Prayer scares the crap out of me. I have come to believe that the force of being to whom I am asking a favor is nothing less than the energy of the entire universe. I am so very tiny, how could he possibly hear me? How does my insignificant plea for personal healing compare to the billions of cries of all of mankind? How does my request for psychological comfort sound to the man who hears the cry of every starving child or suffering saint? How could my tiny unspoken thought outweigh common scenes of stellar devastation on the other side of the universe, that he would turn his attention on me?
I don't want to be angry. Please, take my anger.
It sounds stupid, in retrospect. Dear architect of reality, if you happen to get a moment and aren't too terribly busy with the Japanese tsunami thing, or you know, orchestrating the end of time or whatever, I wonder if you wouldn't mind taking a moment to make me feel better.
It was a beautiful day and by the time I'd gotten home I'd let it go and enjoyed a great night with my family. I had forgotten that I had even whispered that prayer until I crawled in bed and decided to read before going to sleep. I'm still trying to make my way through the bible and figure out what this Jesus thing is all about. I've decided to skip Job and all the major and minor prophets and jump straight to the new testament. I read this part last year - the first couple books of the story of Jesus - and I was hoping that some history on the Israelites would help me understand this concept of "dying for my sins," to no avail.
But halfway through Matthew I felt ashamed. if I am angry with my brother I am as liable to judgment as a murderer. He reminds me to leave my offering at the alter and first reconcile with my brother - not to approach God with anger in my heart. I'm not supposed to give them the silent treatment, I am supposed to give them my cloak. I am supposed to love my enemies and pray for them. My anger makes me unworthy and unclean to approach something so pure, and yet, I interrupted the creator of a billion galaxies to ask for help - and he gave it. He orchestrated this beautiful day, and these words with their eerily perfect timing.
I may not understand how Jesus can be God, or what his resurrection means, but he had a lot of really great things to say. tomorrow, when tensions are high and my hackles rise, I won't just bite my tounge and hold my temper and congratulate myself for my superior virtue. I'm going to try to remember to pray for those that make me angry, walk with them another mile, and give them also my cloak.
I used to think that I struggled with understanding the complexities of interpersonal relationships because I am a nerd. Social awkwardness is, after all, stereotypically characteristic of nerds, and I *must* be one. I wear glasses. I love reading and computer programming. I love star trek. I hate outdoor activities. So, there that explains everything - I'm a nerd. What a relief! It's wonderful being part of something! I'm a member by birthright of an exclusive club of glasses-wearing, star- trek-loving, know-it-alls. No longer do I have to feel left out and rejected when I'm not invited to the after-work party. I don't need your peer group to accept me- I'm a NERD! If you don't want me to join you for lunch, well that's *fine* with me. I don't even like Wendy's! *nerds* live on a steady diet of coffee and pizza. You just go ahead and leave me out of that meeting invitation, I wouldn't have time anyway. I'm probably going to be too busy doing something *really smart* in front of a computer somewhere.
Of course, it's only a great relief if I can maintain the belief that Somewhere in the world I am wanted, and accepted, and appreciated for who I am.
I can't sleep tonight because every time I close my eyes I see this picture that, as a child, left me with serious psychological scarring. It's the all too familiar horrific scene of the beach, where the star bellied Sneetches were cooking frankfurters, and plain bellied Sneetches are watching from the outside, cold and sad. I always felt so bad for the plain bellies. They wanted so badly to be included that they defaced their own bodies and squandered their fortunes and no matter what they did they just didn't fit in. I'll never forget the first time my mother bestowed on me this ultra-realistic tale of warning. I asked, "why don't the plain belly Sneetches just get together and have their own frankfurter party?" after all, they still had each other, right?
I had to be 35 years old to understand the reality of the situation, which is this: it wasn't ever about having a belly star. Any one of those outcast Sneetches could have easily started their own fire for frankfurters, but none of the other plain belly Sneetches would have come. No body wants to be around the plain bellies - including the plain bellies. And it has nothing to do with the shape on thars. The fact of the matter is that plain bellies make people uncomfortable with their characteristic personality differences.
I could spend the rest of my life in the cold of the beaches, only invited to star-belly houses whenever they have a computer that needs fixed, if I thought the world was full of bare bellies just like me. Is there a coffee house on the edge of the ocean where bare bellies congregate? Where no one knows the football score, there's no such thing as small talk, jokes about physics make the whole room laugh, everyone is dying for an update on your latest project or research breakthrough, eye contact is against the law, and conversations about the economic implications of the new star-off industry are commonplace? Where sneetches like me aren't just tolerated- they are wanted? Because, if my sanctuary isn't out there - if I'm all alone in the world, then maybe I should try harder to be more star-belly like. I'm good at research, I'm sure I can work out an algorithm for star-belly behavior. I can't imagine it will be a pleasant infiltration, but ... At least I'd get to cook hot dogs.
I understand glory now. It's 3:30 in the morning and I'm jolted from my warm and wonderful sleep by a very loud and persistent hymn from my dream. Speak o Lord, as we come to you, to receive the food, of your holy word... And as the words ring thorough my head in this otherwise silent room, i have a sudden epiphany and the whole world shifts a little to the left and I find myself standing both ashamed and forgiven for a sin I didn't understand I was committing until just this moment.
This afternoon, my boyfriend told me I was beautiful, and brilliant, and for a moment, I believed it. This afternoon, my team pulled together and each with their moments of brilliance, mitigated a technical disaster. And I was so proud of them, of us. And I, don't like to boast, but i had a few brilliant moments myself.
But tonight, it echos in my head : teach us Lord, full obedience, holy reverence, true humility. Test our thoughts and our attitudes, in the radiance of your purity. I think of myself as a humble person because I don't boast when I do something I'm proud of, and I try to give all the credit where it's due. Its all about the team. Team team team. I suddenly understand that if am at all brilliant, or beautiful, or amazing - there is glory in that. If I am part of a team that wins, there is glory there. Humility is not the act of verbally denying that we are as awesome as we are. Humility is acknowledging that we are awesome, or victorious, or beautiful, or lucky, because today that is God's plan for us.
Speak o Lord and renew our minds, help us grasp the heights of your plans for us.
And I am reminded of the awesome responsibility of what it means to work in his name. To not seek glory, or validation, or personal success, but to be His instrument so that His hands are seen in the work I do. If I am successful, let the glory be God's. "that the light of Christ might be seen today, in our acts of love and our deeds of faith."
Dear Internet. Today I saw and even did some truly amazing things. I saw the talents given to men synchronously intertwine to make a more powerful machine of human hands, working to help an organization that helps people. But it was god that I saw, working through me and mine, and even my adversaries, to save an organization that he has a plan for. And I wanted to tell you all about how glorious He is. And ask forgiveness, for all of the moments in my life until now that I took all of the credit for His work through me. And I wanted to pray with you and for you - God, use my words to reach this person, and inspire them to be your instrument, to be amazing, to use their own skills and talents to be brilliant - so that your glory can be seen through them, and everyone. And by grace we'll stand on your promises, and by faith we'll walk as you walk with us. Speak oh Lord till your church is built and the earth is filled with your glory.
Martin Seligman suggests this exercise for improving your outlook: end every day for a week or two by focusing on three things that went well. I'm trying to keep up my new years resolution of keeping a positive attitude, but I'm hard pressed to find anything that went well today. I'll give it a try though.
I guess, coming home from work went well. I'm kind of an army of one these days at work, and everything is a war. But home has people who love me. And I'm so grateful for them. We had dinner, and played games, and I was loved and taken care of.
Chocolate milk. I know it's a reach, but in a day where everything goes wrong, that one perfect glass of chocolate milk, lovingly prepared by my youngest, is so much more awesome than any other given day. When I was a kid, and I'd come home from school, chocolate milk was that sugar packed treat that signaled the end of something serious and the beginning of a more relaxed part of the day. As it turns out, that conditioned response is still there after all these years.
And finally, homemade chicken noodle soup. This is actually something that went well yesterday, but I was still reaping the benefits this evening. The kind of soup that takes a whole day to make, served up with homemade bread. Love tastes like chicken noodle soup. Seligman says it should get easier.
I survived 2011. I feel like I should have gotten an award or something, or, at the very least, some kind of level up noise. It's that time of year that we take stock of our lives, where we've been, where we're headed, and resolve to change for the better.
Here at the gym there is a wall where people have anonymously written their new year's resolutions and I love how they are all the same. Everyone wants to lose weight, learn something new, get out of debt, save more money, be a better parent, get in shape, and spend time more wisely. I feel like I have comrades in arms, in the fight against... sloth... and ... fiscal irresponsability. in fact, I'm typing this right now on the treadmill as I march along at a brisk 3 mph. (I'm kind o an excersize weenie. Also, I've already caught some pretty hilarious spell corrects, so I hope you forgive the ones I miss. This isn't as easy as I expected).
But alas, I already know how to accomplish all these fairly common goals with moderate success, and this year, they're not what I need to work on. If, like millions of other people, these are your goals for 2012... Then I envy you. That probably means these are the things that you most dislike about yourself, and want to change.
well, One of the best ways to accomplish a goal is to put it in writing. Then it's solid. You can't waffle on its intent or interpretation anymore. It's out of your head and into the 3d world. ( or 2d, but it's the principal.). Another is to publicly declare it. Then you have to own it, because people are going to ask you about it and make it harder to quietly give up. (I.e " ... So.... Brian... How's that book coming?" -- Stewie Griffin)
So, I survived 2011, despite a heavy overdose of reality, and the experience changed me, and not for the better. I let go of my childish idealism, my naive trust in others, and my the general empathetic positive regard that I looked at people through. And I've become cynical, withdrawn, and cold. After a long struggle with some damaging relationships, I've just quietly retreated to my books, and my computer, and my work..
But I'm on a path to be a very quiet, angry hermit if I continue in this direction. I've met someone who inspires me to be a better person, and he deserves a happy and positive companion. So my new years resolution is to have a better attitude, especially about people and relationships. I think it's going to be harder than it sounds. But there it is. I've committed.