Saturday, January 10, 2009

Slamming Into!

Let me be clear at the outset I will give no clues about the person before whom I have had to bow low and beg forgiveness – when they see this they will know right enough!
However if you have ever been thick-headed in a relationship, or on the other hand thin-skinned in one, even to be blunt in relationship with God, then be not afraid, nor embarrassed, just read on!
A few beginning points:
1] It may be urban myth but someone said the other day Google has a system which prevents firing off ill-conceived emails if one is not in a state of sobriety. Frankly I am looking for a computer-voice that before I post, send anything would bellow: “ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THAT?”
2] About the only printable word used by others about my temperament is: volcanic!
3] Some people who have read my essays, albeit their kind words are appreciated, seem to be under the impression that living in the “Thin Place” means a life without turmoil, weakness, or, to be blunt, personal stupidity!
{ I recall a student coming for confession once who sincerely asked, without explanation, for absolution: “Because I did something stupid.” Thankfully, so far, the Vatican has not listed that as a serious sin!}
For someone contemplating the mystery and grace of the Thin Place, seeking it, finding it, or rather at least discovering the threshold and trying to crossover, I can be [frequently says he, blushing shame faced I assure you] rather thick-headed, to wit as any dictionary is quick to assert: being one who is lacking in or more bluntly is marked by a total lack of mental acuity!
Acuity of course is to have sharpness, keenness of thought and vision.
There’s more! One of the reasons my temperament is volcanic, besides my Italian heritage is my lifelong primary experience of thinness is, especially when it comes to relationships – yep even with God – I am rather thin-skinned, which if you have never encountered a thin-skinned person, we are the ones who, oh way too quickly, get offended, hurt, confused, misread signals and intentions, wallow in puddles of self-pity because no one understands, etc., etc., etc.
{So let me tell you another story – some year’s back I had been asking Jesus for something very important, at least to me. Totally convincing myself it was the Father’s will, would be absolute proof Jesus loves me, and would even make the Holy Spirit happy.
When the answer was No...Gently revealed to my heart. I absolutely exploded blathering on to the very knife edge of blasphemy and way, way past disrespect.
Eventually I calmed down, and sought out a trusted brother priest for confession who, as I am trying to repent, is laughing so hard tears are running down his face.
“You are so Italian! Relax! The Father understands, Jesus loves You, trust the Holy Spirit knows best.”}
Some decades back, in deep winter snow, I had my first tangible experience of the authentic Thin Place when I went to spend a few days in the poustinia used by the Servant of God Catherine Doherty.
She was away at the time and I had been asked to spend a few days in there, keeping a fire going, so when she returned she could resume her poustinia days in that little cabin without having to wait for the cold to be dispersed.
Now in the old Russian tradition the door to a poustinia is deliberately constructed lower than the height of the average person so that upon entering you have to bend – to bow – to at least by so doing be aware this is not just ‘any’ place you are entering.
In my youthful haste every single time I entered or left by that door I slammed into the doorframe.
Even years later after Catherine died and I would visit a beloved priest who lived in there I would invariably whack myself silly.
Interiorly I would explode because thick-headed as I am it still hurt and thin-skinned as I am clearly the door hated me!
Today I forgot in the presence of someone I love to bend low before crossing the threshold into communication [ a form of communion ] and whacked my head into them [verbally] because I was so wrapped up in my own needs and agenda I lacked the acuity, the vision, to be aware of their needs, of what they were trying to tell me.
I was pushing myself to the head of the line, ahead of God, ahead of the other and in so rushing to be first I was that youth rushing again into the Thin Place without bowing low.
As a dear friend remarked after I had begged forgiveness: “Order has been restored to the cosmos!”
Actually I shuddered because suddenly I understood the connection between the thick-headedness of warring factions, be they nations, ethnic groups, religions, neighbours, street gangs, interest groups, friends, spouses, siblings – and the thin-skinned dimension too - and my contributively making things worse unless I truly learn from, imitate and live out the meekness and humility of heart of Jesus.
It is not enough to feel the pain of my brothers and sisters in Gaza, Israel, Darfur, cold and homeless on the street, suffering alone in a hospital if I lack the acuity, the keenness of vision to see the pain, the need for love, of the person right beside me.
It is not enough to pray and fast for an end to the holocaust of abortion or for an end to the war in the Holy Land if I am quick to take offense at not being the priority of those around me.
Only when I live the real connection, not between my actions and some cosmic chaos theory but between how I do or do not love, humbly serve, and nations waging war, or any other aspect of suffering humanity, will I truly be allowed, frankly, to cross the threshold and dwell here on earth in the Thin Place.
The poustinia [urban or deep in some forest] being the Thin Place is the place of meekness and humility, of other being the priority.
Pray [ even before my headache is gone! ] I re-enter the right cosmic and human order: God first, my neighbour second and I am third!

1 comment:

Adoro said...

Oh, Father, you are NOT alone! I'm the same way (not Italian, though...I got the Irish temperment with the Swedish propensity to be stubborn!)

And I'm also completely oblivious to things around me. Just tonight I did something completely rude, didn't even realize it, was just thoughtless. It wasn't an intent to be so, and in fact, when I saw the situation I actually misinterpreted it and didn't respond only out of being clueless. But all worked out well and it was forgotten. I hadn't even realized what happened until I was on my way home, and now I feel TERRIBLE!

Often we beat up on ourselves for things long forgotten about others who know us and accept us and forgive us our faults before we can even see them.