nagging unease

Something feels off. I have been so enthused about getting involved at a church and meeting people there. So I went tonight to something they call NEXT, which starts with a $5 dinner in the gym, then splinters off into classes all over the building. I spent a lot of time trying to decide between two classes, and I ended up picking one called, “The DNA of Relationships.” Basically, the summary asked, “Do you make the same mistakes over and over again in your relationships?” And it applies to any type of relationship – from romance to friends to coworkers – which I thought was kind of nice. But it consists of watching a bunch of DVDs. Hosted by an old man. Who rambles like an old man. After the first 15 minutes of the first video ended up being random stories from his life unrelated to the series, I was already glazing over. I took away some good bible verses and a couple solid thoughts, but nothing that hadn’t occurred to me already in life.

I know my relationship with God isn’t based on this class. Nor does this class necessarily reflect Hope Church as a whole. But something came to mind while I was interacting with people during dinner and listening to them talk at the end of class… something’s missing. That same thought came up while taking my lunchtime walk around the lake today too. Is the missing piece on my end or on theirs? Have I changed? Do I no longer have the ability to connect with God like I used to?

My theory is that I have changed somehow. It actually seems like I’ve changed in a lot of small ways that add up to a really big shift in my personality. I wonder whether this shift came about just from moving to Memphis and leaving behind so much of what once defined me, or whether this was in me all along, and having nothing else to focus on just let it bubble to the surface.

The roller coaster effect has gone stale for me. In some ways this is good; in others… I’m not sure yet. I had a brief thrill ride over the past couple months, but it’s pretty much disappeared now, leaving me slightly hurt but mostly relieved. I was getting so tired of feeling like my emotions were riding a pogo stick around town all day while I sat at the office. But, in small ways, I do kind of miss my emotional insanity. I’m pretty much at a deadpan all day now, over-serious, not particularly responsive, kind of drone-like. I don’t blame my job, because I really could have fun there. It’s just that I am involving myself in so little else, I’m pretty much stifling my personality. For a while, I thought it was the greatest thing, because I was finally gaining some perspective and control. And I’d like to maintain most of that progress, but, you know, have a little fun too.

The other reason I miss the rise and fall is specifically related to faith, which I’m pretty sure is a bad thing. I shouldn’t miss loving God one minute and abandoning Him the next. I should be mature enough to stick by Him or leave Him behind forever – the wishy-washiness is not something to be praised and enjoyed. But I miss the passionate moments, because when God and I were good, we were good. Everything seemed so fiery and meaningful. I wanted nothing but to escape to a wooded path and talk out loud to God and myself. It was bliss. Now, it seems like routine, even though it’s been going on only a few days. I am talking to myself more and God less. I am not feeling the inspiration coming from the church leaders in their talks or the teachers in their classes. I feel like I’m beyond it, or something. Like they’re talking to someone who doesn’t know anything about faith, and that’s just not me. But isn’t it? Should I not be hungry and seeking enough to want to absorb it all, whether trivial and newbish or challenging and mind stretching? But I’m not. I’m just… there.

I also wonder if I’m beyond the passion of youth, at least in terms of feeling like a college student in a bible study class, bobbing my head to acoustic guitars during worship and actually feeling kind of excited about dorm-to-dorm evangelism. That was me once. And I’m not really interested in being that old hanger-on in the “young adult” group, so I’m probably not going to have that chance again. Because intertwined with the excitement is room for passion-inspired mistakes. You get to make them all the time because you’re young and focused on one thing: making things happen for God. If you have to make a few bad things happen along the way, so be it! But it doesn’t work like that when you’re in your mid-20s. You still make mistakes sometimes, but you’re expected to think things through, plan ahead, quell your internal fire – you know, boring stuff like that. It’s no longer about late-night Jesus talks and trying not to stain your bible with pizza grease. It’s about creating future leaders in “our children” and managing our finances and praising our mates. Those things just aren’t me yet either (and I kind of hope they never are).

But tonight, as the DVD guy was saying, “You can control your thoughts, thus controlling your emotions. You’ll be able to take back the power from others that let them jerk you around, and you yourself will wield that power by handling the situation how you see fit, rather than letting them handle it for you.” And I kept thinking, Or you could just get over it and move on… He gave the example of shrinking a bunch of his wife’s delicates in the dryer. And how she was just so distraught because each of those sweaters cost $80. And I thought, Why not buy cheaper sweaters? And the speakers said, “You know what my first thought was when I realized I’d shrunk all her things? … Put them all back in the washer.” And, you know, I would totally do that. Which either makes me immature or like a guy. I just couldn’t get into his descriptions of relationships or how to improve the balance of control.

All this is to say I still don’t know what’s missing. At the moment, it’s a Frosty from my gaping void of a stomach. But earlier, it was interest and patience. Even earlier, it was attention, focus and connection. What will it be tomorrow? Does the lack follow me around, or is it part of my environment? Will it last? I guess you’ll have to stay tuned…

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