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Lent Diary: The Wilderness of My Spiritual Doubts (Day 3)

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I.

In The Wilderness of My Spiritual Doubts

The pull on the soul between belief and disbelief has been the root of much of my spiritual doubt; that I cannot prove my faith, even to myself. This frequent disbelief and self-hatred are two among the many causes for me to hesitate to share my faith story.

Doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision. 

Add to that my melancholic disposition, a cup half empty view of life and a more than slight bent toward negativity. You might say I’m doomed!  I would, no doubt.

2.

Every so often, I fear that I’m in a wilderness of my making.

I have written ad nauseam on my recent, lengthy stretch of epic depression—not the worst, but the longest.  One might wonder. If I have only just climbed out of this wilderness then why would I choose, with all my spiritual doubts and with the black dog of depression nipping at my legs, to practice Lent?

Perhaps I’m just desperate enough. Or could it be that I am just hopeful enough to believe that these forty days of surrendering “food and fat from my over full life, creating lengthy spaces of spiritual and physical hunger, will create a fertile environment for the Holy One

to Act.

3.

To realize we are not alone among the hurried and haggard human race.

After reading David R. Henson’s Into the Wild: A Lenten Homily I understand myself better than I have in a long time. A good writer will do that; by exposing the raw and ravaged bones of their story, they relieve us of our own heartache.

Suffering people feel alone. Suddenly, reading this I saw it. A tangible provision that came from knowing there is another person in the universe that has felt my pain. It is such a relief!  I feel that when I read Heschel or Eugene Peterson or Nouwen or Kierkegaard (Clearly, I need to read more women!!!!) or brilliant poets like Emily Dickenson or Mary Karr, and so many others. And sometimes, I identify with a sermon.

Talking about a wilderness time in his life, Henson says that his wilderness has made him who he is, and has created within him a greater compassion.

“Stories about the wilderness aren’t stories of temptation, either resisting it or triumphing over it. Rather, they are stories of identity. It’s a story of getting a little lost and scared and finding out who you really are.”

4.

As Jesus rises out of the water of his baptism he is proclaimed the Son of God, BELOVED.

That’s what I’ve heard through out my wilderness years. You are beloved. I don’t always accept it. Or believe it. But when we do choose belief over disbelief, we are saying I choose to listen to the voice of God in spite of the voice of the SLANDERER* clanging. Henson says that’s the great temptation—to believe the lie that we are Not Beloved.

I’m learning to recognize how often I listen to the slanderer (whether it is my voice in my head or the real evil one.) With the lengthening of the days (an extra hour of light on Sunday!) how will I fill it? As I experience the spiritual hunger that comes from a physical alertness of this Lenten fast I am eager. Even expectant.

As we become aware of the wilderness in our heart Christ beckons — Let go of self-hatred and grab hold of being named: Beloved.

How is Christ beckoning you?

Melody

I hope you’ll forgive these Lent Diaries are a little rough. I don’t want to spend a lot of time perfecting them when I can be doing just the things I wrote about above.

  • Henson says the word for devil in the book of Matthew is slanderer.

{An Ordinary Tuesday Afternoon: Depression, Social Media and Rooibos Tea}

Being faithful in the dailies is a test for me, summers especially.

Doing the dishes, again; picking up that little plastic army man, marbles, blanket, pillow, books, for the umpteenth time; kids needing to be fed three times a day!?!  Giving rides, so daily.

The highlight of my day is finding an open window upstairs, with the air still on.  The waste, a definite low! But it’s no wonder the upstairs is humid like an amazon jungle.  Mystery solved. How interesting.

Argh, it’s just all so boring!  And tedious.

I used to be able to avoid this feeling. I’d do almost anything to not feel bored!  Working when I still had a “job;” shopping was a favorite, compulsively, without needing anything, “just browsing” I’d tell myself.  These days it’s cooking or exercising.  My garden has grown wild from lack of attention but it used to distract me.  Once, I avoided this feeling with drinking.  All with the single purpose of not feeling this crazy feeling and not being left here with—this—moment—.  

Plain old life. 

For many years I thought I just wasn’t faithfulenough.  Surely If I was more devout, prayed better or at least more frequently, even fervently; or if I served with a restored attitude—this feeling might go away.  But that’s just another excuse.  Prayer, study, reading, serving are all ways to avoid this—feeling—.

I was irritated, as I was reading, quietly sipping my coffee and most importantly alone, when he kept chirping at me.  I just wanted to left alone in the quiet reading more of  the Prophets.

I was irritated that my stepdaughter didn’t come home last night, again and didn’t let me know.

I was irritated that my daughter slept on the couch for the third night in a row; left food out overnight; didn’t pick up after herself.  So when she asks me to make her breakfast toast I went off, like a tea kettle boiling then erupting. I will owe her an apology.

I was irritated that the boys make such a colossal mess in their room.

And irritated that the house decays so quickly.  That there are dishes in the sink, again.  That the dishwasher is broken, that the disposal is broken.  That the floor is degrading.

The house is falling in around me and I’m—furious!

I try to distract myself wondering what classic books I can start reading.  Wishing I could go on a vacation and resenting all the people that are on vacations or have taken them this summer.  Instagram and Facebook are constant reminders of others travelling to exotic locations.

I used to travel when I was young, before I met Tom; before we had kids and I quit my job; before we cut up our credit cards. This too is a part of the harsh reality of minding our Ps and Qs financially.  We don’t spend money we don’t have. Sometimes I hate being a grown up.

And so I yell at my daughter for asking me to make her toast, for asking for lunch money, for not picking up the comforter from her nights on the couch.

I slink around the house irritable, and then, anxiety come seeping in.  And I know from experience that if I don’t figure out what’s truly bothering me this will worsen.  This could get really bad, before it improves.

I pop on to Facebook, even though for the most part lately it makes me feel grumpy and alone.  Someone I don’t even know (in real life) posts an article.  I know he struggles with depression though I cannot remember how I know that about him, as he is a stranger to me.  Weird that I know this piece of information about this stranger but because of it I’m intrigued by the title: Depression, Gift, and Legacy.  Reading it, I meet a new poet (to me) the late Jane Kenyon by reading her poem “Having it Out With Melancholy.”  I make a new friend in this poet.  Here is a piece:

when we were alone, you lay down
on top of me, pressing 
the bile of desolation into every pore.

And for a second I have the energy to write this.  I know that for this day at least, it will pass even as I long for greater contentment and peace. But for today, for the moment it is enough to find a poet that understands me.  I this moment I do not feel so alone.  The wonders of social media.

Caroline Langston, the article’s author too becomes a friend today because I get her and what she wrote.  

It is like puzzle pieces clicking into place, deep inside of me.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle,” said Philo of Alexandria. Oh how I love that quote.  I remind myself of that all the time. My own battles with depression have allowed me to see others more clearly, with more empathy and understanding.

And Caroline paraphrases Walker Percy saying: “The hardest thing in life is to get through an ordinary Tuesday afternoon. One is far happier to be facing an imminent hurricane.”

As I sit here petulantly bearing my boring day which weighs on me; heavy like the summer air outside, thick and impenetrable, ghastly.  But rather than avoid, I will sit here a moment  with my sweet and smoky Rooibos tea.  I will feel my irritation, my wishing, my longings, my fear, my resentments.

I will sit and be in this day.