Moment of Truth

“Say not I have found the truth, but rather I have found a truth.” — Kahlil Gibran

We all have a conversation we’re planning to have with God.  My friend John and I have always referred to it as ‘The Big Sit-Down’.  I’m not talking about the ‘Thanks for the pretty flowers in the meadow…’ conversation.  I’m talking about the list of explanations.  Yeah, you know have one too.  We all do.  The ‘Why did you?’, ‘Why didn’t you’, and, of course, ‘How could you???’.  That conversation has been on my calendar, rather conveniently scheduled for ‘Someday’ – as in when I’m dead and the answers won’t really matter anyway. Well, sometimes meetings get rescheduled.  All of the sudden, Someday became right now.  And no, I wasn’t dead, although for a couple of minutes I was wishing…

This past week was the Week of Guided Prayer.  I look forward to it and yet I cringe every year when I register.  Think walking on hot coals.  I get halfway and start asking myself, Why was this a good idea?!’  There’s been a whole lot of uncertainty dropped into my life lately, 98% of which is completely beyond my control. That’s precisely the kind of stuff that drives me crazy (crazier…).  Might as well shakes things up a little more.  Where do I sign up?

I looked up the scripture passages I was given last Saturday and one of them was Jeremiah 29:11-14 which starts off with,  “I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you future full of hope.”  Sounds perfect right?  Naturally, the first thing that jumped off the page at me: ‘Hey! Where’s verse 15?!’  Seems in some Catholic editions of the Bible, verse 15 has been relocated to later in the chapter.  Only took me seven bibles and a Facebook rant to figure that out. Once I’d worked that out of my system, the entire passage started to sink in a little at a time, although it raised more questions than answers.

The breakdown was something like this…

Okay, so God knows what he’s got planned but he’s not telling me.  I’m kinda looking for specifics here…hello? Bring me back from exile and banishment…how did I get to that place again?  Where did we part company? And if God’s bringing me back, bring me back to where exactly?  How do I get back if I even don’t know where back is?

And that’s when things suddenly went off the deep end.  I know that words ‘not fair’ had crossed my lips a few times between Monday and Thursday. Not too long into Thursday’s session with Deacon Ron, he suddenly got up and put a chair directly across from me and said simply, “Tell him.”  There was no bailing out on that one.  There was a presence in that room that simply would not be denied and there was no hiding, denying or covering anymore.  Yes, here I was faced with The Big Sit-Down I’d always mouthed off about wanting and all I was hoping for was that the wall would fall on my head to get me out of it.  The wall refused to cooperate.  It didn’t take long for the ‘why’s and the ‘why didn’t you’s to give way to the ‘how could you’s and finally, ‘how much is enough in one life…how much?’  It was hard.  Really, really hard.  When I finally quit sobbing,  Deacon Ron asked me to switch seats.  “NO!”  Shock, bordering on horror. Oh no, no way.  Not happening.  No way in hell, there was nothing he was going to say that was getting me to sit in God’s chair and face myself.

So two minutes later I’m sitting in God’s chair, wondering how I got there, and realizing that, as freaked as I was, I could See myself.  Yes, ‘See’, with a capitol ‘S’.  Deacon Ron handed me his bible and had me read that entire passage of love and hope and bringing back aloud to the other me sitting across the room.

I walked out of that session feeling like a living pin-cushion.  There wasn’t a single part of me that didn’t hurt.  I didn’t sleep much that night.  I didn’t touch my bible.  I couldn’t read that passage again.  I couldn’t review my day.  I was wrung out, empty and hurting.

Friday morning was cold and rainy.  I went to the beach anyway and sat in my car staring at the empty beach.  How often is the beach completely empty in July?  And only 60 degrees?  In other words, perfect for someone like me who hates heat, humidity and people cluttering up my beach.  I know an engraved invitation when I see one.

I walked down that empty beach with a northeasterly wind driving rain into my face and waves crashing next to me.  Even the shorebirds had enough sense to go somewhere else.  It was loud and cold and wet.   I found a nice soggy log about a mile down and sat just out of reach of the waves.  Why being above the tide line mattered I don’t know, I was already completely soaked. Water was running down the inside of my clothes and I just didn’t care.  God was in that room on Thursday and he was on the beach with me on Friday.  In the wind, the waves, the rain, running through my hair, down the back of my neck and even in that surprise wave that snuck up on me and went over the top of my boots.  When I walked off that beach, there wasn’t a part of me that wasn’t thoroughly soaked.  It was an incredible feeling of being cleansed and healed.

Did I find answers to all the uncertainty coming at me?  Nope.  Didn’t figure out a damn thing about it.  Is it still going to bug me?  Yup.  Not knowing makes me nuts.  That’s not going to change.  God still has it all figured out and he’s still not telling me.  But he’s brought me back to place before the need for The Big Sit-Down  started.  And if that conversation needs to happen again, well, I survived the first one.

We all have that list of stuff we’re going to throw at God given the opportunity.  All I’ve got to say on that one is this: “Be careful what you wish for…”

Jeremiah 29 11-14

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.  When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.  When you look for me,  you will find me.  Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from the nations and all the places to which I have banished you, says the Lord, and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.

Beware of Tricksy Hobbitses


Gollum or Smeagol

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  Not because there’s nothing going on in my life but just the opposite.  I’ve been feeling at odds with so much around me and inside myself lately that I’ve found it difficult to write at all.  That’s not a good place for me to be, especially as I’m working on my second book and working with a character who tends to be a bit prickly. Fortunately I found an outlet, thanks to Anne McAuley, a freelance writer and dear friend.  On a bit of lark, we started a blog about life from the dog’s point of view.  I know it sounds silly but that simple little change in perspective and taking a break from staring into the chaos of life seems to have knocked something loose in me, unblocked something.  I don’t get how that happened but quite frankly, I’m just happy it did.

Most of my writing the past six months has been short posts on Facebook, mostly silly stuff that happens with the kids or my take on articles that I’ve read. It’s funny how often I’ve found myself in the middle of religious and political debates.  It’s scary how often those two become one and the same.

As my long time readers know, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis nearly two years ago.  I have insurance through the state Medicaid program.  Because I have a chronic illness, insurance carriers consider me a ‘lifetime decline’, which is exactly what it sounds like – I couldn’t get private insurance even if I had the means to pay for it. Between my own situation and the many similar cases that I’ve dealt with while working for an insurance agent, I’ve been watching the health care reform laws closely.  I’ll spare you my political and religious take on the whole scenario.

The scary thing I’m seeing is the vehemence in people when the topic comes up.  The same goes for immigration or taxes or the war on terror or any of the other hot button issues.  Some days on Facebook, it reads like every issue is a hot button issue. Labels are thrown about and fingers are pointed. Everybody has the answer and nobody does.

Remember Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings? I am reminded of Smeagol.  Poor, hapless Smeagol was a good, kind creature, one of the peaceful River Folk.  Until the day when he, quite by chance, came across the Ring while fishing with a companion.  Suddenly he was consumed with a need to possess the Ring.  A need so great that he would kill.  Soon he was no longer Smeagol but became Gollum.  An outcast, wretched, hateful, spiteful Gollum would do anything to keep his precious Ring safe.  When it was in his possession, he would stop at nothing to keep it.  When it was out of his hands, he would stop at nothing to get it back.

Which one are you?  Smeagol or Gollum?  I hate to tell you this, but you’re probably both.  We all want to be good and peaceful, but there’s always that one thing that we simply must possess.  Security in one form or another is the perennial favorite.  But what happens when we clutch our Rings so tightly that it takes away from another?  Remember Smeagol was so isolated by his need to possess the Ring that he eventually forgot his own name. Frodo reminded him of who he was, who he had been before the Ring came into his possession.

So in the interest of bringing some kind of harmony into this chaos, I remind you of who you are.  You are a child of God.  You are known, loved and cared for far beyond anything that the world can offer you.  Your so-called security, whether you have it already or are hunting desperately for it, is merely an illusion. It can be gone in an instant.  I hope you find yourself talking to yourself in the mirror tonight, arguing with your needy darker side. After all, what’s ours is ours. We’ve found it and fought for it. No one can or should be able to take it away. To hell with anyone else.  But maybe we should share it.  It’s the good thing to do.  Yes!  No! Stop it!

May your kind and peaceful Smeagol side win out over that frightened, clutching, desparate Gollum side.  And if you find yourself debating whether I am just one of those ‘filthy, tricksy hobbitses’, then I’ve done my job.  I got you to think.  Hell, I got myself to think.

By the way, Smeagol lost the battle with Gollum.  In the end his need was simply to great.  First it drove him mad, then it destroyed him.  But it also destroyed that to which he clung to so tightly.  And yet somehow in the end, good triumphed anyway. So take hope, all is not lost no matter how dark the hour.