loneliness

Day 8: Most Persistent Thoughts

I didn’t write this because, my thoughts are often inconsistent, but I will tell you what has been on my mind this evening. In Galatians, there is a call to “bear one another’s burdens”. When I have heard this phrase used, it was an admonition to share in the carrying of other’s burdens. The same way that Christ undertook the burden of sin from us.

However, my struggle is allowing people to carry it for me. I would let something crush me completely before, I called for someone to carry it for me. Carrying other people’s loads feels instinctual. Allowing someone to carry mine feels sick-inducing. I don’t know how to let people in because I don’t. Everyone is held by a tether where I slowly and incrementally draw them close, never knowing what minor mistake or mishap will release all the slack.

My most persistent thoughts are questions?

  • Why am I so resistant to letting people in?
  • How does someone allow others to share in their burden?
  • Is this the cause of my loneliness?
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Simple

I was in Seattle. I had found myself haphazardly sitting in a Mediterranean restaurant drinking mango lemonade. Reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. It was the chapter titled, Simplicity. Life was not chaotic at the time, but it was regimented and oriented in a way that made me relentlessly busy. I felt the Lord breathe this phrase into my soul, “Live simply, love extravagantly”. It has stayed with me ever since.

I don’t think, I have pursued simplicity this past year as much as I have just decided it. Rather than fixing a car, that wanted to be broken, I took the bus. Rather than stay in one church, I left. Rather than maintain an active social life, I chose moments of solitude. I don’t regret these decisions. Simplicity is not easy, though it can be eased into. I have learned that when one peels away the busyness and superfluousness of life, there is a foundational depth desiring exploration.

There is something more wonderous being known by a handful of people than networking with hundred. There is something rich about waking up at 5am, just to embrace the last moments of the world being silent, before it pummels back into its chaos. There is something about lowered expectations for entertainment and leisure that makes a simple drive adventurous. Simplicity is grand. I don’t make these statement to condemn the networker or the late riser or the thrill seeker. I am just kind of blithering about.

There is another side to simplicity though. It can become isolating. Thematically, I have always struggled with loneliness. I remember prepubescent evenings in my basement room, bawling because I just didn’t feel like I could attach to people. I realize that in hindsight. This is exacerbated by the fact that, I would rather be alone than with people. But in this simplicity, I am left to contemplate my sorrow. I know, I am not fully alone, but there are desires for companionship that go unmet.

In the past Harvey season, I am continuing to live a simple life. I have relocated to a place where I don’t have my full wardrobe at my disposal. I have probably worn the same 25 articles of clothing repeatedly. I don’t need as much clothing as I think. I have no access to a kitchen on a daily basis, but there are simple meals, that don’t require stove tops or ovens. At the end of the night, the bed is not always the most comfortable, but somehow I find rest. Perhaps, God was preparing me a year ago.

Simplicity does make way for immense gratitude. Right now, I am in College Station. I cooked in a kitchen for the first time in about two months. I slept in a cushioned bed for the first time in 62 days. I soaked in a tub for the first time in 3 years. My room was completely dark bringing no light in. I was alone in all the best ways. In ways that were refreshing and healing.

I know I cannot stay here. I also don’t want to stay here. Simplicity is grounded in acceptance of reality. I will return to the bed that is uncomfy, kitchenless meals, standing showers, and limited clothing, but I will return with gratitude. Knowing this, God finds ways to provide simple things for me.

First Rain Since Harvey Left

It is the first rain since Harvey departed. In his wake, he left ruins that still remain unbuilt. As disastrous as the Houston landscape has been it was merely been a physical representation of the human heart. I have been gutted. Noahic flooding that seems like judgment, but actually is healing. Personally, I still don’t know what to make of a hurricane that felt like that of a Grecian epic. I don’t think it is mine to decipher. I am not the one who controls it.

God is the Author. He is quite the Author, but such an interesting Reader and Listener to the story as well. He placed Himself in it momentarily, but it has always been about Him. He is a mysterious Author. The best books are the one that leaves me wondering what the author was trying to tell me. He has left a Commentary who teaches, but even then, mystery. Divine and material mystery.

I have gone through the gamut of human emotions since Harvey.

Sorrow. Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Displacement. Fear.

Fear.

Those have been my most persistent friends in this season. They are terrible friends; they leech themselves onto me. As I turn to them, they turn on me. I don’t think they have all departed. I still think they linger, but in this moment, I have felt something I have not felt since the flood waters rose.

Hope.

It was by way of a woman I have always admired. How kind is God in the midst of ruins to sift through the rubble.

Good Father,

I am devastated, in both definitions of the word. I have looked inward for so long, that I have lost sight. Your truth is so simple. Your call is so clear. My cross is so much. Teach me to trust. Teach me to bear burdens better. Remind me that you are both the Builder and the Cornerstone. When I burrow into the complexities of the human ego, remind me of the simplicity of the Gospel.

The Good News is the hope for those who have fear.

The Good News is a refuge for those who are displaced.

The Good News is reclamation for those who feel abandoned.

The Good News is gratitude in a heart that envies what is not hers.

The Good News is penitence in the place of shame.

The Good News is the hope of companionship for those who are burdened with loneliness.

The Good News is understanding rather than anger.

The Good News is joy in the middle of sorrow.

I am not fully “telos-ed” by the Gospel today. I will not know if I will be tomorrow, but Mrs. Ellen, thank you for the reminder. I don’t know if you will ever read these words but bless you.

In Christ. By Way of the Spirit. Directed to the Father.

Amen

Hope.

Hope. Refuge.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding. Joy

Solo Vacations

It only took a day for me to find out, I don’t vacation well.

I make hasty decisions. When I think back to adult decisions I have made, I have never spent more than 5 minutes before I have said yes. I know I should be a better Christian and “pray about it”, but God gives me wisdom and a gut feeling. My move to Texas, my car, and currently this vacation were rall decisions I made in less than 30 minutes. Most times, it pans out. I have now been in Texas for 5 years. I love my car. Sometimes though it doesn’t. Chicago is a struggle.

I came to Chicago for a Christian conference. Yesterday, I made it through the first general session and workshop. I walked to find something to eat. I settled in at Gino’s East for my first deep dish experience. Before my first bite of doughy, cheesy, meaty goodness, exhaustion hit me. And months of feelings and fears began to surface. Fortunately, a friend called me. I cried. I tried not to, but my tears escaped me…little bandits.

This is not my first time vacationing alone. I have been to London, Spain, Colorado, Portland, and Seattle alone. I revel in those memories. Walking the streets of London in the middle of the night. Driving haphazardly to Seattle. Prayer walking with a faithful dog named Lazarus in Divide, Colorado. This is the first time, I have been lonely while vacationing. No one should eat deep dish pizza alone. I want to experience life with a person. After lunch, I resigned to my room. In the building across from mine, people were living and moving and dancing and jumping. I lay on my bed. I didn’t go back until the next general session. I did the same today.

The only difference between yesterday and today is this. Today, I acknowledge I have run, filling my life with work and school. God will find me in my quiet resignation. I am uncomfortable being here. I am scared being here. I don’t like my withdrawal, but I can’t muster the will to engage. Luckily, God has always found people in the most random places.

Find me in the cave

Find me at the well

Find me in the river

Find me in the jail

Life

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ embodies the conquering of death by the Source of Life. I believe this as truth. I believe that death has been conquered for me. So, that when my physical bodies withers, I am brought to real eternal life with God.

So, what do I do here? Suspended in a real (yet quasi) life experience that is riddled with death and all his friends. Where in the middle of loneliness there is a real sorrow. Where in the middle of sickness there is a real pain. Where in the middle of hatred there is a real violence. I don’t know. I don’t know. I take the cues of Christ and move towards the mess. Where there is sorrow, I mourn like Jesus with Mary. Where there is pain, I acknowledge someone is reaching out for a touch like Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. Where there is violence, I bend down to the ground writing mysteries in the sand like Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

Last year around this time, I was very invested in modern liturgical practices. I came across meditative tracks, by a group called the Liturgists. There is a track on their Garden album titled Sunday. In this track, Rob Bell discusses the Resurrection how ultimately the moments of joy and life and laughter in this life point to the immense beauty and worship that will occur in eternal life. And that the sorrows and pain and violence are temporary.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt the Resurrection and the Life. Hula hooping and eating chili with popsicle wine and bubbles reminds me of life. It was worshipful and beautiful. It was children running around throwing pillows. It was laughter and naps. The Resurrection allows me to take a simple meal on a simple weekend and call it holy. It allows me to reclaim something that feels secular and find how God can make it sacred.

Resurrection is Life, not only eternal life. Resurrection is the embracing life in the way Christ embraced life now and eternally.

Happy Holy Life Friends.

Merry and Bright

I took down the Christmas decorations on Christmas Eve. I was tired of pretending I cared for the holiday. I wanted my world to return back to normal. I don’t mind being by myself most days, but I don’t want reminders that I am by myself. And the Christmas tree and snowflakes and ornaments were taunting me. I hung them alone. I can take them down alone. This is my choice. I could join someone’s family for Christmas, but the idea of being an awkward addition to someone’s family makes me cringe. People inviting me to spend Christmas with their family is even worse. I’m not their family. They’re not my family.

People describe Christmas as being merry and bright. I just can’t, at least not this year. I don’t feel it, and I don’t want to. Reading through my personal journal, for the past six months, I have written about a pervasive sense of loneliness and sorrow and hidden weakness. Since, June all have increased to troubling levels. I am not myself. Actually, I am myself. I am myself, without God’s presence. Initially, I was periled, but I have recently leaned into embracing His absence. This is the reason, Christmas distresses me, because it is all about His presence.

What does one do, when the cheer and the merriment and the “all seems to say throw cares away” spirit is here, and you just can’t? You won’t. The best, I can do is remember the birth story. Not the pageant churches put on this year, but the real story. The story of Jesus being born amid a wide spread infanticide rivaling that of Pharaoh’s. The story of an old couple whose home was barren because they were childless. The story of two devout believers who prayed for decades and saw nothing. The story where a young teen is marred by her pregnancy out of wedlock and her fiance has to carry that shame with him. The story of a woman birthing a child in unsanitary conditions. The Christmas story does have merriment and brightness, but it is held in front of a backdrop of dark and shadow. What does this contrast mean? I think it means hope. Maybe my story, my willful absence of God, is a perfect scene for His presence to appear. I have chosen darkness. Maybe God will redeem (for His own glory) by sending light.

It's the creation story told once again. 

But did the darkness know Light was coming?

Did it scurry back to the recesses of the galaxies to prepare the way?

It's the creation story told once again. 

Can I hurry to the hidden places and embraces the shadows?

Will, I be recreated or dwell in obscurity?

Creation or Darkness

Incarnation or Humanity 

Anticipation or Anxiety