There’s only a barren plain
Swept clean by the wind
The idol crumbled and blew away
And left me with nothing within
So I face the future alone
Starting all over again
This time I have to be certain
That what I risk is worth the pain
I grew up in a very religious family. We didn’t think of ourselves as religious (with the connotations of rules, restrictions and rituals), but nevertheless that is how an outsider looking on would have described us.
So God, and talk about God, was a normal part of my life.
As I grew older it became more and more important for me to find out what God’s plan for my life was. I couldn’t make any decisions unless I knew it was God’s will. But trying to work that out was a continual source of anxiety.
I read book after book of amazing stories about people who had followed God’s will and seen incredible things happen (they also suffered a lot, but that just seemed to make their stories more glorious).
We regularly had visiting speakers come to our church and fill our heads with tales of mass conversions, miracles, signs and wonders.
‘Prophets’ told me slightly vague but exciting sounding things about my future.
I was convinced that I was destined, and I use that word deliberately, for something special.
Looking back, it seems obvious that I was being set up for a fall. When you combine a highly idealistic and romantic nature with an independent and decisive personality, and feed it for years and years with ideas such as ‘calling’ ‘purpose’ and ‘destiny’, there’s going to be a problem at some stage.
I’m not yet ready to recount the events surrounding the eventual collapse of my illusions, and delusions. I’m still not really sure how much was my own fault. Maybe one day, when no one, including me, can be hurt by it anymore, I’ll put the whole story down on paper.
During this time I often thought how nice it would be to die. No more shame and confusion, just peaceful silence. But I didn’t enact any of the dark fantasies that swirled around in my head.
Instead I was desperately drawn to beauty. The glimpse of a flower, a heartfelt song, the solidity of trees, gorgeous fabric, passionate movement – these things gave me the strength to get through a moment, a day, a life.
In hindsight I see that I was looking for things that were real, not the ignis fatuus (thanks to Jane Eyre for that one) that I’d been chasing for so long. I was, finally, living in ‘the now’ (and thanks to Edna Mode for that).
My healing really began with poetry, attempting to make sense of what I was feeling with awkward words. I shocked myself with the things that appeared on the page. But it was a huge relief to get the pain out. And then I began dancing it away, and learning to love being me again.
I’m not sure what I believe anymore. I think the God I used to worship was one I’d created in my own image – more what I wanted God to be like than perhaps he actually is.
Or maybe it’s a case of when one searches desperately for God they leave themselves wide open, and so can be deeply wounded. It’s wise not to go back to the place of danger.
I do know that I feel more peaceful now than I have in years. And somehow I think God might be glad about that.