“Wishing something would happen
A change in this place
‘Cos I’m tearing of the fancy wrapping
find an empty package”
- ‘Birds without Wings’ David Gray, The EP’s ‘92-94
At the end of 2001, I stopped writing in my journal for about six months. I was tired. Tired of myself. I had this way of turning everything into some sort of whine and cheese party, and I was sick of being sick of everything. It wasn’t supplication I had been writing before then, it wasn’t anything but dribble. I don’t even want to look back at it to quote any of it to illustrate how bad it was. I even promised myself I wouldn’t write anymore things that resembled my cocktail pity party. And what do you do after feeling like that? I did mostly nothing about it. I waited for that voice to die, trying to let things work themselves forward and push that selfish ache away. Yet at the back of my mind I was constantly finding things to do, thinking if I did a little more of this or that great thing my life would get better. What I found out about myself was that I was mostly doing these things to fill time, and this compulsion edged me into anger.
Most of us burn out from being good or turn out to be completely selfish. “...if you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more it will demand of you,” C.S. Lewis says in a book that has recently haunted me. “And your natural self which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier.” I would be the first to admit that I put myself on an an anger management program years ago and have backslidden frequently. The guys at work call me crabby and I am glad it is just grouchy that I seem to them. It doesn’t take long for my parents to goad me into a lather. Even a few members of clergy have received “the glare” and my personal threat of intended dental harm. I sat Kaldi’s on Main Street in Cincinnati recently, and instead of enjoying one of my favorite spots in the world, a cup of the best joe and a musty book, I found myself doing what I promised myself I would no longer do – angry about a life that wouldn’t work itself out the way with which I felt comfortable and writing about it in my journal. Choosing to do what was right over and over again was the worst way I could humble myself. My anger management program had consisted for the most part of stuffing things all back inside where I had chose to be outwardly silent. I was burnt out, angry, and wishing I had been more selfish.
This Lewisian literature onto which I had stumbled caused me to come to a complete pause. It asked of me this: What are some of the reasons I fear giving my life completely to God? I can’t remember not knowing Him, and yet can find many reasons. So I asked myself the seemingly easy question. The fears, word for word, were something like this.
1. I will do so and be left with nothing but wait. Empty, frustrating, unbelievable wait.
2. All of the things I have worked so hard on about myself would become nothing. Complete crap. All the really great parts of my soul that I have come to like and the others I have learned to live with in peace would no longer mean anything to me, and I will ultimately have to relearn to like myself all over again.
3. I would end up having to be thrown into a duty of a “holy emptiness,” and not experience anything I desire, and these desires would mean nothing to anyone, not even me anymore.
4. I fear my natural self is my real self. I don’t know who I’d be without it.
5. I don’t really know who I am in God. I have an idea, and beliefs, but often can’t find the faith to actually know.
In reflection of what Lewis stated, I asked myself yet another question, which dealt with pointing out areas of my life am I reluctant to give over. These, though few like rooms in a house yet in which to be lived, were such large places in my soul.
1. Being a wife and mother.
I hold onto this dream so tightly. I work at my inward and outward beauty with self-criticism and little benefit thinking I might be noticed by someone. And it’s a horrible and unhealthy cycle. A cycle with which I am completely done.
2. The direction of my life.
I’ve planned. I’ve projected and worked hard. I’ve said I would do things I haven’t even started because I’ve I managed to find myself lost in the day-to-day shuffle, and over time this doesn’t match up with my plans and dreams. I have spent too much time at the hand of my own expectations, and I am done with this frustration, too.
3. My anger.
I work too hard. I try to be good. Yet find I am only an unpleasant shadow of myself. With this, I am done as well. What I had also found here in answering with these three confessions were the reasons why God wants to kill my natural self. Like him, I wanted to kill these reasons. My own “doing” had created nothing but burden.
“But across the fractured landscape
I find the same things
Birds without wings”
I have been guilty, as I think we all might be, of pouring myself out only to present Him an empty package. When I look, I see more than one devoted mother/insomniac/people-fixer, including my own, taking pills to keep themselves together. I see men without fathers, again like my own, in a quest for fatherhood yet losing themselves in the abstract of dealing with who they are. Day after day, my friends, as I have done, press themselves through the meat grinder of their dreams at jobs they detest believing they would merit something back. I see other individuals I love choose to stay alone because of their fear of love. All of us “do.” We scrape the bows of trees for twigs and bark to gird the fragile nest of our own making. We give him only the part of that tries dealing with the whirlwind of confusions that snap at us like wild animals in this nest of our minds.
“Angry sun burn down
Judging us all
Guilty of neglect and disrespect
And thinking small”
I went back to that disturbing piece of Lewisian literature that struck me so, and I have started to care a bit less. What I have found is the opposite end of being and its bearable lightness. As birds without wings we don’t need nests. We shouldn’t begin to care about the feathers on our back. “Love God and do whatever you wish,” as Martin Luther says. As I wake in the morning, I have found that my only job, when I find those wild animals bounding at me, is to push them back, to welcome the slow concentration of presence, and to let His voice come through. And while I let my dreams and desires fall from the nest of our own making, tumble from my tree to be taken on the wings of eagles. Maybe I am that much closer to insanity, but I am not sure what my fears mean about me now.
“Take for a while
The trumpet from your lips
Loosen your hold, loosen your grip
On your old ways
That have fallen out of step
In a changing time
Hoist a new flag”
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