379. Bob redux (part 1)
About four years ago, I wrote a post about something (not someone) I called Bob.
Basically, I was writing about an experience I had at a contemplative church event. I won’t recap the events of the night (you can read about it here), but right near the beginning of the night, I experienced a huge crying fit. This is the kind of crying that comes from the depths, from way down deep in the psyche where the skeletons hide. I didn’t know what had prompted this crying and so I blogged about it and ended up calling this something, Bob.
A few months after that post, I put up another post where I made a rather astute observation.
…but before I can get to that, some backstory is in order.
Something shifted in me back in 2006. Prior to that year, I lived with an intense longing to be in a relationship. I used to complain about it all the time – how lonely I was and how none of the women I approached would go out with me. More than that, up until that time, praying for a girlfriend was the one consistent prayer of my life. But in 2006, something shifted. I don’t know what it was, but just like that, all that old longing for relationship was gone.
And so back in that other post, I made these speculative observations about what I thought Bob might be:
- …it’s taken me a long time to realize this but… and this is really hard for me to admit and write here… I wonder if I’ve lost my desire for and ability to love. And I don’t just mean love in the context of romantic relationships. I mean love in all contexts. And I know that sounds like hyperbole, like I’m being overly dramatic for the sake of making my blog worth reading but in this case, I mean it just as I’m writing it. I don’t think I give or receive love very well, if at all.
- I think that Bob is the part of me that still wants to love and be loved.
- I wonder if, after all those years of being an unhappy single person longing for love, some subconscious part of me got tired of being lonely and frustrated and so it just amputated that part of me – lopped it off and buried it away somewhere. And maybe it thought that was that. And I didn’t think all that much about it because I was more than happy to be rid of all that old longing. But maybe it wasn’t just the romantic love part of me that got put away. Maybe love can’t be so neatly dissected. Maybe all (or most) of my ability to know/give/receive love got buried as well.
That was four years ago. I had just started grad school and I hadn’t started seeing a counselor yet. I’ve changed and learned so much since then, but all these years later, I’m only now realizing how on the money I was in that post.
See, here’s the thing.
I had another run in with Bob a few days ago – my first since that time four years ago. Out of nowhere I found myself in the midst of another random, primal, cathartic crying session. Bob was back, but things were different this time. This time I knew exactly what Bob was. Turns out, I was spot on when I wrote, “I think that Bob is the part of me that still wants to love and be loved.”
In the past two years, many of my posts have focused on two topics: the problems with the way the church today deals with sexuality and my evolving thoughts about God. I thought the two topics were separate but it turns out, they’re far more related than I ever could have guessed. And I never imagined they had anything to do with Bob, but they did. Turns out, they were all about unmasking Bob.
The posts about sexuality helped me to see how really bad church teachings around singleness led me to a life that feared intimacy – so much so that I self-sabotaged all of my dating relationships well before they could become anything significant, well before love entered the picture. The posts about God led me to a theology premised on the idea that the simplest and most profound way to talk about God is to say that God is love – that God (in all of God’s mystery, elusiveness, and transcendence) is primarily known and experienced through the love that we experience in our lives here on earth.
Do you see what the problem for me is? Taken in reverse order, if God is primarily known through love and if past church teachings have led me to a way of being in the world that has kept me from loving and from being loved, then it’s no wonder that a few weeks ago, I could post a poem like this on my blog:
God is dead, and yet I pray I reach out into the void, without anticipation and my hands come back empty And yet I pray And yet, I pray
Or post a tweet like this
I want to believe, but… (Mark 9:24) #vaguetweet
In short, Bob is the piece of me that’s been screaming for love – God’s love as well as the love of others (more specifically, the longing for a woman to know and love, and to be known and loved by). Whatever happened back in 2006 that relieved me of my yearning for a girlfriend, it somehow severed off, entirely, the part of me that seeks to love and to be loved. In other words, Bob represents my long lost desire for intimate, loving relationship.
But the thing about the desire for relationship is that it’s an integral part of how we humans are wired.1 So when that longing and that desire went away (probably a kind of compartmentalizing, psychic defense mechanism), it’s as if Bob got pushed underwater. Bob was robbed of oxygen and these intense crying fits were like little moments when Bob was able to claw his way to the surface and grab a tiny bit of attention and air – air that his lungs had been burning for, burning since 2006.
So what happens now – now that I finally see what this Bob thing has been about, now that I finally recognize my own need and desire to find love and to be loved?
…and here I apologize but the answer to this will have to wait for the next post.
1In the realm of psychology, attachment theorists tell us that humans only become healthy human beings in the context of relationships. Social scientists say the same as do many philosophers. And certainly, the resurgence of Trinitarian and the wide umbrella of relational theology reveals God as a radically relational God who is known primarily (if not exclusively) in our loving relations to fellow human beings and the rest of creation.