When I cry, I know my heart is in a tender place.
It hasn't felt tender. It's felt dry and hard the last few weeks. A friend asked me on the phone what God was teaching me lately; I said it felt like one of those times when you don't feel like a very good Christian. Overwhelmed and trapped by what is within. Tired.
Devotions help. They're key to feeling alive. Prayer is key, too, to feeling alive. But devotions are hit and miss when you're trying to finish up a memorizing project and you won't let yourself move on until it's over. Sometimes in the morning it's too tiring to review Psalm 119. (So why keep doing it, Schuyler? I don't know. But I want to hold on a little longer.)
Even writing didn't feel particularly life-giving. It's been a pressure cooker of "I'm not making word count. I'm not telling the story I want to tell. It's better, but it's not there yet. I'm making the same mistakes."
Lately, what has felt alive is neither prayer nor devotions, but other people's stories.
As I write this post I am listening to Sleeping at Last's, Saturn, which a friend just told me about last Wednesday. And I am crying again. It's easy not to feel spiritual--to feel like a movie junkie, someone who can't move past the self-indulgence of a good book, who needs to dig down and work harder at getting this spiritual relationship all together. It all started at the end of May when I took a break from work. Binging on stories, on good art, felt like sitting down to a meal after starving--taking in vitamins when your soul was crying out for lack. Peace was there. Joy was there. A sense of fullness of life was there--and how do you reconcile all that when it doesn't have a chapter and verse on it?
A month and a half later reading still felt alive--but devotions really didn't. Coming out of a life season, the only thing I knew for sure I needed was more of Jesus--because there was entirely too much of me. I was driving in a car last Tuesday night when another puzzle piece fell into place. It was probably one of those nights when driving wasn't a good idea, but God takes care of you in those times, and I needed the solitude and the time with Tenth Avenue North. I cried again as the CD wound to its end--I confess, I admit, I look for life outside of you // I repent, coming back, to the only joy that's true. I listened to it twice. It was a heart cry.
Two days later, four of us friends headed down to St. Louis for a writer's conference. I was looking at the session descriptions I had picked when I registered when I decided to switch to a different one. Chaos and Creativity--that felt like a pretty good description of life at the moment--so I walked into the meeting room, found a plug for my laptop, and tumbled into another piece of the journey. The session wasn't about making the most of your writing time, or all the tips to make time management possible while juggling events and expectations. It was about finding God again in the writing--making it a journey of intimacy with him. Over the six hours of class, it felt like another injection of living truth--how to find a sense of closeness to God again.
Prayer was reawakened. Peace was reawakened. Writing without striving and chaos was reawakened. It's only two days later, and I don't want it to be stolen away. But as I sat and listened to Allen Arnold discuss how God wants us to create with him and without chaos, I was able to trace what God had been doing this Spring when it didn't seem like he was. I realized that the Father who loves to guide his children had been guiding me all the way back in May, when it seemed like all I could do was read stories. He was reaching me through that love. And now he is continuing the guiding--all the way to himself.
I have a ways to go. I don't want the seed to be choked out. So pray for me, if you can, that the Lord will grow it until it is strong and sturdy and true.
It began by crying over stories again--and now I can see that even though it did not feel like God was present, he was, even ways that didn't feel ultra-spiritual. It was a drawing, a healing, a pouring in of life, that he is continuing even more specifically with explicitly spiritual things.
I do not know all the ins and outs of it. But when I cry over life--over pain and love and eucatastrophe and my relationship with Jesus--then I am in a living place. And it feels good to be in a living place again.