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Archive for June, 2011

I found myself thinking about Jeremiah again this week. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might remember I wrote about Jeremiah a few months ago, here. I love Jeremiah, for his strange and blessed mix of uncertainty and obedience. He’s a good prophet for a young person to follow, I think.

Verse 23:23 says, “Am I only a God nearby” declared the Lord, “And not a God far away?”

As Christians, we’re always talking about distance from God. We’re always talking about drawing near, and falling away, and being lost in the wilderness. We talk about being held in God’s hand, and of turning shoulders away from the light. We speak of approaching the throne of God with confidence, and of running the race set before us with endurance. There’s a lot of distance speak, which is odd, as the topic is purely perceptional. We feel that God is not there by us, and seek explanation; but the distances do not change.

Sometimes, I think of God’s love as being like a layer in the atmosphere encircling the earth; purely and perfectly spherical (or more accurately an oblate spheroid, for the geeks amongst us), so that wherever you are, whoever you are, his closeness to you is the same, unchanging.I don’t really believe in ‘godless areas’ or ‘godless people’; I only believe that some people haven’t quite got God yet, in whatever form, in any form; God has them too, they just don’t know it. I don’t believe that God has no presence in the brothels and the prison camps, the slums and the cities; I believe he’s there, just as much as he is in church on Sundays, if not more. It’s us, in our folly, who suddenly get this obsession with abandonment and being held at arm’s length when times get hard. It’s us, in our disenchantment, who start to believe that the hand that guided them through the hours, has let go, that the signpost in the wilderness has blown away in a storm. It’s us, who speak of ‘godless areas’ when what we mean is ‘places I would not want to be’ and ‘godless people’ when what we mean is ‘people I would not want to meet’. The problems with distance are of our own making.

And we, or certainly, I do not stop there. As I start to believe that God has me out of sight and out of reach, I start to doubt if he is the God I believe him to be. I start to think that the distance I imagine to be between us is dilutional; that when I don’t feel that catch at my heart or that hand on my shoulder, God fades, pales out, and starts to flicker. He becomes a God of the occasional-maybe-perhaps-not-really-possible. He becomes the distant figure watching from the sidelines, helpless. As I feel myself fading, he fades too. I lose sight, of who He is. He turns from a God, to a plastic action figure – a cheapened copy of the real thing, a fake. He becomes scarily two dimensional. These last few months, I’ve certainly felt far away, and forgotten. I’ve certainly felt out-of-depth and out-of-sight. I’ve been overwhelmed and underequipped, I’ve been blinded by the steep incline in front of me and deafened by the voices of depression. I’ve made the mistake of thinking that as my feeling of disconnection grows, God’s power is shrinking. I’ve made the mistake of forgetting that faith is a two-way thing, and that although there seems to be a bad connection on the line from me to God, the vein that holds me from his end, is still strong and still flowing.

I’ve got a week to go now, to get this project done. It’s the final hurdle before I get all of three weeks off before starting fifth year. At the moment, I feel quite overwhelmed with knowing that I’ve (just about) made it through – that although I didn’t believe it, God has dragged me through this. For a lot of this year, making it through the days and weeks has been my biggest challenge – and God has got me through, set me down at the start of June, finally feeling that tiniest inch closer to normal. He’s kept me safe through these months, although for many of them, I felt alone and shut off.

Jeremiah made the mistake of diluting God with his notion of distance – and God turned and told him that although the space between them never alters, when Jeremiah, in all his humanity thinks is has, God’s strength and faithfulness remains the same. If Jer wants to think he’s distanced from the Lord, that’s fine – but thinking that God’s power is also removed, is a no-go. God gives him a non-dilutional faith, a non-dilutional love. This distance is of his own imagination. God is still there.

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My brother sent me this and it’s beautiful, and the fact it’s set to one of my favourite Einaudi tracks makes it all the better:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/22439234″>The Mountain</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/terjes”>TSO Photography</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I’ve got my practical exam this afternoon (23 stations each lasting five minutes where I have to demonstrate a clinical skill, interpret test results, explain things to mock patients, carry out examinations and report findings – you get the idea – ┬áin front of an examiner – total nightmare, very time pressured and fairly random as it’s covering a total of eight medical specialties – pretty sure this would be classed as torture by most nations) – and after it’s over, I have a week to write up my project. It’s the final hurdle standing between me, and entering my final year without extra committments, extra assignments, and extra stress. Fingers crossed, prayers constant, stress levels through the roof.

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I shouldn’t really be blogging this week as I’ve got exams on Thursday and Friday, but to be honest, I’ve had enough of revision for one night.

On the 13th, assuming I manage the (slightly ominous) task ahead of me, I’ll have handed in everything I need to enter my final year of medical school. This time of year always makes me pensieve, as it feels like much more of an end to a year, than 31st December does, after so many years in education; it signifies yet another year gone, more hurdles passed, and another step closer to being a doctor, which has been my dream since childhood, and was the single thing that kept me going for a long time.

Sometimes I feel like the issues I’ve accumulated over time from my dad’s drinking have been such a defining characteristic of these years as they’ve been there, growing beside me, since I was just entering my teens. My funny relationship with alcohol has hung over my time in medical school since the very first day, when I was given some tutorial case about alcoholism to present to a group, and afterwards, went to the city train station, and wondered if there was anywhere I could go to escape, anywhere at all, from drinking, and realising that there wasn’t. There’s nowhere it doesn’t reach. There is nothing it does not touch. On that day, I stopped myself crying, went back to my accommodation, and went out on the first medical student social, and got drunker than I’d ever been. It didn’t help. I’ve struggled my way through parties and as the ‘sober one’, looked after more than my fair share of inebriated friends. I’ve cleaned up vomit and been reminded of doing the same for my dad. I’ve sat in hospital rooms while people got their stomachs pumped, and been reminded of long nights there as a young teenager, waiting for him to sober up. I’ve drank to forget, and hated myself the next morning. I’ve watched other people drinking, and been afraid of the changes coming over them. I’ve chosen placements that would bring me into as much contact as possible with substance misuse to drive it out of my system, and despite being ironically good at talking to these patients, ended up losing another year to depression, because of it.

At the moment, I drink very rarely, and even then, it’s often a fine line between having a lovely evening, and completely collapsing inwards, hating that I am drawn to the looseness it gives me, and wondering if I’m one glass closer to developing a dependancy. My biggest fear is that I might go down the same route and cause as much havoc with unhealthy drinking that my dad did. Feeling controlled by depression was bad enough, but being in the thrall of alcohol would be more than I could handle. I’m both afraid of it, and drawn to it. Since I was diagnosed with depression, I’ve hardly touched alcohol, and even then, it’s been a rare glass of wine, and that’s mostly been because at times, I feel like reaching for the gin and seeing, just seeing, if it would make things hurt that little bit less, if it would make me forget, and that attitude at the back of my mind scares me senseless. Sometimes, when I’m not sleeping, and really feeling low, drinking until I drift off feels like a good option, an easy way to make it through a few more hours. Although I’ve never acted on any of that, just knowing that my brain is wired like that, is horrible.

I was back in counselling yesterday and didn’t really say much – all I’ve literally been doing for the last month is studying, and after having a few days feeling almost-if-not-quite-next-to-normal, I didn’t want to wreck that just before these huge exams I’ve got coming up. I’m still crap at being counselled – I never know how to start, or what to say, or how to turn what I have in my head, to words on a page, or words spoken aloud. It’s supposed to get easier, but it never does. I know that at some point I’m going to have to have a fairly major ‘alcoholism’ discussion in counselling, and I’m dreading it. It makes me feel physically sick. It’s probably the one thing I find hardest to talk about, but I also know that if I don’t manage to push myself through therapy properly, I’m just going to lose more years to this. I don’t want to feel trapped by it anymore. I don’t want to feel defined by it anymore. I feel so broken by it, so incapable of managing it. I want to keep the past behind me and not have to keep running just to keep infront of it all the time. That conversation is coming, and I need to be prepared.

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