Everything Must Go!

I suck at saying prayers. In nearly every capacity in which it’s possible to suck at saying prayers, I currently do. I stutter over words, I can barely get a thought out and my attention span rivals that of a goldfish. Most days it never even crosses my mind to attempt to say hello to God despite the presence of an app on my phone that pops up periodically and tells me to do just that.  Adding insult to injury, is the fact that it wasn’t always like this…

I grew up in the church. From a young age, my mother cultivated in me a love of language and words. As such, by the time I was in junior high I found myself able to speak insightful, soulful prayers into existence with nary a thought. It never won me any awards, but I felt good about it.

Enter the Great Silence.

I’ve mentioned it repeatedly as it’s the reason this blog exists, but for now, suffice it to say the event effed my $h!+ up. I stand on this side of the vast Godless chasm that had become my life, and things are better… But not a day goes by that I am unaware of the scars that mark my broken soul. Chief among them is my inability to express myself like I used to. The words don’t pour out of me like they once did.

I once heard a story about a guy who needed to rent a moving van, but didn’t have much money. Instead of getting the big mama-jama truck, all he could afford was the glorified station wagon. He realized that in order to make everything fit, he would have to be very strategic. So, he started packing his stuff like it was made out of Tetris blocks. No inch of space went unused. When he finally got the van filled, he dusted his hands, turned around, and realized he still had a yard full of items that still needed packed. No matter what, something was going to get thrown away. His only choice was to empty out the van, prioritize, and try again.

I feel like I’m standing in the yard, sweaty and exhausted. My beliefs, ideals, and relationships are crammed into boxes that are mislabeled and spilling out into the grass. If I’m going to figure out why after all this time, I still feel broken, I think I’m going to have to sift through these boxes and look for answers to the questions I’ve been too scared to ask:

  • Is it possible that I used to be able to write beautiful things about God because I hadn’t had a real “dark night of the soul” experience yet?
  • Is it possible that despite my best intentions, I’m keeping God at arm’s length as a defense mechanism?
  • Am I just doing it wrong? Does God just want me to stand up, close my eyes, and sing like everyone else? Is the whole notion of this blog flawed? Am I wasting my time looking for God in weird places when the vast majority of the church knows exactly how to get a hold of him on Sunday mornings?
  • Is it just a matter of reading my Bible and praying more?
  • Am I actually out of the Great Silence? Have I just been telling myself that things are better because I couldn’t cope with living life the way I was? Is God still unwilling to speak to me?
  • Was God talking and despite my best efforts and intentions, I completely missed it?Am I still missing it?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions yet… But I can’t help but feel finding the answers is the next step to packing up my moving van and going somewhere good.

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5 responses to “Everything Must Go!

  1. Hey Paul, have you read Father Joe by Tony Hendra? Seems like you’d really love it. Also, it’s amazing the kind of scars a dark night of the soul experience can leave. Deep wounds take a long time to heal, and sometimes you just still feel them. Keep going, brother. Don’t let them scare you, or your fear will paralyze you from moving forward and actually acting on your faith…step out! This blog is part of that stepping out btw-you’re doing it!

    • I’ve not read the book, but I’m almost certain I’ve heard Tony speak on “The Moth” (http://themoth.org/) at some point… Or at least a story that strikes me as very similar. I’ll definitely add it to my list. Thanks for the kind words. It means a lot to know I’ve got people rooting for me. 🙂

  2. I know exactly what you’re talking about when you say the “great silence”… you feel like God is sitting up there in Heaven with His mouth shut purposely ignoring you. Right? At least that’s how it felt for me. UNTIL I heard someone say this “God doesn’t move, He’s omnipresent, He’s literally everywhere. When we feel far from Him, it’s because WE moved. Whether it be on purpose or simply by letting the relationship fizzle out, we’re still the one’s who moved.” Let me just say, it made me so angry the first time I heard it, because I was still blaming God for the silence. It took me a while to figure out I had put ear plugs in my heart by neglecting the relationship. And it’s simply that, a relationship. We call Him Father, Savior, Friend… but we treat Him like an angry king. A father is supposed to be someone we can trust to have our back, to be able to shoot a few hoops with and hash out our problems. A Savior is someone who is ALL-forgiving, always there behind you to protect-like a bodyguard. And a friend, we all know best, is someone who we trust with everything, we call up on the phone and talk in strange lingo, there are inside jokes, and laughs that outnumber those jokes. If we understand that this is who God is for us, then it becomes so much easier to pray. We don’t have to start off all “Oh, Heavenly Father, who sits on His throne and sees all my mistakes…” Instead, we can start off like “Hey God… I’m not sure how or why I feel this way.. but I need your help praying today.” Our words in prayer are not what please Him, but our heart in the process. The fact that you’re so keen on hunting Him down pleases Him! The fun thing about hunting is that you’ve got to sit and wait sometimes for what you need to come walking by. He knows you’re there-He’ll meet you right where you are!

    Congratulations on starting this blog up! You’re amazingly brave to share your struggles with the public. It’s encouraging to know someone else has struggles, and that we’re never in this alone. I pray that God surprises you! That His love would become so tangible to you that it becomes more real to you than a friend’s hand on your shoulder.

    Remember, we all go through seasons, and sometimes they’re more silent than others. This season will pass soon, and you’ll hear better than ever!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Ashley, thank you for taking the time to respond. In all honesty, I think I’ve known all of this the whole time… at least cognitively. I’ve heard it said that the eighteen inches between your brain and your heart can take the longest to travel, and I think it just may be true. I find myself wanting to say more, but I think it’s probably better left as my next post. Suffice it to say your comment is very deeply appreciated.

  3. How grateful I am that words, (all be they more raw and more pained than before) are still pouring out of you…I think God LOVES IT that you are wondering what the H*** the silence is all about and how to get back to the place where He felt as close as your next breath. I think the prayers you write in the form of these blog posts are making their way to the throne room just the same as the most eloquently spoken prayers. Just sayin’…

    Sometimes our journey with God resembles the lyrics to a bad country song, “Lookin for love in all the wrong places…” and sometimes it resembles being pushed out of a plane via tandem parachute.The first place is one of major suckage (much as you’ve described your prayer life lately) however the second, although eventually exhilarating is still, for the one without the parachute, an exercise in terror. You know cognitively God’s got the parachute, but while you’re dropping from the sky like a rock, panic still sets in. Why? Because YOU’RE NOT THE ONE IN CONTROL.

    I’ve lately been thinking alot about the scripture that says, “Where can I run from Your presence? Where can I hide? Even if I make my bed in hell, You’re there.” The truth is, even if you WANTED to get away from God…you can’t. I guess you can get to a place where you are no longer AWARE of His presence, but as was mentioned before, HE has gone nowhere.

    One more thing to think about…when you were little, I tried to give you a wide breadth of experiences…in art, music, worship and understanding of who God is. Some of them you appreciated, (sidewalk sunday school) some of them…not so much (uber hype youth rallies) I guess what *I* learned in all that is that God can be found any where in any thing at any time. For ME, worship means I MUST participate. Maybe it means that for you too?

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