It started or, depending on your view of things, ended Tuesday night. Watching ancient paper documents from long ago employments, along with other things like wood and paper plates, burn in a fire pit in the backyard of my group leader’s house was, for lack of a better word, magical. There’s something intriguing about seeing something decompose right in front of you. You throw a meaningless piece of paper into the fire, waiting for the flame to lick the edges, and soon, it becomes one with the other mass of flammable objects. Your eyes grow big with wonder and amazement (well, at least mine did) as you stare at nature, seeing the paper transform from a crisp, white thing to a mini cauldron of charred blackness, never to revert again to its original state. It was mesmerizing.
Throughout the night of food and fellowship (and revenge via multiple games of Brazilian Uno), I spent a lot of time by the fire and the one word that would not leave my mind was “altar.” It shouldn’t surprise me that, at this time, I still continued to feel God pursuing me, despite me wanting him to stop. His pursuit of me seemed to increase over this month, though I do not know why.
Twelve days ago, in the wee hours of the morning, around 2:35am, something happened. I felt something that I’ve not felt in some time: a prick in my soul that indicated to me that maybe something was wrong with the direction my life’s going, as far as spirituality and purpose are concerned. Call it God touching my heart or conviction, but it felt like someone pinching a sore spot in the middle of my chest. It started with a conversation with my best friend who called to gloat about Taylor Swift’s latest album (she’s convinced she’ll turn me into a Swiftie but that’s never happening). During that conversation, we talked about guys, our parents, and reminisced about our college days. Eventually, the topic turned to Christianity, and Jesus specifically. I asked her how could she still believe in Jesus/God after everything she’s gone through? (Like me, she too has had traumatic and painful experiences in her life.) Her answer surprised me. She said that without God, she would be literally dead and that she would not exist anymore. Also, she explained that one particular experience in her life would not make logical sense if not for spiritual means.
As we talked, I interjected at times with reasons why I felt I couldn’t come back. “I can’t pray,” I told her. “Every time I try, I have a panic attack.” She asked me why would I be afraid of God when he loves me? “Simple,” I responded. “Trying to converse with a divine Being who has the power and ability to snatch the breath out of my body at any given moment is kinda panic-inducing. Just sayin.” She was silent but I could almost hear her eyes rolling in the back of her head as she pondered what I’m sure she thought was a stupid statement. She made me get out of my cozy bed and grab my Bible which was, and still is, on my computer desk. I obliged, not because I saw it as an opportunity to engage God, but merely because she asked and because she is my best friend. Low motivation, but it worked. Every defense I had, she countered with Scripture. I was more than annoyed, but I continued nonetheless. To my surprise, and despite my annoyance, she directed me to various passages of Scripture through what I now know as guidance from Holy Spirit. I know this because there’s no way she would have been able to duplicate that process on her own if I asked her the next morning. There is one passage in particular in Job that stopped me in my tracks and made me so angry I considered ripping my Bible to shreds. I cannot remember the chapter or verses, only my immediate response. I was pissed. I was infuriated, but in my anger, I realized the next morning that I engaged with Scripture, which was her point all along (Mission accomplished, dear friend!).
I’ll be honest, I don’t know what’s going to happen now. I’m still the same analytical, inquisitive person I was before so I doubt I’ll stop being curious and asking questions regarding theology, God, Christianity, etc. The main emotion I felt Tuesday night while staring at the fire was tiredness. I was tired of feeling empty, miserable, and purposeless. I was tired of consciously engaging in suicidal ideation. I was tired of running away from God, especially with the knowledge that He wasn’t going to stop pursuing me just because I wanted Him to. I did end up having a panic attack though in the middle of worship because, as previously stated, He’s a divine being who could snatch the breath out of my body at any given moment. The trigger was either that or the spiritual abuse I’ve dealt with from other Christians throughout my lifetime. Regardless, after I calmed down and went back outside, I said a silent prayer, in the midst of watching the fire wildly dance through the night, that was basically, “Okay, okay. I hear you, God. I wanna stop running. Can we just start over?” To that prayer, I’d like to add, “You keep telling me to trust you but I don’t know how. You say you love me, but I struggle to believe it. Can you be patient with me while I learn to let you love me?”