Maybe it is because we know
even the atheist cries out, “Why God!”
on his most broken day.
Maybe it is because we know
Maybe it is because we know
even the atheist cries out, “Why God!”
on his most broken day.
It is not until I’m seated in a reclined position that I realize how heavy the mental burdens of the day have been. Then I can see how unwieldy they really are.
I’m wondering out loud a lot to my fifth grade definition of God. “Why all this pain? Why all this broken and bent and tragic? What are we doing? What are You doing? Do you love us, still? Did you ever at all?
Basically, it boils down to : this life is really hard. A real slog at times.
God doesn’t like to be asked direct questions, it seems. He likes to whisper in the wind and speak in a mourning dove’s song. I’mma be honest, I get pretty tired of discerning meaning from the breeze on a blade of grass (that’s a joke).
How about some megaphone responses? Maybe he does that too in the face of tragedy, but I’m talking some straightforward, not cryptic, unmistakable commentary. I mean all of this light-heartedly (for now), but it would be nice to see some road signs marked, “Tyler, go here.”
I’m in a life-lull for the moment and a big, clear push is welcome.
As I was about to take communion in a church in Findlay, Ohio earlier this year, I was struck when the pastor quoted Paul saying, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” Paul goes on to say we should “examine ourselves” before we partake.
I took a hard look at myself and wondered about my standing with God. I thought of all my doubt. I thought of my trials and when I shook my fists at the heavens in anger; beating my chest was not even a metaphor. Times when I’ve said ‘Fuck You’ to God and really, deeply meant it.
I wasn’t sure exactly where I stood.
There was an uneasiness during this part of the ritual that I had not experienced before. Was I unworthy? Was I going to ‘drink judgement’ on myself? I felt unsteady on shaky ground.
Then I thought about the person of Jesus, looking for things I knew for certain. There is no one else that has been presented to me as perfect. Not even fictional characters, that I can think of. Maybe more than that, there was no one who even came close. No one who is thought of as spotless and wholly righteous. Other religious figures claimed to be prophets. Claimed to be enlightened. But Jesus claimed to be God – and also claimed perfection with that lofty statement.
My mind seemed to ‘settled in,’ remembering all the teaching and studying that I have done; my footing seemed to manifest under my feet again. “If I am going to hitch my wagon to anything,” I thought, “It might as well be perfection.”
Then I also traveled down another road in my mind.
If Jesus is for the poor, then I am for Jesus.
That thought seemed to anchor me down to earth, because I do believe that Jesus is for the poor. There are these counter-cultural aspects to Jesus that I love – the idea of an ‘upside down Kingdom’ where the lowly and oppressed from this life are exalted on high in God’s Kingdom and placed on the same plane as the Almighty Throne.
If Jesus is for the weak, then I am for Jesus. If Jesus is for cancer patients and widowed mothers and suicidal addicts and paralyzed children and abuse survivors and the mentally ill and the hopelessly hungry and the war-torn refugees and teenaged girls contemplating abortion…
then I am for Jesus.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I have to think of God as a symbol because I can’t wrap my brain around the mystery of ‘existence.’ I get caught in my own head a lot; questioning everything at every turn.
My disorder is difficult; a very fickle thing. I run the gamut of emotions – all in a given day. I struggle with thoughts of suicide as I have mentioned before. I struggle – wrestle and writhe and twist and grapple – with knowing my worth; wondering if I am a contributing member to society.
Sometimes I need to simplify my spinning, swirling ideas and this thought seems to help: If Jesus is for the poor, then I am for Jesus.
After that I took communion and was glad it wasn’t a mindless act as it had been at times in the past.
I talked to my friend today. He said that while he was in Africa a few weeks ago, he and his family went to a game reserve. He said that it was breathtaking. As he looked out the SUV’s window, while the convoy weaved down a dirt path, he had this desire to throw the door open and run out and be IN the reserve; grabbing clumps of grass with his bare hands.
But he couldn’t do that because lions roamed the reserve. He felt like there was all this beauty in front of him and he could only experience it from a distance.
We all know that it could be so much better. We can see something great on the horizon, but no matter how far we run, it still seems farther away. All the ingredients are there for an amazing experience. An exciting color-filled-richness is just out of reach, a place where all our senses are overwhelmed by vibrance and wonder.
We get something else, don’t we? Something tame. Something, boring even. Something frustrating and exhausting instead.
Vibrant is replaced with bland.
Wonder is replaced with mundane.
Excitement is replaced with commitments and time constraints and bills and meetings and progress reports and paperwork.
It’s all available:
Vast oceans – check
Deep forests – check
Fragrant flowers – check
Mysterious wildlife – check
Whistling wind – check
Tall mountains – check
A body to climb – check
Lungs to breathe – check
Eyes that see beauty – check
Ears that hear – check
A nose that smells – check
It’s all there, yet we are stuck in little drywalled boxes – staring at computer screens.
It’s not just beauty were missing, we miss purpose and meaning and depth in our relationships.
Quality time is such a big deal for me. I want to spend every waking moment (almost) with the people I love. Heck, I want to spend moments with people I don’t know too, as long as they are interesting and challenging.
But I don’t get half the quality time that I would like. I sit in my room a lot and rifle through my contact list and call almost everybody. Mostly, people are spending time with their kids or going on double dates or having a night in or are working late. I get it. We are all busy. But that doesn’t change the fact that my heart wants to experience community so badly.
Meeting new people is challenging.
I play guitar at open mic nights and I meet other musicians. After I’ve waited the “appropriate” amount of time, I ask for their number and say we should hang out. I feel like I really connect with some folks, but I set up a date to hang out a week later and get completely blown off.
It’s like people are unwilling to expand their little circles. Circles that make them feel safe and like they’re in control. I heard a joke one time that said, “People talk about Jesus and his miracles. Walking on water. Turning water into wine. But they never talk about his most impressive miracle, having twelve close friends in his early 30s.” That joke got even more real as everyone in my ENTIRE life got married.
I have a desire to always be in community. This is not being fulfilled.
I have a desire to experience the beauty of nature everyday. This has not been fulfilled.
I have a desire to make music with cool people. Stuff gets in the way.
I have a desire to make a living off my writing. I’ve made about $50 so far.
It sounds like a lot of complaining and it may well be, but it’s also true. And it’s true for every single person that I meet. I have said this so many times. I walk around and I see no one who is content. I don’t see a single person who experiences the kind of peace that reverberates throughout a whole life.
I do see people who experience glimpses. I even see people who experience way more glimpses than the average.
I have to wonder, is contentment something that can truly be felt in this life? Or is life just a struggle to try and find tiny moments of clarity and peace.
I wish I had the most profound answer to this, but I might have to turn to a well known “Eastern” philosopher: Alan Watts.
He says that man only suffers when he takes seriously what is meant for fun.
He says that we don’t experience the present.
He says the meaning of life is to be alive, but what we do instead is try and achieve something beyond ourselves.
He says if you live for money, you waste your time.
He says faith is letting go.
He says Jesus Christ knew he was God so, wake up and know who you are.
He says If you are writing, then you are a writer.
He says take a deep breath and tell us something that will save us from ourselves.
He says tell us your deepest darkest secret.
He says plunge into change.
He says never pretend to love something you don’t feel.
* * *
He says a whole lot of things on a whole lot of subjects and I’m glad for people like him. Reading those quotes actually really helped me. My take away from all of them is:
Just you. That’s it.
I hope for a day when everything that is wrong will be made right. I hope for a day when all the sad things will come untrue. I hope we can experience the fullness we all know is out there but cannot seem to reach. I hope for complete contentment and peace. The kind of peace that surpasses all understanding.
(This post is dedicated to Bevan Binder – a man filled with hope and wonder)
A friend of mine was praying. While he prayed, the word “marriage” came to him again and again. “But I am already married, Lord,” my friend said aloud. “What does this mean?” He continued to pray and then he heard a name come from God. He thought he must tell this person, but before he did, he prayed for two weeks to make sure he had heard correctly.
My friend came up to me in church. I had not seen him in a while.
“I’ve got something to tell you,” he said. “Something I heard from God.”
I was intrigued and admittedly a little nervous. I thought perhaps God wanted something big from me; to move to another country or become a missionary.
“God told me that you will be married,” my friend said to me.
I smiled and blinked as I stared blanky.
I have thought so many things since that moment. I’ve asked my friend if he heard the word “soon” or if another name was given. My friend smiled and said “no” to these things. This friend of mine is solid. He is a man of his word and has heard things from God before. This leads me to believe that he is not lying and that he did in fact hear something.
I am a worrier. I worry that I will die alone (it is my greatest fear). I worry that I am not stable enough for a marriage. I worry that I won’t be able to provide financial support. I worry about so many things: my lack of physical fitness, unstable mental health, struggles to start a career, but I think I worry the most about never finding love.
So in the midst of all that worry and doubt came a promise from God:
You will be married.
I struggle with deep depression. Perhaps this is God’s way of saying “hold on.” I think he knows my greatest fear and speaks against it. “I got you, even in that dark place.”
I am glad for that knowledge. I am glad for the peace that comes from it. I am going to try and believe the promise God made to me and all the other promises he has made to all of us. I am going to try and leave worry behind and pick up hope instead. It is much lighter, I’m sure.
There are not demons telling me to do it.
It is only me.
And that’s all there will ever be.
I know the weight of it.
Know what it feels like in my hand.
Maybe I could stab it quick.
Maybe you could understand.
I’ll see it through to the end You see.
See it through.
Gritty nonstop hardness. Violence that spills into the street. Wine pouring to the edge of a glass. Broken glass from a storefront. Front street complete with break ins. Broken bones no simpletons.
“I’m a street nigga” he said, looked right through me. See through cats. Girls try to woo me. Pivot on back foot, grimey chimney soot. I’m strapped and ready for action. Now, gimme gimme more. Let the speakers blow. Let the people know. Wringing out the blood from your white tee. Ringing off hook phones. Hang up tones. Microphones spoken by street corner pastors. Snapped guitar strings.
Hang yourself with ‘em. Pawn shop diamond rings. Midwife bring ‘em. Did a deal with devil? Smarter than ‘em. Shame Lucy with Gucci. Now, gimme gimme more. Let the speakers blow. Let the people know. Put ya hands in the air! Freeze mo fucka Freeze. On ya knees mo fucka on ya knees. Beggin please mo fucka beggin please. For the cheese mo fucka for the cheese. Cardiac cats gunna seize. Askin god exactly what he sees. Shouldda got A’s stead of C’s. Asking Christ who he wanna be. Or is it me?
New-tunes -luck draw-gritty.
Not shitty. Now that’s Cincy.
There’s beauty in that pain. Can you feel it? Can you movie reel it? Ask em who the realest. Go ahead, ask em who the realest.
* * * * *
He steps into frame
Full of light, sword in hand
He walks slow
Because he is not afraid
Because he can
He is a warrior, yes,
but also a King
Like a President
and lowly worker
at the same time
The dark is day to him
He is the energy
from which the sun
With a wave of holy
steel, he casts out the
darkness clinging to my
fragile mind then, He
turns it on the evil in you
He is a tower
made of deafening sound
He is the sound
that a sunrise makes
and thunder rains
that fill up the clouds
then the ponds
He showed me
what has possessed me
He even gave it a name
Then he cut it down
with a stroke that tore
the sky from the East
to the West
the seemingly impenetrable fortress
is nothing to him
He rips it into halves
this time with his mighty hands
and scoops me up
and you too
Run, He says,
Run as far as you can
from these things
This is no place for you
Come with me,
I’ll show you what real is
The thundering voice spoke today
You spoke today
I have been waiting
And today I listened
You said few words
But I heard them
You said, “Do not worry”
And then You said it again
I worry Lord
I worry ‘til there’s no more time left in the day
I worry and believe lies
I worry Lord
But today you said, “Do not”
So with my hands out I say, “Ok”
I will try and listen
Even though tomorrow I may not
Even though tomorrow, I’ll forget
And wrap myself up in all these lies
Until they are familiar
Until they become my friends
But today you said, “Do not”
And today I say, “Ok”
I will not worry today
I will believe in You alone
I will fight with the breath left
I will stand and face it
I will love
I will love You, God
Show me what You will
Show me Your will
Show me, Lord
For I will not worry today
Not after what You said
A musician called it “vapor.”
An apt description, I thought when I heard it.
Impossible to catch, nail down or hold on to.
Basically a mist.
I call it another name, but we’ve all heard it
and it’s not very artistic.
You feel it too, I guarantee it.
No matter your ethnic background.
Or your economic status.
Or geographical location.
Or religious belief.
Or sexual preference.
Or lack thereof.
It creeps into the back of your mind, and
takes up residence.
Shaken and unconfident, it leads to irrational
choices and hasty decisions.
It’s at the root of this thought:
“Maybe I’m all there’s ever been.”
Perhaps it’s just me alone again.
A musician called it “vapor,”
What do you call it?
If I only knew how many nights you’ve prayed for me,
maybe then, I wouldn’t want to take it. But I do. I really
do on those bad nights. You could never know how
bad. My life. Some sad haze washes over me when I
think about it. The makeshift altars run like prayers
along the side of the road. And mothers, like you,
wince when they see ‘em. I wince too but it doesn’t
mean I don’t see the beautiful things. On days
like this though, I guess I don’t notice as much.
She said, “Get right with the Lord,” and I mean to.
We all mean to, guess it’s just takin’ me longer.
Be patient with me God, but please hurry up. I’m not
sure how much longer I can swim in my own head.
I’m not sure how much longer I can drown.