This past Friday night, I hit a slump. I felt completely alone. Useless. As many of my friends and former colleagues were getting ready for another year of working with students, of serving others, of doing the same things I’ve been doing for the last four years. Doing the things that I am not doing now.
I lay in the dark, tossing and turning, unable to sleep until some God-awful hour. When I woke on Saturday, I created a plan for the day. I worked out, I went with a member of my cohort to Target and bought bookshelves, I put the bookshelves together.
In the evening, I saw a tweet, and got to join some people from my LifeGroup. We watched Tangled.
After the movie, one of the guys asked how I was doing. The room was dimly lit.
“Uh. Okay. I dunno. Last night I really struggled with being alone and…”
It all felt silly to say. I could tell the group was hanging on my words. They wanted a finished sentence. “I feel like I’ve been here all summer, and spent most of my time just… being alone. It’s like – I could have stayed in California until last week or whatever. I feel like I’ve been here all this time, and I just… I have nothing to show for us.”
At once they all protested.
“What you don’t think we’re your friends? You can leave…” in a joking voice.
“Nah, man, you have us.”
I didn’t expect that kind of protest.
“Wait,” the conversation initiator said, “you mean to say that you’ve had times where you’ve just been sitting at your house, bored, not doing anything, feeling down, and you haven’t called me?”
I hung my head in shame for a moment.
“Yes.” I look up, embarrassed. “Yes, I have.”
“Dude. Please call me. Seriously. I mean it. If you ever want to hang out, people always just come over to my house, and it’s totally fine.”
This caught me off guard a bit, but was also comforting.
Sunday morning came, and I dragged myself to church, feeling better, but still ambivalent. I was supposed to meet one of the women in my cohort, but my inability to be on time to church ever in the history of ever hindered that. So I sat alone.
I left church. Unseen. Unspoken to. Ungreeted. Again.
I went to Starbucks and read some of my textbook and some of my current novel (“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac). When I got home, I felt a bit sullen and lost. Not the emptiness and loneliness of Friday. More of a consolation and struggle. As I watched “happythankyoumoreplease,” I began to work things out in my mind.
As the afternoon wore into evening, I danced around my apartment while eating cereal and/or ice cream. Slowly, boxes were being consolidated and things were starting to go where they were supposed to go.
Things were starting to come together.
I took some empty boxes over to a colleague who needed them for some stuff at work, then drove to Late Night at LifeChurch. As I was driving, something clicked. The gears changed completely, switched. Maybe it was Tadashii’s Riot, Wale’s “Chillin,” or Owl City’s “Galaxies” streaming sounds of joy though my car stereo. Maybe it was just how things were to be.
By the time I got to the parking lot and stepped out of my car, I was stoked. Legitimately excited. As I walked into the building, I realized how ridiculous and narrow-minded I was being. I realized how focused on myself I was. I thought I had just been wandering alone in the desert.
The pain of my circumstances this summer has struck me with fear. That fear has pierced me through my core. I need to drop the fear, and pick up my faith.
I walked into LifeChurch, and I was recognized. “Hey Nathanial!” I smiled a little bit and waved kinda awkwardly. I aimlessly stood in the lobby before recognizing a few people and engaging in conversation. And it snowballed.
I had one of my LifeGroup leaders introduce me to the man in charge of Switch – the youth ministry – and I took a bold step. I’ve been vacillating over whether or not I want to serve here, serve this year. My words decided that for me, as I offered my time forward.
Then another of my LifeGroup leaders came up and we went into the service. As we walked in, I kept seeing people I knew from our LifeGroup. And it hit me.
I haven’t been wandering alone in the desert. And when I have, it’s been completely my choice. I fear so much being a burden to someone else. I fear being the unwanted member of the group. Sometimes I put those fears ahead of my loneliness, my pain, and my desire to make friends. I need to let my weights go.
So I can now walk into a room and see people I know, and recognize them, and remember their names. That means a lot. It means that I am no longer alone. This desert I perceive, that’s as far as it exists – within my perception.
If I had any doubt that I was in the right place – through all the struggles I faced – Craig Groeschel covered that in his message this week. He said something like “If you’re not facing opposition, you’re not in God’s will.” Not those exact words. But something along those lines. I think a radiator explosion, a water hose leak, mis-adventures in London, excessive and expensive car repairs, and feelings of loneliness are all opposition.
Which is good news! Because it means I’m in the right place, doing the right thing.
Speaking of doing the right thing, I need to sleep before my first day of graduate school.