My winding path to enlightenment, or more truthfully toward survival, is strewn with a discarded string of juju beads representing various religions and philosophies. I have at one time or another embraced Protestantism, Catholicism, Christian Fundamentalism, Humanism, and Skepticism. I’ve even dabbled in Buddhism and Hinduism. I think of these creeds as prisms through which I view the universal light. In my involvement with every one of these religions, there came a time when I bumped up against what felt were the unyielding walls of a spiritual box.
Congregants would say I left the church, backslid, or in the case of Fundamentalism was asked to leave because the pastor identified me as a freethinker, a dreaded female freethinker which is, evidently, anathema. But I frame my experiences differently. I carry with me, from each of these religions, precious concepts, truths, and understanding.
So, if you’re still with me on this post, first of all, I thank you, and secondly, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with being a caregiver for my husband, Jack.
Well . . . everything.
But, specifically, if you’ll hang with me for another paragraph or two, I’ll share with you an experience I had while deeply involved in Christian Fundamentalism. The Four Square Church I attended reserved part of most Sunday services for prophecy delivered directly from God through individual members of the congregation. And, yes, I’m talking speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit.
Week after week, an extremely large woman rose, lifted her hands to the heavens and passionately rattled off a string of indecipherable words. When she finished, she promptly fell straight backwards and was caught by her extremely skinny husband. Really, there was something miraculous about the entire spectacle. Week after week, no one offered a translation of this obviously urgent prophecy.
Throughout the month or two this went on, I attended bible studies and prayer circles and, again and again, heard these good people request prayer for a woman who was a bit too fond of alcohol, or another who needed guidance in the discipline of her children, or divine intervention for a gorgeous young woman with a seducing spirit. We also prayed, over and over, and often led by this same large woman with the weekly message in tongues, for our young pastor who, it was believed, had a whole lot to learn about leading a church.
After seven or eight weeks or this routine, standing quietly swaying in a church filled with people beseeching God and listening to our resident prophet roar out her message, I was struck by the knowledge that I had been given the translation. Except, as a young, relatively new member of the congregation, there was no way I was going to deliver that particular message. I dropped my arms to my side, sat abruptly and kept my mouth shut.
The next week, same scenario, except this time, I spoke the translation of the prophecy I’d been given. It went something like this:
“My people I long to gather you to my breast and pour my love and peace over you like warm salve upon a grievous wound. I yearn to heal you and to lift you to new heights. But you fill yourselves with petty bickering and resentments, old anger, and harsh judgements of my children so that there is no room for me within your spirits.”
My translation may have been a bit more flowery. I read the bible a lot in those days. But that’s the gist of the translation I gave. The congregation accepted that prophecy. They fell to their knees, lifted their arms, and welcomed what they believed to be the Lord’s judgement and blessing.
Prophecies, or at least this prophecy, was as much for the translator as it was for the congregation. The message has stayed with me and become one of the truths upon which I attempt to build my life.
Since yesterday’s post in which I talked about my dream of sharing a simple, pure moment of emotional intimacy with a familiar but unknown man, the identity of that man has been revealed to me, as it probably was apparent to you from the beginning. Last night, just as I fell asleep, passed from the waking world to the next, I saw again that large prophet, her hands lifted in ecstasy as she fell backward, caught safely in the waiting arms of her scrawny husband.
Some insights apply over and over in our lives.
The man with whom I long to share each and every moment of my life is, of course, Jack. Furthermore, part of the reason I am currently unable to open myself to moments of joy and love is that I am so busy managing his care, managing him, so exhausted and overwhelmed with his physical needs that there is no longer room within me for the simple pleasures of married life.
Right now I sit in my room, fingers over a keyboard, but in essence, like that old Four Square congregation, I am on my knees, arms lifted to heaven, beseeching God in all his guises to empty me of my resentment, my need for control, my frustration, so that I might enter into those small moments that bring joy to life.