Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cleaning out the Junk Drawer

I imagine I could talk about "Rockstar:INXS" and who I think are consistently the best performers (J.D. and Jordis). Or I could discuss upcoming and recent movies, or what I'm reading, or other such pop culture items. On other days, I would.


There's too much of that in my mind these days. Too much noise. Not that I'm going to turn into an ascetic or somesuch nonsense. But my mind's feeling like a poorly-tended-to "junk drawer." You know what I mean--that drawer or cabinet or storage box where you toss things that aren't easily categorized and put away. Batteries and small screwdrivers and grocery adverts and coupons and address books and buttons and loose change. You have to be vigilant with such a drawer, because after a while it becomes so full that things are falling out of the back and you can never find what you're looking for.

My head these days feels this way.

...I'm dreaming a lot. A lot. I never noticed this as much as I have lately. Normally I'll drift into fitful sleep and only remember dreaming maybe once every two weeks. Last night was the third or fourth in a series of incredibly vivid, multi-dream nights. Sunday night I remember having five distinct dreams. Of course I can never remember details. There were too many, and they all blend together. I just... I don't know.

I guess there's a lot on my mind. Lots to process.


I'm idling right now. I'm stuck in neutral. I gun the engine once in a while, but it never gets me anywhere.

The thought occured to me to fast and pray for direction in my life, for help in setting priorities. (Saying "the thought occured to me" is a bit of a misnomer. In my limited experience, the idea of fasting is almost always prompted by the Spirit; from where else would such "radical" thoughts come? Not from the flesh, to be sure, nor from the Other Fella. That leaves one culprit: He who is Unchanging.) This thought hit me Monday, as I was walking to the train, and mentally preparing for the Interview. So I idly decided to give it a go after my dinner meeting.

The spiritual discipline of fasting isn't really something one can "give a go," as if on a whim. Such motivations don't last. Such a decision has to be resolute and firmly rooted in prayer and Bible study. The carrying-out of such a practice can only be completed through serious prayer. In other words, you have to have your head right, because it isn't just a "fix" for what ails you--it's a purposed decision.

So. No breakfast yesterday. Liquid lunch. I lasted until yesterday afternoon. Then I had cake. A going-away "party" for a co-worker. In my head, just before, the rationalization began. "You're not really fasting; you haven't gone about it the right way. You can begin again later." And that infernal voice was right, in part. I really wasn't "fasting." I was simply going without food. There's a difference.

Then friends called. And I invited them over for my make-shift "barbecue chicken over rice" dish. They seemed to like it. We watched a movie, and they left. I ate a few Reese's Cups. And a peanut butter sandwich. And some chips. I was hungry.

I woke up, in the middle of my second dream last night, with the worst indigestion I can remember. Chest and stomach pain. Not fun. And in my barely coherent state, I made the assumption, "Must be because I didn't fast." As if it were punishment.

Which is silliness, I think. Because we aren't "punished" for leaving off from the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting. Not in a direct sense. Rather, I think the "punishment" of not being faithful in these practices is that we are essentially left as we are; which is to say, drifting further and further from God.

The confusion in my life, the clutter and frustration, are the result of my laziness, my lack of personal discipline. But the head-clutter, the depressive moments, the frustrated sighs that creep into my life are the result of drifting farther from God. My spiritual life, in some ways, has taken to this pattern: if not for the constant connection with the True Vine, I wither. Rather quickly. Because I am human and still very, very corrupt, I degenerate. The sense of peace, direction, and purpose that I feel when I am closest to God, begins to fade away the minute I stop pursuing Him fully. The longer I delay in returning, the more I sink back into myself, like Peter in the waters of the raging Galilee.

I don't think this is the same for the journey of a spiritually mature person. At least, not to this degree. But every time I take my eyes off Christ, even for a moment, I feel instantly plunged into shadow. Unlike Peter, I don't even seem to have the time to call out "Lord, save me!" before sinking into the foam. I doubt that those most spiritual have quite the same experience. That lingering on an image in a risque advertisement causes Reverend Graham an existential crisis.

I've been teaching my class ["my class" does have a nice ring to it] about grace. Daily grace, that covers our sins still and gives us hope of change and assurance of love. Maybe my problem is that I'm not letting myself experience grace, either. I let each fault, each flaw, each fear loom large around me. And this constant struggle, wrestling these serpents, is getting in the way of living life, of forward motion.

A good friend recently wrote that I seem really depressed lately in my writings here. She was concerned. (Thanks, friend.) I have to say, there's nothing major going on in my life right now. No serious crises. Just a lot of little things. And my struggle to focus on what's important, instead of getting lost in my own mental junk drawer.

Most of all, I'm running head-long into my own corruptness, and realizing how much I really need grace. And instead of finding solace and hope in the fact that the grace extended to me is enough to cover all, I'm feeling ashamed that I need it as much as I do. I should "know better," in so many ways.

So there's that.

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