The holidays are said to be the loneliest time of the year. I would agree. With the hospital shifts my wife works she misses out on a lot, so we do not make many plans as far as getting together with others. Thanksgiving was just another day, except instead of working I was raking the yard. My wife text me asking if any of my family had plans, she did not want me to be alone. It did not matter, it would not be long, and I would feel out of place. Home is where the heart is except my heart was at work and our house has not been a home in over a year. On the weekends she works, I stay away from it as much as I can, its empty, depressing and soulless.
Thanksgiving night on a friend’s recommendation, I watched Ragamuffin, a movie based on a true story about a singer. The preacher that mentored him caught my attention, Brennan Manning, so I looked him up. He wrote a book that I quickly bought it, devouring it and a few podcasts of him speaking. It stayed on my mind throughout the week, especially when I was in the solitude of the mountains hunting. I was trying to wrap my head around what Brennan seemed to specialize in, teaching about Grace. I tried coming up with analogies, personalizing it, still it did not sink in further than my thick skull. I am not very good at accepting gifts; often feel like I do not deserve them, which is the point of a gift. Its kindness and love, a couple of other things I am awkward around.
The next day was a sermon on loneliness at church. Though I am better with small talk, enjoying the banter, it is not the same satisfying feeling I want. When Pastor Rod did an altar call for the lonely many people stood up, even my new acquaintances. I was not alone in the feeling, but I did not stand. Shyness and insecurity trumped asking for help, I would suffer…in silence by my own choice. Not healthy I know.
I continued reading The Ragamuffin Gospel, highlighting and copying from it. One principle from it was we all have shadows and skeletons in our backgrounds, and the minute you shift the focus from our badness to Jesus’s goodness we can start to forgive and accept ourselves because God has. I am my own worst critic, I cannot even enjoy a victory for very long, my self-worth rising and falling. It is living by an equation I saw: accomplishments + other’s opinions = self-worth. For me it is less other’s opinions and more “I can do better”.
Brennan wrote when living by grace its how Jesus sees you that is important, he is proud of you when you do good and forgives the mistakes. After reading that I thought, “That’s nice, I wonder if God’s proud of me?” An emanating feeling from my heart that he was followed my question.
“WHY?!?” I asked.
An IM popped up from a friend asking a group of us what song described our life. I thought for a moment and replied Just As I Am by Travis Cottrell.
I come broken to be mended I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned by the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms, praise God, just as I am.
I looked hard at the past after reading a Bible Passage in Ephesians 2 that addressed my struggle as of late. I turned away years ago, living first by wanting to be accepted by others by wearing different masks. Then after reading Thorin’s work, I started to construct my own person, working from bottom up. The problem was I let it make me narcissistic, making my own self-perfection a god. I had become my own god.
I was a jealous and judgmental god who turned out to be powerless in the end. A god who was shown mercy I did not deserve and given a gift I could never pay for. Like the song’s chorus says, ‘I came broken and wounded, yet accepted just as I am’. The same God I competed with took me in, put my old nature to death, and was born a new creation that was no longer condemned for the smallest lie or my greatest sin.
Yet, I still do not grasp the depth of God’s Grace and wrestle with loneliness, however progress is being made.