There are times when life seems to be cruising along just fine when you find yourself suddenly reeling from a wound that you didn’t know was there.
A few weeks ago a good friend of mine was invited to go to a kind of nationwide get-together for the people who are working in various W@H ministries around the country. When I heard the news I was really happy for for all kinds of reasons but when he came back and we were sitting in a Best Buy parking lot with him telling me about the trip I felt like he’d inadvertently tripped a wire in my heart that I didn’t know about.
I was hit with jealousy because clearly it was me who should have gone not him.
I was hit with...um...whatever it’s called when I patronize somebody...because he needs that kind of affirmation but of course I don’t.
There was anger, coveting, envy...all those red and green emotions.
And I think if it had been those things only I could have walked away from that moment knowing that it was another wrestling match with my flesh and/or the devil – perfectly human stuff.
But bearing the weight of all that other crap was a foundation of something like despair – and that one really caught me off guard.
As he talked about this trip and all the things that happened, really cool things that I would have really enjoyed, it was bringing me back to 7th grade at MPH. I was a clumsy 13 year old who was too big for his shoes and who (to his unending shame) wore jeans sized “Husky.” I distinctly remember gym class where we were playing dodge ball and Gary Aberg was one of the captains picking players for his team. Pick after pick after pick and it’s eventually it’s just me and Bruce – the kid with cerebral palsy. As a small mercy, Gary did pick me and the other team got Bruce, but I’m sure you can see that was no great comfort.
Now it would be tempting to close that story with something like, “I’d never been so humiliated in my life” but that’s not really how the memory plays. As I remember it, I had come to expect the outcome after many similar days in gym class and by the time this memory was formed I had long since given up any sense of pride. In my mind at that time there was no dog left to kick I had so completely owned my failure. In fact, I also remember a gym class as a high school freshman where Grant something-rather picked me third for his dodge ball team because I had found my feet by that time and was a damn good player. But that memory rates a dim two on the ‘vivid and formative’ scale where Gary’s team is much higher – and perhaps even higher than I thought three days ago.
I suspect everybody goes through some variation of the ‘didn’t get picked for the team’ thing so I don’t think I’m at all unique in that regard but as I was reliving that moment in the car I saw something in me that has been hidden (from me anyway). I don’t really expect anybody to invite me into anything. In fact I very strongly expect that any good thing’s I want to happen, I’ll have to do myself. I’m not invited – I volunteer. Good things don’t happen to me, or for me – I make them happen myself.
Now anybody who’s kept up with this blog should realize that in many ways this is just a variation on the same kinds of wounds I’ve talked about and unpacked often over the last several years and that’s true. For myself it was really surprising to find this abscess of untouched bitterness when I thought I’d dealt with most of that. But when I started to share some of this with Rebekah her response was something like “well duh” but she was much kinder about it. :) Still – to her this bend in my frame was pretty self-evident even if she didn’t quite have the words to describe it until I gave them to her.
It also goes back to something John Eldredge said about a month ago when he was on a book tour in Portland. He spoke about the way we tend to live as though we were fatherless. When he said that it was like catching just a tiny glimpse of a tall peak shrouded in clouds...there was something big under there but for the most pat I couldn’t perceive it except in fragments. And so this particular comment has stuck in my mind and God’s been expanding it to show me more...but slowly because for the most part it hurts.
God self-identifies as ‘father’ and the uncomfortable truth is that I have some pretty deep seated ambivalence about that idea. Even the word feels chunky and formal and cold. Calling God daddy...I am so NOT comfortable with that. ‘Lord’ is my general address but I don’t like what I find when I start asking why I use that term. For one – it’s feels safe. It’s appropriately deferential and speaks to an authority structure that I least feel like I understand – maybe like when a boy comes to call his dad ‘sir.’ I can my earthly father ‘dad’ or one of a few affectionate terms like ‘pops’ or ‘old-man’ but I’m still not really cool with there either, in the end I’m pretty darn afraid of seeming disrespectful. Even as I type this I’m conflicted – fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom and all that. A desire to be respectful seems like a good impulse – but I’m missing the warmth, the connection, the intimacy that I want so bad and yet am also terrified to face.
It might not be clear how this is connected to the early stuff and to be honest, I’m not sure myself – but somehow they are. This boy waiting to be wanted, to be included in the game is resigned and his spirit is long since broken, he’s in my heart somewhere feeling alone in the world. There is no one there to interpret his sadness, to give him context, to explain what’s happening – he’s fatherless.
...bah...that’s not coming out right. I told you I’m only getting glimpses here and maybe this post is premature, but I wanted to write down what’s in my mind and this seemed like the right place to start.