I Once Had a Christian Professor

I really think so. On the last day of class, he gave us an inspirational speech on how we shouldn’t be afraid to enter the real world and pursue a career in accounting. It truly was stirring. In the midst of the applause, he showed us the last slide on his slideshow, this verse, or one very similar:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind”
2 Timothy 1:7

I stared at this slide for a moment as everyone else shuffled out. What bravery, what feeling from my dry professor! I looked at it with that serene, but somehow guarded approval that Christians occasionally bestow upon one another.

Later that night, I was reflecting on these words on the long drive home in the dark. Suddenly, there seemed like so much to fear, but I couldn’t put my finger on any of it. I needed the remembrance of those words to prevent myself from having a panic attack.

These words have special significance to me as a person with anxiety. Fear seems to be the driver of my existence. Power? Love? Soundness of mind? Those all seem like strangers, and I confess that at times I feel so overtaken by darkness that those words seem to have no real meaning.

Why all this despair? You may ask. That is a question that I can’t easily answer. But what I can say is that it springs from a lack of faith. A lack of faith in absolutely everything. Lack of faith in God, lack of faith in good, lack of faith in people. My mind, which hates to take things at face value, questions everything, including the merit of goodness itself. Isn’t that awful?

It seems that the day will come when I’ll run out of energy to fight this. And indeed, I already have. So I crawl at the Lord’s feet and beg for the will to go on, to live, and help others live. And then, feeling just a little recharged, I go out and try to fight Satan’s whole army once again, only to be taken as a prisoner of war, at this point sympathetic to his cause. And then the Lord has to ransom me back all over again.

“Stop going out there by yourself so glaringly unarmed,” he tells me. But do I listen? Do I obey like the good sheep?

No!

I keep waiting for the day that he runs out of patience, love, and forgiveness. I suspect he already has. But how can He? He is God.

A Repose in the Battle

Madness disguises itself as reason

And robs me of my joy, my compassion, and life itself

Passion alone is a dead end

Ruminating is my ruin

The only joy and peace is involuntary

It comes upon me against my will

It laughs at my silly thoughts

And my soul, for an instant, bursts open

 

I’m tired of the wrestling,

I don’t want to play the game anymore

I just want to exist, and feel, and be blessed 

And I don’t care if the best part of me

Is the part that comes not from me

What’s Really Going On (Spiritual Warfare Trigger Warning)

I guess I shouldn’t try to exact sympathy. It’s got to be my fault that I’ve let my mind become the violent battleground of God and Satan. I could have just let Christ’s victory on the cross be enough. But no, I had to have my own absurd, psychotic, philosophical war which makes so little sense that I can’t even begin to describe it properly. And yet here I am talking about it. 

I wish there was some kind of drug you could take to wipe your mind clear, like amnesia. I’d trade any intelligence I have for a day of peace. 

But there’s not, and I can’t. The easy way out isn’t the right way out. 

How did this all begin? And what justification is there for it? My life is more peaceful than usual, on the outside. Really, I’ve made peace with a lot of things. I’ve made peace with loneliness in a way. I’m grateful that my family seems to love me, despite all the reasons not to. I’ve slowed down the pace in the rat race. I have no particular beefs with anyone because people have generally been good to me, so it seems that Satan has decided to turn me against the human race in general, forcing me to philosophize, judge, mistrust, and hate when I obviously have no right to do any of that when I am apparently a million times more screwed up than anyone just for entertaining these evil thoughts.

This is all so confusing. I am torn between two poles: a hateful, jealous, violent, destructive, disgusting one, and a kind, loving, forgiving, peaceful one. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. I would just like to be on the second pole. Or would I?

Of course, a lot of this has to do with too much free time and a lack of focus. And that’s certainly part of it. Sometimes these thoughts go away, or God drives them away… but they always seem to return. Because it’s hard to forget what you know. 

I know this all seems really dark and hopeless, and in a way it is, because it’s not an easy problem to solve. But I still believe that I’m saved. I know, I know, Christians are supposed to be good, sane, and normal people. Yeah, I get it. It makes a little sense if you’re a mess before you’re saved, but afterward? That’s just not… good. And I don’t claim to be good. I don’t think this is good, but that doesn’t mean that good can’t come out of it. Good can come out of it in the same way a plant can grow in the ashes of a house fire (that does happen, right?)

I mean this- that I am sharing this story (again) in the hope that it will glorify God. Why not? Why isn’t it to God’s glory if He can save even miserable people like me? Why isn’t it a miracle that I feel loved by Him, in spite of it all?

But right here is where one of my pitfalls is. Sometimes I focus too much on my personal relationship with God, forgetting that so many people have personal relationships with God and will have personal relationships with God. Sometimes I feel that it is just me vs. this evil, superficial society and its endless members whom I am supposed to love, somehow. 

Lord, I’ve admitted the sin, please help me to truly despise it with all my heart and soul and turn from it! Anyone out there who’s reading this, please pray for me, not for my own sake, but for the sake of those around me who deserve my genuine love and not the politeness that masks my depression. If you don’t understand anything I’ve said, then give yourself a pat on the back. You are likely a sane and upright human being. If you do understand, thank you. If you understand too much, please let us bear this burden together in spirit. 

And now I’m a bit teary again, what’s new.

 

 

The Mystery of God… Still Very Much a Mystery (But That’s Okay)

Is God’s will simply what is before us? Or must we carve it out with His guidance?

This question is central to the turmoil that I have been experiencing all day. Turmoil because I felt that I made a decision contrary to God’s pleasure, and that I will surely be punished for it.

The decision was to continue summer school. Doesn’t that seem like the most trivial thing in the world? Isn’t worrying the real sin? And yet I couldn’t feel good about my decision, even though economy and reason were on its side. I figured that this decision could surely benefit God. I can glorify Him in all circumstances, and these seem favorable circumstances, I thought. And yet peace did not descend. The alternative to my decision is what I perceive as God’s will because it is the less attractive one. Does that make sense at all?

Nonetheless, I seem somewhat trapped in this situation. If I do drop, my family will be upset, and why upset them needlessly? Where is this all leading? Surely, God, you could bring good out of that because you can bring good out of anything… But is it the better decision?

And so, I have been entirely unable to find peace. On top of this absurdity. Satan has been at attacking with a vengeance in different ways. He’s really quite relentless. He makes me question everything- including the reason that I choose to follow God. He asks me if I’m really good enough for God, if I’m really good at all. He asked me to join him.

I found myself going along with this way too much. I found myself only distantly admiring God, if at all. Like the tragic old cynic with a face weathered by brushes with demons, who can only exhort her descendants to turn out differently.

But what’s the use in that hopelessness? Why not seek out God and make things right? I knew that I needed Him, more than ever, so I opened His word. I knew that without Him I would be worse than nothing, so I accepted His help. Once again, He was there with open arms.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭4-7‬ NKJV)

Philippians 4 is awesome, please read the whole thing if you get the chance. I believe this. Yes, Lord, I believe You and I know You are good! It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, You are still the same, You are always the same wonderful God! You are peace, You are joy, You are the antidote to this toxic existence! Oh, please give me the strength to love You! Give me the strength to care! Give me the strength that I don’t have to keep on going! Lord, for some reason I still don’t feel right about my decision; but let me at least stop focusing so much on my own salvation and start focusing on the salvation of others who deserve it so much more than I do. You, in Your gentle way, Lord, win their hearts!

Holy Spirit, Are You There?

I wasn’t supposed to think about God for seven days, in fact, I promised I wouldn’t. I know what you’re thinking, and believe me, I really, really didn’t want to do it. I almost had to.

Of course, the promise didn’t mean much because I still thought about God. How could I not? Hey, don’t think about elephants. What did you just think about? And it goes even deeper than that. You see, I can’t stop thinking about God because I belong to him.

I still felt so guilty. I still felt so bitter. I felt like I’d betrayed God. I feared he was going to abandon me forever. “You’ve made your bed- now go and lie in it.” I feared that I would die before the seven days were up and be cast straight into Hell. 

And yet, here I am. I don’t think God abandoned me, though. I felt His presence. There were moments that I was absolutely certain of HIs existence and infinite significance. Sometimes, you don’t know just how real God is until others oppose you. Sometimes, you don’t realize how ridiculous and fleeting the world is until you watch someone else continually living for it. 

There were other times that the worldliness took over. I found myself wondering if I really would have a better life without thinking about God, as O had tried to convince me. 

Even now, I don’t feel all that spiritual. I don’t feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I’m writing this. I don’t feel “abandoned by God,” but I don’t feel filled completely by Him either. And I can’t help but wonder if it has anything to do with my denying Jesus (but if I’m going to use that analogy, God did forgive Peter. I don’t know- just saying). 

But one thing I do know is this- that every decent thing I’ve ever written on this blog was the work of the Spirit. It wasn’t me, my talent, experience, or “wisdom.” God forbid that I should be prideful or smug! It was Him, it was Him all along. I just pressed the keys. 

Oh, Spirit return to me! I’ll do whatever you say! Spirit, where are you? Fill me, please, like you filled the apostles, like you have been filling emptied souls for centuries! Pick up the pieces of my heart! Scrub the filth from my mind! 

O, Spirit, where are you when we fight on the side of the road with our brothers and sisters? Why don’t you whisper in our ear as we whisper filthy gossip into the ears of our friends? Where is your healing touch when we feel jealous or angry? 

Why does the flesh win, Spirit? Why does it constantly hunger and yearn, even when the Spirit is filled? 

Why can’t we walk in our spirits? Why do we ignore, belittle, and defraud our brothers and sisters? Why is there so much tension, drama, and awkwardness when our spirits are all rejoicing together? Why?

 

 

The Renewing of the Mind?

If I am subconsciously telling you these stories about my day because I want you to think that I am a good Christian, then woe to me. If I bring them only to bring up a point, then by the grace of God, let this point be made.

Yesterday, I resolved that my life was going to change for real. I thought that actually talking to people about God might be a start. So I found a plastic crate, printed up a sign reading “Free Christian Books,” and I took my little box of free Christian books to school with me. It was easier to brave the traffic with the knowledge that my day had a worthwhile goal. So at lunch time I sat and waited. The Lord pitied my pathetic efforts. Instead of being mocked and ignored like I probably deserved, something a little different happened. 

First, two very nice and bubbly blonde girls started talking to me. They weren’t interested in the books because they were already Christian. 

Then, a presumably homeless woman entered the scene. This poor soul had a purse and about six grocery bags containing all her possessions. I didn’t know what to say to her. I even dropped a book because I was so nervous. Not because I was afraid she was going to gouge out my eyes or throw cats at me, it’s just that with social anxiety it’s hard to talk to anyone, let alone someone difficult to relate to. Eventually, she sat down with me and the two blonde girls. My, what an odd bunch we were.

I awkwardly invited her to lunch. I mean, it was really awkward. But thanks to food allergies and demons (she was afraid of going into the food court because she felt a dark presence there), that did not happen. I feel bad though, the lady deserved some food.

This woman, whom I will refer to as E, is Jewish, but she believes in Jesus. She seemed nice in a sort of quiet way, and was only a little batty. Probably much more normal than me since I was acting like an idiot a lot of the time. Some parts of our conversation were fine, but sometimes I just didn’t know what to talk about. I was so afraid of offending her, and as a result, I’m sure I did. I realized that a lot of what we talk about is sort of material and superficial. We talk about our gadgets, our favorite TV shows, our cars, homes and clothes… so what do you talk about with someone who doesn’t have any of that? Even food seemed like a touchy subject. Still, I found myself talking about my petty health problems and various little annoyances, but I realized just how trivial they seemed as I mentioned them.

I’m sure a more gifted conversationalist would have no trouble at all with a homeless person, but then again, I am not a more gifted conversationalist. I don’t know if E liked my very much. 

What is the moral of this story? The moral is that I clearly have a lot to learn. If I am letting worldly barriers get in the way of God’s will, there is something wrong. There is something wrong when I can only relate to people through the material world. 

And you know what else is wrong? My whole attitude. Like I’m doing E a big favor just by talking to her. And maybe telling people about Jesus is helping them, but it is really God who is doing the helping, and it is not our place to get all uppety. How dare I talk down to these people, my fellow creatures? “Oh, look at me, I’m talking to a homeless person.” That’s not true love. Get a clue, self! And the ironic thing is, E is probably a few sandwiches closer to a picnic than I am. 

I must admit, though, I did feel a little different today. Not necessarily better in every way, but different, not quite like myself. I was thinking more spiritually. At times, I was trying way too hard to be spiritual, but I did feel different, maybe a little less materialistic. I felt so detached from the rest of the world all day (probably because I was acting so weird and everyone could tell), and what’s more, I almost felt as if the rest of the world didn’t matter. Could this be the first stage of the renewing of the mind that I had prayed for? Or am I fooling myself again? 

Please say a prayer for E, friends. 

 

 

 

Why Writing Essays Makes Me Sad

And writing in general makes me happy?

I’ve been working on a novel that is about myself, which is weird, super fun, and scary at the same time. I am definitely putting too much of myself into it (Can I get a Picture of Dorian Gray anyone?), but I guess that’s okay. You see, previously I have tried writing about other people, or writing about just one aspect of myself. But the fact is, I don’t know about other people, and I don’t know how a character can only be one aspect of myself without being something else. So before I try jumping into other people’s shoes, maybe i ought to get comfortable in my own skin.

Here’s the premise:

High school senior Julie Ashbury wants more than anything to descend from her ivory tower, but she’s deathly afraid of heights, and pretty much everything else. Naive, spoiled, socially awkward, and perpetually paranoid, Julie gracelessly stumbles through life. She believes that attending college far away from home in New York City will change her life forever, but her parents have other plans. She embarks on a journey of her own to discover what life is about, but she doesn’t discover much that she didn’t already know. She meets the same God that she has known her whole life, and the same humanity that she has always struggled to interact with. Fear is what has been holding her back, but fear is a part of her. How can she let go of it?

By the way, much of the plot of this book and the supporting characters are somewhat fabricated.

Compare that with this humanities essay that I have to write. I am arguing in this essay that Saint Augustine was converted to Christianity, and the kings of some long-forgtten dynasty were not. But I don’t like this. How could I possibly know who was converted and who was not?

What’s more, for someone who calls herself a writer, I suck at these essays. I got a B- on the last one. Not even a B+! At least no one grades me on my novels, just rejection letters. Also, I think that my TA thinks that I am biased. I also suspect everyone in my class knows that I am Christian and they don’t like me because I’m not perfect.

I don’t want to judge kings anymore. You know what, I don’t think I should be judging anyone, because the way you judged is the way you are judged. Sure, a lot of people are idolatrous and greedy. Sure there are probably valid criticisms of the early Catholic church “Fathers” and the famous Christians of our day, but I don’t know what’s in their hearts. What I do know for certain is that I am screwed up.

Satan tells me that I am so screwed up and self destructive that I don’t even deserve to live anymore. But why should I crucify myself when Jesus crucified himself for me? What am I trying to prove? And what can my sin do but shrivel up and die in the glorious light of day? And what temptation is there that cannot be resisted? How can faith do anything but help me to attain the highest wishes of my spirit, while shunning the vile and base impulses that are so different from the goodness that the difference cannot even be overstated?

I am not sure how I went from promoting my book to talking about my personal battle with Satan, but, consider yourself welcomed to my whacky existence.