Friday, October 11, 2013


Toward Freedom XXIII

Caring is a Birthright

God had been waiting by the Kindness Door for a long time. Thirty years, at least. Depends on how you count, and I think God sees our situations much differently; I doubt that he counts time. What I see as great patience, he experiences as something I can't fully comprehend. Anyway, he was there when I got a good look at how close I was to falling into an endless hole and asked for help.
    I no longer cared very much, I thought. What could I lose? If I did nothing I'd fall in, and I didn't know what would come after. I also didn't know what would come after asking for help but something better might come about. Is that hope? It's at least a demonstration of caring; if I really hadn't cared, I wouldn't have asked God to help me.
    Asking for help is dangerous. You make your plea, but you never really know whether someone will toss another rock to the drowning man, or the lost one will be given a map worse than the one she has. It may be less dangerous to give up caring.
    I'm not sure what caring truly is. I feel that it's very important. I read a book about a man who became a truck driver and wrote about his experience. One time he met another driver who said he'd driven 3,000,000 miles without an accident. How can that be? "Caring," the older driver said. "You have to care about what you're doing, and pay attention."
    How does one learn to care? That's the question I used to ask. In the last few months I've learned to ask a different one:. I was going to title this story "Caring is a Gift," but as the thought formed, the Holy Spirit suggested "Caring is a Birthright." This is an idea that wouldn't have occurred to me alone. What is a birthright? It's a rather charged term. For me, it means a baby is born caring, and everyone around is fascinated by the baby's demonstrations of exploring. People willingly enter the baby's world, at least some of them and to some degree. Something happens later on, it seems; adulthood might be defined as coming on the day a person learns to demonstrate not caring. Caring isn't cool.
    Caring is also work. And a threat. If my cares and yours collide, who wins? Push and pull, give and take, and who loses more, and who keeps score? Welcome to adulthood. I was never very interested in that model, but no matter how much one resists--and resisting is work--the hole into which one's peg is inserted exerts its strong shaping forces.
    Then one meets God. I did so as a last act before... I didn't know. Choose your style of obliteration: turning to God, or circling the drain. God has expectations and a prescription. Abandon all personal caring, ye who enter in at the narrow gate. Day by day I waited. Ten years now, and I haven't been obliterated.
    In me, caring seems to be a small, neglected, battered plant. I've been throwing rocks at it for years, trying to keep it in its place. I dare not demonstrate that I care because that will lead to losing even more than I already have. God shelters that small plant as it does what plants always do: grow.
    Not caring is easy. Why do the work if the end result is another rock to the face? God starts with trust and builds from there, and he's teaching me that I don't need to batter myself for his sake, nor for mine. Let things grow, and find out what I care about.
    Caring scares me. Is God just setting me up for another disappointment? I don't think so; not everyone is like those who've forced me to live within their worlds if I'm to relate at all. There are people willing to walk gently in my world, to see what's there and respect what they see. My not caring obscures everything. Be kind, little one. Your God protects you.
    All is grace.

2013 October 11

Sunday, October 06, 2013


Toward Freedom XXII


My mother is not doing well. It seems that cancer and close to 90 years of living have combined to take away most of her will to live.
    I got the first hint of this three weeks ago. My sister and mother called, gave me a precis of the situation, and said it would be good if I came to Colorado to help.
    There being a pretty strong filter between what I feel and what I think, it took a while to understand what happened in me, but the main thing was anger. Still is, for that matter. Here are people who've barely had a word to say to me in years, and have rarely bothered to listen to me, giving a good yank on the cord that's supposed to connect family members. In the past I'd have obeyed, stuffing reality under assumption. This time I said I had other things going on and was unable to leave immediately. My sister was not pleased.
    The truth is that I've never had a home with them. It was their home and I was a tolerated guest, so long as I behaved in the ways they expected. The most unfortunate aspect of this is that I've modelled nearly all of my relationships ever since on the same idea: I enter the other person's world and no one cares about mine. In many cases this is true, but in others it is most definitely not true yet I still behave as if it is.
    God is gently leading me away from that, having me look at the real relationship instead of the model I've built in my mind. This causes great fear.
    Well, maybe the really most unfortunate aspect of my upbringing is that I have no home even within myself. I tolerate myself on the good days and try to knock everything down on the bad days. God helps keep the swinging fists from hitting too hard and gradually we come to understand more of the fear and anger.
    People are delicate entities. We're made that way; we're made for wonder and beauty but live in a world that mostly denies everything but force and guilt. Jesus removed the guilt. I retained the force.
    A few days ago I got an Email from my sister, saying she didn't expect our mother to live another week and that I needed to get myself out there. Another pull on a string that just doesn't exist any more. Am I heartless? Selfish? What good would I do in Colorado? How can there be an emotional connection with people who've denied me any chance to express my emotion? I hear about theirs. Or did, anyway, before I stopped trying to communicate. Let her friends, for whom she was always much more present, take care of her present needs. I'm tired of being called in like the TV repairman or the moving assistant.
    For some things there is no healing. Is there even supposed to be healing? How many times must one crack against a stone wall before learning that the wall won't change and has no desire to change? I myself know something of how hard change is. We all make our decisions, and actions have consequences. I'm willing to live with the consequences of my actions.
    Maybe I'm growing a backbone. The story goes on.

2013 October 6

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