“My enemies whisper together against me. They all weigh up the evil which is on me: ‘some deadly thing has fastened upon him, he will not rise again from where he lies.’ Thus even my friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has turned against me.
But you, O Lord, have mercy on me. Let me rise once more and I will repay them. By this I shall know that you are my friend, if my foes do not stand in triumph over me.” Psalm 41
It would be easy, I think, to imagine people having a grudge against me, who bore me ill will because of the accident which injured some of my students and threw the others’ worlds into chaos. I think the reality is that that number of people is negligible … and even if not, the ill will of people who I never meant to hurt nor have done any serious wrong to matters not in the grand scheme of things.
The real enemies, the ones who whisper about me and place wagers on my not rising from my current woe, are not without but within.
My own demons and the Demon-in-Chief himself are who seek my destruction and they have been succeeding. Satan is either a real entity or he is not. It doesn’t really matter which is the truth …because the truth is evil is real. It is either perpetrated by others on you or it is self inflicted. In either scenario, the damage is just as costly. The enemies are really the enemy that has always plagued me: self loathing. It is this enemy which taunts me about the accident and especially of late, about my engagement with Ann. As of July 15th, I am no longer engaged to marry Ann. The doubts that weakened her commitment to the marriage (see “It is not linear”) finally took their toll on both my sanity and my patience. Anger at being manipulated is what woke me up and led me to end one unhealthy relationship; anger at being valued less than I deserve is what led me to end this one. Though ending the engagement was a mutual decision on our parts, it was my insistence that her having doubts and being “less attracted to me” were both inconsistent with being engaged. Though I hope to maintain a close friendship with Ann, I can’t overlook completely the fact that my lover, who was also supposed to be my best friend, turned against me when the going got tough. She is human and I can’t fault her honesty, but I gave her more than just my bread … and if she had been the one who fell on hard times, I would not have loved her less. Still, my relationship with Ann (while built initially on trust, close friendship, and mutual attraction) was standing between me and the relationship that should be, and once was, the first and foremost in my life.
Sex with Ann was a large element that placed her before God in my priorities. When I battled fiercely with myself about whether or not to give her my virginity, my biggest fear was that compromising on that value of mine would jeopardize my spiritual life. It did. While the amount of joy, excitement, and satisfaction I got out of making love with Ann was considerable from October of that year until 7 months ago, the first month or so after our first time was full of guilty pleasure and clumsy passion, and the first times themselves were tainted with carefully concealed shame.
The decision to have intercourse for the first time was one of the most severely fretted over and difficult choices of my life. Afterward I felt I had accomplished what I set out to do: demonstrate my love and commitment to Ann … but at a terrible cost to my self-image and resolve. Everytime we tumbled into bed after that became a little easier and brought with it a little less guilt. Each time also became more about wanting the sex than the noble purpose of showing love. I felt my closeness with God slipping away with each time but I was in denial thinking that what I was doing was okay because I loved Ann. My knowledge of what it is like to have sex makes trying to tackle some of my personal demons more daunting. I am tempted to treasure the memories of those times because of how wonderful some of those times were and because love was definitely part of the equation. But the love was love of Ann in place of love of God and that was the problem. Now that I am no longer engaged to Ann, it is time to own up to the fact that my spiritual life is in shambles and my relationship with Christ needs my attention.
“But you, O Lord, have mercy on me. Let me rise once more and I will repay them.” But who is ‘them’? Not Ann and not the imagined (or real) foes who hate me for the accident. They aren’t the problem. The voices in my head, the demons that rejoice to see me suffer, those are the foes I will repay. Only by accepting the love of Christ and by returning it the best I can will I ever be able to really prevent my foes from shouting in triumph over me. I do not believe it is God’s will that the accident occurred or that Ann fell out of love with me. I do believe that it is God’s will that I return to him now and from there we can figure out what comes next. “If you’re not changing, then you’re not praying. And if you’re not praying, then you’re not changing.” Fr. Larry Richards