Ex Nihilo


This is more of a journal entry than anything. Welcome to my mind. Or my soul or my spirit or whatever this part of me is that feels deeply.

I went into work today at 5:30 am. My building normally has a small amount of traffic even that early, but it didn’t today. I hadn’t even remembered that it was Saturday until I got there and noticed the emptiness—the days run together when you work weekends. As I began to ascend the stairs to the top floor, I realized that I hadn’t seen a single other person on my way in. I do most of my thinking on those stairs, because the stairwell is usually the only place I’m left alone during the day. The stairs are actually faster than the elevators—several times I’ve arrived on the top floor sooner than my colleagues who were waiting for a ride from the bottom (and who likely stopped at most floors on the way up). Even though elevators might give me more time to think, my thoughts would be interrupted by polite greetings, small-talk, and well-wishes for the day as colleagues enter, ride to their floors, and exit. The stairs are my hiding place.

As soon as my subconscious mind recognized the privacy of the stairs (which were far more private today than they are Monday through Friday), my thoughts came quickly and with greater intensity than they do on days when occasional distant footsteps might echo through the stairwell along with mine. What was the content of my thoughts? I’m not even sure I can explain it. It was sort of an odd self-assessment. It was not invited, and it was painful—but I’m glad it happened.

I’m not who I want to be.

An army of tears infiltrated my eyes and threatened to overcome the surface tension that held them in. I’m not who I want to be. Although this realization was unpleasant, the fact that I had insight at all gave me hope for change. I’m not who I want to be, and I’m not who I used to be. So who am I?

Above all, I am prideful. I put my desires above those of others, and it comes so naturally to me that I don’t even have to consciously decide to do it. I have been silent when I should have spoken up. I have been loud and opinionated when I should have been silent. I have fought too hard when I should have surrendered. I have given up when I should have kept fighting. I have burned bridges that I should have reinforced. I have allowed doors to be placed where I should have built fortresses. I have been sarcastic when I should have been sensitive. I have been too sensitive when I should have let go. I have been rebellious when I should have followed. I have followed when I should have turned back. I’m not who I want to be. I’m not who I used to be.

But I’m not who I’m going to be. I think I grew up as I climbed the stairs today. You probably wouldn’t notice, and I still have a long way to go—hopefully five or more decades of wisdom to acquire. But the weight of my childishness pressed down on me as I ascended, and it kind of broke me. As I climbed higher, I didn’t get any closer to an understanding of who God is. I didn’t hear his voice; I didn’t sense his presence. But my heart did become soft enough, malleable enough to bend at the neck and look at itself. And it broke when it realized what it had become without Jesus.

I’m not trying to use my apostatical decline in character as evidence that God exists—it is insufficient for that purpose. What I think it does reveal is that my belief in God was very real to me and changed the way that I lived for the better. I want to live that way again—to reshape my heart into something recognizable at least, if not beautiful. The task seems almost impossible. I’m a mess. My heart is grotesque, even chimeric. But it has to happen. I can’t keep using bitterness about lost faith as an excuse to be a selfish child. I can’t keep letting anger toward a silent God overwhelm the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. It’s time to grow up, regardless of what I believe. It’s far past time.

By the time I reached the top floor, my body had little left to offer, and my heart had nothing—so much had changed in two or three minutes of intense introspection on the stairs. And when I consider the recent condition of my heart, I think this is the best place to start. If there is no God, I still have to grow up—I still have to be broken down. And if he really is there—the greatest story ever told starts with him creating a miracle out of nothing.

God, I bring you nothing—because it’s everything I have. Please, please do something with it.


7 thoughts on “Ex Nihilo

    • I am an honest person—sometimes to a fault. I’ve always been told that “people always know where they stand” with me. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. It’s good that I address obstacles in relationships before they become insurmountable, but it’s not necessary for everyone to know what I’m thinking at all times—my opinions just don’t matter that much. I’m hoping to learn to use honesty alongside discernment. That’s a mature honesty. That’s wisdom. My honesty now sometimes looks more like a child’s—“This food you made is disgusting” or “Grandma smells funny.” You get the idea.

      I am honest about myself here, but that’s not always the case when I have a face and a real name. You won’t hear me talking about any of these things to my boss at work. I don’t lie there, but I also don’t volunteer my weaknesses.

      As far as never becoming who we want to be…you’re probably right. I hope I die the instant that I mark the last check-box on my list of “who I want to be,” because it can only go down-hill from there. But I like having something to strive for. And what hurts the most is that I’ve been better than this before. Can’t I at least get back to where I started? That’s the challenge I’ve made for myself. The past 2.5 years have been an overall regression for me. The graph depicts a jagged line, but the net result is that my character has declined. Some of it was actual childish rebellion. “I don’t believe in the God who says that this is wrong, so I’m going to do it!” I can point to actual moments when I did horrific things (that I now regret deeply) because I hated the whole idea of God. I knew these things were wrong regardless of whether or not God said so, but I still did them. Part of me was hoping he would find a way to stop me. He didn’t. Pascal might consider that a glimpse of what hell is like—always getting our way without interference from God. I’ve always disagreed with him, but I’m kind of starting to see what he means.

      Long response—sorry. My family is out of town and my house is too quiet. You’re the victim of my eagerness to let my thoughts out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s okay. I like listening. 🙂 And I like your thoughts on mature honesty.
        Well, that’s the funny thing: we set specific goals for ourselves and then we change, so the goals change too… I’ve been better than where I am right now too, but I’ve learned something from it, I hope. I don’t think I could be who I was three years ago again. Time keeps moving forward…
        And so do we, I suppose. That is an interesting image of hell. C.S. Lewis put it like that once I think… I don’t know where you are on your search for God, but trusting in His love even though I screw things up so often is something I keep having to remind myself to do. I know He’s always waiting… so I just have to keep reaching. Or try reaching a different way.
        Blessings to you, CC. You have my prayers.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I never experienced this bitterness or anger re: God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. Of course I was accused of it when I left the faith. Yet I did not experience this inside or outside the faith. In this regard I can’t relate.

    To your human experience, the ups and downs of being who we are, who we aren’t and who we want to be . . . I can relate.

    Stairwell moments are some of the best moments.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aren’t they? I had plenty more today.

      And the bitterness…I don’t always feel it—it doesn’t make sense to be angry toward a God I don’t believe in. The bitterness and anger come from the part of me that still wants to believe. I’ve said before “If he were real, I would have to hate him”—at least the aspects of his character that I’ve been brought up to believe. If I could ever accept the idea of God, I would have to also believe that the writers of scripture got some things about him wrong, and that modern Christians are also mistaken about many things.

      And if he’s real, I’m bitter about the feeling that my love for him is unrequited—he gives me no clear evidence of his love that can’t be better explained in a simpler, non-divine way. That’s my own fault, though. I love with too much vulnerability. I always have and always will. It’s the best and the worst thing about me.

      The more I think about it, the more I realize that the anger might be my way of coping with the growing sense of longing that deep down I know will never be fulfilled. I don’t think it’s necessarily real anger, either. I think maybe I just want to feel angry at the idea of God because it’s easier than feeling lonely.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder if any of us are who we want to be. I feel the weight of that particular contradiction on a daily basis. As you say, the rub is in deciding that we are not who we are GOING to be, and then working toward that decision a little every day.

    Personally, I believe that those who already are who they are going to be have forgotten the true joy of being human: challenging, changing, becoming. If we stop becoming, we stop living. I think, anyway…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree—like I said in a comment above, I hope I die the day I finally become who I want to be—what could life offer after that except regression?

      It’s okay that I’m not yet who I want to be. I may never get there. But what I do not want is to be further from it today than I was yesterday.

      Liked by 1 person

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