As off kilter as yesterday felt, today moved in a complete opposite direction. The morning dawn brought bright blue skies and a vibrant sun. I rose early, got my son to school by seven and dropped Ryan off at a local health club to work out. He said that many of the guys his stationed with are getting fat. He doesn't understand that. He describes his time there like the movie "Ground Hog Day." Every day is the same as the last, get up, go to work, leave work, work out, eat a huge dinner, and then feel tired enough to go to sleep. Next day, repeat. Of course there is the matter of daily rockets that hit inside the base and destroy buildings. There is the matter of him sleeping lightly and waking to every sound. But, he says he is sleeping better now, than when he first got there in January. Then the sound of a door slamming shut and the sound of a rocket/bomb bursting were too similar. Now he can nuance the difference in his sleep. A little while later my son sent me a text messae, he got is sweater and Mp3 player back. The kid who sits behind him picked it up when he forgot it yesterday and gave it to my son today. Acts like that restore my hope in humanity. A teenager looking out for another...
After dropping Ryan off I went to work. Mid-morning I left for an appointment with a Massage Therapist. I continue to have work done to heal my neck and face. This treatment was phenonmenal. Not as mystical as the Sacral Cranial Myofacial work. But I know massage therapy, have had lots of it. Last week's MFR and Sacral Cranial was my first for that particular kind of body work. But the massage was great.
Returned to work with a long list of things to do. I had been there about ten minutes when a man walked in. Now. I usually work by myself. I never let anyone in when I am alone. But I happened to have two other folks there, a male colleague from a nearby church and a parishioner. The doors were unlocked and in this man walked. He was looking to speak to clergy. He said he had a story to share.
My male colleague, who was about to leave, came back in. The man said to him, maybe I sould speak to you. I said, not wanting my friend to be mistaken for the parish priest, "No, he doesn't work here, I do." "Oh," the man said, "He may want to hear it anyway." Then he launched into what I could tell was going to be a long story. My male colleague, hesitant to leave us alone with a strange man in the building went to work assisting my parishioner. I sat in the very public area of the narthex (entry way) and listened to this man's story. It goes like this:
"Last week my mother fell and hurt herself very badly. She's fractured her skull and her brain is mush. She's in the hospital. My mother is a woman of deep faith but my father would never let her practice her faith. He forbid her. My father was a cruel violent man. My mother is kind. She's had a very rough life but she has always been kind and looked out for me. I am not a person of faith. Oh, I believe in God, but that's about it. Now my mother is in the hospital on life support. I've been praying every day that she would get well. The hospital staff has called me repeatedly to tell me that putting her on life support was wrong and I should not do it, should not have done. My aunt, a woman of deep faith, told me to take her (sister) off the life support. But I can't do it. I needed her to be on the life support because I needed some time."
"I've gone to the hospital every day since Saturday. She has not gotten better, in fact she developed a very high fever, 104. Last night I asked the nurse if there had been any change and she said no. But the fever was gone."
At this point I said, "Isn't that a change?" and he said, "Yes, exactly. It took me awhile to realize that."
"Anyway," he says, "I was sitting there next to her, praying. And then I had to stand up. When I did I noticed that I felt so much better. All of a sudden I was filled with this sense that everything would be all right. It's like I heard God speak to me and say, 'Your mother will be alright."
So, I asked him, "What does that mean to you, that your mother will be alright?"
He said, "She will be healed and be fine." I said, "Ok."
He continued to his story, telling me about what a horrible person he has been, much like his father. His mother was good, but his father was awful, and so was he.
"But now," he said, " after that experience yesterday, I am no longer like my father. I am like my mother. I have a way to really believe, to understand what it means to believe in God. So, I've been going around telling people about it. I just have to share it. I want people to pray with me and for me."
"I know that somewhere in the Bible it speaks about people arguing with God. I 've been looking for that but I can't find it."
"Well," I said, "You'll find it in Genesis, in the first book of the Bible. Abraham argues with God..." and I went on to tell about Abraham, then Moses arguing with God, and then the Psalms..."The Bible tells us an amazing story of the history of people and their relationship with God. We believe that God lives in and through people and is active in history, in our lives. You've just had an experince of God. It's called an 'Epiphany.'
"Oh," he says, "I know that word, I never really knew what it meant." "It means," I said," An experience of God breaking through into our lives." "Wow," he says.
Then he says, "My friends are not people of faith. Some of them may believe in God but most of them are agnostic or aetheist. This story of my mother is blowing their minds. One said to me, 'I just don't believe in that invisible man in the sky."
I said,"Maybe God is not an invisible man in the sky. Maybe God is a woman, or a Being, or a presence..."
"NO," he said "I cannot, will not believe that God is a woman. It says in the Bible that God created man and woman in his image, the woman from the man."
I said,"Well, that is one of the versions of creation. Our Bible has two."
He stopped and said, "What???" I said, "Yes. Chapter one in Genesis and chap two in Genesis are both creation stories. But they tell a very different story about the creation of human beings..."
"Woa," he says, "You've just 'flatlined me..." I smile and waited.
Then I said, "The Bible is full of contradictions. In one book it will say one thing while in another it will say something else. As a whole it gives us a rich diverse picture of how people have experinced God. And it is not a black and white picture, it is shades of gray. On top of that the Bible was written a long time ago and has been interpreted and reinterpreted many times. Not every Bible says the same thing as another."
"Well," he said, "How do you know which is the right one to read? There has to be one 'right' tome?"
I said, "You read the one that speaks to you and helps you understand God, the relationshp people have with God and helps your relationship with God. You have just had your own real experience of God, that is your story. Now the Bible will help you make sense of that story along with the story of a history of human beings."
And he sat there stunned. Finally he said, "No one has ever said that to me. I am so glad I stopped in here today. I have a lot to think about."
Somewhere in the conversation we also spoke about his mother being on life support and "getting well." I said that even though God desires her to be well our bodies are not controlled by God. Anything could happen. God has a desire for us to live healthy lives but shit happens. And when it does God scoops into the muck and strives to pull out good. God does not make the bad but God strives to restore good from chaos. And so, I said, whether or not your mother recovers and lives or if she dies, she will be fine. You know that now because God has told you she will be fine. He said, "I already know that if she is not better by Friday I will pull the life support. The doctors have said she is fine on it until then, but after that the life support she is on will begin to cause other complications. So, I will have it removed and we'll see what happens. Either it has given her time for her body to heal and to what it needs to do or not. But, yes, now I know she will be fine. And so will I."
I ended our conversation with a prayer for him and his family. I prayed for the grace of God to continue to fill his life.
Like I said, after my day yesterday, when all went askew, today the world tilted the other way...