Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Forest and the Trees

Whether it is with work or directions or wedding planning, details are not my forte; I see the forest rather than the trees. I am a classic Myers-Briggs INFJ in this sense, which I guess explains a lot about how I write, how I see God and the role of religion, and how I attempt to make my mark in the world. As far as ideas and inventions, I'll think it up...I just might not necessarily be the one to "make it happen." I am attracted or repelled by certain people and things by the energy they project, something that is not always tangible or easy to explain. Environment is important; instincts and intuition even more so.

Sometimes I wonder if I should use my head more than my gut, especially with the whole 'career crisis' I have been going through. I was offered a position in supports coordination for people with mental retardation a couple weeks ago and I took it, to have a job. I really want to be doing something "more," although that 'more' has been especially elusive lately. I didn't want to be sitting around twittling my thumbs (and draining my savings) waiting around for it to show up. It was a decision made with the head, not with the heart.

I guess that's why the title of a book on Debbie's bookshelf--Searching For God Knows What (Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz)--jumped out at me this afternoon. I wanted a book to keep occupied with on the way to my parents' house for the Meeting of the Future In-Laws. The book itself, I thought, was crap--it reminded me of something written by John Eldridge--a lot of fluff and personal testimony, urging people towards a vague "something more" (that is, something more than dogmatic religion), the "deepest urgings of the heart," etc., and pedding their wares, attempting to make a name for themselves and squeeze into the already overcrowded 'Christian-Inspiration' section at Borders. 'God books' are a hot ticket item in the writer's market, and it only makes good business sense to get in on the game. After all, if you could make your living writing about something you love....wouldn't you?

I don't aspire to be a famous author, or even a published author per se. I think blogging is enough for me. I am still slowly chipping away at the book, but it is a constant work in progress (I think "Sloth" might be an appropriate next chapter). Even in that way, though, what makes me any different from the John Elridges and Donald Millers of the world? Aren't I writing my own story--a story of the intersection between personal faith, religion, and mental illness? Ah, the hypocricy.

I have the vision of the forest (the story), but it's getting down the trees (the words) that bogs me down. This is not so original for a writer. Maybe I am not cut out for the detail-laden ordeal of writing a book. Or maybe its that I don't believe in what I'm writing...that I have a story worth telling...that gets me hung up. I'm good with the wind-up but lousy with the follow through. Or maybe I'm just lazy--writing a book is a lot of work, and hard work and attraction have not always gone hand in hand for me. Somehow, I don't think these reasons are so original either. Writers write; it's what writers do. If you're not doing it...well...

If someone were to ask me: What do you want? What is worth working for? What is keeping you from moving forward in your life? I wouldn't know how to answer, except maybe that it is fear--fear of the unknown, of change, of responsibility, of growing up--in the vaguest sense of the word that has me hung up. Not the kind of fear that keeps you wide awake and terror stricken, but the subtle churning of the unsettling feeling that you are not living up to your potential...that you are not doing what God has commissioned you to do--not that you especially know what exactly that is. That instead of answering fearlessly like Samuel, HERE I AM! you stay mute, and pretend like you never heard a voice in the first place. A voice of the heart. An intuition. A prompting. An unexplainable call. Something all those who have been ransomed by God can attest to, but can not always put into rational words.

It's 2:45am and I am drinking coffee from a small purple dish. There were plenty of clean mugs, but something said that this odd cup would make for a more enjoyable french-press experience, a small unorthodox vessel to sip from in the pre-dawn stillness at the dining room table. Call it intuition. Why am I not drinking out of a coffee mug like a normal person? Because I wanted a little cup, and this was the closest thing to a little cup in the cupboard. Never mind that it is intended to hold a hard-boiled egg; it is now holding my coffee. There is no one awake to tell me this is inappropriate, and even if they did I would drink from it anyway. Details, details...maybe they are not so important after all.

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PS: Thanks to Michelle for her kind words about Rob's Fobs on her latest blog. 2 years, 25,000+ hits, and still going strong!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Prayer for the Evening: Dialogue "The Sluggard In His Bed"

Depression is a coarse blanket...it hides a multitude of sins. And by hides I mean it is thick and full of shit, because it is not depression at all, but sin that I am wrapped in! The Deceptive Diagnosis: When Sin Is Called Sickness. In this case, at least, I would agree with the authors.

As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat.
Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide.

I said, "I confess my faults to the LORD," and you took away the guilt of my sin.

But this sin, so vile and deadly, you keep me to wrestle with...you do not take it from me, for I will not hand it over. For only in putting in is one able to take out. Oh Lord! Save me from this sloth! I cry from the water. But I will not swim; I will not move my arms lest I exert myself.

The sluggard loses his hand in the dish; he is too weary to lift it to his mouth.

My studio is a room and a bed. Like an adulterous woman, it is always there to tempt me. "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest." I go to lie with no woman but with myself and my leisure. I have no TV, no entertainment...why not sleep? I have made it my recreation, and it has taken on a life of its own, given birth to sin, and to sin death.

The door turns on its hinges, the sluggard, on his bed!

Weariness is a constant companion, but it is one I have let fester. Lord, let us cut to the chase. I am a slothful man, and I am bound towards poverty and death. I hardly eat any more because cooking is too much effort. I waste away in my sin. My muscles are flabby, my will is weak. Everything is effort, and so strong the aversion to it.

Laziness plunges a man into deep sleep, and the sluggard must go hungry.

I have been blind until now in my sin, but I see it for what it is and lay it before you. I am full of sloth. I am like a building overtaken by a vine, the life and light choked out by sin which has taken full root and has not been cut back.

I passed by the field of the sluggard, by the vineyard of the man without sense;
And behold! it was all overgrown with thistles;
its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall broken down.
And as I gazed at it, I reflected; I saw and learned the lesson:
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest--
Then will poverty come upon you like a highwayman, and want like an armed man.


Lord, as in all things, I need your grace. If it be your will, take this sin, this sloth, from me. If it be from your hand that I am to wrestle with it, give me the strength to endure. I will go to you in Confession tomorrow, since my sin is mortal, and has broken me from your grace, and dealt me death instead. I am lost without you, and have put comfort and easy living before you. Please give me the motivation to work hard, or, at least, not to avoid hard work, and my prayers, and those things that are pleasing to you. Do not let me hide behind my illness to cover my sin. Help me to tell the difference between depression and sloth. Help me work back into spiritual health, for I am not well. I have let the vines of sin and laziness grow for too long. You have said that those who do what you say are your friends, and I am not worthy to be called your friend. I praise you Father for revealing my sin, and bringing to light that which has filled me with darkness, so that I may confess it to you, and hide behind it no longer. Bring me back to life. Amen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

God...everything just feels too real to write about. It chokes like a piece of steak in the throat.

Monday, August 10, 2009

letters to A.J.--excerpts on fear

I think one thing you mentioned was the fear coming from an "incomplete trust in God." This I think is true. The best analogy for this is whenever I go swimming. I stick my toe in the water, maybe my leg, feel how cold the water is, pull it out, pace around wondering whether to jump in or not, feeling like if I do I will immediately turn into a block of ice...come close to the edge, get ready to jump, back off, pace some more, make a second attempt, lose my resolve again. Then I stand on the edge and realize I have two choices...jump in, or stand on shore. Even when you wade in the water, at some point you have to put your head in.

There is that moment of terrifying equilibrium when you do decide to jump, when your body leaves the side of the pool and your balance is such that your choice becomes irreversible. You can decide to get out once you're in, but you're on course for getting wet, and not just a little wet, but completely unequivocally submerged. I feel this every time I am in the air. It's like you make a choice, a choice to jump, and there's just a second or so before you feel the full implications of that choice. That is usually the 'oh shit!' moment, like 'oh shit! this is going to hurt!' or 'oh shit, this is awesome!' Different people have different reactions depending on their dispositions. I think the people who enjoy jumping into cold water the most are the ones who don't think about how the water 'might' feel...in fact, they are the ones who don't think about it at all. They feel the cold rush of the water when they feel it...not before, not while they're in the air or on the shore, but all at once.

The funny thing is, once you are in the water, you wonder what all the fuss was about. Sure it is cold, but your body adapts pretty quickly. You move your arms and legs. You are in a new environment, it is cold, but you are alive! You did not die, or go into shock. The more you think about how cold the water "might" be, the less inclined you are to jump at all. In short, more thinking=less action. I guess you can apply this to getting married, moving, making a career move...all that grown-up stuff.