For anyone who doesn't know, I'm a writer and I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) back in November, and it's been giving me an awful lot to think about in terms of both writing and life. I'm just starting to read through this first full draft in preparation for editing, and parts of the writing and editing process have got me thinking a lot about the process of life as well.
Something about foggy mornings filled with gray light always seems to pull me out of myself, in the best way possible. Still not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s the way everything seems to stand still and you’re more cognizant of all the little sights, smells, and sounds around you that might normally get lost in the chaos of a typical American day. Or maybe it’s the atmosphere around you that seems to whisper that it’s finally okay to let all your muscles relax and just breathe and be for once, taking a moment to slow down in our world that’s normally always running at a million miles an hour. Whatever it is, these slow, tranquil mornings always seem to return a little more of the perspective I’ve been missing throughout the rest of the week. And maybe we all need a little more of that. Regardless of what season of life we might find ourselves in, there always seems to be this nagging sensation that you should be doing more, accomplishing more, or otherwise never stopping. We might allow ourselves to take a single day, or maybe even just a single part of a day to take a breather and reflect, but more often than not we still feel guilty about that rest we so desperately need. It’s the curse of productivity baked into the fabric of American culture, or so it seems. We feel like we need to be constantly on the go otherwise everything else that’s going by at breakneck speeds will pass us by. But that might be where our ever looming sense of dissatisfaction comes from, or at least that’s what I’m starting to discover about myself.
Every time we ramp up the speed on the treadmill of life, it’s so easy for us to think we’re still not getting enough done or that we’re still just barely keeping up with everyone around us, when we’re already running ourselves ragged. We set all these goals and milestones for ourselves (that may or may not be realistic), and we start to feel all sorts of angst when things don’t play out exactly the way we want them to, whether that’s not graduating from school when we thought we would, not having the job you want right after graduation, not paying off your student loans as fast as you thought, or whatever else it might be. With a myriad of expectations we set for ourselves (or that are sometimes set for us), it’s easy to lock ourselves in a mindset that only welcomes disappointment and pushes us to move faster and faster to get to where we want to be.
But these slow mornings have been reminding me that with slowing down comes more perspective, letting us look backwards instead of just forwards. And when we start to take the time to look back a little more, we’re able to see all the things we have to be thankful for and all the things we’ve already accomplished and already done instead of just the things that we’re striving for in the future, which is a powerful reminder that not all is grim just because we’re not right where we want to be in the present. And if those moments of stillness are hard to come by, start creating them for yourself. They don’t have to exist only on the weekends or during long periods of rest. There are spaces to create that stillness for yourself even during the storm of the week. We just have to look out for them and be more intentional.
Sometimes you just reach a breaking point. It’s not that you don’t care anymore or even that it’s not important anymore, but sometimes you just grow weary of the constant tension, the constant sensation of being “always on.” Because why wouldn’t that be exhausting? That’s sort of how I feel right now when it comes to Christian LGBTQ things and LGBTQ things in general, the dialogues, the conversations, the controversies, the debates, the activism, all of it. I feel burned out if I’m being completely honest.
And it’s gotten pretty darn close to the point of cynicism when it comes to these things now. Maybe it’s because I’ve already had 4 years to think about and process all my own thoughts and conflicts. Maybe it’s because I’m already out to my friends, family, and whoever else might care to know. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had to deal with many of the harsher realities of what this life and what this identity means for some people recently. Maybe, like Taylor Swift, it’s been a case of overexposure over the course of the last few years, with all the writing, rambling, and rallying I’ve been a part of.
I feel burned out if I'm being completely honest.
But maybe it’s also just a natural part of the ups and downs and cyclical nature of life itself. Maybe feelings and sensations like this come and go in waves. Maybe in a few weeks, months, or a year I’ll be back on the activism train and maybe even working in a position that would require that. That seems logical to me. It’s burned into my heart and soul after all, and there’s no running away from this existence, from this life that I’ve been living and will continue to live until the Lord decides my time is up.
For now though, I just want to live. And maybe this is a pipe dream or a symptom of some sort of privilege I didn’t quite realize I had, but I just want to be able to live my life without having to continually defend my own existence, my own convictions, my own identity, my own choices. I just want to be able to live my life without endlessly needing to explain why I think a certain way or why I’ve reconciled my identity with my faith and the rest of my life. That’s all really. I just want to live. I just want to be, and I long for the day when people can look at me, another anomaly among many (read: LGBTQ Christians), and others like me and just accept it at face value, without needing a long, drawn-out explanation or a theological argument to satisfy their own inner nagging curiosities or bouncer-to-the-Kingdom mentality.
I just want to be able to live my life without having to continually defend my own existence.
I just want to live, to wake up in the morning and go to work, to go to dinner with my friends every once in a while, to love the people I love, to hold someone’s hand, to talk about the future, and to be able to go to bed at night not feeling like I stick out in the church pews with a neon sign above my head just by virtue of being here on this earth.
And maybe one of the ways to fulfill that longing to just be, to just live is take a step back and do it. Obviously, this is always going to be something kindling in the depths of my heart and spirit, but I think I’m also willing to go with the ebb and flow.
So, who knows? Maybe now that I’m starting to get settled at work and having a functional computer again (long, strange story…haha) I’ll be back to writing here semi-frequently, but maybe I’ll also just lie low for a while to try this whole “just being” and “just living” thing. I have no idea. That’s where I’m at, and I’m going with the flow.
At any given point in life, there's bound to be quite a bit going on (or maybe that's just my life, but I have a sneaking suspicion that's not the case). And I suppose "quite a bit going on" can be taken to mean a myriad of things, but rightfully so. It could be difficult things. It could be wonderful things you've been waiting for. Or it could just be things in general that aren't necessarily good or bad, just things that happen that add another dimension to your daily existence, for better or worse. Honestly, I was almost hoping that my life would go the route of becoming one of those boring adult lives where nothing really happens over the course of several months and you just go to work, go home, occasionally see friends, and everything remains stable for the foreseeable future. But that hasn't really happened yet. For the time being, it seems like there's still a number of random events and "life things" cropping up at every twist and turn, and that's been a struggle as of late. At the same time, something I've been seeing is that with so many new things around every corner, old songs have started taking on new meanings for me.
For the majority of our lives, I think we have most things nicely planned out for us, with a set structure that allows us to know what to expect from life for the most part. Up until the moment we graduate from college (or perhaps high school for some), we have a plan we can fall back on it, because life tends to follow a linear pattern. But after that, I think many of us are taken off guard by the fact that a lot of that structure evaporates once we enter what so many millennials affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) call "the real world."
At that point, things become a lot less certain, because the more or less straight line that's been painted on the ground for us to follow usually ends there. We emerge in this big world without a clear sense of what to do, or at least I feel like I did, and we're forced to rely on God more than we perhaps ever needed to before arriving at that place.
Because of that new reliance, I've found that the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) has really begun to hit a lot closer to home. Maybe it's just because we don't necessarily take worship songs for what they mean a lot of the time, but I feel like I didn't quite understand what the song was really saying until just recently in my life. And it's saying a lot of scary things that are hard to actually mean when you sing the song I think.
If you think about it, what does it really mean to say, "Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you might call me?"
That's a crazy thing to say, especially when so many of us, and especially myself, like to have that clear cut certainty about where our lives our going and what our next step is. And perhaps this is even scarier and more powerful when God has already revealed to us what that next step is supposed to be or where our lives are going, but the seeming reality of the world and our life circumstances makes that seem so daunting or unrealistic. It's easy to sing that line, but it's a lot harder to take a hard look at life when our trust in God is reaching our borders and say "Okay, God, I'm here at the edge of my comfort zone. I don't know where I'm going or how You're going to make this work, but I trust you to let me walk upon the water to where you're calling me."
That's crazy. That's scary. That's not easy, especially when we hit harder points and start to sink into the water a little. Suddenly, it's not just a line in a song anymore; it's real life and we have to really mean what we're saying, which is something I think a lot of us aren't prepared for, to really ask God for that faith. At least, I know that I wasn't prepared for it when I reached this point of life, and maybe that's why this song suddenly seems so real.
Some Saturday reflections for you...
Here's a piece I wrote back in the spring about some good changes and things I see happening back at my alma mater (that sounds weird to say...). Bethel is one of my favorite places, and I'm thankful for the ways God is moving there, especially in the sense that LGBTQ students are starting to feel safer and that the atmosphere is shifting for the better. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.