Apathy is the acceptance of the unacceptable.
Apathy is the acceptance of the unacceptable.
I open the file. I re-read the last chapter I wrote. I stare at the empty white screen. I close the file.
Why am I doing this?
I can’t answer. I can’t remember. I doodle excuses.
I ask friends. Why do you write?
They give answers. The responses look familiar. I`ve probably said the same things in the past, but none of them fit the curves and angles of my own puzzle pieces now. Saying right out loud that I have lost sight of joy in the process releases a barrage of comments from the trolls in my head.
Who do you think you are?
Who would want to read your stuff anyway?
Seriously? You’re no expert. You’re not qualified.
What makes you think you will live long enough to finish this?
You are old. You are sick. Why put this pressure on yourself? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.
The trolls make me cry. They hurl lies wrapped in scraps of truth the way they have done for decades of my life.
I am tired and in pain, but one candle flickers in my darkness. I remember the written words of the lamenting prophet Jeremiah, with whom I have had a love/hate relationship since I first slammed his books shut –then opened them again.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.
(Lamentations 3:19-23 NIV)
I go to bed. I dream.
Two doctors behind a counter review my complex case. They seem optimistic and excited. One asks if I have ever worked on a research project. I tell them I helped with a project that examined why a person’s voice changes when they have a cold. (I haven’t actually done this, but I used to teach singing in real life.)
I tell them our findings. Beyond problems with producing a steady sound with inflamed vocal folds that don’t vibrate properly, sinus congestion and swelling of the throat tissues reduces the capacity for resonating space.
(This was something I was careful to teach. Produce the sound in such a way that relaxed natural resonance can do the work of projection for you. That way you will not strain and cause tension or muscle fatigue to fight you. Resonance needs space surrounded by a solid surface to produce a pleasant full sound. Think of the difference between the constipated duck sound of a trumpet mouth piece alone and the resounding fanfare sound when the horn is added. Then I joked to my students that good singers have resonance where ordinary people store parts of their brains they never get around to using anyway.)
In my dream, the older doctor comes around his desk and sits beside me in a fatherly way.
“It appears that your illnesses and challenging circumstances of late have led to apathy – a-pathy, no passion. You’ve experienced a reduction in the space where passions thrive and where your “voice” is produced. The result? A lack of compassion for others,” he said, treating me like an intelligent adult. “You need healing to create larger capacity to contain God’s love so that it can resonate in you before you release the sound.”
He patted my shoulder as he rose to his feet. “In other words, you don’t need to strive. Let resonance work for you.”
He stood up and handed me a file. “We would like you join a research project. When you get home try to team up with Gideon,” he smiled. “He knows something about fear and the stress of trying to work in confined space.”
I wake and write the dream down.
I am stunned. He gave me the answer to the question of why writing fails to flow lately. A lack of compassion. I’ve written here about thinking, acting and feeling in alignment with God’s thoughts, actions and emotions. Jesus, who demonstrated what God the Father is actually like, wept with compassion.
The dream doctor suggested a research project? But I am tired, so very, very tired. Mundane, but necessary tasks take twice as much time as they used to. I’m not volunteering for much lately. I don’t have the energy to take up causes when I’m using up my limited supply to try to keep a check on my own symptom and side-effect tainted emotions. More than ever I am aware of the long-term damage of lies I have believed as they surface in unguarded reactions. I need to concentrate on thinking differently but my brain wants to slide into default grooves.
“I feel weak,” I tell God. “Frazzled.”
I hear his voice urging, “Now, in this place of weakness, it’s time to learn to access the grace I promised to supply. My power is made perfect in weakness.”
I pray and read about Gideon emerging from his wine-press pit of fear (story in Judges chapters 6 to 8). Three sources “just happen” to show up where I can’t miss them – in an email, on a CD on the shelf beside me, and in a friend’s Facebook post. All three talk about finding opportunities in places of confinement like Gideon’s. The key to moving into wider spaces, they say, is using the promises God has given us as weapons.
While Gideon still cowered, the angel of God told him that he was the mighty warrior who would lead his people into freedom.
Promises are found in passages of scripture that have grabbed our attention at various times in our life. Promises can be revealed in insistent phrases in songs; in co-incidences and repeated themes in books, films, sermons, podcasts, and random circumstances; in friends who are sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit; and in that still, almost silent Voice that speaks in our hearts when we are at peace enough to hear it. Promises resonate in our hearts.
Jesus had emotions – strong emotions. “The passion of Christ” refers to his motivation for going to the cross. What made him angry? What triggered his expressions of elation? What broke his heart and made him cry? I am looking again.
Why do I write? I’m starting to remember. It’s not about praise, or recognition or material gain. Not anymore. I write because God loved me enough to bare his heart of compassion and to give what was dearest to himself to demonstrate his love.
When I submit to him by allowing him to cleanse and heal my heart, when I quit insisting, like a toddler, that I can do it myself, I begin to understand his motivation. I come into alignment with his thinking, feeling, and acting. I start to be moved by the things that move him.
Why do I write?
Love. Resonating love.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown.
Hope makes you see God’s guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment and darkness.
But let them all be glad,
those who turn aside to hide themselves in you.
May they keep shouting for joy forever!
Overshadow them in your presence as they sing and rejoice.
Then every lover of your name will burst forth with endless joy.
(Psalm 5:11 TPT)
“When I trust deeply that today God is truly with me and holds me safe in a divine embrace, guiding every one of my steps I can let go of my anxious need to know how tomorrow will look, or what will happen next month or next year. I can be fully where I am and pay attention to the many signs of God’s love within me and around me.”
I waited for the perfect day to follow a trail down to one of my favourite places. That day came this week. I love this spot by the Kootenay River on a cool still autumn morning. I didn’t want to leave.
It doesn’t always look like this. Some days low grey clouds hide the mountains and barren trees bend in cold wind. Some days deep snow can block the roads or combined heavy rain and churning dirty meltwater can flood the river valley. On those days we enjoy the warmth of a fireplace and the benefits of clean hot water in the bathtub and computer networks that allow us to get our work done.
Sometimes leaving the comfort of home feels scary, especially in the autumn when bears are desperate to put on weight before hibernation. We don’t see them every day, but simply knowing that they are out there is often enough to keep people at home.
Leaving the confines of the familiar requires courage.
I’m doing something I haven’t done before. I am aware circumstances can change suddenly and that there are territorial threats out there. What if I make a mistake? What if I’m wrong? What if I wander into something I can’t handle? Maybe I should just go back to doing what I have always done in the confines of structures that tell me what to think and how to feel. Maybe I should be content with listening to experts tell me who God is to them and what they require of me to fit in.
But what if I miss seeing his majesty for myself? What if playing it safe means missing moments like this moment down by the river? What if staying behind locked steel doors means I miss the spiritual equivalent of this view, this peace, this sense of his presence?
Faith, like a seed, ventures to grow. And today conditions are perfect.
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”