Friday, May 21, 2010
Yesterday my life changed. I was able to see something about my childhood and how it affects my adulthood that I had never seen before. It had been staring me in the face for 46 years but I had just never seen it before.
I was with a friend and we were discussing our lives - what is going on - who is pushing our buttons - where they were sewed on by our parents. We were working on our "stuff" trying to become better people. Trying to figure things out so that each year of life that passes involves a few better choices made, and a few less poor choices made.
Working on life is so important. And it is work. To look up close so that we see past the glittering image we want people to see and look deep into the detail - that is "doing the work." My friend Ian says "I only want friends in my life who are 'doing their work!'" And I agree. I am doing my work. I am asking hard questions and looking into dark corners and turning up the lights in my life - welcoming wise others in to look at the cob webs and help me sort out how to live my best life. And they, in tern, invite me into their vulnerable life and ask me my opinion too. As we "do our work" of looking hard at life and seeing - with wide-awake eyes- what needs to be seen, we are becoming God's hope for us.
Blackwater Bluff is a lovely home - comfortable and deeply soothing to me and to others who come here for rest and conversation. But even in the house of this over-functioning solitary, there are the occasional cob webs if you get up close and look from the right angle. My friend Jeremy took this photo one night at a dinner at my house. To him it was a photo but to me it seems an icon. When I first saw the photo in his collection I was embarrassed. But then I realized, with a smile and a shrug that the shame is not in the cob web being there. The only shame would be in the cob web being left there or thinking thatthere are no others.
We all have these cob webs in our lives. We all have "our work to do" as we become more self-aware without becoming more self-absorbed. We beg God to open our eyes to see the cob webs. Then we beg God to remove them. And God shows up in other people - in our sages - in the people we love and trust and consider wise. Our friends bear Christ to us like an inn-keeper bearing a lantern to a traveller in a storm.
They say that cob webs tend to appear where there is air flow. Spiders make their webs there because of the increased likelyhood of a tasty bug being swept into them. Makes sense.
This cob web on my lamp in the living room reminds me that there will always be the occasional cob webs (and even dust balls !) and sometimes we will find new rooms in this "house of love" we call life; and when we open a long-closed door we will find a room so swagged in cob webs that it looks like Disney halloween on meth. But if we go in and invite God in with us - bring close trusted friends in with us, we can clean those rooms up a bit and consider where the drafts are coming from and fix the cracks and let God fix the ones we cannot reach. We "do our work" with courage and integrity. We live our lives not with the lights kept low, but with times of bright self-exposure to those we trust so that they can help us to reach some of the spots we just can't quite reach on our own.
Merton was right. No person is an island. We are all connected. We are all placed here to help each other to become God's hope for us. But for that to happen we need to find our sages, open up to our sages and then, gently, deal with what we see - together.
Yesterday, I realized that an unhelpful pattern in my adulthood was connected to an abuse in my childhood. This realization was like finding a lost combination to an old bank safe. Inside my psyche I could feel the bank-vault internal door wheels turning inside me as the right combination was being entered by a wise friend with a lamp trained on my soul. As the wheels moved and turned and the turning wheels and gears turned the door bolts - all working simultanioulsy in a brass and chrome symphony of turning and grinding, all of a sudden a door unlocked and as it opened, a swoosh of air anounced a new openness. My soul felt that a bit of progress had been made in this house of love I call my life. Inside that door there may well be cob webs, but the people in my life are with me and we all have our trusty feather dusters in our back pocket. The next time we gather for a good meal and some red wine, we can start talking away the cob webs.
Our life is not given to us to be lived so that we are perfect. Our life has been given to us so that we are letting God - through our sages and friends - tackle those cob webs and brighten those windows to our souls. As we do that, there is more Christ-light for everyone.
"...and the light was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."