[i don’t know if i’m writing this for anyone but myself. if anyone gleans from it, great, but consider this a self-indulgent disclaimer.]
i learned something about myself this past week. er…maybe i had it reaffirmed. again.
y’all – i’m a homebody. i can only say it that way. i’ve never been one for vacations, my graduation trip that i took lasted all of about six hours before i drove back home, i get antsy when i start thinking about hotels and going out for every meal and the fact that i won’t be in my own bed and won’t park in my carport and won’t wake up and brush my teeth in my bathroom, etc. i just do not travel well.
a week ago today, i picked up a rental car and headed (with another teller from Danville) to Columbus, Ohio for training. they put you up in a hotel, pay for a couple of your meals, and let you run fake transactions all day so that when you get back to the branch, you are more comfortable with the system. it’s hands-on, non-consequential training. pretty cool.
well, start with the fact that we didn’t leave til 1pm. i’m a morning person. i’d rather get on the road sooner, because i don’t love killing half a day doing whatever. i ended up getting the rental car, having a PSL, playing video games for a bit, and just pacing antsily (weird, spell check tells me that’s not a word) until it came time to head over to pick up my fellow teller. we drove up and had a good conversation for strangers – we talked movies for about seventy miles and they told stories of their time in the Army, etc. we got up with no problems.
one of the reasons i don’t like traveling is because one, i’m frugal, and two, because i’m frugal, i feel there’s nothing to do when i travel. it doesn’t help that the majority of what i’d consider acceptable tourism is checking out coffee shops that are unique to the area, and the ones i wanted to see closed at 5 and 7, consecutively. we got out of teller training at 5 every day, so that ruled one out, and the other was a ‘twenty-minute’ drive, which i’d make after we went back to the hotel, got changed, got my stuff, and drove into downtown columbus at 5:45pm, so the drive would have been longer than twenty minutes. no cool coffee shop for me.
there were a myriad of restaurants around our hotel, but less than a mile away, there was a Chipotle Mexican Grill. people who know me know exactly where i ate every single night (esp. considering that work paid for meals.) it was actually really nice – i have always wanted a sense of routine, and i had it for these three days in Columbus: woke up, had Starbucks, drove to training, trained, had lunch (i ate pizza every day in the cafeteria, because it was familiar,) went back to the hotel, got Chipotle, watched baseball. every day was literally the same: a wonderful problem to have in my opinion, at least given the circumstances (traveling. i do not like traveling.)
we finished up on Thursday afternoon around 4pm, and drove back. we made the trip almost uninterrupted – got back into Lexington just after 8pm. one of my favorite friends picked me up from the rental car place, we went for a walk and had ice cream and great conversation, and then i went home. did a little laundry and went to bed because the next day was retreat.
retreat was in Harlan, KY, a lovely town about three hours away from here. let me go ahead and say this now: i’m gonna complain a little bit, and it’s not about retreat. really. truly. genuinely – retreat was amazing, and i realized upon coming home last night that i would have thoroughly regretted not going…so hopefully that’s clear. i loved spending the weekend with my friends.
that said, i was in a funk all weekend. thankfully, my ride and i waited until about noon to head down, so i had time to recover a bit, walk to the coffee shop, get my stuff ready for leading worship on Saturday night, finish my laundry, pack, etc. by noon, i felt as ready as i think i would. my friend that i rode down with was my myspace buddy in high school (it’s kind of a really cool story how we met and re-met ten years later, after all but disappearing from each other’s lives – but that’s another story) so we had really good talks and didn’t have a dull moment. we enjoyed the challenge of finding this little mountain road that would take us to the retreat spot.
the whole time, i was having a bit of an internal conversation – “jeff, you will engage this weekend. i don’t care if you’re tired, i don’t care if you’re a little disoriented. don’t use this traveling stuff as an excuse. be present, be with God, be with people.” so i did the best i knew how to engage. i got out of the car and immediately met four people i’d never met before, helped unload and unpack, and we toured the location once we got everything loaded up into the kitchen. i did the best i knew how.
friday night, as people started showing up and the dynamics multiplied, i started feeling a little better – i figured if i couldn’t go home, then maybe home would come to me. maybe i’d start to engage because it’s all about the people. a bunch of us talked late into the night, sat by a fire, played ping-pong, etc – had a good time. i went to bed around 1:45am, and had resolved to wake up at 5. i woke up at 5.
i woke up distracted and in a fog. i still didn’t feel right. i felt distracted, felt my head turned, felt disoriented. i didn’t understand. i guess maybe i still don’t. i went to the lodge, brewed the coffee (i fancied myself the Keeper of the Morning, Guardian of the Coffee For Those Who Awaken at the Wee Hours of the Day) and had time with God in the Bible and in my journal. i prayed/begged God that i’d be able to focus, be a little more attentive, that i wouldn’t make excuses for myself not to check out. i’d hoped that it was something spiritual, something i could pray for God to break, something i could fix with either prayer or cognitive-behavioural therapy.
i wrote a letter to my little brother, because he’s a worship leader, too – i wrote him (knowing i wouldn’t send it until i got back, because i couldn’t) about how i believe that God would be faithful to use me in my weird state and that sometimes the only songs we can bring are heart-broken ones, sometimes our hearts are malfunctional and let us down, but God doesn’t, and God cares about us showing up. i prayed at the end of the letter that it would encourage him one day when he’s leading worship and not feeling right.
i poured cup after cup of coffee, wrote a few more lines in my journal, stared listlessly ahead of me, waiting on God to talk, to say something that would make everything feel better.
skip ahead: He didn’t.
i spent Saturday in this half-funky state, thrilled to be around my friends, excited to lead worship, but, quite frankly, longing to be home. i like home.
Saturday was a fun day, we had a morning session with a great breakout group discussion, fun free time, played more ping-pong, we did a lot of good stuff that day. Saturday night rolled around, and i had the immense honor of leading worship, which was powerful and good, and i was more excited for that night than literally any time i’d led worship so far in my life, and God showed up and moved and spoke a lot to a lot of people, and man, my friends love Jesus and are good at singing, and it was unreal. i sweat more than any other time i’d led worship (perhaps there is a direct correlation between sweat level and excitement level?) we played all the songs we’d planned and then my good friend and co-leader Hannah popped a few more choruses and bridges out of her head and led us very well in even more worship. it was great.
but, guess what: i didn’t feel amazing yet. i got a lot of really kind compliments and i appreciated them a lot, but i still felt this funk, this half-hearted something-or-another, i couldn’t pin-point it, couldn’t identify it, didn’t want to admit that i just wanted to be at home.
see, i’ve always wanted to be the type of person who can jump from thing to thing. i’m not. i’m convinced of it now – i like buffer time, i like to be able to sit on my couch and breathe for a bit, i like for the schedule to be clear for a little bit so i can get my bearings.
saturday night, after worship, i grabbed my good friend Ben, a friend i consider a brick (see: bricks.) and i asked him to pray with me. i couldn’t shake this funk, and i wanted to. i told him i didn’t feel attentive or present. he told me i didn’t come off that way, that he thought i was doing a good job of engaging with people, and i thanked him, but then i realized something perhaps even worse than the reality of being in a funk: you can be in a funk and it doesn’t always look like that. on one hand, that’s a really good thing, because then you can still be yourself and engage with people, but on the other hand, it doesn’t feel like you’re being yourself, which is kind of the absolute worst. it means you’re not enjoying it as you go, it leaves you with this feeling that it could be so much better if you’d just get rid of the funk part.
i’ll skip ahead some more: this continued, uninterrupted, until i got home last night. really. i prayed and prayed and prayed some more and on Sunday morning (i slept in until 5:30 and dodged the bullet of anyone being up between 5-5:30, which, let’s be honest, was no one – because everyone was in bed at like 1am.) and at one point, i sensed God saying, “stop trying to talk. let your words be few.” you know, like that verse in Ecclesiastes? so i tried that. i tried being silent, i tried waiting for the word that God would say that would crush my funk and make me SuperChristian Jeff, shaking hands and laughing and being all “praise God!” but it never came. i was in a funk as i led worship Sunday morning, as we packed up, as we ate lunch, and as we drove home.
the first session on Saturday morning was about one part of a reflexive equation: that, according to Jesus, Love God = love yourself = love others, and you can interchange any parts of those because they are all important to being a functional, impactful, kingdom-bringing human. we can’t love one of two of those three options, they all matter. so, in the morning, he talked about loving ourselves. i’d heard about this idea a bit in the past, and knew that there was some weird stuff out there about self-love so i tread carefully, but listened and took in a lot of what he said. a big thing was self-care, which i appreciated. we went on about the day and it was around the time i got back to my house on Sunday night that i started to recall some more of what he’d said.
i felt so bad, so guilty, that i’d been in a funk. most people didn’t notice, but i confessed it to a close few, including one friend that i felt i’d treated especially differently than usual, and i really worried that i’d hurt them. i hated the thought that i could come home and suddenly be fine.
so, i took a walk and digested everything that had happened in the last week. i walked myself through the big parts of it, through what may have triggered this and that, and realized that i had had quite a week. i still don’t know if it needs to be an excuse or an explanation. because here’s the thing – i tried literally everything i knew to shake it off. i did what i felt the Lord prompted me to do, which is to ask for help, and had Ben pray for me on Saturday night. i felt better, but not entirely, not the way i’d hoped (i was hoping for a Spirit-filled crying session, cathartic and clarifying.)
maybe, just maybe, we’re human, i’m human. we have our comfort zones and nobody asked us to feel comfortable outside of our comfort zone, just to go. and i guess i did, and according to people, i did okay, and maybe that’s enough. maybe i can/should tell my ENFJ self that the F doesn’t always have to line up perfectly for life to be going in a good direction. maybe it’s not about emotional perfection – maybe it’s about obedience.
maybe i want to remove that maybe. maybe i’m attached to the word, though. here’s what i know: in this weekend, in this state i felt so bad about, i had multiple folks come up to me after worship and say thanks for a particular song choice, or for something the Holy Spirit had prompted me to say in/between a song; i had people write or say unbelievably encouraging things that i believe will steel and solidify my spirit in days to come; i was able to write notes to other men and invite them into further, deeper, better friendship, and i’m learning the reality of the line of one of the songs we sang this weekend:
i throw my weakness into Your greatness, this broken heart is all You want.