August 14, 2011 cut a deep demarcation in my life between “before the accident” and “after the accident”.
Sometimes, the further away time takes me from that day, it seems that the deep score it left in the geography of my life appears less immense. It’s as if I’m standing on a mountain top looking at the scene below me, the towns, the counterpane of farmed fields and the roads that frame them, the hills and valleys – they all seem the same size. But I’ve been there and I know the depth of its impression, the dimension of its scale, the dark corners. I’m familiar with its curves and edges and scope.
In a million different ways, I am never far from what it taught me.
My day to day life is filled with all manner of things that matter/don’t matter like making dinner, getting the oil changed, meeting that commitment, calling the dentist, or paying a bill, yet always that truth that cut deep into my memory—my soul-self—glimmers, and like light playing off a turning car and dancing along the wall or sparkle of something flickering beside the road, it begs my curiosity, my attention.
Sometimes I am reluctant as I turn my attention to the sparkle.
Sometimes I’m angry because I know what I’ll find there is too meaningful for me to know what to do with and I’ll be frustrated. Sometimes I’m happy to pause and be in that fully lighted memory of truth. Sometimes I want to hustle on by and think about anything else. But I know it’s what I must do. I lean down and pick up the treasure from the dust of the day-to-day and marvel at its fullness in my palm. And I remember:
That One Time I Completely Trusted God.
Christians talk a lot about faith.
We ruminate and theologize and make pictures of sunsets with quotes and Bible verses to post on the internet all about faith. We toss it around like a football or dress it up like a doll at a tea party, we beg for more of it and venerate those who seem to have ample supply.
Regardless of religion or upbringing or education everyone has some perception, even a personal philosophy, of faith.
Recently my Facebook feed was populated with an influx of Seattle Seahawk fans that had faith in the team, in the 12th Man, in the talent of the players, the leadership of the coaches. They wanted a repeat of a Superbowl victory, a 2015 win to carry proudly in their hearts for another year, to emblazon on T-shirts and bumper stickers, so they were faithful fans. When tragedy strikes in the form of earthquakes or hurricanes, we put our faith in the solidarity of humanity. In war and terror, we have faith in our government and military to do what they’ve pledged to do: protect us. When the clock ticks and the life-support tubes are removed, we hold in breath and wait and “keep the faith”. We hope, we wish, we cheer, we pray.
That is an entirely different thing. Altogether.
A few weeks back a guest-teacher spoke at church about Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Looking for a take-away lesson to impart to the hundreds gathered in the auditorium, he took apart the verses describing Jesus’ agony in prayer, the sweat dripping from his forehead that the Bible describes mysteriously as “Sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground”, of the begging Son of God imploring his Father for a way out – any way out—and then acquiescing to the inevitable: death on a cross, separation from God the Father and the impending, chest-crushing weight of the guilt of all human sin placed on his beaten body. Death – the very opposite of all Jesus was. The speaker examined Jesus’ prayer and gave us ways to pray like Jesus did. He did his best. We sang and prayed and drank coffee and exited the building.
But I left church angry. I was angry all night and the next day.
There was something missing.
And then I spotted the sparkle. A tidbit of something in my periphery.
I sighed and knew it was time to remember, and caught the tiny truth-fragment that flew up like a spark. And the light seemed to speak to me, “Remember when you were dying?”
Once again I was there in my mind: rescued by the Emergency crew, strapped to a board, squinting under the lights that enabled my Rescuer to see, my throbbing pain dulled somewhat by adrenalin, my hands being instructed to hold the oxygen mask to my face. The sense that something was seriously wrong became tangible reality as I tried so very hard to breathe. It was as if the only job I ever had or ever might have was this single effort: to draw breath. And I couldn’t do it. All of my resolve, all of my willpower was trained upon this purpose and I was failing, failing, with each intake.
I’ve told the story before, recounted these moments a thousand times, but here I am again, fully conscientious of my dying, absolutely helpless and unable to muster enough strength to even breathe, beseeching my Rescuer, “Why can’t I breathe?”
Still I tried, still I tried. And like a child on swing, I moved through the air of living and dying as if it were the same air, and I was merely flying through it. And as my mind, depleted of oxygen began to darken around the edges, the only words left in my thoughts were “Breathe, Jesus.” Swing up, swing down, swing up, swing down.
And then the Rescuer’s reply, “We’re going to do the breathing for you.”
Sweet relief. And I absolutely believed him. Thank God! They can breathe for me! It’s not up to me anymore! Whether I lived (as I know living) or died (as I imagine dying to be) mattered not one single bit – I was swinging in the reality of salvation, breathing upon the strength of another, lost in acquiescence.
It was the only time I know of that I rested fully in the will of God, that I let go of any control I perceived to possess and was utterly weightless in trusting God, trusting my Rescuer, trusting in the unseen future, trusting in the unknown.
I was terrified and at peace.
I knew nothing about the next moment and accepted that fact fully.
As much as I want to live my life like that now, I can’t seem to get there. I can’t seem to let go.
“Not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus, as we take the Bible story by faith, was at the same time fully human and fully God. Volumes of theology have been written on this mystery. I’m not smart or tenacious enough to add to tomes that explain Jesus. But I know something special.
Although Jesus was completely human he never lived one day, one moment outside of trusting God the Father completely. He never doubted the plan, the good will of the Father, or their utter “oneness”.
Over and over on the evening of his arrest and trial, Jesus reminded the disciples: I and the Father are One. You can be part of this oneness, too, but I’ve got to do this thing ahead of me in order to make that happen. (John 15-17). He explained the beautiful synchronicity of the Father, the Son and the Spirit to his disciples, promised the enveloping inclusion into this unified trust relationship to all believers, anointed our lives with the purpose of testifying to this truth and promised protection and intimacy for any who believed in his name.
Jesus gave and gave on his last night – dished out so much truth, so much hope, even while sharing a meal with his betrayer, even while the disciples bickered over who (aside from Jesus) might be the most important in the Upper Room, and who might be the low man on the totem pole that would wash the others’ feet. Even while they thoroughly knew nothing about trust, Jesus served up helping after helping of truth.
And later, when Jesus lay splayed on the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed for a way out, even when all of Hell’s fury and anger and hate and evil was pressing upon him, squeezing him, wrenching him, tempting his human-side to tear away from his divine self, he never, ever, for one moment, doubted the purpose or the power that would get him through.
Although Jesus knew the full scope of human emotion and the human experience—including temptation to disavow his unity with God the Father—he never knew this apart from a total and complete trust in God the Father. For Jesus it was always, “Not my will but yours be done”. He was always breathing the divine will of God even as he laughed and ate and healed and cried over Jerusalem.
And that’s why, dear ones, we need rescued.
That’s why we need a gift of faith that is greater than any we can scrape together, because all our human faith is tainted with doubt. We cannot fully trust God apart from his gift of faith and sin has set us apart from him. We don’t know how to be fully anything apart from him.
Jesus knows our every weakness, but he never gave up his divinity – he was always, until the moment his last exhalation ripped through his chest, totally God.
Are you lacking faith? Disappointed? Worn out? Scared?
Don’t try to muster faith. Instead ask God, “Why can’t I have enough faith? What’s wrong?” And find sweet relief in his answer, “I’m doing the faith-thing for you.” Breathe that in. You might be terrified, but you’ll have peace, too.
That’s being saved.
And the circumstances may be dire. I lied teetering on the unknown chasm that separates life and death, here and eternity. I had no choice but to trust God.
And you know what? I wish, oh I wish, I could bottle up that moment and breathe its truth in my day-to-day life. I wish I could mix an endless supply of it and pour it all over for everyone else. When I worry in the night, or pray for a friend or hear stories of terror in far flung parts of the globe or wonder if a pedophile might be stalking my neighborhood, I long for the suspended moments where I swung in the space of existence completely at trust, at peace. No more questions or answers. Just faith distilled into peace.
I put the shiny thing in my palm and closed my fingers round it. I slipped it into my pocket, into that place in my mind where I sort things out, and knew that one day, Id lay out my truth in words and sentences and set it beside the Word of God.
That line that cut through my life is also a path and a map and a secret chest of treasure to be mined and shared. I lamely attempt writing about it. I push the “publish” button with a little prayer that it’s sparkle catches another’s eye and lights the way.
That demarcation follows me, leads me, reminds me and teaches me. It is my lifeline. I grasp it and toss it to you. Grab hold, if you will.
love you friends,
…linked up with Woman2Woman here