A Rule of Life chapter. How would you write your chapter on remembering your relationship with God?
You live in a strange world. Remember that you have always found it strange, and somewhat dangerous. In your early years you were not raised by people who made you feel safe and adored until 6, nor adventurous and courageous about exploration until 11, nor boundaried with safety-rules until college. So you have suffered, ever since, with a fear of the people on this lovely planet, kept afloat only by this amazing God.
Remember your first encounter in that empty church when you were 10 years old, after that Tuesday night cub-scouts meeting, waiting for Glen’s mom to fetch you in their station wagon – the one with a bench facing out the back window so you could remember – even see- where you had been? Remember that you wandered into that church while they played hall-hockey, which you never played because a doctor had diagnosed you with hand-eye coordination problems (which pottery would prove wrong, but not for 6 years.)
Remember. Remember your conversion, sitting alone in that vast sanctuary, lit only by a tabernacle candle. IT introduced itself and you burst into tears, remember? No “He” or “She” of “God” or “Lord.” Simply a presence, behind and to the right, almost sitting two pews back, and not. Or one. IT said I was loved. The hairs on my body lifted and I responded, out loud, that I knew I was loved. IT said IT would never leave me, always care for me. IT never has left me, and It always will care for me, but not as I would like nor on my schedule. I wept in that pew, that night, so deeply that I had trouble breathing. No need of priests. I had so many questions, as if I was aware that IT could answer them all. But when I began to ask, IT felt very heavy behind me and then stopped talking, widening the space between us but not leaving entirely.
IT rarely really ever speaks nowadays, as if I moved my life from the Old-Testament-loud-God to the New-Testament-007-God. Usually I know IT is in the room when tears arrive for no reason. or for one or two reasons. It listens a lot. It speaks rarely. We have a relationship like the old people I meet on vacation, one always does the talking – a chatty-Cathy, while the other one smiles and listens and nods, when required, and remembers things for them both. It is the practical one and it listens, usually quietly.
Why recall all this history about conversion and relationship? Because to remember helps meditation. Meditation and prayer can be dull if I forget how we meet, like lovers in a reserved hotel room. We sneak off and cheat on the evils. And we do it together. And sometimes the time is full of pillows and positions but usually it is just two at a table with a candle, encountering. And sometimes we meet even though I am angry at IT and have announced that I am officially not “on speaking terms” with IT. And when that happens, It smirks a lot, because it knows I am utterly defenseless against ITs love. And that is infuriating. IT knows that if I left IT, I would die. So we sit, the four of us, in silence; the Father, heavy with Kovod, the Son, understanding of my life, the Spirit trying to tickle me and make me laugh when I am tying so hard to be angry. What a strange family I have.
Why remember all this history? Because if I do not remember how this all began, I will loose touch with the romance and it will become rote. I will begin to think that going to church checks my “I am a Christian.” box on my report card. A bicycle is not a car just because it spends time in a garage. A Christian is not a Christian just because they attend a church service or two. A Christian is a Christian because they are in a working, demanding, effort-requiring relationship with IT. That’s how marriage works. That’s how parenting works. That’s how employment works. That’s how health works and that’s how spirituality works. They all work on a principle that we do what is needed to be in real, engaged relationship. I do not mean that we work our way to heaven. That is a free gift to everyone, universally. I mean simply that we must do the work of relationship. Would a marriage work is you met your partner for 90 minutes a week on Sunday morning to listen to priests and choirs praise your lover? No. Marriage works because you work on the relationship – at night when you are both dressed for dinner and in the morning when you have morning-breath. And for me, meditation is how I meet my maker, this IT who has been so good to me, and so hard on me, both.
Let this chapter of my Rule of Life help me to remind me, every few weeks, of how we met, IT and me. Of how we fell in love and how we have lived our life together. Remember. Never forget your romance, or all the suffering you have experienced at the hands of the Christian Church, which pays you, will have been for nothing – little more than an abusive marriage at best, or prostitution at worst. No. Remember. Remember that you fell in love. Remember that you are in love. Remember that your work is to teach and preach love. If you forget you become professionally impotent and your salary will be a form of theft. Remember that your meditation practice engages in that love, re-boots it, fuels it with energy and fills you with that love which pours over your edges into the life and people among whom you live. Remember. And never forget, that you know you are loved. Nothing else matters but that you Love IT and yourself and all sentient beings. Those are the two commandments. Live them out in prayer and meditation. Remember. Remember. Remember.
As you write you Rule of Life Chapter on Remembering, consider one of these quotations, or others, to get you going.
“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”
“If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example.”
“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
“There’s a long road of suffering ahead of you. But don’t lose courage. You’ve already escaped the gravest danger: selection. So now, muster your strength, and don’t lose heart. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life. Above all else, have faith. Drive out despair, and you will keep death away from yourselves. Hell is not for eternity. And now, a prayer – or rather, a piece of advice: let there be comradeship among you. We are all brothers, and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive.”
Elie Wiesel, Night
“Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.
Art consists of the persistence of memory.”
Stephen King, Misery
“Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hand, called out “Pooh!” “Yes?” said Pooh. “When I’m–when–Pooh!” “Yes, Christopher Robin?” “I’m not going to do Nothing any more.” “Never again?” “Well, not so much. They don’t let you.” Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again. “Yes, Christopher Robin?” said Pooh helpfully. “Pooh, when I’m–you know–when I’m not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?” “Just me?” “Yes, Pooh.” “Will you be here too?” “Yes Pooh, I will be really. I promise I will be Pooh.” “That’s good,” said Pooh. “Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.” Pooh thought for a little. “How old shall I be then?” “Ninety-nine.” Pooh nodded. “I promise,” he said. Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt Pooh’s paw. “Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I–if I’m not quite–” he stopped and tried again– “Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?” “Understand what?” “Oh, nothing.” He laughed and jumped to his feet. “Come on!” “Where?” said Pooh. “Anywhere.” said Christopher Robin.
So, they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”
A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner