Monday, March 14, 2005

Oh, you mean THAT sign...

Yesterday, I was driving to church on a truly gorgeous morning - the kind of morning when the sky is infinite and teacup blue, and the day will be warm enough for bare legs and sandals. I was alone in the mommyvan because little Buttercup simply cannot go to church yet, so JC and I tag-team most Sundays. So it was beautiful, I was alone in the mommyvan, I was speeding because I was a teensy bit late and I always envision myself accidentally becoming part of the procession by entering at exactly the wrong time. And I was praying. I was having a serious conversation with the Holy Spirit: "Listen, I'm not very smart. I'm just barely conscious enough to recognize that there IS a call to me. It's buzzing like the 5 a.m. alarm that makes absolutely no sense in my dream state because, as far as I can tell, it's coming out of the mouth of my third grade teacher. Who looks like Wink Martindale. "You've been incredibly good to get me this far, but I need a little more help. I need a clearer sign. I promise to be open to it. No, seriously. I promise. It doesn't have to be today. I can wait. I'll just get back to work and wait for you to get back to me." I entered the church just as the procession was lining up. At a different church, that would be a problem, but at mine, everything is casual enough that the (only) acolyte said, "Hey, I like your scarf!" The sermon was about Lazarus and his new life. My mind wandered to what Lazarus did after Jesus went home. (And I realize that the rest of Lazarus' life may well be common knowledge that I do not, myself, possess.) After all the wonderment and celebration were over, did he go home and look in the mirror and say, "What now?" I mean, he was dead for four days - FOUR DAYS. All that was left of him were memories and a stench. Then, as proof of the power of God's love, he walked out of it unscathed. What the hell are you supposed to do with that? Did he use it? Did things suddenly become more clear to him in a way that allowed him to go on and live a life that made people say, "The best thing that ever happened to Lazarus was dying for four days." Or did he sit around the house, staring at the ceiling with occasional outbursts of "Holy fuck! I was dead for FOUR DAYS and came back. Are you shitting me?" Did it get so bad that, at night after Lazarus had finally fallen asleep, Mary and Martha would sit up having a beer on the porch and confessing to each other that, as miraculous as his rising was, they're getting pretty tired of hearing about it? "Yes, Laz, we know. You were dead for four days. We were there, remember? Now could you give us a hand with these dishes? The world didn't stop when you died. And came back." T+'s sermon did not focus on this aspect of the Lazarus story (which is why she's a priest and I'm not). She honed in on the last line of the reading: The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ (John 11:44) She pointed out that Christ did not unbind Lazarus himself. Christ gave Lazarus new life, then told those around him to unbind him and help him on his way. She suggested that this is our duty to each other - we unbind each other's hands and feet, unwrap each other's faces so we can see each other. It was a good sermon, and although it was written to encourage generous stewardship, it resonated with me for other reasons. (Step off - I signed my pledge card.) After the service I stayed to get coffee and chat with people. Five people (including a RC nun who drives across state lines to attend our services) stopped to tell me how much they've been enjoying my newspaper columns. One of the men told me he sent a recent column to a friend of his who has had a long history of different cancers, and he thought she would appreciate the humor in my writing. He told me about his own fight against bladder and prostate cancer, both of which he has survived for more than five years. Then a woman, LB, who is fairly new to the parish, and who says she came because of something I wrote, called me over to meet a group of visitors, two women who are a couple and the sister of one of the women. LB told me they came because they read my column. After coffee, we've been having catechism, and this week's was all about the Holy Spirit and recognizing the activity of it in one's own life. Immediately, the conversation became all about discerning calls, and it was generally agreed that genuine callings are those that persist no matter how you ignore or diminish or run in the opposite direction of them. Kind of like, this is just hypothetical, if almost every person you've known for the past five years has said, "When are you going to write a book?" and "You should really put these things together in a book." But you keep saying to yourself that you don't know what you'd write, and writing a book is hard and other people have done it much better t han you could, and the publishing industry is soulless and corporate and who wants that, and you wouldn't make any money anyway, and a bunch of stuff you wrote is on an old hard drive and you don't know how to get it, and a thousand other excuses about how the thing that is calling you is too hard. Sooner or later, you might ask for a sign and find that every person who talks to you that day tells you to write, and if you continue to ignore it or ask for ANOTHER calling or insist that there's no point because there are already other writers in the world, well, the results just can't be good. So I guess this means I have to get back to work. "Dear Holy Spirit: Can you send me an agent?"


Blogger Marie said...

How funny! As you may have noticed, I too am in the process of NOT (really, I'm not) running away from a thing that may or may not be a call to the priesthood or some other cloudy, nebulous thing that may or may not happen sometime in the future. But just to add my voice to the chorus, you really should write a book. Your writing just rocks!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

So true. I've tried running away too. Reading what you've written I can only think how much better your own writing is than mine. On the other hand, I've already begun to forget things I have learned and realize that I should have been keeping a God journal, if you will. Is publishing the only thing that matters? My own sub blog is an attempt to do it, even though few people seem interested, I do intend to keep working away at it.

P.S.-Blogger doesn't like me anymore since I quit them. I joined the Episcopal blog ring under Myriad Musings. I am telling you this so you won't think I am hiding my true identity from you. :)

12:04 PM  

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