Monday, September 3, 2012

The Miracle of Strife (Part 1)

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Striving we all seem to be-- for money, recognition, affection, worth, knowledge, acceptance, fairness, justice, joy, growth, maturity, fulfillment....the list goes on. We strive and strive in this life on this earth. To what end? Striving for something, whether a goal or an attribute, is always hard. The word 'strive' indicates hard work, sweat, tears, pain-- most often is does not have a positive connotation. After striving we hope to be in a positive place, but the process itself is by no means fun or enjoyable.

I have come to find, in my quarter century of life, that striving accompanies all parts of life. Personally, I have spent my life striving for attention, for dance trophies, for friendships, for love, for good grades, for scholarships, for athletic abilities, for happiness, for joy, for satisfaction, for purpose, for a mate, for meaning, for a job, for understanding, for money, for recognition, for worth, for faith... all to little or no end. Not that I didn't receive those things, but those things came despite my strife.

This past week was a really tough week for me: work has become a lot more stressful, things with church are busy and stressful, and my relationships were on the rocks. I was striving to survive, manage my time well, care for others in my life, care for myself, let others care for me, and know God. For those of you who may not know, I believe that a being whom I (and others) would call God, has created this world and myself. I believe what the Bible says about God sending a man in the humble form of a child to reach out and relate to the human race, and to bring about reconciliation and redemption in our lives of strife. At least I thought I believed that until Friday.

My faith journey has been one that has been pretty much always confusing, but always assuring. I have seen myself and others transform in ways that would otherwise seem impossible had it not been for some divine source outside of ourselves. I came to love the message of Jesus in high school, despite my family's disapproval, and I have seen many beautiful people and moments since that time. I have come to love others and myself and God more deeply than I ever thought possible, and those things are powerful. When I have lost sight of those things, it is equally powerful and scary. The only security I find in life is the knowledge of the fact that I don't know much and that I am really not as in control as I think I am.

Friday night, after this rough week that consisted of way too much work, lots of wine, and lots of just existing, my roommates and I spontaneously had a dance party to Spice Girls and DMX (awesome combination, right). We danced like madwomen, and we loved every minute. We lost all inhibition, we embraced the moment and each other. It was beautiful really. Then we wound down and went our separate ways. I thought that moment would provide so much comfort to my weary soul, but alas I still felt empty. I felt frustrated. I felt the most anxiety I had felt all week. It all seemingly culminated in this moment where I actually gave some time to care for myself. Cutting a rug shook loose every thought and emotion that I had been holding back to get through the week. The proverbial flood gates opened.

By this time it was dark. I got up from the couch, so tired of looking at facebook and working on stuff for church. I got in my car and just started driving. I knew that there was a blue moon that night so I wanted to find a good spot to sit and watch it for a while-- the air was cool enough that it was more refreshing than being in my non-airconditioned house. I drove and drove. And drove some more. And drove. Finally, after skirting the whole city, I found an abandoned parking lot with enough shadows for me to hide in. I parked my car behind a paper collecting dumpster, leaned my seat back, and turned off the radio.

Silence. Then came the thoughts-- my head was exploding with anxious thoughts about all the issues of the week, especially my unhappiness and my lack of fulfillment. I felt so empty, and I still could not figure out how to fill myself back up. Sitting in darkness and stillness, listening to the crickets chirping and the cars whizzing by at the nearby intersection, one of those anxious thoughts popped out of the barrage in my head and made itself very clear: I AM NOT HAPPY, AND I CANNOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. I realized that I had been trying to make myself happy all week-- reassuring myself that the lost relationships would be replaced by new ones, that drinking wine would somehow induce a permanent state of merriment and peace, that dancing with my friends and watching the moon would somehow still the raging waters in my soul... but none of that actually worked. I could try and try and try some more to make myself happy, and it was just not going to work.

I don't know how other people react to those kinds of situations, but the first question that arose in my mind was "If I leave open the possibility for Christianity to just be a psychological coping mechanism, does that mean I am not a Christian?" I sent it in a text to one of my roommates, and then decided to go get some more wine and go home to talk it over with her and my other roommate.


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