A xanga-style self-indulgent post.
Our church finished reading the book of Job last week. I’ve always disliked Job. It’s long-winded, repetitive, and I don’t think I’ve ever understood it. That said, I was surprised reading it this time around that I actually resonated with Job a lot given where I am in life right now.
I’d say that at least since Joshua was born until now, this has been the dryest my spiritual life has ever been. I haven’t really felt God’s presence or His purpose in a long time. And I feel disconnected from almost all the spiritual elements in my life – church, small group, other things. Even (and this might be heretical) Scripture. It’s depressing.
It’s manifested itself in many ways, but a couple stand out. One, I’m becoming increasingly bitter. Spiritually bitter and just personally bitter. Bitter that God isn’t there, and bitter that nothing in my life seems to be helping. There are times I see that I’m becoming a complete jerk, and that saddens me. If I’ve been a jerk to you in the past couple years, and I’d say there’s a high probability of that, I apologize. I don’t really have an excuse, but I do feel bad about it after the fact. I’ve started to become scared of talking to people, worried that my bitter jerk side will come out. Better to just never talk to anyone.
What’s worse is I feel myself starting to separate my personal happiness from my spiritual life. It used to be that how my happiness had a pretty strong link to my spiritual well-being – the better I was doing spiritually, the happier I was. But I’ve been so dry that I’m starting to just not care and find happiness elsewhere. Family. The potential pursuit of material things. I’m finding myself happy without God. And that disturbs me. Or maybe that’s not true, since I’m huffy a lot of the time. I don’t know. It’s all mixed up.
The parts of Job I resonate with is his longing for God’s presence. He talks a bit about his suffering, but more than anything, it seems like what he really wants is His presence. So that he can understand why. Or defend himself to God. But most of all, just to have Him be there. At heart, that’s exactly what I want. And I’m frustrated for the exact same reason – I can’t feel Him there.
I also resonate with how Job defends himself as the book progresses. At first, he seems to just say he wants a chance to talk with God, but after talking with his friends, he seems to get more and more defensive about himself, pointing out the things he’s done and how he’s blameless. Now, I’m not exactly at that place. I think it’s lame to blame one’s state on circumstance, and I blame no one but myself for where I’m at. But I do find myself, like Job, kind of defending myself.
Meaning, it’s not like I’ve done nothing. Part of me feels like I’ve tried everything. I was in accountability. Didn’t click with it. Don’t know why. I’ve read Scripture. At one point, I read Mark I think 12 times in a row. Made no real difference. I know that Christian life is primarily about serving, so where I’ve seen need and opportunity, I’ve tried to step in, even when it’s something I frankly suck at, like teaching kids. I’ve felt uncomfortable leading small group, but I’ve volunteered to do studies. Hasn’t changed much. A while back I thought being in a discipleship relationship would help, so I actively pursued that. It fizzled out. So although I say I blame myself, it’s not like I haven’t tried to do anything. I actually feel like I’ve tried everything, and nothing has worked. And so I’m frustrated. And bitter.
The worst part is I don’t really know what to do about it. One thing I’ve come to believe is that I can’t do anything on my own; just like salvation, growth has to come from God. Maybe that’s KCPC theology coming back to haunt me, but I don’t think so. Even experientially, this is what’s happened in my life. Any time I’ve tried to generate growth on my own, I’ve failed miserably. So any system that requires me to get right with God on my own basically dooms me to spiritual failure. I don’t know what’s right theologically, but in practice, it has never worked for me.
The only thing that has worked is for me is putting myself in good situations. That is, in fact, my reason for being part of a church. It’s a regular recognition that I am unable to do good on my own. I need it. Perhaps that means those situations are crutches for me. I don’t know what to say about that, except that all I know is that I’m weak, and if they’re crutches, I need crutches. I know no other way. I wish I were stronger, more personally self-sufficient spiritually. I’m just not, and doubt I ever will be.
I’m not dead yet; I keep trying. But I’m tired of the bitter man I’m becoming. There are only 2 things that have kept me going, I think. One is Christianity Today. They had a story on Cuba a few months back that practically had me weeping. It helps me remember that, despite how I might feel, God is working in the world. I desperately need that.
The other is worship music. When I listen to / play worship music, I feel the fellowship of believers and catch a glimpse of heaven. I listen to it voraciously. It keeps me alive. I only wish I knew more people that shared my passion for it.