- “Irregular people are not always capable of changing lifelong personality patterns. They are like a blind person…who cannot make himself see.” – 124.
I’m always looking for books on difficult people and how to cope with them…By difficult I mean that individual who no matter how you interact with them manages to infuriate, depress, and scare you. In his/her presence one feels a regression occurring – a shrinking back into childhood, a descent into unconscionable emotional behaviors, which feel like the only way to cope with this person (as that is what they are using on you)…and at the same time, even when one enters into these childish behaviors, there is no solace even there.
One of the books I picked up is by Joyce Landorf entitled Irregular People. It is an older book published in 1982. I began reading it, as I do so many books, to see if it was something I wanted to pursue further. I was not entranced by her style of writing from the get-go and when I recently was slimming my library down to size I thought about letting her book go…but I held onto it.
The book was a difficult read. In part b/c of the difficult steps she encouraged one to take with “your irregular person.” But every once in a while her humanity really shone through and she revealed that she still struggled, that she was no victor over all this pain and suffering – that she still felt unable to interact frequently with this irregular person…and these glimpses of humanity – that I could connect to kept me reading.
The book is eight chapters long. I didn’t cry during most of it…but I began crying at the end of the seventh chapter and continued crying throughout most of the eighth.
- “…suffering is definitely a part of the Christian’s life. It is a part we hope will be utterly minimized, or, as my positive-thinking friends say, it will turn quickly into joyous experiences, but it is a part of living nevertheless! And often suffering does not grind slowly to a halt, but rather merely grinds on.” – 127.
I know suffering is part of the Christian life. We’ve been studying Philippians for the last few weeks in a small group at church and Paul is writing from a place of suffering to those who are suffering – offering them hope and strength to continue on.
I know that oftentimes what I have suffered / am suffering is the foundation upon which God effectively ministers through me…but that doesn’t keep me from desiring to say, “Lord, I know that suffering is used by you and can oftentimes allow us to empathize with those who are suffering in ways we might not otherwise be able to…but God, I feel like I can empathize with enough of people’s suffering – I don’t want to feel any more. Can’t you pick someone else to empathize in other areas…just no more for me?”
- “My question is: What, then, do I really believe about my irregular person?
Here it is. No great theological concept, no big intellectual philosophy, and no intricately delicate solution. Just this: I believe God knows what He is doing.” – 134.
On Sunday evening I had a few friends over to watch the first episode of Cosmos. It was beautiful, informative, and awe-inspiring. As Neil deGrasse Tyson begins with earth and zooms outwards from earth through space to the edges of the known cosmos I feel excitement and wonder and a dreadful ache and a growing hopelessness. I know nothing. I know nothing. I know nothing. Nothing.
If I spend all my years peering through a microscope or a telescope, if I read all the books read by man – even then, I will know only what is known – and how much is there beyond what is known?
This struggle is reflected in my last post “Medice, Cura Te Ipsum!” I reflect on the competing psychological and Christian understandings of behavior, change, sanctification, and so on. When I look at the interpretations available to Christians and the mud slinging between camps that occurs – “You are just putting a veneer over psychology!” I conclude that both sides are psychological. This is not necessarily b/c they built upon psychology, but b/c psychology is a reality (little understood) and as such we should expect that Scripture taught/teaches us about it – and that psychological theories (at least some) should appear in Scripture (and they do).
On the other hand, far too much of the theories are built on contemporary psychology and not a pulling out from the text. I get a queasy feeling reading many contemporary Christian books that are based on an underlying psychological viewpoint, but the author and readers would both object to Christian psychology, but are passively ingesting it unknowingly.
I know I am not exempt from this. I know that my experiences have formed who I am. For one, I don’t have a lot of hope for instantaneous healing (I believe God can, I just don’t think He usually does) b/c I’ve seen more death than healing and I’ve experienced more psychological trauma than healing, especially through my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This pushes me, many times, to a more fatalistic, deterministic, Calvinistic view of reality. I oftentimes feel unable to change…
And then I get frustrated when someone gives me the platitude, “Ohh Dave, you don’t know. You just haven’t x. If you do x you will be better. I used to struggle with x but I don’t anymore.” And I want to shout, “Let me tell you what you do struggle with…” and give them a litany of sins that hang off them like neon billboard signs.
I know God is changing me, has changed me, will change me…but I also know that I am not who I desire to be – and, honestly, I don’t see God changing some of the most fundamental aspects of that (I expect, apart from God’s miraculous healing, to always struggle with anxiety).
Blahh, blahh, blahh. I feel like I’m flailing against the wind. The post is not the logical, analytical, philosophical treatise I would like – no, it is the experiential angst of despair. I don’t really want people to know about that side of me…I mean, I don’t mind people knowing I’m hurting – but I don’t want to show that I am weak. That I get infuriated when they speak platitudes to me even as I maintain an external calm, that phone calls or emails can throw me off a cliff into a deep depression…
At the end of the day, I hold onto what Landorf does – that God knows what He is doing…and I would clarify a step further – that what God knows emanates from His loving perfections. When I am the midst of the turbulent sea and my ship has been smashed to flotsam by the waves…I will hold onto that old rugged cross…trusting that someday it will be exchanged for understanding and acceptance (“a crown”).
[P.S. I’m sure this post seems like the rantings of a depressed person…but I’m actually doing fairly well…I do have a lot of difficult situations in my life currently…but I am surviving…even coping…]