Where we wrestle with the sublime, mysterious, powerful and often frustrating paradox of God's necessary grace.

Friday, July 31, 2009

"You don't have to save him."

This afternoon was difficult for me. Yet it laid the groundwork for a major life lesson.

The morning was rolling along reasonably well. The Sturdy Wench was puttering in the litchen, getting food ready to take up to her FIL's house for a family reunion this weekend. I was ambling about, doing whatever it was that I do.

Then my oldest sister called. J. said she hadn't talked to me in a while and wanted to know how I was doing. We chatted for several minutes, exchanged news about health and family and work, then in closing she said, "I don't know if you know this, but R. (my middle brother) has read some of your writings and--"

"Stop. I know what you're going to say." I explained R. had misinterpreted what I'd written and rather than hash out the miscommunication, he assumed I was trashing the family and being the Ungrateful Chylde, so he declared I was no longer his brother and no longer a part of the family.

I added I had made it clear to R. I was ready to talk whenever he was, but I would not fight with him nor squabble over details. He would have to initiate the conversation. I said, "Let R. be R."

That conversation with J. brought up a lot of anger in me toward R. for the venomous things he's said about me, so I've got my forgiveness work to do.

Then my best friend Chris called. We chatted for a bit and talked about family issues. He said the last time he'd visited me I had said something that struck him and stuck with him on the drive home. As a result, he decided to forgive his father for his failures and sins and now he's in contact with the man, altho his father doesn't remember the visits because of his Alzheimer's.

Then came my appointment with Dr. Julie.


I walked in quite angry. I told her what happened and how I was feeling, and also talked about some issues I had with my 16 yr old step-son, D. She helped me see it was all right for me to be angry at R. I just had to be careful not to live in it.

Now, here's the big, big moment:

We were talking about D., and how frustrated I was at the way his raising was being handled by his mom and dad, and she said the magic words: "You don't have to save him!"

I don't have to save him.

I can come down from my big ol' cross and just be me, so what if it irritates me his folks are doing or not certain things? I don't have to save him. His mom is perfectly competent, even if she and I disagree on some ways he's bing raised. He's being raised right on all the important issues: Character, Personality, Spirituality. He's a good kid and so what if he has wretched table manners? He has wretched table manners and if he chooses not to correct them, then he'll pay the price for it. As the SW said, sometimes you have to touch the stove before you know what "hot" means. I also have boundary work to do. I get to keep my boundaries (which are good things.) I can use this experience to let R's choices be his own and I don't have to get sucked into a pity party for him nor must I take responsibility for his emotional state. Now I can let him go, stop carrying him around like a heavy suitcase.

Dr. Julie elaborated I could apply that to R. as well. In the past, I had tried over and over to reach him to get him to lose weight and take care of his health. He always ignored me. Now, I can let him go as well. If he chooses to eat himself into his grave or a stroke, then that's his choice--he's an adult and he can do as he pleases.

So now I feel a huge weight has rolled off of me. I don't have to save D. or R. or anyone else. The only person I can work on saving is me, and even then, God's got that under His control so I can take a number and siddown.

So God's grace shows up sometimes in the damndest ways and in the most unexpected situations. This is God refusing to abandon me to my flesh or to let me drown in myself. Because now that I have this tool from Dr. Juile, it's like a big part of my emotional swamp has been drained and now I have the dry land on which to build a little more of the kingdom of God within me.

This doesn't mean I abandon D., or R., or stop caring about them and what happens to them, it means I let them be them. I'm finished trying to be their personal Jesus.

Now I think it's time I listen to Johnny Cash's version of that song.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Jesus Shovel

Hi there.

Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm trying to finish my novel and so have devoted most of my casual writing time to that. Rahter than than keep you hanging around waiting for my posts, I'm going to take a vacation from blogging here for the month of August. I figure if I have an official vacation, I won't feel guilty about not updating this blog.

Okay, onto today's topic. Please bear with me on this one.

The Parable of the Talents

Matt 25:14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.

Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.

After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.

So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Okay, Bible versifying over, you can breathe now.

I never understood this parable. To me, the master came across as a cruel jerk, punishing the third servant unfairly. Then I was reading a Jim Butcher novel from his "Dresden Files" series, and in it a priest quotes this parable and then explains his understanding of it. I realized I had been looking at the parable from the wrong direction.

The talents can also represent us--our selves, our souls and spirits. What makes you, you and me, me. The first two servants invested themselves in the outside world and profited thereby. The third servant played it safe and hid himself away from the warmth and light of life. He took no risks. He entombed himself.

How many of us are scratching at the inside of that jar? I'm guilty of hiding away from much of life. "Do you know why?" he asked rhetorically.

I was absolutely convinced, adhering limpet-like to the rock-solid, unquestioning conviction that life could be cut to order. It could be neatly bagged and tagged, dealt with quickly and easily with the right amount of self-discipline, smarts, good character and breeding. O, and money. You just had to want to and needed a few tools.

Aside from the fact I was an idiot, I was wrong.

Allow me to quote a line from the wonderful movie Parenthood, as spoken by Grandma: "Life is messy."

Let me repeat that: Life is messy.



Advertising has sold us a load of shit, TV in particular. It's sold us the idea life is resolved in 22 minutes and 4 commercial breaks, or in 97 minutes with optional car chases, aliens and lovely-yet-ditzy heroines who always get the right guy at the end. My life has never once worked that way and Sandra Bullock has yet to fall into my arms. I suspect your life suffers a similar lack of congruence to the Hollywood model.

I didn't want to admit life was messy so I hid myself away in a Mason jar and buried it deep and dark. No light = no exposure = no risk.

But life is messy. Always was, is, always will be.
The only thing pure, clean and un-messy? Death. Except...I'm not ready to go there yet.

So now with the help of the sagacious Dr. Julie and love of my wife and good friends, I'm digging me up, gonna unscrew the lid and let me out for walkies in the air and light.

Join me?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

This song reduces me to tears when I hear it and see the video. Not sure why, though I have guesses. But it can-openers my heart in an instant, like nothing else. Just when I thought my heart was rusted shut, here this comes today.

Dear God, Thank You for the can opener. It's a lovely gift. --Ken

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole