If you know me personally or one of the few that are familiar with my blogging, you know that I suffer from post-traumatic stress. It accumulated over the years to the point that I so much of the person that I used to be faded away. The events that occurred and the stress I deal with has made it difficult for me t really engage in many life activities that I used to would have enjoyed. I am overseas in Scotland and I routinely talk about going out and seeing some of the country while I am here, but yet I never have the desire to do so in the present moment. I deal with a depth of loneliness that I know is partially self-inflicted by my tendency to minimize my availability in social situations; I think about and occasionally make an effort to go out with people, to ask a woman out to coffee, to try to go to a new function to meet people, but I fail to ever really have a stick-to-it-tiveness to it. This is not to mention how my very condition can make people uninclined to want to invite my problems into their personal lives. I am in school trying to work on a second Masters with a hope of finally pursuing a PhD and trying to engage in academia, but I hesitate to truly get involved in all of it because if I ever stand out, I fear to be the target yet again of manipulative and abusive people who wish to possess me or who have an evil envy of anything I might do. I am self-aware of my own struggles to know that I deal with sense of a foreshortened future, and as I recognize every sign of it and wish to hope for something more, I am always left vacillating between the feelings of despair and some weakly held hope for the future, even as I know in my head this is a side effect of the trauma. And even as I make progress and I begin to move forward, things from the past will wrongfully intrude into my life without my consent, causing everything I have tried to rebuild to fall back to the ground, only to have to figure out once again how to put the pieces of my shattered life and dreams back together again.
Life dealing with trauma can be a struggle to retain hope and dreams when I know the truth about the cold and callous parts of life. I was once naively optimistic about the future, but now I am left trying to retain that sense of hope in a world where all the positive cliches ring out as lies from those better off to absolve themselves in their mind of any responsibility or concern. After all, if the problem is all in your head, then all you need is to snap out of it, many are tempted to think, not realizing that people’s minds and hearts learn from their experience, not from mindless and trite aphorisms. Of course, mercy should be shown to them in their ignorance because if life has worked out well for you, then just reframing how you see things would be sufficient for you to snap out of bad feelings. In the world and experience of many of those who speak with positive cliches and aphorisms, reframing how they think is all that they need to get past the minor struggles that weigh them down.
And yet, even in this deep cynicism, which I make known to make a point, there is still a sense of the Christian hope that resides within me. But the Christian hope I am referring to is not simply taking the Bible as an inspiration for the positive cliches and aphorisms. It isn’t the hope that was reminiscent of the college days where people believed that God would bring them their dream job, the perfect spouse, a great group of friends, etc. Rather it is the hope that comes with a deep groaning, that there is a God who has seen the cries of his people and groans with them. But this hope isn’t some merely imagined sort of empathy to trick my mind to feel some sort of social connection to substitute for my loneliness. It is a hope that God is the one who groans and will respond.
However, on the surface of it, I might not appear to fit the prototype of a Christian. While I endeavor to embody the virtues for a life of peace, I don’t engage in the sweet sounding cliches that we associate with a (therapeutic version of) faith. If I find someone to be a person who intrudes upon boundaries, while I hope to have my speech be salted with grace, it will be salting the truth that sometimes has an initial bitter taste. I do this because I believe that God can use my words and my actions to bring about a newness in life, through a life that seeks to break the mirages and illusions that so easily seduce us and cloak our eyes. Paradoxically, if there is indeed something to fear so as to avoid, it would be the fear of being the target of grudges of people who do not wish to see or hear of their own brokenness and sin; narcissistic illusions bring a lot of rage when shattered and the grudges that inspire the stealing of people’s lives begin to build. But in a way that I can not quite explain, I am left willing to endure that sort of struggle that I am not so ready to take on in other ways. In the end, my Christian hope is not built on the triteness of politeness and excessive positivity, but on the firm conviction that God ushers in new creation and that He uses the words and actions of his broken people, just as He used the broken body of the Word made flesh to get the long-awaited project off the ground. That the way towards the Jewish and later Christian dream of peace isn’t through positive sounding cliches and superficial compliments that puts a mask over conflicts and call those masks “peace,” but that one must endure the brokenness that comes with a word of truth that sometimes tear down what was built on false foundations to allow God to rebuild a peace on a surer foundation.