My Sob Story in a Few Words

By Grantley Morris

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Sob Story

Despite being dogged by health limitations, I graduated university and spent a glorious gap year in full-time evangelism in S-E Asia. The plan was to return to Australia to complete a three year post-graduate theology degree. While away, however, I had felt free from fatigue for what seemed like the first time in my life. Since it was my first year without study, I presumed it must have been study that had been draining me so excessively. So I trashed my dream and opted for a much less academically demanding, one-year Bible College course. I should have breezed through it. The hitch, however, is that it was a strict, live-in college that allocated only eight hours a night for sleep. More often than I cared to remember, I had previously proved that, for me, even ten hours a night was so little as to be unsustainable for more than a consecutive few weeks. I soon had to start breaking rules and extend the eight hours to nine but it was impossible to cheat any further. After just a few weeks of this schedule my health crashed so dramatically that I ended up bed-ridden for six continuous weeks and came precariously close to being kicked out of the college.

I struggled through the rest of the year and then joined a missionary organization. I worked with them in Australia while waiting for the opportunity to open to do cutting edge field work in India with totally unreached language groups. Before I could travel, however, my health collapsed so completely that I had to abandon the attempt.

Still more frustrating and humiliating was that doctors could find nothing wrong with me. For many readers, that alone is enough to prove I’m a nutcase – just like I, too, have so often been tempted to regard myself. Is it any wonder I want to slither under a rock? Is it any surprise that I’d rather be judged by God than people?

From my early teens I had been dogged by chronic-fatigue-like limitations that I kept refusing to accept as real. I would muster every trace of will-power to try to push through what I hoped was merely a psychological barrier, only for each attempt to fail miserably and end up causing such a setback in my health that for weeks or months I would be left even more restricted and frustrated.

Haunted by a fear – no, terror – of failure, I had felt driven from my early teens to study excessively; allowing myself no breaks. It had become a vicious circle, with my long hours causing exhaustion that made me error prone and mentally below par, which lowered my grades, which made me study for even longer hours. At the age of fourteen, in just one semester, my grades crashed from 80% to 49% in two key subjects and I was floundering in other subjects as well.

My teachers accused me of being lazy and not trying. That cut like a whip because I knew all too well how much effort I was pouring in. My fellow students, on the other hand, knew I was studying instead of playing or socializing and criticized me for studying too much. I couldn’t win. The whole world seemed against me. It seemed no one could understand me.

And although I studied more than fellow students, it was not so much that my study hours were excessive, relative to a normal student’s capacity, but relative to my inexplicable limitations.

And neither was it that teachers or students were cruel; I was just oversensitive to their few, casual remarks – rather like gaping wounds make someone highly vulnerable to the slightest touch. In my case, the wounds fueling my sensitivities were inner – and hence invisible – and although I can identify some of the things that kept reopening them, I am bewildered to this day as to what originally caused them. One of the tormentors goading me to be so hard on myself is that I am without excuse – no bad childhood, no diagnosable physical or mental disability. It seemed another vicious circle: low self-esteem made me a defeatist and together they conspired to keep me on a downward spiritual of ever-increasing defeatism and self-esteem issues.

I ached for a girlfriend to the point of absolute agony and having one seemed the only thing able to raise my self-esteem above abysmal but this was yet another vicious circle. My low self-esteem and subsequent defeatism made me certain that every girl would reject me, which made me too terrified to dare have anything to do with any girl. Every single day, year after year after year after year, I prayed for a girlfriend – any female would do – but it seemed obvious to me that although certain guys would tolerate me as a casual friend, girls’ standards for a boyfriend would be higher – far too high, in fact, for me to have the slightest chance. Young guys make fools of themselves trying to impress girls. Not me. I was too defeated to ever start.

Another contributor to the black cloud was that, although I kept forcing myself, school work became increasingly meaningless to me. What I really wanted was to invest my time in Bible study. Every day I devoted at least an hour to prayer and Bible reading. By the time I was able to go to university, all I wanted was a theological degree but the only one available to me was a post graduate degree that required a secular degree first. And the sole Bible college I knew of would only accept students who were at least two years older than me, even for less academic courses.

So I ended up at university and then, via the route described earlier, staggered to the point where, after all those years of struggle, my failure was complete. With my dreams both of a highly regarded theological degree and of fulltime ministry smashed to dust, I languished in unemployment for years, convinced I could not hold down even the simplest fulltime job, and feeling that even the most fascinating secular job was utterly meaningless anyhow.

On my way to church I used to pass a dilapidated structure that looked fit only for demolition. On several occasions I told to myself, “Man, what a dump!” Little did I know that I would end up working there.

I was initially told the work would last only one and half weeks. The conditions were so atrocious that if I had thought it would last longer I would surely have quit within a couple of days. The work was extended by a few days and then mercifully ended. Soon, however, I was offered a little more. Then it kept being continually extended on and on for five years.

I was already desperately lonely but whereas I previously had some contact with people, I was now working completely alone with a noisy, dangerous machine. Intensifying the loneliness even more, was that the job was mindless; making it harder than ever to distract myself from my inner pain. Although I rarely spoke to them, away from my shabby shed there were a few people in the other buildings on the property, and half of them seemed to hate me. Once I chanced upon a brutal dagger one of them had carved from wood with an inscription saying it was for killing me.

Church should have been an oasis from this torment but earlier the warm church in which I had grown up had spurned my views, and my sensitive conscience was at odds with its practices. This, combined with an insatiable spiritual hunger, drove me away from my home church to attend a mega church where, socially, I felt utterly lost. The church had a good program for integrating new Christians but that was of no help to me since I was already an established Christian. Sundays ended up the most painful day of my week. For the rest of the week I expected nothing but I could not help getting my hopes up of a Sunday, only to have them smashed into the ground every time. As I wrote in my book:

    I see the achievements of people I grew up with and I cringe. At church a stranger introduces himself. I steel myself for the inevitable ‘And what do you do for a living?’ At the door stands a pastor who knows how little I do. I slink out another way. I drive home alone. And agonize.

Another element of my agony was that I had felt challenged by God to stop praying for a wife and commit myself to remaining single. To make the torture more exquisite, I felt the Lord had given me a choice. I could marry with his blessing if I asked for it but he would receive slightly more glory if I stayed single.

I not only ached for female companionship, my shame was intensified by the fear that people must think me a homosexual to be so old and still without a girlfriend. Every attempt to overcome my crippling shyness and have at least some female companionship was met with rejection. I was sure that no normal woman would want to marry such an uncool and unattractive loser but I had assumed women would have lower standards as to who they would merely talk with. Those already attached, however, feared their man’s reaction, and my abysmal self-esteem stopped me from realizing that that, instead of it helping women feel safer, my intractable commitment to never marrying turned them off.

So every moment of every day I was not only reeling in pain over being single, I was convinced that at any moment I could end the agony with a single prayer reneging my commitment to God’s highest glory. And to do this would not be the slightest sin. With relief always just a prayer away, it was like being a Jew starving to a slow and agonizing death, alone and forgotten, while continually surrounded by bacon he could eat at any moment. To make the analogy perfect, it would have to be someone who knew there was nothing sinful about bacon, whose decision not to eat it had only been made secretly, and no one would ever know if he ate it anyway. Nevertheless, I refused to ever utter that prayer. If you want more on this aspect of my weirdness and misfit-itis (not a real disease but it felt like one), you can later read Why I’ve Never Married.

Anyhow, my weekdays were spent languishing alone in a tiny, excessively noisy, disconcertingly unhealthy, dust-clogged tin shed, shredding what was meant to be confidential papers for a huge government agency. In practice, however, staff misused the bins and threw into them their own lunch waste – chicken bones, rotting bananas, pizza remains and so on – plus broken glass, cigarette ash and even live matches (I had two outbreaks of fire in my paper-filled shed). Cleaners often got into the act, adding to the mix disgusting waste from toilets – and I choose my words too carefully for “disgusting” to refer to paper toweling.

After just a few minutes of shredding I could write my name in the paper dust that had settled in the room. So I was thrilled when they finally announced they would fit my torture chamber with an exhaust fan. It proved utterly useless. When I mentioned this, I was informed that anything more effective would be a violation of air quality laws. It would spew dust into the atmosphere. Apparently, it was cheaper to use my lungs as a filter.

Taking very seriously such Scripture as Colossians 3:22-23, I worked with great diligence and yet, to my bewilderment and devastation, official supervisory reports I received were poor. It helped my self-esteem no end to know I was working my heart out in one of the least skilled jobs ever invented and still I could not make the grade. It was comforting to know all those years of excessive effort poured into study had actually achieved something.

Nevertheless, with the job being so mindless I could keep thinking about ways of improving the wording of my book.

My life moved so slowly that I could not keep up with snails. Then, after five years, to my crashing disappointment – yes, you read that right – my shredding job ended. I still found my employment degrading and almost unbearably awful but it was no longer mindless. I had to sort internal mail. Previously, I had converted a sizeable chunk of my job into an opportunity to be paid to keep rewording the book that no one was reading. Such days were gone forever. Now I could only juggle words during work breaks, travel to and from work, and every second I could wring from my life outside the demands of my paid employment. I added this to my book:

    Previously, my body was enslaved in degrading work, but my mind was almost free. Now they’ve got my mind as well. My ability to write has been mauled. Though writing to a non-existent audience is more therapy than ministry it seemed the one twig in my hand buoying my head above the fierce, grey waves of utter despair.

    A young woman, attractive and popular, lit a match and plunged into lifelong darkness. Gas had been seeping into the room. The explosion ripped through her, searing and pulverizing a once-normal body. It hurt to see her plight. My greatest battle, however, was not fighting tears of compassion, but envy. Had I suffered like her I would probably receive a small pension and so, despite enormous restrictions, I might have more time to write.

Years later, I still had to support myself through my job, but ministry floodgates opened. Suddenly, life was so hectic that everything became a blur. From then on I have looked back even more longingly on my mindless job.

For insight into how much of a struggle writing is to me, How I Write.

The book referred to is Waiting for your Ministry: The Quest for Fulfillment. I have recently selected portions of it that might particularly encourage people who are feeling suicidal:


Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2015 Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site Freely you have received, freely give.

Sob Story