Facing My Failures

I’m broken. I really wish I meant something along the lines of embracing my deep brokenness and my desperate need for Jesus. But I mean broken like messed up, malfunctioning, jacked.

I really can’t decide what I’m more frustrated about. I’m a big jumbled mess of insecurities, uncertainties, and stuck-in-a-rut-ness. Even writing this blog post feels like a well-practiced exercise of futility, almost like I’ve said all this before and my words are nothing but the echoes of something I have or someone else has said before.

“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”

I feel like I gutter balled my heart sometime back and I oscillate between not caring, not seeing it all, or living in some baseless belief that I’m going to jostle out of the gutter. But I’ve bowled enough to know that last one won’t happen: gutter balls don’t hop out of the gutter.

At least, not on their own.

What’s the real problem? Well, I really suck at stream of consciousness writing, that’s for sure. I spend too much time thinking out my words before they even hit the keys to really be as raw as I feel.

Regardless, I know part of it is facing failure, something I don’t do well. I’ve been largely successful in most of my ventures in life, though I’m not sure that’s so much a product of anything beyond always being sure to pick the types of things I was sure would lead to my personal success. So, it was really more about choosing the right paths than being an inherently successful person.

The other problem is that I don’t feel like I can hit the bottom of me. There are times when I get inklings of what’s really wrong with me, where God the Spirit grants me an insight into the true nature of my soul (usually through the means of my wife’s prophetic voice). And then I try to chase that inkling down and plumb the depths of my motivations and wickedness and fears, usually feeling like I get a good picture of my current state. But then hours or days or weeks later, something else comes along that pummels me a little more and shows me that I really didn’t get it at all.

I really feel like Eustace, scratching off his dragon scales but never getting deep enough to peel of the despicable dragon flesh to find the new man beneath. Just like Eustace, I need the mighty Lion to peel my dragon skin off for me, even though it’ll hurt. Except I’m missing something crucial here. Either I’m still so stuck in my rebellion that I’m blindly running away from the very healing I need. Or I need to ask for it, and I just haven’t because I don’t really ever ask God for anything. Or I’m just plumb afraid that the pain’ll be more than I can bear.

This uncertainty drives me nuts. Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like? Is it simply wondering if everything you thought mattered doesn’t and what you’ve always driven toward is a mist, so the only recourse is to make a hard left into different or weird or stupid? The uncertainty would bother me less if I felt like it were just some internal struggle that I needed to push through. But if I’m honest, I know the effect it’s having on everyone around me. I particularly mean my family. My listlessness is like a cancer around here. I pendulum either to complete inaction because I don’t feel like I can make a Spiritually wise decision about anything or I just shoot from the hip, being the most erratic, emotional man to walk the earth.

This seems to be a truth recently unveiled because of the recent failure of our church, indyEkklesia. I moved to Indy to start a house church. And that house church died. It has become abundantly clear that I was trying to be Kevin Costner hearing that creepy voice saying “If you build it, they will come.” I staked my entire family, reputation, glory, and hopes on this church that “God told me” to go build on the back of my own ingenuity, charisma, and better-than-everyone-else-ness. So dissolving iE was in a very real sense the destruction of the foundations of my invisible, though very real, Bill-idol. And it was pretty epic.

And since, the mess that I’d been pushing to the side (both consciously and unconsciously) over the last six years has been rising to the surface as my whole Indy life has come unraveled. Frankly, it’s been mainly painful and awfully embarrassing to finally start seeing myself more realistically, pretty much exactly like the physical version of me that has slowly gained weight over the last ten-ish years which I’ve dealt with by barely looking in mirrors and trying to avoid ever having my picture taken. Why deal with what I can instead just ignore?

And since then, God has been kind to wound me deeply, forcing me to sit down and actually look at my fat pictures. I’m a lot uglier than I thought, though I kinda knew it the whole time, ya know? So, I’m now having to face my anger–no, rage–that surfaces more and more, but has really always been tucked in my back pocket. I’m having to try to rebuild a marriage that I’ve sacrificed to the adulterous woman of fulfilling my own dreams of being the guy that makes a successful house church (probably should say “large network of thriving house churches”).

I’m having to confess that my kids don’t get much of a dad because their dad has used the inner excuse of “other important things” to allow avoiding deeper relationships and affections, instead settling for occasional lectures, angry outbursts, and/or grace-less “love”. And I’m scared out of my mind, because I’m pretty sure the pictures I’m looking at are blurry and out of focus. I have to simply admit that when I’m not fueled by self-glory or annoyed anger, I am captive to a fear of rejection and disapproval and disrespect.

But somewhere in this mess, I feel that God is paving the path to repentance for me at the same time, each brick arriving right before my foot hits the ground. I’m overwhelmed at the enormity of who I’ve become and my innate inability to really do much about it. Frankly, I’m still scared even to write all this, because I think I’m shamming more hope than I really feel. But I also do feel some measure of real hope, too, because I really just can’t think of any other reason Dad would be hitting me with all this unless he meant to shame me in my stupidity so that he can once again rescue me from myself and take away the very shame that is rightfully mine to carry.

There are times when life feels like it just keeps spiraling and spiraling toward…I don’t know, something not good. But there are other times when it feels like things are right on the cusp of change, like it’s just around the corner. But my faith isn’t in my good Dad, who can and will work all things together for me and my family–because of his grace. My faith has been in my ability to do all “this” and do it well. That success isn’t happening, my mess is emerging, my self-hope is being dashed against the rocks, and I’m left with some caricature of my own vision of myself. And while that’s got to be a good thing, it’s alarmingly disconcerting. I feel stripped and naked–and I hate it.

I hate it so much that in rare moments of clarity I can see that I’m fighting the grace that God is dispensing toward me. The grace is too bright and too glorious–it’ll tear me apart. Which is exactly what he wants for me, but not remotely what I want for me.

God, have mercy on my soul. Change my desires and hopes. Grant me faith to believe that you want a far greater good for me than I could ever pick for myself. Grant me the courage to a true man, ready to take his licks and chart a new course at the command of his captain. Have mercy.

From a Book: The Cure Had Begun

It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that “from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.” To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.

-from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book 3 of the Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis, Page 110