This afternoon I opened my eyes long enough to discover that I was dead. I am joyless, hopeless, and, it is entirely possible, depressed. I have placed my hope and found my joy in entirely the wrong places. No person has the strength to sustain me.
. . . . .
I won't bore you with the litany of problems that I am either truly or imaginatively weighed down by. But right now, with a double ear infection (Swimmer's Ear) that hurts like the dickens - which, in consequence, has given me four or five consecutive nights with very little sleep due to the pain - I find myself to be someone whom I do not like very much.
Monday, Laura went back to school. Tuesday, Sophie and Anna will be in school (second grade and kindergarten). This week it is just me, the kids, and my Swimmer's Ears. I've had no patience with my children, even though they have no one else to be patient with them.
I've had no desire to do anything, really. I only wish I could wake up from, what has become, a strange distortion of what I thought life was.
Last week, we had our family vacation in Nags Head. The picture was taken Sunday morning before we left. Anna appears wistful in the picture, though it is, perhaps, only my projection onto her.
I wish I could say the beach trip was relaxing and generally incredible, but I'd be lying. The anticipation of the trip was far better than the actual trip. I would take the anticipation over the trip any day. It was the family's Christmas present this year from my parents. Honestly, far more than they could afford, but we appreciate their generosity and have been looking forward to the trip for nine months or more.
I expected a lot from the trip - I anticipated a lot to happen relationally more than anything. I'm close to my family and love spending time with them. But this trip was not a "close" trip, or at least it didn't seem so to me. Time was when we got together we'd stay up late each night playing Trivial Pursuit and talking. This trip saw everyone going to their rooms by roughly 9:30 each night. There was a felt distance among us. And I imagine I am to blame for some of it.
One of the conversations that did not happen, that I desperately needed to happen, was the Catholic conversation. I did not want to spend the entire week talking about Catholicism, by no means. But this is the first time I've been face-to-face with family (an evangelical family) since my conversion to Catholicism. I expected it to come up. It didn't.
My oldest brother, with whom I can usually talk for hours, was oddly distant, at least from me. We never really sat down and talked but maybe once or twice. Awkward.
Several times at mealtimes the old family prejudices were hung out in front of God and everyone - so I'm glad you were not there. I tried to stay quiet, but had to say something once or twice - by the time I spoke, I was angry enough to forestall any true conversation. And so I must apologize to them for my bluntness. But I hate to hear that kind of hatred, however passive, coming from my family, who proclaims Christ. (I am not trying to sound as if I smell of roses - I have my share of prejudgments that I routinely, though quietly, make. Lord, have mercy. And there were others at the table less-inclined to engage in the discussion.)
And so it went. Several hurtful comments were said to or about me, which I'd rather completely forget. Which I'm trying to completely forget.
My laptop was killed, which hasn't angered me nearly as much as I imagined it would (perhaps an indication of my world right now). My oldest daughter and I, by the end of the week, were suffering from Swimmer's Ear. And everything was so quiet. So quiet.
I did read two books my oldest brother brought by Ted Dekker: House, which Dekker co-wrote with Frank Peretti, and The Martyr's Song. The first two-thirds of House was fairly engaging, but right around Chapter 35, it all went to pot as thriller became conversion story. I hate that. There's really nothing worse, in my opinion, than a good yarn of one genre being yanked into a stilted tract - however creative. The Martyr's Song, however, is altogether different because, though fiction, it's a Christian story all along - and it's quite a powerful one at that. It had me crying through most of the hour or so that it took to read. A good, made-up martyr story. And while the fact that the martyr story is fiction only detracts from the total read fractionally. I think my wife felt it detracted more than me, but I found it quite moving.
. . . . .
And so this afternoon, I awoke for a moment, while reading Henri Nouwen, and realized that my joy and my hope have been misplaced. And because of the misplacement, I have become dead. I realized that the beautiful people around me were not made to sustain me. Reality, even a reality of which you are always intellectually aware, can be shockingly harsh.
It's been a rough few months, this waking-up process. I pray, and hope - I must hope in order to come alive again - that it is purposeful. It's as if God has opened up a divine can of Whup-Ass on me - and relationships have shifted. People treat me differently now, there's no denying it. Most, I believe, just feel awkward around me.
I pray someday that they will feel less awkward and more confident in their knowledge of who I am. But it may be a long road. It's worth it, though, for these relationships. I will wait for them gladly. In the meantime, I will begin to hope again.