Updated: Mar 11
It's 7pm on a Tuesday and I get a text message from a good friend asking if I'm good to take a phone call. My stomach drops. I forgot we were planning to have a phone call tonight to discuss the email I sent him last night.
Why do I forget everything?
I text back yes. He calls a minute later so I head upstairs to an empty bedroom so I can chat in peace. We have a really good conversation about some research I had discovered the previous day detailing the decline of Christianity in America. I wanted to know his thoughts because he always has good ones. I mostly track along with his ideas, but some concepts are a little difficult for me to fully grasp. He is a lot smarter than me.
Why am I so dumb?
Again, all-in-all, it's a good conversation. And he's right. Ultimately, I don't need to be concerned with the 'big picture' ebb and flow of worldviews in our country. My job is simply to explain the Gospel to people who are curious and leave the rest up to God. Quite literally, that will be my job as I'm raising money to go into full-time mission work. Before I know it, it's 8:30 and I'm sure my two-year-oldneeds to be in bed soon. We end the call and I head back downstairs to find my kid watching Mickey Mouse. It feels like all he does is watch Mickey Mouse.
Why am I such a bad dad?
My wife is putting her boots on at the back door because the mail came late and she's going to check it. I look at my phone and see I have an email from our support-raising coach. She says we're making good progress. But she also says I'm not contacting enough people in a week. She reminds me that my goal is to contact 60 people every week but this past week I only contacted 27. It's more than I did the previous two weeks but if I don't do 60 this week, we'll have to go on probation. The anxiety tingle starts in my chest and burns its way down to the pit of my stomach. It reminds me of how I felt at the engineering job I quit to go into ministry. Maybe I'm going to be just as bad at this as I was at engineering.
Why am I such a failure?
My wife comes back in with a package for me. It's from another good friend of mine. I open it to find a small trophy. He unexpectedly ordered it for me for winning our fantasy football league this year. It means a lot. I grew up racing cars and winning lots of trophies, but I haven't won a trophy for anything in… 15 years?
Why am I such a loser?
I call him to thank him. He's the one that lead me to Christ in college. He asks me how support raising is going. I complain about my support raising coach expecting too much from me. Deep down I know it really isn’t too much. It wouldn't be too much for a normal person. A normalperson would easily be able to handle this if it were theirfull-time job.
Why can't I handle things normal people can handle?
We chat for a bit, but I really need to go. It's 9pm and I need to put my toddler to bed. My wife will be up with our10-month-old much of the night so the least I can do is get the toddler to sleep. We go up to his room together and get in his bed. He doesn’t seem very tired. Just like every other night, he wants a massage. As I lay next to him and rub his back, I start thinking about the email from our coach again. I think about how I continue to fail my way through life.
Why am I so useless?
The bad thoughts start to creep in. I think about the pistol in the safe out in the garage. I can usually go a whilewithout my thoughts getting so dark, but this is one of those nights. I'm not actually going to do anything, but I think maybe this time once my kid falls asleep, I'll grab the gun and just go for a drive. Honestly, I'd never actually hurt myself, but imagining a scenario where I have the option gives me some sense of control. I realize my son has turned his head and is staring me straight in the eyes. He's smiling. Shame washes over me. He reaches out and wipes away the tear that's running down my face.
What is wrong with me?
Half an hour later, I'm in the car. Even after getting out of bed and playing with him for a while, my son seemed wide awake. So, I decided to take him for a drive instead of the gun. It seems something like this happens every time I have those dark thoughts. It seems like someone is looking out for me. My kid passes out five minutes into our drive. But I continue driving for a while, pondering why I react the way I do. I pray. I decide that even though the thoughts I have about myself feel completely true, I will choose to believe they are lies. I decide that I'm going to stay up until I've contacted 60 people for the week. Even if it takes all night long. I decide to move forward. Sometimes that's all we can do. Just take one step forward.
Yes, even evangelistic zealots like me are broken. In fact, you could say that my brokenness is what inspires me to reach out to other broken people. I believe we’re all broken to some degree. In fact, I think anyone that claims to have it all together is either ignorant, a liar, or a narcissist. And if we are all broken, there is no reason tobeat ourselves up over it. You could say that brokennessis an occupational hazard - in the sense that we all occupy the same broken world. What I’ve found to be very important is to recognize and call out the lies we tell ourselves. The paragraphs above recount some thought processes I had in just a few hours of one bad night. The questions I wrote in bold at the end of each thought process are all questions that I believed were legitimate in the moment. But after spending just a little time in prayer, I realized that they were all complete and utter garbage. Wherever you believe your lies come from - childhood trauma, Satan, a chemical imbalance, maybe a mixture of sources - I would encourage you to practice labelling them as lies, separating them from truth. Maybe you could consider journaling out a rough night, then going back and highlighting the lies like I did above. Once you separate the fiction away from fact, the path forward may become at least one step clearer.
By Zion Schaub
Cru Campus Staff – Michigan’s U.P.