Christian Bookstores and the Joy That Keeps Me Awake

Last week one of my students asked me to lead a Bible study. There was one particular book which she wanted to go through, written by a local youth pastor’s wife. With play rehearsals on top of senior thesis grading on top of the rest of my job, it wasn’t until today that I got around to finding a copy to read. First I went to Barnes and Nobles, but they didn’t have it in stock, so I called my dad. I asked him what other big bookstores there were in town. He told me none. So then I asked him where that Christian bookstore was, and let him tell me, although I already knew. And then I went.

From the moment I pulled up, I was, as my pastor during college would have said, profoundly uncomfortable. I am a follower of Christ and I have spent my whole life in Christian community. I love walking into churches. I love books. Quite obviously, I think it is a good thing to read and write about Jesus, and I know full well that if the contents of this blog were ever to be really published, that is the sort of store that would sell them. And yet.

There were posters of smiling women all inside the display windows, and when I walked in it smelled like potpourri and both cashiers shouted hello.  But potpourri doesn’t bother me, and I am definitively in favor of smiles and people who give them to me.

I was probably inside for a total of three or four minutes. I can find books very fast when I want to, and they had the one I needed. It was just past the Christian board books section, in the women’s section, where most of the covers were pink or had pictures of rushing water on them.

When the lady rung me up she asked for my phone number, my full name, my mailing address. I wanted to say, Please don’t send me things. I don’t want your things. You have an entire wall devoted to Beth Moore, Karen Kingsbury is displayed with your “Best New Reads,” and your open sign is shaped like an ichthys. Why can’t it just be shaped like an open sign?!? But instead I told her my phone number, my full name, my mailing address. Then I walked out with a bag which said “Biblical Solutions to Life” on the side. I drove away and tried to figure out why that had been such an unpleasant experience.

Sometimes I lie awake at night because I have too many thoughts. They don’t  have time to be thought of during the day, so once I turn out my light they tumble around and around in my head, delighted to have my attention at long last. Sometimes they are angry and bitter thoughts. More than once this year I have decided with great certainty that whoever dreamed up the idea of teaching as an actual career is a sadist, on level with Rasputin or Iago, and ought to be taken out and shot.

But other nights are different. Other nights joy keeps me awake. Joy that I bought stickers at Target to put on a rough batch of tests, joy that high schoolers like to laugh and like to laugh at themselves, joy that I have people I love enough to miss, joy, to be honest, that students want me to lead a Bible study. This is the sort of joy that makes me feel very small. Small and loved and promised and clean. The greatest lesson I have learned in teaching is the hugeness of my own inadequacy and and the irrelevance of that inadequacy in the face of God’s abundant grace.

I think that there are fair and wise criticisms to be made of the idea of a Christian bookstore or of a Christian culture in general. But I don’t think I am the person to make them. I walked into that place this evening as a female teacher at a Christian school with plans to lead a Bible study for teenage girls. I knew I was their ideal demographic and I resented it. I did not want to think they might have anything to teach me. I wanted Jesus to reassure me that no, of course, he would never have come to a place like this. I was prepared to remind myself that he was my God and not theirs.

But the God of small joys, who pries open my fingers and teaches me to hold my palms out empty before him, is far wiser than I. If he can change me through cheap princess stickers and flubbed blocking in a high school drama rehearsal, it is faithless of me to claim he cannot be present in books that cry out his name on every page. Perhaps I will lie awake tonight thinking about that.

You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy.

The Next Thing

You guys, blog entries don’t always solve my problems like they should. That’s why I write them, you know: I get upset and thinking about something and I start composing like mad in my head, then within a day or two I get it all out on the page in a big hunk of cathartic vomit, then everyone tells me how nice it is and I pat myself on the back and feel much better and go on my merry way. Unfortunately, a few weeks later I realize I’m still pretty screwy in the same old ways, and I already wrote about it, so there’s nothing else to do now. Drat.

One particular entry has continued to sit in my gut, though I wrote it months ago. It is the one about living up to my own expectations, making a dreadful little god of the woman I think I ought to be.

This tendency has all been especially apparent lately with my attempts to write fourteen novel pages every two weeks for my independent study. Somewhere along the line I’ve convinced myself that not only must everything I write turn out brilliantly, but it must be wonderful from the first draft, that the plot of an entire book must knit itself together seamlessly in the first attempt. So, with that in mind, I sit down to write every day and vacillate routinely between terror and despair.  I mean, if I can’t do a simple novel right on the first try, what am I worth?

I’ve been stumbling along anyway, sending weak kicks in the direction of the imaginary-Alice-who-can-do-all-things, and gratefully soaking up encouragement from Dr. Potter, and the book I’m reading on fiction writing, and the friends who say I’m over-thinking it.

And yesterday my mom sent me an essay in the mail called “The Judgment of Memory,” by a man named Joseph Bottum, who was, at the time, editor of First Things. It was mainly about memoir writing, about our tendency to write about our parents and childhoods (my parents are brave to encourage this habit of mine), about the way in which we dilute our own memories, about the way in which modern writers shy away from story and myth and substance, and instead give marvelous little detailed descriptions of things between which they are ultimately unable to draw a connection.

This conflict between focusing on details or plot is not just present in writing, in the way I squeeze words onto a page, but in my own life, in the way I spend my time, in the way I occupy my mind, in the way I rest. It is comfortable to look at small things like myself and my words and my to-do post it note for the week. It is uncomfortable to try to fit grand archetypes and ideals into my compact, inelastic life.

Details come easier because they can be added unto the all-powerful vision of ideal-Alice. The story comes hard because it is His. She does not exist in His story: there’s only Him and me. In fact it’s mostly Him. He was in all these places first. He “father’d-forth” all I see and all I know. Joseph Bottum writes that “In the end, every sentence with the word I in it is a lie: self-justifying, self-righteous, self-conscious, self-sick.”

So, what to do? How to follow along as He tells the story?

Way back freshman year, I wrote a frustrated little entry called “Weather and The Woman Question“ and Mrs. Liebmann commented and told me not to worry, just to “Do the next thing.” (That advice immediately skyrocketed right up there with “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” and “Say what you mean.”) It is not really as hard as I like to pretend to figure out the next thing. The next thing after this is to practice my cello, to write a page, to finish my laundry. I know how stories go. I’ve got lots of examples of lives well-lived.

For Christ, the next thing was usually something like eating dinner or going to bed or praying or talking to his mom or making a table. Sometimes, though, the next thing was healing a lame man, or casting out a whole horde of demons, or overturning a bunch of tables. One day the next thing was to be forsaken and to die. On Sunday, the next thing was to get up and walk out of a tomb.

Which means that the next thing for you and for me is really, simply this, from Luke 8: “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.”

Letting Her Die

When I was a little girl I had all sorts of plans for the great lady I was going to be when I was grown up. I was going to be elegant and kind and sought-after and I was going to wear the best sort of clothes and have one of those bell-like laughs you read about in less-truthful books. I was going to be infinitely wise and glisteningly beautiful and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Sometimes, when I am having a good day or week or month, I flatter myself that if eight-year-old Alice showed up on my doorstep she would suitably impressed. She would think that I was Her. I get all warm and fuzzy when I think that and then a little voice in the back of my head says, “Of course, she’d be wrong.”

Because little Alice is pretty easily satisfied, really. Give her mascara and some sparkly stuffs and she’s delighted. The goal self, the dream self has grown since then.

She now knows everything worth knowing and has read everything worth reading. Her clothes now are not only good, but are completely singular and they never wear out or need dry cleaning. She never runs out of gas or leaves awkward voicemails and she always knows what to make for dinner. She is impervious to fire, water, poor grades, rejection, and heartbreak. She has a group of friends who are just diverse enough that they all still get along, and just talented enough that their abilities complement Hers. She never has to be brave because she is never afraid.

Her legend in my mind continues to grow. Even comfortable self-deprecation is just another round-about way of reminding myself of who she is and who I am not. And every time someone gives me one of those extravagant compliments—the kind you get from people who don’t know you well enough yet—She absorbs it. A friend says I am well-spoken? Well, I know I’m not, words only occasionally come out of my mouth in the right order, but She will be, along with brilliant, and beautiful, and best-selling (just to dip into the B’s).

During those good times when I’d like to have little Alice round for tea, I almost think She’s real—but then my own feet will trip over themselves and I’m back where I begun. One of the reasons Sophomore year hurt is that I was so clearly not what I should be. I was not Her. It’s not that She never cries, but She doesn’t exactly bust open at the seams and ooze anxiety for months on end.

This panic has been coming back to me in smaller doses this summer. I’ve struggled to write, because nothing I write is good enough—all of my words limp and plod, already weary after five minutes on the page. They do not measure up and neither do I.

So  then I turn to my reading, which is currently very overwhelming (I’m backlogged with four summers’ booklists) with books that I don’t think I’m going to enjoy very much at all, but I know I can’t possibly be Her until I’ve learned to.

And as for the music she is supposed to like I am so intimidated by the thought of it that I avoid listening to anything at all, except alone in my car. Every way I turn right now, She seems to have laid out expectations for me. She’s getting pretty pushy.

It’s time I stopped feeding the tyrant. My dream-self is getting fat with my own expectations for Her, anyway. Bloated. I do not know how to stop except to simply get up and walk away from Her, to spend my summer re-reading favorite children’s books and plugging away at my story, chanting quietly, “I’ll revise later. I’ll revise later.” That will do for a while.

But really, if she is to die, for good and all, like Ozymandias, I’m going to have to come before my God and let her be torn away. And then I will need to be washed and then I will need to begin to learn freedom like the widow bringing her mite, and the fear of the Lord like Paul. It’s a long, arduous process. But He has promised me that it is finished, that He has done it, and that He loves me. So I, like little Alice, will be satisfied.

Frailty and Sunshine

This semester may be the one that drives me to coffee. It is reading-heavy and philosophy-heavy and classes-worth-caring-about-heavy. I have several hundred pages to get through each week, not to mention the book review I have yet to finish, the paper I have promised to give, and the all those sorts of assignments that actually appear on syllabi.

I’m not drowning in it. I’m doing alright. My reading for Monday is done, and I’m almost caught up with Plato for Tuesday. But I have a nagging worry that I won’t be able to sustain the pace.

I’m scared of crashing and burning.  Well, the burning I don’t mind—it’s the crashing I dislike. I do not like the jarring transition from self-sufficiency to self-pity, from one flawed attitude to another. It is an uncomfortable switch because in that first moment when my neediness is apparent, but I have not yet got myself quite tightly wrapped in warm, cuddly panic, I see Truth. I see myself naked in frailty opposite my suffering Savior, hands outstretched, patient to show me who I am. It’s awfully unpleasant.

And so, to avoid that moment, I am striving (that’s what my mom keeps telling me to do: strive) to see Christ first. To skip the self-sufficiency and self-pity and self-aggrandizement and self-deprecation and self-love and self-loathing, and begin with seeing my God.

Let’s start with today. Today was warm and sometimes sunny. I had a stab at reading Richard II, and had brunch with Renée and Sarah. I got to see Emily and her boys, and drop a note in intercampus mail, and talk to Karen, and go to church where I sang songs I love and saw people I love and was reminded of a Jesus who loves me.

Jesus loves me, not the way I love other people, because He thinks I am cool and funny and interesting and I make Him feel good about Himself, but because it is in His nature to love, because He is Love. He is living, dying, living-again Love.

Jesus loves me, because He is. We’ll begin with that. (It seems that He and I are forever beginning.)

The God of the Mountain

Tonight I am the Queen Orual bringing my complaint against my God. I do not understand. I do not understand His mercy, His love, His disregard for justice, for my proper desserts.

I can look at men who are responsible for millions of deaths and say, “My, that’s awful. That’s real bad.” But it does not look as rotten as the microcosm of my own heart, my slimed, oozing, bought-back heart.

That He would make me, know me, and yet love me, and die of my scourge that I might be healed… It does not fit into this world I have built to live in.

When you strip away all those things people say, all those pats on my shoulder, I’m pretty simple-minded. As Ethan said last week, “Grace is not intuitive.” It seems that I understand sin and nothing more. I have no face yet with which to see His. I am not gall or heartburn, but blind eyes and a mouth unopened in praise or in hunger.

I do not understand. I cannot understand. Grace for my sin is too terrible a good and I am frightened.

Nevertheless, I will eat the glowing coals of righteousness and mercy, though they burn my lips. In fear and trembling, I will open my mouth and give thanks.


Just now I came across some very unexpected free time and I said to myself (aloud, mind you,) “What if I wrote a blog entry right now?” So I’m doing that incredibly dangerous thing: beginning to write with no end of either kind in mind.

These couple weeks have been very busy. I’m playing in the pit for the musical, which has devoured my evenings, I’m beginning tutoring on Thursday, and lots of medium-sized assignments have begun to crop up out of nowhere. Also I’ve been having a fair number of meal dates. (Alice is popular—Hooray!)

All of these things have done a fair job of keeping my mind off of something I’ve been avoiding thinking about: mercy. You see, I always thought the principal thing about mercy was to give it. But I’m slowly beginning to realize that I’m not usually on that side of the transaction. I sin against God and sin against others, but since I’m no paragon of virtue, I find that people very rarely sin against me. So in my dealings with mercy it is usually being offered to me by kind, wounded hands.

I’ll tell you: I don’t like taking it. It’s not that I mind admitting I was wrong, but often, I cannot bear to be set right. I don’t like taking “the bleeding charity.” I would rather wallow in my sin and say, “No, but I belong here—you will not raise me up.”

That realization has been nagging at me for a few days now, asking me to deal with it, and today in Fantasy we talked about Return of the King. I re-read one of my favorite passages, the passage that first made me cry. But this time, to my great discomfort, I read it differently.

“Wormtongue!” called Frodo. “You need not follow him. I know of no evil you have done to me. You can have rest and food here for a while, until you are stronger and can go your own ways.”

Wormtongue halted and looked back at him, half prepared to stay. Saruman turned. “No evil?” he cackled. “Oh no! Even when he sneaks out at night it is only to look at the stars. But did I hear someone ask where poor Lotho is hiding? You know, don’t you, Worm? Will you tell them?”

Wormtongue cowered down and whimpered: “No, no!”

“Then I will,” said Saruman. “Worm killed your Chief, poor little fellow, your nice little Boss. Didn’t you, Worm? Stabbed him in his sleep, I believe. Buried him, I hope; though Worm has been very hungry lately. No, Worm is not really nice. You had better leave him to me.”

A look of wild hatred came into Wormtongue’s red eyes. “You told me to; you made me do it,” he hissed.

Saruman laughed. “You do what Sharkey says, always, don’t you, Worm? Well, now he says: follow!” He kicked Wormtongue in the face as he grovelled, and turned and made off. But at that something snapped: suddenly Wormtongue rose up, drawing a hidden knife, and then with a snarl like a dog he sprang on Saruman’s back, jerked his head back, cut his throat, and with a yell ran off down the lane. Before Frodo could recover or speak a word, three hobbit-bows twanged and Wormtongue fell dead.

Do you see me? Do you see me in the character I’ve always pitied, and, therefore, from whom I’ve felt comfortably separate? Do you see me in the refusal of the outstretched hand, the whimpering return to agony and rottenness? Do you see that it does not end well?

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why I would rather label myself with my sin than with God’s grace. I don’t understand why I do not want what is good. I don’t understand why I would rather be endlessly chastised than forgiven. I don’t understand why I’d rather look at my feet than at His glory.

I behave as if Christ on the cross meant nothing, as if “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” did not absolve me also, as if no one’s ever told me He loves me.

I feel a bit like the one hundredth sheep, who has caught herself deep in the briars. Come find me, Lord. I’m crying mercy, or beginning to, at the very least.

Read This One

This semester I’ve gotten involved in a Beth Moore Bible study at Heidi’s house. It’s led by her mom and her mom’s friend, and consists mostly of senior girls, with the addition of Laura and Heidi and me. Last Thursday, when we were sharing prayer requests at the first meeting I mentioned my kind of frustrated relationship with everyone back home, particularly my family. In the scheme of things I thought it wasn’t a huge deal, or I wouldn’t have shared it with a bunch of nearly-strangers. But then, almost before I noticed, I started crying, which was not supposed to happen. Everyone looked at me so sympathetically, and hugged me so long, and I got back to campus that night in a foul mood.

This past week I did the five days in the workbook, and was occasionally a little frustrated by Beth’s questions. No, I could not imagine what Jesus’s face might have looked like when he delivered a particular line, or how John might have felt witnessing his first miracle. I knew that Jesus did and Jesus said and that John was there too. Wasn’t that the important part? I also withdrew from a class, which was something my parents didn’t want.

Last night, at our second meeting, what all the other girls said they had appreciated most about that week were the very questions which had frustrated me. I kept my mouth shut. The video teaching for the evening had a lot to do with finding your calling, and the girls, most of whom are student teaching, and already have one foot out in the real world, shared that it meant a lot to them. This was something I’d never struggled with. I always know what I want.

When we prayed, I put my head down on my knees, and told God in no uncertain terms, “I do not like this. I do not like being different. Sometimes at this school, I feel as if I’m the only volatile one, the only one whose sin is motivated by rebellion rather than fear. I am not a fixer or a people pleaser.  While they’re all nodding understandingly at each other’s struggles with insecurity, here I am I am digging my heels deeper into the tar, and crossing my arms, knowing nothing will move me unless I want it to. But if I tried to tell someone, I’d cry again, and it would be embarrassing.”

Then we went home. As we got out of the car, one of the girls whom Laura and I had been riding with, Anne, attached herself to my arm, and told me she wanted to get to know me better. We should go to Warriors together. And so we did. (I’m so glad.)

I don’t remember any of the songs, although I think I sang all of them. I do know, though, that probably for the very first time I admitted something to myself that probably most of you already knew. I have walked though life being a quitter and not a joiner, and I have always said that it’s because I don’t have anything to prove to anybody. But that’s not true. I have a lot to prove–and almost everything I do is motivated by it. I went running at six-thirty this morning to prove to my parents that I am growing up; I dress up every Friday, not only because I love good clothes, but to prove to the world that I am beautiful; I started this blog to prove that I can write; I so rarely talk to boys to prove…well, I haven’t figured that one out yet, but there’s some sort of insecurity there–obviously.

I really, really want people to like me and be proud to know me. I’m deliciously insecure. It’s when I figured that out that I started to smile. Because if I admit I am weak, I can accept help. I don’t have to be stubborn. FOR ONCE, I CAN ACTUALLY TRY! What a relief…

I will continue to go running (with my little lungs protesting at every step), not for my health and not because I think anything I do or don’t do will ever make my parents love me more or less, but because I like to make them proud. And I wouldn’t care if my dad came all the darn way up here just to take a picture. I will dress up with relish every Friday and continue to blog, because I don’t care who knows that I have good taste in words or clothes, and they’re welcome to watch as that taste improves. And boys? I’m just not going to worry about that.

I didn’t know giving into God would be this easy. I’d been resisting this change of heart for years, and bracing myself for His painful sanctification, but it felt like opening my eyes–and that’s all. I didn’t just feel clean, I felt free.

At this point, (I bet you had I forgotten that I was at Warriors while all this was going on. Don’t worry–I had too.) Anne leaned over, grabbed my arm, and whispered that God was going to heal my relationship with my parents. She was sure of it. Funny thing–I was sure of it too. Because that’s what God does. He heals. I may have cried a little, but mostly I felt like dancing. I was not peaceful, but exhilarated. I think I bounced a lot.

So here’s the point: God is good. I mean He is not just kind and loving, but He is righteous. He is good. The other thing: He is faithful. It’s been a long few months, but here he has been.

The only thing I do remember from last night at Warriors is one of the passages they read.

Ezekiel 36:22-28: Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.  For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.  Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

Beth Moore, I know how Israel felt, and what God’s face looked like, because that is my story, and the promise is for me. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It never is, thank God. Really. THANK GOD!


I’ve been wanting to write this for weeks, but, in many ways, it’s a really good thing that I haven’t gotten around to it till now. A while back (it was a Thursday, if you were curious) a group of students organized an event at Grove City called “less.” There were vague posters up all over campus about finding freedom, and how a chapel credit was offered, so Crawford was quite full. Familiar faces, even a few whose names I knew, went up on stage and shared what even I consider to be hugely personal–struggles with sin that most of us cannot imagine speaking  into a dark room full of a thousand faceless classmates. These were things which you just don’t talk about at Grove City. Just like we don’t make eye contact, we don’t use a microphone and an auditorium to discuss masturbation, suicidal depression, and addiction to pornography. As awful as it is, we want those things kept miserably behind closed doors, where they will fester and grow. I know there was plenty of uncomfortable squirming, and muffled gasping in the audience that night. All we really wanted was a chapel credit. But we needed to hear this. Sometimes here I think everyone feels like you ought to say that we are all sinners, but not actually be one yourself. It is good to crush that lie. The thing which struck me the most though, was the boldness of these people. I cannot imagine confessing such secrets, not only to the people you already know, and those you will never meet, but to that kid you’ll sit next to in class next semester who may not remember your name, but will remember your greatest weakness.

I think I know where this bravery comes from, though. When I went to this event I was in the middle of reading Lewis’s The Great Divorce, in which those damned to hell are bussed to the outskirts of heaven, met by the spirits of people they knew on earth, and given the chance to stay. None of them do. They are too proud, too insistent on their own way, unwilling to let go of themselves and become Christ’s, adamant that they will not take the “bleeding charity.” Except for one man. He comes to the outskirts of heaven with a lizard on his shoulder which whispers in his ear. The lizard is lust, and the man is afraid to be without him. He knows that if he lets the shining spirit incinerate the lizard it will hurt. It will hurt, in many ways, worse than hell. Finally he agrees, and is knocked to the ground by divine force. But then…that’s it. He is free. He is in Christ, and he is at last himself. The dead body of the lizard has turned into a magnificent stallion, on which he rides up the mountain of heaven. I think that is what each of my fellow students meant when they said, “In Christ, I have found freedom.” Their sin, to which they were once enslaved, has become what it was originally intended to be. All evil is perversion of good. In fact, I think the precise thing you most struggle with is a warped version of what God originally intended, and still does intend, to be your greatest strength, if only you will give yourself up to him. Lust becomes passion, depression compassion, self-love love for one’s neighbor, and pride worship.

But why is it that the people up on that stage, and the man with the lizard all seem to have the shocking, icky, socially unspeakable sins? And they are the ones who get it? They are the prostitutes and the tax collectors–they are the blessed who are constantly confronted with their depravity and crave freedom. Then there’s the rest of us–me in particular. If I had gotten up on that stage, I wouldn’t have needed such bravery. No one would have gasped at my sins. They would have yawned. My sins are creeping, almost invisible at times. I could say them out loud all day long (and I have), and people will just say, “Oh aren’t we all?” or “You’ll grow out of it honey.” But that is dangerous. Confession is important–even when it’s so easy that it almost seems worthless. So here I go.

I am vain–self-obsessed. I am proud. I think I am smarter, prettier, more wonderful and huggable than everyone else. I don’t want them to know I think like that. But I do. Constantly. It’s an epidemic. It’s a sin. It’s a master. I am lazy. I am selfish. I am without question the most ridiculously stubborn person I know. Pay attention to the modifier there: I’m stubborn about the most ridiculous things. I hold onto bitterness like crazy. If you ask me to do something that’s out of my comfort zone, no amount of begging or peer pressure will change my mind. And I take pride in that! I take pride in cowardice! I have this mindset that I only do the things I’ve always done. I’ve put myself in a box, and tried to keep God in it with me. Well, let me tell you: He won’t stay! But neither will he take me out if I’m unwilling. I have manic attachment to who I think I’ve created myself to be. I’m so proud of her. It’s sick. Revolting in a way that nothing said on that stage few weeks ago could ever be.

So this is my beginning. It is not the first and it will not be the last. I want freedom, but I need someone to pry open my fists which still cling to the silly girl who loves her name, her clothes, her family, her life, but so rarely her God. Only Christ is strong enough. He died, He rose, He will set me free. He will.

Me, Myself….and Not Much Else

On the inside of all the stalls in my hall bathroom, there are flyers from the counseling center about “Transitions”, and every time I’m in there I diligently try to make sense of them. There are, apparently, three stages to a transition: Endings, a neutral stage, and New Beginnings. Basically, you feel sad, you transition, you feel happy.

Well, not me. I felt sad, I felt happy, then I was…lonely. And I’ve found  that’s a terrible thing to admit. When a friend asks what’s wrong when I’m crying, (because, of course, I have been crying…) I cannot say, “I’m strangely, desperately lonely late at night. I thought there would be people like me at college, and there aren’t. I miss being around people who I don’t have to explain myself to, and on top of that, two of the people who know me best are overseas, and I can’t call them like I want to every other second! That’s all…”

It sounds like such an accusation, and it’s a little overwhelming. I don’t know exactly how I got it into my head that Grove would be full of little personality twins, but it’s not. It is populated with happy, easily stressed people who like to abbreviate their words and have dance parties. They remind me of the people I’ve known all my life. They are lovely and I should be thankful, but I wonder. Where are the rest of the kids who care more about books than about grades, who don’t mind hard teachers if only they are learning, who only become more stubborn with extra pressure, and who still believe their lives can be a storybook? I thought I would find them here, but I haven’t. They do exist, don’t they? I suppose I am unique, but please, God, not that unique!

Of course, I am being overdramatic. I do have friends here, good friends, even a few dear ones. I think my sudden desire to be a type, to have those like myself, who know my secrets without being told, has just happened to coincide awkwardly with my first semester of college. But that rationalization unfortunately doesn’t really make me feel better. Late at night, I am still just me in my little box of me-ness, which is tiresome and sometimes frightening after eighteen years.

So, anyway, that is how I have been feeling. Yesterday I went to Discipleship Group and had myself a lovely little breakdown. I had a talk with my leader, and told her most all of it, I think, and a few other things about my state of mind which I am too ashamed to share with cyberspace. Not that she was anything less than kind, but I came out of that conversation with the distinct remembrance that I am very, very self-absorbed. Why do I feel that I must find people like myself? Oh…probably because I think I’m pretty great. Ya think, Alice?

And then, last night I had hall bible study, and a friend of my RA’s read a quote from C.S. Lewis’  The Weight of Glory, which I desperately wish I had on me, and cannot find in its entirety anywhere on the dumb internet, but here is part of it: “At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.” I was momentarily comforted with the thought that on the other side of that door I would be sure to meet legions of people like myself, and the stuffy little box of Alice would be busted up and forgotten. Everyone or most everyone, anyway, would be like me!

Then, for the first time in…well, eras, really, Truth hijacked my thought process. Everyone would be like me, but only in the ways in which I was like Christ. Anything in me which was not a reflection of him would be lost, burned away, drowned in death’s great river. I, in myself, am not worth being. Why am I desiring to find Alice in others when I should be looking for Christ? Lewis again, in The Problem of Pain, each “soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance…” He is there for the finding. Why am I only trying to learn about myself from others, when I am surrounded by those who have the image of the God of the universe painted in relief in their very souls?

So, I am not only self-absorbed, I am self-obsessed. I learned at an early age that the world at large does not revolve around me, but now, at eighteen, I am finally learning that neither can I revolve around myself. Certainly, I was not created to be lonely and miserable, but neither was I created to be the silly, vain creature I am at present. My Lord loves me enough to have bigger plans. He must increase, but I must decrease. Otherwise, when I get to the door Lewis speaks of, I may not even find it appealing, and that would be very truly tragic, for that door, and what lies beyond, are precisely was I was created for.