When I was thirteen, I said my first genuine prayers to God in response to three things: suffering grades, arguing parents, and a boy. Looking back, I would not call any of these prayers particularly eloquent or worshipful. They were awkward, confused, and often misguided, which was fitting, because l was also awkward, confused, and misguided. Nonetheless, that was the simple way my faith began. A few months later, I was baptized, never happier to be dunked in a tub of water in my life.
When I emerged from the water, there was music, applause, and a sense of certainty. What was there left to fear? My grades had improved, summer was about to begin, and I had literally just been welcomed into the family of God. His word was my shield, His promises were my peace. I couldn’t imagine ever feeling like that was insufficient. But after changing out of my dripping robe and ascending the stage for an endless series of group photos, I felt a strange draft flow across my damp, smiling cheek.
The wind blows.
When I was sixteen, I learned that our enemies fall into two categories: the seen and unseen. The seen, under which suffering grades, arguing parents, and a boy would fall, were things I knew how to fight against. I could look to God for strength. I could pray for peace, for wisdom, and for calm amidst turbulent thoughts. But how was I to pray for the unseen? How was I supposed to pray about nothing?
The only name I can give it is apathy. It came over me silently and unassumingly, in a way not many miserable things do. Only its symptoms proved its existence: a lack of emotion, a lack of passion, a lack of desire to do anything. It wasn’t only happiness, excitement, or anticipation– I even had trouble remembering how to feel sad or angry. Each day began to blend into the next in a predictable, listless blur. All the while, I was a “Christian.”
As time passed, I realized that I had not thought about God for days, then weeks, then months. I used to believe that I lived for Him. Now, I barely lived at all. I wanted that to startle me. I wanted alarms to go off, sirens to blare, me to start feeling something, even fear, to shake me from my haze. But even then, it was all mechanical. I wanted because I knew it was the correct way to feel, not because I remembered what it felt like to want anything.
During those months, my Bible lay on the floor beside my bed like a bad conscience. It went untouched and undesired, covered by textbooks, pens, and empty bowls I didn’t have the energy to wash.
The wind blows.
Occasionally, doubts and questions ran through my head. Could God dare to love one who had once prayed to him earnestly, and now questioned His will, His plan, His existence? I searched for the fervor I felt at the beginning of my faith, the fearless belief that made me say “Yes, I do,” in a warm, still tub of water. But my attempts were weak, and the enemy was strong. Day after day, I stumbled out of bed with goosebumps, trembled in the shower, and waited for the school bus in a dark, bitter cold.
The only good thing about apathy is that it is cyclical– as much as it seems inescapable, it also ends as mysteriously as it comes. If I had to name a particular moment in which I started feeling better, I think I was sitting in church one Sunday, eating a donut from the welcome table, and looking forward to grabbing another. This would not be anything spectacular except for the fact that I had not looked forward to anything in months.
In the weeks that followed, I slowly remembered parts of myself that I had forgotten. But with the return of emotions also came the return of fear– especially the fear of God. The first time I unearthed that book beside my bed and touched its leather cover with my fingers, I only confirmed my self-hatred for not giving it more signs of ownership and use. It felt meaningless to close my eyes, shameful to bow my head, senseless to send desperate words to a Father I had tried to silence for months. But eventually, an attempt at prayer came out of my lips.
“Hi, God. It’s me. I’m not who I used to be. I have lied and I am broken and I am afraid. Is it too late to come back?”
He responded in a voice that, to this day, has not changed in its sound or promise.
The wind blows.
It’s in the very nature of life for things to change, fade, and even return. Through it all, God speaks to us where we are. He calls in our wandering, in our brokenness, in our incomplete, weak conditions. The fact is, lots of things can get in the way between us and God– but I think shame should be the last of them. Christ died for us precisely while we were still sinners, not while we loved Him back. And in love, there is no record of wrongs.
Sometimes, I still look over my shoulder for a preemptive warning that the wind will come again. I used to fear it. I feared the return of apathy, I feared the final disintegration of my family, and I feared being wounded with permanence, in a way that wouldn’t heal. But each time, when I feared that the darkness would finally overcome, He overcame it in my stead.
He has made me strong enough to not fear the wind, but instead, wait on its arrival. I no longer shudder at its passing. I do not quake at its touch. I’m learning, bit by bit, to turn its way, open my arms in acquiescence, and breathe it into my lungs.
The wind blows.
Kathy Luo is a sophomore concentrating in English and Sociology.