In 2010, I joined one of America's microcultures, with high hopes and ideals.
It did not take long at all to realize that there are a lot of hurting people in this one.
(This can be said of every culture, of course, but this one has a combination of people being very free about expressing their pain, while being mistrustful of outsiders. There are a lot of people who want to help, support, encourage, but the idea is, unless you've lived our pain, you can't understand it, and we don't trust you.)
Roughly two years in, I found a spot in an organization, mostly within said microculture, made of members who want to disciple other members and bring them to knowing Christ more deeply. One of their staff was part of the community I belonged to, and he mentored about a half-dozen of us, while teaching another twenty who were less confident about depending on the Bible.
I decided then that I wanted to be staff someday, like this man was. I envisioned joining part-time, and mentoring under someone who did this full-time, and being part of this marvelous mission.
(One of the very bad chapters in my life came about because I didn't listen to that particular mentor's instruction - which was to start each day with God, and do nothing until He told me to do it. Said mentor knows how that works for me, it's not booming voice from the sky, but I do not yet know how to describe it to someone else. The problem was, I was panicked at such a suggestion, because I knew God, and God sometimes does things that don't make any sense from my end*, which could result in me getting punished by the people I worked for. This was unthinkable. I basically lived to try to avoid punishment (which is a really crappy way to go through life, but it was the best I knew at the time.) So, the result was that I was willing to listen to God AFTER I listened to my manager/boss/employee handbook, and there came a point where I had a manager who wanted me to do something I knew was wrong, and I did it, pretty consistently for a year, and that year was so painful that I ended up losing /leaving my job**.)
*I have compared this to me doing things that make no sense to my beloved pet rabbit. Look, sometimes the floor just has to be vacuumed. She hates this. **Stress resulted in depression at near-lethal levels. Rick went into action. Rick is very kind and gentle when he interacts with me, but Rick interacting with something that threatens his treasured bride is a persistent force who Does Not Play Fair. Well, maybe he plays fair, but he uses rules no one has thought of looking into.
The downside of having left that job is that, after a year of recovery, I've largely forgotten about the need, about how many people are hurting there. I'm focused on my marriage, focuses on the teenagers and preschoolers, getting connected with our community and getting to know the area, learning more about this cool new area I've landed in. I'm focused on many positive things...and forgetting what we cared about.
Joining staff now would not look the way I'd anticipated. I'd anticipated a sort of apprenticeship, studying under someone who'd been staff for years, probably into the next stage of life. We're it. Everyone in our group right now is in about the same life stage.
I've been holding a focus of, "What do I need to do to make myself a better Christian? A more dedicated follower of Christ? To increase my understanding of the Bible, and who God is?" And, in doing all that, clean forgotten that anyone we don't know has similar needs.
One point would be taking off from our church every so often to meet the new incoming people at the only location where they know to go for meeting other Christians. Do I want them to know that there's a safe place for them, a place where we practice more in-depth study, life-on-life, pushing our comfort zones? Absolutely. Am I willing to miss the time with the youth and our choir in order to be there? Oh, hold on now, wait a minute. Those teenagers only start to trust me when I indicate to them that they're a priority to me. When they think I prioritize some other ministry over them, they pull away, clam up, shut down.
...well, can I serve the teens, without them trusting me? Yes. It's less gratifying for me. It means that someone else will have to be the one to receive their secrets, those precious moments. It means working for fruit I don't get to see. That's okay. Or, can I pray that they would still trust me even when, from my perspective, it does not make sense for them to do so?
Can I pray that another leader would move into the area?
Can I pray that God would give us another place to meet, that's large enough for the current group?
Can I pray that God would give direction to the group? Would give life and purpose again?
*sigh* We're in a weird position. The last person who led, who was really able to do so, thought it would be wise to shut things down for awhile, until a new leader emerged. Have everyone grow strong in their own churches, marriages that were just starting get somewhat established, keep meeting for the purposes of fellowship perhaps but let teaching be done by those who are qualified to teach. (This is marked out for us in Scripture, by the way, the older men teaching the younger, the older women training the younger women.)
Well and good. But there's pressure from the leaders up north of us. They know so, so many people come through our area - we have the capacity, locally, for some of the largest communities within this microculture, and we're also THE central location for a pile of the most isolated communities within the microculture. And they're not finding anyone here.
One scene from Doctor Who keeps playing in my mind on this. Opening the second season, there's an episode where the Doctor (who generally acts as the problem-solver for interplanetary time-traveling mix-ups) is out of commission, so his friend Rose, completely unqualified, squares her shoulders and says something like, "Doctor's unavailable, somebody has to be the Doctor." She puts forth a solid effort, and completely fails, but her effort ends up buying a little bit more time until the Doctor heals/wakes up and can save the day.
I can't lead any of the women in this group. (Rick asked me to think about mentoring one of our new young wives - no. Nope. Not happening. To mentor someone my age, I would have to have some clue of what I'm doing at my age. I can mentor teenagers, because I have some idea of how to handle being a teenager, but I cannot tell you in words how very in-over-my-head I am in relationships with my husband, my mother, my work (not having gainful employment makes me a failure in the eyes of our culture - try mustering up to that one every day), my long-distance family...look, it's sweet that you think I help someone else do this, but it gives the impression you have no idea how much I feel like I'm failing) But I can be a friend to any of the women here, and serve, and help. Lead? No. But serve, yes. I can take off at least one Sunday a month and go to the chapel, make some connections. Three meeting-spots in the area, but actually only one of them holds any sort of Protestant gathering. I don't know what we're going to do about space, but it hardly seems Christian to decide, "God has not yet provided more room for us, so we're not going to help any more people."
We ARE plugged in with a really great church. They're not affiliated directly with the organization we're staff for, but if the overall purpose is to get people connected with a community that's oriented around knowing Christ, teaching the Bible, serving each other...okay, we might just be acting as conduits for a time.
Come to think of it, it was because of the afore-mentioned leaders that WE got connected with that church. It's a good place for new believers, and believers looking for other believers, and younger people looking for older people to learn from, and the church sure knows how to celebrate a baby better than we do. And thanks to the purpose of serving the teens, I have a vehicle that can haul people who don't have wheels.
I don't know that this is exactly being staff, but it is serving. If we had someone who could disciple, I'd connect people to that person or couple.
All around me are familiar faces Worn out places, worn out faces Bright and early for their daily races Going nowhere, going nowhere People's tears are filling up their glasses No expression, no expression Hide my head, I want to drown my sorrow No tomorrow, no tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad The dreams in which I'm dying Are the best I've ever had I find it hard to tell you 'Cause I find it hard to take When people run in circles It's a very, very Mad world, mad world Mad world, mad world
Children waiting for the day they feel good Happy birthday, happy birthday Made to feel the way that every child should - Sit and listen, sit and listen Went to school and I was very nervous; No one knew me, no one knew me Hello, teacher, tell me what's my lesson? Look right through me, look right through me
And I find it kind of funny I find it kind of sad The dreams in which I'm dying Are the best I've ever had I find it hard to tell you 'Cause I find it hard to take When people run in circles It's a very, very Mad world, mad world Mad world, mad world
-Tears For Fears
Yesterday's...well, this weekend's events...well, the last MONTH'S events, it's all been percolating - got me thinking about why I'm drawn to healing. It's a complex over-under unfolding-weaving of ideas, and Tears For Fears unwittingly captured several of them in their song. (I assume this was unwittingly - I seriously doubt they wrote a song to explain why I think the way I do).
Because from what I've seen, the world IS mad. It was beautiful, and it's wrecked, and some places are more wrecked than others, and some places retain some glimpses of their original beauty. And because of that, escaping this world, the dreams in which I'm dying - they're the best I've ever had. (Also dreams about flying or doing a lot of time underwater. They're different worlds.) And because I'm not unique. I'm not alone in this. A lot of people, probably everyone, are also feeling their souls blister from exposure to this world.
Is there anyone out there, 'cause it's getting harder and harder to breathe? Is there anyone out there, 'cause it's getting harder and harder to breathe? -Maroon 5
If you've ever been in a real fire, house fire, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, sit down with me a minute. It's hot on a level you have to invent new words for. Some of it's searing, some of it's blistering, some of it's baking, some of it's burning. Your mind gibbers, really, from trying to find ways to describe an environment you instinctively must escape. It's cooler near the floor, there's air there, you crouch or crawl if you have an idea of which way is out. The ceiling is choking, stifling, oppressive, it hurts your skin, hurts your eyes, hurts your throat, hurts your chest. It's dark, dark, little flickers of flame, but you can tell it's the choking smoke filling everything that makes it dark. Visibility varies - maybe ten feet, maybe six feet. Sometimes you're down to two, and you're just crawling in the direction you believe is out, only able to see what you immediately have to deal with, nothing beyond. Sometimes you can't see your hand in front of your face. Your eyes burn whenever you open them, but trying to escape blind is maddening.
This is the world a lot of people live in. This is depression. This is a host of other emotional, mental, social, US-issues.
When you feel-more-than-see that smoke-ceiling rolling down lower, towards you, because it's filled up the top of the room and has nowhere to go, it's getting harder and harder to breathe...you call out, and I'm there. That's my place. That's where I belong - I'm supposed to be there, where you can't breathe and I know the way out. I'm going to be a gentle hand and a strong arm in the dark, and you're going to make a decision about whether to trust me.
If you trust me, if you lunge and seize my hand, I can get you out of here. I just came from a place where it's not burning. You can breathe there. You won't be alone anymore.
There's a landscape I know well. It's always night there. It's volcanic slag and exposed bedrock, an undulating lifeless plain, the smoke is still in the air but you can breathe, realize it's smoke and mist. While that means you still can't see very far most of the time, except when the wind clears some of it off (and makes you wish you hadn't seen) the mist is starting to heal your burned throat and lungs. There are pits open to magma below, there are stretching plains of undulating bare rock.
This is what most people call rock bottom. Everyone hits it, some people hit it often enough that they get familiar with it, even comfortable.
I've been here a lot. I know this place. I'm not afraid of it anymore. I know how to build my house here. And while it's bleak as all-get-out, I can run with confidence over those big rocks, finding sure footing. I know there's nothing else here for life, but you glance down at your hand and I'm still holding. I'm still here, until you don't want me, or until we get you out of this place. Rock bottom, as far as I'm concerned, is the best foundation imaginable, as long as you've got the right Rock.
I don't make permanent ties. Rick is the closest it gets, and we both know one of us will precede the other. In my line of work, industrial accidents are common. In his, people simply disappear. I have friends who've run deep with me, and we've passed out of each others' lives, untroubled by this. First time a friend of mine died, she was 20. First time a friend of mine was widowed, she was 26. I've accepted that most of what I attach to here will be a temporal attachment, and this is not disheartening to me because both of us are blessed by that attachment to go on to whatever, whoever, is next.
And then I'm going to go back to doing my thing, until I hear someone else desperate to breathe, and I will run back across that bare rock into the smoke and find her.
I'm not special. I'm not uniquely gifted. It isn't me alone doing this, who feels compelled to do this - there are a lot more of us. I'm one thread in the tapestry. The tapestry is strong not only because some threads are strong, but because the Weaver is skillful. The picture is discernible because the threads run as they were planned to do. I'm just running where I was designed to run.
This is what I do. What I have to do. I can't exist and not do this.
This is why I feel lost when I go for weeks without seeing people.
This is why my day-of-rest involves being alone, and my other six days are all about connections.
This is why I see the world in terms of relationships.
This is why, when I know that it will be better still to leave this world, I'm still here.
So, unrelated to teaching, I will have a summer job. One I was kinda excited for. That excitement has basically died.
I KNOW that things will feel better even an hour from now, but right now, MAN is it tempting to email the whole committee and say, 'hey, I know we open this weekend, but I quit. You guys deal with all this shit'. I won't, but...I want to in this moment.
It's dumb shit, too. Not that there's a lot to be done; that's just called 'working'. It's that someone saw how much work there is to do, and left me MORE. As in, covered my cleared counter with 3 piles of notes and forms and signs that 'need to be hung up by Saturday'. Do you know how I know that Saturday's the due date? 1) because it's the day we open and 2) each of those piles had an intricate, detailed post-it note placed atop them. JUST FUCKING HANG UP THE SIGNS THEN, MORON. Seriously? In the time it took you to write me those notes, you could have EASILY hung up about half of that pile. You clearly had the time. Or that week I was away and NO ONE STEPPED UP TO DO A THING TO HELP, EVEN THOUGH IN APRIL YOU ALL SWORE YOU WOULD? Well, now we're behind and yes, it's on you.
Saturday will be whatever it's going to be. But I firmly believe in the philosophy of, 'pitch in or shut up'. It is time for you to shut up, post-it leaver. I can be passive-aggressive, too.
Fuck happy people. Fuck you. Fuck all of you and your stupid happiness.
Oh you poor thing, you got your first C+ in 3 years of university. I JUST FAILED A COURSE AND GOT A D- in another. FUCK YOU. Oh, and you also have had a steady loving boyfriend for... 3 years? Who you just got a place with. Yeah I've been stuck between a rock and a hard place with the guy I love, being stressed for an entire year. DONT TALK TO ME ABOUT STRESS. Oh, and you also got the job of your dreams for the summer, relating to what you're studying. And you got a new Ipad. Yea, SO MUCH AWESOMENESS. For you. Fuck you.
And you, just got a new place with your boyfriend of a year, too. And you complain about being too stressed, not having enough time to spend with him. WELL AT LEAST YOU HAVE HIM. you said you almost had a breakdown when he left for the weekend, once. WELL WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF HE LEFT? What would you do without him, if you had him, and he started pushing you away? No more loving support. No one to lean on. How would you deal with that, huh? Fuck you.
And to all my other friends who've been with the same person since high school, when I've been dropped twice, with no explanation. FUCK YOU.
Oh, and my two friends who just got married. Fuck you, too.
FUCK YOU AND YOUR FUCKING HAPPINESS
because clearly, I don't deserve to be happy.
I give up on trying to be happy. I put out all my effort and this is what I get. To watch you all be happy.
ALL I DO IS COPE. That's all my life ever is, is coping. Distracting myself from the terrible PAIN of living. Of trying. I want to live.
And I can't even cope. I've been sick since November and can;t exercise, can't eat without feeling sick. Can't sleep without being woken up multiple times. Can't sing without starting to gag.
Life disgusts me. I have never hated life as much as I do now. And you. you and your happiness! Do you care? No. You don't need to talk to me, because you are happy. You have things to do. You have a significant other to take care of, you have to go be loved and spend time with them!
I hate you! I hate all of you! I hate life. Life is disgusting. If this is life, I don't want any part of it and I'm backing out.