“Yeah so STFU, Deon. You are a world class fucking idiot,” is what the voices in my head said today. They proceeded to parade in front of my mind’s eye, imagination, thoughts, whatever the fuck you want to call it, all the people I know who are having a harder time than I. I pray. Really hard. For myself and for other people. And I fully, heartily agree that other people do have it harder than me. There’s flooding. There’s blizzards in Springtime. There’s emotional turmoil. There’s financial needs. There’s politics. And sometimes, these issues other people suffer seem to hold hands and dance in a blinding circle around the people I pray for, to thoroughly fuck things up for them in ways I can only imagine in my dark nightmares.
So my voices in my head remind me that others do suffer more than I. And I fully accept it. I pray for other people. I pray for myself. The prayers for me seem to go to the ceiling and then rain shit on my head. The others go out the window and I haven’t got a clue where they go. Perhaps they go where the good prayers go and angels are dispatched with answers. Perhaps they go past the ceiling to el cielo (translated as the sky, or, depending on context, heaven.)
Tangent: I learned when I was a kid there are three heavens. John and Paul got sneak previews of the “Third Heaven,” the place where God lives. First is the sky, the atmosphere, as Deuteronomy 28:12 describes rain from heaven. Second is outer space as Deuteronomy 4:19 describes heaven as the place where the sun and moon and stars are. And third is heaven as God’s dwelling place, different from the other two heavenly realms, as Deuteronomy 26:15 teaches. Look that up, the Hebrews equivocated by name, calling them all “heaven,” in Deuteronomy, but enumerated them to distinguish, as any logical Jewish person would have until Paul’s and John’s day.
I wish I always got an answer when I prayed, but I don’t. I know a lot, I’ve learned a lot, but there is still much to know. Which means I don’t know the heart of Jesus, because if I knew I’d understand why he doesn’t answer sometimes. I especially wish I could know how to pray in a way God would answer, because there are circumstances that break my heart, that other people have to endure, which must surely break the heart of Jesus. I mentioned in a previous blog entry that a big part of being a Christ follower was having your heart broken by the things that break the heart of Jesus. I only wish that more often than, and more completely than, I am able to intervene in some tiny way, I were able to intervene and amend the things that I felt needed amending. I want to fix it, but something is yanking the reins of my capabilities, I can’t do anything, or I can’t do much, to help.
I hate you theologians, although I suspect you may be at least a little bit right, when you teach that I’d be taking away something either from someone else who’s supposed to intervene, or from whoever is enduring who is supposed to learn from whatever circumstances they go through, if I could just fix it. I hate it. I want people to not suffer. I don’t want to suffer either. Suffering sucks. I read I’m supposed to “be joyful in suffering.” (see verse 2 there?) But I’m not. I’m joyful when I can do something to help someone else in suffering. Suffering sucks. I will say it again.
Yesterday I had the radio on and a guy was talking about how Matthew (chapter 26) sandwiched the sweet story of the lady who poured out perfumed oil onto Jesus’ feet (verses 6-13), between the moldy bread of the chief priest’s plot (verses 3-5), and the moldy bread of Judas Iscariot (verses 14-16). I cried.
I’m the whole sandwich. In my heart of hearts I want to be the best Christ follower and give Jesus something worthwhile. I want to pour out the sweet perfumed oil from my priceless, shattered jar, as a blessing, onto Jesus’ feet. I want to let Him reign as the king of my soul and my life. Then I realize, I am the failure, the chief priest and the elder who should know how to guide other people but I can’t even figure out a direction for myself. I am a blind guide, maybe worse than the chief priest was. And then I realize, I am also Judas, chosen by Jesus himself to be a follower and I fail him personally all the time. I’m the worthless, bitter disciple who wants what he can get for himself. I’m handing Jesus over for the world to crucify afresh, because of my failings- I hear the mockers: “If you follow Jesus and act like that, well then Jesus must not be all that. What good is Jesus’ gift of salvation if it leaves you like that?”
I’m certain that I’m here for a reason. My delight is in encouraging other people. I love it when I can say something supportive or funny, or whatever, that helps someone who’s going through a hard time. I don’t suffer a bully at all, for the same reason I hate suffering. Bullies can eat my fist, or eat my shit, their preference, and die, for all I care. Suffering is a bully. I just want people to know I pray for them, especially when they’re going through hell, and if I can help I will dive right in and do what I can. But there are things I can’t do anything about, that’s when I pray.
Rodney Atkins does a song about it, maybe you’ll comiserate and maybe you’ll take encouragement from it. I’m sure the song was built around an old Irish blessing, something like this one: “May you get to Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.” ~Irish Proverb
I’m the whole sandwich. I want to bring a blessing to you, but I can’t figure out how to get out of my own shit-uation. Maybe we’re just supposed to hug each other, and then lock arms and walk together through this Earthly hell, pulling each other along through everything. Maybe we’re supposed to tell each other to keep on going, keep on trying. To help each other see the light at the end of the tunnel, when we’re blinded by our situations. It’s not a freight train. Sometimes it seems like that must be true, but it’s a lie. There’s hope. But the devil is a very convincing liar, isn’t he?
We have to be here for each other. I’m here because I was put here for a reason. That reason is for me to be humbled and helpful, and where I can’t be directly helpful, to be prayerful. That’ll have to be my shattered alabaster jar. It’s all I’ve got. And I’m already broken.
Here, take my hand. We can walk together.
OK, now I’m shutting up.