I was more than a little apprehensive going into the Week of Guided Prayer. The week was already overshadowed by a looming doctor’s appointment on Friday. I was dreading that appointment as I knew it was not likely to go well. Add to that, God and I have been in a bit of a stand-off since May so I knew going into this week where we were headed. I dug in for a fight. See I want God close enough to catch me if I fall but not close enough to hold me all the time. Why? Because deep down I’m afraid I might actually start to rely on him and he’ll take off on me. Yes, I know that makes absolutely no sense. He’s God. He’s everywhere. So where’s he going to go? But hey, that’s where I’m at these days.
God seemed determined to get my attention this week and it was in little ways, almost like a trail of rose petals. As each one dropped in front of me, I had to smile. Some were reassuring and some were just downright silly.
After the opening on Saturday, I took the long way home. As I rolled up to a stop sign near the beach, a motorcycle was coming from my left. MY motorcycle! My jaw literally dropped. When I wrote My Ride, I went to the Indian website and custom designed my dream bike. Saturday morning, it turned out in front of me. Only thing missing was the airbrushing of my tattoo on the tank. There aren’t that many Indians on the road. I know. I look. And this one had all my little details: the color, the fenders, the fringe, all of it. Okay, God, in the story, the bike was a gift. Is this some kind of reminder maybe?
Saturday night I had a dream about being stuck in an old house. I couldn’t find my way out and in that old house, I ran across a white bulldog with big bright blue eyes. He knew the way out and he was helping me. We never quite made it out but we were headed the right way. When I woke up, I was straight up in bed. I KNEW that bulldog.
He’d been the deacon at my parish when I was a kid and when I battled my religion teacher all of freshman year of high school, he went down to the school twice to try sort things out. I happened to see him leaving the second time. The assistant principal saw me looking out the windows as he walked to his car and pulled me into her office.
“That’s the second time Deacon Barton has been here on your behalf,” she told me. “He didn’t want you to know so you’re going to forget you saw him just now. But let me tell you something young lady, you should know you have a real bulldog in your corner. You’re incredibly blessed to have him.”
Those words were ringing in my ears Sunday morning when I woke up and I hardly needed them. I’d know those eyes anywhere. Deacon Barton spent a lot of time with my dad when he was dying and he watched out for me long after that. The man lit up every single time he saw me like no one else ever has before or since. I’ve missed that but I felt like he was there with me, in my corner, as I headed into this week I was so afraid of facing.
Monday was a crazy day complete with a desk-clearing, pen-throwing temper tantrum at work. When I saw Deacon Ron that evening, he asked me what I needed from God this week. Problem number one: I don’t like to ask God for anything. Problem number two: Where to even start?! That’s a mighty long list.
“I need quiet. There’s been too much going on for too damn long. Friday is going to suck and I don’t even know what I need.” Well after awhile, I could admit I needed peace, reassurance and hope, all of which might possibly lead to that dreaded T word: Trust.
Tuesday morning, I got to work and the phones didn’t work. All day. No phones. This is our quiet season in the office so unless someone calls in with an insurance crisis, there’s not much going on. No phones equals no crises. Made for a very quiet day. God wouldn’t take out the phones right? Ummm…I’d swear I heard him laugh when that question ran through my head.
I get out of work at noon on Wednesday and Deacon Ron had strongly advised me to go to the beach for awhile. I was more than happy to go crash out for a couple hours. Mid-week, there were only about a half dozen people there. I got settled in and my favorite seagull, Hitchcock, appeared to keep me company. Then the flies came. They attacked the couple closest to me and drove them off the beach. There were at least fifteen flies on my blanket and they landed on me but I didn’t get a single bite. Usually I get attacked and have so many bites I need to go home to guzzle Benadryl. Not one bite this time. Now while I was marveling at the fact that the evil little critters weren’t biting me, a huge black cloud rolled in and the wind kicked up. That cleared everyone else off the beach. It rained about a dozen big drops and blew away, leaving me and the lifeguards to enjoy a gorgeous afternoon on an otherwise empty beach. Did God just clear out the beach for me? He wouldn’t do that…would he?
As far as prayer, by this point in the week, I was really stuck. My scripture readings made me want to slam the bible shut and walk away. Passages of being God’s delight and his beloved were NOT sitting well with me at all. Yeah, all the old junk was coming back up and I was pissed. The image of Jesus longing to gather me really set me off. I pulled in and the porcupine quills came out. The words that stuck out were, “but you refused me” – yup pretty much where I was at. But nagging at the back of my head was the way Deacon Barton’s eyes would light up when he saw me. Was that the same way God looked at me? Why is that so scary to me? Because if I started to see that and he stopped, it would kill me.
Thursday was more of the same as all kinds of old stuff got dredged up yet again. Finally, Deacon Ron asked me, “What’s it going to take? Tell God what else you need him to do to PROVE he loves you.”
“Wait! What?! I can’t do that! That’s…just…I don’t know…that just does not seem right.”
“But if that’s where you are…it’s honest. Anything else and the relationship becomes a pretense. That doesn’t work.”
Damn it! I really hate it when he does that. “Okay. Fine. I need some treatment options for the RA when I see this doctor tomorrow. Not a cure. Just a strategy. Something. Anything. Back on the drug I was on even.”
My appointment Friday went even worse than I’d expected. My doctor came right out and told me that maybe I should find another doctor. Not exactly the option I was looking for! I cried all the way home. I didn’t write in my journal. I opened my bible and shut it again. I was plain flat done. By the time I got to Deacon Ron, I had a headache straight from hell and I was in a foul mood. As we talked, he asked how my week had gone and I told him a story.
“A couple months after my dad died, I got on a plane and flew out to Indiana to stay with his family for a month. My dad’s brother, Uncle Hallie, drove me up to his summer place in Michigan. He had a trailer on a river. Aunt Max, their older sister, lived up there year round. One afternoon, we canoed the mile and a half downriver to her place and I decided to stay with her for a week. Aunt Max had this dock and I would run full speed down the dock and jump into the river. After a few jumps, I had kicked up all the mud off the bottom and the water got really murky. That’s what this feels like. Like I’ve kicked up all this old crap and where there was clear water, now I can’t see a damn thing.”
Well in the same way a flooding river deposits rich soil on the ground, good will come out of it, he says, most likely in my writing. I’ve been handed a deadline. By next month I have to have at least half a chapter done on my novel, preferably a full one. New stuff. No cheating.
Saturday morning, before the closing, I went to the beach. I sketched out a look back over my week comic strip style, ending on the muddy river. As I closed the journal, a car pulled in two spaces over from me with his stereo blasting ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ and I mean loud enough that the entire seawall was rocking.
Care to take a wild guess what Aunt Max and I listened to over and over that week in the house on the river? Yup. We blasted that song, among others, danced around the living room like a couple of nuts singing into hairbrushes and laughing like hell.
Okay God. You got my attention and yeah, I really needed that laugh.
So after holding God at arm’s length for months, I let him closer. After the closing I spent a few hours soaking up sunshine and salt water. Long Island Sound was just as cold as Torch River was all those years ago. It felt so good. God held me for awhile and that was okay. We both know I’ll back off. But for a few hours it was okay and that’s a start.
As for what I need…a little help with this new chapter would be nice…
oh wait…I think I already got that.
The kid who can barely swim enough to keep her head above water taking a flying leap into the river… fearlessly… Yeah I can work with that….