I’ve never been one to stay up and welcome in the New Year. This year was doubly true as I really needed my rest as part of the recuperation after my brain surgery. So being in a little town of Southern Germany where little excitement occurred, I crawled early under three layers of blankets to goodnight my way into 2013. And then at the stroke of midnight the whole town seemed to snap out of its boredom and fireworks lit the sky from what seemed every yard and hilltop. No one was allowed to ‘sleep in heavenly peace.’ So I jolted out of bed to open the window curtains to enjoy the noisy glamour and glow of a glorious New Year’s beginning.
How glorious this 2013 will be remains to be seen. Now that January is slowly losing it’s days, this year seems for so many people, for the warring world stage, and especially for myself to be shouting out that it could be one ‘heck’ of an amazing and fearsome year for a lot of people!
When I think about how I spent my Christmas in bed for the most part alone with throbbing headaches and afterwards the New Year’s trying to slow down my life, I suppose that looking from the outside in you could say, “I’m glad it’s you and not me!” It was game on for me! Just what game it was I could not exactly pinpoint. I shook my inner head more than once saying, “Why?” Surprisingly it all led to musing on the foundation of all that I was and did. It caused me to ask myself, “What exactly is the game again?”
This is a weak attempt at being philosophical, but I think part of life’s game, at least my game, is unpacking my story and reminding myself what it is to be a true human with all its failures, joys, challenges and weaknesses. As has been said, and I quote from memory, “We are spiritual beings learning to be human.” I make a note to myself, not everyone wants a ‘missionary’ to be human. Don’t be surprised by that, we’d rather give those who ‘minister’ the elite super-spiritual status of being God’s bible-answer-holy-men-or-women. That goal for me began to fade out long ago as I discovered it to be a facade and not worth wearing. Scripture seems to bear this out when world influencer Paul writes, “I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.” Not quite what you would find in a book on modern leadership!
But what does it mean to be human? Is it, as Richard Rohr writes, this paradox of “inconsistencies and contradictions” that glaringly shows up in everyone and, may I add, especially at the wrong time? He goes on to state it doesn’t take a pope to see that, “We are all, without exception, a mixed blessing.” We all live under the perimeters of the shadows where it is a mixture of light and darkness and blessing and less than blessing. Yet the pursuit of being human is the pursuit of opening our hearts and eyes to a life of grace, forgiveness, and compassion.
The next part of the game is, and this is just as hard as throwing off the elite spiritual status, is to let myself be led by the holy. The road to becoming a better human and the art of being led by ‘the holy’ is the difficult road called suffering. I can hear you whinge as you read these words silently. You don’t want to accept this or believe this at all. I used to be in your camp as well. Let me say, though, even as you remonstrate, that those who have walked through the shadowlands of a dark valley know that this is true. It is this road where the control button switches (gets ripped) from your grasp and into the hand of God.
It happened for me when I was in a hospital bed for the first time in my life moaning with each breath and calling out to the nurse on duty for more relief. That, my friend, was the point where I was no longer able to control my own outcome. In fact I was in that bed for seventeen long days and nights. I, as a fifty-one year old, was now in the hands (mercy) of another. I could tell the doctors and nurses exactly how I felt and what I needed, but in the end it was another who chose the way to healing for me. Are you beginning to see how the path of suffering has the potential to teaching you the lesson of being led by ‘the holy’?
Don’t get me wrong, I am still at times wanting to control my destiny and am in need of this continual learning to be led. It is getting easier. And I have a long way to go in being the human being that I need to be. Yet my experience has helped open this seemingly heavy door inside of me in order to allow more colours of light and compassion to shine in and out and to slowly chase away the moldiness of my judgmental tendency and superiority that at times leaked through the walls of my heart.
I am just hoping these little paragraphs of mine at the beginning of a New Year are not just sweet head knowledge-thoughts to make you or I say, “Amen brother, preach it!” I guess the game that really counts and is worth playing well is all about seeing the potential that is there for you and for me to open our heart and mind more than ever to all those that cross our path and especially to God who knows best just what we need. Try living that way, fully in the moment. Even in your confusion, or weakened state, or suffering you may find like I did that His grace is sufficient and shapes us to be better humans. And what’s more, you may find you are much more relaxed being led than being in charge.