I did some filing this weekend, and I wound up looking through some old files from ’97-’99. For three or four years in a row my old church sent me to a youth leadership seminar where the cream of the Church of Christ youth were gathered in order to learn to be youth leaders. I had a lot of moving experiences there, and met a lot of beutiful people who I have since lost track of.
The first year I was there I was my usual painfully shy self, although that changed before the end. By the last year I had gained enough confidence that I went determined to make it a great experience for other attendees, and I wound up getting elected as the person most representative of the event. Got to give a little speech and everything.
There was an exercise that they did every year where you wrote a little note of appreciation or encouragment to someone else in the room and gave it to them, silently. That last year I had a little pile of notes in my hands by the end of the exercise. Young men and women who had been moved, inspired, and drawn by my presence there. Either my growth from year to year, or my heartfelt involvement with the worship, or something I said or did, had effected them in a positive way. I read some of those notes yesterday. I have other, similar notes in deeper archives.
It’s always a little painful reading things like that. Remembering who I was. I had a purpose at one time. I had a fire in my heart. I knew what life was about, and at least in a vague way, my role in it. Because I had a gift. I could convey that fire to others, in my words and actions. I could look you in the eye with so much conviction and love and belief that you couldn’t help but believe as well. I could tell you with perfect certainty and heartfelt care that God wasn’t some impersonal force or absentee father, but an emotional person who wept for your pains, who cried out to be closer to you, who saw you as precious and worthy of love. I was a conduit. Some of those old notes said I shone. When I spoke the words of God, I had authority that was inborn and natural.
(To fend off the inevitable assumptions: I was never a proselytizer. I never told anyone about my faith unless they specifically asked. I’m talking about my interactions with other Christians, here.)
I can’t describe how much it hurts not to have that anymore. I feel like the shell of a person sometimes. Yes, I still have some form of belief in the divine, if only as the higher potential of humanity both individually and as a group; but it’s so vague, so impersonal. And I have no framework within which to anchor my thoughts.
The times I felt most alive, most real, most worthwhile were when I was ministering, in one form or another. I don’t have that any more. What is the point, without it? Why do I exist? I can’t exist merely to exist. I have known all my life that I was called, and I refuse to give up that irrational belief because it’s all I have.
I used to lament, long and sometimes tearfully, that I felt like the only times I was close to God was when He was speaking through me to someone else. But I would far rather have that than nothing. I get a little inspiration, a little communion, a little ecstasy from music and dancing and drumming. But where do I go with that? I’m not loving anyone but myself on the dance floor. I’m not ministering to anyone. These days when I do anything remotely spiritual with others it tends to be with pagan-types, and despite my deep need for that rooted, nature-based spirituality, I have no authority in that context. I’m just an observer, an interested outsider. I have neither the confidence, the social standing, or the conviction to do anything for anyone in that context.
And I can’t go to Church, because I know I would be disappointed.
I feel like a lamp without any oil. A Wi-Fi NIC without an access point. Like a Wizard who had great powers in his own land, but who has been exiled to a country where he is merely mortal.
And I’d join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I’d break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in
– U2, “Acrobat”