Wednesday, February 13, 2008

...and now for something completely different...part deux

I have always had an "interesting" relationship
with all things "English"....
C.S. Lewis, John Donne, Shakespeare,
Rex Harrison, Richard Burton...
I always enjoyed their work....
Monty Python...not as much...
Benny Hill...not at all...

I've also always been one who is described as "serious"...
if I have an "inner child"...
it has been neither "seen or heard"...
I "laid down the gauntlet" early on...
by informing most of my peers
that I thought that what they were saying, thinking or doing...
"was stupid"...

as subtle as I can, at times, be... that wasn't...
nor did it win me any friends at all...
now, with the point of view of age...
I can see that my need to control things and express myself,
both intellectually and emotionally,
[a problem I'm still plagued by...]
fed my lack of ability to "let go"..."to play"....

I remember running and jumping for the sheer joy of it...
but not often... and not as I got older,
and heard what people thought of me...
by then, I had turned inward, away from the pain...

I've been told more than once by friends...
that one of the things they liked about me was
that I said what I thought....
of course, people also like NASCAR and reality shows...

my "on, again... off, again" appreciation of things British...
has been tweaked recently in a couple of ways...
first, the BBC comedy series, "The Vicker of Dibley"...
and secondly, 2 books by English author, Karen Armstrong...

"The Vicker of Dibley" is that rare British comedy...
it is laugh out loud funny, without going "over-the-top"...
the characters are cartoonish...
but still sympathetic and believable...[at least in Dibley...]

although occasionally "a bit too broad" for my taste...
most of the writing is truly funny...
not so "British" that we "Yanks" can't get it...
and there are belly laughs for all...

as with all great ensemble casts...
and this is an excellent one...
you come to care about the characters...
and the writers insert just enough poignancy
to keep us connected with reality...
despite the inherent lunacy that abounds...

in this season of Lent, with the self-examination,
self-improvement and self-denial that abounds...
"the enemy" can have a field day...
a wise person once told me, "laugh at him...he hates that"...
so in that spirit...watch "The Vicker of Dibley"...
the enemy will really hate it...
and you may find your inner child...

and now, for something completely different...
I purchased Armstrong's books after reading about them,
and began reading, "Through the Narrow Gate"...
excited to join her spiritual journey...
but was soon disappointed ...

we have some common threads...
she is only a few years older than I...
is single and expects to be a solitary person...
shares a family name with me, was "serious"as a child
and at the age of 17, entered a convent...
something that I also felt drawn towards...

after 7 [pre Vatican II] years, undiagnosed illness
and severe emotional, mental and spiritual trauma...
she left the convent, having never found God...
only failure, condemnation, failing health and grief...

in her sequel, "The Spiral Staircase",
as she struggled to "climb out of darkness"...
she attempts to have an "academic career"...
tries to teach high school...
is involved [unsuccessfully] with the BBC
and some religious documentaries...
consults psychiatrists for her "problems"
[undiagnosed illness, anorexia]
and tries to come to terms with the "world"...
she had entered the convent to hide from...

she still has no faith...God is dead to her,...
and in her mind, she to Him...
she is finally diagnosed as having epilepsy
and with proper medication...
becomes physically healthy for the first time in years...
also losing the depression and anorexia problems...

she eventually finds her way as an author,
writing her best-selling "A History of God"...
which compares and examines the 3 Abrahamic religions...
Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

the research and writing of not only this work...
but others on Islam and the Crusades,
make her an established moderate voice...
appreciated by Christian Westerners and Muslems alike
in the fearful post 9/11 world...especially in the US...

through all this research and healing,
she finds a belief in God...
not the personal relationship
that she had always sought...
but an understanding of Him...

this was not the spiritual journey
that I expected to find in these books...
I had hoped for "warm & fuzzy"...
I got "cold & clinical"...

I also believe that things
will certainly continue to change for her...
given time and willingness on her part...
I know that God is willing...and knocking...
hopefully, she will find the faith to open the door...

what I DID get from these books,
was a couple of "growth tools"
and an analogy...

first... you MUST be able to
feel pain in order to grow...
if you block out the pain...
refuse to acknowledge it or deal with it...
you will not grow...

and then, must repeat the lesson...
until you allow the pain to have
it's full expression in your soul...
and you have grieved, confessed your sin...
and accept God's forgiveness....

for it is the pain...
and your acceptance of it,
that cleanses your soul...
and opens your eyes and heart
to the life-changing power of God...
only then, will you become changed...

second... loss is liberating...
when the "worst" has happened...
and you have nothing left to lose...
you are free to change everything...

all the old problems can be discarded...
the fears...which are usually connected to potential loss,
cease to have any power or meaning...
a truly fresh start is possible...

we are our own worst enemy...
we know how to "press our buttons"...
and then, there it is...fear...our enemy's best weapon...
because it is our "default "position...

the icy grip in the pit of our stomach...
the stab of pain from a past memory...
a sigh... a tear... a depressed thought...
and always, the whiff of sulphur in the air...

we can only get past this place with God's love...
it is a constant battle...with ourselves...
we trust...then, don't... then try again...
He, is constant... we are annoyingly inconsistent...

Armstrong called her sequel,
"The Spiral Staircase", [My Journey Out of Darkness]...
she continues to seek "the light" she has not yet found..
but remains "hopeful"....

she tried to get off the staircase and join others,
on what seemed, to her,
to be "a broad, noble flight of steps, thronged with people"...
but she kept "falling off"...
so she returned to her twisting, narrow staircase,
and has begun to find a fulfillment
that she had not expected...

I really like her analogy of the climb to God...
as a spiral staircase...
as you go up, step by step...
you must "turn back", in order to go higher...
always turning in, but looking up...

for all of us who struggle with ourselves...
to allow ourselves to become the person
that God wants us to be...
these two very different bits of British culture...
can be very helpful stepping stones
on our Lenten, [and life...] journeys...

a hearty laugh, or several...
can chase the enemy from our presence...
while morphing into the butterfly,
from the caterpillar... a sense of humor is absolutely necessary...

an understanding of the need for facing pain and loss,
in order to grow into who we must be...
is also a necessary thing...
my thanks to our British cousins for these gifts...

2 comments:

A Square Peg said...

Wow!

Thank You!

us300 said...

I seem to remember a conversation that we had that contained the same information. Hope to talk to you again soon.