“Life unwinds like a cheap sweater
But since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better
And the truth gets blurred like a wet letter
But since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better”
– Steven Taylor, “Since I gave up hope I feel a lot better”
I discovered Steve Taylor (not to be confused with Steven Tyler) during the mid-90s, when I was living in Florida and in the throes of one of my many attempts to fit in with the rest of the evangelical Christian subculture. It wasn’t working particularly well. Taylor’s snarky, subversive music–lobbed like lyrical stinkbombs at the self-righteous within that camp–was a welcome change of pace.
After picking up his album Squint, I decided that regardless of the whole burial or cremation thing, when I died I wanted someone to read the lyrics to “The Finish Line” at my funeral. That still stands. In fact, the years have made me only more aware of how much truth Taylor packed into a pop song with those lyrics.
I have no intention of becoming a theology blogger. For one thing, the actual theologians would rip me to shreds. But mostly, because I’m not particularly interested in turning my relationship with the Almighty into a scientific study. I did that already–turned a human relationship into a psych lab project.
For all my good intentions and completely understandable motivations, in the end it was an attempt to control a bunch of things I have no honest authority over. Things like another person’s behavior, feelings, outcomes, circumstances. My books and resources and programs and efforts mostly left me exhausted and my situation unchanged. To a certain extent, theology can be the same thing. An attempt to control that which isn’t really controllable, in order to manage your own anxiety. It can be an attempt to measure, lock down and quantify the immeasurable, wild and unknowable.
At its basest level, the gospel is good news. Despite entirely reasonable justification otherwise, the ultimate being whose lovely creation we continually bork up royally isn’t holding that against us. See? Good news. For me, following Christ should be less “march of the conquistador” and more “as I wander through the world, can I pay forward that kindness?”
I am not often remarkably good at that, either. So following for me is less like a long trek across country (which would imply actual progress) as it is like a really exhausting daily commute, to be repeated ad infinitum, and which I manage better or worse depending on the day, the circumstances and my attitude. My attitude varies largely depending how much I’m attending to maintaining the relationship.
Speaking of attitude, that takes us neatly back around to the title of this post, and the lyric that inspired it. I try to have a positive attitude, in life, relationships, work, etc. I also tend to jump in to things with both feet and all my heart.
As an INFP, I care deeply about things. It’s sort of a defining trait.
It’s also kind of a hassle, and not always a great idea.
Over the last couple of days, I was struggling with an issue, not because the logic of what the right choice was, but because of the emotional weight of the decision. From a logical standpoint, it’s a really, really simple choice. It’s only complicated at the emotional level.
Interestingly, the key to unlocking that emotional stalemate was … more emotion. I got angry. Angry enough to let me emotionally detach from the situation. It was like holding a heavy iron skillet. No matter how painful or tired my arm got, I kept holding on. Getting mad was like actually getting burned–it freed me to do the sane thing and let go.
I’m handling the situation much better now that I don’t care about it so much.
Hope and care are good things, most of the time. But when a specific hope or desire goes unsatisfied for a long time, they can turn toxic. They turn into resentment. The only way to fix it is to give it up.
Once you feel better, you’ll see clearer. And once you see clearer, you might just find cause for hope that will become a reality.