Youth vs Old Age

Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it is to be young….
–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Ah, youth! How smart, how full of energy, how bright the future! If we knew what we were in for as adults, would we choose to grow anyway? Maybe, if we look at it spiritually; physically and emotionally, not so much. At least I wouldn’t. If I had foreknowledge of the physical pain and emotional trauma I would suffer as a child-teen-young adult, I would rather have stayed in the bosom of God. But, sitting there in His Presence before my birth, I did know; my spirit knew I would need to suffer to become the spirit being I needed to be. My physical self doesn’t like it but the spiritual self knows it to be necessary. After 58 years on this planet and out of the enveloping Presence of God, I can do what all aging folks do–look back and see with hind sight that it was necessary to suffer.

Some lessons can only be learned with suffering. How can I learn compassion unless I am shown none? How can I learn patience unless I am left wanting? How can I learn to love unless I am unloved? Of course, I had choices along the way. I could have become bitter and hateful and completely without regard of my fellow human being. I could have chosen anger and violence as my way to move through life. It is there – that seed – deep in my heart that has tried to take root and grow but for the Love and earthly Presence of God (not to be confused with the [for lack of a better word] – Heavenly – Presence of God). I will carry that bitter seed my whole life and will strive to keep it dormant. It only takes one small event to nourish the seed and like kudzu, it will worm its way into every corner of my soul.

How do I guard myself against such an invasive weed? I can’t do it alone. I require assistance from God, from other souls who have gone before me, from strangers who cross my path (or is it I who cross theirs?), and from Nature herself where I find solace and the strength to dig out that seed whenever it takes hold. So I read, reflect, create, pray, sing and dance my way through the bitterness, the anger, the judgment; accepting it as a true part of myself but not one I wish to nourish.

I will choose to nourish the better part of me, the compassionate me, the me who loves unconditionally, the patient me, the me who is always looking forward to the day I am back in the bosom of God but not necessarily rushing to get there.

In my aging process I will not scowl at the optimism of youth; I will remember that I, too, was once that young. If you don’t have hope for the future, what do you have? If you don’t occasionally look backwards, if only to see your progress, how will you know how to proceed? We learn and grow and then learn and grow some more until the moment we enter His Presence once more.

(Originally posted in March 2014)

Sal, part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about “Sal, my no so pal” – the angry, bitter male customer who calls and says awful things to myself and my coworkers in the midst of his complaints. It’s been a while since I heard from him but he called the other day – in fact, he called two days in a row. And, surprisingly, he was quite civil – at least for him.

When he called the first day, he had a long list of complaints, but, as per his m.o., he had to level an insult at me first. The first thing out of his mouth after I said my greeting was: “I’ve talked to you before and talking to you gives me heartburn. Talking to anyone in your company gives me heartburn.” This time, I didn’t react to his bait. No sarcasm and snide remark back to him, just silence. After an awkward moment of nothing, he launched into his mostly frivolous complaints. The conversation went well – professionalism on my part; restrained anger on his. He had no racist comments, no nasty insults (just a few ‘mild’ ones) and very little cursing. 8 or 9 minutes later when he had disconnected I realized something was different.

Was it him or was it me? Will this new truce between us be a one-time occurrence or will it continue on? Why was he so nice – well, nice for him? And why was I so non-reactive to his issues and anger? Time was – just a few weeks ago – when he could reduce me to cursing, frustration and tears.

Based only upon my telephone experience with him on this day, Sal remains full of anger, bitterness, hurt, and above all, fear. He still believes he’s right and the whole world is wrong; that the world will bow down to what he wants and when it doesn’t he lashes out; and he seems to have no positivity in him at all. Has he changed? Will he change? That remains for God to sort out and me to probably never know.

What has changed is me – and praying for the spiteful man has helped change me. I say ‘spiteful’ not as a slur or insult but as an interpretation of his actions toward me. I’ve learned to pray for him even though he tells me I’m worthless. I pray for him because I don’t see him as a mean person anymore. I see him as a deeply injured child of the same God I worship, serve, and love. I am trying to see Sal as God sees him – hurt, in pain, full of fear – trying to defend himself the only way he knows – through anger and rage.

Only God is able to break through Sal’s rock-hard wall that surrounds his heart. Such deeply ingrained hurt cannot be healed by any means other than the Spirit of God. Drugs (prescription or illegal), therapy, incarceration or alcohol are all just band-aids on a huge gaping, smelly, rotten, foul wound.

While I am a proponent of therapy and some prescription drugs, my own rotten wounds didn’t fully begin to heal until I turned to God. Only God has been able to reach into my soul and heal injuries 30 – 40 – even 50 years old. I have more healing to be done – and it will be, in time, on God’s time.

So for now, I will continue to pray for Sal because as long as he walks upon this earth there is still time – for hope, for redemption, for healing, for love.

Render unto Caesar

When I checked my mail – I saw the envelope from the IRS – I knew what it was – and was reluctant to open it.

I have a student debt from 20 years ago that I have neglected. Money is so tight that there is no room in the budget for this debt and thus I rarely pay on it.

Each year when I submit my 1040EZ I know the U.S. government “kindly” takes my often substantial refund and applies it toward that debt.

When I finally open the letter and read that all the money went to the debt (as I knew it would) I was overwhelmed with disappointment and sorrow. This is the first year I have felt this way. The first year I was PO’d. Then I accepted it as a reality I didn’t like. But this year, the feeling of disappointment went deep within and surprised me.

I could have used that money – I needed that money – and even as tears streamed down my cheeks, these words came to mind:

“Render unto Caesar what is Caesars’ and unto God what is God’s.”

As a citizen of this country I am obliged to pay taxes and such – unfair that may seem to me – but if I am to serve God, then I must do it.

As I thought about all the necessary things I could do with that money I realized that my real needs are provided for each week – food, gas, rent, electricity—

And I thanked God for them – that He loved and cared for me –

And even though the things I determined to be necessary, aren’t true needs.

God has the bigger picture – He sees the forest whereas I can only see the trees that surround me.

A couple of days later and the disappointment I felt has mostly been swept away. But my love for God has not.

I appreciated the reminder that God cares for and provides my every true need. And I thanked Him for the reminder.

However, I also reminded Him that providing a few of my wants would be nice as well.