Chapter Four….being completely honest with myself…
Posted by Ron
What follows may be considered to be the long-threatened sequel to An Ecclesiastical Journey
I think it may be the curse of the spiritually malcontent and damaged to feel, at times, abandoned by God. Such is the stuff of classical myths and disaffected youth. I have my own narrative about such things.
I was raised in a searingly, achingly, persistently dysfunctional environment beset, surrounded by mental illness, apathy, weakness, and tangible evil in those that should have nurtured me. I do not want to go into deep details for various reasons, nor do I want to come across as much of a whiner seeking the role of the victim, but the hard truth is that one would be hard pressed to erect a more effective framework within which to emotionally and psychologically and permanently cripple a bright, introspective, and creative child. Moved from town to town seventeen times by the time I was eighteen often under great duress and instability, I knew neither mentor, protector, or friend. My refuge was books and music. The most difficult aspect of growing up in such circumstances for me was the sense that, though I often cried out, often tearfully, to God for help, stability, for rescue, He never seemed to provide the help or shelter I craved.
Therein one finds those divine abandonment issues. I was, however, fairly relentless in seeking concourse with God albeit with some frustration. I grew up feeding myself spiritually the best I could without much benefit from the church, and along the way picked up some erroneous doctrine. The few times in my youth that I bumped into the church, I usually ended up in the presence of aberrational and strange charismatic mania that did me no good.
Years flow by, the past is buried and compressed, and after marriage and fatherhood, the journey towards God becomes more focused. As I moved from a liberal church to a seeker-sensitive church, and then, to a more Christ-centered reformed theology, I came to a more profound understanding of the sovereignty and grace of God and my own sinfulness. Such a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty, at first, gave me great solace in knowing that God not only was aware of my struggles with my dysfunctional past, with my sin, with my weakness, but He was in control of such and would use them to grow me into Christ-likeness and for His glory. All good and fine….but….not so long ago a perfect multi-front storm of stressors arose, and along with my years of struggling with depression and anxiety, I found myself unable to cope with circumstances. My brain’s serotonin level had became woefully deficient to the point I could not think, could not perform at work, could not interact with others. I crashed so hard and damaged everything that was of value to me. Too, and quite importantly, the church I was involved in, and really no fault of their own, was one of the major factors of my slow-motion, substained crash.
Eventually, I ended up taking a week or so off from work, sought professional help (which, over time, wasn’t very helpful, quite honestly), and began taking an SSRI in the form of an antidepressant called Paxhil. I also found I suffered, as per professional diagnosis, from social anxiety disorder (though I suspected Aspergers Syndrome – but you cannot always trust online mental health diagnostics), post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and clinical depression, all of which I had often self-medicated with (mostly) modest amounts of alcohol. After the passage of some time and as my serotonin levels normalized, I was able to function once again, but damage had been done both at work and home and church. Embarrassment and shame were, and remain, my constant shadows. Eventually, I weened myself off Paxhil, experiencing disturbing lucid dreams and nightmares at night and dizziness during the day in the process, all the while trying to be a good father, husband and employee.
Where this all has led me is to a post-Paxhil, post-church place where I feel as if I have been rebooted, as it were. Much of the mental malware that has belabored me for a lifetime seems to be gone and I feel more whole and assured and fearless than I ever have in my life, but what seems to have been lost is an innocent, childlike faith in God I experienced for a short few years not too long ago. I do not believe I can lean on the Creator completely anymore. I intellectually acknowledge that He is trustworthy, but that perhaps I am, in His good sovereignty, more a vessel molded for dishonor rather than honor. Perhaps I never really believed like I thought I did. I affirm that He works out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, but now and in light of His seeming absence through much of the course of my 50+ years, I question my love for Him and I question that I am called according to His purpose. Inversely, I question that He has for me anything other than common grace. Quite honestly, I know I do not deserve even that.
In an earlier post, I cryptically alluded to the fact that I may change the direction of this blog due to certain issues, and all the aforementioned is why. Perhaps I will occasionally blog on theological things while I remain in this state of flux, but I may, for a while, let the blog drift into other directions and interests.
I must affirm that I have no significant intellectual issues with orthodox Christianity. I cannot walk away from the real and historical nature of the resurrection of the Christ. I cannot walk away from the natural revelation of the Creator. I would be intellectually dishonest to wed myself to evolutionary thought. If I could honestly do so, quite frankly, my internal tensions would not be so intense. It would be relatively easy for me to be agnostic at this point and stage. However, things are too complex to take that easy route.
Quite honestly, if anyone wants to correct my thinking, call me out on anything that I have written here, slap me around a bit to knock some sense into me, please go ahead. I did not get to this point overnight. I have been drifting in this direction for quite a while, in all truthfulness, and I would love to be in another place, as it were. All that being said, my one real theological hope is this: even though I do not like where my head is at spiritually right now, I cannot walk away from the fact that God is sovereign. If he so pleases, He will bring me to a place of trust, and it will be through His effort, not mine, and I will be the wiser for it. If He does not please to do so, I will enjoy His common grace knowing that He is Creator, not me, and in my falleness, I deserve no better than what I get. I believe – I think, help me in my unbelief. What will chapter five bring? I hope a renewed faith.
About RonSomewhat quirky and prone to bouts of melancholia. Well-read, tastelessly opinionated and pasta fueled, a saddle tramp. I have not yet discovered my superpowers, but when I do, I will use them for good, not evil.
Posted on August 8, 2011, in Church, Theology, Blogging, On a more personal note, Calvinism/Arminianism and tagged Church, Theology, faith, doubt, providence, Depression, hope, gospel, existential, angst, despaiir, battle, spiritual, awkward internet confessions, Paxhil, S.A.D., social anxiety disorder, Dysthymia, post-traumatic stress syndrome. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.