|ROSCOE, FRONT ROW, LEFT|
You've met my brothers Joe and Allen. You've met my brother Geordie. And now let me introduce my brother Ross, who is a teacher back East, has several masters' degrees (one from Fuller Theological Seminary here in Pasadena), and is the father of the multi-talented, uber resourceful Allen, who we are all banking on to support us in our old age, i.e. as soon as he turns 16 in three years and can get a job.
He, Ross that is, is also thoughtful, insightful, generous, kind, a man of God, and an all-around good egg, as are all my brothers (there' one more--Tim lives in Bangkok!).
This is the beautiful response he wrote to my post of last week re our mother, aging, death, and existential loneliness. And hope. And joy. (Ross is also the one who unearthed that stellar photo of me at age 5 from the family archives). Am I not one lucky sister?
I agree with what one reader wrote in response: "don't tinker with a thing." Each paragraph is a mini-essay in itself. Here is one. "We carry in our bodies a whole range of wounds, of hurt, of loneliness, of the continual daily onslaught of tiny slights and insults, of guilt for the slights and insults we impose on others. If you’re single, you carry the added weight, the secret shame, of knowing that that you are first in no-one’s heart. You walk the earth with billions of other people and you are first in no-one’s heart…As you age, I’m finding, what also comes up is a primal fear of appearing to be debilitated, weak, in need of help; a deep primordial limbic terror of being cast out of the herd and left to die, alone…"
Great food for thought! I love how you were able to tie up so many loose ends of your relationship with mom and vice versa, especially those bottled up feelings, some of which Mom struggled to release. I come away from your poignant and insightful blog entry convinced of the importance of openly sharing one's feelings--in all their dimensions--as we live life. To put it simply, it's okay to express anger, frustration, sadness, fear; it's okay to express joy, passion, happiness. It's okay to express our needs--for touch, for connection, for intimacy, for honesty. It's okay to admit to ourselves, as you do so eloquently, our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, our mistakes, our doubts, our questions.
You mention paradox, and I believe, as you do , that this is an essential understanding if one is to grow spiritually. There is so much paradox in our walk with God. One of them is to realize, as your reflections help remind us, that no human love or touch can replace the infinitely more comprehensive and enduring love of God. The sorts of understanding you help us reflect on, as fellow sojourners with you, are focused on the importance of trying to understand ourselves...what is it that is behind our individual and collective pain, as human beings?
There is paradox in wanting to be first in someone's heart. Because while we all seem to want to feel that sensation, the greatest of all commandments, according to Jesus, are that we love God (the One who the psalmist intuited "knit us together in our mother's womb") with all our heart, mind, and strength; and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Your writings help us remember to keep that in mind, and your writings also remind us of the many ways we deceive ourselves when we attempt to live life apart from God, when we don't keep trying to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps this need to be first in someone's heart can be more accurately understood as a need for connection. I keep coming back to that word "connection" lately. How about you? This life that we've been given is not some sort of cosmic coincidence. There must be some reason we are here. I believe that Jesus' life, ministry, and mission point us to what life is like and what our best response should be. Jesus showed in myriad ways that life is full of pain; it isn't fair. Jesus implies that there are many ways we deceive ourselves into thinking we truly love when we only concern ourselves with our "mate", (it's interesting that Jesus wasn't married). Jesus reminds us that we are to love as he loved, and that one's title, education, and socioeconomic status do not cut us any of us slack from the Jordan River call to repent.
While we want to be first in someone's heart, Jesus implied that we humans we miss the point when we do that. I believe that the higher connection, the stronger and more permanent--more authentic and sincere one-- is to seek to be connected to God. When we seek the God connection, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will discover that we are connected to others, far more than we could ever imagine. That's a sensation which fills our whole being (heart, soul, body) with the love we truly seek; that's perhaps the "truth" that Jesus implied would "set us free. One of Jesus' key teachings, (and we as humans do ourselves a huge disservice, when we fail to learn from it), was to teach us that being born (physically) is one thing; being born anew spiritually is another.After all, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3).
There is a paradox here we all must answer; one which you hint at is reflected in that human desire to be "first in someone's heart." Perhaps the mistake we make as humans comes from the effort to be "first in someone's heart" in the first place. Maybe Jesus mission involved trying to show us this erroneous thinking through his life and ministry- plunging the depths of human sinfulness by going to the cross on our behalf, calling out to and depending on God (Creator) in the process of dying and resurrection.
I believe we all need touch--there's nothing wrong with admitting it. You are wise to go the the masseuse. Even Jesus received touch. I am thinking of the woman who anointed his feet with her tears and with expensive perfume, drying his feet with her hair (in Luke, ch. 7) Since Jesus was from a culture where foot washing was common and he washed the disciples feet, touch was not something foreign to those who lived at the time and place. It's unfortunate we live in a culture where touch is such a "touchy subject" (no pun intended); it is seen as either taboo or on the opposite extreme as something which should have almost no limits and which can be exploited for profit. I believe that the affirmation that comes from giving and receiving hugs is closest to the kind of touch Jesus modeled in the washing of the disciples feet. It's a touch God knows we need, and it's interesting to note that Jesus calls on the disciples to wash one another's feet.
So, I applaud you, Heather, for your insights into life, your profound reflections on the trip to the massage shop, and for your honesty. Your insights about life are reflective of what Henri Nouwen wrote towards the end of his book The Inner Voice of Love: "What seemed such a curse has become a blessing. All the agony that threatened to destroy my life now seems like fertile ground for greater trust, stronger hope, and deeper love."
Peace and Power to you this day, and always,
|No, no, that's our beloved Ross on the LEFT...|
|OUR HOPE FOR THE FUTURE|