I leaned over the toilet bowl—hardly enough strength to hold myself up. My dreadlocks dangled over my face as my body heaved, again. The water in the bowl turned red as the Franzia Cabernet Sauvignon gushed up my throat and out of my mouth. A bitter taste. As the vomit subsided, the stale taste of Black & Mild’s returned to my mouth and my head began to throb.
I closed the lid and laid my head on top of the toilet in my parents’ bathroom. I stared at the bathtub. I had spent my mornings in it as a child. I wished I could go back. Just then I heard a creak. Turning around, I saw my father in the doorway. He stood there, watching me. He looked like he had been there for a few minutes.
As our eyes met he motioned his head towards the hallway. I knew he was telling me that it was time to come downstairs. Despite getting only forty-five minutes of sleep the night before, today was a day from which I could not run.
I made my way downstairs and as I walked into the kitchen a painful sting ran through my body as if a wasp had just stung me. The scene was frantic. My grandmother paced the room as my mother and sister made phone calls from their seats at the kitchen counter. The long list of phone numbers sat before them, the guest list for my wedding. My wedding was tomorrow, but they were calling the guests, telling them that it—the ceremony, the reception, the cake cutting and gift giving and dancing—was not happening. The wedding, which had been planned for the past year and a half, was being called off…the day before.
Over the past week I lost all strength I had, all sharpness of mind. I was twenty-four but I felt ninety. The combination of shame, devastation, and anxiety was enough to make me want to crawl out of my skin, escape from this world, disappear. For a few passing moments, I even wanted to die.
Yet none of these things were options. I had to walk through this. I had to face the people. I had to face myself. More had to get done before everything would pass. Cancelling a wedding was a lot of work. I had to call my groomsmen (most of whom didn’t believe me), cancel a honeymoon, and try to get out of the lease for an apartment that was never lived in.
But none of these chores compared with the emotional toil I was facing. I now had to trudge through the swamp of issues I had been avoiding.
The guests were, understandably, suprised, but I wasn’t surprised. Not at all. The writing had long been on the wall. I was well aware of the dysfunction and incompatibility that was choking the relationship. But the pressures of planning a wedding kept me distracted from any true introspection, especially when reality was something I’d rather evade.
Five years later, with a wife, a daughter, and a son on the way, I look back to this time in my life and try and come up with the reason for what happened.
While there were many complexities that played a role in this scenario, I believe that there was one key component missing in my life: Christian community. Was I a part of a local church? Of course. I always had been. I was in seminary and I had some Christian friends. But I was busy. I was really, really busy. I worked full-time at a hospital, commuted to class, served the homeless on Sundays before church, and was beginning an internship at a new church. I had no time for new relationships. I was barely maintaining the ones I had.
But I can’t blame my communal disconnection on a busy schedule alone. I’ve always been an introvert. It is difficult for me to ask for help. So even if my schedule had been clear, it was unlikely that I would have confided in the right people. In fact, I didn’t even know who the “right people” were. Creating the necessary communal relationships had not been a priority. No one really knew about my crumbling relationship, my doubts, my anger, my anxiety, my addictions. Everything was a disaster because I lacked any kind of community.
I may have superficially been part of a Christian community, but I was not submitted to a community. And by neglecting it, I had subsequently failed to trust in God. I knew that I needed help and I knew that my help came from God. But what I didn’t fully realize was this: the help I need does come from God but it’s often manifested through people. If I had stopped my busy schedule and taken some time to actually get to know people and spend time in community and if I had developed these necessary relationships where people could have helped me out, I could’ve avoided a lot of pain, and perhaps I would not walk with the limp I walk with today.