It's going on three years now, since much of my life was rearranged. For most of that long, cold winter of the soul's discontent, I allowed myself only the privilege of an ink pen to my personal journal. At long last, I've chosen to post some of these feelings.
I realize that what you are about to read is depressing. And indeed, I was going through the valley of the shadow of doubt. One minute I would feel hopeful and content, and the next - suicidal! Most of the scattered journal entries were in the immediate months following my resignation from Lakeshore Community Church, and the exile from my home.
I am posting some (of course, not everything!) of these journal entries because they are beautiful and sacred, and I have come so far from that place. I have also chosen to share this emotion because I believe it will help me to bring closure to a painful chapter in the story of my life. Although I am not fully healed from the self-inflicted wounds, the scars are fading and my heart is beating again...
Read at your own risk:
"this then, is my confession:
that i'm losing hope in the power of prayer.
st. john of the cross refers to this season as
'the dark night of the soul'.
when God seems detached
a million miles away
laughing uncontrollably at my petty confessions
with bloody knuckles pounding on heaven's door
for justice and mercy and deliverance
from the thorn in my soul
again and again and again...
sometimes your grace does not seem sufficient
sometimes i speak with the tongues of foreign groans;
an unholy rage that can not be interpreted
sometimes these tears fall like salty blood and sweat
violent explosions from my soul
delicate implosions from this body of death
who can deliver me?
_______ the truth_______
i'm a fellow pilgrim on the journey
trying to wrap my mind around grace
and a post-easter worldview
a question posed by my therapist:
"do you find it difficult to believe that people could actually love you, just for being you?"
a) "i don't understand the question."
"yesterday afternoon i had a meltdown. for some reason i could not function. i could not make the simplest of decisions. i stood in the kitchen and just cried my eyes out. i went into the living room and just sat on the couch. mariah was watching television and i tried to hide my tears. i do not want her to see me like this.
i went into the bedroom and collapsed. jamie came in to comfort me, and mariah followed... suspiciously curious.
kyle b. came over. we sat in the basement. he told me that some people are questioning the sincerity of my repentance or pride. trust me, this is not pride - it's self-hatred. how long will i continue flogging myself? and then it hit me: God knows the condition of my heart, and nothing else matters. nothing."
"except for the fact that i am losing hope
in love in koinonia in ekklesia in the body of Christ
to be a safe place for broken people like me
to confess sin, and in repentance, find restoration.
i am so catastrophically pissed off!
outraged and ashamed, all in one breath.
i am not well
dangerous, i can not drive down the highway
or speak an intelligent word
or make the simplest of choices
i want to scream out at the thousands of curious spectators
who are watching like a ten-car highway wreck, with detached, vulgar curiosity.
i refuse the eucharist in community.
i am afraid for my daughters
that their eyes will watch the body lose a limb
and silence a voice. that they will grow up
like every other suburban child
confused and uncertain
just like their daddy.
Jesus give me the strength to pack my bags and wiped the dust and blood off my wretched self."
a d m i t m e.
"this morning i am in the recovery room.
yesterday a statement was made by the elders
my dirty laundry put on display
like my dad's childhood sheets, soiled
hanging out to dry, flopping in the wind to be observed by the entire neighborhood.
this morning i am in the recovery room
let the healing begin
i want to rip the iv out
disconnect from the monitors, supervision, speculation
white coats with their hushed whispers and clip boards,
taking notes and diagnosing me
oppositional defiant disorder."
"lately i've been cold
constantly freezing and trembling
my knees buckling as i walk
lately i've been waking up in a pool of sweat
sheets soaked; cold cold sweat
electric blanket on seven
"my counselor stretched me yesterday and i am furious!
he asked me what i value the most:
acceptance by God or the praise of men?
obviously, i answer, acceptance by God.
is my soul in shambles? feeling the sting
(that all-too familiar slap) of rejection
and the self-verification that consumes me?
he asks me if anyone truly knows me.
seriously, truly knows every detail. every scar. every hidden secret.
'no, perhaps not.'
he said that's because you don't know yourself.
so who am i then [these questions haunt me]
which is the real me:
the guy on stage under the spotlight
the guy hidden behind a door
locked and bolted shut?
fifty-three miles outside my comfort zone
this leather couch holds me captive
to another fifty minutes of show and tell.
these tears have escaped with a vengeance
streaking naked down my face
trembling with anticipation
before the interrogation is over, i will come to terms with my greatest fear.
rejection has been a part of my story for as long as i can remember.
the haunting crash of doors
slammed in my face
this incessant sting of abandonment has fueled within me a thirst for affirmation
that suffocates me like an electric blanket in august
in full volume, the praises of men;
self-verification has become a lethal drug
i will embrace this season
introspective soul-searching will bring
the healing i need from the inside out
i will embrace this silence
isolation is the rhythm that peddles the chain that turns the wheels that keeps me going...
i will embrace this anger
sins of omission, words left unspoken
promises broken, gasping and choking
i will embrace this memory:
a porcelain toilet and a mess on the floor
tears and dry heaving; a spiritual war
i will embrace this hope
an empty tomb a resurrection
from the crucifixion; an all-sufficient Savior
and stands as my defense attorney in a court of law
i will embrace this grace
seeking the affirmation of my Father
and no other."
"i don't know is the answer
to the questions and the doubt
the reason for His silence
abandoned in the drought.
i don't know is the answer
to the laughter and the kiss
betrayal in a whisper
hurt i do not miss.
i don't know is the answer
to the grace that covers sin
the slaughter of my Savior
and the love that does not win."
[cell phone alert; 1 new email message]
'My free, unsolicited advice would be to grieve. Make sure you grieve, or you will (as you said) be confronted with it again some day. Feel your feelings and let time take its course. What was once there is gone. But what replaced it might be better."
- Marcia R.
[unpublished letter to our Lakeshore Family]
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us for His glory. May these words find you and keep you in the Spirit of grace. With trembling hands I write; nauseously slow, pondering each word...
This afternoon Jamie and I sat outside beneath cloudy skies, to commemorate the past, contemplate our present, and deliberate our future. As Ambria slept in her crib, and Mariah played with her toys, we landed on this inevitable conclusion: our exodus from Muskegon is immanent.
Our hearts are shattered into a million pieces, to think of those faces with whom we have fallen in love! This city, so desperate for change; this vision, now clouded. These friends, now family. We reminisce with ache, to be reunited in glory - some glad morning!
We are torn between the heavy weight of our responsibility to a call to ministry and the great commission/ and the unification of the Body of Christ. To see the Bride of Lakeshore Church so polarized is excruciating! Indeed, Christ's final prayer was for His Church to be One.
The Revolution of Love includes radical surrender and submission to the point of death. We love this community so deeply that we are willing to walk away, if it will help to see her prosper. As desperately as we desire to return, we realize that our own selfishness may intercept the emergence of Lakeshore's future...
And so we are leaving forever, for now. We trust that the Elders will remain true to the original vision of preaching Jesus, and loving people. We trust the counsel of local pastors who believe that Lakeshore's only chance of survival is for us to part ways. We trust that many years from now, She will continue to be thriving under the leadership of Brad, Skot, Jeff, and Matt.
And most of all, we trust that you will never forget those epic moments of awe and wonder, as God used someone as screwed up as me, to speak words of encouragement into your lives.
Thank you, from the bottom of my nauseous heart, for the honor of taking this journey with you, as a fellow pilgrim in search of grace.
in One peace,
- J D
"there are times, of course, that i miss the rush of the stage.
the auditorium quickly filling up... people scrambling to save seats.
the worship team takes their place, 'one name, under heaven...'
i miss the sense of expectation!
we used to anticipate the visitation of the Victor.
i miss seeing cars lined up all the way down lakeshore drive.
i miss greeting visitors, memorizing names, and welcoming friends.
i hate the current anxiety of sunday mornings.
'what church shall we visit today, honey?'
[pick your poison]: would you rather die by suffocation or electrocution?
drowning or fire? how about in your sleep?
"let it be known that i loved lakeshore church.
i will always love her!
i will go to my grave with a fierce love for her!
i watched her bloody birth on the floor of our living room
at 1434 canterbury avenue, with eleven friends...
i watched her first steps as a toddler community.
i watched her grow and blossom and reproduce and multiply
and i love her. i love her. i love her. i will always love her!
i think before i can move forward
i need to go back to that place of original surrender
to grieve and to celebrate
and to give thanks.
to endless pacing back and forth
rehearsing words on saturday night
everything in its rightful place
clocks and candles and notes
and no need for an alarm clock
early, i rise. in eager anticipation with a fire in my heart.
skot's car is already parked in the back.
the worship team is rehearsing in rhythm.
kathy is brewing the coffee and chain-smoking and washing the windows.
i am walking in circles
habitually opening the door
glancing up and down the street and
here they come...
the traffic begins to slow
and hugs and introductions to friends and
family reunions will never be the same
the worship begins and john beats the drums as an invitation to the mayor to take notice.
my heart is going to explode!
there is now standing room only (don't tell the fire marshal)
two services, now
visitors returning as friends, then family
the sidewalk is still flooded with late-comers
stepping over colored chalk:
'you are forgiven'
my fingers still stained with powdered pink and blue chalk
as i scurry down the isle to take a seat next to jamie
and she takes my hand in hers as i whisper in her ear,
'i love this moment!'
dear Jesus, come in to my life and save me.
remove my sin
as far as the east is from the west
as far as the east is from the west
as far as the east is from the west