“Every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself” (Blue Like Jazz).
That’s exactly the crisis I faced this week. I say crisis because I doubted the existence of God, the reason for living, if love really has any meaning, why we should even bother to help others, and just how did we fuck up the world SO badly! Sound familiar?
Some days I am on top of the world. I’m happy and totally thankful to be so blessed to live in New York City.
The city is an incredible place. Every day is an adventure, but there is so much responsibility and pressure to move quickly. I’m good with responsibility, usually, I mean I’m the oldest of six, but this responsibility is something I have never faced before—the power to choose what I want to do with my life.
And I feel like I have to choose RIGHT NOW. All the time.
My roommate Kat said yesterday, “I don’t want to grow old and not have any good stories.” I want to live an amazing life, and right now I can look back on my life and truly say I have no regrets. I never want to have any regrets. I don’t want to waste my life, or even the smallest part of it, because honestly, there is a HUGE, beautiful, incredible world, and I don’t have that much time to do everything I want to do, see everything I want to see, and love all the people I want to love. At my deathbed, I want to be able to say, “I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Here’s what I know, at least in this moment, right now—I want to love and worship the creator of the universe. Two nights ago I was questioning whether or not God even existed. Sometimes it’s so clear, but then I look at Christians, hypocrites, preachers on TV, the history of people who have killed in the name of Christ, children brutally murdered- I just… it just makes me cry, a lot. So I did cry, a lot, and asked God why He lets bad stuff happen.
Past the seeker as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into a deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?” And out of the long silence, God said, “I did do something. I made you.” – Sufi teaching story
And then I thought: maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way. We ARE God’s body—we are his hands and feet, and it is our responsibility to make sure people are fed, clothed, and given shelter.
Well, what am I waiting for? As Shane Claiborne writes, “I’m convinced that God did not mess up and make too many people and not enough stuff. Poverty was created not by God but by you and me, because we have not learned to love our neighbors as ourselves. We cannot say we love God and pass by our hungry neighbor.”
Matthew 25:43-46, “(43) I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’(44) Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’(45) Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
So then I looked at myself, and this time I went further than thinking about my inability to fix the world, and my inability to stop all the hate. I looked deeper than that and realized, I am an awful, self-obsessed person. Here I sat, thinking about the problems of the world, and I overlooked the fact that I AM one of the problems in the world. The world isn’t the only thing failing- I am a TOTAL failure myself.
“Ah,” you might say, “Julia, you are totally over-exaggerating, you are a great person… sweet, caring, loving, and more wonderful than anyone I know. And you are only 19. You have time to become so much more!”
“Well, that might be true,” I might tell you (if you were actually a human talking to me). “But, I can give you countless examples where I am flawed. Here’s a few: 1) Instead of eating well and taking care of my body, I eat junk food all the time while millions are starving around the world!!! Does that not strike you as incredibly selfish, not to mention incredibly moronic? And it gets worse- even after realizing this, I continue to do it. Even after I walk past the person on the street raising money, “please just one penny helps” holding Costco size bags of Doritos and Chocolate chips- I’ll do it again a few weeks later when our supplies run out. I walk by THE SAME MAN asking for “just one penny” and get the SAME awful feeling- and I can’t control myself enough to give him the money, instead of buying it on chips and chocolate. 2) I think about myself a lot. I even sometimes think of myself as more important than others (as shown in example 1. the pleasure I get from eating chocolate and chips even though they have little nutritional value is more important than a HUNGRY person receiving just enough food to live on).
I act as if it’s my world, and other people are just living in it.
“Still, I knew, because of my own feelings, there was something wrong with me, and I knew it wasn’t only me. I knew it was everybody. It was like a bacteria or a cancer or a trance. It wasn’t on the skin; it was in the soul. It showed itself in loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression. It had people screwed up bad everywhere you went- it was ugly and deep. It was as if we were broken, I thought, as if we were never supposed to feel these sticky emotions. It was as if we were cracked, couldn’t love right, couldn’t feel good things for very long without screwing it all up.”
I forget that the universe lives within me, and I within the universe. It’s beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I have to forget Christians and the Church—because let’s be honest—most of them just suck, and look right to God and Jesus and how he loved all the broken people.
“You know, the kind of people who are tired of life and want to be done with it, or they are desperate people, people who are outcasts or pagans…. The soul was not designed for this, I thought. We were supposed to be good, all of us. We were supposed to be good.”
I can’t hate myself. I know that much. Because that just doesn’t work. Hate doesn’t go with what I live for… ahem, LOVE. So, one alternative is just to not care—just to be, but that isn’t really fun either. So, I’m trying to love, love, love, love and freaking love some more, myself and everything outside of my skin.
I’m so confused about which direction to go. I thought I would come to college and figure out what I should do for the rest of my life. But, it isn’t that clear. I just… I just want to love.
I guess that’s what it comes down to. I know I want to do something with social activism. But do I become a doctor? Do I learn Arabic? I think it would be awesome to do women’s health care stuff in the Middle East. Science and language are two subjects I struggle with A LOT, so why do I feel so pulled in that direction?
Or, I could focus on the economics of poverty and international relations. Maybe I could work for the UN. You see, that’s the problem—I could do anything!
I know that things will work out. As my friend Susan put it, “When you put your faith in God, the windy road that was your life becomes a 10 lane expressway with routes going in every direction- and you can’t take a wrong turn.” But, like I said, I don’t want to waste my life, nor a large sum of money every year trying to figure it out. Cough, cough… NYU.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but if costs $5,000 to build and equip a school in Darfur with supplies, my tuition = 40 schools. How is my education worth that? I’m seriously considering taking next year off to travel the country and the world, work, intern, volunteer, make friends, love people, get back to nature, and clear my head.
“Wisdom is not finding the world’s answers, but having the courage to stop trying to figure it out, and just LIVE.” – My best friend and roommate, Miss Katarina Hughes
Quotes in this entry are from the book Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
When I fall into the abyss, I go straight into it, head down and heels up, and I’m even pleased that I’m falling in such a humiliating position, and for me I find it beautiful. And so in that very shame I suddenly begin a hymn. Let me be cursed, let me be base and vile, but let me also kiss the hem of that garment in which my God is clothed; let me be following the devil at the same time, but still I am also your son, Lord, and I love you, and I feel a joy without which the world cannot stand and be. – Dostoevsky