This morning I met with a man from my church. He works with the Compassion Ministry and offered to get together with me when he saw a prayer request that another leader had sent out saying that I was lonely and wanted someone to have coffee with once a week or so. I was given this contact information. We set up a time to meet at a local Starbucks. Personally, I am not a Starbucks person and suggested we meet elsewhere, but he insisted on meeting at Starbucks. When I met him, I told him that my preference of coffee shop had nothing to do with coffee. It has everything to do with ambience, specifically my ability to hear the other person. I have hearing aids, but they have their limits. He handed me a card and told me to get a drink. I did.
We sat at a table near the window and began to talk. Really, all I wanted was fellowship for an hour or so to help get me out of my apartment. When I am battling depression I isolate, which deepens the darkness. I told him that. I also made it clear that I merely wanted to talk. We began by talking about the American election. He put up with it for a few minutes then began a line of questioning about why people talk about things they cannot change. He wondered why I wanted to talk about it when I am not an American, can’t vote, or couldn’t vote. I am not sure what he wanted to talk about, but it seemed that every topic we discussed turned into an interrogation, or that is what it felt like to me.
I don’t want to exaggerate the situation. All that really happened was I met with a guy and we didn’t connect. It was simple, but that is on the surface. What I was feeling is not so simple. As I attempted to find a topic he wanted to discuss, any topic, and realizing that possibly there wasn’t a topic that wouldn’t lead to an interrogation or a confrontation, I began to feel trapped, then panic. I had just met the man. I didn’t want to be rude. I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t thankful that he agreed to meet me for coffee, but I definitely felt there wasn’t anything I could talk to him about without it leading to an argument or an interrogation. The feeling of being trapped, boxed in by propriety, not wanting to seem ungrateful or rude, caused this creeping sense of panic. I knew where this would lead. I would eventually bolt from the restaurant as quickly as possible, get in my truck, drive to some isolated part of a parking lot, and sit there and cry. I was on the verge of doing that when I left the restaurant. I wanted to sit there and cry, but people were walking by and I knew I had to hold it in, at least until I got home.
I felt abused. Let me share with you my concept of abuse. I believe abuse happens when one person treats another person in a manner that is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Bible, and commonly accepted standards of human rights. I felt like he did not respect me. I am not sure what his idea was for coffee this morning, but if he is part of the Compassion Ministry at my church, he did not display much gentleness or forbearance toward me. I told him that it felt like he was playing mind games with me and I am just not open to being around people like that. I have had way too many people play mind games with me and, invariably, it results in other people betraying my trust and I get hurt. I have learned that mind games are not fun, they are treacherous. He seemed amused by my idea that he was playing mind games with me. The meeting ended with him threatening to be at a meeting on Sunday afternoon. I am of the impression that the meeting is closed, but he promised me that I would be seeing him Sunday afternoon. Again, that made me feel threatened and panic followed.
What I felt like doing was coming back home, crawling into bed, and just avoiding the world for the rest of the day and definitely the weekend. I have had a very hard time making it out to church over the past three or four weeks. I have really missed church and my small group meetings during the week. Today’s confrontation did nothing to make me feel safer and encourage me to go back to church on Sunday, much as I want to. His threats that I would see him Sunday created visions of him approaching me on Sunday morning in the foyer of the church where escaping him might be difficult, and in the midst of a large crowd, I would feel trapped. This has happened a number of times in the past. My fear is not without foundation.
Mercifully, it was just a 45 minute meeting and I am under no obligation to meet with this guy again. I am sure that the church can find another person who is available to meet with me who might be somewhat more relaxed and easy going. For now, though, I am alone in my room, this womb of alleged safety, this fortress of isolation, but also a place that can lead to intense, murky darkness emotionally. As of yet, I have not met God in this deep pit of darkness.