Monday, April 30, 2012

"Let Yourself Go Limp in His Lap"

It was Sunday. The morning after. The sky was clear and the sun was full-force on (unlike the day before, which had been cellar-like cold and damp).

I wished there was someone with me right then and there to talk with about all of itabout Saturday, about my life. But there wasn't. So I wrote. I wrote to a friend who, although he has long been the best muse I've ever had, wouldn't, I knew, write back, and probably wouldn't even mention what I'd written next time we talkedif he even read what I'd written. It's a mostly silent agreement we have: I write whenever and whatever I need to because, as he once said, that's "just Alice," and I don't expect a response because, well, that's just him.

I started this blog because, although I try to embrace the opposite as true, that agreement isn't always enough. And today it isn't. So here and now I offer (a somewhat edited version of) what I wrote to my friend on Sunday morning. It's rough and raw, but in that way it is a perfect reflection of my mind these days.

The theme of Saturday's retreat was healing. The message was to hope and trust. "Let yourself go limp in His lap," sheJohnnette Bencovicsaid, like the child in Psalm 131: "Lord, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty. I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me. Rather, I have stilled my soul. Like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul. Israel, hope in the Lord, now and forever." She made us say the last sentence out loud, three times, with our own names in the place of the word Israel. "Alice, hope in the Lord, now and forever."

To believe, to have faith, to trust and hope, she said, are, like love, all acts of the will, not feelings. They are a choice, a decision.

Indeed that's what they are for me this morning.

She recited Ephesians 1:3-4 and had us repeat each phrase out loud after her: "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has bestowed on us every spiritual blessing in the heavens. God chose us in Him before the world began to be holy and blameless in His sight, to be full of love." And again, the replacement: "God chose Alice to be holy and blameless in His sight, to be full of love."

There is only one response to God, she said: praise.

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for youoracle of the Lordplans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope." Jeremiah 29:11.

"We don't really understand hope until things look pretty hopeless," she said.

OK, I'm there.

Trust, she said stands for True Resolve Under Severe Testing.

The dispositions of our heartsour intentionsare serious in their effects. What healing do I NOT want? What healing do I refuse or reject? And why?

Why do I think I'm no longer worthy of God's grace?

Always ask for more, she said.

"I don't operate in my own strength," she said, "because I don't have any."

Amen.

Re-read Genesis 3, she said, about the Fall of Man. We sew, she continued, our own fig leaves together to hide our shame. We build and hide behind a false identity. We act out of our woundedness.

I thought that when I turned back from the edge and accepted that I am Alice, not someone else I tried to be instead, I was done with hiding. I thought that last winter when I turned some more and continued inching my way ever closer to God by going to daily Mass and hanging out with nuns and so on that I was eliminating shame from my life. But there is always, it appears, another layer to peel away. And the thinner the layer, the harder it is to remove, and the more it hurts.

I realized yesterday that what I am most afraid of is that, instead of forgiving and redeeming and restoring me, God will instead banish me, like he did Adam and Eve, from the Garden of Eden. I don't mean forever. I mean now. Here. In this life. That instead of fixing this mess I am in, instead of rescuing me, yet again, from failure, He will give up on me, give up on giving me second, third, tenth, fifty-fifth chances and instead let me hit bottom. Alone. Embarrassed. Banished from the life I could have had but ruined, again.

No, she said.

"I will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten.... And my people will never again be put to shame." Joel 2:25-26.

"Behold I make all things new." Revelation 21:5.

"I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life." Ezekiel 37:14.

Lay down on the cross with Him, she said, and you will be raised up with Him.

It's that first part I'm afraid of.

I feel afraid. Very afraid. But now, this moment, this day, this one day only, I will choose to believe everything she said. Every step I take today will be out of that choice, not because of how I feel. Even though I still feel it. Very much.

Amen.