Invariably, before reading the various news sites in the morning, I first scan the Drudge Report. Generally, the headlines are not toasty fuzzy to say the least. Yesterday, for instance. Murder––suicide––animal cruelty––Iran being Iran, that’s bad––Israel being Israel, not good but understandable––GDP and durable orders in freefall––politicians tap dancing on semantics––social unrest in socialized Europe––and even a drunken horseman leading police on a slow-speed chase, which is sort of funny in contrast.
The quick perusal of world events only revs up my angst. I begin to redline however, when a usual preoccupation, of late, comes to mind––my life in quasi-crisis. Quasi in that it appears so but it’s not really.
You see, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and that is earth-shattering fantastic. The fact that personal and professional fronts are not rosy, this too shall pass––I hope.
Therein my problem. Trusting and accepting God’s will, from my perspective, is like bungee jumping. Screaming towards the third planet from the sun at Mach 12 and this rubber band is going to save me!?
Nevertheless, I’m getting better at this trust thing––much––as a result of a not-so-distant moment in the mountains. Things were not going well then, either. But God changed all that. He spoke to me.
“Excuse me?” some of you might be saying. “God spoke to you and yet you struggle with trust?” I know, it’s not rational. The Old Testament Jews were adrift in the desert for 40 years, and time and time again they were exposed to miracles. And still they grumbled. It’s in our nature.
A word of caution however, to those more traditional. I’m not. Apparently, I have some dominant-recessive gene combo that makes it (sometimes) impossible for me to react appropriately to those special moments in life. And talking to God is, like, number one. Where one might assume they would get down on their knees in complete awe, reverence and thanksgiving––which would be the absolute proper response––I handled it another way.
It’s 2009. I’m in my Colorado home and I’m telepathically awakened. Apparently, my dog Lani is the mysterious force––she’s staring at me, intently, her adorable muzzle inches away. I’ve yet to get out of bed and I have obligations. If she doesn’t eat within seconds, she’ll starve to death.
It doesn’t take me long to get food in her bowl. I’m watching her eat. It’s fascinating. I don’t think she breathes at all; anaerobic gorging. She finishes, licks her chops and looks up at me with those big browns wondering if I’ll feed her again as an act of love.
I can see the dialogue bubble over her head. Not going to happen, is it?
“Nope. You know, on those occasions when you’ve stealthily taken meat off the counter, your feeding frenzy would scare the uninitiated. You’re a Lab but sometimes you’re more like a cross between a wolf and a piranha.”
Bubble again. It’s the genes. You can only take domestication so far.
“So when you look at me, do you see your master or food for a week?” I asked a reasonable question.
Truthfully, it’s an ongoing struggle. Ultimately, your fate will depend on whether you give me seconds. In the meantime, I pray for strength.
My dog. Such a kidder.
At some point after the morning feeding––five shots of espresso fueling my day––I must have stepped in a pool of estrogen. Not only did I step in it, but I slipped, fell face first and swallowed a cup. How do I know? Later that day, I watched an underdog win a big car race and I cried. Switching channels, a golfer pulled out of a tournament because his wife had breast cancer, and I cried. And after a bachelor dinner of microwaved sausage and bacon, I watched West Side Story for the umpteenth time––and I cried. With beautiful, dead Natalie Wood in my thoughts, my grief inconsolable, I headed for the bathroom for a towel; tissue wouldn’t suffice, I was wailing like a newborn. A tearing Niagara.
Then I heard, internally, not audibly,
“You can’t love or be loved until you love me.”
For the next seven steps, besides murmuring “Whoa,” my mind raced.
What just happened?
“God? Is that you? Jesus?”
The Holy Spirit perhaps. Boy, this Trinity thing is labyrinthine. No, it had to be my imagination; I’ve been a basket case all day. But what if it was Jesus? I can only love if I love Him? I can’t love if I’m an atheist? Is that theologically correct? Wait a minute, God is never wrong. He’s talking to me directly. He doesn’t think I love Him. Is that what He’s saying? I do, don’t I? Of course I do.
By the time I returned to the couch, towel in hand, honestly, I was smiling about my overactive noggin. However, a part of me wasn’t entirely convinced. The voice did come from left field. The only voices I ever hear through the thin walls of my brain are my garbled musings or the occasional argument between my psyche and Beelzebub (or his minions). Yet this was so sublimely different.
Was God finally able to get a word in edgewise? Did I hear His voice?
Yes, I did. And no one can convince me otherwise––the timing was just so perfect.
St. Ignatius would be proud of me. The spiritual exercises he taught to discern the voice of God work. Even for me. The voice spoke of love, the foundational tenet of Christianity. And if anybody was off-kilter regarding love, it was me.
“Lord, you have my attention. Anything else you want to share?”
Although apprehensive, I sauntered from my couch to the backyard. I was hoping for another communiqué. The night was clear, the stars intermingled among the galaxies, and I stared to heaven.
“Where are you?” I asked.
The silence continued but no answer. For now, I guess He’s finished.
“Thank you, Lord. I don’t know what else to say.”
So there it is. Unlike this Sunday’s first reading in Numbers, the Lord did not bestow me with any of Moses’ spirit and I didn’t start prophesying to my neighbors. But then again, I’m a beat-up 1985 Yugo; Moses is a 1962 Ferrari.
Afterwards, my life in Christ began anew.
Under the canopy of a Colorado sky, I began to rediscover Truth. In time, I learned to cherish my relationship with my Creator. And thankfully and finally, I became tethered to God, who loves me beyond words. I would wish this for everyone.
Fast forward to today and someone might ask me, “Has your life changed by walking with Jesus?”
Such a simple question.
I would answer as follows:
“So much of my life has been focused on empty pursuits. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I was living a hollow existence. Not anymore. With Jesus, there’s fullness to my life. The chaos has been muted. The contrast is startling, thankfully so.”
They might ask, “Has life become easier?”
“Problems still remain. But they’re manageable and they don’t send me over the moon. I’m both grounded and supported by God. I’m also at peace. I know who I am and why I’m here. There’s a wonderful wisdom in that.”
The fact that I can share this story is evidence of God’s amazing grace. Notwithstanding my lighthearted approach, it was an extraordinary gift.