I Hurt

This morning I sat down at my prayer desk, lit two candles in front of icons of Our Blessed Mother, opened my Sacred Space devotional, and read slowly and reflectively while breathing deeply.

We are all part of that cosmos that transcends space and time … I pray with compassion … I give thanks … The Kingdom of God is not coming in things that can be observed.

I breathe deeply in this place where I have experienced intimacy with God. I remember his love. I ask for nothing this morning. I just sit and breathe, but eventually I reach for the tool which will allow me to process what I am experiencing; I will write and in writing I will carve out a place upon which I can stand with dignity.

I begin with two words, two words I learned to say years ago when I read Wayne Muller’s book, Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood. In the first chapter he writes, “For just a moment, I imagine letting go of the ‘Why’ and just allow yourself to say, ‘I hurt.’ Nothing more, just repeat that phrase a few times slowly, ‘I hurt.'”

I hurt.

I was sexually molested at 12; my initiation into physical intimacy was rape by two men I did not know who entered the sanctity of my bedroom from a neighbor’s party and woke me because they wanted to “party” with me. I have battled with depression all my life, and have never been able to have a healthy relationship which involved physical intimacy, which means I have been painfully lonely for my entire adult life.

And this week, I watched our nation elect for president a man who boasted about assaulting women, which essentially gives every man carte blanche to assault women. I hurt.

I grew up in a predominantly white, primarily agricultural state during the Civil Rights movement. The only black person I had ever seen was on television, but I didn’t need personal experience to know what was written on my heart: ALL men and women are created equal. I have been grateful for eight short years that in my lifetime I had seen our nation take the giant step from segregation to full participation.

And this week, I watched our nation elect for president a man who is blatantly racist, a man whose intolerance is notorious, a man who reveals the heart of darkness which lies within the people of this nation, people who claim to be Christian and to worship the God who is love. I hurt.

I hurt.

I hurt.

I hurt.

And I am not alone. My employer is making trauma  counseling available, recognizing that many of us feel as though we have been injured by a catastrophic event. I feel as though I am watching one of my beloved daughters being gunned down or one of my precious grandchildren being run over by a train — helpless. I am helpless to stop the tragedy unfolding before my eyes.

And I feel homeless. I do not know this place, these people. The country I was taught to love no longer exists; Tuesday’s election has shown me this.

Sitting at prayer desk and writing has helped me to find a modicum of peace in the midst of this suffering. I find it in the Psalms, in words which remind me that this, too, will pass.

‭“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.” ‭(‭Psalm‬ ‭37:7-10‬, ‭NIV‬‬)

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The Moon and the Stars

“When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established — what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)

“I can see the moon,” Avery said to me this morning as I hugged her good-bye.

I had pointed out the moon when she and her twin sister scampered into the living room after getting dressed, but it was quickly slipping behind the house behind ours. Only when I lifted her could she see it again. Two days ago, she had pointed out the moon when we were playing outside after supper and I thought she might like to see it again. I wasn’t wrong. She was even more excited to learn that the moon would rise in the east this evening.

“The moon will be over there,” she told my daughter, when she joined us. Sara looked at Avery’s pointed finger  and then at me for clarification. “Tonight,” I said and she nodded with understanding.

Not all things in life are as easily understood, and one of those is that bizarre dynamic God set up when he was inebriated with creation — diversity, differences. He looked at every thing he created and said, “It is good.” While I question the goodness of some insects — mosquitoes, flies, ticks, any creepy thing that may bite me, but especially those than can carry some nasty disease — I am willing to endorse the majority of his creation as good. And being a creator myself — I consider painting to be an act of creation since the ideas emerge from the deep well of nothingness that is one of those places where I find God — I tend to wallow in diversity, too.

I never cease to be amazed by the intelligent people who can’t comprehend the need for diversity. They may enjoy skiing down the snow covered mountain slopes and baking (or do you roast?) in the Caribbean sun within the span of a few weeks without ever once saying to themselves, “The infinite variety of God’s creation is truly a wonder!” And because they can’t appreciate diversity that they can see and touch, they can’t even begin to imagine that diversity in the human family is equally wonderful, equally beautiful.

Instead, they get caught up in a right/wrong — or more likely my way/wrong — dichotomy. No where is that more evident than when folks feel inclined to make apostles of others, to teach them what they should think and believe. I know. Folks in my life who love me (I assume) are always attempting to convert me to what they believe. I know their efforts are doomed to failure for two reasons. First, what I believe is deeply rooted in my life of faith, in Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic church.

Second, my mind assembles parts and pieces, and the whole created must have the beauty and elegance of logic for me to consider it valid. Thus far, I haven’t seen that. Consider these parts and pieces:

  • We live in a global economy (total agreement).
  • America must be competitive (makes sense). (I conclude from these two pieces that products produced must be competitively priced.)
  • CEO and shareholder income takes precedence over worker income. (Makes no sense; if workers aren’t paid a living wage, they become dependent upon assistance programs which robs them of their  dignity. People robbed of dignity are often robbed of hope as well, and hopeless people do stupid things.)
  • Those who take home the lion’s share of a company’s wealth should not have to pay taxes to support those on assistance programs because they worked hard for their money. (Really? How are those folks supposed to live? They work, often more than one job, but aren’t paid a living wage. Someone else profits from their labors. How are they to pay for the basics of life — food, shelter, healthcare, clothes for their children?)

For me, a logical solution, a beautiful and elegant solution, would be to pay workers a living wage. OK, CEOs would no longer earn more than 300 times what their employees earn, and the wealthiest one percent wouldn’t continue to amass wealth faster than the average American, but more people would become self-sufficient again and regain their personal dignity; bit by bit crime rates would drop because the hopeless desperation which leads folks to do stupid things would be leached from communities. For me, answers lie in working for the common good.

But! To bring this back to the main point: I trust God enough to trust that he created this diversity of opinion for a reason, and since he works slowly — anyone who waits upon the Lord to answer a prayer can tell you exactly how slowly he works — I am willing to patiently wait to see what he is up to. I  am willing to believe that those driven by a worldview different from mine have their feet set on that path to accomplish something that God has set before them.

I just wish they didn’t need the validation seeing their beliefs mirrored in me. I wish their faith and worldview were large enough to trust that God is also working in me, though doing something entirely different. And honestly, how could anyone look at one of my paintings and even begin to imagine that I don’t march to my own drummer? Recognizing the independence of my spirit really should be a no-brainer.