Jesus, A Companion On The Curb

I find myself in the crotch — all right, fine, prong — of one of these ironies of God.  All my life, I used to call situations like these, God jokes.  But somehow, and for some reason, as I’ve aged I’ve mellowed, and find that the word, irony, is a more mature way of referring to this type of situation wherein I think I’m headed in one direction, but really, I’m still smack in the middle of the opposite way I thought I was headed and sinking fast.

If you can do a better job describing this,  then be my guest.

Twenty years ago now, give or take a year or two, I was going along and just happened to be studying miracles under the tutelage of God.  (Insert sound of whistling here, the tune, “Whistle While You Work,” from Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, might be good.)  Isn’t this interesting, I thought, bobbing my way along the study.

Then came, The Day.  I reached out my hand.  I touched the hand of a woman born deaf.  And her hearing was restored.  Perhaps, restored, isn’t the right word, since it was never there in the first place.

Gifted to her.  Yes, perhaps that’s it.

And then everything went wavy for me.  Not in that moment, but over a period of time.  I’d had this experience, and I could see from my life that I was supposed to be going along as normal, but I could feel the shock to my soul.  I could sense the profound changes that were taking place inside me.

It was the first earthquake that I’ve felt in my soul.

The structure of my life at the time was one of disintegration.  I had two small children, and a husband whose appearance of sanity was slipping away in very real chunks as the children and I watched.

In addition, it was that age in the Episcopal Church that I call The Age of Insanity.  I went from having an nice, aged, fatherly priest and a liturgy that made me feel like I was wrapped in a blanket of love every time I went to church to having a woman standing up before me and screaming, literally, at us every Sunday from the pulpit.

Her most serious insult of us, that she never shied away from expressing as part of her sermon?

That we behaved like New Englanders.  In a state not part of New England, and about fourteen hours away from New England, we dared to be well behaved in church and unenthusiastic about roaming the aisles in search of a hand to shake during The Exchange of Peace.

Sure, there were other things she wanted to “fix” about our behavior.

But being (quote): The Frozen Chosen (unquote) was what made her the angriest.

But see, I AM from New England.  I AM a frozen chosen (officially).  I have the card right here.  Carry it with me at all times.  Just in case anyone is ever confused about the matter.

So to be insulted on a weekly basis on who I was, was massively uninteresting to me.

I was the head of the Sunday school there, and assisted the chaplain at the nearby college.  The new woman chaplain there was such a shrewish horror that she made the screaming preacher seem like the Virgin Mary sitting serenely beside the Baby Jesus’s cradle.

And I heard from others stories of other woman-imposed nightmares in parishes throughout my diocese.  When I would slip away to another church that was still openly observantly orthodox, I would see other members of my congregation.  There seemed to be a raft of us refugees afloat in the then world of Episcopal chaos.

So, I eventually found a new home.  And I was directed by God to report to the two priests, and ask for help with my strong reaction to the miracle healing.  That’s when I got to be yelled at for an hour by a scarlet-faced priest who couldn’t find enough insults to use against me.  And be shunned by him in church the next day.

I know to my bones that God did not send me to that parish in order for me to experience such abuse.  I know he sent me there so that I could find a home.  And it could have been a nice home, it has such beauty there, if only the priests there were not, well, so, well….


So I went through an extended ordeal with the dissolution of my husband’s grasp of reality, and found myself wanting to address this miracle healing issue that I was still carrying around in my heart (when I had time to acknowledge that it was there).

I knew about a healing course in the area offered by a church that I respected highly, and made it one of my goals to take it.

Well, this year, yes I’m slow, I got around to it.  No children.  No health issues.  Able to go.

I went.

Ah, the irony.

Now, what I didn’t know was that it was a course in training prayer ministers.  And that I would be assigned to a small group of people in order to “practice” my skills.  I didn’t want to practice this skill, except perhaps with the whole class.  I wanted to sit a hundred miles away from what was going on and watch.  And listen.  And learn.

And the tension from the conflict inside between wanting to learn about healing in a formal, organized way and having to jump into the water of practicing prayer healing was intense for me.  When a teacher came into our group one class and instructed us to put our hands on each other to pray, and I watched as my fingers interlocked around the bottle of water on the table in front of me, I knew how much pain this issue still caused me.

So, writhing around in the I-wanted-this-why-am-I-getting-that wash that I was experiencing, I came to the conclusion that I was not being true to myself.  That I knew why I was there, that I knew why I wouldn’t be there had I known the truth about the course structure, and that I was free in all of that to be just me.

Messed up.  In pain.  But wanting to go forward.

So I continue to go to class.

And sitting in the group lesson before the small group meeting, I was listening to the night’s teacher.  She explained her approach to spiritual healing and said that as a group she would lead us in a meditation, a prayer.

So in my mind, I lowered the lights and calmed my mind.  I just didn’t close my eyes.

Leader:  Is there some incident that you can think of that causes you pain?

That was an easy one.  Got it in one.

Leader: Can you feel any emotions about it now?

Before it went any further, from out of my soul screamed out the words, YOU USED ME!

Well then.

Leader: How do you experience the feeling?  Is there a name for it?

Me: That’s easy.  Rage.

Again, comes the scream: YOU USED ME!

I see God, the Father, and Jesus standing together across from me.

Then the leader spoke.  Timing is everything, I find.

Leader: Ask Jesus what he has to say about this.

Me: It’s a trick.  Don’t trust him.  He’ll just agree with God.

Now let me note here how completely shocked I was with what I was observing in this prayer.  I want to say, most especially, about this reaction to the suggestion that I approach Jesus with the problem, but it actually gets worse.

Leader:  Ask Jesus what he has to say about this problem of yours.

Me: You used me.

Jesus:  That is what you are for.

Me: Not without balance. (This was the loudest scream yet.)  You can’t just zap me with a zillion volts of God and not have it grounded in anything.  No husband to hold me in his arms.  No priest to hear me scream.  Not even a faith community to breathe in.

That’s not how it’s done here on Earth.

The standoff continues in silence.

And then, out of nowhere, another urgent message erupts from me.

Me: I’ve had nothing all my life.

What I saw was that I had always been God-oriented.  That when I read the writings of the Desert Fathers, I envied their lifestyle.  I remembered how for the longest time I had had the ambition to become an anchoress.  I saw myself, most of me with God, with the rest of my life looking like a past-time, an add-on, not consciously designed, but experienced as something that I had to get through to get back to spending time with God.

And in that moment, it all looked like nothing to me.

Then the leader spoke.  Timing is everything, I find.

Leader: What does Jesus have to say about what you are feeling?

I looked at Jesus and waited.  His eyes were blank and dull.  He showed me his hands and feet.

Jesus: I have holes in my hands and feet.

I understood this to mean that he had suffered so much worse than I could ever imagine.

Then, I saw myself sitting on a curb in the rain yelling obscenities at the sky.  I became aware that Jesus was sitting next to me.

Looking straight ahead, not addressing him directly, I spoke.

Me: Life sucks.

Jesus: Yeah.

And I turned and looked at him.

Me: I never saw you this way.  To me you were always the golden boy.  The one who would be first to carry someone across the fiery coals of their life, to sit by the palm-sized newborn with tubes keeping her alive, to whisper, I love you, into a constricted and lonely heart.

Jesus: Life sucks.

Me: Yeah.

Then the leader spoke.  Timing is everything, I find.

Leader: You might be experiencing a sense of peace.

And I had to admit that I did actually feel peaceful.

Amidst the overwhelming guilt that I was experiencing for feeling and acting this way toward God and Jesus, even in a prayer, I found a sense of peace.

Heavenly Father, please help me to more deeply comprehend the mystery of my sin.


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