Recently I was in the grocery store and heard a child crying. She was riding in her mother’s grocery cart, weeping bitterly over some lost thing. As I got closer I could not help overhearing her whimpering speech. “I want my dolly.” She said. “You lost it at the beach last summer! You were careless.” Said her mother.
Both responses were honest and true, no doubt. But it reminded me that we humans have hurts – hours old and decades old. We hold in every cell of our body griefs and losses, abuses which have left scars on us which ache from time to time. Often at strange, seemingly inappropriate times. We feel what we feel and scriptures tell us to go ahead and feel them. There is a time to hate, a time to mourn, a time to weep, a time to love says our scriptures (Ecclesiastes 3.) We need not linger in the harder feelings for long years (though some do to their destruction) but feeling them for weeks or months or days is, says scripture, inevitable and has its place in time. We are given permission to feel them even if the people around us demand our silence.
When the Buddha reached enlightenment he said that people need to let go of ritual and focus on kindness and compassion, insight and awareness. He said that perhaps giving up ritual and taking on minute-by-minute spiritual practice might be a better way to live. I agree. I see it rarely though. Most people tend to go to church as a kind of spiritual good-luck charm and then assume that 90 minutes is their spiritual practice. It is one form, but it is not going to get the job done. It is like checking in at weight watchers – listening to the speeches about calories and exercise, weighing in, writing down numbers, commiserating with the other strangers over bad coffee, getting your reduced calorie smoothie shakes and then going home to another week of binge-eating and tv watching only to go back to weight-watchers next week shocked at the scales reporting no weight loss.
Jesus never really spoke about ritual except to warn us of the arrogance and abuses of the clergy and ecclesial systems of power. He held his gatherings in deserts, on mountainsides, and near water. He preached and ate outside. He never mentioned candlesticks, incense, vestments, chalices, or even hymns. Jesus spoke of compassion, insight, awareness, and kindness and love. Jesus spoke of the spiritual practices of prayer, non-judgement, and healing. Jesus noticed people because of his own spiritual practice. Jesus talked to people about their spiritual practices not about their liturgical colors.
That small child in the grocery store had a deep wound. And for all we know, it was connected to an even deeper wound – or a series of them. Her tears and wailing were not about a lost doll. The idea of the lost doll simply let out the cries the way a volcano lets out the pressure-built lava from the earth.
We use all sorts of addictions to anesthetize our hurts. We shop. We over-eat. We over-work. We dull our thoughts with television. And then there are all the classic addictions like alcohol, pornography (which includes pouring over catalogues to make purchases …the misuse of images) and drugs.
As we begin to enter the fall we also begin to enter the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas race towards total societal addiction-self-ease. But might we be better simply to feel those pains, those hurts, those betrayals, that loss – really feel it in silence with good tea and some low lights? Might we recognize that inside each of us is our small, inner-child wailing about a lost doll or a lost GI Joe, a lost lacy hat or a lost hammer at the tree-house…a lost friend, a lost marriage, a lost relationship, a lost job, a lost career trajectory, a lost innocence?
Inside me and inside you is a small child. God is walking beside, before, behind us as we are pushing our own grocery cart with our own inner child in the little seat with the eggs. We must wail with that child with our inner selves. And we must stop the cart as this adult and pay full attention to the wailing, knowing that God is looking over our shoulder, ready to heal with the slightest kiss. And will. In time.