Grace, eventually…I guess, um, er, well, I hope!

Author’s Note: this was written May 2, 2009; I was in a different place, but I felt the urge to repost it to remind myself of some of the growth my journey has taken.    

While reading the NY Times, my eyes focused on an advertisement for a church service that said “Leap and the Net will be there…”  But it made little sense to me, today, because I am lost in monkey mind, filled with screeching, wild little monkeys racing through my head.  And statements like that tend to piss me off when days like today occur: the kind of day when even catching my breath and breathing deeply is an ordeal.

I find leaping shear dread, especially when the leap is one of faith.  For you see, most of the time I am a coward, one who fears even his own shadow.

As Annie Lamott once wrote, “If you give the Devil a ride, sooner or later he’s gonna be driving.”  And the devil and his legion, my demons, have been holding the wheel for a good while.  I’m lost, in addiction, in fear, in stupid decisions, in caring friends gone amok.  I’m lost in myself and I can’t seem to find my way back Home.

But as painful as that is, I am right where I need to be – in the moment.

The way is made along the way, the old Spanish adage goes, but how does one find his way along the way when he is truly lost along that very way?  (re-read that again…if you need to)

I am made along the way as well, by grace that eventually comes, sometimes softly, sometimes as a storm awakening, but come it does.  And I write this is the thick of the grand mess called my life.  I am not writing this from some mountain retreat center with my soulful dog at my feet, no I write this from a friends’ tiny flat in New York’s Upper West Side, between Yorkville and Spanish Harlem.  And let me be clear in no uncertain terms: I am not a big fan of NYC.  It’s too much for me…

I’m at home in cities that have skies or anywhere I can see mountains in my line of vision and my dog as well.  I’ve spent the better part of my life, over half to be exact living in urban America, mostly Washington, DC and some time in Philadelphia.  But my heart lies in the mountains, be they Blue (as in the great misty Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia) or be they Green (those delicious Mountains of Vermont).

And now I’m forcing myself to write just to try and save my rear end.  Because when all else fails, follow the advice of great, earthy artists and writers, “Start with what you have” (not with what you don’t) and “Start with where you are…and kill that doggone self critical editor” (at least in the beginning of the writing).

So here I am; or am not.  If I feel at all, it is little; or a torrent of dread, fear, and demons that hold sway in my little brain and squeeze the life out of my soul and heart.  Squeezing out the Grace that God so generously gives to me.

Darkness is no friend or foe, it just is: penetrating, thick, the kind that feels disorienting when there is no adjustment to this type of darkness.  It’s a bit like night blindness, something I am starting to have ‘issues’ with out of my left eye at night (the vision is sometimes darker, blurrier, and has no real adjustment period, it merely stays in the original black fuzz).

Darkness is not something I’ve ever feared.  But today I do.  I am paralyzed.  I can’t even pick up my cell phone to check the umpteen voice mails I have to deal with that only perpetuate the fear.  That grinding, nail to chalkboard voice saying, ‘you will end up homeless, helpless, useless, hungry and alone!’

Oh that voice in my head has the power of the very voice of God sometimes as it holds sway over my sanity and safety.  That voice, clear as a bell gonging in between my ears, eats away at all foundations of faith and trust.  It leaves me blindsided and blind.

Oh, and how I hunger for slower times, bigger skies, hazy mountains, and the soft fur of Juno resting beside me to restore my soul and life to proper balance.  City life – especially a city that has not always been so kind to me – saps my soul and beats down my spirit, leaving me drained, and looking like a lost little kitten, all wet and used up.

But I am far from that, and having a dickens of a time getting back to the present (moment).  The past does not exist (as it is merely a stored memory) and the future is just a fantasy yet to happen.  So, staying on the now should or would seem doable, even for an Ichabod Crane like myself.   Trembling, fearful, gulping with a large Adams apple of dread being chased by a headless horseman.

Which leads me to a tough question: how does one break out of prison that is built from within?  How does one find sanity in the UN-Sane world?

There is an answer…and it is called God’s grace, and grace eventually happens along the way.

Even being lost is still in some way a “sense of direction”, even if it is a painful direction to have.  And even in this lostness, I can still stumble into grace.  Sometimes and paradoxically so, God is easier to find when I am desperate; but when times are good, God can be so hard to find because my vision – my perspective – gets whacked and off during pendulum shifts of my life.

But grace comes eventually…

Grace though comes like a wily teenager, gangling into puberty, fumbling, bumbling, angry and confused.  Grace is a split second of peace and trust that is killed by the blaring horn outside the window that faces (only) a red brick wall.  St. Paul was ‘almost’ right about Grace, but it makes more sense to me when it reads, “where Niles abounds, [God’s] Grace abounds all the more.”

Where despair is present, grace is  even more so.

It’s my eyes that screw with everything and not the ones in my head, but the eyes of my heart.  I have the sole power to define the way I see my life, regardless of the reason, rationale, or lack thereof, in how I define it.

That is one of the greatest powers we have: the power to choose another way of seeing and therefore experiencing life.  I can choose to see it at all, or see it as I think it is, or even ‘as it is’ – although that’s a tough one for me, because life as it is, is still defined by the players who are playing in it.

When do I really want to see life as it is?  I am given the blessed limitation of seeing all through a dark glass.  I’m not sure I can even handle seeing life all as truly I.  I think my peanut mind would puff like a soufflé, exploding into a million pieces, splattering everywhere if I were to see life as God does (as it truly is).

But then comes grace slowly and surely.

Grace…that comes as a gentle buffer or a healing power or a soft hand after a hard day, or as a sound sleep after months of darkness and fatigue, a sweet note from a dear friend.  And for me, grace comes from God but (usually) through the people in this world who surround me.

Thanks be to God for the grace and thanks to the precious one’s who channel that amazing grace, truly how sweet the sound.

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