Sunday, April 26, 2015

Good Shepherd Sunday

As an Episcopalian, I heard one very fine sermon today from our lectionary about Jesus as the “good shepherd,” and now I’ve read other good sermons online. 
We have a marvelous stained glass window in my church.  My photo may not be great, but the window is.  There’s a beautiful Jesus, tenderly carrying a beautiful lamb. 
This window got personal for me a couple of years ago during a “quiet retreat” in my parish.  I happened to sit just below this window.  In my long, quiet time of prayer and reflection, that window, that image spoke to me.  I found myself identifying with that beautiful, vulnerable lamb, and I wished to be cradled and carried in safety and love. Internally, I found myself shouting in anger at that tender Jesus in the stained glass window: “Where the hell were you when I needed to be cradled and carried??”  I’m not delusional. I’m not given to visions.  But, my friends, it was like I heard Jesus quietly responding to me out of that glass: “And when did you give up your ego and your pride and allow me to carry you?”
Wherever it came from, that voice of response was scathingly true.  Much as I long to be nurtured and tended and carried and cared for, my stiff necked ego just can’t give in and let myself be nurtured and carried.  I want it.  Oh, God, how I want it!  But the thought of yielding – the thought of being vulnerable and needy and meek and defenseless – it scares me to death.  It scares me to death!

So about three years after that “silent retreat” in my parish … 3 years after that “conversation” with this image …  I still confront this stained glass window every Sunday.  Jesus and I are still arguing.  I  with my conflicted desires, and Jesus with his invitation. 


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Screaming in Pain

Over two decades ago, I was close to a couple in Texas whose infant had a terrible form of leukemia.  During one of my visits, the mother took the little girl (about 2 years old) to the hospital for yet another treatment, and I accompanied them.  The treatment involved shots. I cannot forget how that little child responded.  She lay still on the table.  She had had so very many injections that she knew what was coming and knew how to behave.  But the pain was real, and she knew it all too well.  I remember being with her when the shots were administered.  She lay quite still as we held her little hands, while she moaned an incantation: “OWEE! OWEE! OWEE!” over and over and over again, but barely moving.
Years later, I had my own pain, emotional and psychological.  I remember holding my arms around myself, and echoing that little girl’s cry.  I couldn't be more articulate than to say “owee” again and again and again as I rocked back and forth, back and forth against the pain.
Yesterday, I had to take my cat Neko to the vet.  A week ago, I had noticed she seemed to have a sort of abrasion near one of her eyes. Yesterday, I noticed it was dotted with blood.  I called the vet and made an appointment to take her in.  Based on past experience, I gave her "kitty Xanax" 3 hours before the appointment. When I bundled her up for the appointment, she was seriously stoned, barely able to walk.  I thought that meant this would be a stress-free vet visit.  But, no.  Once we got there, she turned into Linda Blair.  Much blood was shed by me and the vet assistant. The vet determined we would have to sedate her fully in order to do an exam.  In the process of trying to subdue Neko for the sedative injection, Neko screamed like I can't describe – like a woman being flayed alive. The volume and pitch of it were something I’ll always recall but can’t describe.  I wish they'd given me a sedative, for I couldn't help crying when I saw her so terribly stressed.  
Today, I've found myself thinking about the emotional and physical pain we suffer and how we respond.  How I respond. To physical pain, I generally just whine, but pain meds take care of that.  But my response to emotional pain?  Sometimes I’m able to respond like that little toddler, crying “OWEE” over and over, rocking myself.  I have never had the nerve to respond to emotional pain like Neko did yesterday.  She was screaming in fury and outrage.  Her behavior was primal and true.  I've never had the courage to do that. 
Mostly, I just weep quietly and alone.