I’m Not Growing Anymore

Tonight, I sit alone. It is a night not quite unlike many prior Tuesday nights, secure within my favorite coffee shop on Earth. I am sitting by the window, the only such seat in this confined space, and the view downtown is lovely tonight. Just like every other Tuesday night.

Coming to this coffee shop has been a weekly tradition stretching back many months living in this wonderful city. It is a freeing night to catch up on reading blogs and writing them too. To read and to write and to recharge, late into the refreshing downtown night.

And yet, tonight on this particular Tuesday night, I sense a distinct difference, a sure and certain shift from all those other inspiring Tuesdays.

What once was my weekly refuge of independence and inspiration has now become a sobering metaphor for my life. A life of seclusion, a life of withdrawal, a life alone in the corner of a coffee shop as conversations bubble about me and vehicles whiz by the window going places and I wonder how it all went this way.

Downtown Fullerton City Street

Like a stream cutting a canyon, this Tuesday night coffee shop routine developed over time. It helped that I didn’t have anywhere to be Wednesday mornings. That I could come and write here until midnight, 1, even 2 if the muse struck me long enough, able to sleep in the following morning.

Tuesday night is also when People of the Second Chance, one of my favorite Internet things, hosts weekly live-tweet sessions using the hashtag #POTSClive. It’s a chance to talk about life and faith and struggle and to do so openly with others.

It is a weekly opportunity to be reminded I am not, in fact, alone.

Tonight’s #POTSClive topic was tenacity, and yet my triumphant answers seem like long lost memories of yesteryear. As if “God” and “Jesus” and “redemption” are now elusive concepts no longer relevant to my ongoing story and continued growth.

It’s as if I’m not even growing anymore.

 

You only grow when you grit your teeth, buckle down, and climb. There’s just no other way. Growth and pain are unfortunate bedfellows. After two decades of living it safe in the shadows, I’ve since longed for the bold fresh air of growth. It’s masochistic, almost, that in this obsessive longing for growth, I must also crave the pain.

Twice especially, I longed for such growth. And I certainly suffered the pain.

 

I wrote about both of those life-changing stories in Struggle Central — of wanting to quit both my 2011 Milwaukee summer with YouthWorks and my 2012 Camp Ridgecrest summer. Relationally, each experience was the most strenuous awful thing I’d ever done, that Ridgecrest summer multiplied by Milwaukee a thousandfold.

And yet if I’d quit either of those summers, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t have grown the definite ways I did. Something would have been inherently irrevocably lost.

I remember that growth, I wrote about that growth, and I still recognize that precious growth. I do.

And yet.

Tonight, nearly two years removed from Ridgecrest, three from Milwaukee, sitting here alone on the other side of the country, I look back and I look down and I honestly wonder:

Is it possible not only to stop growing, but also to lose your growth?

 

I’ve grown so much these last few years. It’s wild, really. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have even recognized this guy.

And yet, I feel like that guy doesn’t exist anymore. Did my baptism even “do” anything? Was an “old man” truly “buried” that day? Why does this “new man” still suffer the same insecurities and struggles as the old?

I wrote the literal book on vulnerability, and yet I now struggle to be vulnerable with others. Day after day, I wear a stoic facade. I pretend to be okay when I am not. Sometimes total strangers call me out on it; sometimes even dearest loved ones do not see.

I’ve become an expert at hiding who I am. Just like who I used to be before I did all this growing. Just like the old man.

 

I must sound like a bad Christian saying this, but on my toughest days, my greatest motivation does not come from God or Jesus or The Bible or even awesome worship songs.

On my toughest days, my greatest motivation comes from others. Especially others who know me deeper beyond the pages of a mere book.

I don’t want to “hang in there” anymore. I want to thrive. I want to experience the communal thrills of water park baptisms and intense summer excursions and actual meaningful church, day after day, week after week.

I don’t want to sit alone in a coffee shop every Tuesday night, the world passing by me like cars down the street. I don’t ever want to stop growing.

I want to start growing again. I want to relearn the art of this masochistic task.

  • Andy

    Several years ago I wrote a song about loneliness. It talked about how in the midst of our pain that we can still go to God since He’s calling us to Him. So no matter how we may feel we aren’t alone and God is always with us. It’s my favorite song that I wrote but what’s funny was that I thought I got that lesson down. I dealt with some loneliness, wrote a song about it, and encouraged others through that song. Now I’m hurting in more loneliness and it’s hard to go back to that song and sing how I’m not alone.
    I think it’s okay if we have to go back to some lessons that we thought we had mastered so long ago. As a casual observer of your blog and as someone who had the pleasure of actually meeting with you a couple times, I don’t see you not growing. Not growing would mean that you quit and I haven’t seen that. And I do find that others are some of the best motivators when I’m struggling. Usually it’s others that point me back to God and Jesus and the Bible, and they help enrich my worship.