I was kind of nervous to post this. But then I thought, hey, what have I got to lose? Only dignity, and face, and followers who are tired of hearing me talk about God, and followers who don’t like long posts, and the interest of folks checking out my blog in hopes of finding novel-related posts (soon, people, soon, I promise,)… Okay, I’m still kind of nervous to post this.
But what is life without risk? So here. Have a fragment of a private letter–very well, a massive chunk of a private letter, too-lightly edited–because what’s the fun of writing, if you don’t hang your innermost x-ray results framed on the walls, so to speak? Have at ye:
…During Lent, I may have mentioned, I was fasting from sugar. Sugar has been a subtle and insidious drug for me, an addiction that always seemed so innocuous, so unimportant, I didn’t really need to do anything about it… about the fact that, (unless I had an all-consuming writing project at the time, in which case I would severely under-eat,) I could and would binge unhealthily on the stuff whenever it was available, and I would find ways to sneak it if it was unavailable. A whole package of cookies I would down alone, in one sitting, even after I tired of the taste. Even if I didn’t like whatever was available–sub-par “chocolate flavored” bars, for instance–I couldn’t stop myself from eating it.
I knew I had a problem, but it was a problem that no one took seriously when I told them (except my mom, but she’s a health nut; give her an inch of admission of unhealthy eating and she’ll take a mile), because I had a resilient body that showed none of this abuse. I’m sure it would take years for a form as strong as mine to start breaking down under the sugar intake, for sugar is a slow-working poison, but no less a poison. I had (and have) a muscular, slender figure, so if I started saying that I was worried about sugar, people would be all “Psssh, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” And I’d be like, People, it’s not about my body (just yet), it’s about the fact that I have an addiction and this is bad.
So I fasted from sugar for 40 days. It was interesting. I didn’t go into heavy withdrawls, to my surprise and interest, but I was often psychologically pained by the refusal of freely offered sugar. No more sweet coffee drinks at Starbucks. No more doughnuts at church in the mornings. No more cakes or cookies at parties. No more desserts. No more stopping to get ice cream with Dad. It was painful in a small, constant way, but it was painful.
The most striking moment of all of Lent, for me, was when I made brownies. It was Carlos’s birthday, and I decided to make brownies for him. A batch of mint chip, and a batch of mocha. It was a strange experience, standing there with my mouth watering, my brain reeling, just rinsing thick chocolate batter off of spatulas and spoons, never once licking a thing. Smelling the warm chocolaty scent filling the kitchen and house, with overtones of coffee and mint. Pulling it out and letting it cool, cutting it into squares and brushing away all the crumbs, not tasting a one. Minutely grace for minutely need. Man shall not live by bread alone. I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me. I can do all things through Christ. I can do all things. I can.
It was ethereal. I felt waves of need wracking my body–a lick, a bite, a little bit–and I let them roll through me like earthquakes. I felt so calm; even as my body was screaming, I was surfing my own desire like a 30-foot wave, saying, I see you. I hear you. I feel you. You’re not getting your way. And that’s okay. Because I have what my spirit needs. I have what my spirit wants. I have more in this painful moment than sugar could ever give me, than surrender could ever gain me. Contrary to what you feel, my flesh, contrary even to what you may think, my mind, I have everything. I have everything.
The moment was laborious, painful, and even mundane, yet somehow also thick with glory. It was, I might say, divine.
There has been another addiction of mine coming to my attention–God never ceases in this, the skimming of dross, and I would not have him cease! Farther up, I say, farther up and farther in and farther towards the core within and ever deeper down and still more found and done and grown and been–an addiction that started out as a fairly half-innocentish thing. A very artist and writer and teenager thing.
I play these scenes and stories out in my head, see, have done for years. Characters from books I’ve read, characters of my own creation, mix and match and muck about. Commonly romances, commonly combat/survival oriented. Commonly enough sexual–a number could fall easily into the category of fantasizing–but most strongly emotional. I’ll play a scene over and again (this is the most strongly writerly part) and try to strengthen it, to tighten it. But I also catch something of an emotional high from these, a hit of intensity. I don’t care what the intensity (the climax, if you will) is: an intense hit of fear, love, suffering, lust, joy, despair, triumph, some combination. It’s a shot of either adrenaline, endorphins, or best of all, both.
Nothing wrong with that inherently. Indeed, I’m glad I’ve done it; it’s given me some of my best story ideas, honed some of my best scenes, and entertained me while I scrubbed floors and other such mundanities. However, I have recently found that it has a death grip on my heart.
During any long stretches of activitylessness, riding the bus, chilling out, and most particularly, lying in bed waiting for sleep to meet me, I find myself hard-put to do anything but play out my scenes. I would have just thought them filler, and fine, except that I’ve found that some nights, I’ll say to myself, “Let’s dwell on God now,” or “Let’s pray for someone now,” and this resistance rises up, nigh unto panic.
I will lie restless and awake, sleepless, trying to keep my mind on whatever I’ve decided to keep my mind on, but it will instead say I want I want I want I want a story, I want a scene, I need one, I can’t sleep without it, all I need is– just a fragment of a scene, let me imagine that I’m Character X curled in the cave with the panther, then I can sleep, then I can relax…
Because the present is mundane to the point of terrifying me, and I don’t want to be alone, but I don’t want to think of God just then, who is with and in me as a Spirit, not a body, whose body was and is and will be, but those arms aren’t wrapping around me here and now, and it’s all too much out of my ken and high-minded to imagine it right anyhow and it’s too hard to try.
But I need to think about holding someone now, or being held, even if it’s just a puppy, a child, a man–I don’t want to be alone here! At least give me enemies! If nothing and no one else, let me spray gunfire at foes, wrestle with attackers, run in a panic from those who would kill me–give me that hit of feeling, and let me not be alone! For to be alone is a fundamental human fear, and to hold and be held and to feel (and sometimes even to war) are fundamental human longings.
And I think, I think this. I think I must let God meet me in my loneliness. My desire to fill my needs in my own way, in my own time, with my own mind–I must let it wrack me like the desire for a lick of brownie batter. I must lie still and let it shake me, watch as my mind and body scream for these waters to be stirred, for this lack to be filled, for this loneliness to be ended by the machinations of my imagination.
I must lie and let the waters be still, and let the need and the loneliness grow, and sweep through me with that ache, that ache, that ache. No quickly shoveling a story into the gap. No filling the hole with the swift and sweet satisfaction of my own making.
And I must meet God there.
And let him sanctify the loneliness.
And whisper that I trust him to take care of me. To fill me, even when I don’t feel filled. To meet my needs, even when they feel unmet. That I trust that he’s there, even if I see him nowhere, feel nothing of his presence, even if lack seems to gape in my life, I trust him. I know he’s there.
And I will lie still, and pray, and let temptation roll like thunder, shaking my body and emotions, but leaving my mind and spirit stayed upon him.
And I will draw nearer. I know it.
In denying myself the small imagined company of the moment, I will have Company–ha! Shall I have Company! A Comforter indeed will I draw near to, and in staying my own hand, I may lie still long enough to see another Hand working.
In denying myself the small and immediate warfare of the imagination, I will triumph in Warfare of the highest order! The Darkness that would seek in small and subtle ways to drive small and subtle wedges between myself and my God–in denying the flesh and the world do I deny them victory!
I hope that in explaining this to you, I will become more settled in my resolve.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; ”
Anyway. So yeah. That’s what’s up with me right now.