Crisis of faith

My recent crisis of faith is pretty much averted. I went to church and even enjoyed it. But I will admit to spending our prayer time giving copious amounts of praise that the pastors I don’t enjoy weren’t the ones delivering the message today. Hey, all they told me to do was talk to God — nobody defined what I should have said! 😉

I stayed after for this social thing for new members and folks who lead the various prayer groups. It was awful at first. I mean, everyone’s so nice, and that’s the bad part — I was claustrophobic in our tiny space and wanted to run screaming. But it was good — I’d say it was worth showing up for. The morning/early afternoon gave me some much-needed peace, and it only an hour and a half after leaving there to lose all my patience and then some — a record!

We had an exercise in church today, to turn to the person next to us and declare, “You need me.” And shortly thereafter, we were to turn to them and say, “I need you.”

It was meant to be a powerful moment, and for some it was. I guess I just wish it were one of those weeks where I was sitting with someone good, for it to really mean something. But the guy next to me was asleep for most of the sermon, so I wasn’t feeling his enthusiasm for me. 😉

I think I’m going to try to get into this small-group stuff that they keep beating me over the head with. The pastor’s wife said she was shocked to see me thinking about getting involved. (Heathen child holds her crown.)

I told her that I am overwrought and I’m in no condition to be in a prayer group/bible study/volunteer group when I am probably more in need of help than the people I’m supposed to be helping. I added that I am so accustomed to being a leader in every domain of my life, that I really don’t know how to be a follower in general but in association with a church in particular.

Faith is an area that I am shaky at best, and religion mystifies me to no end, and she suggested that maybe I supplement the group thing by finding a friend with faith and learning how to walk in faith alongside them.

We’ll see. I don’t have time to see my drinking buddies, so making time for friends of faith is going to be a challenge to prioritize. Hanging out with Christian friends who drink, however, would be like two birds with one stone, so let’s multi-task together!

Part of today’s lesson was to be able to accept help when it is offered. I don’t ask for help because it’ll never come, for one. And secondly, I have had too many instances of helping people and then never seeing them again, especially when it was my turn to be in need. So whether or not it’s a pride thing in not accepting help, I don’t know.

The pastor had said that we weren’t meant to walk alone, that we shouldn’t be sitting alone in a hospital waiting room, or reading a coroner’s report by ourselves, or spending the night after a death/divorce/breakup all alone. Ding ding ding — I’ve done all of the above, all by myself … because even though there may have been someone I *could* have called, there was no one I felt I *should* have bothered.

I’ve let my work take over my life. Or maybe it’s an excuse I’ve used to keep people as far away from me as I possibly could. I’ve always been “fine” — but it’s admittedly been precarious at best. I keep to myself because I’ve had too many people exploit my vulnerability to cause me even more pain. And even though I do know some very strong, trustworthy folk, they have their own problems/friends/priorities.

I figure that if I don’t have anything to add to the relationship bank account, I have no business trying to make a withdrawal. And that’s sad because I met someone awesome recently, who can turn out to be a really good friend if only I return a damn call/e-mail once in awhile.

But shit, like I keep trying to tell my mother, I have absolutely nothing left to give. I can’t say no to anyone anymore, even as much as I want to. So I say no to things and people that would make me happy because I cannot jam another thing into my life. And how said is it to take a pass on juggling in some joy but there’s still plenty of time for the things I wish I never had to deal with?

In any event, today’s church fiesta pulled me back an inch or two from the ledge I’ve been about to go over. I don’t know how to take a full step back, not until the pressure eases up at work and home. And that’s the killer — there are no signs of a reprieve anywhere. It’s not a case of “Keep up this pace for the next six weeks or six months and you’ll get a break.” Au contraire.

And that’s why I’m nuts. Give me a goal date that I can take a breath, one that doesn’t entail, “Great, now you get even more pressure!” I am starting to understand the people who have challenged me (and not in a good way) the most — they work in spurts for a reason. The more they achieve, the more is demanded of them. Similarly, the less they achieve, the less they get bothered.

It’s not in my nature to give up on anyone, but when they’ve given up on themselves, I don’t know that I have it in me to rescue them. Not anymore, anyway. And my patience is gone — you can’t expect me to continually regenerate a fresh supply when I’m the only one exerting any effort on the see-saw.

But this brings me back to today’s sermon, that your expectations of people are directly defined by the types you’ve allowed into your life. And some of my key players have been nothing but lead weights, soldered to our ankles with no other purpose than to hold us back and drag us down. Even if that wasn’t their intention, it’s what happened.

So anyway, I am grateful that, of the friends in my (woefully neglected) circle, each one is an upstanding citizen. I don’t define a person’s worth by their faith — I’ve met holy rollers who use Jesus to justify their uselessness, and I know pagans who are the poster children for what an amazing, loving and caring citizen we all should be — but I do seek out those who are people I want to be LIKE and be WITH.

The way I figure, back in the Bible days, everyone was hearing voices and being drawn to make miracles. These days, if you hear a voice and admit to it, you get institutionalized. But even if we don’t hear voices per se, we do have gut instincts. And they can be positive ones that lead to goodness or they can be demonic ones that lead to hellacious results.

I’m exhausted with the latter. I want my affiliates to be the type of person I’m trying to become, because they give me faith that this person can actually exist. But it’s hard right now — I’m not anywhere close to the person I want to be. I think I was getting there, but I’ve been pulled off-course.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been so ambivalent toward the church’s stance on community involvement and neglectful toward the real relationships I did manage to form on my own. How can I be a role model to anyone? How can I expose how screwed-up I’ve become? How can I give up yet another moment for someone else without getting some peace for ME in there somewhere?

But then again, maybe if I’d been involved when all was well (or well enough), then maybe these folks would be there for me now while I’d glady jump off a building if I could find one that was more than three stories tall. …

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