unformed

I guess what I was trying to talk myself around to the other day, when I became suddenly distracted by the unrelenting desire for Sabbath land, is that I think I’ve drunk more of the wine than I realized.

The world of school is perpetual Deadlines and Doing. Perpetual. And it doesn’t matter if you have enough time or not, because, at the Deadline, the Work is submitted anyway. And there are rubrics and directions and we just talk about how you figure out how to do it and then you do it. Because that’s how life works. You decide what you want to do, you make a plan, you do the plan, stuff happens. It’s as simple as that.

Only it’s not.

I mean, if you are a citizen of this world, I guess you don’t have any other choice than to embrace that. But the perpetual doing blinds you to your inner self, and certainly keeps your eyes well off the things above and you can’t really function in a way that assumes the superiority of the heavenly places, because we aren’t there — we’re here, and we’re doing. It cripples you in your ability to hear, because you are too busy deciding and doing. They did make a little lip service to this with “reflection” assignments, but they, too, were a thing to Have Done.

So, after years of sickness, my biggest (yet subconscious) goal has been to get back to Doing. Planning, shaping, accomplishing. Deciding, doing.

After hurling myself repeatedly against that brick wall (and the harder I hurl, the more likely, it seemed, I would be getting sick again. And again), I am beginning to hear just a little bit that small, still voice. And am surprised to find it prodding me toward “spiritual formation.”

As someone who has long held (even without knowing this was what it was called) to sola scriptura, “spiritual formation” seemed like just a thing God did to you while you weren’t looking, like growing that half inch between birthdays. Growing up wasn’t a thing you did, it was a thing that happened to you. This was compounded by the fact I didn’t really get what “studying” meant. I mean, you were supposed to “study scriptures” but what did that really mean? What do you do, besides read the passage and think about how people smarter than you would probably see more in this line than you can. Fourteen million years of studying for school later, I have a few ideas. . . but I’m less sure than ever that “studying the scriptures” is really a main thing we are to do. Studying, I can say after much experience, is for facts. And I don’t believe that the Bible is just a dense packet of obscured facts for us to try to make some sense out of.

If God Himself describes the interaction of mankind and God as a relationship, then facts are not sufficient. There is something more about dwelling with God, walking with God, and seeking God than knowing facts about God. And so He cannot possibly have just meant that book to be as stale as a textbook, to be neatly repackaged and summarized in notes for easy regurgitation. I think that pretty thoroughly constitutes Missing the Point.

Well, my former self says, there is prayer. And there is His Spirit. Only, often I have no idea what or how to pray. And the Spirit seems something so elusive I more often than not have no idea how one hears It or communes with It or through It.

Still, my former self says, “spiritual formation” is contrived and a man-made concept. Only, with some peculiarity, as I read the New Testament, it seems like part of Jesus coming to this physical world, in a physical body — as we are, even now — was, for lack of a better word, for His spiritual formation. How else can it be said things like “He learned obedience”? He never learned disobedience, and He had nothing to repent of. So what does it mean to “learn obedience”? Somehow, though I do not claim to understand it very deeply at all, part of the Son coming to this world was also the shaping of the Son.

The problem for me is that so many discussion on “spiritual formation” are so effort driven, so contrived, so clearly reeking of the priorities and concepts of mankind. I am doing better now with words like posture and framework and a system of reminders and practicing remembering and training your mind to different reflexes and thought patterns and listening.

It’s not about improving ourselves, or making our spirits into different shapes. It’s just about practicing, again and again and again, turning our face toward God. And then being open and receptive to His changing, His planning, His deciding and His doing.

And to that I can say yes. Yes, yes, and yes. Because when the framework and mindset of life drives me away from God, what I have is life, with an after thought of God, and that has not been working out well at all. Cramming God into little leftover cracks and being frustrated when things don’t seem to be growing. And what I need is a framework and a mindset of leaning toward God, and life just being a part of the structure pushing me closer to that which is God.

Which is listening.

Which is drives toward: Mercy. Forgiveness. Repentance. Patience.

But it starts with listening, and the other things come out of it. It doesn’t come out of effort toward Mercy or Peace. It comes out of shutting the heck up, sitting down, and listening.

I still don’t really know what “spiritual formation” means. Right now it means being curious about what it means to other people, and listening. But from all the looking and listening, spiritual formation means following God on purpose, not as an assumptive after thought. And that means a certain amount of doing. Which itself seems obvious, something about faith without works being dead. But still a struggle for me to figure out.

This thought I lost. . .my brains wore out by the end of the day, and the moments from before supper to after took my last few coherent sentences from me.

I would like to not always be the caregiver and would like to have someone take care of me. And that sounds very cold, like I am not appreciative of all the things that people do for me. But all day I am a caregiver. And then when I come home, people ask me to give them care. And I don’t know how to fill back up. I am not even sure what I want, what taking care of me looks like. I am just so tired of majority of my conversations being about how I can take care of people or how I might suggest other people take care of themselves. Sometimes I just want to be alone, just so that no one will ask me for advice, tell me how they are hurting, or limp around in a self-martyring way because they won’t bother me even though they are dying.

It’s not that I’m particularly good about being able to share what is bothering me, or what I want or need. It’s just that I’m so spent from caring for others. It’s not that I think I deserve more attention. It’s just sometimes I wish we could talk about something mutually interesting, not about you, or even about me.

When I went over the things I did on a daily and weekly and monthly basis, I couldn’t find anything that actually engaged my brains, my thinking-deeper, my not-just-basic-problem-solving-and-organizing brain. My emotions are totally drained. I can kind of sometimes do things a little creative. But actually having a meaningful conversation with an exchange of ideas (not an emotive rant) seems to be out of the question.

I feel broken and un-tended to, and despite my attempt to actually work through a thought process today, it seems I have once again circled back around to wanting a sabbath and a chance to heal. I think I could be a friend and a human, if I could heal. But right now I feel too broken to even be a friend or a human. I am stiffly going through the motions, because that’s what you do, you do things. Why does everyone make it sound like it’s a virtue to push through? Why can’t it be a virtue to stick up for yourself long enough to get off the hamster wheel and re-gain your equilibrium and sense of direction?

I know that getting life just-so is not really an option. I know that we aren’t called to trust in God because it will be easy to get life figured out and in control just like that–that it is chaos and weakness that drives us to God. But I don’t understand why God so many times calls us to rest and then all the people around us seem to imply that’s a sin. I just feel sad and tired and empty and exhausted and I want to get better.

Advertisements

Where am I today?

I felt so strange the year after I graduated, like the person inside of me was so buried as to be dead. I kept calling, waiting, listening, watching. Long after the “threats” were gone, I couldn’t shut off the adrenaline of survival that had become my complete existence: getting through. Nothing but pure endurance. Head down, focusing on one foot in front of the other. And now, on the other side, I couldn’t stop.

Immune system badly weakened from what had happened over the last two years, I fell badly sick again, shoving me back into head down, one foot, one breath, suffocating, paralyzing, desperation to not cease to exist, feeling the inexorable slide toward just that.  I finally wound up sobbing uncontrollably in the office of a doctor I’d just met, saying over and over “I just don’t know what to do, I just don’t know what to do.”

The next 9 months or so was a muddy swirl of attempting, once again, to recover; followed by the brutal yet predictable slam of winter darkness that leaves me crippled with annual faithfulness.

Now, in the last few weeks perhaps, I am finally (I think perhaps maybe) making a few tentative steps away from adrenaline. I find myself observing in myself peculiar thoughts and outlooks that don’t seem like me at all, that I hadn’t realized I’d picked up in the last few years. I feel a queer sense of deja vu when driving flashes of my cross-country travels blinking across my subconscious, the strange sense that it is about time to skip town again. There is a unsettling sense of duality, the “me” that existed in the prior years, and the “me” of the intervening years, and the “me” now that seems to slide awkwardly between the two, no longer able to settle into either shape, and the almost-more-unsettling that it is time to create a new, third thing which actually is the shape of the me now.

The people I saw almost daily now seem to have no idea that I even exist. The people I tried to keep friendships alive with from before saw so little of the me-in-between that I feel almost as though I am faking when I am with them – they have no idea how I have been smashed and twisted in the intervening years, and without words to explain it, I resort to trying to be the same person I was before. But in the meantime, I keep trying to find a mirror capable of helping me actually examine my scars, assess my damage, and understand what I have become while I was too busy trying to stay alive to see any of the things on the inside.

Some things maybe are good. I don’t want you to think I am merely broken. Not that merely broken should be a phrase at all, as it is in our breaking we are made whole – although that does not make the breaking any more pleasant. I think there probably has been growth of good things, questioning of things that should have been questioned, and certainly there is no end to the need for humility.

Some things maybe are bad. I feel the scars, but even writing “maybe some things are bad” and I cringe away. I don’t want to look. It hurts, and I only go that way very gingerly, very cautiously, and unable to share in any kind of meaningful way when I can only look at tiny pieces at a time without feeling powerfully overwhelmed.

I don’t know what else to say except that I am yearning for healing. When I think what would I do, if I could do anything I wanted, without fear of judgement or condemnation or “reality” or “responsibility” (so often self-made concepts without real truth). . .I think of buying some land to have a sabbath year on. No schedules. No expectations. A time to be alone with God. A time to face up to damage and scars. A time to listen to the still quiet voice without the clamoring. A time to rest, o God, a time to rest.  I would come back out of it, I know; I have no ideas of being led to a purely hermitage lifestyle fleeing from the challenges and trials of this world. But some raw, earnest, honest, wilderness time, to learn (again?) how to breathe, to rejoice, to hope, to be alive. . .

People say we have to learn how to do that while in the midst. People say we’ll never have a life quiet enough to spend the whole day, or day after day, seeking, praying, meditating, reading, listening, singing, dancing even. They say you have to find it in the middle. But with sadness and longing, I see in the Old Testament God setting aside day after day, whole years even, to do just that. To rest and rejoice, and remember that He is God and we are not, and to be filled with courage for what comes next.

I am not at all sure I have the courage to withdraw. I am not at all sure I have the courage. Leave a job I should be lucky to have. Step away from the people I was waiting so long to be close to. Emptying hard earned money into rocky ground that will likely “never be good for anything,” if doing nothing truly is worthless. Shutting my ears to things that burden me with implied, implicit or explicit responsibility.

Yet I am also not sure what kind of existence I can have without a rest. A real rest. A prolonged rest. Surely, there would not be condemnation for rest, after all of that? But I say it with such tentativeness, because I feel such condemnation. Life is hard; you’re supposed to be harder.  But I am not hard. I am not tough. I’m sensitive. I cry. I carry the burdens of people I’ve barely met. And I am looking for the courage to hope. I’ve found a lot of different ways life can be harder. I want permission to learn a lot of different ways life can be more full and less parched.

I can talk myself into the truth and necessity of a real, long rest in my mind, in theory, in concept. The fear and anxiety and, honestly, terror, overwhelm me when I try to talk about it aloud. If I can’t explain to you my hurt and brokenness, how will I ever be able to convince you of my need for radical rest? But if I don’t have the faith for rest, how will I have have faith for action, for sacrifice, for growth, for living?

I don’t know. I didn’t expect today’s writing to go there. I thought this would be more introspective. But it seems compelling, I suppose, that no matter what path of thought I take, I seem to wind up here. And by “here” I mean, looking at land listings and wondering how realistic it is to buy some land as soon as possible, because why wait? But I also feel like I need someone to talk to about all this, to stop just hiding in my own mind, to find the courage to say the words out loud. To move beyond a place of ha-ha-just-kidding-we-can-dream-right? to the place of no-I’m-serious-help-me-figure-this-out.

My own level of avoidance can be rather self-shocking.