Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
So, lately I've been having troubling dreams. Most of them involve past self-destructive behaviors and a lifestyle that I've chosen to leave behind. Usually, upon awakening and starting my morning routine, I forget about the dreams. Yesterday, however, the dreams triggered specific memories of people, places and things. As I entered into a yoga posture during a yoga class, memories would be especially vivid and disconcerting. Try as I might to focus, to breathe, the images would pop into mind. I wished for them to go away.
I wished for them to go away, but I didn't pray for them to go away, nor did I stop to thank God for being there with me while I was going through it. My workout was mediocre and unsatisfying. Later yesterday afternoon I met with an old friend for coffee, which was nice. He commented about how visibly it was clear that I must be doing better, and that encouraged me to keep in the direction I'm heading.
It could be so easy to fool people. More than once did a former beau tell me that when he met me that I seemed so together, such a prize, only to find out once he became involved with me how insecure and troubled he discovered I was. You see, there were two Kevins. The public one and the private one. The public Kevin-Douglas was a good Quaker, a professional, a good son. The private "KD" was a hot mess. At various times in his life he was a big partier, at other times not. He was insecure emotionally, and had low self-esteem and self-worth, had a horrible body image and had never made peace with the conflicting emotions he had for many years regarding his sexuality growing up, and his sexual expression as an adult. He sought escape wherever he could find it; relationships, partying, religion, politics, activism, food, fun, frolic. He became addicted to "More." When these two Kevins collided, the proverbial merde hit the fan.
All the while God was calling me to faithfulness, to intimate relationship with him. From my early teens till my early 30s I read a lot about Quakerism and the Bible, but I didn't spend much time reading the Bible itself and spending private time in prayer and devotion. I knew about Quakerism, and I was active on committees, but I didn't spend much time cultivating the inward life. I was a novice at prayer and poor at meditation. I ignored the still small Voice within more often than not. I outran my Guide or didn't keep up with it, one. This may surprise some, but it's the truth. I have been unfaithful for most of my life. I have consistently been unyielding.
Of course, this path has only one end: death. And so it came to be that my life began falling apart a few years ago, near the end of my 30s. I escaped from any emotions, especially grief. I let friendships falter and fall away. I battered my body in many ways. I inwardly ran from my relationship though I physically stayed in it. I compromised my convictions. Finances floundered. My spirit sputtered. About a year ago, I saw the writing on the wall, I knew where this was all going, as I had been here once before.
Like King Nebuchadnezzar, I had built up false Gods. I would seek out the wisdom of those who followed God, but would turn around and ignore it. Finally, ultimately, after walking so far out of the Light people began to take notice. All of this hit my family and friends by surprise at first, but that's principally because I had isolated from them. Once I tried to re-insert myself into peoples' lives, it didn't go so well. "And when his family heard it . . . they were saying "He is out of his mind." (Mark 3:21)
I had begun to live like an animal of sorts, only a shell of me existed. My primal instincts were confused. Friends slipped away, family didn't know what to do. It would take a year of intense individual therapy, group therapy, meetings and the involvement of institutions before finally one day I would say "I've had enough, I give up, Lord."
I have said these words more than once mind you. Just a year ago, I was bemoaning how God wasn't fixing me. I wanted Jesus to fix me for my starry crown; fix me Jesus, fix me (as the song goes). The problem was, I wasn't doing anything myself. I wanted to be passive ub the healing process. I wanted to be the puppet and God to be the puppet master. That isn't how God works in my life, I'm learning. I also used to intellectually dissect everything I was told to do. Friends and acquaintances were there for me, offering their experience, strength and hope, but I had to understand everything first, you see. I'm an intellectual. My intellect needs to be satisfied! But as Faustus said to the apostle Paul "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your intellect is driving you out of your mind!" (Acts 26:24). Paul, of course, goes on to respond that he's not out of his mind that he's speaking "true and rational words" (v. 25) Well, I thought I was speaking true and rational words, but unlike Paul, my words were coming from a confused mind. I often parroted what I was told. Unlike Paul, my seemingly rational words weren't coming from a place of experiential understanding. I hadn't put what I had learned to practice. People around me saw through it, but most would continue to support me, especially my family.
Because King Nebuchadnezzar was boastful and proud and turned from that which he knew to be true and right, he went out eating grass like an ox thinking he was an animal. He went nuts. One day, as prophecy foretold, there finally came an end to his insanity. "At that time my sanity returned to me. I was restored to the honor of my kingdom and my splendor returned to me. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever." (Daniel 4:34-35) Though my hunter gatherer brain became so confused and fixated that i behaved more like an ape than a man, priorities askew, it took only one simple decision to begin this process of restoration to sanity. You see, I just gave up. I quit. I surrendered. Chris Tomlin has a great song that speaks to my condition.
The battle rages on
As storm and tempest roar
We cannot win this fight
Inside our rebel hearts
We're laying down our weapons now
We raise our white flag
All to You
All for You
We raise our white flag
The war is over
Love has come
Love has won
Sanity is when God's love has won in our hearts, and we turn to that love and live in that love. We trust that love and operate from that love. That love is a salve, a healing balm for our restoration, for our salvation. It endures as long as that love endures, and that love lasts to the extent that we are faithful and yield to it.
I know experimentally how fragile this sanity is. The apostle Paul admonishes us in 1 Peter 5:8 to have be sober minded and watchful, that the adversary prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour someone. The thing is, that I have friends who are here to help keep me in check, to help me grow into sanity. This is never anything I have to do alone. I have the blessed community that God provides and the people he sends into my life to help guide and support me and to love me until I learn to love myself. If I stay humble and honest, try to keep an open mind and remain willing; if I quit trying to do it all alone, if I quit resisting but instead stand firm in that which is Pure and Eternal, the splendor God intended for me will be given to me, I will not be moved and pushed around. All will be well.