I’m sad. I’ve been sad a lot lately. More than usual. I feel it all day, and I feel it especially at night, alone, tossing and turning in a bed that never quite swallows me like I want it to. Like I need it to.
I am of a personality generally bent toward melancholy, the “joy of feeling sad,” I once heard it defined. It’s like a morphine drip on a cold, thundery night, this sadness — I can’t get enough, pondering all that’s wrong or “off” in the world.
All that’s wrong or off with me.
Over the years, I’ve counteracted my tendency toward emotional heaviness by traveling and photographing and video-logging and trying new foods and occupying new coffee shops and meeting new people. An intentional yin to my existential yang.
But at the end of the day, at the end of each escape, at the end of every exhale, I can’t go to bed not feeling things, sad things, heavy things — not breathing this same sweltering air. Feeling loss and longing. Yearning for fantasies of another life. Another yesterday, another tomorrow.
I am a sensitive man who feels so much, and I’ve hated that I am this way.
As YOB has undergone great transition in recent months, my own life has paralleled this change. I moved out of a years-long home with other guys once connected with this community and now live alone for just the second time in my life — the previous time being for hardly three months. I’m now going on eight months in this second round.
Living alone became a necessary spiritual and emotional pivot for this next season, however long it lasts, wherever this road leads. I’ve been trembling throughout this entire season, more and more with each passing month, wondering when the winter will end.
Surely this winter ends like all the other winters before it?
In times like these, I think a lot about my relational failures. I dwell relentlessly on them. Replaying and rethinking and re-feeling everything.
My failure in communication. Failure to listen, to ask questions. Failure to establish mutual expectations. Failure to address conflict immediately rather than hope it works itself out like a magic potion.
My failure to be a good brother.
Also, my failure to be a good son. I often feel as though God must be endlessly frustrated at me, despite all my accumulated Christianese wisdom and Scripture saying otherwise.
As a YOB leader, I often feel feeble. It’s not that I see my faith as false or that Jesus isn’t worth living and dying for — I truly, deeply, with every wincing ache believe that he is.
But I constantly second-guess my witness, my story, feeling shame that I don’t translate my Jesus-journey well enough, effectively enough, life–changingly enough. Not with my words and not with my actions. My conversations. My everyday breathing in and breathing out, both on this website and especially off.
I read the Gospels and see a Jesus who changed people everywhere he went. Yeah, he healed people and made wine and fish and bread out of nothing.
But, really, at the core, Jesus didn’t do that much. All he did was simply look people in the eyes and speak truth and love, both parts together, and people ran home and told everyone about this man who loved them and changed their lives.
Jesus altered people’s stories forever — and, crazily, he said we would do wonders greater than his:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
Does this Jesus I follow filter out of me? Do people see, do people care? Are people drawn in or repelled by what I write and record and film and otherwise do? Do others respond to what I do and run and tell of what God has done in their own lives? What of these “greater works” he promised of those who follow his name?
I had a recent conversation with a friend, and this question was posed:
Without Jesus, what drives a person?
I’ve been pondering this thought a lot lately; it’s one I can’t even fathom. Without Jesus, who would I be? What would I do apart from him, apart from YOB, certainly, apart from the stories I tell? What would be my career, and what would be my purpose? What would even inspire me to wake up each morning?
I can’t imagine ever discarding this Jesus. I can’t imagine waking up without him or tossing and turning with a Jesus-void in my soul.
Even on my worst days, my heaviest days, he is there. And there have been a lot of worst heaviest days of late.
I can’t shake Jesus, but I wish I could shake all these feelings. I wish I could turn it all off and just be “fine” with how things have gone over the last eight months. But I can’t.
Night after night as I twist in my sheets, my feelings blast like a neon nightlight.
Jesus is there, I believe, there in this neon darkness. He has watched me cry, night after night, blog outpouring after video outpouring.
A confusion turns to sadness turns to frustration turns to teary turmoil as I look around my empty apartment and cry that none of this is how it should be. My life. This world. Brokenness.
Everything is broken. I see it now more than I ever have.
Where is the healing? Jesus, you can turn water into wine but not doubt into faith? Misdirection into realignment?
I’ve cried more these last few months than I’ve cried in years. Tears in my car. Tears at my old home, tears at my new one. Tears into multiple sturdy shoulders of multiple willing brothers. Heavy tears that make me feel I’ve run a marathon, my face drenched in salt, my chest sore from gasping.
Gosh, how I want to unplug my heart and bask in a feelings-free paradise. To be a feelings-free man. To “bro” this and “dude” that and numb myself in a torrent of video games and female pornography and fantasy football leagues.
I don’t want to feel anymore.
I don’t want to feel codependent anymore.
I don’t want to feel let down by dreaming too much about brotherhood, making it an idol.
I don’t want to feel like I’m constantly in survival mode, always only ever getting through something. I don’t want to mark days off a calendar, always pining for a sunnier tomorrow that comes and goes faster than a song on the radio. If it ever comes at all.
I’m a sensitive man who feels things, feels things all the time, and no amount of oversleeping or overdrinking or pornography or promiscuity will turn me off.
The only thing I know to do with my oozing heart, other than cry it out or pursue unhealthy outlets, is to write it out. To tell my story.
How I hope my emotional oozings land with someone who needs it.
I know I’m not alone. I’ve certainly needed the mess in others’ writings and videos and podcasts to help me through previous hardships. Mystically, I know all these devastations bind us to another, for better or worse, til death do us part.
Maybe in these wintry silences Jesus is prodding us all to step out — further, deeper — with one another.
“I’ve given you many brothers in this season,” I hear him whisper in the bedroom silence. “Lean on them. Let them be Me for you.”
I writhe in the sheets once again, the neon piercing my shut eyelids.
“And keep feeling your feelings,” he says. “Each and every one. For I made you this way. And did I not call you good?”
Do you find shame over being a sensitive or emotional man? How have you responded to hard seasons of the soul, both with God and with others?