I am a bit of a pack-rat of sorts. I keep a chest filled with reams worth of papers: journals, postcards, playbills, bad poetry, scribblings, and love letters.
I recently considered piling most of the chest’s contents into a burn barrel and symbolically torching them. I thought that at 25 it was time for me to start a fresh.
Then I went through the chest’s contents and I decided I was wrong. I realized that pile of papers represented something to me. They chronicled a decade of my life- and a set of questions which I’ve wrestled with since it began. These questions came up again and again in things I’d written at 15, 19, 22, and just the past few months.
How can I relate or understand women? That was the first question I recognized in those papers.
I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot about the fairer sex during a decade of loves lost and won (but mostly lost). However reading back through the years, I realized how little I’ve been able to really grasp about how women think, feel, and love. They still baffle me. Women manage to be enticing, beautiful, a bit magical, inspiration to my soul, yet at times terrifying, hurtful, and often opaque.
I’ll likely never really answer this question and I’m ok with that now.
The second question I’ve been wrestling with for the last decade stems from the first: is it better to live a solitary life or suffer the slings and arrows of love in hope it’s undiscovered country holds a bit of paradise? Most people may find the first option absurd, but to an only child who has always enjoyed, and even deeply needed, a measure of solitude in my life, it’s easy to imagine life as a permanent bachelor. For the longest time my go-to call sign was “tin man” (from ausTIN MANess). In my most emo periods I have romanticized the idea of a missing a heart, because without a heart you can’t know heartbreak.
I’ve finally found my answer to this question: I don’t want to be alone, it’s no way to live. God said himself, It is not good for man to be alone. Love is worth the pain endured finding and keeping it; maybe it wouldn’t even be the same without them. Life wouldn’t hold the same meaning without death. Maybe love wouldn’t mean as much without heartbreak.
The last question is one I believe most people of faith have felt at one point or another: How do I relate to God?
I am a hopeless and often unrepentant sinner. How can I ever be worthy of God’s love? With all my faults and failings, how can I ever feel competent to teach or relate those things I have learned about God, life, and what it means to be a Christian to others?
The answer to this question is obvious to anyone educated in the tenants of Christian faith: we are all sinners and it is only through God’s love and grace, the sacrifice of Christ, and our faith in them, that we can ever hope to relate God.
That said, this is one struggle that I am almost certain I will always bear and I’m ok with that. I will always be a sinner and often a doubter.
I believe faith is a struggle.
King David, “a man after God’s own heart,” knew sin as well as any man that has ever lived. The prophet Jonah tried to escape God’s call by sailing away. Moses didn’t believe himself capable to speak for and lead his people.
In Gethsemane Christ himself asked his father to provide him another way.
At his death he cried out, to what must have seemed like a universe empty of all traces of the divine, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Faith is a struggle. If it were not so, it would not accomplish in us that which it must: transformation, transcendence, and enlightenment through pain, suffering, and sacrifice.
Those questions, answered and unanswered, are why I’m keeping the contents of that old chest- they remind me of who I am, where I have come from, what I have learned, and what I have yet to learn.