poking my head back in

This used to be, for a while at least, the place I tried to better enunciate my inner life. For a while the words dried up and I was left with pictures. Not very good pictures, but sometimes interesting nevertheless.

As is often the case with my writing, I find myself returning to pondering whenever I hit a rut. I’ve not been in a rut in a while, I suppose.

But now I’m back here and that says something quite clear.

I’m in a rut.

Which is kind of a odd way of putting it, really. A rut is a groove in a road made by people going somewhere. More specifically by wagons, with so many over a long period of time making it so the scar in the earth deepens. I saw the picture the other day of how there was still places along the old Oregon trail where the ruts were so thorough that nothing would grow.

But that’s a sidenote, to whatever this main note might be.

I’m in a rut.

In the post below written a couple months after being married I noted the stress of school, that it wasn’t a heavy class load as much as it was a heavy reading load in combination with the pressure of doing well enough to keep up a scholarship. That school year ended and my fellowship was indeed renewed. A 4.0 gpa and a nice amount of other work certainly helps. This past year, my 2nd year, also ended with a continued 4.0 gpa and other apparent successes. But there was no fellowship. Fuller, they tell us, ran out of money.

But, there’s money to be had where they want money to be had, so for me and others, we found ourselves having done enough and well beyond enough, but not finding any associated validation of the effort. Financial validation at least.

I received a one quarter fellowship, which will pay for my upcoming Fall quarter. But after that? It’s all a mystery. Friends of mine in the same situation did not even get that much, even as they did as much or more, so I certainly don’t feel singled out. But, they also had mentors and others who opened up doors. They’re teaching in the Fall.

So, for me, I did all I had to do and beyond. I spoke at conferences, I got an article published in a decent journal, I have a new book coming out at some point before the end of the year. I wrote a 60 page essay for my class this past quarter, and I figure that because I’ve written a lot with my dissertation topic in mind in other courses, I have about 80 pages of my dissertation written. I’m speaking at a Church History conference in early October and I was invited to contribute an article to a book on Spirits in the World edited by Amos Yong, Kirsteen Kim, and Veli-Matti Karkkainen. I’m contributing to a major online Worship project being developed by Augsberg Fortress Press.

Only because of the rather disheartening non-renewal of my fellowship, and the decided lack of other more palpable areas of participation I am struggling with feeling extremely deflated.

And, being that I live in the city now, my usual tactics for renewal are much more difficult to come by.

I’m attending a church, though “involved in” would be a strong stretch of words, since I really still do not have any idea how to get involved. My attempts at more personal connections seem to fall flat. Everyone is nice, and everyone is very busy. So, I yet again struggle in my spiritual and emotional questions without any mentor. This is the common trend in my life, to be sure. I’ve never had a mentor, other than the writings of great spiritual leaders from centuries past.

But they don’t exactly help open up doors or point out what it means to be a budding theologian in a 21st century post-modern world.

This is the place of my struggle now. There are many people around, but I struggle with being quite bifurcated. My deepest self involves a decided mysticism, a spiritual awareness and pull, that for the sake of participation I seem to need to keep almost always buried and hidden. I make jokes and I offer long sentences of increasingly complex analysis.

But I do not feel rooted with God or his people. And I have no idea how to find a renewed sense of spiritual liveliness, one that does not encompass wandering off into isolation–which has been my path in the past.

Theology, in the West at least, is not a mystical enterprise. It’s mostly about tasks and statements and busyness.

Life with Amy is really nice. I love her and I enjoy her friendship every single day. I am not in the safe situation I was just a few years ago.

I’m in this different place, but being here I find my spiritual self not shriveled as much as shadowed and disguised. I’m much better about looking like I am participating in a world in which I feel a permanent outsider.

An image came to me the other day. When I was younger, working at NewSong, I was spiritually and emotionally volatile. I celebrated and I raged. I leaped into the rushing waters of church life as long as I could, and beaten against rocks I still tried to swim. I discovered new heights of creative contributions and new lows of frustrating negation.

Then it all disappeared. Like Moses after hitting the Egyptian, I fled the life I knew and wandered into the wilderness. I found healing there, profound deep healing, and even wrote a couple of books.

But I haven’t found my way back. I don’t even know if there is a back.

Which leaves me wandering about with this rising spiritual consternation within me, a sadness that wells up when I find a quiet moment, with tears never quite fully forming, but a burgeoning weeping touching the back of my eyes and suggesting a deeply stirred soul that can’t quite find the words or the touch to help find my way out of the caves.

This mystical reality that is my true home–much more than the physical world that I seem to occupy–roused me and stirred me over the course of my life — thrusting me into questions that were too big and answers that were just enough to spur me to see how much more there was to this whole reality. Which then pushed more and more questions.

Which is why I began to study church history and which was why I started seminary. Because I had questions that no one around me could answer, and yet I knew — for the deepest parts of my soul told me — that there were indeed answers to be found.

But now?

I’m in a rut.

Again. Which is the basis of this post. This isn’t the blog where I try to say something interesting or witty or point out the goings on of some trip into nature. This is my soul blog, where I try to sort out what it is that is going on.

Because I have hope.

But I don’t, right now, have any answers to what is plaguing my soul — this deeply disheartened feeling of being untethered to any real community and all my efforts being but chasing after the wind.

So I write a bit, because I want to find a return. A return if not to an explicable lifestyle, then at least to a contented purpose and holistic peace that there is promise awaiting.

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