They thought it would be funny to go into the club. It was a Saturday evening and we were walking downtown. As I fished around in my wallet for my ID, I could hear the strong beat of music that poured out past the bouncer, who waited with a flashlight and outstretched hand. This was a place very clearly out of my element.
We entered the club and I started taking it all in. I wasn’t really dressed for the place, but I wasn’t entirely a misfit. I tried to keep my facial expressions neutral as we climbed the steps to the second level.
One. I started a mental count of former students. Luckily, I never moved beyond one.
On the second floor, I saw the long bar, people pressed up alongside it four deep. I really wanted to not look like a fish out of water, but I must have failed because my friends were amused by my expressions.
“Just dance,” they told me, as the music blared across the sea of people.
Besides the fact that this type of dancing isn’t my forte, I couldn’t bring myself to move to the songs being played. To dance to them seemed to speak an affirmation or consent to what the lyrics were saying. I listened to pick up the words and I couldn’t agree with them, not even a little.
One of my friends took the lead and we wove our way through the crowd to the other side of the dance floor. As much as I wanted to just “be normal” and have a good time with my friends, I could not. My eyes were taking in the people dancing around me, my ears were filled with the boisterous music, and my heart couldn’t handle it.
I was a bit frustrated with this little heart once again. My friends are good people and they seemed to be enjoying themselves, even though we would have the same reservations about the songs and the situation. Why couldn’t I just forget the rest of it and have fun? Why did I have to be so serious in a place dedicated to enjoyment?
To be honest, I’m not quite certain. But I am learning to be patient with this heart. I cannot block out the things around me and act as if they do not exist or are not happening. Being in that place made my heart ache. Part of me could feel their longing for fulfillment and their determined pursuit of happiness. I recognize within myself a similar desire for wholeness and fulfillment. Yet being in the club, my heart was firmly declaring that the longing I had would not be satisfied in this place. It wasn’t that I went into the club thinking that it would satisfy me. A survey of the crowd, though, told me that many felt that it would. They needed this club on a Saturday night to fill an emptiness they were fighting against. And I stood there knowing that it would most assuredly fall short.
Now that I am writing this, I wonder if there is a way I can convey to you what I felt without sounding holier-than-thou. I am uncertain. I just know that in the middle of the club, my soul was not at peace. That as I was surrounded by people enjoying themselves, all I could do was silently pray for them. My heart ached and I felt sick.
Being frustrated with myself didn’t change anything. At that moment, I wanted my heart to be like the hearts of everyone else. I wanted to have an evening of fun and to soak up time with friends. This ache in my heart and this knowledge that others were seeking fulfillment in impossible places was not welcomed. I wanted to tell my heart to go away with the inconvenient feelings and to come again at a better time.
I had experienced something similar on at least one other occasion. During a summer of Totus Tuus, a couple teams spent an evening bowling. The TVs at the bowling alley were showing music videos and all of the songs were darkly depressing. At first, I tried to listen to the words. Then, I tried to ignore them. The longer we sat there, listening to dark songs, the sicker I felt. A teammate asked if I felt alright and I told him the music was making me feel sick. As if for the first time, he looked at the videos and listened to the songs. He told me he had gone through a phase of listening to that music so it didn’t really bother him. Surrounded by good people pursuing their faith, I felt a deep pit in my stomach and was convinced I was going to be sick. Why was my heart so impacted? Why did no other person feel ill like I did?
It taught me an important concept that I was forced to review after visiting the club. Some people are able to go into the darkness to minister to other people. Some people can’t. We are all gifted with different abilities and talents. I am not gifted with the ability to enter into depressing music or crowded nightclubs without feeling soul-sick. Perhaps it is because the Lord has not yet asked me to do so. By God’s grace I can try to teach the students in my classroom. I can stand on a sidewalk to pray and offer hope to women who feel abortion is the solution. I can write a bit about my heart experiences for others to consider. I cannot do much, but I can do things that cooperate with the way my heart was crafted.
Instead of being frustrated with my weak heart, I want to be thankful for what the Lord has given me. As the years have passed, He has given me a heart that can be sensitive to different evils that are around it. While this spiritual sensitivity may seem inconvenient or cause me to seem even more serious than people already think I am, I want to embrace it because the Lord has obviously designed my heart this way for a reason. I’m not a wet blanket and I’m not over-spiritualizing everything. There is a spiritual battle that is raging and, in the club, I felt like I was right in the middle of it. Sometimes, if a battle is happening around us, it is necessary to feel like we are in the midst of one, even if the timing is inconvenient.
The next time this happens to my heart, I want to respond better. Instead of being annoyed that I have soul-sick feelings, I want to ask the Lord what He is doing right there, in the midst of everything. And I want to ask Him what He wants me to do, right there, in the midst of it all.
The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. -Pope Benedict XVI