Life and Faith

Try Again

I can’t do it. I tried and I just can’t. I jotted down some notes two weeks ago for a blog post about Frodo and Bilbo, planning to expand on it for the Conciliar. My goal is two posts a month, but it’s hard to come up with the topics that I think will work in the more serious style of a group blog. But that one . . . I thought I could do it.

You know the feeling you get when you’re writing the old fashion-way and the pencil breaks on you? Or way a guitar string snaps right in the middle of a chord. Wa-ping!

My art has betrayed me.

You know, I grew up in farmland central, just off Lake Michigan. The landscape was full of barns and if you’re a kid on a farm, you know that the barn is the place to be. Especially in the loft. If it’s empty, you can play tag, but there’s usually haybales and haybales mean forts, or king of the mountain, or who can jump the farthest. Honestly, you haven’t played king of the mountain properly until you’ve done it on a stack six bales tall in a loft some fifteen feet off the ground.

No, we didn’t play near the edge. Sheesh, people, quit fussing!

But the thing about barns in Michigan is they don’t keep well. The cold, the damp, the wild temperature changes . . . you don’t go playing in a strange barn loft, not unless you want to have the floor splinter underneath you. Step on a bad bit of wood and you might find yourself getting nice and friendly with the animals in the pens below.

I have no idea how the farmers go about inspecting their lofts. Maybe they just know. But I guess it would be quite a bummer if they took the loft for granted and the loft decided to stop being there for them.

There’s a lot of things we take for granted—guitar strings and pencils, barn lofts, the ability to write what I want when I want to write it. But some of that “taking for granted” gets a lot more serious. Last fall, I was so exhausted, so hurt and lonely, that I very nearly gave up on God. Everyone who has ever hurt me has claimed the name of Christ, and many claimed His authority as well. I just didn’t care to keep fighting anymore.

It was a struggle everyday. Getting up, eating, falling back asleep—I’m used to those struggles. Fall of ’13, I had to go through major therapy because I had my ribs out and my sternum knocked in. Fall of ’12, I was depressed and hopeless to the point of suicide. But Fall of ’14 was different. I needed to do more than keep body and soul together—I had to learn to trust again, when everything me was crying out, “Don’t do it. Don’t go there. You’ll only get yourself hurt again.”

Get up, take a chance, fail.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The brain can only take so much. After that, it lets you know about it. Maybe it was talking before, but it’s yelling now—a loud, constant drone of pain and fear. “Whatever it is you’re doing, stop it! Stop it right now!” I really did want to listen. But, in my heart, I also still wanted to believe that God is good and that love is real, even though at that moment nothing seemed less probable. I didn’t hate God, this wasn’t a is-he-really-a-devil type of struggle. I just didn’t see any reason to believe He was there at all. And love? Just a placebo, a sugar pill. Nothing that actually meant anything.

I had a friend, a very good friend, who sat down with me one day and just let me talk. She’s a strong Christian, so she wasn’t happy to hear that I was walking away from the faith, but she also didn’t judge me for it. She didn’t try to persuade, perhaps realizing that if she did, I would shut down for good. She just let me talk.

And as I talked, I remembered all the times in the Presence, when something or someone bigger than me spoke to me, giving advice that I did not want to follow. I remembered arguing with him, I remember him threatening to stop talking if I ignored him. And I remembered that his advice, which I did not want to follow, proved to be right.

But even if you argued that this . . . “Otherness” was merely my subconscious, there were also those times when someone else did for me exactly as I needed at exactly those times that I needed it. I didn’t ask for that help, I didn’t even expect it. Whether it was a harsh statement from someone who did not mean me well, or an encouragement from a friend, or even a statement whose motives I couldn’t decipher, it was just what was needed at the right time.

I can’t cause that. That wasn’t me.

There is a God. There is a person at the back of the universe, fiddling with things for the benefit of people who are listening to him even in the midst of horrific things. And this person, who apparently doesn’t attach as much importance to life and death as we do, is nevertheless intensely interested in us as people. And if we doubt him, he stands back and lets us doubt, until we are ready to try again.

As to why I believe this person to be the Christian God, that is another blog post for another time. And maybe I’ll get to that Frodo and Bilbo post too.

That’s the beauty of life. Regardless of the challenges we face or the times when our strength just isn’t there, there’s still hope. This is a chapter, not a book, and the story does not die.


Photo courtesy of Steve Wall.

Pepper Darlington

Pepper Darlington

Pepper is a graduate of Patrick Henry College with a Bachelor's degree in Classical Liberal Arts. She is a mental health advocate, with a concern for building up the confidence of the voiceless, and she currently works for The Great Courses, whose college-level materials occupy much of her spare time as well. Her studies focus on history, religion, and psychology, while her interests include superhero movies, travel, writing, and kayaking. A Christian Protestant from a low-church background, she nevertheless has a great interest in the other major world religions, especially Buddhism, and she hopes someday to visit Japan.

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