Wasted Time, dark clouds and depair

05Apr09

Wasted time by the Eagles is the song that comes closest to what expresses how I feel lately.  At least this is the song that has been running through my head the most.

Now, a qualifier to this is that the song is about the loss of love at a point in time where the subject did not expect such a loss.  Because of the unexpected loss of a love relationship, the subject in this great ballad wonders if the time spent with said lover has been wasted time.

Strike the romantic parts and that describes how I feel about my 30+ years in Christianity. 

But there’s a deeper dimension to my sense of loss.  All my life I have struggled with a great emptiness.  It is a void – – a shadowy sense of aloneness and isolation from others in this world. 

It’s not just a tragic, ironic void that exists despite otherwise fulfilling circumstances.  It’s a void in the midst of broken dreams, non-existent relationships and a career so full of false starts and mis-steps that I cannot tell if the darkness is inside me, outside of me or both.

Lately, this “void” has been more like a lesion in my inmost being that has grown wider and wider over the years.   The promises of my former faith did not fill that void.   There’s been nothing to heal the lesion of darkness and despair.  I have grown to dread and despise the superficiality with which I relate to all people and they to me.   All this pain for so many years.  And who knows me?  At this present hour, there is no end in sight. 

I still have not told my family about my loss of faith.  They do not know that I am no longer a Christian. 

Still more disturbing is the fact that I love my wife so much and I love my son deeply.  But they don’t know that this cloud within me is so deep and so dark and so persistent from my earliest days, that even my relationship with them, as loving as it is, cannot take it away.  I don’t know if they would ever understand that, though they would want my void to go away, it is not their responsibility or their ability to heal me.

So here I am, with my head in my hand.  I am at my wits end.  I realized months ago that there is no god in the heavens hearing my prayers and sending wisdom or healing my way. 

When I think of the future, I feel like someone has placed a black plastic trash bag over my head and is wrapping a chord around my neck.  Or maybe a better description is being trapped at the bottom of a deep well at midnight on a dark stormy night with only the wind to receive my cries for relief. There’s just no relief in sight.

I don’t know how to conclude this post except to say that my need to express myself is so great that I just had to write these thoughts down.  There is really nobody in my life I feel safe telling these things to. 

Have my years in that religion been of any benefit to me or anyone else?  Have I developed no resources in my life to combat this loneliness?  Or, has it al just been wasted time?

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6 Responses to “Wasted Time, dark clouds and depair”

  1. First of all, I hope things get better and you begin feeling peace and fulfillment again. It will come.

    Forgive me if I’m speaking presumptiously, but I cannot imagine that the time and energy you’ve put into Christianity has been completely wasted. Perhaps in your current transition of letting go of the ‘divinity’ of the Christian belief, you are neglecting to see how its wonderful, humanistic wisdom may have shaped your life. Thomas Jefferson gave little credence into the miracles of Jesus, yet he was profoundly moved by Jesus’ teachings. We can never know fully the influence we have upon others. Sometimes the most seemingly insignificant moments can set wonderful things in motion within another’s heart. I really like Bishop Spong’s views of channeling ‘God energy’ flowing from life to life. Perhaps may be some subtle divinity in that nexus.

    May I ask: When you give up on the Christian religion, do you feel that there is no divinity at all flowing in the universe, be it a principle of growth, life, love, redemption? Is there no heavenly harmony (within or without) to aspire to attune with? (Sorry if my punctuation is off).

    I’m sorry about you feeling of a void. I think it is something all people experience, and the deeper the soul usually the deeper the void. Streaks of depression have run through both sides of my family, and though I wouldn’t say that I suffer from depression, I have moments of extreme emptiness. One of my best friends has struggled with severe depression for all of his life. He has just about everything going for him in his life – he’s extremely handsome, has a great job, talented, athletic, smart, etc. – but he goes through moments of such despair. I always try to help him with his perspective but he claims it is something he can’t simply think himself out of. It comes and goes.

    I can see from your blog that you are intelligent and talented at writing. I think expressing yourself here is a good way of dealing with your void. Have you ever tried writing fiction?

    I really don’t know what to say about telling your family about your de-conversion. Or about your loathing of the superficialities of most interpersonal communication. Again, I think it’s the agony of being a deep soul. Even though I have a very abstract sense of Christianity, I still feel that I can fit within my fundamentalest Christian friend’s church when I go. I disagree with very much of their interpretation and direction, but I try to appreciate it for what it is; it is a community and a circle of energy. I usually keep my mouth shut when they go into silly-land (as I see it) however. It doesn’t fill my deep spiritual yearning. I (perhaps condescendingly) see it as cute when they go all two-dimentional and superficial. But it is never completly wasteful. Sometimes I hope my presence can be beneficial to them; and other times I find unexpected and rich wisdom from their views (even though I disagree with the general narrative). Everybody has their own cache of hidden virtue and experience. One step to tapping into that and benefitting from it is to look for it in others…I’m not sure if I expressed that well.

    Your old beliefs have been discarded. You are in a new landscape, with new air and sky. Have you sworn off prayer altogether? Perhaps, without all the old baggage and struggles, a brief, naive prayer may yield some hidden life.

    • 2 2serious

      May I ask: When you give up on the Christian religion, do you feel that there is no divinity at all flowing in the universe, be it a principle of growth, life, love, redemption? Is there no heavenly harmony (within or without) to aspire to attune with? (Sorry if my punctuation is off).

      Or course you may ask! But my answer would be dependent upon what you mean by divinity. If by divinity you mean the attributes that closed your question (growth, life, love redemption) then I would say that, yes, these are attributes that I embrace together as a call to be a better person. These ideas are not exclusive to Christianity. Christianity has language and symbols to express the desire of some to embrace these ideals, but the ideals are by no means limited to and exclusive territory of Christianity. Perhaps the only way I can define divinity is the best qualities available in all humans.

      To the second question regarding, “heavenly harmony,” I must respond with a question. By “heavenly harmony” are you using a metaphor to describe divinity? If so, then the answer is , ‘Yes.’ If not, then I need to know what you mean when you say “heavenly harmony.”

      Have you ever tried writing fiction?

      Not really. I don’t seem to have the ability to extend my imagination into the development of coherent plots or engaging characters. Although, I would love to be able to write such stories.

      Have you sworn off prayer altogether?

      Not consciously or entirely. I still sometimes say, “Ok God, if you really are there, I’m still open to hearing from you.” and such. That’s about the extent of it. When the aim of prayer for the last few months of my Christian belief were, “God, I need to know you are there. Just show yourself to me in some way,” then it is kind of hard to maintain that prayer life once you’ve decided that God is not there.

      Thanks for your kind and thoughtful response. I know it took time to compose such a long reply. I appreciate your being willing to spend so much time on writing to lil’ ol’ me.

  2. By “heavenly harmony” are you using a metaphor to describe divinity? If so, then the answer is , ‘Yes.’ If not, then I need to know what you mean when you say “heavenly harmony.”

    By “heavenly harmony” I had in mind a type of properness of things. I suppose in a theistic sense, this could mean living wholly as we were created. In an atheistic sense, I suppose this may mean some sense of being inspired by the principles of growth, love, and the balance which governs the heavenly bodies. This still may be vague. I believe strongly in an eternal, wonderful truth pervading and transcending this universe. I believe this truth fosters growth and wholeness. I believe all the physical laws we seek to understand through science abide by this truth. This is what I’m trying to get at. I think life can connect with this truth. In fact, I think life and inspiration arise from this truth.

    I still sometimes say, “Ok God, if you really are there, I’m still open to hearing from you.” and such. That’s about the extent of it. When the aim of prayer for the last few months of my Christian belief were, “God, I need to know you are there. Just show yourself to me in some way,” then it is kind of hard to maintain that prayer life once you’ve decided that God is not there.

    I certainly don’t know the workings of higher grace, but if I may, I would suggest letting go of this struggle for unequivocal proof of God’s existence. I honestly don’t think anybody on earth has that. Instead I would encourage the direction of “I am still open to hearing from you” followed by a softening of the heart and a naive yearning.

    If I may indulge my views a bit, I may actually be much in line with Dr. Philip in that none of us are entitled to anything from God. Everything is by His grace to give. Fortunately I think God (our father) is absolutely willing to bestow ‘life abundant’ upon us. I don’t know how it works. On one hand, we’ve got the unjust judge yielding to the persistent pleas of the widow. On the other hand, we have Jesus telling us not to heap up wordy prayers.

    In my case and from my own experience, I think a broken spirit is ripe for channeling grace and transformation. I think, after all the wailing, grievances, senses of entitlement are spent from us, our spirits are utterly empty and poor. I think then there is something wonderful about embracing this ‘broken nature’ about ourselves. I’d almost use the image of being refined by fire. I think in our brokenness – from within the well and under the wind -we again become the vulnerable, unassuming child who simply wishes again to fall into our true father, ‘God’.

    • 4 2serious

      I would suggest letting go of this struggle for unequivocal proof of God’s existence.

      unequivocal – admitting of no doubt or misunderstanding; having only one meaning or interpretation and leading to only one conclusion; “unequivocal evidence”;

      Jerry,

      I don’t think I’ve ever asked for unequivocal proof. It just has to be convincing to me either objectively or subjectively. My beliefs could always be subject to doubt and rational explanation , much like Scrooge’s accounting for the presence of the ghost of Christmas past as being caused by undigested food.

      Something makes faith convincing enough for believers. Unless, of course, they are simply believing blindly out of habit or hypnotism. I don’t think it is inconceivable that God would know how to present himself in that way.

      I have simply asked God to show himself to a hurting, lonely and perplexed me in a way that I can understand and appreciate. If God is love and if the promises of God in the Scripture have any meaning at all and if God actually does things and is not some hyper-transcendant , uninvovled entity, how is this an unreasonable request?

      none of us are entitled to anything from God.

      I think, after all the wailing, grievances,
      senses of entitlement are spent from us, our spirits are utterly empty and poor.

      The concept “sense of entitlement” cropped up here. How is this not a restatement of the popular attitude that says “if it God didn’t answer you prayers, then there’s something wrong with your expectations/interpretation of scripture/position you were in when you asked/favorite NFL team . . .” You can impose any number of conditions upon this. The fact is, the Bible does make promises about prayer. In some circles it is considered a good thing to desire the presence of God in your life. When I asked patiently and over a long period of time for some manifestation of God’s presence, I got nothing. A conclusion is waiting to be drawn here. Something that many people are reticent to do.

      I eventually drew a conclusion based on this fact and the other realties I described elsewhere.

      Ultimately, you are right. God, by definition, does not have to do a thing. In this case, he certainly did not. From this point in my experience, how then am I supposed to draw the conclusion that god is “absolutely willing to bestow ‘life abundant’ upon us? ”

      It is the choice of many to roll about, relishing in the dialectic of contradictions shouting ‘Hallelujah.’ However, I’m afraid that this falls flat with me, like a basketball that has lost its air.

  3. Hi,

    In speaking about entitlement, I didn’t mean to suggest that you were doing something wrong in your entreaties. I’m sorry if my wording took that tone. I absolutely understand the desire for God (almighty loving God) to come into our lives.

    I hope I don’t come across as one who is convinced of God, and who is just trying to make you ‘get it’. I certainly don’t get it. I respect your spiritual journey and the knowledge and experiences it has yielded.

    As you say you feel you got nothing and I’ll take your word for it. I get the impression you wish you never bought into the Christian belief. Or at least you are seriously ruminating whether it was a waste of time or not.

    In trying to square my personal beliefs with your experiences I find myself deferring to mystery. Sometimes people are filled with a sense of inspiration; sometimes they’re not. Perhaps it’s a complex delusion; perhaps it’s something more. I find myself deeply stirred by the revelations of Mother Teresa’s crisis of faith. She is someone whose works, devotion, and depths I could never aspire to. Her words haunt me: “If I ever become a Saint —— I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven —— to [light] the light of those in darkness on earth”. Are there some selected souls God allows to walk in darkness? What if it were not a punishment but a sacred journey into the depths of sorrow? For those who glow with the tone of true despair are sometimes the most beautiful.

    On this Good Friday I hope to meditate on Jesus haunting words: “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?”

    • 6 2serious

      Jerry,

      You came across just fine in your comments. I am always glad to hear from you and dialogue with you. I had no negative opinions about your attitude toward me or faith.

      When you say “As you say you feel you got nothing. . .” I want to be clear that it was my prayers for a sense of God’s presence that I was referring to. The 30 years in Christianity? Well that’s complicated. Of course I had postive things happen during that time. I’m sure I learned some things that made me a better person. At times I do wish I had never become a Christian. At times I do feel like it was wasted time. I cannot change the past, and it does no good to wonder what it may have been like had it been different. I can only resolve to seek out the postive in it and allow the mourning process to continue to completion in me.

      The Mother Teresa article was fascinating, although I get the feeling it was part of some marketing campaign in the process of getting a sainthood for her.

      In my opinion, this notion that her dakness, pain and emptiness was some sort of gift from God is bizarre at best and insane at its worst. That’s a blunt statement, I know. I mean no disrespect toward you or anyone who holds to a “character building” view of suffering.

      If I held in my hands a pill that could cure depression and if my son were going through the same despair that I have known, I would not hold back the pill from him in order for him to participate in my suffering so that he could know me better. As a father I believe that a parent should strive to help a child build character. But to endure despair, darkness and emptiness for decades? No! I would make that pill available to my son at the soonest possible moment.

      The psychoanalytic explanation for Mother Teresa’s darkness may have some merit, but a better explanation may be that she was just too good at what she did and too deeply bound to her religion. She spent her years working with people in the most forsaken living conditions: disease, starvation and deprivation. Such immersion in the most dreaded of human conditions has to be psychologically traumatic. Such suffering is, in fact, a profound objection many have to the very existance of God. Yet her ministry, due to her personal talent, gained greater success and recognition. A person less vested in a religious endeavor might conclude, “there is no God because, if so, why all this death and suffering?” However, because of being tightly bound to her religion, it may be that M. Teresa could not bring herself to that conclusion. Thus, she carried around with her a schism – the empty place in the heart where the unbridged valley between premise and conclusion, conflict and resolution abides.

      Religion, after all, has a way of keeping people from drawing conclusions that they would otherwise reach if the issue weren’t religious in nature.

      “For those who glow with the tone of true despair are sometimes the most beautiful. ” While I believe there are very many beautiful souls who are engulfed by the clouds of despair, I don’t think of their journey as sacred. I don’t think society in general sees any but the most talented and physically attractive of these people as beautiful. I think think the more average, less accomplished of these beautiful souls are forgotten, overlooked and counted out because the majority cannot see their glow. Nobody wants to be around people who are sad or depressed, unless those people have something they want – like musical talent, money or the ability to bestow status upon them. I think it is only just to remember the outsiders as well as the “insiders” amongst the depressed or sorrowful before drawing such conclusions.

      “Are there some selected souls God allows to walk in darkness? What if it were not a punishment but a sacred journey into the depths of sorrow?” Suffering is not always a punishment. Sometimes it is an empty tragedy, devoid of intention. Sometimes it is an accident. But if such suffering is intentionally brought about, or intentionally not prevented by someone with the ability to prevent it, what does this say about the one who intended it or intentionally allowed it? This is where the mind resists drawing conclusions. Because , again, we are getting into an area where we imply that God brings about intentional suffering in order to develop character.

      This may not be all that objectionable to some, but what if I took that approach with my son? What would the goverment do to a father who took this approach with their 6, 10 or 16 year old son?

      None of this is to say that people who have suffered cannot come out of it as more beautiful souls or with a character and talent beyond compare. It’s the agency of the suffering that raises the questions.

      Anyway, please do not construe my negative response here as a rejection of you or disrespect toward your spirituality. I totally admire you for your openness to the spiritual. I think too few people seek a deeper life where there is a connection with someone or some reality bigger than themselve.

      Keep up the journey!


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