use. This prayer, "for one in dire extremity," caught my eye...
God of all mercy, Shepherd of every hope, the Refuge of bewildered hearts, steady us with your most tender mercy, lest the darkness of this hour hide the providences of a lifetime from our sight.Amen, indeed.
Within the shadows of our fear, your love stands waiting upon the very threshold of our need. Though we cannot see the way, guide us step by step and strengthen us for each day's journey with a peace beyond our making.
Wherever we walk, in sunshine or in shadow, show us the sign of Christ our Lord, who has gone before us and suffered all things that we might be delivered from fear, and in every extremity trust you with our life. Amen.