Breaking the Silence

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It’s been a long time since I had the wherewithal to think about blogging.  Not much has changed in two years of silence, except I bought a home so I won’t have to worry about moving my books for the foreseeable future.  But everything else – work, church, car, family, relationship status – is unchanged.  At least it appears to be unchanged on the macro level.  Minute shifts have taken root over the past two years, and it may yet be a while before the new shoots bear fruit.

All that is not to say the past few years have been straightforward.  The healing process is never linear, and the twists and turns that have surfaced as I wrestle towards freedom have changed me profoundly – even if I cannot articulate how exactly I’ve changed.  I have tried (repeatedly) to get away, to leave my past behind, to start fresh, to begin again.  Every attempt to accomplish something I want has been thwarted, and thus I find myself working the same job, living in the same city, and wondering if this is, in fact, all there is to life.  Unfulfilled dreams have a way of forcing you to ask the hard questions, and the struggles I’ve encountered only piled on more uncertainty and doubt.

Doubt and darkness seem to go hand in hand, so naturally winter affords me many opportunities to contemplate existential and ontological questions.  My life wasn’t supposed to look like this – according to my plan, anyhow.  And though I recognize the goodness of what I have found (namely stability, independence, and an occasional sense of purpose), my heart still cries out with longing for that which I do not have.  Good things I do not have.

My entire adult life has been characterized by a mismatch in what people can see of me and what I’m really feeling.  Where others saw a young woman eager to pour her life out to further Christ’s kingdom, my soul was frantically bargaining with God – “If I go overseas, Lord, please give me at least this compensation!”  Where others saw courage in the face of danger, my heart could only see its own worthlessness.  While I always had a ready smile and quick laugh for others, my mind was always tormented by depression and despair.  I lived in invisible melancholy.  I still don’t know if the fight for life is worth it.

Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.  I’ve spent the last seven years pondering life – who I am, how I got here, why I’m here, and what it all means.  I don’t have answers.  Medication helps, at least insofar as it clears mental space that can be used for wrestling.  Beloved authors provide respite from the hard work of learning, stretching, and growing, both mentally and emotionally.  Friends and counselors willingly offer themselves as sounding boards and fellow wayfarers.  Occasional glimpses of truth remind me that there are worlds beyond the small, dark cave of my mind.  And so I press on.  I keep walking.  And I pray each day brings me closer to wholeness, to healing, to hope.  But I still don’t know if the struggle is worth it…

Thinking and Other Dangerous Pursuits

Learning to think was not a process that came naturally or quickly for me.  In fact, thinking for oneself was tacitly discouraged throughout my growing up – mostly because thinking would inevitably lead to disagreement, but also (and this was never said in so many words) because I was a girl.  Oddly enough, whenever I exhibited a tendency to reason logically, my dad would reprimand me and point out that “logic doesn’t work on people.”

So I spent the first 21 years of my life blindly trusting those “God put in authority” over me.  I trusted them to think for me, protect me, and direct my every decision.  Though my parents were passive about the authority they exerted over my life, I was determined to live by the rules – to earn God’s blessing, naturally – and thus wholeheartedly “gave up my right” to think for myself.  I was raised in a culture where this was the “godly” thing to do.

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I still remember the day when the first real fissure appeared in my mind.  It was, fittingly, a bright, hot summer day, and I was sitting in the membership class of the church my family had been attending for just a few short months.  I had my green membership notebook and my Bible open on my lap, and I remember soaking up the discussion of Reformed Theology as if I’d been handed the moon.  In an unconscious effort to protect us from overtaxing our minds, my parents never discussed theology, philosophy, literature, psychology, or major portions of world history, so I had never been exposed to the idea that theology is actually the study of God – and how belief in and about God affects everyday life.  It was the first time I had encountered theology outside of a male argument (I had overheard enough to know that theology was a reason to fight about God), and I was enthralled.  Theology was for me, too?  And it wasn’t about fighting?!

Oh, and my pastor said that grace was a free gift – unmerited favor, he called it.

I had never heard of such a thing.

Until that day, all my information and instruction about faith had come from essentially one source.  And I had believed all of it.  And – until that day – I had never questioned it.

One shaft of light, and suddenly my entire existence shifted.  Once darkness had been banished and sight had come, it was impossible for me to envision a world where one person had all the answers.  My beginning may have been slow and it may have been “late” by contemporary standards (I was 21 and had finished my junior year of college – and college, incidentally, had nothing to do with learning how to think, though both in and out of the classroom I encountered plenty of “new” ideas), but I took the concept of using my own brain quite seriously once I had begun.

“When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise and develop your voice.”   ~ Tim Keller

I’m developing my voice, and I do not intend to stop.