I have walked the gossamer line of life these past months. Uncertainty haunts my every move. Those moments of feeling compelled to follow a way I believed to be of God vanished, evaporated in the unseen vapors of anxiety and human will.
Losing my mother to Leukemia rocked the boat of my experience to such a degree as to unsettle the balance of my life. My dad’s health issues and subsequent stay in a skilled nursing care last December accented the arrogance of my nonchalant living.
Add to this the loss of our beloved Jak, our 10 year old Newfoundland dog, our buddy, our dear friend, our protector and companion. I do believe that one reason my mom did not worry so much about us living in our neighborhood was because she knew Jak would protect us with his life…and scare the bejeezus out of any who threatened us.
Being fired, good thing as it might have been, threw open the doors of economic surety – we were not merely insecure, we were in trouble. Then, Debbie and Kyleigh were in a wreck that totaled our little Scion xB, a car we really loved. Thank God, they were both ok. However, the loss of that little car was emotionally and financially taxing. We could not afford to replace it with anything that got such good fuel mileage. Regardless, the idea that these two could have been severely injured or dead was a lesson in here today, gone tomorrow.
The timely (or some might say untimely) death of my 100 year old grandmother followed in the next month by the deaths of my beloved aunt (my mom’s sister) and her husband (on the day of her funeral), while natural to an extent, still served to expand my understanding that this life is fleeting.
My dad’s most recent health issue brought on by a fall, small brain bleed, and ongoing recovery in addition to what could have been a catastrophic event involving my sister, adds yet one more layer to the already heavy load. A driver running a red light slammed into my sister as she was returning my dad’s vehicle after having taken him to the VA for a regular appointment. The fact that she was not killed or seriously injured; that it happened after she dropped my dad off; and that my grand-niece was not in the car with her are huge opportunities for thanksgiving. Yet, in all of this, the wreck, the possibility of her, as my dad’s primary care giver, being seriously injured or killed, pointed to the fact that this could have been a life changing event for her, for my daddy, and for me and my immediate family.
The fact that I turned 60 this year simply complicates my own sense of worth, ridiculous as that may sound. While 60 is not old if one is fairly secure, psychologically, spiritually, and economically, it feels very old when all of these are compromised. I see the effects of poverty and anxiety on the faces and in the bodies of those who are clients of the food pantry where I work. I do not know the spiritual aspects of their hearts but I do know that each has a tale to tell and that most are full of sorrow. The effects are devastating in people younger than I but who look a decade older. It is all simply compounded by age.
I fully realize that part of the emotional toll is that which is brought on by having an additional two kids in the house. They are here for a year. Hopefully, their parents will be able to get their own lives in order so that the kids can return home. Moving from grandparent to parent role is never an easy one. It is also what throws us into the real definition of living below the poverty line…as opposed to right above it.
The emotional and economical nature of my psyche have been compromised by all aspects mentioned while the spiritual has been so by the very nature of spirituality itself – seeking the will of God while living in a world that demands immediate attention to the secular. It is one thing to take on Holy Poverty; it is another to take it on while juggling family responsibilities and economic uncertainty. Whereas my past conviction has been that God will provide for all of our needs, and while I strongly continue to believe that, the simple struggle of making ends meet, of having to constantly be aware of each penny spent, of every dime wasted, erodes a certain ability to set my trust fully on God’s provisions.
Basically, this is not a lining up of things for which I can lay cause of despair; rather, it is simply to put into words those struggles in which I find myself immersed. More intently, it creates within me the questioning of my struggle to follow God’s will for me.
Did I fall off the path? Take a wrong turn? Is there a cause and effect in all of these recent happenings? Or is it just a part of that well known aphorism, “Shit happens.”?
Having been indoctrinated by a ‘bad things happen to bad people’ theology, regardless of how little I believe that, in spite of the fact that I do not believe that, still…that little worm wiggles its way into my mind, questioning my worth, my desires, my steps. Evil or reality?
I feel a clearly defined cynicism for the church. For the first time ever, I hold a kinship with the idea of Spiritual but not Religious.
I have always thought that working within the structure was vital. However, I am beginning to question that. What I have found, what I feel, is that where two or more men are gathered, the work of the Spirit is lessened. Is it God’s will that I continue butting my head into this human wall?
I remember my Ethics professor turning her steely glare upon one white woman who had the audacity to declare, “but I am so tired of trying”. The prof’s answer to that statement? “How nice for you that you have the luxury and privilege of being tired and giving up.” That sardonic statement has sustained me through this past decade. But I swear I am at the point of wanting to care not so much, of wanting to just escape into a mindless solitude that is without nuclear weapons, extreme and not so extreme but just as deadly poverty, from hunger and fear, injustice and oppression.
But, I do not have that luxury. My Holy Poverty and now Involuntary Poverty have intertwined. My full dependence upon God has been compromised by a radical dependence upon a broken social system and need to accept help from those who seem to hold a good deal of contempt for those in need. I have lost a great deal of autonomy. This, in and of itself, might not be a bad thing in that it has allowed me to view my own arrogance and self righteousness. It has allowed me to see power in its most vile form – a power in charge of the welfare of its most vulnerable citizens yet without a care for the welfare of those disenfranchised.
It has also allowed me to see more clearly how side issues misdirect us. We have spent years arguing, pushing and promoting the idea that all are welcomed and trying to make those who make that declaration actually live into its fullness. Yet, with our blind eye, we only give an academic nod to the reality of poverty and its effects on a nation at large.
Still, be that as it may be, for whatever good, there is a great loss of self-esteem…or even of worthiness. Yet it is not a sense of being unworthy to God – just basically useless, not being allowed to work in a capacity to which I am able in the society I live.
Suffice it to say, I am in the process of questioning all I have done, all that I have left undone, and all that is still required to be done. At this time, without a doubt, I live deep within that doubt.