I never felt so alone.
I’d lost my temper.
This time was different.
I’m not normally an angry person.
At least, I don’t think that I am.
But I will confess that I had to teach myself how to smile. (I kid you not. This was many years after I’d already been ordained, as Tim Ferris et. al. were pod-raising this manchild to discover a relationship between “making an impression” and “communicating a message,” [i.e. something smells suspiciously like “media ecology as applied to inter-personal psycho-social human relationships”] all for the sake of my work as a preacher of course. So I sped along my entrepreneurial mangrowthing way to the great bastion of trapezoidal pizza and “sweeto burritos” that is Fargo with a pencil clenched between my teeth, willing myself to feel like it might become natural.)
But this was not anger. This was lonely, somber melancholy. This was the bitter dance between pang and trial. This is the raw feature of a mortal who knows his shame.
And knowing this made me even more angry now.
My vision blurred. Fire rose in my belly and then gushed everywhere within like a lava flow burning guilt. Above all, the chained crucifix around my neck scalded my heart like a curse with accusations of “Hypocrisy” and “Blind Guide!”
As I yanked the metallic corpse and torture device over my head, my skin did not sear. It was the accusation, “I don’t deserve to wear this” that broiled at my soul.
It was that moment that I thought about suicide.
I am not suicidal. (Thanks be to God! Because I could be: anyone can be.) But it had been in the news. (It is in the news now too, as a sad matter.) And suicide, if it is anything else, is a sin of imitation. First, it is an imitation of Satan’s own end, for he is the author of his own will. Second, whenever it is heard about, reported on or shown as a louder corner of the white noise, the numbers spike as copycats find hope in the vanity of causing a stir.
This does not mean that suicide is the one “unforgivable sin.” I’m not going to weigh in on that here. But my point is that here I was, a Christian man and preacher, with no honest experience of suicidal tendencies, having a copycat moment of existential, dark-matrix spiritual-evil-rebound.
What I thought most of was utter, endless pity for those who have no confidence in Christ, who when they endure such onslaught from the legions of hell, when pathos rages hot and logos haunts only to leave behind shame-chilled innuendos, ethos sags beneath the strangling black abyss of hopeless extinction.
But I was still an hour from the chance to listen to Slim encourage me to stand upon what I know to be much more than vain hopes for a better tomorrow.
By then I had looked down at my crucifix on the floor and left it there, unable to make myself pick it up again. Still scalding under the torture of my own self-hate, I could only see my pain, not the impression of the body of the one man Jesus Christ, wounded and pierced outside Jerusalem millennia ago for the sake of these very instabilities, confusions, and downright ignorances of mine.
I walked away from my crucifix to pray, and in yirrat Yahweh (the fear of God) to wait and see if my heart could beat again with something more than the echo chamber of a rage loop.
It was my third daughter.
“Please kneel down for me to put this on you.”
What else could I do? Does not the ark defend itself? Need we not only be silent, witness and sing of it?
I dropped to one-knee, right-fist to the ground, head-bowed low beneath the auspice of the angel sent by my only true liege.
The chain slipped back into place, and I felt the familiar weight of the pectoral symbolic-ward thump against my core.
And, of all people, Eminem helped me stand in praise of my God:
I'm standin' in the flames. It’s a beautiful kind of pain: settin' fire to yesterday: find the light, find the light, find the light…
I really cannot recommend the track highly enough.
Be strong, and let your heart know courage.