Sunday, March 22

When Charity Faileth (Failure Part 2)

When faith faileth.
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
Five years ago a good friend gave me this scripture and it impressed me so much, I count it a defining moment in my life. Do good to everyone, work hard to find ways to serve, give of yourself and your heart--and when you are in your most desperate times help will be provided you. It's the perfect plan, you don't even need to hedge your bets. The payback doesn't depend on any single person, it only depends on God. Even if friend or family fails you, God will provide.

About a month ago, a friend of mine was praying to know that someone cared for him, that someone was looking out for him. Not long after he finished the prayer, he got an email from a friend saying something to the effect of: "You do so much for others, I hope you know that me (and so many others) are looking out for you--if you ever need to talk, I'm here for you."

I thought I'd repeat the experiment a couple of weeks ago when I was in desperate need of help. My phone rang twice that day. I can't express how good it felt both times to know that faith and trust in God and His words paid off. That He does listen, that He doesn't fail His children. Unfortunately, both times it was someone calling to ask me for something. I should have learned after the first time (it would have saved me the blow of the second) but I needed badly to believe that my faith would be rewarded. It wasn't.

Faith failed me.

When hope faileth.

Last June, during what was then the most difficult part of my life, a friend told me that in March they had received a blessing from their bishop--in that blessing she had told not to worry about me, because this time next year I would be happy and good. I placed hope in that promise to her and it got me through a period of darkness when I could see no light. I trusted God and looked forward to March 2009 when I would again be happy.

Fast forward to today, and I'm far from it--in fact, I've never been lower. I've never been more heartbroken. I've never felt the sting of loneliness as piercing as it is now. I have placed too much hope in another promise that has turned out to be nothing more than a lie.

How can I have hope in resurrection or redemption when I don't even have it for tomorrow?

Hope failed me.

When charity faileth.

Remember when they used to show pictures in health class of a smoker's lungs? I can't know for sure, but I think that's what my heart looks like. I imagine that something that hurts so much has to be bruised, tumored and ugly. I used to have a good heart, a pure one. I used to be a little boy who loved to joke around and play and smile. People used to frequently tell me they never saw me without a smile on my face. I don't smile much anymore. The little boy is dead, a man stands before you now.

Many of the people closest to me have put me through nothing short of the equivalent of emotional rape. People have used me so much, I feel completely used up. The heart that used to love and trust and care for others has become something unbearable to me. It only works well enough for me to feel pain--what good is it to me (or to anyone) anymore. As Tony Kushner once wrote:
God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn.
Whatever love and goodness within me has only worsened my fate, has only made an already dreary life even more painful.

And where is God when it hurts? Absent, as if He were never really there. Where is the love that conquers all, even death? I guess His church can't figure out how to love those that don't quite fit, I guess my friends (His children) can't figure out how to show me love when I need it most, I guess it shouldn't surprise that His love fails, too.

Charity failed me. At least we're even. I failed Him, He failed me.


  1. Mark: I've felt like you do. I know how it feels to feel like you can't sink any lower, totally abandoned, shaking your fist at the sky and saying "Why, why, if you are even there, why am I going through this?"

    I wish I had answers for you. I wish someone had called with the inquiries you'd hoped for. I wish I dared risk giving you a bit of advice based on my own dark night of the soul without sounding trite or patronizing. But you need more than I can give from this distance, I think.

    Surely there must be someone there close you could seek out who would be willing to just listen. And if there isn't, maybe you should try calling those two people back and seeing how you could help them. Perhaps that was actually what you were looking for and you didn't recognize it at the time.

    I'm worried about you. Don't give up. Ping me for an IM chat if it would help.

  2. I can't remember if I've ever commented on your blog before, but I'm pretty sure I have...

    I'm a devoted reader, I love your posts, your personality, everything.

    And tonight, I cried for you. Because I love you even though I don't know you.

    But I feel your pain, and hate to see your hurt. I just want to hold you and rock you and comfort you.


  3. I wish you the best. I know this struggle, and I know it's a tough one.

  4. Mark, I barely survived your last post. Now I mourn for you. I felt lower this past week than I can remember. Luckily, in my deepest despair, someone did reach out to me. I wish I could do the same for you. If God still hears my prayers, they will be for you tonight.

    One thing that I have learned, is that time restraints don't work when it comes to faith and charity. For each of us, the time and nature of our desperation varies. Please don't give up on yourself. When all else fails don't fail yourself. And please don't count out God's love either.

    He may have ripped you open, but in so doing, can then blow life into the fading ashes and embers of your soul. Let Him rekindle the spirit within. He will. You may have to endure yet a little longer, but I trust that he ultimately will not abandon you.

    You are loved and respected by so many of us. I pray that you will feel of our sincere concern for you. Though you may feel totally alone, I pray that you can envision us, your brothers lifting you up and holding you tightly in our arms.

  5. If it's any consolation, I'm here. To a degree smaller than what you've described, I've felt what you feel. DON'T go it alone. You've received invitations to IM chat or call or whatever else, here's mine. My email is on my profile page and I truly want to do anything to help you out. Remember that hard times pass. I was in the pits of what felt like hell from fall 07 till January of this year, and then things started feeling better. I'd bet that you've seen small patterns of this in your life. Hard times give way to change and that gives way to more change and so on. Sooner or later, the change is for the better. Allow yourself to believe that life will change for the better down the road. Do.

    I really mean it that I'd love to help in any way. I don't want to intrude, but I really want to help you out. Sorry that things are so painful right now. Time'll bring change and inevitably, the change will be good. Hopefully that'll be soon. You're loved and people care about you Mark. Believe me, please. Thank you for writing. Email me. You're loved, I promise.