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2/13/2006

TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY: MONDAY

After the interview Sunday night Brian and I shared a pizza backstage - in Calvary Chapel's prayer room. It's an odd thing to be in a church and sense nothing, for it to be transformed suddenly from a house of worship to just another building. We talked about how I should handle the night's performance and Brian reminded me that the pastor was preaching after me and so my set was much shorter than usual and really required no talking or teaching on my part. I was there to draw a crowd and set the stage for the pastor. I was just the opener and never more thankful for that.

Brian, in his own way, expressed concern for me. My guess is that being around me for eleven years he's picked up on my periodic mood swings and my propensity to overthink and overtalk everything in life and so he might have thought at first that this dip and these questions of mine were just par for the course. But in the prayer room together he seemed to be realizing as I was that this was serious. This was no ordinary fleeting doubt coupled with a dash of melancholy. This was potentially fatal, career ending, life ending even. I assured him I had no desire to kill myself, that I mostly felt nothing instead of sadness. I'd labored under sadness before but this nothing was far heavier. And we prayed. We prayed with the pastors of the church, whom I confided none of this in, still hoping it would pass. I prayed with my eyes open. To close them as if I were seeing or certain of the listener would be dishonest.

And I took the stage.

"Should I tell them that you are the one who has had made me
And saved me to set up your home there inside?
Should I tell them that I am a perfect example
Of all you can do with a life?"

I never meant the words more as I sang them to begin the evening. I stared up where the back wall met the ceiling and tried to picture God as I do every night. And He wasn't there. I decided to sing as if He was, to try to fake myself out for the night, and to leave Jesus out of the set entirely. I never mentioned scripture or Christ or salvation or anything else related to the person Jesus. I said things I'd never said before, all I'd often said now rendered useless, inextricably linked to Christ. I ducked and dodged his name and his words all evening, playing only one song from White Flag - the CD written in response to Jesus' beatitudes, part of his Sermon on the Mount.

I focussed instead on the Father God, His love for us, His making us. And I sang through tears..

"Abba Father, my Defender.
You are holy. I surrender.
In my weakness you protect me.
When my heart strays you correct me

I cry Abba Father
I love you, Daddy"

And oddly I meant it. While I sang I found some sanity in my own words. I remembered the orphanage I wrote them for, the kids smiling at the thought of a God who wanted them as His boy or girl. I remembered the chaplain I replaced for a time there, the one who checked out and became agnostic. I remembered how certain I was during his uncertainty and for thirty minutes or so two weeks ago last night I believed more than I doubted. I looked around the room at the faces, the intelligent people deciding to believe in the story of Jesus. I thought of the millions throughout history who died for that belief, who gave up everything to be a peculiar thing called a "Christian". I sat and heard with skeptical but thirsty ears the story of Jesus for the millionth time - this time from an aging hippie preaching from Second Thessalonians. He said it is the Gospel - the simple story of Jesus dying and living again - that changed lives and not fancy arguments. He said words don't convince people of anything but the Spirit of God proves that the story is true.

And I prayed that God, if He was there, would tell me the truth. I didn't know if He was there, I doubted He was the longer the day went, but I had nothing more to lose.

Brian and I flew most of the next day, Monday. And flying is torturous when your computer is broken, your hand is broken and your mind is broken. I tried to get some sleep but turbulence, announcements and that blasted argument in my head wouldn't let me. It's amazing how little we care about how we're perceived by others when we're at the end of our rope isn't it? I laid down across three seats and stared at the ceiling while chewing my fingernails, wide-eyed and frazzled looking - like some homeless crack addict watching an air show no one else sees - tuned in to some thriller no one else receives.

I wanted Becky. She became my God two weeks ago today. I called her constantly just to hear her voice. We didn't talk about the debate inside me or how I felt. She knew it was bad. She knew she couldn't understand or argue me out of it. And so she just kept me grounded in the everyday minutia of life at home: who took a good nap and who didn't, what was for dinner, who she saw at Target and what they talked about, the movie she rented. I'd asked her on Saturday to keep me moving. I told her this could get worse and go on for a while - I'd battled depression for three months in college. I'd learned from that fight that a key to surviving is getting up and doing something - anything. Depression, I knew, would tell me to go to bed. So I told her to curse me, drag me, carry me, to do anything she had to do to get me out of bed and doing the simple things like eating a meal or reading a blog or talking on the phone. And so on Monday, when she couldn't be with me in person, she told me over the phone to get up and buy a magazine and some water. She told me to call her back when I got on the plane. She made me remember when we first saw the movie she just rented. She made me live.

And Becky, who has never had more than one bad day in a row, who can say something nice about anyone and any situation and mean it, didn't comprehend the level of skepticism and nothingness I was feeling. No one did. But on Monday she was the closest thing to proof of God I had. Better than facts, she was and has always been to me compassion and hope and mercy and forgiveness and all the things Jesus said he alone could install in us. And with Jesus gone and God fading I worshiped her voice, her happiness.

But even my conversations with Becky were darkened. I'd hang up and the goodness that had just coursed through cell towers out to me evaporated. In its place was the shattering fear that if I never believed again she'd leave me or I'd leave her. Fourteen years of friendship and shared values and purpose would surely crumble without belief in her Jesus at the center of my existence.

As I stood at the baggage claim in Nashville I felt like I was riding the belts myself. No control over where I was going next. No idea when or if this ride would stop.

That was two weeks ago today.


TO READ THE ENTIRE "TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY" SERIES FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW:
TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY: FRIDAY
TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY: SATURDAY
TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY: SUNDAY
TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY: MONDAY
TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY: TUESDAY
TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY: WEDNESDAY
TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY: WEDNESDAY Pt.2

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