By Debola Adeyemo
“For thou will light my candle and enlighten my darkness” – Psalm 18:28
It’s my sophomore year and I’m sitting in the fishbowl room with other intercultural interns. The topic of conversation is how to best approach a polarized issue with love and grace. I’m quiet and remain so for a good amount of the meeting but I’m screaming on the inside. Everything sounded so hypocritical. I was angry. That’s how I felt.
After the meeting I bolted to the prayer room in Ramaker. Partly because I needed a place to hide the tears of anger that started rolling down my face. I wouldn’t make it to Fern in time. I sit there with my hands hanging, face to the ground, I’m rocking back and forth.
I kneel. “Why!? Can’t you see what is happening, why won’t you do something!?? There is so much hate and pain in your world! Nobody cares! Why even bother? What is the point of all this if it’s all just going to be like this all the time?” My chest is tight, I’m angry and frustrated, at God, at people, at myself for even feeling angry in the first place. I was furious at God. The one I thought I’d known all my life. I was trusting Him less, I didn’t understand Him anymore. I mean I never did but now I really don’t know this dude. And I hated it.
I cried so hard that all I wanted to do was take a big fat nap afterward, so I did. I took a nap in my dorm room and then woke up with a massive headache. My head was throbbing so I went to get some painkillers. I took the lid off and tried to shuffle out the prescribed two tablets. With a more forceful nudge than I intended, a couple seven or so popped into my palm. And for the first time in my life I paused at the decision of shoving them all back into the bottle within the second. I looked at my closed door, I had the room to myself. The dialogue going on in my head was: Nobody cares anyway, no one would find me. In the scheme of things, it didn’t really matter what happened to me, right?
The anger, sadness, disappointment, all the emotions I felt, I just wanted them to stop. I wasn’t really sure what taking a lot more pills would do to me, I just knew it might be my best bet to getting away from this feeling. I wanted to be numb. That’s what I thought. That’s how I felt.
It’s taken too long for me to decide now. So I just shove them back in and take only what I need for the pain in my head. I leave my room and I could feel the pain in my heart. I couldn’t recognize what it was before but I could now because I had seen how far it had taken me.
There was a distance between me and God in my sophomore year that I am still making my way across. That day wasn’t the dramatic moment of realization where my life took a turn for the better. I still didn’t get the answers to my questions. But it was the day I saw what pain so deeply rooted in confusion can do to faith and love.
I think what really got me was that as the events unfolded, I could still feel God in some way. I was still being surrounded by relationships that I saw Him in. But during that time as I ignored phone calls from my family and begrudgingly exchanged pleasantries with people, what hurt and confused me was the feeling of not being able to reach Him even when it felt like he was everywhere. Everything pretty much felt like it was in black and white.
So it was the day I saw where I was and where I needed to go to get back to life in technicolor. It was the day I started to build my understanding of experiences of pain and love; how sometimes experiences in our lives might be visitations from God in some way and how perhaps every time the spirit breaks, it creates room for Him to enter in. It is one of the reasons I’m a little particular about the relationships and interactions around me. I’m still reaching.
Danusha Laméris, in her poem titled Small Kindnesses puts it in better words:
“I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” when someone sneezes, a left over from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. And sometimes, when you spill lemons from your grocery bag, someone else will help you pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each other, now. So far from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, have my seat,” “Go ahead – you first,” “I like your hat.”