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God is in My Pillowcase

July 15, 2014

I paced the two-bedroom duplex growling profanities as if I had just found out someone close to me had died. It was the morning of my twenty-fifth birthday, and I had used my phone as an alarm only twenty minutes prior, but I couldn’t find it anywhere; not hidden on the bookshelf in the living room, or buried beneath a pile of clean and/or dirty clothes in my room; not on the back of the toilet, or disguised amongst the speakers on the record player; not in the back of Sue (my car) or on, or around the front seat where I had just loaded all my stuff – the usual spots I tend to misplace my phone.

Finally, my roommate yelled through the door of his bedroom, “What are you looking for?”

“My phone!” I yelled. “I just f***ing had the g**d*** f***ing thing, but…” – I digress.

After a few calls from Charlie’s phone, I was able to locate it inside my pillowcase in the back of Sue – of course. Why didn’t I think to look there?

I grabbed it, slammed the tailgate and hit the open road for Springville, Utah – where my good friend Kellen was two days away from marrying his beautiful wife Breanne.

The twelve hours Southeast on the interstate went by in a flash. I listened to music and podcasts between thoughts, and I watched the landscape slowly change around me like a time-lapsed version of the twenty-five years I had just completed.

A quarter of a century – no longer a series of  annoyingly-sized coins that you’re trying to get out of your pocket with any excuse. Instead, one solid, appropriately-sized, shiny quarter – maybe with steamboat and the word “Wyoming” on the back if I’m lucky.

Love felt triumphant that weekend. As I sat to the side of the crowd watching Kellen and Breanne become as one, I felt like I was thrown into a Jane Austen novel (and I mean that in the best way). They dated for seven years. There were times where it looked like it wasn’t going to work. A quiet, thoughtful Mormon girl and a charismatic cynic – the guy who once told me that love alone is not enough to overcome all things.

There is truth in that statement, but Kellen (and everyone else at that wedding), you also gave me a taste of what love can overcome.

I was so lost in these thoughts and in taking the below picture, I forgot to strum the chords to their song as they exited the alter, as was my job.

Not even a good photo...

Not even a good picture at that…

As I began my drive back to the Northwest, I found myself in the same place as when I left Portland three days prior – yelling obscenities as myself. After Kellen repeated the directions to the interstate several times, I still took a wrong turn and drove around in circles for a quarter of an hour before finally stumbling across the road I was trying to get to.

There were times on that drive home when I felt lonely and bitter.

Removed from the celebration, I began focus on my own selfishness and my own failures in love. I was sick of myself and I wanted to get away from myself. My age was sinking in. Twenty-five sounded so adult, and yet I didn’t feel like an adult at all; my actions have backed that up.

But eventually, I could hear that voice in the back of my head saying, “For the umpteenth time Brendon, how can you expect to be successful in loving others, if you cannot first learn to love yourself?”

I haven’t been writing much lately. Because last year I learned the cost of writing with the intensity required for quality material – you have to face yourself, and I have not wanted to do that.

A few nights ago, as I was flipping through passages of Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel, one of my good friends and I started texting back and forth. In the conversation, he said this:

Does your head ever get in a space over a day or two or three, to where you can vaguely feel this thing in the back of your mind, or your soul/consciousness, that a change of some sort is coming on, or you feel as if you are about to develop yourself in some way, but you’re not sure if you will or not, and you feel as if you need to figure it out because it may not happen otherwise?

I was almost pissed off for him saying that. He put words to the exact thing I was trying to run away from knowing. At that time, my head was like my bedroom: messy, disorganized, and a place I wanted to spend as little time as possible.

“Yes. All the friggen time.” I replied.

What pissed me off the most, was that text message in a weird way triggered me to uncover the lies I had been telling myself. It also made me realize I needed to act on this change soon, or it might be too late – for what, I have no idea.

I’d begun to ignore so much of what I’ve leaned on to get where I’m at, and I was justifying everything as I became addicted to those pills that cure a side-effect of another pill, for an altogether different ailment.

A pill for a pill.

Not the proper way to handle illness, that’s for sure.

It’s been awhile now since I didn’t feel like I was on the verge of drowning.

A few months ago, I met a very important person for coffee. It was our second time meeting and the first meeting had gone very well. This time, however, something felt off. I suddenly felt as if I were sixteen again. I found myself getting defensive about the few bits of constructive criticism he offered. Here, he was taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with me. And he was even kind enough to take the time to closely read and listen to my e-mail. But, I felt like everything that came out of my mouth was from the tongue of some pubescent boy. I straight up lied to his face at one point, and of all the things we talked about, it was of the least significance. A lie just for the sake of lying is the only way I can rationalize it.

Since then, I feel like that same boy has control of my tongue almost constantly. I’ve started second guessing everything I say and do, “worrying about how [my] actions will be interpreted” (Manning). I never used to really care how I came across or appeared, or if every little action I do is the ‘right’ action for the circumstance. Or at least I didn’t put enough thought into any of that to have a real effect. But, I felt like I lost myself there for awhile and now I’m trying to piece back together the remnants.

I suppose it all stems from the fact that I often feel like I have lost God and simply go about dealing with it the wrong way. I will pace around and yell obscenities at him, wondering why he won’t reveal himself.

“I just talked to you twenty minutes ago, now where the f*** did you go!?” I’ll yell.

And there he will be – in my pillow case. And he will be laughing. And I will have no choice but to laugh with him, because there is no denying the humor in how he ended up in my friggen pillow case.

You see, he won’t ever leave you, even if you leave him. He won’t quit loving you, even when you don’t quite know how to love yourself.

With that said, if you leave him in your pillow case every day, you’re going to be missing out on a lot of what he’s trying to tell you, and that’s your own damn fault – not his.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Ragamuffin Gospel:

Often i have been asked, ‘Brennan, how is it possible that you became an alcoholic after you got saved?’ It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure; because I got discouraged, uncertain, guilt-ridden, and took my eyes of Jesus. Because the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me into an angel. Because justification by grace through faith means I have been set in right relationship with God, not made equivalent of a patient etherized on a table.

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