So, let me start by saying, I'm far from the perfect Christian. I don't attend church regularly....I'm not a perfect person, I curse more than I should, I smoke cigarettes when I get stressed out, I wish I could tell you I always do the right thing, sometimes I even do shots of tequila and forget where I left my shoes.....so, yeah, sometimes I fall short of glorious.
I am not perfect, not even by a long shot.
However, my struggles with being in touch with God....I think are lessening. Maybe I'm less stubborn, or more optmistic about things....maybe it comes with age, or maybe it comes from years of making your own mind up about all things religious. Deciding what in your heart feels right, and not just doing what a religion says, but following a spiritual path that you know in your heart is the right one for you.
I've been thinking about God a lot lately, and doing some soul searching....reading, researching, and most of all, I've been doing a lot of listening.
Through the help of some very helpful and insightful reading, I've come to accept the idea that God doesn't expect me to be perfect....I'm not going to hell if I curse every once and awhile, and that regardless of what bonehead thing I do, God made me this way for a reason....and he knows that despite any and all failed attempts I have here on earth, I always have good intentions, and when and if for some reason I would do something with malice or spite, he knows I'll feel guilty about it later....and I 99.9% of the time always do, and he knows that too.
I was raised in many churches growing up....we bounced around from Non-Denominational, to Lutheran, to Non-Denominational....back to Lutheran....to here and there and everywhere. I never felt closer to God though however in any other place than while in my bedroom at 2 a.m. when I talk to him like he's my buddy or my very best girlfriend, and I pour my heart out to him, ask him for help, for guidance, and then sit quietly waiting for the peace that generally comes when I know I've turned something over to him to sort out for me.
I've never felt that I could be a "conventional christian", and in some of the religious avenue's I'd been down growing up, I felt like you had to change your WHOLE life, devote it to Jesus.....and you had to be this perfect person....and it always felt like, to surrender oneself to a higher power would make you into someone else. I had to be this "goodie-goodie-perfect-never watches R rated movies, never says #(*&$(@)#*&$, church going, always do the right thing, meek and mild, vessel of god"....and let me tell you, there was 50% of me that knew I couldn't ever be that person, and the other 50% of me didn't want to be. So I've always been really conflicted. Yet open to the idea that there were other ways to God, aside from those I'd been taught or had experienced thus far.
I think God is even bigger than organized religion.
Don't get me wrong, I think that religion is a good thing, but I think the books, the lessons I've learned, are only a slice of the pie.
I've always thought, how can there be so many religions, so many different God's....in India Cow's are holy....in America, we put ketchup and mustard on them and eat them between a bun. There's the Catholics, the Protestants, the Sunni, the Shia, Hindus, Jewish, Buddhists, Shinto's, tribal religions, Muslims and Christians. (just to name a few)
All organized religion, yet all vastly different in some respects, but with commonalities joining some of them, while other ones in stark contrast to one another, in opposition to one another. To believe in one might mean you can't believe in another....but they do have things in common....they are a way to seek God, to understand the universe, they are a way of life, a state of mind, a set of rules that govern our behaviors....they are a path to take you somewhere else....to someone or some state of being, that is other worldly. Some call it Heaven, others call it something else, but it's all about getting to the next level....be it closer to God, to heaven, to your next life if you believe in reincarnation....or perhaps just to a state of absolute peace here ON earth.
Certainly all these religions, all these believers, we can't all be right, and we can't all be wrong, so what if we're all "partially" right. What if we all are searching for the exact same thing, and that thing merely has different names.....different ways to achieve finding that which we seek?
What if HaShem, Allah, Hari, Buddha, God, Mazda and all the others, what if they are all the same entity, the same divine super power? And what if you didn't have to be a "perfect person" to experience his love, to know him, to feel him within you and with you and around you every day? What if he made you just the way you are, with a certain skill set that is not as big as a liability as you thought, and what if you didn't have to change WHO you are to have a relationship with him? What if, you are exactly the way you are, because that's exactly WHO you are supposed to be?
I can be very self involved, all up in my head about this and that and worrying, and stressing, and analyzing and over analyzing, I beat myself up over things I cannot change....I'm filled chalk full of nervous energy sometimes, to the point I clench my jaw when i sleep....I have issues, I know this, I do my best to hide these sort of things when I'm not writing here....but here lately, I've had this sense of calm come over me, and all that crap kinda melted away. I've had this amazing clarity, and there have been times in life that I've had this feeling, it seems to come at the end of a season, especially when summer comes to a close, I've experienced this phenomenon before and this year has been no exception...this year, once more, God's calmed my mind, settled my spirit, and left the door open for something to come through it. He made sure I wouldn't have any distractions either...all seems to be strangely a-ok in my world.....as the air around me has been so quiet, so calm.....so peaceful.....amidst a sea of chaos, and uncertainty in politics, in world news, etc., I somehow quelled all of that chaos and knew to be still and something was on it's way.
So I kept my ears and eyes and heart open, ready for whatever it was that was coming. And that's when I started to think about Rachel. At first, it was just a mild flutter of thought....as she over the past few weeks has been very very sick....I was thinking about her, wishing there was something I could do for her. That thinking lead to a very strong desire to want to see her. So I offered to come lay in bed with her and hold the puke bucket if need be, at least I could do that....but my offer was declined, she was just too sick for even company. So I went back to mild flutters of thoughts and positive wishes going out in her direction. But it didn't stop there, once more, I was yearning to SEE her, I had to see her, so Friday night, I went to her house and knocked at the door. No answer. I called her cell. NO answer. I left in defeat. I felt angry...why was Rachel keeping herself from me!?! (and I NEVER EVER GET MAD AT RACHEL...I mean, it just doesn't happen!)
Two days later, with determination and angry still in my blood, I went back, riding my motorcycle over there this time, once more, nobody was home and she'd still not returned my telephone call either. By this time, I was getting very angsty over wanting to see my cousin and one of my very best friends in the world, and it was like the planet had aligned to keep me from her and damnit, I felt driven beyond explanation that I had to see her. I didn't even know why or what I would say to her when I did see her, I just knew I wanted to.
Finally Sunday night, she called me, and we spoke, she had news to share with me about feeling a little better, but that this most recent battle with illness had really taken so much out of her, that she had felt like she was lost there for awhile, that she had been sucked completely and utterly dry of herself, unable to perform basic human functions like carrying on a conversation, smiling, sitting upright....etc.
After I hung up with Rachel, a conversation that I recently had with Rachel and I's former guitar teacher and his wife came to mind. I heard myself explaining to them how sick she was, and how working in the school system (where Rachel works) is likely one of the WORST places for her, due to the exposure overload that comes with working with kids. And I thought to myself.....I wonder if Rachel would ever think about giving up her job. I wonder if she'd like to be a stay at home mother. Here she is, one of my closest confidants in the entire world, and I don't know if she'd like to stay home and not work anymore. You'd think you'd know that about someone you're ridiculously close to, yet I didn't know this about my friend/Cousin, so I texted her: "Would you ever want to be a stay at home mom?"
For hours, the text went unanswered. As those hours passed, I thought about why I'd asked her that question. And it came to me.....and it came to me like someone breathing it into me....that I couldn't help Rachel get well, I'm not a doctor, I'm not a healer.....but I am a writer. Even if I'm a "nobody" in the world of writing, I AM A WRITER. And Rachel, oh, boy, my Rachel is, and I'm not lying or exaggerating when I say this, she's an angel on earth. I have my entire life observed this wonderful girl, and know without a shadow of a doubt, that she's special. Meek, mild, enduring.....unconditional, unselfish, unwavering. I have always known she was one of God's very special creations, and that there weren't two of her in all the world. I always felt that God had given our family her as a gift, our own angel to watch over us, to show us grace, and love, and lead by example....and let me tell you, when I was a teenager, out drinking and smoking and having pre-marital sex and cursing and basically doing all things bad....I still knew Rachel was an Angel, and you know how I knew, because she loved me anyway. She never judged, she never tried to change me, she just loved me as I stood. Just as I was, flawed and all, and she did it with a love greater than any I had ever known. All the love I'd ever knew came with strings attached, or guilt, or conditions, and mostly I disappointed those who loved me. But not Rachel, the crazy thing was, she didn't have to say it, but she made ME feel like I was the special one! HA, isn't that ironic, my little angel on earth, wouldn't even take the glory for being glorious, no, no, not Rachel, instead, she served as a mirror, that God's light shined on....and then she reflected that light onto those around her. She always shined on me, in good times, in bad, through all the years....she's shined.
Until the past several years.
Until tragedy struck.
Until every facet of her life was tried, and tested and then tried and tested some more.
And it has felt like a horrible injustice, bad things happen to good people all the time, but Rachel and her family, no, they didn't just have one or even 5 bad things happen, they had EVERYTHING go wrong. Struggle after struggle upon struggle, health, wealth, joy....every single good thing we take for granted on this earth....in some way shape or form has been taken, tested or hidden from her family. Her light grew dim on occasion. I saw her growing ever dim. And I was outraged, Not Rachel, not my Rachel.....she's THE best person I know, if ANYONE in the world deserves better, it's her, God, it's her, please listen, please hear me, RACHEL DOESN'T DESERVE THIS!!!
I shook my fist at Heaven, I don't understand God! I don't understand why!!
And then, not just months, but years drudged on with hit after hit. Job loss, sick children, a very, very sick Rachel....struggles upon struggles, upon unbelievable struggles. All of us around her just say, "how much more can they take?!" and I think about Jesus, as he carried that cross...as he drug it and was beaten, and bled and suffered....That's how I envision Rachel's journey through life as of late....she's dragging that heavy cross....tiny, little, brittle, mild, and meek, yet unwavering, undaunting, unyielding Rachel, carries that cross....she's dragging it as we speak.....can you imagine it?
I've said many times, Either God Hates Rachel, or he thinks she's the strongest human on earth, because the cross she carries, the burden she endures, endlessly, is one that would of broken me. It is a unlucky path that would of had a lesser human crumbling, hopeless and surrendering....yet, she carries on. And without so much as a complaint. DO you know that in all the years of Rachel's horrific turn of unfortunate events, she's never complained, she's never said..."wonder what I did to deserve this"...is she so wonderful that it never occurs to her TO complain, or does she know, on some unconscious level that God's not giving her more than she can bare?
Isn't complaining like the most human thing we do....
Oh, woe is me, why's my life so sucky....
God why do you punish me so?
But she never has....
so either she's not human...at least not like the rest of us,
She knows.....well, or maybe she's about to.
So yesterday on my way to the Chiropractor, on an average ole Monday at 4:30-ish, Rachel called me. "Hey you!" she said cheerfully.
"Hey yourself!" I said back, happy to hear from her, as I always am.
And we proceeded to have a conversation that I'll forever remember as a conversation that I was meant to have. Rachel asked me, "so I got your text, and I called, because I wanted to know why you asked that...I'm curious as to your thoughts behind your question?"
And I began to speak...and then it was like the words flowed out of me, before I even know what I was saying and I said "Rachel, I cannot help you get well, I cannot make you feel better physically when you need it most, and I'm helpless....and I can't stand it, but what if, what if you could stay home. What if perhaps, my books would sell and you, as my editor, were able to work from home, ....(this being the first realm of thought)...I can help you do that. I can make it so when you're unwell, you can work from home, you can be comfortable, you can edit from bed, you can edit from anywhere....what if we were successful, what if WE got "Dead in a Ditch" going and we were able to really do well with writing and editing together....that would help right? It COULD happen right?
And then suddenly, my brain shifted, I began to cry as I realized, and said "Rachel, what if it's not a coincidence that even though we didn't grow up together, (we lived pretty far apart), that we were always extremely close, despite the distance between us, despite our age difference, despite everything, and that I would be a writer, and you would suffer a great great misfortune.
"Rachel, what if it's not coincidence? What if all your suffering, all your misery, it is and has always been your purpose to be a messenger? Is it possible, that the only sense that can be made of all of this, is that God gave you a story, and he wants you to share it?....and he wants me to write it?"
Tears flowed, snot erupted, Rachel got goosebumps, and on our cell phones, her pulled over in the parking lot of the A&W and I driving between Cairo and Columbus Grove on State Route 65, I knew God had just used me, he'd just either spoken through me, or placed it upon my heart to tell Rachel, that it wasn't all for nothing. Her suffering, it's not blind chance, it wasn't just unfortunate luck, her life, her struggles....they are Divine in their origin.
Rachel said, I was just going to text you back a quick text several times today to answer your question, but I just couldn't, every time i tried, I just put my phone down, unable to do so. And finally, I just knew I owed it to myself to call you and speak with you about why you had asked. And my mouth said to her "God wanted us to have this talk"....I didn't even really KNOW that until I said it. It kinda wowed me and again came the tears and snot, and goosebumps.
I felt my heart was opened when D. Knippen was taken...I felt it ripped WIDE open when he put it upon me to write about it here in this very blog. I was like "God', seriously, are you sure this is a good idea, why me? I'm not the best person for this...you know me! I'm not religious enough, I'm not a good Christian, pick someone else, surely there's someone better for this than me" But he filled me with inspiration and hope and love and holiness, when I read the responses that came in on that post. I was moved beyond worldly recognition by the experience. So many times I was moved to tears, and touched significantly by everyone who spoke to me, every comment that came in and the general out pour of goodness that came in such a dark hour from my community right here.....and for a family who was in great need of comfort. I think when God can't physically hug you, he sends the arms and voices of those here on earth to do it for him.
I was scared to write for D. Knippen
but it was put on my heart for a reason,
and I truly believe this was too.
Or I'm going stark raving mad and think God's talking to me,
when really it's just the voices in my head.
Faith tells me I'm not crazy
Love tells me to shut up and believe in something worth believing in.
There's a lot we don't know about the universe, why does one person die, when another one lives, who is God, where are the heavens....but it's amazing that when we quiet ourselves, and stop trying to figure everything out on our own....some mysteries are answered FOR you....by God himself.
We don't have to do everything ourselves
Some things are always going to be up to him.
Whoever he is, and whatever name HE has or has had
we are teeny tiny in the universe
but we are big to him.
and I know in my heart, he had made me just the way that I am, and that it's ok to be who I am, because I'm who I'm supposed to be.
And if he wants me to write Rachel's story for her, with her, then I will do his will.
This being the start.
"Just because something "sounds" crazy, doesn't make it any less worth believing in."