A TIME FOR GIFT GIVING, PART ONE
The word was made flesh or dwelt among us is often the translation used for one of the initial verses of John’s Gospel. However, the original Greek reads, He pitched his tent among us. Wow! Very different meaning. Very different meaning.
Is there an underlying message in this verse? Perhaps the verse is calling US to pitch our tent in places we would otherwise care not to. It might also be reminding us that the way we treat those who dare to pitch their tent among us (like deporting them), is the way we treat Jesus. You remember, that familiar verse we all like to forget? What you do to the least, you do to me. Come on, do more than just dismiss this. Think about it.
So moving on, I am very much a believer in God. My belief, my faith, takes me well beyond my brain’s innate drive to figure everything out including God. Letting go of my need to be theologically brilliant in figuring it all out is probably a good measure of my becoming at least slightly humble in my old age!
I am also a Christian, and I believe in the PRESENCE (sometimes referred to as the TRUE presence) of Jesus in the Eucharist, but also in the Mystical Body of Christ, as well as in my heart and your heart. Jesus lives in our hearts not based upon our adherence to any set of universal or denominational principles, but Jesus is there because he is there. You, nor the devil, has the power to evict him! Check out my wonderful poem, I Slept With Jesus.
But I also believe that the three folks, who in our Christian tradition, we call God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), are inviting us, perhaps screaming at us, to become Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, disciples of the Tao, informed disciples of the Great Spirit of our own Native People, and informed disciples of the God who lives in the hearts of holy people throughout the world, who know God in their native and ancient ceremonies and way of life, whose beliefs are still uncontaminated by the so called “outside” world. We like to call these folks pagans. We like to consider them outside the plan of salvation. How arrogant!
Perhaps, we have misunderstood the Gospel mandate to go to all nations. Maybe we were to bring the Jesus, the Christ, the God who lives inside of us to all the nations so we could receive what the "nations" have to offer us, the way Jesus went about receiving from other folks who were not Jews. Maybe Baptism is meant to be a Baptism of peace and not of denomination, domination, and judgment about who is saved and who is not.
So now that some of you are absolutely livid with what I have written so far and already picking it apart and pulling up a ton of Bible verses to argue with each one of these sentences, let me return to that awesome verse, He pitched his tent among us.
For those who call ourselves Christians, this is God’s gift to us, a very precious gift. God chose to pitch his tent among us by sending Jesus into the world. And yes, it is Christmas time, the time when we celebrate the arrival of that gift in a special way.
In my first-cup-of-coffee stupor this morning, I started thinking about Christmas gifts, and I heard the “words” from some place deep inside my soul, that there were two very special gifts I could give to EVERYONE this Christmas. I know a little grandiose!
The first gift was to remove as many barriers as I can, so I can truly receive Love from those who love me.
The second gift was to let go of any hold I have, including any beliefs I have, on the devil, so I can stop blaming this fallen angel for the evils in the world. I can stop imagining that my “temptations” to be less than God calls me to be, to injure myself and other people in any shape or form, are about some outside evil force.
So, in order to give these gifts to EVERYONE, I thought I would allow the creative Spirit inside me to create a blog about each gift.
So this is gift number one. I will remove as many barriers as I can to better and more genuinely receive Love from those of you who love me.
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THEIR EYES?
GIFT NUMBER ONE
You might wonder why anyone would take a class every Friday morning for two years. Well, it was obviously a fascinating class for me with a wonderful facilitator, Richard Gilbert, PhD. The topic? Object relations. In a nutshell, object relations theory studies just how it is we, as human beings, learn to relate to people and to our world.
Unfortunately, the language of many object relations theorist is a tad difficult, at least for me, I might even add unnecessarily sophisticated and complex. It would be like me describing traffic signals as luminescent objects that transform in color to provide us with the information necessary to relate to the colors and from that relationship make decisions to move forward when the color is green, to stop when the color is red, or to slow down when the color is yellow and prepare for the luminescent object to transform to red, or speed up and travel through the intersection of two roads while the luminescent object retains a yellow hue and before it transforms into a red hue.
Yes, the language of object relations theory is kind of like that. At least for me. So having Richard as a mentor and translator was absolutely mawvelous. We studied, listened to lectures, and shared our own experiences as therapists, and I looked forward to each and every Friday morning. And it was about the fifth month into it, when Richard concluded his lecture with the statement, "And so by the time we are nine months old, we have learned to love and be loved." (I have subsequently added my own two cents, "Or not!")
I was caught totally off guard by the tears that burst to the surface. I had to fight the sobbing that wanted to push through. I just sat there stunned. Why did I have such an unplanned and intense reaction to the simple statement? "And so by the time we are nine months old, we have learned to love and be loved."
From that moment on, I wanted to learn everything I could about my reaction. Since then, I have written a great deal in short stories, unfinished novels, and books and more recently in blogs about the topic of loving and being loved. You can check out my profile page and see many blogs listed there on love, how our brain works in relationship to love, being at home with our emotions, and you could even make my Christmas by reading my book, From The Frying Pan To The Jacuzzi which is all about love and relationships. The details of how we arrive at this moment of learning to love and be loved, or NOT, are all there.
But for today, we will skip over the details and cut to the chase. Boy, are you lucky!
Personally, as much as I KNOW about loving and being loved, I continue to struggle with the being loved part. I continue to struggle taking in the experience of being loved. I have, however, made some progress, so to speak. I can actually receive love today in ways that I could absolutely not just a year and a half ago. And I contribute that change to becoming sober. I think I can humbly say I have made some quantum leaps in taking in the experience of being loved.
But this morning, I was back to a gnawing awareness that I still go out of my way to create places in my imagination where I conjure up stories, good reasons, for the people who love me to stop loving me and find other people, much more deserving of their love than me. So as much as I have taken down my wall, my barriers, I still manage to hold on to remnants of the wall or the energy associated with that wall.
For example, I can get caught up with my physical appearance and use that as an imaginary barrier. No one can love the looks of me. If loved ones look very carefully, they will see that I am not attractive at all.
I can tell myself to get real and REALize that the people I love have way too many other loves in their lives to really commit to me.
I can get overwhelmed with my financial challenges and actually laugh at myself for thinking anyone would want to have anything to do with me let alone want my piece of crap car in front of their house let alone in their driveway. My good friend Kirk lives on a hill and is constantly suggesting I leave the brake off and part company with my car!
But kidding aside, I have this belief, that if you get too close to me, you will soon fear catching my financial troubles. What kind of a crazy "story" is that? Just how powerful do I think I am?
Yes, the obvious antidote to this “story” is to, each day, take more and more responsibility for my financial situation and become outright accountable for my financial decisions. But that does not stop my imagination from playing games with my prefrontal lobe.
I can even get caught up in my chronological age and conjure up Dorian Gray stories. I see the look of horror on my loved ones faces as they finally wake up and see that I am just an old man who might be better off in an old folks home.
Each of us has our own way of conjuring up stories in our head and even hanging on to actual life experiences to convince ourselves that we are not loveable. Then we use these convictions as building blocks for our wall, so it becomes absolutely impossible for us to receive love and to experience being loved.
And then we do this other absolutely slick ingenuous “thing.” Somehow, we leave just enough openings in our wall to also convince ourselves that we are loving and actually love others, but painfully, we detest that it is a one way street. Others do not love us in return.
So my gift to EVERYONE this Christmas is, as scary as it might be, to continue taking down the wall and to let those who love me IN and to hold myself in the experience of being loved.
I imagine I may still have my moments when I grab quickly for the remnants of the wall to protect myself. But I am also committed to reminding myself that when I was a little person, it truly was devastating to discover that the people who I wanted to love me the most, for whatever reason, could not or did not. But now as a big person, a grown-up person, God has given me every bit of wisdom and grace I need, to literally live through these painful life experiences. Notice I said, LIVE THROUGH. So it is beyond surviving when I painfully REALize I am not loved the way I want to be loved, the other's commitment to love me isn’t what I want it to be. I will travel through these experiences, and I will do more than just survive them. I will be quite alive and well on the other side and be ready to love and be loved again.
Any number of loved ones in the last several days have told me how much they are looking forward to spending time with me. There is my good and long-time friend, Dan, who is Santa Claus this season, and on whose lap I am dying to sit! There are my sisters who are looking forward to having my physical “presence(ts)" during the holidays. There is my son who is going out on financial limbs to make my life a little less stressful. There are very precious men and women in my twelve-step support group who tell me clearly with their grace-filled eyes that I am loved and will always be taken care of.
I am most aware that when I have my wall up, I don’t get it. I don’t get what? I don’t get it that, when someone who loves me dearly strokes my face, this is the closest I will come in this lifetime to experiencing God stroking my face. For me to wall myself off from this experience is walling myself off from God. We all need to stop doing that. In fact, I have a unsettling belief that if I wall myself off from this experience in this life, I may not be capable of receiving the experience of God loving me in the next life. I mean what a pity! Work so damned hard to get to heaven and then not be able to take it in. You know, do all the right things, follow all the rules, but also hold on to your defenses and not be capable of believing in the most profound experience of being loved, and that becomes your damnation, so to speak.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense to you. I hope my blog is not as mumble jumble as the object relations theorists sometimes are. And if it is not, I invite you to join me in dismantling at least a part of your wall. Take the risk. Let in those you already know love you and experience being loved. Make this decision a gift to the world and a gift to God for this Christmas.
THANKS FOR READING AND SHARING YOUR OWN THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS MOST PROFOUND EXPERIENCE OF BEING LOVED. You know, if everyone experienced being loved, there would be no war.