Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Questions of Belief
exchanges were just words, but then late one afternoon I saw a tall man
standing in a phone booth, wearing a riding suit, with a motorcycle parked
nearby. This was in Chama, New Mexico, autumn of 1993.
We stayed in contact after that epic ride, sharing riding stories and
various other ideas. He's an interesting man. Flexible of mind and yet
steady. In 1996 he acted as my sponsor at the World Championship sand
sculpture contest in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. He lived on a
farm not too far away and invited me to stay with him. It was a great time.
At the end of the contest he just loaded my stuff and me into his truck and
hauled me away. I was, hot spring pool notwithstanding, toast.
In 1998 he came to L.A. for some riding. It was an outstanding year for
wildflowers. At the end of the ride he left his motorcycle in my garage,
and the Navy recruiter drove up and took him away. He ended up aboard a
submarine, which rather restricted Email contact. Still, I got the
occasional message and some images of what he was doing.
Through all of this my respect for him remained. Good mind, good heart. He
and I had discussed religion in years past and agreed that it was better to
do things ourselves. So, he was a little surprised when he visited my Blog.
"The blog thing. Hmm, interesting is a good word. Surprised too. I kinda
had the feeling that you were a die hard aethiest (sp?). Question: Does
this make you happy?"
I told him that while happiness still seemed some distance off, I was able
to see the possibility of it happening. Some day. I said that God had taken
hold of me when my resources were gone, and was helping me to rebuild my
life from the ground up.
I wrote: "The more I talk with others about their experiences, the more I
learn that God gives each just what they need when they ask for it."
Earl responded with "I agree, although I believe that it comes from within,
as opposed to without. There's a quote I like from Richard Bach: "You are
never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You
may have to work for it, however."
I have a curious component in my make-up. Questions force a re-evaluation
of things. How do I know that I know God? How do I know that He has redone
my life, rather than the idea of God being my excuse to make the changes I
needed to? I respect Earl. How can I explain to him that I'm simply
destitute? I'm not proud of myself, but I'm still alive by God's grace.
From the outside it probably does look as if I've done all the changing by
myself. What's visible from the outside isn't all that dramatic: still at
work, still sculpting, still getting through the day.
There are differences. Saturday, as I worked on the sculpture (image
available on the photo page, link on the left), I noticed I was smiling a
lot. The day was lovely, with fast-changing clouds. My friend Rich was
there feeding me cookies. Various passersby stopped to comment, and were
very supportive. And God was behind it all, holding my shaky mind together
so that I could concentrate on the sculpture. It was a standout, and the
sunset God painted on the sky was the perfect capstone. I rode home tired,
I mistrust smiles and feeling good. They usually are just the precursors of
trouble, so it's better not to be happy. It was a gift. I tried to put it
back on the shelf, and in my usual way did a pretty good job of it. Sunday
was confused. Monday was muddled. Today I was downright crabby and bailed
out of work early on the pretext of having to run errands. On the way home
I asked God for help in figuring out what was going on, and we got it
pretty well cleared up.
I have nothing to be proud of. I'm a failure; I couldn't take the stresses
of life and was coming apart. I freely admit this. God stepped in and glued
my bits together with his Holy Spirit, and I'm still here. Earl has much to
be proud of, but I can no longer live that way. I am no more independent.
The world is a cold, cold place. I can't stand facing it alone any more.
Only God's presence in my life warms things up enough for me to be able to
continue. I stand on that, with the new backbone He has given me.
I mentioned to Earl that "I learned a long time ago how to be invisible."
He wrote back "I used to believe that too, but my thoughts on it are
changing. I'm finding that sometimes you have to be visible and stand up.
When you're invisible you get trampled by the masses. One of my favorite
chiefs in the Navy had this saying: "You have to pick your battles". Once
you pick that battle you can't be invisible."
He's right. Pick your battles. I can pick bigger ones now, and not back
down when those internal dragons start breathing fire. Who'd have imagined
that turning a stone heart to flesh would have resulted in growing a
God makes me smile. This is a miracle. I didn't do it, and I don't want the
credit. I don't want my life to depend upon my so limited resources. What's
a smile worth? Honestly, a lot. Jesus paid for it. Thank you, Earl, for
keeping me honest.
I wonder if it's possible to communicate the reality of God, the Universe's
God who is also a Person, to others. Words alone probably aren't enough.
Examples and life probably have to go along with the words. That will come
in God's own time. Right now it's enough that I can smile occasionally,
that the future no longer looms over me like a hard-driven steamroller.
2004 December 7