Wednesday, January 12, 2005


My earliest recollections of emotions in my childhood are of loneliness. By the time I entered high school it was a pervasive and deep painful throb, like an ear ache in my spirit. The mystery was that no one would have guessed. I was constantly surrounded by people. They seemed to like me, I was wellll.... popular, even though I was small, goony, geeky and eccentric.
I had a knack for making people laugh. People like to laugh, I figured out early in my life, and as we moved from state to state and country to country with the Navy, I grew to depend on that talent to be sure I wasn't alone in a new place.

But there was a deep suspicion within me. Actually, not a suspicion but a grudging acceptance of a reality I could not bear: people didn't like ME, they liked what I decided to show them, which was a fake "me", or at best, only a part of me that I knew people would like. Their acceptance was a lie... not that they were faking it, I was...they really liked what they thought I was, I just knew that wasn't me they liked. So, in the midst of people who "liked me" I was lonely.

Fast forward, or whatever you do to a DVD now... a few decades, and now I see a distinction between lonely and alone that is grounded in God. Alone is a choice. Lonely is a consequence.
A person can be alone but not lonely. A person can be surrounded by friends, family, and even saints and be lonely.

We are not intended to function with loneliness. God is Trinity. We are created in His image, that is, for communion, love, community, union, unity and mutuality. Apart from that God has no existence, apart from that we do not "exist" even though we might be breathing. Loneliness is the ultimate fear factor. To be alone means we are rejected. To be alone means our acceptance by other people is based on a lie, an unreality. It is all a consequence of the fall, of sin, of the fear of death. Death is not merely stopping breathing, it is being cut off from everything and every one. We'll do almost anything to keep even a fake relationship because bad breath is better than no breath at all. Fake acceptance is better than real rejection.
An illusion of love and communion is better than the substance of dark silence in the middle of the night. I think that is why sex sells so well in our culture...we are lonelier than ever and its better to wrestle with a warm body with no soul than to wrestle with a pillow in the middle of the night within your own soul.

The greatest risk the human being can take is not eating cow intestines or being covered with cockroaches. It is being real. The problem is, the fear is, if you are real, you get real responses.
Most of us cannot face reality, so we dance around it.

So, yes. The entire human race is afraid of being alone. But much of the human race cannot
face the fact they are indeed alone and are grasping at illusions and images, relationships of fog that obscure the bleak landscape within them. The sickness of the soul is to live without real love.

And the only cure for the soul is Truth.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

I'm Not God

Are tsunamis all relative? I think of an earthquake 3,000 miles away that ends up killing God only knows how many people and devastating even more people's lives. Then I get home and find out a former client who is a lawyer and a member of my Church (I won't get into the "I said/he said" details....) turned in a complaint about me to the State Registrar of Contractors that could potentially shut down my livelihood. My father in law falls down and hurts his leg and it sends a tidal wave of inconveniences and changes of schedules and sleepless nights over our family life. The cat pukes in the hall and I step in it in the dark. And.... well, the daily litany of life's smaller injustices and speed bumps. Does seeing a picture of miles of wrecked coastline change my life? Well, no, the cat puke still stinks and I have to wash my feet and clean the floor. It doesn't heal my father in law's swollen leg or make him able to walk, or make him able to stand steadily and hit the toilet when he pee's. The Red Cross isn't going to help me pay off the two grand the lawyer wants to stop harassing me. I can intellectually see the difference between my situation and the coastal cities of India. I can feel compassion for their wretched lives and cumulative grief beyond imagination. But, in the end, when I open my eyes this is where I am, in my house, with my petty problems that don't go away because someone else has bigger ones ten thousand miles away. I suppose I should and could thank God my problems aren't bigger than they are. But most of the time I'm so wrapped up in my own stuff that I don't think about that. The tsunami is real, the deaths are real, for certain. But the other reality is, it is pictures in a lighted box in my living room. My father in law laying on the floor of his bathroom isn't. We have to pick him up and clean the walls and floors of the bathroom and change his clothes.

It is amazing to me how quickly we can feel compassion when watching the news and then
just as quickly lose it when something happens, even something like the phone ringing or
dinner being ready or checking my email.

I suppose that if we were able to feel the accumulated totality of the pain of all the people that we hear about in every newscast about every murder, death, loss and injustice ever told about and never be able to slough it off or forget about it, we'd be crushed beneath it all.

Perhaps that is why Isaiah said He "bore our griefs" and was "crushed for our iniquities".
He took on the totality of the burden of the sins and griefs of what it means to be human in a fallen world and never laid that down or lost it or forgot it.

My reaction when I step in cat puke alone should let me know I'm not God. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that.