I didn’t make it to church today.
This time last year, such a statement would have initiated a barrage of texts, e-mails and phone calls regarding my whereabouts that I would have felt it necessary to release a public statement to let my family know that I was okay. Nowadays, however, things are different. No one calls because it’s not such a rare occurrence any longer.
I’ve been telling myself for months, “I’m not losing my faith. I’m just going through some things right now.” What these “things” are, I don’t know and, as much as I pray about it, these “things” aren’t revealing themselves to me. All I do know is that has been getting easier and easier to skip that which held such an importance to me less than eight months ago and, when I woke up this morning, I had wondered if it was even “necessary” to go to church again. We’ve had another death in our family and, today especially, I just didn’t see the point in going to church.
Some time in 2008, I’d made a “deal” of sorts with God after losing Edrith and also MawMaw in such quick succession; I just didn’t want to go to anymore funerals until I turned 25. This entire time, I’ve known that I can’t actually deal with God, since I’ve got nothing of any real value to offer except my submission, which I should be giving anyway, but I’d made my deal last year, praying that I could just live life for two years without going to yet another funeral; saying goodbye to yet another person. I’ve experienced loss in the past two years, but I hadn’t needed to attend any homegoings. My birthday is not until the end of September and yet, here I am.
When I’d heard what had happened, I immediately thought of my deal and prayed for a very long time about what I’d done so wrong that I couldn’t have until at least my 25th birthday without having to deal with another loss. It wasn’t until this morning, however, that it occurred to me (really occurred to me) that there never was any “deal.” People come and people go as He sees fit and He had seen to it that I had the time I needed to grow up a little more before having to deal with it once again. But, what truly got to me this morning was the growing depression and thoughts that “none of this mattered,” that eventually I’d lose everyone I loved and no amount of church was going to change the inevitable. And, that’s when I started to cry.
I’ve always classified tears into three categories: “small tears” that occur when I shed a few over the birth of a child or when friends marry, “pain tears” that occur when I’m in such physical pain that there doesn’t seem to be anything else I can do, and then there are “real tears” that follow overwhelming depression and sadness. My tears this morning fell into that latter group and it angered me because I hate when I cry “real tears.” Joy or pain can be expressed, but mourning depression is something that I try to hold in as much as possible out of sheer frustration that I can be reduced to tears over something that simply encompasses my own thoughts bouncing against one another until I hit a low and I cannot pull myself out of it.
So, this morning, I lay in my bed, crying these real tears and thinking aloud that there really wasn’t a point to any of “it” anymore and I had no reason to even give “it” anymore thought because God hadn’t cared about my deal and He wasn’t answering me in the time that I wanted Him to answer and, even if He did speak to me, I knew I wasn’t going to like the answer. I must say, looking back hours later, it was very dark moment for me; one I used to experience all the time before I had first come to the church and had hoped I would never see again.
As complete frustration over these nonsensical real tears willed me to stop crying altogether, I lay there half-listening to a CD I’d made a couple weeks ago and wondered if I’d ever feel like myself ever again after recognizing that God doesn’t make “deals” with people. And, that was when the sappiest of songs started to echo through my boombox…
Now, I’ve been listening to Michael Jackson songs non-stop for the past three weeks and I know that’s a subject worth prayer in itself, but for this song to come on when it did… I felt a smile pull at my lips and I had to shake my head at the simultaneous “on-timeness” of God and simple coincidence. MJ’s “Keep the Faith” had come up on the CD.
Again, I’d been listening to MJ songs for close to a month straight and I’d probably played that song twenty times since I’d dug out my Dangerous album, but…when I lay wondering what the point of all of “it” was, when I lay thinking that no path I could take was ever going to bring me fully into Christ’s light, when I lay crying about God not answering my questions, the title of the song spoke to me: Keep the Faith. It sounds almost laughable when I write it because it’s not even a Christian song, but simply hearing the beginning of it and remembering the title right when I did felt like something only He could do for me in a moment so dire.
And so, in hearing this song that had both saccharine sappiness and inspiration weaved within it, I let out a laugh and rose from my bed thinking, “Well played, Old Man.”
I didn’t make it to church today, but I have this renewed vigor in my approach towards it, nevertheless. I began studying my Sunday School lesson for next week tonight, a feat I hadn’t accomplished since I started teaching again and, regardless of the fact that I know I’ve got greater and more painful losses coming my way in the upcoming years, I feel strong. The logical side of my mind is saying, “Dorienne, it was just a coincidence. The song comes on after ‘Give Into Me’ on your ‘MJ-Sleep’ CD. It’s just a coincidence.” but whenever I think of coincidences in relation to religious matters, I consider my favorite The X-Files quote coming from Mulder: “If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?”
I was in a very, very low place this morning and God spoke to me in a manner, in a way that only He could and He told me, quite clearly, that even though the road ahead looks rough, I need to keep the faith. I can only chuckle to myself when I think about it. Well played, Old Man…