Been awhile since I posted here. Where I live in Texas it’s basically July in May right now, what with the triple digit heat upon us. But, the wildflowers I grow in my yard have been stunning in any event.
Last week we lost our pet hamster, Everest. She was our youngest daughter’s friend, and she’s passed on to the big hamster wheel in the sky, so to speak.
We found her dead in her cage while our daughter Miss Bouncy was finishing up with bath time, so I made a coffin out of half of a toothpaste box, filled it with pretty gift tissue paper, and wrapped it with white paper. After bath-time Miss Bouncy came out and we had to explain to her that Everest had died and that she needed to say her goodbye. So, she drew a nice picture of her and Everest on the coffin, and the other children wrote their names on the base of it, and we let her hold Everest’s body for a little while and then placed Everest in her resting place and closed the lid. Miss Bouncy didn’t want to bury her just yet, so we let her sleep with Everest next to her bed and then buried her the next day next to our Japanese Maple tree, at the Easter edge of our property. Everyone agreed it was a good spot. So, I said a couple of words, Miss Bouncy said a couple of words, and then we placed Everest in the hole and covered her up and that was that.
Today is the 20th anniversary of Rich Mullins untimely death. I never got to see Rich perform, but I’ve listened to enough of his music and read enough of his writings to feel like I knew him, at least a little bit.
To this day I struggle with the darkness, I struggle to find peace. I don’t know how to think about the idea of God loving me. I don’t know what that experience looks like. But in Rich I have someone who did, so I try to learn from him as I learn what God’s love is.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God
He is one of my Patron Ragamuffins, and he is sorely missed.
Faith has never been easy for me. Even as a child, I seemed to have more doubts and questions as is normal for a snot-nosed little sprite.
Growing up in a reformed baptist church, though, I was required to attempt to develop a rock-solid certainty in the veracity and infallibility of Scripture, in the complete sovereignty of God, in the five-fold Doctrines of Grace, as well as a host of other and sundry doctrines, dogmas, and certitudes.
Finally, when I left the church it was in the midst of a true “Crisis of Faith”. I had begun to see through the veneer of the serious, forced facade to the devilish interior of the people and the system I grew up in and as I did I was faced with a series of three seemingly simple choices:
1.) There is no god
2.) What I was taught about God was completely true
3.) What I was taught about God was in some sense partially or completely false
As for the first choice, its quite possible that there is no god, but its never been something that I’ve been able to every put any kind of moral or cognitive weight behind. One way or the other, it seems to me that there must be SOMETHING out there, beyond us, and beyond the realm of the material. The concept and idea of the “Spiritual” has always carried clout with me. It seems quite plausible to me that there are multiple gods, or else a god who’s different from the Christian God, but I don’t know that I can ever be an atheist.
As an aside, I feel that I must say something about this. As a younger man I thought that Atheists and Agnostics were engaged in the worst sort of intellectual and spiritual laziness, to the point where it was hard for me to even Hear them. Now though? I get it. I understand why someone would ditch the faith and conclude that not only is God a colossal motherfucker, but that he doesn’t exist, nor do any other number of gods in any number of collective pantheons throughout the course of human history. I cannot conclude that myself, but I do understand.
Secondly the thought that what I was taught is completely true is something that I seriously considered, but in the negative. In other words, if what I was taught was completely true, then God could go fuck himself, which meant that I was subsequently done with Him. Even if it meant my soul. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t serve a god like that. Whatever part of my mind that had housed those families of concepts was burnt up in the fire and the land had been salted and made dead. As I said elsewhere, “If there’s a god who seeks to sling some holy-fucking wrath, he’s dead to me“.
So, I couldn’t NOT believe in God, or at least a concept of God (an agnostic possibility), and I couldn’t believe in a God that was as intent on wrath and hatred as the god I was taught. So, that left me with finding a way to believe in God (or to put in more generically, The Divine) in a way that I could live with.
And although this might be a topic for a different post, I have decided that some of the concepts/tenets of Christianity (an attempt at explaining the reality of evil in the world and in man, the notion of Grace, and the person of Jesus) is compelling enough for me to retain the “title” (while groaning inwardly at the word) of Christian.
Still. I believe, but am so very full of unbelief. Belief has never come easy to me. Certainty is an illusion that I cannot help but seek, but which is foreign to me and forever beyond my grasp. I say the Creed every week in Morning Prayer, but often have a hard time claiming it for myself. I pray the prayers, but my heart is most often not in it. I persist in claiming faith for myself, when I live in the land of darkness and doubts.
I feel myself to be a laughing stock, an unbelieving believer, or perhaps a believing unbeliever. I don’t really know. I hope, I suppose; and I hope that that’s enough.
I’ve always been an intelligent person. Growing up I always noticed the patterns of things, in shapes and forms, and later in ideas and concepts. Though homeschooled, I did well and ended up making a high of 1350 on the SAT, 31 on the ACT and then gained a final GPA of 3.69 earning my Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. I’ve never not had an agile and competent mind.
my mind always been a source of pride for me
In fact, as might be readily apparent, my mind always been a source of pride for me. I have always lived in my mind, and I, as do many intelligent introverts, prefer the company of my inner demons and angels than the company of similar beings around and external to me.
I’ve relied on my mind in my career and in my hobbies and in my relationships, utilizing it to make friends and succeed and enjoy the small nuances of life.
But then, about 5 years ago, agitated by a very painful experience leaving the church I grew up in, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder reared it’s tenacious head and what was my favorite gift became my special curse. My mind – my friend – became my enemy.
Where once I could listen to the internal dialogue with pleasure, now that dialogue became a flood, a torrent of anxiety-inducing madness. Where once the waters of my mind were fairly tranquil and fair, now I drowned in a shit storm, choked by anxieties and compulsions, depressions and inanities.
Such is the life of someone with OCD. I do not expect to be healed of it.
Now, 5 years removed, two of which have been spent in therapy and on medication, my mind has become my frenemy: neither/both friend nor enemy, that weird uncle that you have to be related to, but which you really don’t want to be seen with. It’s a humbling existence: having to rely on something that might very well decide to betray you at the drop of the proverbial hat. You never know when your day will be roses or thorns (often its both). Clarity-of-mind and the mind-fog have become close bosom-buddies, and both like to fuck with you and your fears.
Such is the life of someone with OCD. I do not expect to be healed of it. In some ways, these days, I don’t know that I want to. I just want to learn how to live with it. To exist with it.
Because maybe that weird uncle is me.