Friday, July 8, 2011

The Great Race

I turned 42 yesterday. Born on the seventh day of the seventh month to two seventh children. I'm coming to grips with the likelihood that perhaps I have more life behind me than in front of me, and I'm ok with the knowledge that the clock is continually catching up to me in the great race.


For whatever reason, this birthday served as the genesis of a lot of introspection, from little things to bigger things. Not a single person among us has the promise of being here tomorrow, yet we cling to our lives here - even those of us who believe in eternity - as if it's the only thing of merit we have to hold onto. I'm not saying that's wrong, mind you. It's our nature. Our lives here, and what they contain, ARE the only tangible thing we have. Concepts beyond it, like eternity, or even concepts like reincarnation for people who believe in such things, are intangible and faith-based.


Lots of things on my mind, and I'm probably gonna ramble a bit, so bear with me.


I was watching Dr.Oz yesterday morning, listening to him talk about various ways to live healthier and live longer, stuff like (loosely paraphrased) "If person A will take supplement B instead of eating item C, they'll increase their life expectancy by X number of years." My immediate thought is "What if person A, on their way to the pharmacy or health food store to purchase supplement B, gets run over by the C-train?" It seems like so much of our life here, whether directly or indirectly, revolves around delaying the inevitable. Sometimes we almost treat the inevitable as an unmentionable.


I'm not saying it's wrong by any means. I try to take care of myself, too. I've taken prescription meds for an arrhythmia since I was 20, so I raise my hand as being guilty of postponing the inevitable. I take a handful of supplements every morning, from a multi-vitamen, to fish oil, to sublingual B-12. I lift weights for about an hour a day, sucking down protein shakes in the 30 minute window after the workout. Part of my motivation is to simply feel physically better, part of it is to be sure that if any of the nutjobs I write about were to ever come looking for me they'll have a good tussle waiting for them, and part of it is the human desire to delay the inevitable, even if I might be more nonplussed about it than some. We're ALL human. I do have to say, though, that the last few years have changed a lot of my priorities, and changed a lot of the ways I look at life here on earth.


Spring of last year, a few months before beginning this blog, and right after my ex married another man, some new health issues arose for me. Prior to this, my health, at least insofar as my weight, had been gradually, very gradually, coming back. Her new marriage allowed me to start grieving, as much as the situation allowed me to grieve, anyway. With the added stress, a new arrhythmia flared up, which sent me to the ER at about 3AM one morning. The doc there prescribed a new agent for the arrhythmia, which seems to have worked like a champ so far, but suggested I follow up with my regular doctor. I was suffering from pretty deep depression at this time, and all of the stress of the previous two years was looked at as the chief contributor to both the depression (obviously so) and the heart issue.


My regular practitioner is a female. This has its advantages - they listen to their patients better than male medical professionals. I usually only go to the doctor once every six months just to stay on top of my meds and get new prescriptions, and usually only subject myself to a complete physical every 3 or 4 years (I know, medical people, shame on me). With the recent ER visit, my doc wanted to look a little more closely at me. When I mentioned the "stress" factor, she wanted to know some of the details behind the stress. Sorta chuckling at what she was opening the door to, I asked her "How long do you have?" Her morning was a pretty light one, so I spent an hour giving her the outline of the previous couple of years. She spent most of that hour in shock, I do believe, eyes fixed, mouth agape, with an occasional "Are you serious?" She prescribed an anti-depressant which I took for a couple of months. Not sure that it did anything for the depression, as life is still life and we have to deal with it, but at least it did seem to help me sleep a little better - which helped in the "dealing with life" part, being I was hardly sleeping at all before I started taking it.


She asked the obvious questions, "Are you suicidal, or have you had suicidal thoughts?" My response was as direct and honest as everything I write here, "No, but if I were to look up and see a boulder falling out of the sky and headed straight for me, I may not be all that quick to move." That's kinda where I was at the time. Not suicidal at all, but also realizing the human vanities that make up so much of the fragile life on this earth, and not feeling particularly partial toward them. My view of life had shifted pretty dramatically based on what I'd lived through, as had my view of my faith and all things related to it. Both are ever-evolving. I'm fine with that.


Life has to be more than vanity. I want mine to mean something. 


(For those curious, I'm doing well physically now, up to 250 pounds, and like I said, working out daily. A few areas still fluffy where I'd prefer them solid, but that's why I'm lifting everyday.)


That brings me to some thoughts about faith and our handling of the bible that I had yesterday, amongst a day full of introspection.


If we, who profess to be of the Christian faith, genuinely believe the overall theme and message of the books of the bible, and believe in an eternity spent with God, why do we focus so much of biblical teaching and context on the here and now, when, the older I get, most of the bible seems to deal with eternal things, eternal concepts, eternal rewards? Our lives here, in time-span, would be a grain of sand within the confines of the house I sit in to type this...really, a grain of sand within the confines of all known creation. But...this grain of sand is where we put all of our focus, and I can't help but see that as unhealthy religion, and various religious addictions, rather than a life lived from genuine faith. A grain of sand within all of creation should be enough to make someone seriously, seriously, scrutinize their views on eternity, eternal peace and eternal torment, because I honestly don't think our views on those things say as much about us as they do about the God we claim to worship. A little context goes a long way.


I gave a lot of thought to these things yesterday, and spent some time talking with family about some of these things. I came away even more resolute in my belief that loving God and loving our neighbor IS the here and now. Being honest in our dealings, doing right by others even when it isn't to our own temporal benefit, caring for the downtrodden, the outcast, the wounded, binding up his or her wounds, celebrating with those who celebrate, weeping with those who weep, befriending the friendless, seeking truth in all things. These are the things Christ taught. These are the things Christ lived. Doing these things without the expectation of an earthly reward for them, but rather because the Holy Spirit within us tells us these things are right, because the bruising of their hearts and lives bruises ours. These are the things in our lives that will pass through the fire. And, these are the areas where the natural supply and demand of life in the here and now begs our attention.


Do you think God cares how "submissive" you are to your husband if you, say, believe the people of New Orleans deserved Hurricane Katrina because of their "godlessness"? Do you think God cares how "submissive" you are to a church authority structure if you have no regard for the Japanese people in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami because of their "godlessness"? When the "practice" of our religious rules and the fix of our religious addictions become more valuable than humanity, there's a serious problem.


Love God. Love each other. That second part means loving even those who don't engage in the first part.


All the rest - the religious rules, the "appearances of evil", the "Christianity", is just human vanity, and frankly, it needs a boulder to fall out of the sky and put it out of its misery.

18 comments:

  1. Great way of putting it Lewis!

    Happy Birthday!

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  2. Happy Birthday!
    Another year older, another year wiser.

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  3. TY kindly, Mara. I hope so.

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  4. Mark 12:29-31
    Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

    It amazes me that those involved in QF/Patriarchy seem to read right over this. Nothing is more important and the Lord said it. They will have a surprise when they stand knocking like Pharisees at the gates of heaven.

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  5. That those verses, amulbunny AND the ones about offending the little ones. It's as though those verses don't even exist.

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  6. " I came away even more resolute in my belief that loving God and loving our neighbor IS the here and now. Being honest in our dealings, doing right by others even when it isn't to our own temporal benefit, caring for the downtrodden, the outcast, the wounded, binding up his or her wounds, celebrating with those who celebrate, weeping with those who weep, befriending the friendless, seeking truth in all things. These are the things Christ taught. These are the things Christ lived. Doing these things without the expectation of an earthly reward for them, but rather because the Holy Spirit within us tells us these things are right, because the bruising of their hearts and lives bruises ours."

    Exactly.

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  7. "Do you think God cares how "submissive" you are to your husband if you, say, believe the people of New Orleans deserved Hurricane Katrina because of their "godlessness"? Do you think God cares how "submissive" you are to a church authority structure if you have no regard for the Japanese people in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami because of their "godlessness"? When the "practice" of our religious rules and the fix of our religious addictions become more valuable than humanity, there's a serious problem.


    Love God. Love each other. That second part means loving even those who don't engage in the first part.


    All the rest - the religious rules, the "appearances of evil", the "Christianity", is just human vanity, and frankly, it needs a boulder to fall out of the sky and put it out of its misery."

    Hey, "little" brother in Christ, this is from a person who's getting used to be in her 7th decade here on earth. Along with what you describe our faith to be (the part that shadowspring quotes), the above words, which is what our faith most certainly is *not*, are just as true.

    The people who harmed your ex-, who harmed you, who are harming countless others, have made a crucial mistake: They are focusing their Christianity on themselves, their own glory. They are not focusing on Christ, on His work and His example.

    You wrote elsewhere that you feel your faith is changing. That concerned me. Reading here, I think your faith is ... well, to my mortal ears, it sounds like the faith I've always known. Thank God, I did not grow up in patriarchy.

    Happy belated birthday, Lewis. If the boulder fell tonight, your life would not have been in vain. And your words are going to bring courage and confidence to people long after the boulder falls, rolls away and gets eroded down into those little sand grains.

    You've done good, my (cyber) friend.

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  8. I've never posted here before but I've been reading you since shortly after you started this wonderful blog. I always felt a little funny about posting--while some of the sentiments shared are familiar, I don't have a scary story like most of those who comment here. So I'm sorry in advance if I'm out of place.

    I just wanted to say happy birthday and I'm glad you're doing this. Your blog helps me deal with my own misgivings towards the church even if I can't quite pinpoint why. I'm glad you're still here and I'm thankful for the friends you've made along the way who post here in your comments. All of you are amazing people.

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  9. Happy Birthday. You have reached the age which is the Answer to the unknown Great Question of life. If you've read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that is.

    Congrats!

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  10. MamaJunebug, Victoria, Kristen...TY all very kindly.

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  11. "Love God. Love each other." You know, that's all my grandpa says is important. And you know what? My parents always told me he was a crazy "liberal Christian" who wasn't saved and didn't understand the gospel. Now I wonder if he's maybe the only one who gets it...

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  12. The people at the crazy Christian school I taught at insisted that it indeed was all about loving God and loving your neighbor. They just qualified it very carefully by suggesting that we should choose our neighbors and that our neighbors are, in fact, only people who look, think and believe like us.

    I haven't been around those people for eleven years and it still makes me want to vomit when I think about that.

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  13. "if a boulder fell, i wouldn't move"

    passively suicidal - at least, that's what my shrink tells me it means when *I* say things like that. which isn't really to say YOU are, just that I KNOW how this feels.

    but 42 - it's the Answer. to Life, the Universe, and Everything [i'm SUCH a total geek. that's from all the various versions of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

    it's a GOOD age. my dad's been 42 for... 23? years now. i'm pretty sure it's 23.

    and the family tradition:
    hippo birdie two ewes
    hippo birdie two ewes
    hippo birdie deer ewe
    hippo birdie two ewes
    [this comes from a card my sister got me when i turned 12. the front is pictures in 4 lines. the first, second and forth line all show a hippo, a bird and two female sheep; the third line shows a hippo, a bird, a dear and a single sheep. it's my favorite visual pun every, and the traditional BDay song used in my family :) ]

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  14. Regarding your potential lifespan: After my grandfather died, my grandmother had a massive stroke. She'd been diabetic for years; I guess the stress of Opa's last illness was too much. That was eight years ago this September. She's 87 and still has duck at her favorite Thai restaurant on the weekends. Granted, you are almost guaranteed not to share her genetics, but it is possible to survive and thrive long after allopathic medicine thinks we should have died.

    Also granted that you literally had your heart broken. That's grim. What you have survived is up there with what Oma has, in my books. But you are both still here, and I think the world is better for it.

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  15. "Happy" (I put this in quotations because in my estimation, happiness is an option) belated birthday, and I'm glad you're still here. Sometimes, it's not easy being a finite being with limited perspectives on life. I should know, I'm one of them (grins).

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