Stuff About Water

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There was a book I read in high school, where the main character was a woman who ended up going insane. The final scene of the book is of her, jumping out into the ocean and swimming out to sea, not to return. She threw herself into the vastness, to be swallowed up by the waters, because the waters, she believed, were the only thing that understood her. 

I have always pictured myself like that woman. Afraid of the same fate. I think I always had a deep sense of connectivity to the vastness - always wanted to lose myself in some ethereal greatness. To be stripped of identity, to be swallowed up in the big-ness of something else.

I have always felt the pull toward something larger than myself - even when I was a child. I saw things differently, I felt things differently. I remember - one night -  I had just taken a bath. I must have been, well, young enough to still take a bath. I wrapped myself in a towel. I remember sitting on the edge of the pink tub in our pink 60’s tiled bathroom - and I tried to think about eternity. What happens when you die. I remember thinking, and thinking, and thinking - literally - like my hands were trying to hold, or, with tools, crack the code all humans alive before me must have somehow missed - and not being able to wrap my mind around it. I pictured myself going as far as I could into space. Zooming past all the stars. Falling into a black hole. I remember being so afraid. And then my parents came to get me. And it was back to being a normal kid.

If you talk to any one of the people that are close to me in my life about what I am afraid of, they will tell you these things: windmills, little circles, open water, maps of open water, and Google Earth. The first doesn’t matter and the second doesn’t matter even more. Because they’re just hysterical. But, yeah - I have always been afraid of open water. I know this may seem in contrast to my opening statements, but, really - I’ve always wanted to be lost, like, disappear, into something. Like, become vaporized and one with the air, like all my essential oils. But me, STUCK in the middle of the ocean, with nothing around me. ALONE in the middle of the ocean. Nope. Can’t do it. When I see pictures of those swirly hurricanes in the middle of the Atlantic, I lose it. I picture myself, in the middle of the water, with a MASSIVE monster storm coming to eat me alive. When I am zooming in on something on Google Earth or Maps, I have to be careful not to zoom in too much. Then, it’s all me and the water. Or, zoom out, and it’s just me and bb earth and scary space. Space is cool and all. It would be neat to turn into a star or something. But being STUCK in space, being hurled around for lightyears, ALONE. Nah. Things I could not do. 

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I remember a conversation I had in college with one of my friends - we were driving to play at an event a few states away. I had never met this person in my life - he showed up at my dorm room at 3am, made some joke about “meeting me like this” (which is how I knew we would be real friends) and we drove. To keep him awake, we started talking right away. 

I guess it’s the thing that happens to you when you feel like “you don’t know this person and they don’t know you from Adam” - so you feel this permission to just start saying the deepest things in your soul. Sometimes things you haven’t even said to yourself. 

And I remember - somewhere in the WV mountains - I said to him, “It feels like, I don’t have an identity. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I like. But it doesn’t mater. I just want to be the best conduit of Higher Power that I can.” He responded: “Kaitlyn, I’m so sorry for you. That’s so wrong. You have an identity. You matter.” I remember being proud of what I had said. Thinking how noble that was. I had no idea how low I really was, how wrong I was. Thank God for good friends.

And that was the first time it ever came out of my mouth. 

That day I learned - we cannot un-speak what we really think - believing, if we hold it in, it is somehow not true.

Honesty will prove poison or antidote, always. The former is when honesty is hidden, and it moves slower. But it always ends up getting you, in the end. The latter is when honesty is put on display for all to see, and because of that, its healing properties usually move a lot faster

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This statement - the one about what I believe about myself - has been a great danger for me my whole life. Because of this, I have been tossed by the vastness. Tossed by the words, beliefs, opinions of others. I have always had a strong, fiery core. But the “emptiness” was my core. I liked being carried from place to place, carried from role to role, carried to more pieces of my “identity”. All things I have clung to at one point or another. This served my purpose. This served my identity as just some type of fluid being floating through time and space. I thought it was my job to figure out the reason for every moment of my existence, and do whatever thing I needed to do to fulfill that reason.

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I always viewed life as this great game of connect the dots. How could I get to *that* ethereal place? If everything is connected, and there is a path for me to follow, how do I take the right steps? How do I make sure I reach my “destiny”? Everything became connect the dots. 

This is why I have been such a perfectionist. In grade school, all the way through my college years, in part into my “real” adult life. But, truly, it was never a game against anyone else. Truly. Only a game between myself and I. And I hesitate to use the word “game”, because it’s always been much holier than that. I have always found that a hard concept to get other people to understand. Most people want to be better than someone, it gives them some kind of ego boost. Or they want to earn validation from someone. But not me. I just wanted to do the right-est thing, or else I thought I was failing my OWN life. On nobody’s barometers but my own and what I felt was “right”. Was I giving my best in my life? Because if I didn’t, I could never get to that “perfect” series of moments - my “perfect” life. 

This caused me to become, strangely, very selfish and unfeeling toward people. You’d think someone trying to serve the greater good would really care a little more genuinely about others. And I mean, I did, genuinely care. But, I was kind of willing to make whatever moves in the name of it being the “right” thing for me to do in the cosmic scheme of things. Sometimes, that hurt people. Sometimes, that hurt the best people. There were a lot of people that were trying to be close to me that I was still holding at arms’ length because I was assessing, essentially, how they fit into my life. Wow. Let that sink in. What a depraved way to live.

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Let’s talk about God.

Initially, there wasn’t really a 100 percent surrender. When I was young - it just looked too much like agreeing to have Jesus involved in your life. And He had a room in your heart or something. Like a dollhouse. So that’s what I did. I was very far from Jesus having control over my life. Very far. I knew Jesus was onto something.. but I still very much was searching my own way. Not going off doing “bad” things. But on my own journey, on my terms, for sure. I didn’t feel like I needed to be saved from something. I mean, what had I done by that point in my life, anyway? I didn’t think I was wrong. About anything. For crying out loud, I was only ever searching for the right thing.

My spirituality became a twisted version of what it should be, along with all of my relationships, like I said. God was a variable in my equation, He just created the math for it all. I was the great equal sign. People were also variables. Friends, the amount of genuine variables that were lost on me. It grieves my heart. And I am thankful for God having so much grace.

I think I had first come to God because it was the best thing I could do. You know? I had a feeling it was going to get me somewhere. Not for personal gain - or for a bad reason at all - but, you know - to the right place? The X marks the spot in my spirit. 

But I took that concept straight into my teen years, straight into college. I spent a long time “serving” God because I “had” to. And getting butthurt (look it up) and jaded because of all of the false people I had seen in “ministry”. Jesus says something profound to everyone in Matthew. He says, “Many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t I cast out demons in your name? [Etc.]’ and I will say, ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.’” Friends, I will tell you - Jesus was talking to THEM, and he was also talking to ME. Is He talking to you?

What a surprise was going to be waiting for me when I got to eternity and told Jesus, “Don’t worry, I sang a bunch of songs that “moved” people and made a bunch of people cry and say they encountered you. I did it all right.” Friends. We are in danger, if that’s what we think the end goal of salvation is.

We can’t just do our version of good things, even if we say we believe in God. That doesn’t cut it. We have to do what God asks us to do. But more important, we have to know God. And then, He helps us do what we were meant to do all along. I do a lot of “good” things in my job. And most of it involves God. But, that’s not enough to save me. Sometimes, it makes it even more complex, you know?

I also sometimes think we make excuses for the ills we see in “ministry”. Some people will let their faith hinge on whether or not the people they have seen in the “church” are legitimate or not. Sure, seeing those people do those things made it harder to trust in God, and I am not invalidating anyone’s pain because of ministry gone wrong - but, I mean - we all knew. Me and all my college friends who I saw all those things with. Me and ALL the people I have ever met that have ever felt that way. Somewhere in a secret corner, you know that if God is really out there, He does not look like that. But He’s there. And you know He is. Whispering somewhere in a corner, “That’s not me.” These experiences just make it easier for people to not really engage or choose. I know because that was me. Because the second thing God whispers is, “This is me. Come close.” And that’s something you are usually unprepared to do. I know because I was.

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I remember when God really started working on me. My story about losing my dad is for another day, but is really the genesis of all of these new ways of thinking. 

God was onto something, indeed - but I didn’t know just HOW onto something He was.

When I lost my dad, I was deeply challenged. I was thrown into such severe anxiety and depression. Mostly anxiety. Why?

My worst fear had come true. I lost someone to the vastness. They were caught up in it, sure - they were free. But they were there without me. They were in a place I couldn’t access. That scary space. Like space itself. And the questions came back and came back, “What happens when a person is gone? What happens when a person is gone?” All of a sudden, I was that girl again. Sopping wet, sitting on the edge of the tub. Thinking. And thinking.

And I was also that girl wanting to jump. Maybe I could find the answer if I surrendered to the vastness?

I became a shell of a person. I became quiet. I lost my light for life. I was speechless about everything. How I feel reflecting on that time now, is a From Indian Lakes lyric: “And if my God allows for me to speak again, I only hope I am wiser. I will say nothing at all. Will I say anything again?” I didn’t know if I would say anything again. And if I did, what would there be left to say? Everything that has happened has spoken incredibly loudly, there is no need for my voice.

I had a lot of my identity wrapped up in my dad. That’s the first person in my life I think I burrowed my identity in. When I lost him, I definitely lost a part of myself.

I had so many panic attacks I could barely function. I was taking so much medicine (natural stuff, don’t worry, none of that CBD oil nonsense) to calm me down, I was having a panic attack - like, a debilitating one - every 2-3 hours, at my worst. 

I uttered one honest prayer out of my calloused pain. To the God that had just taken everything from me. I said “Don’t let me waste my life.”

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And He did not. And He has not. And I did not, at that point, understand how much he was not going to let that happen to me. And I will say to you, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, the glorious things that You have prepared for those that love You.”

I felt like God was close to me. SO close to me - like we were standing right next to one another. I felt like He was sitting with His back against me. And I was not going to be the one to turn around. But then, He started to turn His face toward me. And I was not prepared for what I saw. It changed everything. 

“I have seen God face to face” like Jacob. His face is radiant.

There’s no other narrative I could spend my life telling than the narrative of Jesus.

God showed up in my life. He began to lift me out. He began to challenge my perspective on everything. And I fought through the challenges and accepted the new perspective. 

But this God was not the God I had experienced earlier in life. No, this God. I felt His love toward me?

I felt His grace. He was repairing me. He was making me different. He was saving my life. I could feel his love for me. I could sense His nearness. The changes happening in my life were because He was the one changing me. It wasn’t ever words of a friend. It wasn’t ever those things. They play a part, sure. But, God broke into my world, just to say He loved me. Like, God himself. And, as they say, that’s the power of love.

I remember driving with another friend, home from a trip down the shore (up, really - it was Asbury Park) and I was telling him what was happening in my life. This person is not a Christian, did not grow up Christian. There was no need for him to be “churchy”. He didn’t even know what that was. But, I told him that I literally felt the tangible love of God. I will remember this moment for the rest of my life. He turned to me and said, sweetly, innocently, in the most honest way I have ever heard anything: “Tell me what that’s like. To feel the love of God.” It was all I could do but hold in tears. Because I realized I really had experienced God’s love. And it was also there in that car that night. And I know He is sweeping the floor somewhere in the corner of that friend’s heart tonight, preparing a bedroom to sleep in.

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So, there it was, my life was beginning to change.

But so much of me still was chained to that “achieving the perfect order of things”. 

Until one day I realized - the person I thought I was - was nowhere close to the person I really was. I realized all the ways I had “followed the sails” of life, of people’s perceptions of my identity that I took as my own, etc. had caused me to be someone I was not. I was not jaded, sarcastic. The person I had become to fit in with everyone else. To make the equation work. To have the right people in the equation. I was not a tough girl, take no nonsense (I still don’t take any nonsense, for the record), you know what I mean… type of person. I was soft. I was loving. I was gentle. And I was being abrasive. I was being a person I did not want to be. I was taking too much of the opinions of other people and letting those things identify me - again, because I felt like I had no real identity. And I fell apart on my bed, just a normal night, and said, “Oh, God. I am so wrong about so many things! I am not being myself, and I am so far from who You have made me to be. Show me who I am. I am wrong.”

And God swept in. 

It was experiencing this love that made me want to change. 

I took God’s word because He proved Himself to me?

I wanted to be better. I wanted to take my spirituality seriously. I wanted to listen to him and follow him more. But not in a church-y way. Because if it was, I wasn’t buying it.

Man, did he do a lot of cleaning up. Lots of hard lessons. Lots of counseling sessions with more tears and anger and questions than answers. I was literally paying to feel WORSE about myself at certain intervals - haha! I would walk in, and walk out being like, “Oh my GOSH - another PROBLEM I have?!?” But, I had complete trust in God’s faithfulness. I knew this God. And I knew He was doing something. So, I was okay with the uncomfortability.

This newfound breath was breathing life into everything in my life. It was breathing life into my work. It was breathing life into my music. I was playing more shows than I ever played before. Creating more music than I ever had before. I was speaking out more about things. I was more present in my life. I was actually beginning to inhabit my own body.

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And I had a very refining experience in my life. A challenge I never thought I would face. God really began to deal with me on some very personal things - some very unhealthy patterns of thought and misunderstandings I had about my identity.

I went to a musical to see a friend play guitar in the band. In that show, these people were basically pretending to be Jesus and his disciples. They were quoting straight scripture, and the way they were saying it. The way they were acting it out. They were making it mean something else - they were actually making fun of it all. I felt so disgusted at myself when I left. Because these actors memorized more of the Bible than I did, and here they were - just saying the words - and turning it into something else. And how many times am I just saying the words - just saying the words - just turning it into something else?

I had to make some choices. I had to choose, for the first time, very personally - what I thought about me, what I thought about life, what I thought about God. Because here I was. I decided to show up to life. I decided to live in my own skin. God had spared me and saved me for a reason. And again, I was paranoid with the choice aspect, because, to me, it was too much like the connect the dots. Oh no, if I don’t make the right choice, my life will be messed up! Life or death. I found myself saying, “What if I can’t make the right choices? God, what will you do to me then?”

But, I heard the voice of God say, “If you think that this is about making the right choice for yourself, then you are playing the same old game. You need to invite me into the equation.” I had experienced the love of God. I know God. I know He is real and the genesis of all good in my life. But, God’s involvement in our lives is not to put us on a good path. It’s not to set us up for a spike at the end of the game, so we can win. “We love because He first loved us.” It’s that. It’s to return the love, not just with thank you’s, but with Lordship. With an exchange of who is living for who. God reaches out to us with his love. And we respond, by saying, “I give my whole life, to honor this love.” Sometimes, I’m not sure I even understand what all of that entails. What does my whole life entail? Whatever it does, it’s what I give.

If our faith is anything but a response to the love of God toward us, we should question our salvation. 

All love is choice. We have to choose God. He can’t just do good stuff for us. He can’t just make our lives better.

And that’s the great lesson I’ve learned. About God and about myself. Not only do I have to choose God, but I have to choose who I am going to be. I have to make statements about myself. I have to choose to show up to life. I have to choose to own up to the person I am.

But here’s the catch, He brings us through the whole thing. He brings us to the point where the choice is clear. Not because of the threat of the wrong choice. But because of the realness of that love.

Because he wants to bring us to the point of relationship. Again, all relationships are choices. Once you choose, that’s the good part.

I don’t know where along the way I got it all horribly wrong. I don’t know where I thought I could control or connect the right spiritual dots for myself. No duh, I can’t make right choices on my own. I need the Holy Spirit to work on me. That’s only done by being close to God. I don’t know where I missed the love. God doesn’t want us to make the right choice. That’s not how we please Him. God wants us to love Him. He wants us to know Him. He wants us to respond to His love. And that is salvation. We say yes to Jesus as Lord because of the loving nature of the saving.

We bring to God our honest feelings. We bring to God who we truly are. The only requirements for God are honesty, and willingness. Willingness, which, is humility to both admit you could be wrong, and accept something else may be right. That’s the foundation of all personal growth - and by that, I mean - any growth involving you (spiritual, relational, etc).

My whole life, all God has wanted to be is close to me. My whole life, God has been moving closer and closer to me. And, in a great redemption of things, I made a choice. To respond to the love Jesus showed me. Because I love Him back? I pose it as a question, because I find myself questioning if it can really be that simple. Based on how messed up and complicated it was always presented to me in my life. My feet are walking toward Jesus. I am running, I am sprinting. That is all that matters. Is being close. But we must choose. That love extended to us must motivate us to some form of action back to God. And that action, is love.

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The faithfulness of God is something that will continue to blow me away.

In this journey I have ended up getting lost in a vastness, like I always wanted, but I have not vaporized. 

No, rather, I am a participant in the story. I exist in the vastness. And I am loved, and matter, and have unique identity and purpose as me - Kaitlyn Kelly Faraghan - in the vastness. But, I’m not the most important part of the story. Willingly, I take myself out of that place.

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Going back to all my fears. I am now not afraid:

I carry myself into open water. And God goes WITH me. 

I have always missed myself as a permanent fixture in those images. But, now, I’m a part of the narrative. I was always scared to be in those images. Now I’m not.

I told a friend just the other day. Every time that I experience a deep pain of any kind, like - the nasty kinds. The ones that leave you a mess. I told her: it is these moments, where I am a shell of myself, in a pitiful state - a collection of tears - when I am shedding my very skin, with all of its mess and nakedness and hideousness - these are the moments that are making me as a person. Where I have fallen apart all alone and felt the swooping presence of God rush in and be with me - those things are the deep treasures of my soul

And it fills me with such a deep sense of hope. These are the moments I never thought I would get to have. The moments of me becoming a person. It is in these moments that God is making me. One of my favorite lines from my favorite song - “Making Me” by my friend Vic Davi. The chorus just keeps repeating, “Could it be, that you were making me?” Could it be, that you were making me, all along? Could it be, that you are making me, now? What a gift to be made. To be fashioned. To exist.

I never knew God’s faithfulness would bring me here. I never knew His redemption was this serious. After what I had experienced, I never thought I would be able to really ever engage with God like I do now. I never thought I would actually ever feel like I belonged in my body. I had a feeling he would help me feel better about my grief in losing my dad - but this, this? This is all too personal. This is all too beyond that. This is a life I never thought was possible.

Do I know how to navigate the future? Heck no. Am I concerned about the dots anymore? Am I concerned about the “plans falling through”? I am content to be with Jesus. Everything else will fall into place.

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This does not mean that we do not leave broken things in our path. I think a lot of people reach spiritual points and they leave a lot of victims in their quest. And they are collateral. Actually, spiritual or not. We end up sacrificing each other as collateral all the time. And that is not okay. We are still responsible for the reconciliation. We are still responsible for the damage we have caused. 

And I am not saying I am “holier than thou” because all of these realizations have come to me. Please trust me when I say, I actively am working out my own challenges and flaws and mistakes and the way they affect others. I am just as much as an idiot as any other person. And, as you can see based on my narrative.. I have a lot of work to go in loving those closest to me well. But, I’m getting there. If I am a person, right? If I am here - than I can hurt people. I don’t float above human interaction. I need to apologize. I need to make things right. Right? That’s what I’ve learned about inhabiting my own skin. I have to be alive. I have to do things that living people do - which is, have relationship, mess up relationship, and rebuild relationship.

Being a person means making choices. It means making mistakes. It means taking responsibility. It means real relationship with other real people.

God has brought me “back down to earth” in a sense. And it has made all the difference. Relationships have to matter more. Family has to matter more. Everything matters more, because I do. And if I do, everyone else does too. Funny how that works.

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I did not intend to say this many things, but - it was all to say this:

I no longer feel like that woman in the story. 

And every time I look out into the water, I feel my skin. I feel my soul in my body. My feet hit the sand, the dock. I breathe in the salty air. I listen to the gentle movement of the water. And I am here.

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Kaitlyn Faraghan