I turned 35 a few days ago: halfway to threescore and ten. My spring is past; I am in the solstice of my life’s summer. And what do I see in its light, materially and personally?

Materially, I have lived in a two-room granny flat for almost four years now, which is too small to entertain, so I don’t invite people over. I have no oven – I use a single electric hotplate. Despite having earned two Bachelor’s degrees (psychology and later theology) and two certificates (one in writing, the other in editing) I was unemployed for two years before finding a two-day-a-week job as a desk monkey. True, this gave me time to write my two books but at the cost of solitude and finances that have prevented me from taking time off, much less going away or updating my car.

Personally, if I see any palpable answers to my prayers, it’s some good friends who have helped me to walk through some of my lowest moments, phoning me at the right time. God doesn’t work in the supernatural with me, apart from the obvious. I struggle with lust almost daily – although too often I don’t – apart from some merciful days away from the trenches. However, present me with a reasonably attractive girl, showing a little cleavage or belly or thigh, and I’m back in the mire [1]. I’m single of course. No interest from any quarter. I’ve had girls say, You’d make a wonderful husband; but that’s only if they’re unavailable to me.

Oh yes, I mustn’t forget the clinical depression (chronic dysthymia, which is less severe but more difficult to detect) that developed when I was 21, and remained undiagnosed until I was 29. I consider that during those years, I didn’t live; merely existed. With help from medication and practical cognitive therapy, my life restarted at about 30. Mind you, my life before 21was nothing to write home about: I was a melancholy, dim-witted navel-gazer even then. The depression took away my assurance of salvation only 18 months after I became a Christian. Only in about 2003 did it start to return, and it oscillates even now. (Don’t proof-text me; I know the arguments for and against assurance and I know what my hope is built on, so strap that to your helmet.)

What has happened to all my joy? A couple of weeks ago during a church service the preacher asked us whether we’d change being Christian for anything. The question was rhetoric but I seriously thought about saying that I’d prefer to have not been born. I didn’t though; it would have killed the happy ambiance.

Nonetheless, I read the Bible and I pray. Rarely, though. I read the Bible because I believe God speaks to me in it. I don’t read the Bible because I don’t feel that I am growing in knowledge and love of God. I pray because I believe God hears me. I don’t pray because I feel that God doesn’t answer my prayers. I just don’t see God doing anything in my life. And this is when some doctrinal vacuum-sealed lemon tester will say something along the lines of “we walk by faith, not by sight. If God seems far away, guess who moved? God doesn’t seem to be doing anything in your life because you aren’t praying. You’ve got to do what’s right no matter how you feel.” Right, Zophar; thanks for your refrigerated blanket. All you say is true but it’s doesn’t help.

Well then, when I pray, what do I pray for? The latest mobile phone? That I can upgrade my 21-year-old 1.3 litre rattler to something that doesn’t look like it’s held together by duct tape? Subscription to Foxtel? A decent parking space? That the girl with the melting eyes, slender limbs and choice rack will agree to meet me for coffee? That I can change my skinny frame, contrary hair (none where there should be and lots where there shouldn’t), washed-out, blotchy, acne-crenellated skin, insipid manner and flaccid character? No wonder girls stand petrified when I ask to meet them for coffee – only reanimating when I confirm their “it’s not romantic, is it?” No, I don’t pray for these; well, not often.

On the occasions when I throw up a prayer, I might thank God for my health, the ability to take care of my own hygiene; for the clothes I have, the food I eat. I pray that those of my family who aren’t Christians will be saved; I pray for the people I’ve talked to about the Gospel (Mormons most recently) and occasionally the people at work. I pray to stand firm against sexual temptation – that’s why I don’t have the internet at my place – and not look lustfully at females. In contrast to Aurelius Augustine, who clearly could get the ladies, I pray: God give me chastity, and now! (Not the gift of celibacy, but just being able to outwit, outplay, outlast or outrun temptation.) I pray for a wife to love: a girl I like, respect, trust and enjoy being with. I pray that the books I’ve written will find a publisher and sell well so I can give more than my job allows, and support a family.

God said to the Israelites, “I will restore the years the locusts have eaten.” Of course that text referred to them, not me; but it can be extrapolated in that, if God desires, He can do something similar for me. But what would that look like? How can the time I’ve lost be redeemed, or made up for? What would make me, at some future time, look back and say “everything I went through was worth it”?

Given what I’ve said, why do I continue with my farce of living a ‘Christian’ life? Well, where else would I go? Better to continue crawling and limping fitfully towards the goal, whining all the way, than give up on what you believe to be true. (Don’t talk at me about blind faith: I wrote the book on it – well, it’s part of the second chapter. The Bible says to love God with your mind as well as your heart and soul and strength.) How can you say that two plus two doesn’t equal four? How can I say that Jesus of Nazareth isn’t the way, the truth and the life when I believe He is? So how can I not seek to live out that belief, however miserably I feel and fail? The truth will set you free, but neither truth nor freedom can make you happy [2].

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[1] Before you read any further, consider this. I’ve developed my anthropology courtesy of degrees in psychology and in theology, an analytical mind and conversations with people of various sexual anatomies and inclinations. If you’re inclined to condemn me for what I’ve written, then before you do, first read my article on “why God doesn’t send homosexuals to hell”. Secondly, don’t waste your time in posting invective; I’ll just delete it. If you think I’m wrong, show me why. Argument, not abuse. Having said that…

If you girls could spend one day in the mind of an average male, it would revolutionise your decisions about what you wear. It may be your right to wear what you want, but rights have concomitant responsibilities, like not giving a guy something to look at and kick-start his sensual imagination. You think I’m sick or weird or misogynistic? I resemble those remarks; however, ask any guy. If he knows himself and is honest with you, he’ll tell you the same. Otherwise, if he isn’t dead, he’s lying so he can get into your good books and from there into your pants.

If he agrees with you, saying, “yeah, he’s a sick evil wanker” (if I’m sick, that’s why I’m evil: if I were sane, I would agree with you, surely? Then I wouldn’t be evil; so cure me, don’t condemn me), he’s just mimicking the lies we feed ourselves about our freedom and rights and it’s not our responsibility what other people do. That was the first human attempt to escape our responsibility to care for others: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, we are. Everything we do affects others in some way: “No man is an island” and so on (Donne said “man” and I’m quoting him).

And don’t put words in my mouth by accusing me of asserting that if, for example, a woman is raped, she was asking for it through what she was wearing. One of the catalysts for rape and other abuse is the abuser’s feeling of powerlessness caused by other people throwing around their “rights” as an excuse to do what they want and damn anyone else. Any form of abuse is an effort to reassert power. So if a girl happens to be wearing something revealing, the abuser might see that as implying “damn you, it’s my right; I’m in control and you can’t do anything about it”. However, most victims don’t wear or imply anything of the kind.

As for “asking for it”, each person is, when they become an adult, judged to be responsible for their own actions (otherwise, why have an “insanity” defence?). So even if a girl is dressed in a way that shows off her body, it’s the male responsibility to exercise self-control. Someone has to stop the buck-passing, otherwise the cycle of blame will never end.

[2] I’d like to see the Christian magazine that would publish this. They seek to encourage Christians or win people to Christ with positive testimonies of successful, popular, beautiful people – or people who were down and out but who are now successful, popular or beautiful – but when Christians are troubled… where are the testimonies of people who’ve come through suffering? Only through parachurch organisations that have seen that need and tried to answer it.

And yes, I know I sound like a whinger. Yes, I know others have it worse than I do; and how bad do you have it? Maybe my life would seem better if I had lower expectations, or maybe I hope for a perfect life like we all do.

copyright Troy Grisgonelle 2007.

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