Perhaps it’s because the year is coming to a close, because of the seeming endlessness of the winter nights, or because of the ridiculous apocalyptic fervor surrounding this coming Friday, but my thoughts of late have been even more reflective and pensive than usual. And, in what follows, I will try to give voice to these thoughts, good, bad and ugly.
In many ways, 2012 has been a difficult year. If 2011 was a year that started in turmoil and anguish and ended in a kind of paralysis of soul, the gradual easing of those mental gears over the past ten months has brought its own difficulties and sorrows — much like how one only feels the pain of surgery after the anaesthetic has worn off. I admit that I still struggle with the facts of my life, with having dedicated so much of my life to a lost cause I find increasingly difficult to defend, and the lasting consequences those choices have on my life. The Big Questions can still haunt me from time to time. I find myself increasingly pulled towards rejecting as sheer folly and senseless torture thirteen years of my life which I’d far rather understand as Good. I lament the lost years, the wasted energy and commitment to what appears in hindsight to have been chasing Shadows.
Yet, this lamentation itself is cause for lament. Those years were not all bad; far from it. I lament the loss of the sense of Purpose I had, the sense that no matter how difficult things were, it was at least for a noble cause. I lament the loss of the intimacy I once felt with a Creator whose presence I perceived in everything around me, at least before that fateful day when God disappeared from my life so unceremoniously. I lament (and am ashamed of) the fact that my own experiences make it painful for me now to hear my Christian friends’ tales of God’s goodness and blessing, of their joy in the faith I once followed and which destroyed me. Most of all, I lament the fact that, despite how much beauty I see in the Gospel and how much I continue to be inspired by its values, many Christians and their leaders insist on viewing me as an enemy rather than as an ally, and persist in belittling not only my own experiences and concerns, but those of millions like me, and attacking us as dangerous threats to peaceful society, going even so far as to accuse us of rejecting our very Humanity. (I also lament that I am still far too sensitive to these shots and arrows, which are as ridiculous and ignorant as they are incendiary.)
I lament that after over thirty-two years, I still have little to show for my life, and even less sense of how to change that. I am not a man motivated by money or power, nor am I driven by a kind of professional passion of a physician, lawyer or entrepreneur. So, at thirty-two, I am still in a dead-end job, longing to move on — and willing to work hard to do so — but without any sense of how or what. Really, the only thing that has ever motivated me is to care for those special people in my life. Yet, this one Desire is filled with ironies: That family life is the very thing my former life made impossible one way or the other; that none of the special people and family who are in my life live nearby (and — to heighten the irony — most of them live in one of the few cities I genuinely dislike); that, by my age most people who want relationships (and are worthy of such) are already in them, leaving the pickings very slim and the dating game a very frustrating exercise; that the one thing that really motivates me is also the one thing I can’t make happen with any amount of effort. So, my life is, to be honest, rather lonely. And I lament this.
Yet, these lamentations are not the full story. I share them because they are honest and real; if I can seem on occasion quiet or sullen, these are the reasons why. I admit that they have recently seemed overwhelming and I have often been tempted lately to plug my ears at Christmas carols and their strains of joy and expectation, or to become the enemy many Christians seem to insist that I am. But again, these lamentations are not the sum total of my life. In fact, to these lamentations, I say ENOUGH.
I am not a dreamer. I’m the guy who frustrates dreamers: the realist who sees the potential difficulties in their plans (while rarely having a better plan myself). But the thing with realism is that it isn’t pessimism. Realism sees both sides: Lamentation is real, but so is Hope.
Reality is that my thoughts are still more tortured than I’d like them to be; but Reality is also that this will pass. Reality is that I may indeed have wasted my youth; but Reality is also that those experiences shaped me in many powerful and good ways. Reality is that there are those who view me as an enemy and threat; but Reality is also that I can choose not to view them similarly as enemies, but can respond to their lies with Truth, their misplaced anger with Love, and their rejection with Forgiveness. Reality is that I may not know how to make my way in the world right now; but Reality is also that I’m employed and well-educated, and have the freedom to make the right move whenever it becomes clear. Reality is that the people I love are far away; but Reality is also that, in an era of unprecedented communications technology, they are only a phone call, text, or Skype date away. Reality is that my life is lonely; but Reality is also that it may not be forever, and the more I resist the temptations of cynicism, ennui, bitterness, and anger the better position I will be in when that day comes.
And so, this Winter, I have hopes and maybe even dreams, that some day — perhaps even this time next year? — my soul will be at peace, my vocational path reset, and my life and heart filled not only with love of close friends and family but also that of a good and worthy man to build a life with. But these dreams are simultaneously too small and too big. My life a year from now could very well be exactly as it is today. As they say, life is what happens when you are making other plans. What is important is to remember what I’ve already learned in dealing with Reality and all the lamentations (and hopes) it inevitably brings: on the one hand to bring Light into dark places, to bless people, and encourage those who are struggling; and on the other hand, to exhale, to relax, to remember to have fun.
Anyway, such are my thoughts on this bleak midwinter’s day.