In one of my favorite books, there’s a character who takes on a role he calls “The Speaker For the Dead”. He travels the galaxy and speaks at funerals. His job is to tell the story of a person’s life. He doesn’t get sentimental. He simply states what they did during the course of their life, and the effect they had on those around them. He tells the truth, even when it’s ugly. The irony, is that by exposing the ugly truth, he creates a beautiful picture of the person’s struggles and humanity.
This past weekend I had the privilege of assisting my friend David with a video project he is doing. He asked me to talk about the Great Silence and how it came to be. I’ve told the story a few times recently, and didn’t think it would affect me… But as I spoke, I felt a lump growing in my throat. Hot stinging tears began to roll down my cheeks as I recounted the tale of my last communion.
I guess it makes sense that it’s been on my mind heavily this week. After my last post , I was left with a series of nagging questions… And today I think I began to find answers.
I can’t promise what follows is going to be good writing, or even a good post… but I think it might be the most real I’ve been with myself in a while. I’m thinking of it as a “Speaking” of the past five years… No hyperbole… No criticism. Just the facts, and the story. I’m publishing it here in the hopes that maybe it will help other pilgrims who are desperate to find their way out of the silence.
Five years ago I lost God because I fell in love with knowing about God rather than knowing God. I fooled myself into believing my motives were pure. The difference between knowing God and knowing about him is like an elephant dressed in camouflage… Subtle, but enormous. My focus stopped being on knowing God for the sake of understanding him and his ways, but rather on knowing more about him than anyone else. I wanted to be an expert. I wanted kudos and accolade. I wanted my (e)props, dammit. More than I wanted God.
So, God stopped blessing my efforts. All of them. Everything I did was in vain, and I think, that was by his design. No one wants to be used or exploited… and that’s true of God as well. I wanted to use our relationship for profit. When things went south, immediately I played the victim card. I blamed God. I blamed college. I blamed everything but myself, because surely I wasn’t to blame. “I tried!” I was fond of saying woefully. Looking back, I realize how laughable the subtext was… “I tried, and God owes me!”
God offers no lifetime achievement award. There are no prizes. Faith is not a contest. And yet, I was attempting to run from epiphany to epiphany as if I would get a medal if I were the first one there. What if the whole point of the Great Silence was to teach me to enjoy the trip from A to B and rest in the knowledge that God is at point A and point B? And C. And D. And every point before, after, and in between.
What if the point of this silence hasn’t been to teach me something, but to wait for me to get it? God is not a means to an end. He is the end. And the path. And the journey. I traded in a relationship for a flawed formula… “If I put forth effort, then God will reward me.” While that may occasionally be true, it misses the point and his intent at wanting to know us.
And now… the really ugly truth…
To some degree, I’ve known all of this the whole damn time. Not the details… That… That just came to me… But some part of me knew that this had to be on my shoulders… I couldn’t let myself totally believe God had turned his back without setting everything I ever believed on its ear. It was easier to play the victim and act like a spoiled little kid who didn’t get his way so he didn’t want to play anymore.
I. Am. Broken. Maybe more than I had really thought. I guess… The only thing left is is to state the things I’ve learned.
1. Relationship with God is not a means to an end; it is the end. I will deliberately attempt to cultivate a genuine love of God for who he is, not what he could do.
2. Learning has its place. Right now my attention needs to be on restoring the relational aspects of my faith.
3. I will try to share things worth sharing with my readers. I will not pose as an expert or a hero. I am, and always will be just a guy looking for God.
4. I will separate my pride and self-worth from my spiritual life. My relationship with God is valid even when it’s not being “productive”.