A matter of faith and monkey bars
I am stuck. Really, really, really stuck. The cemented-in-place kind of stuck. You know – the kind of motionlessness that you used to get when you were a kid, sinking low in your seat when your teacher asked a question, laser eyes searching through the sea of desks, looking past all the waving arms, all the eager faces demanding attention, demanding they be given their chance to show off and shine. And of course, the teacher looked past them, through them, looking for You, the one kid who so did not know the answer, flop sweat soaking through your shirt and making your skin clammy, where you begged silently, “don’t see me, don’t notice me, pass me by, pleasepleaseplease,” knowing that if you even thought about motion, you would be caught, noticed, called on to answer that unanswerable question. So you made yourself small and held yourself still. Unmoving. Willfully stuck.
And you got called on anyway.
I don’t like being in this place, this needy and scary place. I want to be in control, captain of my life, captain of happy. I was talking a friend, who told me that the only thing left for me to do was to ask for help. Not from a person, but from the Universe. God. Whatever I might choose to call that thing that is bigger than me, outside of me. She said it was now a matter of faith.
Too many people are talking about faith to me these days. And it’s not as if these folks are regular faith talkers. In fact, they’re not. I can mostly depend on them to not talk about faith. More, I can mostly depend on them to not remind me to act on my faith. So what gives? Is this God’s little joke on me? Am I getting what I need, even when I want anything but? And where is my faith? I had it just a while ago. I was floating on it, sustained and strengthened by it. It is so much easier to depend on faith when life is good, isn’t it? It is the question I have been asking my Sunday school kids for years – how do you approach God in the face of joy? In the face of despair? And everything in between? I thought I had answered this question, dammit. I thought I had learned this lesson. I could have sworn I had had my long dark night of the soul, years ago.
So my friend said that this was about faith. And asking for help – but asking differently. And she said that it was okay to not know the lesson I could be learning.
But it’s still scary. It still seems so large and consuming.
I hate that she may be right.
I am so used to being alone. I am the strong one, dammit. You learn, cynically, that help doesn’t come, that there is no knight in shining armor and you’re no damsel in distress, but mostly that you are alone in your need and hurt. And then you get stuck, trapped in this endless loop. So you just stop asking, because the pain of being alone is always greater than whatever need you have that’s driving you to ask for help.
I am the Fixer of Broken Things. I do not get healed. I slay the dragons and exorcise the demons and forge paths and light torches. For others. Because I don’t know how to ask for myself. I don’t know how to say I am in need. I get wrapped up in the story of stuck, of the big and scary stuff. I don’t always leave room for the other stuff – the small stuff, the happy and good stuff. I need to be reminded to talk about the things that are surprising and filled with grace. The things that have made me smile, that took my breath away because of their beauty or their simplicity.
So what is my good stuff? Because I need the reminder that life is not quite as heavy as I make it, I must remember the stuff that awed me or made me laugh. The stuff that got me out of my head, because I can set up camp there, live in a burnt out slum there, where I regularly mug myself. It’s about faith, right? And this is part of that expression: there is good stuff in the universe – there is light and hope.
There is faith, faith enough to carry me, comfort me. Faith greater than my fear. Maybe. Perhaps. I am willing to believe that possibly, my faith is enough. That if I reach out my hand, leap into the chasm, I will be caught and held. Cherished and loved. That this dark and cold place, silent and singular and solitary, this is illusion, smoke and mirrors that are shattered with a single laugh, a kind word. I am reminded, in my faith, that it is enough to go to God and ask for help. My prayer does not change God; rather, it changes me, and my heart.
So tonight, I will act as if. Some people, some cynical people who like to dress all in black and smoke cigarettes off in the corner looking disdainful (not that I know any of those cynical people, at all), they would call it pretending, not acting as if. But they would be wrong, damn them. They would be bitter and unhappy people. They would not wear their hair in pig tails and swing from the monkey bars. They would not know how to laugh; they would merely snicker.
So tonight, I will act as if and laugh and swing from the monkey bars. I will act as if I live in that bright and centered spiritual place. I will act as if I am happy and unafraid. And in my darkness, I am shown, in surety and faith, that my fears, real and scary and looming large and all-consuming, that they are made of cobwebs and dust motes. And I breathe; I move, with infinite slowness and subtle grace. I move, and it’s okay to not know, to ask for help. I am not alone. There is God. There is a light. There is hope.