I often imagine being immersed in dark water, where the only light is the fading sun refracting on the surface. It’s a brilliant light, a kaleidoscope of color like fireworks on the Fourth of July. It keeps my attention as I waft my arms upward and sink to the ocean floor. I consider gasping, a swift inhalation of cloudy water into my lungs. A quick suffocation until the light goes out. I strain to see the Light, a vision of Jesus nodding His head and saying, wryly, “Get up. You can do this.
Ultimately, I don’t inhale the water. And I don’t see Jesus.
I see darkness.
Only recently have I begun to accept myself for who I am.
I am weak. I am heavily influenced by others. I have an adult life full of failures and regret. I carry shame on my back like a sackcloth loaded with stones. I let others’ perception of me dictate my happiness. I long for love and appreciation. I’ve been called selfish and narcissistic, although my deepest desires are exactly the opposite. I have a longstanding history with major depression, although no one seems to believe it. I have visions, like the one above, that pervade my nerves when I disappoint others. Some involve water submersion. Some involve a noose and a wooden deck. Others involve high speeds without restraint. Still others involve sharp objects, but ones that split skin, not ones I’m used to that merely scrape.
I blame no one for any of this. I used to blame it on my upbringing, but I’ve since forgiven those involved and have accepted that my issues stem from myself. They are products of my physiological disposition, not products of environment or child-rearing. Nature, not nurture.
It’s easier to go on this way.
Perhaps this is the ultimate act of selfishness and narcissism.
The vision that I have with ALTARWORK is bred from my longstanding struggle with faith, guilt, shame, and depression. It’s a ministry that I feel led to bring to light. It’s also a ministry that acts as a crutch between my faith and well-being. I have found that I am not alone in this struggle. Hence the content that you find here. I want to share this faith-journey thing with you. I really do.
So here I am. I work full-time – hospital time – three days a week for twelve hours each day, plus overtime, plus an hour drive each way (4:20am-8:20pm for those keeping count). Last week I put in a total of 87 hours in seven days. And I’m married and have five kids under eight (7,4,4,1,1). I spend every spare second on the various aspects of running ALTARWORK: content, social media posts, interaction, communication, finances, marketing, event planning, fire-quenching, writing, designing, developing, improving, fundraising, streamlining, process improving, building friendships, building features, store and product management, inventory, and spinning.
Yes, spinning. My head spins. It’s spinning now. I have so much to do I don’t know where to start.
But I embrace these roles. ALTARWORK is a blessing to me as much as it is to you.
Traffic is up. Interaction is up. People are saying nice things. Social media following is up. Ideas are rolling in.
But I’m still alone.
So it goes.
I miss my kids. I’m in the middle of a contentious four-year battle for fair custody for my oldest three. I go half of every week without seeing the two beautiful 18 month-old boys who actually live with me all the time. I’m a pauper. A lonely man gazing longingly at the glass door of life, barricaded by the crippling walls that surround it.
The thick haze of half-drunk clout. The inferiority complex that swarms my synapses. The prophecies of self-doubt that have flooded my bloodstream since adolescence. The frail high of effervescent failure. The omnipotent unlove. The unflinching quench for more.
Jesus has saved me. But I don’t know why. Terrorists blow themselves and others up in the name of their convictions, yet I lie in bed at night and struggle to find words to pray. The appropriation and disconnect are somehow sadly entwined. But, my conviction is love.
My sense of self hinges on grace. On salvation. On forgiveness. On repentance. I say I’m still here today because of my kids, but really it’s because of my Father. I have the family dynamic all wrong. When I’m soaring, I realize this. I cannot see this, however, when I’m sinking underwater, looking for a sign in refracted sunlight.
But love does swell. I’m overcome by it. Love for Jesus, love for family, and love for you. Love is suffocating in its own right. It’s what makes me publish articles during the boys’ morning snack while getting pelted with crackers, write music reviews by talking to Bluetooth while driving, tweet from the toilet (come on, you do it too…), tweak layout designs while my wife is trying on clothes at the mall, respond to emails while waiting for the doctor/lawyer/teacher/postal worker/mechanic/benediction (I kid, I kid).
Selfishness with purpose.
If loving is selfish, that is.
Stay with me. I’d like to think it’ll be worth it someday.