Friday, June 7, 2013

Reinventing One's Self

Today, on a posting from Shalem Institute on Facebook, I read the following:
"The ways to God are many.
They appear when we are ready for them
And when our faithfulness has shown
We can live with the consequences
Of further Growth." - John Punshon

" with the consequences..."

I have in the past, here and/or in other places, shared my love/hate relationship with God. I know God is. And I know I am supposed to love God. And when things go wrong I want God to fix them. And when they are not fixed I rage at God and wonder what the purpose of God is in the first place if it is not to make life better for us poor creatures of God. And at the same time I know I am "supposed to" let it be enough that God is with me in the horrible time. And it is not, absolutely not, enough.

Lately, this has haunted me every time something goes terribly wrong - most lately, the inexorable move toward death of the congregation I have been serving, its closing on Sunday, May 26th, 2013, the bureaucracy of working out severance for myself and employees of the church, the fear that rose in me over disagreement on administering that severance, and, lastly, the terror I experienced when after having been told by an instrument of the national institution that I would be receiving a form for extension of medical benefits, I was told at the almost last minute that I was too old for that extension, and fear engulfed me and rage that God had so abandoned me, and abandons others like me, leaving us without resources overwhelmed me.

As I wept in fear and bitterness I also wept for all who were far worse off than me - the whole world, and particularly in Oklahoma including two women clergy who were in seminary with me, and I felt I had no right to my fear, my terror, my rage. I felt ashamed of myself. And yet, there it was. And I am so tired, I thought, that it always has to be this way, that God doesn't take care of me until I lose it, materially, spiritually and emotionally.

So, after I told my spouse, and after he called me back while he was looking for a phone number of someone we had spoken with two years ago when he had a conflict with the mail order pharmacy over his glaucoma drops and my fear ratcheted up over the possible loss of his eyesight if we could not afford those drops, a glimmer of reason crept in. I checked my emails from two years ago and there was the name, which Spouse could not remember, and an email address. And I also saw in my mind's eye, and went to check it physically, two words in the upper right corner of something I had received from the national institution of the church three days before: 2013 Retiree. Somehow I had been retired without my permission.

The woman whose name I found was our official advocate with the national institution of the church and in 24 hours things were going better and 24 hours after that we were confirmed as eligible for extension of benefits.

Now, lest you get all caught up in the details of this transaction, which came out all right, let me remind you of what I read today in the Shalem post:

"The ways to God are many. 
They appear when we are ready for them
And when our faithfulness has shown
We can live with the consequences
Of further Growth." - John Punshon

Today I look back on the last week and wonder if that is what has been happening with me. I have truly reflected on my reaction a week ago Tuesday and wondered what would be different if I didn't "lose it", at least quite so totally lose it. I don't think losing it was irrational. The experience of being given a cut off date for benefits was the last straw in months of little traumas leading up to the closing of the church I served. It would be irrational not to lose it, it seems to me.

Yet, I don't like how I feel when grief - and that is what it was, grief - is so total, so complete. Is there redemption in it? Does it have to include raging at God? I am reminded of Elijah's words to God as he knelt beside the dead child of the widow and raged, "O Lord, my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?...O Lord my God, let this child's life come into him again." So maybe, yes, rage at God. And at the same time...

Some other words of wisdom from Facebook:
From Shalem:  "...But even when things are challenging and worrisome, we still have good energy to share. Of course it may mean we have to dig a little deeper..."

From unknown, via Priscilla Welch:  "there are so many people out there who will tell you that you can't. what you've got to do is turn around and say 'watch me'."

From Meister Eckhart via #Shalem:  "The spiritual life is not a process of addition, but rather of subtraction."

From Rumi:  "Apart from Love, everything passes away. The way to heaven is in your heart. Open and lift the wings of Love!"

From Queenisms, A Postcard:  "Hi, This is just a reminder that you are past due on living the life you've always wanted. What's stopping you? xoxo Me"

Shared by Jody Rodiger:  "A strong person is not the one who doesn't cry. A strong person is the one who cries and sheds tears for a moment, then gets up and fights again."

"Stop thinking you aren't good enough." (Posted on the pole of a STOP sign)

My precis of a blog post from Homeboy Industries:  "Failure builds strength. We really must destigmatize failure."

And first in the string, which can be read from her up:      "Become the moon."

Every time I have done group work on my issues there always comes a time when I have reached the limit of my ability to endure one more growth experience. This would be one of those times, normally. And yes, I don't really want another growth experience for a very long time.

And when it does come, I want to remember all I have learned this week, beginning with "Become the moon" all the way through "...when...we can live with the consequences of further growth."

I think I am in the process of reinventing myself. I know who I want to be. I know who I truly am. I am good enough to be that person. I am the only one stopping me from living the life I want to live. Every other objection can be satisfied. It will take courage to endure the consequences of growth. I am strong enough. After all, I have lived many decades, and I'm still standing.


  1. I think your last paragraph just about says it all. I know it is pretty much where I am. I am letting patience be my guide. You will find what best guides you. We will make it through all of this and find surprises on the other side. I, personally, am counting on this.