My road to spiritual freedom. That’s what the My Ride parable is all about. I didn’t understand that when I wrote it. Not even close. But I knew I needed to write it, and by far it is the most difficult piece I’ve written to date. I promised to delve into the symbolism behind it but I’m still trying to sort it all out myself and over the next few months Deacon Ron and I plan to spend quite a bit of time discussing it.
I’ve taken a bit of time away from writing after finishing My Ride. I needed to be quiet but didn’t really understand why. Two weeks ago, I entered into my annual Week of Guided Prayer. It was over the course of that week that I learned how very important this piece was to my spiritual journey. I have struggled for years to find the spiritual freedom to be in a more open relationship with God. I had told Fr Tom in December that I felt like the door to the cage was open but I was too frightened to step through it. On some level, I knew the Gremlin would be standing between me and my freedom. I needed to write that story as a concrete way of facing down the Gremlin, nailing him to the written page, defining his power over me, and thereby breaking that grip of fear. Except I didn’t know that. I only knew I needed to write. God knew what and God knew why. I had to surrender my will and just be the instrument in His hands. Okay, I admit it – I had to TRUST. Not my strong suit by any means but I did it. After I was done, I began to notice a quiet deep in my soul. Just a little at first, but it was growing.
Deacon Ron’s homework last month asked me to find and spend some time with a scripture passage of my choosing. I went through the Gospels, Psalms, my favorite books of Isaiah and Sirach but nothing was striking me. That was until I woke up in the middle of one night knowing I needed to read Genesis. The feeling was so strong that in the morning, I took my bible with me to the seawall where I might find the quiet place I needed to read it. It was the story of the creation of the world that I was being called to read. The words nearly jumped off the page at me. ‘God saw that it was good.’ As He created the world, He did it over a series of days and at the end of each day, He saw that it was good, not better, just good. Creation was good on Day 1 and it was good on Day 7. This is my spiritual journey! No, deeper than that, this is ME! I’m good now. Tomorrow, I won’t be better. I’ll be good.
Better implies a benchmark or a goal to be reached and I realized that the past two years I had entered into the Week of Guided Prayer with an end goal in mind. “Lord I need some direction by 9 am on Friday pretty please and thank you” or “Lord I know I need some direction but I’m seriously hoping You don’t give me any because I’m afraid of what You may ask me to do”. Now here I was, days before the Week of Guided Prayer and I had confronted my Gremlin, encountered Jesus, and been given an incredibly freeing glimpse of how God sees me as good, not something needed to be fixed or improved.
As I moved through the into the Week’s scripture passages, God spoke more clearly than ever before and the quiet in my soul grew deeper. The first two days I was hearing the words from Isaiah:
“I will always love you.”
“I will never forget you.”
I’ve had a deep need for reassurance of God’s love for a very long time but I was too fearful to admit it. Asking for God’s reassurance felt like doubt, doubt led to guilt, guilt led to shame, shame led back to the cage and the Gremlin. But the Gremlin has no power anymore and I was free to experience that love and reassurance as concretely as I experienced my father’s bear hugs as a child. I let go of my fears and ran into the arms of my God with the same abandon I had shown running into the arms of my daddy when I was a little girl.
The third day and for the rest of the week, God invited me to step back into my two darkest hours and experience a deep healing. I had sworn for years that when I was 18, God ditched me. Then when my younger son was so desperately ill and I was so far from God that I could no longer pray, He came to me when I cried out in absolute anguish from the depths of my soul. During my son’s illness, I had found myself reading my bible again. I didn’t get to church too often, but I read my bible, often in the wee hours of the morning. I became focused on Job. I identified so strongly with his suffering.
Job 42: 1-6 – This was my near constant mantra:
Job answered the Lord,
“I know now that you can do all things.
That no purpose of yours can be hindered.
I have dealt with great things, which I do not understand,
Things too wonderful for me to know.
I had heard of you by word of mouth.
Now my eye has seen you.
I disown all that I have said
And repent in dust and ashes.”
Now three years later, God was saying to me – REMEMBER. “Remember when you thought I wasn’t listening? I was there. This is what you said to me.” But this wasn’t a reproach from God. There was such tenderness and compassion in it. I was visited with such vivid images on sitting on Daddy’s lap as a little girl, reading all of our favorite poems. We both knew them by heart and they meant something special just to us. There was a history there. There was history in these words from Job. God was there and He had heard my cries for help. After resting in that for two days, He led me back even farther and showed me again that in my darkest hours, He had been there. He had heard me and stood by my side, even when I was too blinded by the pain to see Him. I, like Job, disown what I have said. God did not ditch me, ever.
So my crazy little work of fiction isn’t so fictitious after all. It is truly a parable and I have much to learn from it. I trusted deeply in the gift of my writing, which I’ve finally accepted as more than just a skill but as a true gift from God. I let go and wrote the images as they came to me even when at times I wanted them to be different. It was an act of surrender led to an act of trust. An act of trust led to an act of faith. An act of faith led to an act of love. I never imagined when I started this little story about taking a ride in the country that I would have ended up with such amazing freedom.
I had asked Fr Tom once, “How do I know when I’m free?” I know the answer now. I know I’m free when I reach out to touch the walls that have kept me prisoner for so very long and find that they are no longer there. I have room to move – no, better – I have room to dance with God like I used to dance with Daddy. I can stand on His toes and let Him lead, just taking in the pure joy of the moment.