A Frightening Look Inside My Brain

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Another Year, Another Accounting of Faults

Well, it’s that time of year again. That flipping of the calendar where the joys of Christmas are over, the decorations are put up, and our collective capitalistic mindset views the new year as another opportunity to make positive changes, to learn from the past, and to unleash the “new me” upon the world. Everything is bright and new, and we can take the next 12 months to undergo a metamorphosis into the person that is closer to the emotional, physical, mental and/or spiritual being we desire to be. January is the month that keeps motivational speakers, self-help authors, and gyms funded for the entire rest of the year. It’s just such a glorious, magical time.

Unless it isn’t.

0_ryeqpxbqykms3g3lWhile many people see New Year’s as an opportunity to visualize how this year can be better than the next or to identify chances for personal breakthrough, others (myself included) consistently use it to take an accounting of all their awkwardness and failures of the past year, highlight how many times in their life that they’ve failed at the same exact things, and look on this coming year with dread and with no further expectation than to fail at the same things yet again. How many times have I lost weight and put it back on? How many times have I resolved to be healthier just to simply abandon it at the first opportunity? How many projects have I started that I never finished? (Even this blog…I started with the noble intention of posting regularly. It’s been almost two years since my last entry.) Will this finally be the year that everyone else sees me for the fraud that I clearly see myself to be? Even better, what new idiosyncrasy will I pick up this year that will make me even more loathsome and intolerable to myself and to others? Yep, folks…my brain is a scary place.

Oh, I get it. I realize that I’m the only one able to decorate my own headspace with rainbows and unicorns and puppies and Care Bears and Joel Osteen quips. I am very much aware that I’m responsible for my own state of mind, my own positivity (or negativity), and my own ability to overcome my shortcomings, as well as various other aspects of my life that define me to myself and to others. If I just work hard enough at it, I can change my own self-image and personal outlook for the better. If I just pray hard enough about it, God will fulfill me in these areas where I feel I fall woefully short. I know this to be true because I see countless motivational memes and pep talks on social media, informing me of my own abilities and power within. If it’s on the internet, it has to be true right?

Ed, shown here with a few of his long-standing critics.

Ed, shown here with a few of his long-standing critics.

Except that with me and others who struggle with this scourge, such urgings of positive self-transformation only result in yet more perceived personal failings that were the target of said urgings in the first place. See what happens there? It’s a never-ending cycle of self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy. The very things that we are told we need to do to break the loop are simply more fodder for the continuity of the loop. I’m such a loser that I can’t even accomplish what it takes to mentally overcome the lack of accomplishment!

While I say that with a twinge of hyperbole, the basic concept is true. One of the things that I’ve been convicted about in recent years is being transparent and real when it comes to how I project myself, both in real life and on social media. That’s part of what prompted this entry to begin with. I’m hoping that maybe others might understand this struggle, and maybe we can help each other by being open and realizing that we are not alone. One thing I’ve learned unequivocally…no one can conquer these demons on their own. Trust me, I’ve tried. This type of thing is really hard to admit and be open about, but how will we ever help each other if we continue to hide behind our public persona? In my opinion, social media has done nothing but exacerbate feelings of inadequacy in those who already possessed them, and has caused many others who didn’t to now fall prey to their snare. (Broad statement, I know…but that’s a post for another day.)

It’s here where I feel the need to apologize. In previous items I’ve written, I always have a neat summary at the end and some suggestion on how the subject matter presented might be remedied. But I’ll be honest…I have nothing on this one. This is something I’ve struggled with my entire life, and while some times are better than others, the issue is always there. I wish I could wrap this up in a neat little bow and resolve it. I just have no answer.

If you’ve actually made it to the end of this post, and you struggle with these issues, hopefully it helps knowing you’re not alone. That, in and of itself, usually makes me feel a little better. – B

Initial Observations of a “New Normal”

(Disclaimer: This is the first of what will probably be numerous posts regarding the death of my mom and my subsequent struggle to wrap my head around what my life will be like going forward without her. I’m writing this for my own therapy as much as anything else, but I’m also hoping that my journey might help others that find themselves in this surreal situation.)
(Disclaimer #2: In all likelihood, this series will contain some salty language here and there. If that offends you I’m sorry, but right now my emotions are just raw and sometimes there’s no other way to express what I’m thinking.)

On Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 5:00AM, the reality that I’ve known my entire 46 years of life ceased to be as my mom went to be with her Lord after a courageous fight with cancer. While my family and I were aware all along that this was a possibility, and a certainty as of late, nothing we could have done would have remotely prepared us for the chasm left behind by her loss and the realization of all our fears over the last 24 months.

People ask me how I’m doing. I’m truly at a loss on how to answer that. I struggle to find a simple and concise response, and while I know that most pose that question with the sincerest of motives and deepest of care, they don’t REALLY want me to answer it truthfully. I’m not even sure I could at this point, but even if I did, it would be a long, nonsensical response that confuses the one asking, and would probably just make us all feel awkward. I’m still working my way through understanding “how I’m doing” myself.

My standard answer up to this point has been, “I’m doing okay.” While that may seem like a dismissive and inauthentic response, strangely enough it’s the best summation I can find for how I have felt up to this point. As long as there was decisions to make, sleep to catch up on, a memorial service to plan, medical equipment to return, guests to entertain, and other pragmatic details to take care of, “I’m doing okay” was a relatively true statement. Not great. Not horrible. Just okay. Up to this point, I’ve been running on adrenaline and have been able to successfully cloak my new reality and postpone having to deal with my feelings for the most part.

Fast-forward to today. All the services are over, decisions have been made, all the guests have left, and now I and my family return to our routines and are forced to encounter our “new normal” face-to-face. The time has come when I have to be honest with myself and not dodge my feelings (or so I’m told). So here goes. Here’s a list of what I’m feeling today. Maybe it will change tomorrow, who knows. But for now this is it. In all of its rawness and brutal honesty.


  • My “New Normal” SUCKS. It’s a place where my daily messages to my mom go unreturned. It’s a place where the one person I could ALWAYS go to for encouragement and grace is unreachable. It’s a place where I continually pick up my phone with the intention of texting her something I hear or see that she would find humorous or interesting, and have to face anew the fact that she’s no longer here. EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s a place where everything I see or do reminds me of her, and it’s a place where the memories (even the good ones) hurt like hell. It’s awesome.
  • I am sick to death of crying. I hate crying. It makes me feel weak. It makes others uncomfortable. It seems totally unproductive to me. I have cried more in the last two weeks than I have my entire life. I’m so tired of feeling the sadness come on like a tsunami, unannounced and at totally random times. Just about every single thought of her makes me tear up. I hate it. Please tell me it gets better.
  • I am PISSED at God. Don’t get me wrong…My Faith is unwavering. I have assurance and fully believe that my mom is in the presence of God, completely comforted, completely healed, and completely whole again. I believe with all my heart that we will see each other again, and it will be a sweet reunion. But right now, I’m so mad at God that I can’t see straight. For two years, He allowed us all to agonize over her illness, treatments, and an uncertain future. For the last six months, we watched her waste away as the cancer and chemo ravaged her body. Even after we knew that the end was near, she hung on for 72 hours as we sat by, begging God to take her and watching her slowly die in the hospital bed, unable to communicate and struggling for every breath. She didn’t deserve any of that. I hear talk of theological nuances such as “we live in a fallen world”, “God’s sovereignty”, “eternal healing”, etc. I know all that, and some of it will perhaps give me comfort at some point, but right now it just sounds like a load of crap. While I know where she is and am happy that she’s no longer suffering, I also know that she’s not here with us, and it makes me LIVID. Yes, I’m aware it’s selfish. I don’t care right now.

Well, there it is for now. Hopefully, these posts will begin to take on a less angry tone as I continue to work through all this. The hole in my heart is huge, and the wound is still very fresh. Here’s hoping all the cliches and helpful advice will one day ring true. I sure hope they do. – B

“It Is Finished”

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:28-30 (ESV)

“It is finished.” Three little words structured to make a complete thought. What difference or impact can a simple phrase make? I mean…it’s only three words, right? Each one on it’s own is pretty inconsequential, but when put together and put into the correct context, they can be mind-altering. Live-saving. World-changing. Hope-giving.

In the context of the human condition, there are actually quite a few such phrases that can have significant meaning and impact given the situation and the players involved. I love you. How are you? Please forgive me. Seize the day. Saying “I love you” can take a certain amount of vulnerability and commitment, while asking “please forgive me” requires humility and honesty. These are views into our humanity and the accompanying emotions, trials and interactions.

However, I propose that the most important phrase ever spoken was voiced by our Lord in John 19 as He hung dying on the cross. It is finished. In the Greek, the phrase is τετέλεσται (transliterated “tetelestai” in English). Such a simple sentence…such an elementary communication…yet this phrase, spoken by this particular person, at that particular place, at that particular time, changed the course of the universe.

Many of you know of the personal struggles and darkness I have gone through in the last couple of years. My lifetime demon of self-loathing finally apexed to the point that depression and anxiety set in for good. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail, but I learned through that experience that sometimes you have to go through the valley and face those demons before you can move on and live again. All my life, I had the inner struggle of insufficiency. I was never attractive enough. I was never disciplined enough. I never did what I “should” do, in regards to both life and especially my spirituality. No matter what the arena, I found myself always coming up short and viewing myself as a perpetual failure and disappointment.

However, sometimes all it takes is for God to reinforce a long-held belief in a very new way. That’s where I found myself a year ago. I had read the passage in John 19 literally hundreds of times, and while I had a superficial understanding of what Jesus was saying, I never internalized it and thought about what it meant for ME. Through the teaching and guidance of a good friend and clergyman, I was able to see that very monumental truth. IT. IS. FINISHED. While I’ve struggled all my life to please God and to “do the right things” so that He’ll love me and accept me, I found that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never get there. I’ll never earn His favor. Neither will anyone else. But here’s the newsflash: HE’S ALREADY GIVEN IT.

Jesus, through His words on the cross, has taken the yoke and burden off of us all. The Greek word “tetelestai” was used in other parts of the new testament in the context of financial transactions, and more specifically forgiven debt. Did you hear that? Here it is again: FORGIVEN DEBT. It is absolutely no accident that Jesus used this phrase to set the eternal record straight.

That Greek phrase, “tetelestai”, has become monumental to me. When I feel the darkness creeping back in, I claim that phrase. When I feel like I’m failing at life, I claim that phrase. When I feel like God can’t possibly love me, I claim that phrase. I have internalized it. I have written it on notes and put them on my computer monitor…and two weeks ago, I went and had it tattooed on my forearm.

Why, you ask, would a 45 year-old, middle-aged man get something tattooed on his body? img_0989
Is it a mid-life crisis? Impulsiveness? Rebellion? I am here to answer…none of the above. My reasoning, both highly personal and carefully considered, has more to do with my propensity to forget. My memory fades and Post-It notes get thrown away. In the instances where I fixate on my own shortcomings and unworthiness, it’s easy to flood out any positive thoughts that can bring me out of it. “Tetelestai” is more than a word to me. It’s my ray of light in personal darkness. Those words of Christ are my lifeline. He lived that perfect life that I couldn’t live, He paid the price that I couldn’t pay, and through His dying proclamation, declared it so.  I don’t have to earn God’s favor. In fact, I CAN’T earn God’s favor. But now every time I drive, every time I eat or drink, every time I take Communion…I am reminded anew that IT. IS. FINISHED.

Now I’m not saying that tattooing Greek on your arm is for everyone, but for me it was an act of love, devotion and gratitude. However, while ink may not be for everyone, God’s grace through Jesus Christ IS for everyone. I don’t know about you, but knowing that Jesus has already finished all that I find it impossible to accomplish is pretty darn liberating.

Blessings. – B

 

Confessions of a Self-Loathing Depressive

One of my favorite things to do, even though I haven’t done it in several years, is bowhunt for deer. It’s not necessarily the hunt, nor is it primarily the excitement of success and the resulting venison, although that is a DELICIOUS benefit. Rather, what I love about bowhunting is something much more ethereal and internal.

I’m not going to give a full hunting tutorial here, but I would usually time my hunts to follow nights of little or no moon. If you want to know why, ask a hunter. This philosophy results in me sometimes hiking two miles or more to my hunting spot in an inky blackness that my eyes just don’t fully adjust to. Even after I reach my destination, if I’ve timed it like I prefer, I still have a couple of hours before sunrise. In those times, when I’m sitting in a tree blind or a ground blind waiting for dawn, I have an uneasiness that stems from the unknown. However, even though I can’t physically see, I always know that I know that I KNOW that the sun WILL come up. It does every single day, and there’s comfort in knowing that the pitch blackness is only temporary.

Fast-forward to today, and here I sit reflecting on the last two+ years of my life. I can honestly say that time has been the lowest and darkest in my life; emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. I’m not going to bore you with the sordid details, but let me state conclusively: DEPRESSION IS REAL. It’s not just someone being dramatic or crying for attention (although those are sometimes symptoms). It’s a real, diagnosable disease that will absolutely crush your soul, and it will not go away on its own.

For a little background, I have always had self-image issues. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been comparing myself to others and deeming myself woefully short. I fixate on my flaws and weaknesses, and have gradually throughout my life grown more and more critical and hateful of myself. I have no idea why, but I’ve always been unable to accept any good that anyone says about me or to me and dismiss it as empty courtesy. I can’t see these good traits in myself, so I can’t fathom or accept the fact that others do.

depressionAs I entered my early 40s, all this self-doubt and negative self-dialogue simply took over. The very flaws and weaknesses that I have had my whole life, I still had as a middle-aged man. The fact that I’ve been unable to “fix” these things about myself just cascaded into desperation and an even deeper hatred of myself. I started withdrawing from everyone in my life, including my family, because my demons simply wouldn’t allow me to enjoy anything anymore. Unlike those mornings in my deer blind, I could see no end to the darkness I was in. I had no idea when, or even IF, the sun would come up. I honestly think that one has to experience this themselves to fully understand just how lonely and hopeless that place is. While some roll their eyes at this dramatic description, others know from experience that the drama is very REAL.

Lest I dwell on the negative, I’ll say that today I’m doing better. Therapy, anti-depressants (which I’m now off of, thank God), the support of my family and true friends, and my finding of spiritual fulfillment in my new church home have all worked to get me back off the ledge and have allowed me to venture out some into the light of day. I’ve been able to somewhat objectively examine my life and begin to try to get a healthy perspective again. I’ve still got a long way to go, and I still have days when I retreat back into my shell, but my stay in the shell seems to be shorter these days.

As I’ve thought about this time in my life, I have come up with some observations concerning my thoughts and the reactions of those around me. Let me be clear: I am not, nor do I claim to be, a counselor. I have no idea if my observations are clinically correct or advisable. These are simply my take-away thoughts on what I’ve been going through, and I’m still pondering these as I continue to work through the process.


Here they are:

  1. Depression is a real disease. – It’s not simply moodiness, selfishness nor negativity. It has bonafide physiological causes, and one cannot simply wish themselves out of it.
  2. Keep your opinions and/or cliche adages to yourself. – If someone you love or care about is depressed, no amount of you giving your opinion, telling them to “buck up”, nor homespun lore is going to help. If they could fix it themselves, they would. Trust me.
  3. Take your “tough love” and shove it up your keister. – “Brutal honesty” isn’t even close to helpful. We have quite enough negativity going on inside our heads without your attempted shock treatment.
  4. We do not need others to continually point out our flaws. – I cannot say this enough. People suffering from depression more than likely also suffer from self-loathing, and are keenly aware of their flaws and faults. Actually, they fixate on them. ALL. THE. TIME. So, they don’t need their “friends” continually pointing them out, even in a playful or kidding manner. Just don’t do it. Please.
  5. Spiritual fulfillment is CRUCIAL. – In my experience, I was unable to even begin to improve until I found fulfillment and peace in my worship and relationship with God.
  6. It’s not about you, and it’s not personal. – When someone you care about is depressed, they will probably withdraw from everything and everyone, including you. Don’t get your feelings hurt, don’t assume that you’re the only one they’ve distanced themselves from, and DEAR GOD, DO NOT try to make them feel guilty about “not being a good friend”.
  7. Above all, love. – If you have a loved one that is depressed, they don’t need therapy, advise or “wisdom” from you. They need love. They need kindness. They need understanding. Be sensitive to their situation, and if you can’t offer these things to them, just give them space. To be honest, your absence is better than awkwardness or derision.

sunrise_img_7609So that’s my take on the most recent season of my life. I’m still struggling, but praise God I’m making improvement. I’m learning to discern what (and who) triggers my lows, and I’m determined to surround myself with positive influences. This has been the hardest battle I’ve ever fought, and the battle rages on. Will this be something that I have to proactively stay on top of the rest of my life? Who knows… But I have learned that those who truly love and care for me, and more importantly my God, are rooting for me. I owe it to them, and to myself, to give it my all. And maybe, just maybe, that sun will come up every day after all. – B

Why I’ve Become An Episcopalian

On this coming Sunday, June 14, I will be confirmed into the Episcopal Church, officially leaving my Evangelical upbringing in the past. (#lettheshockwearoff…) While this may seem sudden and impulsive to some, those that truly know me well haven’t been surprised and have been completely supportive of this transition. What I’m going to attempt to do here is articulate why I made the move, and the process that God used in bringing me around to this new, beautiful chapter of my life.

First of all, let me start out by saying that I feel absolutely no ill-will toward my Baptist/Evangelical background. On the contrary, I have encountered some amazing Christian men and women who have played pivotal roles in my life and faith. I was raised by parents who love God and brought me up in His Word and directives. I came to a saving knowledge of God’s grace through Jesus Christ through my upbringing at home and guidance within the church. I will be forever grateful for my time as an Evangelical, and will always feel like I’m still a part of that tradition. It has just played too big of a role in my life to simply abandon it.

However, God has now shown me to a different way, and it couldn’t be more appropriate for me. Don’t get me wrong… when I say “different way”, I’m not talking about salvation through any means other than the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. My traditional Evangelical beliefs and the beliefs of the Anglican Church (under which the Episcopal Church falls) are dead on, and right on point. Rather, this “different way” is a fundamental change in how I interact with God, and more importantly, how He interacts with me. So below, I’ll try to articulate the main reasons that I have come to this decision. This is just a short summary, so I’m not going to get into the theological processes I’ve been working through. Those are for other days and other posts.


Structure & Order

liturgy-3One of the first things that struck me about the Episcopal Church was their use of the liturgy and the lectionary for worship. It’s very structured, very rooted in history, and in it I find great comfort. I love knowing that every other Anglican Church in the world is reading the same scriptures, studying the same topics, celebrating the same liturgical day of the year, and taking communion in the same way every week. In addition to being a great guide for personal devotions, the liturgy creates a strong sense of community, and I find rich fulfillment in knowing that we’re doing all the things, singing all the hymns, and saying all the prayers that have been tried and true by Anglicans for centuries.

I especially like the use of the liturgical calendar. I love that the liturgical seasons, by design, help keep your mind on Christ all year long, not just Christmas and Easter. The entire year is broken down in relation to Christ’s life and earthly ministry, and for someone like me who loves order, it gives deep meaning to every day and every season.

Communion

wine-and-eucharist-e1424019249251Another aspect of the Anglican Church that really resonated with me is the importance that is placed on the Lord’s Supper. Growing up in the Baptist Church, I never really felt comfortable with the way that the Lord’s Supper was essentially treated as an afterthought. It was done once a month at the most, more often once a quarter, done during a service when it wouldn’t interfere with anything else, and just mainly tacked on at the end. I always felt that this was more important to Jesus than how we treated it. He personally and very intimately instituted this sacrament with his disciples. This fact, coupled with the importance placed on it by Paul and the early New Testament church, demands more respect and importance than many Evangelicals place on it. The intimacy and community with which the Episcopal Church approaches communion is much more along my line of thinking in terms of its importance.

Mystery vs. Certainty

pantocratorLet’s be honest… There’s many things about God and about His Word that just don’t make sense. I’m the type of person that generally needs everything to piece together neatly, and fit in a box that I can wrap up with a bow and call it complete. During my younger years, either ego or compulsion (or both) gave me the need to explain everything. Understand everything. Resolve apparent conflicts of theology. This drove me to do some absurd things and believe some nutty twists of theology. I’ve learned that you can take a verse out of context and make it say anything you want, and that is how I reconciled many of these things that I couldn’t understand. However, as I’ve gotten older and more keenly aware of my cerebral limitations, God has convicted me of my pride in these matters. He has taught me that there’s NO ONE that has a monopoly on the truth and NO ONE that has it all figured out. AND THAT’S REALLY VERY OKAY.

I have found that the Episcopal Church generally takes this approach to things, and I relate with it well. They’re okay with disagreement. They’re okay with some things of God being mystery. They’re okay with not having all the answers. It’s okay if we don’t all agree on cherry-picked ideological and political issues. We’re still part of the same family in Christ, and we can still worship together and come together at His table in communion.


Let me be clear: this in no way means that I’m abandoning my Evangelical roots or beliefs. On the contrary, they have made me what I am, and I am forever grateful for the part that tradition has played in my life. This move is just the next step for me in deepening my relationship with God and finding new depths of faith.

In conclusion, I ask for prayers from all you as I continue through this change in my life. I have no desire for any mean-spirited theological debate or judgment in regard to my decision. God’s hand has been on me every step of the way, and has guided me just as clearly as if he was actually whispering in my ear. I have finally found my spiritual home, and while that may be alarming to some, it’s literally given me new life and has elevated my faith to a place it’s never been before.

In Him – B

Beginning My Journey on the Canterbury Trail

After battling depression over the better part of the last two years, I am finally finding myself getting better. I sense hope again, I sense joy again, and most importantly God is more real to me that He has ever been. EVER. At the prompting of a friend, I have been reading “Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail” by Robert Webber. This book so clearly puts into words what my experience has been for the last month or so. While there have been many others who have gone through a similar process, I’m going to try to express my personal journey here. While some of the things that follow may sound very dramatic, I assure you that everything I’m saying here is a true and honest account of what I was and am feeling and experiencing.

I don’t think anyone in my life realized (because I myself didn’t) the extent of the spiritual barrenness that had engulfed me. To be completely honest, I was on the verge of losing my faith altogether. My depression was swallowing me up, I felt like my life was imploding all around me, and God was nowhere to be found. I prayed…BEGGED…Him to show himself to me and to somehow let me know that my existence in this world had meaning and a purpose. Whenever I went to church, I would leave more depressed than I was when I showed up. I had been taught all my life and truly believed that if I would attempt to engage with God, that he would in turn do likewise. Nope. Nothing. I know all the Sunday School answers to this, as do many of you, so I’m not going to waste any time explaining all the hoops that I attempted to jump through to make God notice me again. I became more bitter and more angry each passing day, because I was quickly reaching the logical conclusion that this God I’ve never NOT believed in was in fact a myth. Comfort for the weak. “Morphine for the Masses”, so to speak.

As I thought back on my upbringing and my life in the church, it became very clear to me that God had never felt real to me. I mean really REAL. I knew all the answers I was supposed to know, I trusted Christ, I was involved, I taught others, and I feel like I grew personally in the arena of spiritual knowledge. But God was never really anything but an enigma to me… it wasn’t that I was trying to fully understand God (that is an exercise in futility and frustration)… it was that I had absolutely no concept of how He worked in my life, how He ministered to me daily, or how He used me to minister to others. I also had no concept of true honest worship. NO CLUE. Sure, I had mountaintop experiences as we all do… but genuine, honest, consistent worship was something that never clicked with me.

Then I attended a service at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Waco. On the morning I attended, I left my house having no idea where I would end up. In the account of her own journey in Webber’s book, Anna Masi put it this way:

“The first time I experienced Anglican liturgy, I felt relieved. Just shy of my twentieth birthday, I wandered into an Anglican church down the street from my university as a last-ditch effort to salvage the remains of what little faith I had left.”

That is exactly where I was that morning. I literally told God before I left the house that if He loved me at all… if He cared about my life at all… if He existed at all… that I NEEDED him to guide me to something radically life-changing, or I was done. I meant EVERY WORD of that. I had tried every Evangelical avenue I knew to try… charismatic, traditional, contemporary… small, large… fundamental, moderate… staff leadership, lay leadership. Each and every path I took led to the same dead end of non-experience. God was always distant. No matter how much I prayed or read my bible, no matter how much I involved myself at church, it was still the same. I was convinced that there was something wrong with my faith because I never could seem to sense God’s presence. I never “won souls”. I never ached to have interaction with God, even though I knew I should (or at least was told that I should). I even entertained the possibility that John Calvin was actually right and that I wasn’t one of the elect. That would have explained so much. It all boiled down to the fact that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I trusted, no matter how many times I “gave things over to Him”, God never felt any nearer or any more real. I felt abandoned and alone.

That first Sunday I attended St. Alban’s, I was confused and as lost as Hogan’s goat. I had a tiny understanding from my time attending an Episcopal elementary school growing up in Odessa, TX, but I had forgotten most of what little I knew about the liturgy and how interactive it was. I’ve spent my entire life sitting in church being preached to and being a passive participant. The whole experience was totally mind-blowing and more than a little out of my comfort zone. But as the service went on, I began to realize that it was like God orchestrated that service for ONLY ME. Every single scripture, every prayer, every hymn, the sermon… everything. It’s like God had taken my years’ worth of begging and petitions and responded to them all at once – genuinely, tangibly and intimately. For literally the first time in my life, I felt God reach out to me where I was in all my confusion, doubt and fear, and pour His love on me in a very supernatural way. HE instigated the contact, and I didn’t have to do anything to conjure up that contact. I sat in the pew and wept.

In my subsequent visits and my interaction with the Parish Rector, it continues to almost creep me out (in a good way) how God keeps pouring on His love and healing exactly how and where I need it. I find comfort… true comfort… and rejuvenation in the scriptures and prayer of the liturgy and a renewed sense of Christ’s love for me every time I take Communion. Anyone who knows me personally will not be surprised by the fact that I’ve spent the better part of the last month researching, studying and TRYING to find something wrong with the Episcopalian Church. Every single doubt and reservation I’ve had so far, God has pointed me directly to the truth on each matter and abolished every single misgiving and falsity that I’ve held about other denominations. There are a few things that I’m still working through, and I may not come to full agreement with every element of the official Anglican position, but there’s also A LOT of stuff in the Baptist/Evangelical tradition that I vehemently disagree with as well.

One of the reasons I felt compelled to write this was just to get it in print and make sense of my own thoughts. Another reason is that I wanted to clearly explain and never forget how desperate and close to the edge I was. I know this sounds dramatic, but this experience has literally saved my faith, and in reality has saved my life. While I floundered in my spiritual desert trying to come up with some way to make God work in my life, each day I found fewer reasons to stay alive. Now I have found hope and joy in every aspect of my life as a result. I don’t know whether the depression caused my spiritual crisis, or whether my soul’s dryness caused the depression. My guess is that it was probably some of both. Regardless, God has used this to give me new life and has caused me to love Him and others more deeply than I ever thought imaginable.

As I continue down this “Canterbury Trail”, it’s looking more and more like I’ll be leaving my lifelong association with the Baptist Church and becoming Episcopalian. I know that going to a different church than my family isn’t ideal, but I also know that now I’ve experienced Him in such a tangible way, and this is where I’ve belonged all along. I now realize that the 3 years I spent at St. John’s Episcopal School in Odessa 35 years ago was God preparing me for this time. My perspective on my entire existence is completely different than it was a month ago, and God has forever changed my faith and life through my encounter with Him through the liturgy. As dramatic as that sounds, I totally believe it to be true.

Where this trail will ultimately take me, only God knows for sure. But for the time being, I’ve found a home and a place to serve that has ignited my passion for Jesus. He’s revealed Himself to me in a way I never dreamed, and it sure beats wandering the desert from oasis to oasis just trying to survive.

In Him – B

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