The Hazy Night of the Soul

A few years ago, fine print became difficult for me to read.  I needed longer arms, better lighting. Some of you know what I mean.

Recently, that is how things have been for me spiritually.  It feels like everything that used to be so clear, suddenly became blurry.  There are moments of clarity, maybe when the light is better or when I can stand back far enough to get a little perspective.

I haven’t experienced the darkness of depression, just the slow-dawning realization that I am in a bit of a ditch.  Looking back, I can see the early signs, the issues that came up and my avoidance of those issues.

I don’t want to be broken again.  I thought the whole spiritual abuse thing would be my big brokenness event.  So why after healing from all of that would I need to be stripped and pruned again?

During this time of floundering for me, at our coffee-shop gathering we have been dealing with our picture of God.  This has forced me to either deal with the issues I’ve tried to avoid or fake it.  I’m trying to deal.

I’ll share some about the slide into being stuck and maybe a little of what I’m learning in the ditch. I am uncomfortable with being so publicly introspective, but I guess if I shouldn’t be on my blog, maybe it’s time to quit blogging.  Anyway, if you don’t like personal and raw, please just move on.

If you find yourself stuck, especially when you know better, I hope it helps to know that you aren’t alone. Feel free to comment, but I don’t know if I can or will respond to the comments, however I always read and appreciate your thoughts.

It’s hard for me to blog about this.  This post has been in my draft file for a couple of months.  I would rather post it with a nice well-wrapped ending.  Maybe the only reason I can post it now is because I see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

Well you know what they say about lights at the end of tunnels.


16 thoughts on “The Hazy Night of the Soul

  1. The light isn’t always a train. I can emphasize with your haziness. I’ve found that when God prunes me, it’s because there’s still baggage that I need to get rid of and still more to learn.

  2. Well … maybe we can get us some spiritual no-line bifocals for that hazy, my-arm-are-too-short feeling.

    Or not.

    I empathize with you. Now that I’ve begun to strip baggage, it seems to be unending.

  3. I look forward to hearing you process what God is doing in you during this season of life. You’re not the only one seeking to move from recovery and confusion to clarity.

  4. Grace, there’s different kinds of wilderness experiences and it sounds like you had one kind before and this is a different kind. (Yeah, I know… that was profound).

    There’s the experiences that are the results of sin–not necessarily our sin–but the sorts of things that aren’t supposed to happen that way. We’re thrust into a state that is wrong, when sin overcomes community or someone doesn’t step up how and when they are supposed to.

    Then there’s the other kind of wilderness. This one is harder because it doesn’t make any sense. But we want to pin it on something. It’s the wilderness that comes not because of sin, but because of spiritual maturity. The dryness, the haziness, the increasing lack of feeling God’s presence. It’s not really always even near dramatic enough to call a dark night of the soul. It’s more of a gray day of the soul.

    I realized this is pretty common not in reading contemporary writings, but in looking back at the desert monastics, at some early church folks, at men and women like John Wesley and Mother Theresa. God, for whatever reason, seems to move away. He’s not away, but his presence seems that way–and we miss it. Rightfully so.

    This is, I think, so well illustrated (and predicted for us) in the story of the Exodus, where salvation from the horrors and deprivations of slavery were followed by miracles and grand events, and great speeches. Only to be then followed by slogging through the desert, where there was often not enough water, where leaders would disappear for shockingly long times, where food was there, but it was plain. God was working. He was leading them to the promised land even through all that.

    But it sucked at many points in the journey–and it sucked in mundane, emptying sorts of ways.

    John Wesley, throughout his life, would write about how he missed the presence of God, writing at one point when he was about 60 to his brother Charles that while he did not feel the wrath of God, neither “do I love God. I never did.”

    He continues by writing “and yet to be so employed by God; and so hedged in that I can neither go forward nor backward! Surely there never was such an instance before, from the beginning of the world!”

    This at the peak of his ministry. Mother Theresa writes of not feeling the presence of God at all for decades, except in the faces of the poor she worked with. God stepped back, and that pushes people to press on in a building faith that is different than the old faith–it’s the faith of real maturity.

    Which sounds dramatic. But it’s not very often. It’s a slog.

    All this to say, that when I read this, knowing your story the little I do, and the thoughts you’ve written, I suspect that what you’re experiencing now is precisely the sort of process that God often does precisely in the people who he respects and is pressing forward.

  5. I think I can identify on some levels. My ‘connection’ with the church we recently left was friendship with some of the congregants, and employment. But for the past few years I have been steadily moving away from ‘churchiology’ and much deeper into Kingdom service. Due to budget issues (and I strongly suspect a pastor who views me as somewhat of a rebel), my hours were reduced to part-time employment. This resulted in a 25% pay cut and the loss of my benefits.

    My strongest motivation for membership had just been realized (employment). Because of how the leadership handled the entire process (very top-down corporate mindset, cutting me out of any kind of collaboration processes) and the fact that I cannot identify the real vision/direction of the church anyway, we thought it would only be fair to them and us (me and my wife) have them remove our names from the membership. Not surprizingly, after 12 years I was terminated as an employee. I am now free … and unemployed.

    This freedom is kind of a strage place. There is a sense of security in a place with boundaries, even if they are a form of bondage. I think Israel sensed this when they were freed from bondage to the Egyptians. They had to learn to totally trust God, outside of a paradigm that was developed though generations of bondage. Everything was new. Everything they had learned to come to depend on was behind them. Without full dependence upon God, the wilderness was a forboding place. “Take us back to Egypt!”

    I know I am free to go back to Egypt – but I don’t want to. I am looking for daily manna. I am looking for the water that comes from the Rock. Although I know in my heart that it’s an endless supply, my head gets nervous that there is only enough for today. That makes me unsettled. Egypt beckons. Perhaps bondage to religion is easier. I can simply go through the motions and be kept by the church, and can still call upon the Name of the Lord from my prison. But it isn’t authentic enough. God has something new on the horizon – I want in on it.

    Nope. For now I am going to follow the pillar to see where it leads. Manna and water are sweet when eaten with others who are also following the pillar. But there are times of uncertainty, to be sure.

    Egypt beckons ….

  6. Ken and I were posting similar things at the exact same time. Interesting.

    Grace, being publicly introspective is weird, but I think it’s so important. The church has been flooded with hagiographies and autohagiographies. When people feel burnt out, turned over, empty, or dry they assume everyone else is doing fine.

    One of my most important reads at a key point was reading Wesley’s depression–he journaled his frustrations and his dryness, and his whole story continued on.

    So, I encourage you to wander through your thoughts publicly. You might never hear about it, but I have no doubt that what you write will find it’s way to the person who needs to read about it.

    Sometimes, that’s even a reason God pushes us through these gray times.

  7. there is pot in our kitchen that we use quite a bit. its just the right size, you know? good for basic and special needs. of course, because it gets used a lot, it gets cleaned a lot. sometimes the scrubbing won’t work so we go to scouring. even when we keep it fairly clean, the fires blacken the bottom up pretty badly and my wife has to take steel wool to it finally and i’m pretty sure thins the metal out by at least a millimeter each time.
    anyway, we live in a dirty city, and so when we aren’t using it, I find it actually gets dirtier sitting around. And the kinda of sticky, gooey dust/grime that collects is harder to clean off than even the fireblack. Funny thing though, I just found out the other night that as soon as I stick it in the fire, the dust-grime melts away. But, of course, I still have to clean it before I want to use it and afterwards as well to make it shine.

  8. Maybe He’s about to show you something about Himself that you never knew. Drawing you furthar into His world.
    Maybe He’s causing you to feel how He feels about something?
    Or…maybe He just wants to spend time with you, hearing what you have to say and comforting you.
    I say these things because your writing thus far reminds me of a season He brought me through.
    I was feeling what you’re feeling, and to my surprise, it turned out to be a season of growth and deeper intimacy. I came out of it knowing more than ever that I am loved, and that there’s so much more to discover about Him.
    Bless you oodles and oodles!

  9. Resonating a bit with you Grace.. thinking about how pain has often helped me to hear His voice in wilderness experiences.. I’ll share a bit but feel free to deep-six as this may not be applicable.

    I sometimes go back to the divine impressions I felt when my wife’s legs were paralyzed as we cruised the Gulf.. the voice of the Spirit challenged me to simply flow with God in my life and not try to manage life like a work project.. to live in simplicity.

    It is really difficult for me most of the time.. I want to control.. but I think maybe simple things like joy and peace only come when we give up control.. maybe contentment only comes when we flow? Not that I have a clue :)

  10. Kansas Bob

    Your’e dead on about simplicity – we suffer so much when we try and manage our lives ( let’s face it our evangelical heritage of work ethic told us to dutifully do this).Anthony De Mello’s ideas of all suffering coming from attachments to wrong self concepts rings true in my life.Have a look everyone at his videos on Youtube.It will be the best thing youve done for yourself in a long time.As someone who has suffered greatly from anxiety and depression I can honestly say that I’m happier now that I’ve let my Evangelical beliefs drop off like old rags.You might disagree with me but all we are called to be is childlike and enjoy all that lies around us.In harmony with God and man.Most Christians I now meet are profoundly unhappy people – how come?Seems to contradict Jesus’ claims on Sermon on The Mount!!Grace let all the old thought patterns fall away -you will not miss them.

  11. Grace,
    I can relate to being in a barren wilderness.
    Seem like I go through it a lot actually, but there are times that when I think back where I felt so alone, and suddenly the voice of God went silent.
    I really hate that place and it’s really scary to begin to doubt what I was so sure of.I think it’s really important that you know that probably everyone who reads your blog will be praying for you and it doesn’t last forever.
    It’s much like finding your spouse I think, when you least expect it and have given up the hope of finding Him; there He is.
    Thanks so much for sharing your heart and Journey with all of us.

  12. One of the things I have learned is that breaking occurs at regular intervals. There is no one breaking experience. Another is that each breaking experience tends to be preparation for the next, which is often more difficult than the prior ones. I have come to believe that breaking is essential to becoming whole….the person Father created us to be. It has now been some 9 years since my last time of breaking from external causes. I have tried to learn to maintain a spirit of brokenness but suspect that is not adequate for the work that yet remains to be done in my life by Father. Do I look forward to the next time? In many ways the answer is no. But I know when that day arrives positive results will ensue if I let Father do his work through the Spirit. Do I think Father sends these? Probably not, at least in most cases, there are abundant opportunities in this fallen world for them to arise naturally.

    My prayer is that you will become whole through the broken experiences.

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