by Charles LaFond
When I wake up in the morning I feel like he looks in the photo above – Determined. Resilient, Trusting nobody. Standing tall, even in a onesy. This photo was taken by my Dad when I was one in1964. Not much has changed. But then I sit, as my adult self, and I pray. When we make time in the early morning to show up to the living God; we live.
It is hard to do this kind of other-worldly living. It is hard to believe in a parallel existence – in Kairos time. And even if we believe that God exists and walks among us as Jesus, as Spirit, There is so much earthly stuff to get done for the non-super religious, pious, monastic. The spiritual freaks. The side-show crouched along the walls in tents next to the Church Triumphant.
Mothers with children enter a madhouse of needs when the kids awaken – waffles, clean clothes, shoes, school lunch, signed papers, showers, gas in the car, schedules. Fathers with competing needs of wife, children, taxes, bills, work emails invading deeper and deeper and deeper into their family time and then into their tender, fleshy human time. Single people whose lack of family-demands seem to give bosses an open invitation to ask for anything, anytime, all the time. People using their work and their business to anesthetize their pain while feeling better about work-addiction than they might about the addiction to cocaine or booze or porn…so exhausted, so over-stretched but very pious. Great.
Perhaps I am the only one, but I talk to people and so I do not think I am the only one. I awaken and immediately the to-do lists run like a ticker-tape in my brain. Lists and lists of things I should have done but did not get to yesterday. Emails I vaguely remember as having not been adequately dealt with – responded to, yes, but only to say “I’ll get on this.” and then never do. People waiting for things – so many people who never meet each other, who never see that they are part of a crowd, not standing alone knocking at the door – part of a massive crowd. Deadlines. Campaign goals so easily seen but not so easily met or sometimes failed. Black or red. Invitations from people I need to be with. No invitations from people I wish would invite me. Dissolved or wizened friendships. Other friendships panting for water and touch.
What does one do?
When I sit with Jesus early in the morning, I am spending time. Is not the word “spending” so interesting here?
We spend time. We make time. We have time.
We spend Money. We make Product. We have Gift.
So I take this valuable time, like pieces of silver, and I spend some on time with Jesus. Not because I am a priest but because I am a human who has certain beliefs which I profess with my lips and then, for the sake of integrity, need to – want to- must – spend with my time.
If I bring the list of my life – griefs, longings, hopes, fears, desires, tender confessions, bold hopes, manic paranoia, betrayals, manipulations, delicious delights, thrilled accomplishments, pressure-points, failures, – if I bring those into my day, do I really believe that the life which will swirl around me will stop and sit with me and help me to process these things? Do I ? Really? Sure, some kind people will ask me how I am doing as they glance at their watch but I mean really, except for some rare moments and still more rare people, will we be able to figure life out as we live it? Can a plane fly as it is being built, as riveters attempt to place and rivet steel to frames at 35,000 feet an in 150 mile-an-hour winds, flying over Russia?
So I sit with a candle, early, in the silence. And often I hate it because I need to admit some faults, process some guilt and even some shame. Look into losses which make my legs buckle beneath this old body – slashes inside and out with scars which are cut into me like hieroglyphics on an Egyptian statue of an aging priest trying to live life as best and most authentically as possible against, at times, what feels like all odds. I sit there. I wait and sometimes it feel like Jesus is busy playing canasta somewhere in Vegas with attractive people, laughing. Drinking.
But then the candle flickers because someone in Tibet just prayed and that prayer to the God we both see so differently moved something way over here, where I am. Did that Buddhist mean to do that? And that little tiny flicker reminds me that God is moving, angels wander my room, fairies are at work in my garden making small cottages out of sticks and fallen leaves and some bark. That little flicker reminds me to go back into meditation and wait and wait and speak and speak and listen and listen and list and list, and weep and weep and weep and then remember that joke and start to laugh through tears. And then when I wipe them away there sits Jesus, smiling, tender, like He was there all the time, waiting while I was waiting.
“But I have been here all the time.” I say through tears. “Where have you been?!” I say with a bitter steel edge to my thought. “Bad God!” I think as if scolding Gentle Kai who always looks confused as scolds and was his tail even with his confused furrowed brow.
He says “I have been here, you just could not see past your lists, so I let you list.”
“And now?” “Now what?” I say with a week and tremulous voice. “Will you fix everything? Will you smash the heads of my enemies like the Psalms say? May I watch? Will you get over your shyness and *%##$%^* help me?” I say.
“No” says Jesus. “But I am here, and you know I am here, so I will sit here and I will take your cheeks in my hands and I will kiss your lips and then those sad bony hands and I will stare deep into your eyes, past the smoke of your wars, and I will tell you over and over and over and over, that I love you. That you need not struggle. That you need feel no shame neither your pious self-righteousness. That you are beloved of me, like We keep trying to tell you, through your friends and through Kai and through pie and through that fire place of yours.” says He.
And suddenly, as I feel the warmth of Jesus’ love wash over me like the steam of a sauna I begin to feel my fight-and-flight muscles relax. I sense the anger and rage chemicals in my body begin to flush like ink from a toilet bowl. I begin to tell Him what is happening and He nods like He already knew but wanted to hear it from the lips He just kissed. As if that kiss, on those lips, over that flame, in the darkness, was a decoder; a cypher of the love inside me which had curdled, and now is rich like cream. And whole.