My mother says I get it from her . . . the inability to sleep well at times. Last night was one of those times. I awaken at 1:30 AM and it felt like 8 AM except with a foggy head and raw thoughts.
I don’t know what it is about the middle of the night, but it is a horrible . . . or who knows, maybe a good . . . time to think about things. Problems look bigger and more insurmountable. Sometimes I think the night-time prevents reality . . . sometimes I think it exposes it for what it really is.
I spent a few hours cruising the dark, black sea of the night with my wondering mind at the helm. It always seems that the most emotionally charged thoughts rise to the surface first, especially if they were from a recent experience, such as the previous day or evening. These thoughts stuck like barnacles to the hull of my ghostly schooner of the night.
It was cold last night (relatively speaking) and I didn’t have the motivation to do a lot before retiring. I tired to work on some papers I need to write. But I kept drifting back to the Internet, reading and commenting here and there.
I visited Imonk’s page and read about Mark Driscoll’s statement that Avatar was the most demonic movie of all time.
It was only about a year ago that I started thinking that maybe Mark’s Mars Hill Church was the church I had been looking for, if not his very church (70 miles away) then a church in its likeness.
But after reading the postings on Imonk, then going to the source (a Seattle newspaper story), I started to feel this great loss. I wasn’t so surprised to find that his thinking and mine are on different planets (speaking of Avatar). While I thought the script of the movie was corny at best, the visual imagery was worth the money, especially when viewed in 3 D. I sensed the presence of God in that film, not the devil. Of course not in the spiritual teaching, as if I would ever go to a secular movie for that. But in the beauty of the Pandoran world, created by men (and women) who were in turn created by God. It doesn’t matter what the screenwriters, director, special effects people believe about God and spirituality, they can’t escape God’s fingerprint on their creativity. When I see beauty anywhere, I feel closer to God.
To suggest that the movie was demonic sounds a little kindergarten-ish to me. Will demons actually crawl across the sticky Milk-dud coated theater floor, then up your ankle and sneak into your soul as you sit and watch the movie? Will you go home and start to worship the trees or switch to a pantheistic view of reality because of that movie? If so, then Mark’s church has done a horrible job in preparing you to think for yourself.
But with that said, I started to feel that Invasion of the Body Snatchers feeling again. Where, one by one, everyone around you is being replaced by plant-like clones. Then you find yourself alone in the world.
I’ve taken so many wild goose chases in my life looking for the ideal church. Each time, I’m greatly disappointed. I’m not looking for perfect people, just people with whom I can communicate with outside my own head without having to constantly be on the defensive. I know they exist. I’ve met many at LAbri functions. I’ve met them at Imonk and here. Rarely do I meet them in my own world of everyday life.
No, I’m not looking for a perfect church. Actually I’m not looking for a church at all anymore. I’ve given up on the task. Not because there is no hope of finding a better church home, but knowing of the marital conflict I would create if I did find another church.
I’m not looking for perfect people, actually . . . just the opposite. I’m looking for people who really believe in their souls that there is no hope for perfection in this world. That by going to the right movies, avoiding the right drinks, saying the right things, voting for the right party, will not make you closer to perfection because they know that perfection is unobtainable and is allusive as chasing your own shadow.
I did finally get to sleep . . . it must have been around 4 AM. But before that, my mind gathered more barnacles.
Once again I find a lacking of purpose in my life. There is no way I would admit that when I was an Evangelical because the number one caveat of our personal testimony was that “In Christ We’ve Found a Purpose.” Maybe that was true . . . but again, maybe we were lying to ourselves.
I don’t mean this feeling of lack of purpose in any more dynamic terms than Solomon’s observations about the vanity of efforts. It is easier to feel this way when you are done being a father of little, dependent children. Then, my “purpose” was forced on me every morning when I woke up. There was no time to wonder about it.
But this barnacle came as the result of another hard day at work. I knew that I had gone to bed with stress from a couple of nasty confrontations . . . which are typical.
I entered health care thinking it was about helping people to get better. It was my role in the master plan of God redeeming the world from suffering.
While I do see many patients who want healing and participate in their healing, the ones that leave me drained are those who have no desire for healing. They just want a primal chemical fulfillment of their opioid receptors (narcotic seeking), or they are mad as hell that I didn’t document their pain for their lawyer . . . seeking monetary fulfillment from their fall at Walmart. Or they want to use their pain as a permanent paid vacation . . . and they, once again, are mad as hell that I made them better and that I documented their good health. In the book The Singer (by Calvin Murphy), there is a statement that goes something like this, “For some people you can not wish for health and happiness, because for them, illness and happiness rest comfortably in the same bed.”
I say this in the spirit of Solomon . . . or maybe Caulfield. I come home every night drained and hand over my check to my wife. She pays the bills and there is never a penny left over.
So, this may be another fall-out from a midlife crisis thing, but I do wonder what I should be doing with my life. I don’t want to lay on my death bed with regrets and now I fear I will have them. But at the same time, I don’t have the idealism that I once had about a very specific calling on one’s life from God.
We were always taught that God had one very particular purpose for each person. If you weren’t squarely in the center of that calling, then your life will be made hell on earth. If you were in the center of that obscure calling, then your entire life would be filled with good health, perfect children, perfect marriage and complete Jesus-bliss bubbling over into a constant smirk.
And this brings me to my last point . . . the death bed. In the early hours of the morning (here on the West Coast) I saw the blog update by Denise Spencer. I already knew that Michael was dying so that was no surprise. But to hear her say that in the written word was startling. I’m about the same age as Michael. I care about this virtual friend very much. I’m sorry to turn this into a selfish pondering, but I think Michael would understand. I thought that once again I dodged the lighting bolt of fatality. Just a year ago this week another good (not virtual) friend who was the same age as me died. I felt the same way then. Why wasn’t it me? There is no reason it couldn’t have been me. It wasn’t like my friend was playing with bombs and had an accident. He, like Michael, had cancer. We all are vulnerable.
This always makes me think about our own mortality. If I were to leave a legacy, I would love (besides through my kids) to do it through what I love to do . . . write. I have three completed novels and one non-fiction work that I wish I could have others read. But in the strange raw presence, in the quietness of the dark, my emotions tell me that it is just a silly fantasy. Like those who desire to sing on the stage but never will, I’m just one of millions who long to write worthy enough to be read and to stir people to think about the human condition in ways they may never have before.