I have checked out from the world, as much as one can in this day and age.
This past month I have learned that you can have worst events in life that lead to hard days, and then you can have a list of days so horrendous that they amount to worst weeks. Mine was the latter. Taking Mother Teresas’ advice on God being the friend of silence, I decided to try and step as far away from everything as I could to make some silence in the hopes that God would find me.It’s difficult to find that point where you and God can meet sometimes.
As my days have grown in silence, I have tried to find him through simple means- scripture study, prayer, journaling. My runs have increased in distance, my social interactions have decreased in frequency.
In the last two weeks the screaming of the world has made its way to me: The consecutive deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the protests of teachers in Oaxaca, the shoot out in my home town of Dallas, white people generally being assh*les (some within the walls of the actual house I live in), the nagging sense that the church was somehow doing something horrendous and hideous, whether through silence or direct action- these things have all come to crowd that space I am trying to hold as a form of salvation for myself.
Silence feels like an impossibility.
My job involves direct interaction with people during less than ideal, sometimes bad, and sometimes outright tragic life moments. There was a point at the tail end of my workload where I felt that one more tragedy would justify my walking away from it. Somewhere between romanticizing an anchorite way of life and complete dread, I got to listen to a conversation between a Rabbi and a Catholic Priest.
It all sounded like the beginning of some awful joke, until the details came forth- this Priest had been told earlier in the day that he had cancer; the Rabbi was checking in to see if the Priest was okay. I felt my shoulders tense as these two differing world views collided. There was a silence following the revelation that the one reaching out was a Rabbi, a mention of how the Priest thought it would be best to receive advice and guidance through someone of his faith, and I felt this sinking feeling that even in the midst of this shitty existence we can’t hold on to the sanctity of each other in the name of God. It felt so incredibly disappointing. As a teenager the idea of an ecumenical world seemed like a soft place to land, because if to do good was my religion then surely, all mankind could be my family and this conversation seemed to be on the edge of somehow killing that hope.
Maybe speaking of divinity can sometimes seem impersonal, and I wonder if that was the initial wall that once removed made a difference, because when the Rabbi asked about the Priests family, suddenly things changed.
The Priest had been at his parish for quite a few years and was receiving support and love from his family who could only offer it in limited ways due to their residing in Colombia. I felt myself grow soft because in recounting his life, he created a bridge for me without even knowing, and suddenly the Rabbi went from asking about how he was accepting God’s will to commending his bravery at facing such a hard battle away from home and loved ones.
And then came an offer for prayer.
I wondered what to do really- what sign of reverence to show at this moment, whether to remove my shoes, to bow my head, to cover it, or uncover it, to close my eyes. In that moment there was silence, stillness.
I wish I could tell you in detail what words were uttered, but I don’t remember.
What I do remember, is this: That sometimes we claim one another. That the act of letting or walls down for another is not only an act of faith, but a revolution. That vulnerability makes bridges closing the distance between us. That sometimes, those acts of faith, that letting down of walls will be a disaster, but God can make it so that we are able to do it again, sometimes. That we can be God when we care for each others soul. That we really are mirrors of Christ’s light when we love, because of our differences, not in spite of them.
These two diametrically opposed men of God agreed to meet again, and I felt a hope renewed.
I don’t know how long it will take for God and I to talk, but I have no issue with it. I am ready to wait. Especially if it means that I can lessen the distance between pain and sanctity.
Reach out to someone this month, and be vulnerable, if you can. Then again, somebody else, a third unrelated party may be extended much needed grace from that moment of courage.
Sometimes the fruits of our bravery are for those we intend- and sometimes, they feed different stomachs.