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something broke me

by + Alan on October 6th, 2012


Of course I know we are all broken. I wanted to say that at the outset so you understand. We are wound up inside a deeply broken reality. I could talk/write about that at length, but this is not the time. Like many of my posts, this one is on the introspective side. I read, this morning, another blog post by my good friend, Kevin Rains, where he describes some deep business that has been going on inside him lately. It doesn’t take much to move me toward the introspective state of self-examination. This certainly did it. Hell, I was there anyway, so it just pushed me deeper into the soup.

It seems like something happened in me a few years ago – something broke me. Now, on the melancholy/depression front, I’ve pretty much always been there. I really believe I was born tending toward that end of the life spectrum. Again – broken reality, remember? Some good can come out of something like this, but it isn’t God’s ideal. He didn’t, in other words, create me to be a down, dark, depressed individual. I don’t believe that. But I came out that way. Just for kicks, I’ll take this opportunity to say: not everything that is so, is so because God intended it to be so.

More particularly, though, than the general brokenness that we all share as members of the human family, I mean that something broke me even further, more deeply, and I’ve been dealing with that level of being broken ever since. My guess is that it was a number of things in succession – things that happened both “to me” and “in me” – which broke me like this, which left me as I am now, at least feeling like very much a shell of what I once was. It seems to be a combination of outward events and circumstances that happened to me and, of course (yes, I understand this as well), how I internally dealt with them. There’s plenty of fault to go around in this whole thing, and most of it, I feel, is mine.

Some of it was just human mess, and some, I really suspect, was enemy activity wreaking havoc on me, on my family, and among those I love. All those days of doing ministry, planting a church of a different sort, trying to teach people something about the spiritual life, the two friends Kevin mentioned dying young, working a “real job,” getting fired, then the church thing moving in a different direction, seeing what looked like my “vocation” go swirling down the toilet, my kids’ fading/almost disappearing interest in church/spiritual life (no offense to you guys if you read this – I see it as all my fault – just dealing with my own deal here) – all these things like unrelenting waves crashing down on me one after another, did a real number on my insides which I have yet to “get over.”

Blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard all this before, or most of it. I find myself in a very odd place right now. Job front’s fine:  fly fishing industry/retail + some freelance design – I like it; Liz and I are in a good place relationally – 24 years and going strong; Church/spiritual life – this is the stickiest wicket – At this point, I officially regret dragging my wife and kids into the Catholic Church, making them go through all that. I honestly believe it helped put some big blocks in the road for them. I have hesitated to say that publicly for some time because I don’t want to fight with anyone about it. I’m simply stating my experience. I did what I thought I was supposed to do 5 years ago, coming “back in” and pulling them in with me. Not sure, at this point, that it was the best thing. I really don’t.

I didn’t have the conviction then, nor do I now, that it is the “one, true Church” and all that. I was just following what I thought I felt God saying to me. It was a “charismatic” decision, in other words, not an intellectual or entirely theological one. But here I am, and it’s wearing me out. It has worn me out. I’m not sure I can handle it much longer. Write me off – whatever you need to do, some of you, but again, I’m not about to argue or debate it with you. There are too many things I love about the Catholic Church and Catholic spirituality to mention at the end of an already long post here. There is a time for everything, it is written, and this is the time for me to share my broken mess of an experience with it all.

I find myself on the edges at the moment. My prayer books are dusty – Bible even dustier. My Icons look at me, but I’m not looking back at them enough. Et cetera, et cetera. Just in the last few weeks, my inner eyes seem to have been re-opening somewhat. I have been trying (trying I said) to re-start a habit of prayer. Thanks to the monks of Glenstal Abbey in Ireland for putting together a very nice little prayer book, which they also have available as an app for the iPhone now. I’ve been attempting to use that. I know, I know – you can pray without a book, and I do – never stopped that. It’s helpful for me, though, to keep my head on track.

Hopefully, it won’t take me going on any pilgrimage to Ireland and Scotland to get the healing process going inside me. I would dearly love to go back, and to Scotland as well, but my pocketbook faints at the thought. God certainly uses places. He knows who He’s dealing with. But He is also most certainly everywhere, and so I pray…

Glory be to God, who has shown us the light!
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from sadness to joy.
Lead me from death to immortality.

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  1. I honestly don’t mean this to sound trite. But I believe most of us experience this kind of deep, inner brokenness at some point. Or I guess I should say, those of us called to ministry as a vocation, who try to keep our heads above water leading, shepherding the soul and spirit of congregations, while trying to be spiritually nurtured and grounded ourselves. One of the central images for me in ministry is Paul’s image of clay vessels. They are simple, fragile, and sometimes get cracked. I’ve often used Leonard Cohen’s line “the cracks are where the light gets in.” Blessings to you and know that God’s healing comes to our most broken places.

  2. Hey Jordan – good to hear from you. Good analogy, man. Thanks for sharing that. It’s definitely like that. None of our journeys are perfect, for certain. We go up and down and all around, trying to keep our spiritual ears and eyes open – listening for Him, looking for Him. He knows. He knows how broken and helpless we are, and His mercy is huge. We just have to keep trying to walk on the path, as we can recognize it. Sometimes we might even have to lay up and rest for a while and continue later. Peace to you.

  3. Jordan Hall permalink

    Hey Alan,

    Was on The Angler website and saw your blog link, so figured I’d make a visit. After reading your post, something stuck out at me. You said, ” I did what I thought I was supposed to do 5 years ago, coming “back in” and pulling them in with me. Not sure, at this point, that it was the best thing. I really don’t.”. This struck a cord with me as I’ve also been doing a great deal of looking back at my past decisions and wondering how many of them were the Lord, and how many of them were me getting too excited. This hit a head this past Sat. as I was bushwhacking through Parched Corn. I had went past a couple nice looking places looking for “that perfect spot” where i just knew a brookie had to be. As i climbed/hiked back out, I thought about how my present circumstances mirrored my spiritual ones. Later that night as I was journaling God spoke to me and simply reminded me of something. Sometimes we take a side path and wonder if it was a good decision. Regardless of the outcome, we do learn and glean things from those side paths, even if it’s not what we wanted. The key thing is to set our eyes back on the mark of the high Calling in Christ, or as he put it to me, “get back on the main trail and keep trying.” As it turns out I did, and ended up catching my first rainbow in Swift camp later that day. The same thing applies spiritually. Hope this encourages you bud. Praying for ya.

  4. I’m right next to you Alan – sometimes in the pew, and sometimes not.

  5. Dana Ames permalink

    Hey, little brother. Sitting with you.

    I know about the thing with the kids – not the same circumstances, but the same outcome.

    Keep turning to Jesus, and take his help where you find it.

    Sending a hug.


  6. I’m glad it’s appreciated on your end, Hope. And very sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Cancer is a horrible thing, nothing positive about it. I still believe God is a Healer, though. I can pray that He will be able to get through all the broken mess that we live inside of – that He can get in there and heal you physically. That’s not really about “thinking positive,” I don’t believe. We definitely need to be honest about our pain, fear, brokenness, etc. I believe that opens doors to God. And that’s really what all this business is about > opening the door back to God so that He can come in and put the mess back together. Grace and Peace to you.

  7. I love your honesty. Thank you. I recently was diagnosed with cancer and have had so many people tell me to be/think positive and all that shit. I truly believe that being honest with where I’m at is more glorifying to God than anything else. Not many are comfortable with the honesty. More bloggers are than those in my face to face life.

  8. Thanks, Andrew. I value so many of the connections I’ve made through a space like this over the years. It would be amazing if a bunch of us could get together, face-to-face, in some physical location some day. If it does or doesn’t happen, thanks all the same for your “presence” and prayers. Peace to you.

  9. Hey, Alan. Know that you have friends who are sitting with you, even friends who have not met you face-to-face and who cannot sit with you in shared physical space, sitting in silence, to love you and honour you in this life we so barely understand at times, and to remember you before a God who is as much a mystery to us as a sure hope.

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