Thursday, March 28, 2019

can't



Hi, my name is Deborah Spooner, and I can’t not do this anymore.

I just can’t.

It was January 5th at approximately 11:30 PM. I’d hopped under the gold and burgundy comforter and put my head on the Sam’s Club, t-shirt pillow-cased cushion next to my sister’s. She was there, too, in the upstairs spare bedroom, in the city where we’d struggled to find what it means to be women during our high school years. The walls enclosing us now were not the ones we’d grown up in but those my parents moved into recently, a dim reflection of how this town was our hometown but still just wasn't our home anymore. I felt the well inside my chest. I couldn’t help it, this time. She was still next to me, but I felt like I was far from her, not wanting to disturb her almost-sleep with my cries. So, I slid out of bed and went to the adjacent bathroom.

I knew I needed to cry, so I let myself slide down the wall to sit on the floor as a tear slide down my sleep-deprived cheek. I’d found my bin of stuffed animals earlier that day, and to be embarrassingly honest, I held one, now. Bubbles, the fluffy white bear wearing the teal pajamas covered with rubber ducks and (yes) bubbles. I was, yet again, in pain.

And tired of it. I’d spent too many hours on the floor crying in the last ten months than I’m proud to admit.

This time, I was thinking of how the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas had been much harder than I'd realized. And now I had to go back to the new-home-state, and the thought of getting into my blue grey car and driving down the highways and walking into the grocery stores made me cringe because I felt the pain. I thought of the faces that I’d seen over break and how I’d had to say goodbye. I thought of the doubt I’d had about the choices I made and the rip of leaving those I loved. I sat on the floor, then I looked at my phone. It was 11:30. I had to drive nine hours in the morning. And I thought to myself. I can’t do this, not anymore.

Father, I can’t get myself free of the sadness and pain. I can’t get some of these thoughts off my mind. I want to be free. And I just can’t.

I’d had a conversation, earlier that month. My roommate had been on our deeper-than-jean-denim-blue couch, brown eyes staring into my blue. “And is weakness a bad thing?” I blinked, and hesitated. Weakness disgusted me. I ran from it as hard as possible. Anything but. But I stopped, to actually think deeper. Hesitated. “… no. Maybe weakness doesn’t actually mean… failure.”

I’d been so critical. Deborah, get it together. Deborah, learn how to adjust faster. Deborah, spend more time praying. Deborah, meet goals faster at work. Deborah, you’re disappointing everyone and not being faithful to live as fast and efficiently for God. Deborah, get it together.

Weak. I viewed myself as that. And, it disgusted me. Not even my own Christian living was good enough for me. I didn’t love God enough. Get it together, Deborah. I didn’t stay as faithful to doing the right thing as I should have. Get it together, Deborah. And it was all my fault, all in my power to change. Get it together, Deborah.

I sat, perched on the taller than bar-stool height silver metaled, black cushioned chairs at the island separating our kitchen from the living room. I pulled up my computer and pulled up Facebook messenger video. Soon, the large understanding brown eyes looked back at me. My college mentor and I were finally reconnecting, after months. I told. I told her of the weakness I felt. I told her of the pain of having to realize that I had so much spiritual growing to do, of the frustration with myself at doing the growth so inefficiently. I told her of the disgust, the disgust that I had to go through the process of development and never did it "enough" to satisfy myself. And I should already be past all this anyway, right?

“Deborah, isn’t it beautiful that our wretchedness makes Christ all the more glorious?”

For the past four months, I’d been working on a project with an incredibly gigantic goal. The project’s name literally had Gospel in the name, and it brought me face to faith with the reality that the Gospel is our foundation. It’s where we start and where we end. It’s what carries us through it all.

I was reading another bit for work. And, it talked about the Bible. Bringing me back to my Seminar in Theological Method class and Christian Smith’s work on biblicism, it put it more simply: the Bible isn’t a manual telling us how to live. It’s a beautiful tome showing us who God is. That? Is the core of how we, then, live. We’re wretched and weak, but He is glorious, so glorious.

“Yes, Deborah, I’ve been making it my prayer. Christ, you’re living in me, so please, live out of me.”

Christ in us, the hope of glory. Christ the enabler, empowering us. Christ. I was brushing my teeth later, hit hard. Do I really understand the work of Christ? Have I really let the Gospel transform my life?

I’m a pastor’s kid, working at a highly religious company. I’m a girl who has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical & Theological Studies. I was the champion of my Sunday skills sword drills who’d now given multiple presentations about religion at undergraduate theology conferences. A member of an academic religious honors society, I’ve presented about Koine Greek syntax traced through the epistle of 1 Peter and had collegiate deans and vice presidents come to hear my work. I’m currently reading What is Reformed Theology and The Institutes of Christian Religion just for fun. And now I stood, hair in a messy bun, sweatpants on, with my light-pink toothbrush in hand and weakness in my heart, humbled and being humbled. Do I really believe the Gospel, for me? For my own life?

The hum or the toothbrush contrasted this new hush in my heart. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

Because, I can’t.

I can’t live a Christian life.
I can’t even make it through a half an hour without having a self-referential thought, drenched in my preferences and annoyances, my own critical self-standards of how I don’t measure up to a life reflecting Christ-like character.

Because, I’m just not Christ. That’s why I need him, so deeply. To put on righteousness. To count myself dead to sin and alive to Christ. To count all else as loss except the sake of knowing Christ crucified, and knowing that only through His finished work on the cross can I ever hope to finish any growth inside of me.

Because when I am weak, I have not failed. It is then that I am strong. It’s when my weakness leads me to lay down my striving, my keeping score, my desire to live for Christ good enough that I can realize that He left us on this earth with the very best thing: himself, His Spirit.

I can’t bring transformation.
And who am I kidding. I don’t want that kind of pressure.

This one thing I want, this one thing I want to always want to single-mindedly seek: to each day realize how hidden I am in Christ alone, and how in Christ alone I can lose myself in the best sort of way.

I can’t.
I can’t love people like they deserve.
I can’t be as amazing as a human as my insecurity wants to prove that I am.
I can’t break these bad habits and this sinful desire for more and more and more to fill this void of dissatisfaction.
But I can’t deny that someone died.
Someone died to bring me to the freedom on the flipside of surrender.

Hi, my name is Deborah, and I can’t not do this anymore.

I can’t not realize that my weakness is my greatest strength, because God has used the incredible disruption of my life’s past ten months to disrupt these levels of unknowing selfishness and self-dependence that I revert to in my very worst—He’s used it to bring me to my knees, the very place I need.

I can’t. I can’t not see this anymore even as I fumble to still live it. But oh, how glad I am.

I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.

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I definitely don't want this to be a monologue. What are your thoughts? Questions? Ideas?

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