I ended off the last installment with how we can break Gods heart (Part 1). I am now going to attempt to write about the emptiness of a life without God.
I come from a family that is aptly described as dysfunctional. My childhood was easy compared to what many people endure and I have always known that my parents love me. However, it was not perfect and it still shaped me in both the deep caverns within myself, and on the top surface, the facade that other people see that is usually all lies, a front obscuring who we really are, what we really feel, and to a fairly large extent also influencing who we believe ourselves to be. That shallow layer covers the entrance to our real selves where there is a vast network of caves and deep pits and mountains within, mostly shrouded in darkness and inaccessible without aid. Humans are far deeper and more complex than what we let others see or what we acknowledge in ourselves.
It is so very easy to live on the top layer. The world lives on that layer. Movies, sports, science, study, the majority of ‘religion’ even. We live there and ignore the rest because it is easy, simple, and comfortable. But its also meaningless, pointless, a waste. Why do we bother to exist in that at all, for what reason do we keep going forward, why wake up and start the day?
It’s all for nothing on that fake, superficial level. That’s where I have lived for most of my life up until a year ago, actually, even until a few weeks ago when God started probing the depths of who I am, gently letting me know He wants something, breaking through barriers and emotional suppressors and showing me, echoing through the caverns of my mind, reassuring me ”there is more”.
My family didn’t and still don’t have much money. Our financial situation could be described as ”dodgy”. That alone brings pressures, stress and tension into a family, especially when as a young child little Andrew stares at his parents, sizing them up and critically examining them with a thoughtful expression on his face. He knows something is a little off, in much the same way as when he said, ”Father Christmas isn’t real is he?” while watching his mother for the slightest reaction, ”He’s not. He doesn’t exist does he mom?” The conversation progresses with a panicking mother trying to find a way out of admitting it, wondering what this child is going to tell his friends, how she is going to deal with phone calls from parents whose children are in tears because little Andrew said his mom said this and that. Little Andrew, persistent as he was, learned a couple minutes later that father Christmas was not real. In a similar way, he learned that his family was in quite severe financial trouble, and somehow managed to discover without even asking that his parent’s relationship was in tatters.
Financial pressure, alcoholism, heaps of previous generation psychological problems that go so deeply into the caves that they could never be hidden from the surface, streaks of darkness and grime, red and black twisting and burning together on the surface from my dad’s childhood and life in general. The deep stuff makes its appearance in the shallow layer despite how hard we try to hide it. But I fear this may be getting hard to follow so I’ll try bring it back on track.
So, my family life shaped me and I pitched up at university. I was very cynical, negative, harsh, cold, abrasive, cruel, self serving and selfish. All of that was clearly evident in my shallow top layer, but its origin, not so much. People appear one way, but why they are who they are has so much more depth. I don’t think you will ever be able to truly understand someone else or even yourself, but God is an expert at navigating the vast depths inside us. God doesn’t care too much for the shallow. Not much value there. He wants the precious metals deep below, even when it’s deeply ingrained and encased in thick and solid rock that almost refuses to yield. If anything that’s what He wants most, that which we are reluctant to give Him, because he isn’t interested in half of us, or even 90 percent of us. Jesus didn’t do half a job…
I existed only in the shallow because over the years I managed to encase my heart in a fortress I believed was impenetrable. Almost nothing had any emotional effect on me. I would connect with people purely in the top layer. And that’s easy actually, since almost everyone seems to be just playing in the sand box, diligently ignoring the depths that call to them every now and then in echoes of pain trying to reach the surface. My goal in life was to earn lots of money in any way I could. Squish and step on people? Why not, their fault for being weak, they must learn, I am actually doing them a favour. Manipulate and use people? Oh yes, the weak and emotional are inferior, they should have known better, they deserve to be manipulated and it’s their fault they don’t stand up for themselves and get a clue. I was good at getting what I wanted. When I was still young, I grew tired of disappointment so decided to switch off, stop caring, give up.
Many people have switched off. Grown cold and hard naturally or deliberately. When people become tools to you, that’s a good indication that you flipped the switch, when their value lies purely in ”what can they do for me?”. And this attitude sticks, when you want to drop it, when you want it removed, it stubbornly looks at you with distain, ”you gave me control. It’s your fault. As if I am actually going to give anything back. Pathetic.” That attitude grows and festers and rots you from the inside out. Ahhh. Off topic.
So I was drifting through life with no meaning. Money would never really do anything for me, and we know that, you don’t even have to look deeply to figure that one out. There will never be enough. It will never satisfy. It will consume you and leave you empty, hollow, and alone. I realised I had a fairly strong dislike of my engineering course. I projected my life forward, as I so often do, and I wasn’t too impressed with what it looked like. Bleak, bare, stale. Live and then die. Plagued by the thought “Who cares if I die soon…”
Ah. An explanation for something that has sat with me for a long time. I have spent many hours in my life imagining I was dying or had died and what effect that would have. You might think ”well everyone wonders that sometimes, have they done what they wanted to, experienced what they wanted to, its normal.” But my thoughts had/have nothing to do with that. Death seems easier (theoretically obviously). And here it is. I contemplated me being dead often at varying ages with the thought ”would anyone care? Would anyone cry? My parents yes, but anyone else? Would anyone speak at my funeral. A few days later would anyone notice anymore. Do I mean anything at all?”
I shut people out. People may not get close in case they disappoint me, hurt me. I had enough so I shut them out, and hurt myself by shredding a human need, a real need, a part of us so strongly embedded that we are pale, distorted, shapeless without. We must connect. We crave it. Desire it. We must connect deeply. The shallow messing around is just a painkiller. Ignore the yearning and aching for a real connection. Cheapen it and laugh it off, or try at least. We were built with a need to connect. And only God can truly meet that need. No human ever will. We seek whatever scraps we can find, anything that might satisfy that thirst.
If we try to go through life alone, we will only find misery. We cannot override our intrinsic need for deep, sincere, meaningful relationships. We can try to fill the void, but it won’t ever work. Only Jesus can quench our thirst. And those moments when we truly connect with Him…You wouldn’t trade them for anything.