*I wrote this journal entry about six months ago. Lent seems an appropriate time to share darkness as well as light.
Hell on Earth
Hell used to mean a fiery chasm of violence; the scariest nightmares laced with maniacal cruelty and unending pain. I don’t think that anymore.
It’s more like this:
Staring at an unspecified point on the wall. Sitting so still. Incomplete thoughts. Negativity replaced by nothingness.
My daughter squawks in her crib. I remain unmoved.
People are walking their dogs outside and laughing. I hear them, but I don’t.
The sun is out. I sense, but don’t feel it.
I’m aware, but not alert.
Emptiness. No light in the distance. No horizon. No water below. Just – floating in nothing.
It’s very inhuman. Everyone has moments of happiness, success, jealousy, frustration, impatience, and peace. We are created to experience all emotions. So what happens when those feelings are just gone?
It’s like I become a zombie. Walking, talking, expressing emotions with my face and words, but feeling nothing. I don’t think humans are built to live without emotions. Even the tough ones.
Here’s what I think: Emotion pushes you forward. You cannot stay the same. You are forced to fight or flee. If you face it and fight, chances are you will find support and eventually disarm the opposition.
If you flee, if you allow it all to remain buried within…you may descend into hell on earth.
I’ve perfected the art of faking it. Saying just the right amount of superficial blather to get through the social moments of life. Creating a facade to distract those around me from seeing what’s really going on inside.
And what’s going on inside? Weakness. Insecurity. Uncertainty. Fear. If those parts were to be revealed, surely I would implode.
Such was the case a few Sunday nights ago. I walked into church dreading the next few hours. Especially that casual question, “So, how are you?”
Oh you know, depressed. Tired of dealing with my kids. Not sure what to do with my life. Frustrated that I’m feeling frustrated. Feeling selfish and consumed with negativity. Wishing I was curled up in bed and not looking you in the face.
“I’m good. Jason’s probably leaving this week for his grandfather’s funeral. It’s been so hard for him. Oops, I hear Anna.”
See what I did there? Redirect? Hopefully steer you away from me to anything else.
My eyes were most likely darting around. I probably had a sugary smile on my face that didn’t match my words. And if anyone took a second to really look at me, it would have given it all away.
So why did I come to church when I felt this way? Why run the risk of exposure?
Spoiler alert – not because my husband is the pastor. I mean he is the pastor, but that’s not my reason. I don’t do things just out of obligation when it comes to church. We had that talk long ago and it won’t be part of my repertoire. If I really wanted to hide, I could have.
But I was there. And I didn’t consciously realize why this would be important until we gathered.
I specifically remember standing quietly, while the instruments began to play and voices surrounded me in song. I stood with my hands behind my back, no movement, silent.
But soon after, I heard it. I heard them. My mind and heart stopped their barrage for a split second and there was glorious clarity. Voices singing. Children belting out at their loudest. Men and women harmonizing. Deep bass and soaring sopranos.
And my heart beat.
My church was my voice.
In the moment I had nothing to give, others gave.
In the depth of my doubt and emptiness, others had faith.
In my time of separation and seclusion, others connected.
In my attempt to fake it, others genuinely loved.
In all honesty, the moment passed. I opened my eyes and wiped away the tears. I became aware of myself. My walls of anxiety and fear went right back into place.
I filed that moment away to process later.
But at some point, I hope to look back on that with thanksgiving and joy.
I hope to worship my God openly and sincerely.
I hope to BE that community of support for others silently in need.
Until then, may I be reminded that this dark cloud of hell surrounding me is ALSO filled with love and support – from people far and near.
A cloud of witnesses, proclaiming Christ’s love for all.
Whether they feel it or not.