Isolation is an interesting thing. It is, on the one hand, the space in which one can think, rest, recover and gather strength and on the other, it is the place where that peace can be destroyed, where thoughts can destroy the opportunity for rest and strength is sapped by the feelings of emptiness and loss.
This past year, the pandemic has put nearly all of us in places where we have yearned for some semblance of normality to return only to be bombarded by one piece of negative news upon another. It has begun to feel as though who we are as individuals and as a country has been slowly eroded away like the face of a statue on the shoreline, the never-ending spray of sea and salt washing away the individual features that made us each unique and wonderful.
I am sure that I’m not alone in feeling like that constant battering of sand against my face has worn me down to nothing. Not only has the comfort of normality been removed from our daily lives, but I personally have felt beaten down by the circumstances I have been in. A little less than a year ago, I began a new job hoping that by moving back to something I had been successful at before, I would gain a stronger sense of success and worth; that by going back down a road I had been on before, I would be able to relocate the me that I feel like I lost along the way but whoever that was, she is no longer there and I am here, lost and alone in the middle of a path I no longer recognize.
Perhaps I feel this way because I have been alone for so long, waiting and longing for that to change but unable to find another person with whom I connected well (or at all, honestly, because let’s be real – dating after 50 is challenging at best). Maybe I feel this way because at the time in my life that I would have been focused on figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was more focused on digging myself out of the rubble of abuse and finding a way to create a “me” that looked more like the warrior I knew I was instead of the victim I was told I should be.
Despite what you may think, I am truly proud of the things I have overcome and the person that I have become as a result. I have strength that I know others do not, insights I couldn’t have gathered any way other than being where I’ve been, and skills I’ve obtained through sheer necessity. If I could stand outside of myself and see who I am with a critical eye, I think I might be impressed by who stood in front of me. But as it is, I see failure after failure; brokenness and insecurity where strength and self-worth should be. I am fearful to take that next step forward for fear of another failure but also know that there is no going back.
So where does that leave me?
I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is I am here for a reason. I know there is a God that has placed me here at this time in this situation and that because He is a God of love and omnipotence, that the end is a place of goodness. And I know that, as I’ve said over and over throughout the years, me being here at this time is not really about me but about a greater good which I in my humanity am completely unable to comprehend.
Despite all of this knowledge that God does and will prevail, I am tired. I yearn for a time to feel I am right where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I was created to be doing, and able to share these things with others – maybe even one specific “other”. Maybe that time is just around the corner. Maybe the winds will cease, the erosion will end, and the One who created me will show me that even the formless nothing I have become has meaning and purpose…
…or maybe I’ll just be that eroded lump of rock you step around next time you’re at the shore.
On the news this morning, I watched as a giant Christmas tree was brought to a local shopping center for raising and decorating. The radio is already playing Christmas music full time, and my choir is fully immersed in preparations for our Christmas concert music. For any of you who have read my blog in the past, you also know that for me, this season is a time of reflection and contemplation on what the year has been and what the future could possibly hold. Not uncommonly, this reflection and contemplation has directed me down some difficult paths.
You see, this year for me is a season of “without”. It’s the
first year I will be without my dad.
Granted, he had been living in New York for the past 4
years, but I still knew that I could pick up the phone and talk to him or check
on him or even jump on a plane and go visit him. But this year I no longer have
Losing family members, even (or perhaps most especially)
furry family members, is remarkably hard. It often feels like the rug of reality
has been pulled out from underneath and the whole of our reality is now
off-kilter and we hang on waiting for that one final gust of wind to push us over
the edge. We become the physical manifestation of that cat in the poster
desperately clinging on to the ledge to save ourselves from the final descent.
Descent into what, I don’t know, but it feels like wherever it is, it’s
If you have ever struggled with depression, I’m sure you can
absolutely relate to these feelings of mine. And if you’re like me, the things
that are necessary to overcoming the feelings of depression feel as challenging
as swimming through one of the La Brea tar pits – not only incredibly
difficult, but who wants to even try?? Besides, at least for me, the more I
try, the worse things seem to turn out. I end up making mistakes at work, with
my finances, with friends and co-workers…you get it.
And yet as awful and pitiful as this may all sound, I do
have something to lean on that carries me through these difficult time.
I have faith.
Faith that God created me, that I have a purpose, and that
God has never nor will ever leave me to wallow in my desperation.
So why am I struggling?
Because things are different for me this year. I am not
surrounded by people of faith, being caught up in the whirlwind that is church
and its structure and excitement. Instead, while I am seeking that new place to
land, I find that I have not at all lost my faith in God and His place in my
life, I am struggling with the way our modern culture paints the picture of God
I know that for many of us, even the words faith or God are
challenging and the idea of actually leaning into these concepts is nearly
impossible. There could be a number of reasons for this, but for me this year,
I am struggling with the self-centeredness that has become the keystone of
If you read my post a couple of weeks ago, you know that I
am trying to find a new church and this process has been, to say the least,
difficult. I finally realized one of the main reasons for this struggle is that
I am tired of the modern focus of “Jesus did this FOR ME” or “God sent his only
Son FOR ME”. Worship songs, sermons and Christian culture as a contort themselves
to ensure that each person understands that they are reason that Jesus came,
died and was resurrected. His ministry was all about saving “me, me, MEEEEE!” The
church as a whole so wanted to help people understand that there is a purpose
to this life and that our relationship with God is a part of that purpose that
it has taken the focus off of God and put it squarely on each one of us. I
daresay that we have so distorted who God is and what He has done that He has transformed
from a God to be worshipped, respected, and at times feared to be our own
I get it, I do. God, being God, is able to focus Himself on
me as an individual and on the rest of the entire world at the same time. He does
hear our cries, our prayers and our frustrated screams and is able to tend to
them all and provide for us all more than we could ever imagine. At the same
time, it is His will which has sculpted the past, present and future and we are
playing our own individual roles in accomplishing the plan He has created. And
it is that tension – that dichotomy – that often leads to feelings of despair
depression. How is it possible for us to find our own purpose when it feels
more like we are simply puppets in His great design? The idea of having
free-will while simultaneously being a part of a great plan is nearly
incomprehensible…and yet, it is.
The thing is that God’s plan is about us individually and
us collectively. Despite what our current culture wants us to believe, God didn’t
create all that is around us merely for our own enjoyment nor for us to do with
as we please.
Additionally – and here I may lose you – God hasn’t created
a new world in the heavens for us with streets of gold, waterfalls flowing with
milk and honey, and a place for us to lie around on the clouds all day, enjoying
a life free from trials and tribulations for all eternity. Again, I realize
many of you may see this as blasphemy, but the thing is it is our human desire
to be free from growth, learning and challenge.
God wants more for us than that.
God created us to live in community with Him but despite our
human understanding, this doesn’t mean for us to necessarily be physically in
the same place with Him for all eternity. Instead, God wants us to grow and
learn, to develop beyond our early understandings and become beings that are a
true reflection of Him – beings full of love, generosity, compassion and grace.
And even if we were all Gandhi and Mother Theresa rolled into one amazing
individual, there is simply no possible way in our brief time on this planet at
this time that we can achieve God’s goals for us in the blink of an eye that is
human lifetime. God is bigger than this present reality and He created us to be
I hear you. How could I possibly suggest there is no heaven?
Heaven is a central theme in the Bible – how can I possibly deny its existence?
I clearly have fallen victim to the secular view of who God is and am
dangerously close to being – gasp – Buddhist.
Despite how it may sound, I don’t actually deny that “heaven”
exists, I just think it looks significantly different than what you and I have
not only be been taught, but what we individually want it to look like because
in God’s heaven, it isn’t about us – it’s about HIM.
Heaven is about growth, maturing in our faith and our
understanding, about truly becoming the individuals God created us to be
without the barriers of a linear, narrow existence. After all, we are created
in God’s image and God is far from linear.
And that is why, despite my feelings of loss and sadness, I
can find joy in this time of struggle. I may not be the life of the party, but I
can know that this struggle I feel is part of the growth that God created me to
The amazing grace of God is a gift that can be shared even
as we walk through time of trial. In losing those we’ve loved, we gain empathy
and greater capacity to love. In making mistakes and floundering, we gain the strength
and wisdom to carry others who fall. And in seeing things in new ways, removing
ourselves from the center of it all, we can come to understand that God’s
presence is truly all around us creating joy and wonder in even the most
challenging moments. All we are called to do in these times of struggle is know
God IS. He is all that we need, all we could imagine, and His design of our lives
is the very definition of perfection.
If you, like me, are struggling for any reason, I want to
know that you are not alone. Ever. You can reach out to me here, you can find a
furry critter to absorb your tears, and you can cry out to God, knowing that
maybe that street of gold may not really exist, but the true heaven is so much
greater and God will get us all there to be in community with Him in ways that
are greater than that street of gold.