Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always,
‘Cause the sun’s gonna shine
In my backdoor some day.
–Trouble in Mind written by Richard Jones and sung by Nina Simone
So, Saturday, I had lunch with my minister.
Now, when he reads this, I have no doubt that he’ll balk at the title of this post, but, for me, it’s no less true. In fact, that was half the reason I wanted to get together with him.
He’d been helping rehearse a wedding, apparently without the benefit of food, because at two o’clock when I came to get him, he asked if we could get lunch instead of coffee. Naturally, that was fine with me, even though I’d eaten. So, we jumped into the Black Beast, as I often refer to my retired police car, and headed out. I think Matt was a little surprised to find Nina Simone in the CD player instead of Ramstein, but, hey, I like to keep my spiritual advisor/fashion consultant on his toes, you know? Anyway, we made a bit of small talk about health and weather and getting older as we zipped past Six Flags over Jesus (aka Second Baptist) to Escalante’s. Matt’s been working on his PhD. in Lubbock and, apparently, they don’t have any good Mexican food there, so he was craving. I just had ice tea, but they were slow and we had enough to justify taking up the table.
By the time we’d walked through the door, Matt knew I wanted to talk about the two most confusing, vexing, baffling subjects known to man: God and women.
God, it turns out, is the less vexing of the two. As I explained to Matt, I still have a hard time with certain things about religion. Belief in a Supreme Being isn’t so hard. Belief that He cares about so insignificant a life as mine, well, that’s a bit of a stretch sometimes. So, too, that whole salvation concept is a little beyond me sometimes, too.
But, he explained it in a way that, somehow, I’d never considered before.
“What if a friend came to you with a problem? A bad habit he’d tried to break, but had given into. What would you tell him?”
“Well, I guess I’d ask him what he learned. I wouldn’t be focused so much on the bad habit, but the behavior and thoughts that led up to the backsliding. I mean, the point isn’t to be perfect, but to learn from the mistake and move on.”
“Well, don’t you think that an all-powerful, all-knowing supreme being is at least as compassionate as you are?”
“Oh…” Yeah, somehow, I lost sight of that whole idea. That God, as powerful and huge as He is, still cares about me at least as much as I care about people who come to me with problems. See? Like I said, Matt may not be comfortable with the label, but Holy Man fits.
Now, as for the women end of things…
Well, I’ve tried every other approach to women that I can think of, so asking a minister seemed like a novel idea. Besides, Matt’s happily married with two kids and a third on the way. I told him about the subject of my posts last week. I gave him all the detail I leave out of this blog. How I made myself vulnerable to her. How I told her what I felt and thought. How I shared my writing with her. The kind of writing I rarely share with anyone, because I never think it’s good enough. I told him how she rarely returns phone calls or e-mails. I told him how I’d made the decision to pull back, for my own safety, but still called to let her know why I was doing that, because I’d always hated seeing someone turn cold to me with no explanation and wondered why. I told him how all my efforts seem to be met with a confusing mix of appreciation and disdain.
Matt summed it up when he made two simple gestures. With one hand, waving me closer. With the other, holding it up to say “stop”. “Come closer, no, wait, go away.”
And, after listening to the whole thing. Hearing my frustration and my embarrassment and my self-directed anger, he said something to me that shocked me down to my bones.
“She’s not worthy of you.”
I hate to admit it, but that’s a fairly alien concept to me. Me not being worthy of someone else, that I get. But, the idea that perhaps there was someone not worthy of my honesty and openness… Well, it certainly made me think. So did the last thing he said to me about all that.
“Guard your heart.”
And, that I got. The trick, as I told Matt, is figuring out the right balance between guarding myself from harm and being transparent enough to be real. I’ve struggled for a long time to rediscover my authentic self and, mostly, I like who I’ve found. And, damn it, Matt’s right, that should be more than enough for anyone who’s paying attention. How many people would take the risk to be honest enough to share their feelings, even after being fairly certain that things weren’t going well at all, just because it’s the right thing to do.
The other thing that surprised me a bit was when Matt asked me if I’d prayed about it. I grew up with the idea that one never asked God for anything for one’s self. That was the height of selfishness and practically heresy. But, he reminded me of Scripture, which I can’t remember now, where Christ told someone to express their wants to God. He told me it was not only okay to tell God I was lonely for that special relationship, but that God wanted me to bring that to Him. God wanted to hear my heart’s deepest longing. Yes, he already knows it, but God wants to hear it from my own heart.
And, I’ll be honest, I am lonely. It’s not that I lack for friends or family or love at all, but it’s different. Yes, if I want to get out to a movie or dinner or just not be alone, I can find someone to be with easily enough. Male or female. But, I’m lonely in a different way. There’s something different about that tender, intimate relationship with a member of the opposite sex that goes beyond simple friendship. I feel like I know so little of that sort of relationship that I can hardly hold a picture of it in my mind, much less describe it. But, this much I do know, it’s a kind of intimacy that goes deeper than anything else. It is, I think, what drives us all, in one way or another. The search for it gets me up in the morning and exhausts me during the day. If I were to remember my dreams at night, I’m sure it would be all I dream.
So, I started praying about that longing to God. I don’t pretend to know what the results will be, but when my holy man instructs me, this student listens.
Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries."