Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘death’

Raising the Cheetos

Some things you just cannot escape.

I knew it was coming. I even made plans for it. I reached out to a friend to have Mass said for her. I bought the ceremonial Cheetos. I surrounded myself with her family. I prayed for her. I talked to her. I reached out to her for the right words of comfort.

Some things you just cannot escape.

Some things you must endure as painful as they may be inside. Sometimes I wish I had some external wound. I could look at this wound and use it as a gage as to how my heart and emotions were progressing. But of course there is no such wound. And even if there were I would want it hidden, covered by my clothes maybe on my abdomen.

That seems an appropriate place since we all get gut feelings from time to time. I once saw a silly movie where the person had some kind of little creature that would emerge from their side. It was never good when this creature appeared. It was more like a spoiled child.

I do not like thinking things are fine. I have now moved on. I can deal with this loss. I know she is gone. Death is part of life…end of story.

But it is not that simple. Grief lays low waiting to ambush you.

Even when you think you are aware; you get blindsided. It comes out and bops you on the head. It punches you in the stomach…knocks the air out of your lungs.

It really sucks.

You look at the life she had and you rejoice. You try to carry on with the things she loved…family meals, games, and celebrating together. She was all about being together with her loved ones.

I went through the motions…I even tried to be happy and smile. The words of the music at Mass touched my heart in its most vulnerable area. Maybe there is a special section of your heart reserved to hold memories of loved ones forever. Forever is such a long time. I know it will get better, but that does not diminish the present pain.

Maybe I should just swallow a pill and get on with my life. That sounds like a plan. No, that is not the solution for me. I have said many times I wanted to experience this loss. I do not want to pretend the pain does not exist.

So yesterday on what would have been her seventieth birthday, I stood in my kitchen and raising a Cheetos to heaven toasted our friendship. “Here’s to the good times.” I said. Who needs alcohol to make a toast anyway? As I ate each little cheesy stick I etched even more indelibly in my heart the times of laughter we shared together.

Some things you just cannot escape!

Do You Ever Feel Stripped?

Romans 8:28, 31 “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Throughout life we are stripped in many different situations. Daily we strip from our clothes in order to cleanse our body. Thus we have the sanitary reason for stripping. Whenever I make my annual gynecological visit stripping is also required. Thus we have the medical reason for stripping.

Refinishing furniture requires stripping off the old finish. A stripped screw can no longer function properly. And of course we have the whole adult entertainment industry where stripping is used to attract and tempt men and women.

There are other examples of stripping I could include, but I want to focus on feeling stripped as a result of a death. A stripping you cannot control; more on that a little later.

The idea here of feeling stripped is about loss; not of clothing but of emotional support. Since losing my friend I have felt stripped of her presence. It is like I do not have my complete wardrobe.

Looking into my ‘closet’ I am not able to find an acceptable substitute. I get dressed, but always something is missing. I feel things do not coordinate together. Something I highly valued has been stripped from my life.

Throughout our lives we are involuntary stripped of things we hold dear…material things….money…personal security…peace of mind…hopes…and dreams…health…the list could go on.

I know in my heart that it is more about how I react than to what I perceive is being stripped from me. This realization requires vigilance.

I often try to connect situations in my life with a familiar biblical story. When I think of being stripped I picture Jesus being stripped of his clothes. He chose to submit to this humiliating act allowing the soldiers to strip him and cast lots for his garments. No greater Love!

Without clothes you are naked and vulnerable to the external elements. Without clothes you lose some protection. There is nothing to cover your sensitive skin. The death of my close friend to me is much like being stripped.   I feel vulnerable.

Being stripped of your soul friend leaves you without familiar cover. Not that you can hide inside your clothing, but the friendship provides a safe place. Within friendship that which is less than perfect and hidden from others is accepted by your friend. Inside the clothing of friendship you are not preoccupied with what others think. You are accepted and loved for just being…you. You can actually be better at who you are.

Occasionally I have left home without something as simple as my earrings. It seems ridiculous, but I feel naked without earrings. I know it makes no sense. Earrings are a very small part of being dressed.

I feel stripped and vulnerable without my friend, but at the same time there is this sense of freedom. This sense of freedom almost makes me feel guilty. Freedom seems to contradict the loss and feelings of being stripped. A freedom from being stripped is the freedom from expectations.

Piet Mondrian

As we approach Lent I invite you to consider; what you can strip from your own life. During Lent we have the freedom to look at our lives and decide what we can strip away in order to have a closer relationship with the Lord.

We can ask ourselves these questions, “What am I hiding behind?

What is compromising my acceptance of God’s plan for me?”

“What am I clutching onto for dear life?”

Like St. Paul I often do not know how to pray as I ought; especially when I feel stripped, vulnerable and sometimes even deserted by God.

Flashes of the Past

I have been known to enjoy some science fiction movies from time to time. I really like The Abyss it is the most beautiful love story. Keeping that in mind I wish there were a way to virtually project into real-time past memories as you called them to mind or as they come forward. I know it sounds silly and that is why we have movie cameras…to capture those moments we want to preserve.

I have had a couple experiences recently not of déjà vu exactly but similar. My friend and I took our ministry to several other parishes beside our own. A few years ago we gave a women’s retreat based on the powerful story of the Woman Caught in Adultery at another parish.

When I had the occasion to visit the parish again I was not really thinking about the possibility of being in the very same room, but as it turned out we were. It felt surreal walking into this room again. So much of what we had done together in that space came flooding back into my body. I almost had to stop and take a deep breath before crossing the threshold. We had also presented an Advent series about the Blessed Mother in that very same room.

As I sat in the space I wanted to close my eyes and relive every detail of our time together in that exact room. I could picture us standing in the front of the room together walking the women into the scripture story that cold winter Saturday morning. I could hear us talking about Jesus writing in the sand. Then I could see the women coming forward with their sand during the closing ritual.

It was an emotionally charged day and now those emotions are mixed inside me with the emotions of her absence. We can never do that presentations together again and it was my favorite. It had been the very first day of prayer we did for our own parish. Even my mother and sister were present.

Memories are malleable to me you can take them in your hand. They can bring you comfort in times of sadness. Sometimes a memory will materialize when you least expect and surprise you. Sometimes memories have a way to make you appreciate even more something you once had.

The last time we presented together was for the team of women’s retreat for our parish. I am already beginning to emotionally prepare for my return visit to this person’s home as I have been asked to present to another retreat group in this person’s beautiful home.

I guess I am just being sentimental. I know sooner or later I will not be having these déjà vu experiences any longer. As more time passes there is less and less of a connection. Not that the person is any less missed or less loved it’s just that other memories get stored on top.

The most recent research on the brain and memory indicates that our memories are stored in several places throughout our brain. When we recall an event our incredible brain reconstructs the bits and pieces of information into one unified memory. But it makes sense then that occasionally we have missed some of the details or ‘remembered’ something incorrectly. Our memories are not fool-proof, but recording details in a journal is a great tool to help reconstruct an event. Of course pictures are another excellent way to preserve memories. Movies are probably the most accurate way to preserve something you want to remember many years later. I know many people scrapbook which becomes a wonderful keepsake for generations to come.

We have an amazing brain that is why just walking into a room can trigger the details of something that occurred in that location. I am sure you have all had the experience of heading to another room to get something only to reach the room with no memory of why you were going there. The easiest way to remember is to return to the place where you had the thought of what you wanted from the other room.

I wonder what our life would be like if we could not ever remember anything. I think they have made a movie about something like that, maybe 100 First Dates. I am not sure.

I do cherish my memories they conjure up all sorts of emotions within my soul. It makes me happy to remember the presentations my friend and I did together. And it makes me sad to think we will never be presenting together again.

The most vivid memories we can recall are often colored by a strong emotion…love…fear…joy…sadness. Strong emotions embed the memory into our psyche giving it a much longer retention rate.

 

I pray for those whose loved ones suffer from memory loss. Dementia is a devastating disease especially when the person is the picture of health. It is hard to experience the apparent ‘death’ of the person you once loved because of Alzheimer’s, a most devastating disease for family members.

We actually rely a great deal on our memory. Take a moment and express gratitude for your memory. You might want to recall one of your most precious memories to date.

Close your eyes and try to recall as many of the details as possible. Who is there…where you were…what it looked like…what could you hear…what were your feelings at the time?

Promises…the Ballet

We use the word promise so casually today. We promise to do things and we promise not to do certain things. We even make promises to ourselves. But somehow when a loved one is ill or dying the promises we make then carry more weight. They seem to be more important…like a final testament of your love for them.

 

Well Sunday, I kept a promise that I made to my dear friend…I went to watch her daughter and granddaughter dance in a performance of the Nutcracker.

Please do not misunderstand my intention here…Yes, I am going as she requested. I have gone before and would have attended this performance anyway, but this year it is in her honor.  The difference is that it was one of her last requests.

A few weeks before her death, while she was hospitalized, we had a most intimate conversation about the future without her presence. It was a special tender time for us together as we shared so much about her futures hopes and dreams. As we lovingly held hands she softly spoke about what things she would miss and how she wanted me to be there…not to replace her presence, but to somehow give flesh to her love representing her deep desire to be there. A symbol of our loving commitment to one another; she was confident that I would be thrilled to go watch her precious daughter and granddaughter dance. She knew my love for them was great, too.

When people are dying they grasp on to those things which represent life for them and to them. For my dear friend supporting her family in everything they pursued was at the top of the list. It brought her great joy to watch her daughter perform ballet and jazz dance as a child. There were many long hours invested in dance lessons, practices, sewing costumes, and all that is related to dance. When you are devoted to dance (or anything else that requires intense attention) you happily make sacrifices in other areas of your life.

While her daughter was an excellent dancer she chose another field for her career, but dance was and continues to be one of her great loves. I know that my friend could see and feel the joy her daughter experienced when her granddaughter began to blossom in dance as well.

It was not long before this beautiful wife and mother of three was back at the ballet bar and once again on point. She was bitten by the ‘Ballet Bug’. You know the little ‘bug’ in the fluffy tulle tutu! Ballet is such a beautiful art to watch…grace, movement, muscle control, timing, flexibility, the music, and much more.

I will always hold in my heart the joy and the twinkle in my friend’s eye just seeing her granddaughter dance and pirouette in the living room. She would break into a full face, ear to ear smile. I loved her warm smile.

I believe Sunday night she was there for I felt her presence sitting with me. I could feel the warmth of her smile. Excuse me for a moment as I wipe away a tear of love and joy. I trust that she had the best seat in the house looking down on all of us. She could even see back in the dressing room as her daughter commented later.

Following the final performance we celebrated with dinner together and managed to joyfully include stories of our loved one. I have heard some people refer to death as just being on the other side of the curtain. Well Sunday night behind the curtain was something made in heaven; lovely ballerinas especially the two we love and most wanted to see.

The beauty of ballet is truly heavenly.

My dear friend, here’s to many more promises joyfully kept.

 

Endings

Little children cherish each day so much they do not even want to go to sleep. Nightfall, when you are little is the end a fun filled day with all of your toys. It takes a few years before you come to understand that going to sleep is how you get to have another fun filled day. Going to sleep keeps you healthy so you CAN play and enjoy the next day.

Have you ever been reading such a good book that you did not want it to end? I think many readers of the recent Harry Potter series felt that way at the end of each novel…and now they are sad because the series is finished.

Have you ever walked out of a movie feeling like you wanted more? Believe it or not I felt that way about the movie Avatar. I know the story was not real, but there was a beautiful message of love there…even if the main characters were blue.

I have been alone on retreats when I did not want the time to come to an end. The quiet time alone with the Lord…I have been on vacations I did not want to end…I have had relationships with friends that I did not want to end…I have had relaxing massages I did not want to end.

But the truth is all things must come to an end…good or bad.

Nothing lasts forever.

Every breath we take comes to an end. Every cell in our body comes to an end.

I think endings are by nature pregnant with beginnings. Endings and beginnings are hooked together like a chain. Beginnings and endings are intimately connected to one another. When possible a new beginning link will emerge as a result of an ending link.

When my husband brings me a bouquet of beautiful roses for our anniversary their beauty predictably fades after few short days.

Just imagine for a moment if we had no endings in our life. If we had no endings would we ever have the gift of beginnings?

I must admit that I sometimes find it hard to get rid of clothes that no longer fit. I would still like to wear some of my favorite clothes, but I cannot find that size 6 body anymore. It ended sometime after I turned 40.

There are things in my life that I am glad have come to an end. We can even joyfully anticipate certain endings like pregnancy, getting up through the night with a sick child, an awful job situation, a loved one returning home from war.

Some endings are in our control, but many are out of our control. Perhaps the endings we cannot control are the more troubling ones. The endings we do not see coming at all are most difficult to accept. How does one wrestle with an unwelcomed ending? Some never come to terms with an unexpected ending. Instead they become bitter, live in anger, and rob themselves of new beginnings.

Eventually most emerge from the pain and then the possibility of new beginnings becomes a surprising realization.

Must we allow new beginnings? Can we just lock ourselves away and live on denying that beginnings are possible for us?

Without the possibility of new beginnings

we have lost all hope.

I hold on to the belief that with this profound ending, the death of my friend, comes the birth of something even more wonderful. I am not sure if any other ending can compare to the ending of a loved one’s life. The loved ones remaining here feel like they are standing on the shore waiting for the tide to bring back the loved one.

The end of a loved one’s life is so permanent, yet births a glorious beginning for them.

Death….

 Alpha and Omega

Eternally linked together.

Great Treasure

The Veggie Tales Company has this infectious song called ‘Where is My Hairbrush?’ Several years ago through my dear friend’s grandchildren I was introduced to this song. For days I could not get the silly lyrics and music out of my head. Even now as I write this music is swirling around in my head. It got to be such a joke that I did not want anyone to so much as mention just the title because that song would begin playing in my head… The human brain works like that; something relatively insignificant will trigger a memory.

There will always be those simple things throughout your life that become special for only you, such as the memory of this little song. Maybe it initially touched me because the children took such delight in singing it and later teasing me with it. I am not sure. But it brings a smile to my face now.

Since the death of my friend I have found myself being more attentive to those things she had given me over the years. They mean more now. They remind me of her. They conjure up precious memories. I have thought about creating one special place to collect these memory gifts…a ‘friendship collection’, but that is probably not going to happen. These gifts were given to be used not to be displayed and become dust collectors.

One of the last physical pleasures  I was able to do for my friend before she died was to brush her hair.

I never would have thought that brushing her hair could have made her so happy.

She would say, “Brush it harder” or “that feels so good”.

Sometimes I would ask her if she wanted me to brush her hair and sometimes she would ask for me to brush her hair. I loved to brush her hair in every direction imaginable…from the front to the back…from the back to the front, which made it stand up and look wild. I would carefully guide the brush around her ears not wanting to hurt them.

Her lovely gray hair was so dry and thin. I worried that I would scratch her scalp, but that never happened.

You just do not know what will become dear to you.

It was a means for us to connect in an intimate way. Having someone brush your hair is almost a luxury. Much of the time she was too weak to lift up her tiny arms to brush her hair. I want to always remember how much joy that brought to her. Each stroke of the brush touching each strand of hair was a simple expression of my love. I am so thankful that she let me brush her hair.

I consider myself to be moderately sentimental. I cherish a few meaningful items belonging to loved ones both living and dead. I have my grandmother’s pound cake written in her own handwriting, given to me at wedding shower. I have my mother-in-law’s pearl necklace, given to me one Christmas after she died.

But I have never wanted someone’s hair until now. I had this strong desire to clean the hair from the brush I had used to brush my friend’s hair. I went to the drawer where she kept her brush and it was missing. My heart skipped a beat at the thought that I would not be able to collect this great treasure.

Keeping her hair with me protected in a small baggie is literally having a piece of her physically with me. It is so strange that I would want to carry this with me. So unlike anything I have done before. A single strand of hair contains a storehouse of information about the person…the essence of whom they were, at least physically.

I already possessed the essence of who she was spiritually…it quietly resides within my heart and soul. She shared it with me on numerous occasions. Long lasting friendships become a great treasure when you have risked enough to share your essence with one another.

I will cherish the few strands of hair I have;

along with the tender memory of brushing her hair

the day before she died.

Inside the Bubble of Grief

As I prepare your funeral services my heart is not unlike your delicate skin… Bruised purple, black, and blue…weeping from tiny almost invisible pores. My deep sadness seeps out almost unseen by others. One droplet at a time with each beat of my heart. I have spent the week mopping up the grief within. This grief is rising; this grief swells and creeps up around my heart. Will the waves become turbulent and drown my heart? I must quickly seal these invisible wounds before they become too serious to be restored…to be whole again.

I watched your tiny frail body be ravaged by something bigger than life. The sheer power of your death, beloved, seems to be worse than we could possibly imagine. Perhaps our hearts are protected so that we cannot fully grasp the power of death until it comes and knocks you over. I was prepared to let you go, to surrender. We were blessed with so many precious moments. We could see and feel death coming like a tidal wave.

Death crashes like an angry wave around your heart. You cannot escape; you can only collapse under the power of this wave. You can only submit and let it knock you down flooding completely over you. The water will recede, but things will never be the same. What remains will be partially devastated, like a hurricane stricken town. It takes time to rebuild. I will be patient.

The days immediately following death are as if you exist, but not in the real world.

Normal things are happening, but you are in another state of mind. You are in a bubble like state of mind. You see and hear everything around you but it does not seem in focus…sounds are muffled. You frequently forget what you are trying to do.

 When I remove my glasses the world is a very fuzzy and distorted place. That is what enduring the death of a loved one feels like to me. It is as if I am inside this invisible bubble looking out. There is a thin membrane…the view of life is distorted…but I am somehow protected by this delicate fragile membrane.

Bubbles can remain intact for only as long as they can retain their surface moisture. It was always exciting when a child would discover; it is actually possible to put something inside of a bubble without causing it  to pop.

Bubbles reflect brilliant colors. These colors come from reflections of the white light that falls on their surface. Science tells us that white light, whether from the Sun or from a light bulb, contains light of all colors.

We are children of THE Light!

Reflected light separates into the colors of the rainbow. Even the tiniest bubbles show the full spectrum of colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet — just as a rainbow does.

This rainbow of color shimmers across the surface of each bubble.

Next time you have the chance to blow some bubbles I invite you to think about how you reflect the light of God to those around you.

The Holy Spirit guided, lifted and carried my bubble these last few days. The Holy Spirit created the brilliant reflected colors of so much during this time. Inside the bubble I could not see the reflected light. But I continue to be overwhelmed by so many things both big and little that have happened in this past week.

Others have come inside the bubble with me to stay for awhile. We have held each other close in shared consolation. We have lovingly exposed our grief to one another.

 

We cannot stay in our bubble of grief we must emerge renewed and restored by all that God has blessed us with.

We have been called to shine the light for all to see; not to just peer out from within our little bubble of grief.

My dear friend you could not have loved me any more than you did.

I hope and pray that I loved you back equally as well.

You will forever be in my heart. Love has power over death!

~Swallowed in Quicksand~

When I was in high school you would often see scenes in movies depicting someone being swallowed up by quicksand. It was a frightening thought to be trapped in such a seemingly helpless situation. No one could come near enough to help the person or they too would be drowning in the quicksand.

I was thinking about how grief acts much the same way…swallowing you up into itself. You feel frightened, trapped, and even helpless at times.

 Others may not want to get too close; they too may get swallowed up by this quicksand called grief.

Mostly people do not know what to say, however they mean well.

Quicksand presses in on all sides of your body

making you feel as if you will suffocate.

When you are trapped in quicksand the most important thing on your mind is surviving long enough to work your way back to stable ground. If you struggle you will plunge deeper into the mucky mud. Struggling to distance yourself from grief will only cause it to linger around longer, perhaps for the rest of your life.

Did you know the way to escape quicksand is to wiggle your legs?

The odd thing about quicksand is that it appears to be solid ground.

It looks normal. It is only when you step into it do you realize it will not support your weight.

I do not pretend to understand everything about grief. I remember when I was a still young my grandmother died. I was not ready to lose her; we had so much fun together. I can remember out of the blue after she died being overcome with grief while driving or grocery shopping. The tears would burst forth without warning. They seemed to be an essential part of the healing process.

“The waters swirled about me, threatening my life; the abyss enveloped me.” Jonah 2:6

I surrender to this grief pressing against my whole being. It is futile to resist as it envelopes one’s entire being. I lie motionless waiting to float to the surface. The Lord’s own invisible hand sustains my soul. No one else would dare come that close.

The one thing you should not do if caught in quicksand, is fight with the sand. It will only make it that much more difficult to free yourself.

The human body will actually float in quicksand. You will not drown.

 In the quicksand of grief…

I give myself permission to allow the tears to drench the surface.

Fighting back with anger and denial will not bring peace to my soul; instead it will feed the grief like sour milk.

What do you think about tears? Some people do not like to cry. Some even think crying is a sign of weakness. We hear parents admonishing children ‘don’t be a cry baby’. As a society we have not learned to grieve well. We tend to put on our ‘happy face’ no matter what.

The ability to free yourself completely from quicksand takes a considerable amount of energy. I won’t bore you here with the scientific details, but to remove one foot from quicksand requires the same amount of force as lifting a mid-sized car. Wow!

“The Lord, your God, who is in your midst, is a great and awesome God.” Dt. 7:21

Release from this grief may take years, and maybe that is how it should be. When the emotional state of grief diminishes you will once again breathe in fresh air.

The memories of your loved one live on in you and through you. I am reminded of the final words of each Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass when the priest says, ‘Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit…’

Everyone who loved Jesus also experienced the quicksand of grief.

How would they continue without his earthly presence? Who would be there to guide them? To encourage them? To teach them?

Who would be there to inspire them to be better than they were?

Those who loved Jesus were no different than us. They had all the same emotions, hopes, and fears. The Emmaus journey encapsulates all that it means to be human in a few well written verses.

“I, the Lord, am with you always, until the end of the world.” Mt. 28: 20

Without Grief would we ever be able to recognize much less appreciate Joy?

~ The Numbness of Grief ~

Sometimes I just want to go to the top of a mountain and scream at the top of my lungs. There seems to be no release. Days go by and the heaviness of grief is numbing. I can understand why people get caught up in drugs and even those who cut themselves…sometimes you just want to feel something intense. Day after day you guard your emotions.

If I could dance I would be putting my feelings into some wildly expressive dance where everything could pour forth in silence. Reaching out far, stretching up high. The emotions could explode from the very core of my soul. Would dance soothe this deep inner pain? I can only perform this dance in the recesses of my mind while listening to music repeatedly.

 

The numbness of grief has a pain unique to itself unlike any other. It is a pain that sears your from the inside out. A pain you cannot hide from…a pain you cannot run away from.

If I was an accomplished pianist I would sit at the piano and play with such passion anyone listening would experience the intensity of the magnitude of my pain. Composer/Pianist, Michael Allen Harrison in his composition Fly Away best captures this state of grief for me. It is a heaviness played in the low bass clef and yet there is a light melody creating a delicate balance and then the oboe comes in with tears of lament. The tempo is like a solid drone. Life continues, the sun rises and the sun sets, but it will never be quite the same. The drum beat keeps everything moving forward with heavy footsteps.

 

Grief makes you want to turn yourself inside out, exposing who you truly are inside. I am at the foot of the cross with the Blessed Mother weeping and holding on to what I was taught and have believed since childhood. I am not alone, but I my tears are held close to my heart.

Do others have the right to enter into your personal space of grief?

 

Sometimes I think about taking a feather pillow and ripping it open; throwing all of the feathers into the air. Watching the soft white feathers slowly, quietly drifting one by one back to the ground, I find a comforting thought.

 

Tenderness is how I treasure the many memories…the times that can no longer be shared.

I have been reading Job and the Mystery of Suffering by Richard Rohr today and listening to music. Throughout the book of Job it is easy to identify with how abandoned he feels by God while at the same time being convicted of God’s love for him.

“If we take happiness from God’s hand,

must we not take sorrow, too?” Job 2:10

 

I had no plan to write these words today; they just flooded into my heart. I really cannot comprehend what my life would be like without music. Music is a spiritual experience for me almost mystical. Music is a retreat in the space of a few precious minutes. Heaven surely has ‘The’ most beautiful music. All of the different instruments harmonizing together remind me of the Body of Christ, the angels and saints worshiping and praising God together in harmony.

I sit with grief as my daily companion, both day and night. Grief is in my dreams. Grief walks beside me like the grim reaper.

I choose life.

I choose to walk in the light.

I choose to embrace all that is part of my journey here on this earth.

 

Below is a link for Fly Away by Michael Allen Harrison

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Accepting versus Giving Up

As you recite this prayer recently shared with me… Draw each phrase into your heart… pray to be free of what keeps you from pleasing God more.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude” 

~Accepting versus Giving Up~

So we have come to a point…is it acceptance or is it giving up? What a question to ponder. I think sometimes it is appropriate to use the phrase “giving up”. I have given up on the idea of acting on stage…snow skiing…deep sea diving…having my own_____…and many other things.

I have definitely given up on the thought of ever being the perfect daughter, sister, wife, mother, neighbor, or friend.

I have given up trying to please everyone in my life and living up to others expectations of me.

I have accepted what God has laid out before me right now. Accepting that God’s will for us is sometimes not what we want. God has prepared me for where I am right now. Even if I was unaware of this preparation; it was occurring as the path of my life daily unfolded.

Accepting is NOT giving up!

Giving up usually has some negative overtones. We often encourage others by admonishing them to ‘never give up’. To me, giving up can represent defeat or despair. When a person is giving up to law enforcement they raise their hands above their head, palms facing out. You may even be commanded to drop to your knees so as not to run away.

During Lent I may choose to give up those things that would represent a sacrifice to me, but when you are facing something like death you are Not giving up.

When you surrender to God your hands are raised above your head, but your palms are facing up toward heaven. At times you may prostrate yourself before Our Lord realizing that you are powerless without him.

 

Accepting leads us, as Christians, to surrendering to God’s will.

 

  ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts neither  are your ways My ways’, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

 

Hanging on the cross Jesus cried out to his father…into your hands I commend my spirit.

 

 Jesus found the strength to utter those words only after crying words of anguish…My God, my God why have you forsaken me? It is through dying that we are born again. Only through dying to our ‘old self’ can we be fully alive in Christ.

 

Lord, you alone can turn my tears into tears of joy!

Lord, only you can transform my sadness into happiness!

Lord, only you can soothe the invisible pain in my heart!

 

 

I do not know who Herman Hesse is, but his words here touched a place deep within my soul. 

Some of us think holding on makes us strong,

but sometimes it is letting go.