“Sometimes what we are witnessing is simply a massive exercise in missing the point”
— Rob Bell
I decided to take some time away. A lot of times in the past, when it came to artistic endeavors, I’d just drop the ball; let myself get discouraged, usually blame someone else, and just quit. I knew going into this Turning Gem project that I’d be faced with the same issue at some point. That’s one reason I started my very first post with the words “I’ve been here before”. This time, though, I wanted to give myself permission to take as much time as I needed. This is, after all, the kind of journey that takes a lifetime… this Spiritual Journey thing. And I think a lot of folks who write about their travels don’t take as much time as they need before writing something the can’t take back.
I also took some time away from reading, which has been a first since I started this adventure began. For that reason, this post will be quite different than the others. Because I have not been bombarding my mind with Biblical history, or the theology of the “emerging church”, or brushing up on ancient Eastern philosophy, I simply do not have as much on my mind. To me, at least until the past few days, that was a huge blessing. It was self-preservation, to be completely honest. Let me explain:
In my Personal Jesus post, I said that I was going to start reading the Bible. I was going to actually sit down and go through the thing cover to cover, and see what sort of wisdom I could extract from the text without any outside influence. I wanted to give myself a chance to make up my own mind about things. Well, I started doing just that. I got pretty involved, just like I always do when I’m determined. But something happened that I did not expect: I started getting angry. I mean seriously pissed off, to the point that I was starting to lose sleep and become irritable. It started to happen the further I got into Genesis. Now, at first I had a blog planned for this. It was going to be a two or three part exploration of Genesis, but I just couldn’t stop being ANGRY. I had to put it down it wasn’t doing me or anyone else any good, and something told me God wouldn’t want me to rush through any of that. So… I listened.
I put the books down. I turned off the podcasts. I stopped going to church as often. I didn’t want to be angry with God, or end up running away from the things that I was passionate about in terms of spirituality. It reminded me of something Andy Stanley said: “People don’t run away from Jesus, they run away from the Church”. I didn’t necessarily want to run away from either, but spending so much time trying to figure out which way meant the most sense to me, I lost track of where I actually was. I think that was God trying to tell me “Chill out, man! All of these things have been here for thousands of years. They’re not going anywhere. It’s okay to take a break.”
I was pretty nervous about that. I didn’t want to lose momentum, and I had recently been confronted with mortality in such a huge way… honestly, I was terrified I would run out of time! And that wasn’t because I was afraid of going to Hell, or any such nonsense. I wanted to be able to tell my story. Or to put it a better way, I wanted my children to be able to read my story. I realized pretty quickly, though, that I if all my story was going to end up being was full of the same kind of anger towards all things spiritual that fuels unhappy, toxic people… I didn’t want anybody to read it. This was really the first time I consciously decided to TRUST God.
I can’t say a lot happened during my hiatus. Some job rearranging, a bunch of extra stress, some depression, a few truly great moments peppered in there for good measure. I started making music again, which was amazing! But life started to really kinda suck. Seriously, after a few weeks I just felt like crap. It didn’t take long for me to make the connection: I missed the fellowship that came with going to church. I missed the conversations that came from reading theology and philosophy. I missed how all of that made me feel, and how my whole family engaged more and invested more in each other. At a certain point, I actually started missing how angry I was getting while reading Genesis. Then it all made sense: JOEL! YOU MISSED THE POINT, DUDE!
The pursuit of God, or of some sort of Spirit; Christ energy, or Tao, or a connectedness to the unseen world… it’s SUPPOSED to make you angry! It’s SUPPOSED to get you riled up and engaged! Not to the point that you’re suffering, or making yourself sick, but things this HUGE aren’t supposed to be EASY. They’re supposed to challenge your mind, and sort of punch at the back of your eyeballs. That’s how you end up making sense of stuff. THAT… is why we’re all here, man! We’re all here to spend time together; to read the same books and expect different interpretations. We’re not all here to agree on everything, or try to prove to anyone we’re any better than anyone else. We’re here to share the fact that we get lost, and we get pissed, and we get excited, and we get happy, and then maybe we sneeze a few times, say “pardon me”, and someone says “oh, bless you”, and then it all starts over again.
Happy. Sad. Excited. Pissed. Sneeze. Pardon. Bless.
That’s the kind of spiral we live in, and it is astonishingly both simple and complex at the same time. How else do we get sweetness and light out of bitterness and dark? You’ve got to accept the fact that every now and then… you’re not going to be able to see what’s right in front of your face.