Yesterday I was going through old pictures… it was time to do that because I’m really trying to weed out stuff we don’t need. I found things that I shouldn’t have kept anyway, but some of them really reminded me of how far God has brought me. In some of them I could visibly see a cloud of depression over my face. (Did not help that all I did was wear black and brown.)
When I was 27 I had this mission to move to San Francisco. I spent the whole year saving up and getting rid of things and plotting what to do when I got there. At the time I was a writer for a newspaper in Ohio and probably thought I’d do something like that in California but I wasn’t going for a job. I just needed something, anything. I really hated my life. I knew God but I was definitely not excited by him or anything that looked Christian. The whole Christian experience seemed really boring to me. I had a religious upbringing but it definitely was not enough. Just knowing about God was not enough. Reading my bible and all that was not enough. I had friends that tried to get me to church but that was never enough.
I blamed most of my problems on broken relationships, but I never stayed still long enough to just be alone and feel what was making me so lonely. But the worse part about it is that the more people I surrounded myself with or the harder I tried at some relationship, the lonelier I felt. In the most crowded rooms, I could hear my heart beating uncomfortably.
Four days before I was supposed to fly out, I had this very intense experience. I was stoned and writing in my journal and I felt this voice break through my head like a piercing arrow. I just knew it was God. It was really strange because if any of you know that haze you can hear just about anything in that space, but not usually a piercing voice that feels like love and sternness all at once. This voice shot through me and hit my heart and I trusted it in a really strange way, although what it was telling me was not exactly what I wanted to hear. He told me not to go to San Francisco, not to go. But to trust him and that there would be something new for me. I went anyway, and it only lasted three weeks–the most miserable three weeks of my life–but the whole time I just felt this bubbling, like something very radical was going to happen to me.
I can’t tell you how depressed I was at that point in my life. Everything was hazy, every day felt like a blue blur and like things just happened to me. I had gotten so fatalistic that all I really liked doing was sleeping. But the next few years were a ride. I knew that I had to find out what Jesus was all about–it was going to be all or nothing–because why waste time just going through the motions?
And I went to live in my mother’s basement. I moved away from all my friends and went to work for a nursing home. Not exactly the most exciting place in the world. But suddenly there came some red and yellow, more than just the repetitious blue. A fresh breeze came into my life–it was this thing I wanted to know more of… this place between me and God.
I had no idea what he had in store for me but my life is so incredibly exotic that when I sit and think about it for any length of time, I am really blown away at the absolute intricacy of how much he knows me and the things I really care about. It was like I felt I had been rescued.
You know when you first get born again and you have all this excitement about him? Or if you haven’t felt it, it’s almost good to turn into a time bomb, to screw up and hit some pit. Oh lord, my rock and my redeemer.
I remembered this book I once saw called “Passion for Jesus” and I was telling Derek today–that’s what it’s all about. I would be nowhere if I didn’t get all excited and passionate about getting closer to Him. Otherwise it would just be a bunch of mindless religion or another path that had no future. I felt like I was stuck in the first 27 years of my life with a little bit of knowledge about God and even a thought to go do something for Him, but never getting really excited that He happened to be standing in my room.
I walked around doing some really weird things after that. I’d read books out loud on a city bench as if God was reading them to me (and scaring a few passersby, I’m sure). I stared hard at trees until I felt God shaking their leaves. I drove one time from Cincinnati to Detroit just listening to one song over and over for five hours because I felt God in it. Literally, my poor tape player. I felt like it was all or nothing.
Some days when I am feeling gloomy I turn my face toward Him and just look at Him. “Whenever we turn to the Lord, the veil is lifted.” That’s literal. You turn to look at Him and there He is, open to you. So I really practice that and make myself listen to the good things He has to say to me. I wait until I hear, “I love you.”
Sometimes we go for days without feeling God in them, or maybe yearn for a touch from Him. I am really learning that it is a matter of turning toward Him and putting aside my own stupid feelings about myself, until I hear the words. The more I do this, the more the passion to be near Him comes in. I just want to get better at that.
A lot of us get “saved” and maybe coast for a lifetime just plugging in here and there, but why coast? You can change all your externals but the tyranny of the familiar will still hunt you down the on the inside. At least that’s what it feels like. It used to drive me nuts when I was around people who talked about nothing but God stuff, like they were crazy or naive, but now I feel like an ironic reversal. It’s like you have this friend with you who goes everywhere with you, who knows your armpits and still wants to hang out with you… now it’s almost choking when I feel that I have to be silent about Him near people. (And, yes, sometimes He is silent.) But there He still is, and you are aware of it.