Friday, February 13, 2009

A Bit of Grace

I was in Florida to do what I can to help my mother recover from surgery. She was an unwilling participant in this help at times. It was frustrating. I felt defeated over and over again. She's a bit socially phobic (I think because of social class issues) so she's isolated, too.

One of my goals, though, has been to connect her with a church community. She grew up in the Church of the Nazarene (I was baptized in that church, and went there as a young child), so I sought out a church of that order near her. The closest one to her has services only in Creole, so we had to choose between two that are forty minutes away. My mother chose the larger one.

I tried to take her last Sunday, but her social phobia got in the way (which is my and my brother's diagnosis of her problems, not hers).

Wednesday, I had her out and about at a doctor's appointment, so I took her to dinner, then to church.

The worship was looser than I remember it being as a child. The pastor led it in an informal workshop-like manner first playing a game asking people to see what they notice in a Dick Van Dyke television show introduction. Of course no one saw that the door had six panels, that there were three pieces of furniture in the whole thing, that the door knob was oval. Then he showed another video, asking us to pay attention to the details.

It was a movie about a high school football team. One young man is goofing off and the coach challenges him to something called a "death crawl," where another of his teammates lay on his back while he crawls down field on all-fours, without having his knees touch the ground. The coach usually asks the team to do ten yards, but the kid bets he could do twenty. The coach says he could do 50.

Then coach asks him three times to give him his best. First the kid grunts his assent. Second he looks more serious when saying he would. The third time he says, "I'll give it my best coach."

Then the coach wraps a bandanna around the kid's eyes to blindfold him.

As the kid makes his grunting way down the field, the coach is over him, telling him he can do it. His teammates taunt him, telling him he can't do it, but eventaully, they are impressed and start to follow him silently down field. At one point the kid says he must be at the fifty-yard line and the coach tells him to keep going.

Until he collapses.

The coach takes off the blindfold and tells the kid to look up.

"You're in the endzone."

He'd crawled 100 yards with 160 pounds on his back.

The pastor then asked the eighteen or so in the room what they saw. Several talked about themselves being an inspiration to "unbelievers." Some took heart at perseverance or remembered someone who stood by their side during a rough time.

I saw the blindfold.

I struggle mightily with the unknown. I wanted to know the outcome of my bone marrow transplant in 1994. I wanted to know whether I would do okay in school when I went back to get my degree. I want to know if I'm going to get published. I want to know what to do to help my mother get better. I want to know what to do next with my leading to do work around social class. And I get anxious.

But as I sat in that church's classroom, I realized that the kid in the movie saw the field and thought his best distance would be twenty yards. When he was blindfolded, he wasn't limited by his human sight, by his assumptions, by his own ideas about what he could do himself. I realized that the veil is a bit of God's grace.

And I now know the veil has given me the opportunity to live up to the Light I've been given.

Last spring, I felt veiled by God because I forgot (as in, had no awareness of whatsoever) that being in and among Friends can be very painful for me around class issues, that I feel powerless and alone. So I signed up for Gathering and proposed an interest group around social class.

It was painful to be among Friends at times. And it was grace-filled. If I hadn't been veiled, I might not have gone to Gathering, and wouldn't have proposed a workshop.

I came away from Gathering with a leading, and I don't know where it's going or what my work will look like beyond a couple of opportunities right ahead of me. Now I don't have to know more than that because God will get me where I need to be, to God's goal line and not my own.

I didn't succeed in getting my mom connected to a church community. This time. Maybe next time or the time after that or the time after that. Or never. Maybe the attempt is enough. I don't know what God has in mind, and now I don't need to know. My only job now is to live up to the Light I've been given.


Will Fitzgerald said...

Thanks for this witness.

Hystery said...

I am currently in the longest patch of spiritual aridity and intellectual uncertaintly of my life thus far and find myself obsessed with my thoughts of negative "what-ifs". I am discouraged and my hope is waning. Reading this post reminds me of all the times when I was told I couldn't do something only after I had already done it. I needed to read your words in this time of my pessimism and doubt. Your perspective and your use of the metaphor of the veil are really a gift to me. Thank you.

Micah Bales said...

This post was helpful for me. Thank you for it.

Micah Bales

Friendly Mama said...

Your leading in this area has helped to remove a veil for me so that I could begin to become aware of my experiences with class issues and start to speak honestly about them at my meeting. I'm on Ministry and Nurture this year and I know I'm bringing a new and important perspective to our meeting because of the seed you planted. Thank you for your faithfulness.
Mary Linda

Pat Ivie said...

God keeps us in a sheild, or veil, so we can be obediant, stepping out in faith. If you can see and know all, it isn't faith- it's sight. We all struggle at times with this. Sometimes more. Thank you for the insight. Pat Ivie