Schizophrenic Spirituality

Dear readers: As you may know, I’ve been hesitant about updating my blog lately, particularly with regard to my spiritual life. I’ve wanted to stay away from anything that could look like a passive-aggressive cry for attention, ego strokes or empathy. Having been encouraged by some of you to give a personal update, however, I have finally done so in hopes that it might be helpful to you in some capacity. I apologize for the meandering, slap-dash nature of said post. . .let’s just pretend that it was my intention to write in exactly that style to artistically mimic my muddled thought processes, shall we? Thank you.

Jesus today I am tired
And I need your music to come and inspire
And I’d give myself to be refined in this fire
But Jesus today I’m so tired.

–Charlie Hall

Uff dah. What a life.

I have got to learn the art of cautious prayer. I spent the last semester praying cockily that God and I could be closer. And He’s said yes. . .but where I was hoping for a Band-Aid, a sort of God-loving veneer that I could plaster on my happy little Christian life in order to cocoon me from most of life’s disappointments, He was thinking relationship. Way more personal. Way more painful.

The best term I can use to describe my current spiritual state is “spiritual psychosis.” I feel coldly disconnected from God on the one hand, while on the other, I cling to Him like my oxygen. He’s taken me further into personal insight than I would ever have chosen to go on my own. I’m seeing my soul, and it’s sick.

The depth of my insecurity is startling–I’m not sure I’ve ever actually loved another person except in a selfish, personal-needs-meeting way. Even my sacrifices for others are done in attempts to control their opinions of me. Practically every action I take in life, perhaps every one I’ve ever taken, has been one of insecurity management, to pretend to either myself or others that I am somehow a valuable, worthy, worthwhile person.

Truth is, I’m not. Here’s the point where I would normally fall into a cycle of self-deprecation to guilt myself back into a masquerade of holiness, but I am beyond self-deprecation, well past the hope that self-loathing will somehow make up for the filthiness of my heart; I know there’s nothing I can do about this. I despise that realization. I desperately want to believe that I’m somehow worthy. But the more I pretend to myself that I am–the more I curry favor and acceptance from others in the hope that someday I’ll finally get enough to sustain me–the more truth raises its head, morphing into increasingly extreme and violent forms of self-loathing in its attempts to get me to acknowledge it.

The only way I can really acknowledge myself as I am is if there’s some way out. I obviously can’t offer that to myself. And I know God has. . .

. . .but my heart is tired, and despite my best efforts, it is moving toward the safety of apathy.

That realization terrifies me–I’ve been doing this Christian thing for 18 years. I’m noxiously good at it, and I’m convinced that if I so choose, I could easily embark upon a lifetime of relationshipless good works (well. . .good enough works, in any case). It would be so easy to settle.

Had you asked me a year or two ago, I would have promptly answered that of course I would choose relationship over rule-abiding. It’s not exactly a rocket science-style decision; but the relationship I was imagining wasn’t anything like this. I was imagining something far more comfortable, something more immediately enriching. . .perhaps something that would function as a cosmic self-esteem boost. I was imagining that if I opened myself to relationship with Him, He would immediately swoop in, heal some of my more significant hurts, be there for me whenever I needed Him, and make me a vibrant, lovely person. In short, I was imagining a relationship that revolved around. . .me. I was a walking proponent of the Health and Wealth Gospel, Relationship Edition.

And God has made it infinitely clear that He doesn’t play by my rules. While I would never dare to deem myself a modern day Job, He has torn from me the things I treasured most: sense of purpose, sense of community, sense of self, and sense of Him.

The last year and a half has been a constant struggle with receding hope, as I’ve tried one resource after another to regain my footing. But every rock I have overturned has been barren. I can’t manufacture a sense of purpose for myself. I can’t make my friends stay. I can’t pretend that I’m awesome. And I can’t, for my life, make God love me per the prescribed outline I’ve given Him.

I’ve grown disillusioned in my efforts to earn His love, and I’m tired of making excuses for Him, as though He were a neglectful parent. He isn’t, and my head is perfectly aware that it’s not my job to cover for Him. Even in the face of life’s mess, He is good. But I don’t know what to tell my heart anymore.

I see my demandingness, the fact that I’ve given Him a script on “The Care and Keeping of Lauren” that He is wisely refusing to follow.

But I wonder if He sees my hurt.

I’ve gotten a lot of the “where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God, and legitimately so. But that’s almost the only facet of God I’ve seen in my 18 years of following Him. . .and I’m losing hope that He’ll ever show me a softer, gentler, more obviously loving side. I know it’s there; I’ve seen others walk in it.

But I’m no longer sure He’ll ever demonstrate that side to me, and I’m weary of being so lovingly mandhandled. I know it’s legitimate, I believe it’s purposeful, I believe it’s needed. . .but how broken, exactly, do I need to be before He starts restoring?

While these questions have been echoing in my empty heart for months, if not years, now, this I will say–He is keeping me more or less faithful. I may be holding on by my fingernails, but I know that if it weren’t for Him, I would have quit this game a long time ago. I may not sense His love, but He enables me to nevertheless believe that it’s there, and to hope that someday He’ll demonstrate that love in such a way that my heart will catch up to my head. I’m aching for a lot of things He isn’t giving me; but somehow His Spirit continues to remind me that a tooth-gnashingly difficult relationship with Him is better than any of the blessings I might otherwise be able to attain.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

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2 thoughts on “Schizophrenic Spirituality

  1. Okay friend,
    I’d no idea you’d written this yesterday when I pounced on you at church. If you’re feeling like Job, I will not be as his friends. I have no words to fortify the appreciation I have for you sharing these words, and how deeply I feel that we’re meant to have faith for each other… I am holding up your hands here. “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.” ps 126:5.

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