Friday, November 4, 2016
A Faithuality Post
This was on the grocery list a few days ago:
It's cute, isn't it?
There's more, of course. When we were first married, Marci used to put little love notes and smiley faces and such on the list that hangs on the side of the refrigerator, she still does. When I asked Z to put cookies on the list, this is what he did. I don't think he ever saw Marci do it, or saw it on a list before, it just occurred to him.
I'm glad it did.
I've decided to do a thirty-four week "retreat for Everyday Life." It is presented by the Collaborative Ministry Office at Creighton University and is founded in Ignation thought and the tenets of the Jesuits - The Brothers of Christ. It suggests a theme and a path for prayer and reflection and...
...blah, blah, blah...
It's not complicated. I won't be wearing holes in my jeans knees or thrice whumping my chest above my heart or fasting or proselytizing - all laudable - but, I will give it some thought.
One of the bible dudes said something like "pray without ceasing." Yeah, that's a tall order. But, what if our very thoughts are like prayers, every action a folding of the hands, every breath a celebration? If I welcome an idea into my heart with the hope that it will bring me deeper in Faith, wouldn't then every subsequent thought and revelation and fear be but a prayer?
This week tells us to prepare for the journey. This week asks us to be honest and joyous and free. Mostly though, this week asks us to go back in our lives, to think about our young childhood, our adolescence and our young adult life.
"Let's let the Lord show us our lives."
That's some radical thinking, right there. I always look back at my life as a self-guided tour. I feel my own sorrows, I rejoice in myself, I brave the memory of bad times, I celebrate myself for my victories. All, bolstered and lifted by my own damn self.
But what if someone else led the tour? What if God led the tour?
I've been all through my life, honestly. If nothing else, I've always been introspective. My timeline is pretty solid. I've felt the feelings, all that. In my arrogance and sheer smugness, I figured their wasn't much for God to show me. And you know what? I was right.
Except... the light was wrong, or the perspective was off or something. I wasn't the hero or antagonist in this writing. I was not the main character in this narrative, I was in the chorus at best.
This time through, my attention was called to what others - what God, for God is always in others - were doing for me. This kindness, that help, that understanding. Beautiful things and powerful wisdom, enormous love. From parents and friends and family, strangers, lovers, enemies. So much I've missed in my story, or forgotten, really.
It's a great exercise, but I think we are doomed to be tragic heroes of our own stories, I know I am. But...
I was looking at some old photographs from my childhood days, hoping maybe to see something new. Something profound or heart skipping, looking for what God was trying to show me, which one shouldn't really try.
As I flipped around pages, looking at pictures I know well, I didn't see just the trapped moment, this time.
A picture of a boy in a football uniform beside my old school isn't just about me. It's about the dirty split uniforms and scrapes my mother cleaned and mended. It's about trips to and from practice. It's about coaches and community and place. A picture of little Billy Peebles, posing with a football on a fall day in rural Ohio, is, lastly, about me. It is about the respect and honor put - sometimes undeservedly, I might add - towards me. The picture is just a culmination of countless acts of love bestowed on me by others. Sound familiar?
I think I knew all this. Especially now as a parent. It's good to remember that we are lifted along the journey by others. I think I fulfilled the basic intent of this weeks theme, don't you?
But there was something else, something I couldn't grab. I kept, in selfishness, looking at my face in picture after picture. Yes, even when I was trying to see something different I kept searching my own face. Now, remember, I am trying to take the tour, not lead it. Then, why do I keep scrutinizing each expression, trying to read a boy's mind decades ago?
There is a series of pictures taken on an old Instamatic in seventy-two. Black and whites of a shed JB and I built one summer. The shed from this story about Mr. Barnes and us. JB is in some of them. In one he's petting our old dog, Deputy. There is a blurry one of me peering from a window - the window - of our shack, but this is the one that caught my eye:
I flipped back to a few others and it suddenly occurred to me, I wasn't looking at the boy, the boy was watching me. I looked at other pictures and in many I am watching something. Candles on a cake, a brother, my dad, nowhere. Even when I am looking at the camera, I seem to be looking at the person behind it, or even through them and on to the future, my now, now.
I've spent my whole life watching and it all probably started as a kid. I've never thought of that really. That as a boy, as the last of three sons, there was a lot to watch. I grew up in the late sixties and seventies, there was a lot to watch. I grew up around fields and woods and gravel pits and ponds, there was a lot to watch.
I think though, all I did was watch. I wasn't trying to understand, infer, learn. I was just taking it all in, knowing somehow, that I'd have time for that later. And, that has served me well over the course of a lifetime. I didn't then, and I may still not, know the importance of all that watching, but it occurs to me that it might now be that "later" I've been waiting for.
I look at that boy sitting in a shed and see him watching me, a pleasant, expectant look on his face and I hear him say, "You're turn."
I'd like to tell you about a long term plan that has me publishing something here on Fridays about this retreat, each post framed around the theme of the week, you know, sort of as a writing prompt. I won't though, I am really not good at long range things, I can think of a few other ideas I had like this which now lay fallow in the back pages here.
I will tell you this, though. I can't give an honest account of myself without including my journey through Faith. I can't not use words like God and Spirit and, if it's fitting, even Jesus. And, to be honest, I'm tired of trying to work around them, trying to be vague in the hope of not offending those who aren't walking this road. I don't want to be didactic or condescending or disingenuous, although some might see it as such. And, most certainly, I don't want to offend or insult. If I have, or do, let me apologize now.
Peace to you all. So few come around anymore, I appreciate your time, I really do.
It's funny, it pretty much just "occurred" to me to write this today. I was going to write on cuteness.