image courtesy of 123rf.com
On February 10 I posted about how some people were not comfortable with how I speak of God, because my language isn’t traditional enough and doesn’t reflect enough orthodoxy. This morning I received a beautiful, if short-lived apology from one of those to whom I had been referring in that post. Only it went on. And on. It became at first philosophical, and then a bit forceful, and finally culminated in the following:
Actually you’re in the perfect place to think about such things Most of us are distracted much of the time from anything that Truly matters…Yes you are in the struggle of your life we all are in the midst of a great struggle.… You’re missing the purpose of your own. I recognize that you are probably dismissing me and any concern Or insight or truth I think I may have. You’re always online and Commenting and you are not able to do that much right now so I thought maybe you would be up for it Being a pastor and all I will promptly Remove you from my list of friends since There seems to be no point and I don’t want to be tempted to comment anymore in response to your postings.
This was promptly followed by:
101 other things I could do today and would like to do..just felt led by the holy spirit to take that time this morning. I can’t explain it…i’m not nutty..how about considering providential love!
I wanted to publish this to try to unpack all the things I am asked to accept here, and how it illustrates a vision of Christian spirituality that, though it purports to be loving, is in fact dramatically missing that most important ingredient.
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A song I wrote ten years ago to a lost love – my health, who was out of my life before I had a chance to appreciate her. I have always wanted to post this piece, but it has never seemed right until now.
I LOST YOU
I lost you, before I knew your name
I lost you, on a day just like the others
You left the party before I knew you came
I lost you, without a right goodbye
You left me not a note, a wish, a reason
Just a dream, a chance, a fear that I might die
Empty hands that can’t be still without someone who will
Hold onto them and keep them from covering my eyes
Tell the truth but try to keep a little from me
I’ll need the luxury of a few wistful lies
Memories, a time of innocence
Photographs of a moment when I had you
No one to bring you back, no one to convince
Whether at last I need the cane or energy remains, only time will tell, love.
But your face fades every day and my memories of you lay strewn around the floor, love.
Hopes I’ll see you now and then, compliments of this syringe.
One of the first things we have to do when we dip into a depression or funk or mood is determine what is the right response. For me is it always a combination of quietness, reflection, and writing about it. I’m not seeking encouragement from anyone, I am writing only because the writing helps me and because I’m trying to give you the best “up close” look I can give you of as much of this journey as possible.
Tried to sleep for a while, but well-meaning nurses kept interfering, you know, by taking outstanding care of me. They have all been blessings. Sleep not coming, depression continuing to dance around the edges of my mind. When I listen closely, it says things like this:
“You’re washed up.”
“Why pretend you’re okay with this? You’re no hero.”
“You’re never going to be as good again as you were a week ago.”
“You’ve had your last good day.”
But rather than focus on the messages I am hearing, I hope you will think about the ones you hear. Because we all hear these kinds of messages at times. That’s normal. The big question is when you hear these voices, do you listen? Do you indulge these thoughts? Do you believe them?
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I have been trying this past week to keep my social media friends updated on my current struggle with multiple sclerosis. Most responses have been affirming and gracious, but some indicate that I apparently do not use enough traditional Christian language. Some readers have been put off by my references to positive points in other religious systems such as Buddhism. Others seem to think I believe psychology alone will save humanity. Others think my posts on Facebook are too self-help oriented. I want to go on record here to give specific reasons why I avoid traditional Christian language.
1. Most traditional Christian language is no longer understood in a post-Christian society. My desire as a writer, speaker, and teacher is to be understood by as many people as possible. If I have to choose between being understood by traditional Christians or being understood by non-Christians, most of the time I would choose the latter. Christians looking for the Christian God in my language will surely find Him (or Her — gotcha!).
2. I don’t care whether some Christians think I speak Christian enough. I know that many non-Christians believe I speak Christ enough that they are drawn to the love they sense and hear. Many Christians, by the way, are very deeply drawn to this too, as it was sorely lacking in the churches where they grew up.
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Everybody has setbacks. We all have our cross(es) to bear. No one is exempt. One of the main crosses I bear is multiple sclerosis. As with most crosses people bear, I can’t fix this. There’s nothing I can do to make it very much better. The only thing I can do is decide how I am going to respond to the challenges it presents. Though I have no love for this illness, I can say that it has made me a better person. That is beyond doubt. Setbacks are frustrating. They tend to make us angry and, with enough setbacks, we can become bitter and resentful.
22 years ago, when I was diagnosed with this disease, after the obligatory years of completely freaking out, I decided to work from the possible endpoint, back to my present life. In other words, I pictured the worst — I’m 40 or 50 years old, in a wheelchair. My arms and legs don’t work. I’m incontinent. I cannot feed myself and when I eat I often choke on my food. I cannot do productive work. I am a burden to my family and friends. That is the possible endpoint, the worst case scenario (barring death, which is rare with MS). That may or may not occur. It is not for me to know. But what is for me is to consider what kind of person do I want to be in those circumstances.
So I set out many years ago to become the kind of person I would respect in those circumstances if it were someone else. I wanted to live in a way that, if it was a close friend or family member of mine, would inspire me and make me want to rise to the challenges in my own life.
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