EIGHT years ago today, at about this time, I was a completely different person – body, heart, and mind. Today, I find myself down, distracted. On what for so many years was set aside as my annual day of mourning (read: excessive wallowing in self-pity) when I grieved the loss of the version of myself that I once was, today is little more than the otherwise usual, altogether typical, dog-eat-dog day at the office. I’m not thinking about the accident – not dwelling as I otherwise would. I’m merely taking in what is and what has been my life. Even still - and much like the Weight Watchers frozen meal that now sits in my stomach like a weight of bricks - so much of it is hard to digest.
I fear that I may be on the verge of losing the one thing I’ve held dear as a result of the accident and so many other obstacles I can’t yet bring myself to write about. I fear that I may be losing my religion, the very faith that sustained me through times of trouble.
Last night, when confronted with this admission on my part, M directed my attention to a passage in an old-time favorite C.S. Lewis novel of mine.
“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so absent a help in our time of trouble?”
The trouble for me is that I’ve not reached out in desperate need in quite some time, it seems. Perhaps, I’ve grown so independent in these past few trials that I’ve ceased to see Him as sufficient. All that was magical and awesome about my faith seems to have faded. For whatever reason – probably a fault that is my own – my joy is gone. I am doubtful for the first time in a very long time.
Almost two years ago, I was hospitalized for a month after a failed attempt to correct my spine surgically. I become isolated and despondent. My Bible was little more than a decoration on the window sill aside my bed. My only prayer was that I wouldn’t wake to face another day of captivity on the unit. And then God bowed to my requests, to show me the error of my heart’s desire. I flat-lined. Having been given too large a dose of methadone, which I’d been overmedicated on for days on account of the pain, on the same day I felt too sick to sustain any interaction, when I’d called everyone I could imagine had the faintest desire to visit that night and asked them to refrain, my heart stopped; I stopped breathing. By what I could only then describe as an act of God’s grace, my sister, who had not received my message and decided to take the two hour-long drive to the hospital with less than half an hour before the end of visiting hours, found me in that state and alerted the nurses' station who sent in a crash team immediately to revive me.
In what I could only describe as the stuff of my darkest and most disturbing nightmares, I was woken to the bright lights blinding my eyes, the white masks, the feeling of needles prodding my arms and legs trying to open up any vein that might be salvaged. I can still recall the cold burning of the narcane that surged through my body as I screamed at the doctors to please stop to no avail, and the hours spent undergoing all sorts of probing tests to see how much damage the overdose had caused. During that entire time of lingering uncertainty, the only thing that seemed certain was that God had made me eat my words and that it was nothing less than a miracle that had allowed me to live to regret them.
For two years, that story was my main defense to anyone who tried to argue with me as to whether or not God, in fact, exists. But now, even that story fails to do more than bring back painful and haunting memories I’d rather leave to the past. I feel so cut off from God. I feel so uncertain, so much like C.S. Lewis describes, only I have no specific cause for grief. Perhaps the problem is that I’m feeling too much. M said that faith and God are not proved by feeling. Yet, I long to feel faith and hope and joy as I used to.
Right now, all I can feel is the brace on my back that digs into my ribs, the pain that runs sharp into my legs and dull into my feet, the minutes that drag on like hours and force me to be here when I’d prefer to be anyplace else. Perhaps it would be better if I didn’t feel at all. Still, I can’t help but let what I feel (or don’t feel, in this case) affect what I know. I can only hope (and I do think there is still some left) that whatever it was that has gone returns. But I can’t help but fear – it is me that has turned away.
When God has been so faithful, how dare I be so faithless? But however doubtful I've become, I still believe, He'll show Himself again somehow -- hopefully by more subtle means this time...