Sunday, September 28, 2008

Working at "not regretting the past..."

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

August 17, 2003. Atonement Lutheran Church, Overland Park, KS. My final Sunday at my home church - my sponsoring church - before I left for seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC). Dozens (if not scores) of people coming up to me, congratulating me and wishing me well. And pushing cards into my hands...

Prayers for guidance. Prayers for success. Prayers that the sender would live long enough to see my ordination. "What a wonderful preacher you are." (Lord, God, who were they listening to? I've had 0ccasion to HEAR some of those sermons since then...yeesh.) Oh, and my favorite: We so appreciate your openness, honesty and candor about your past life, and how God has worked in you. This, to a man who lived a lie as a deeply closeted gay Christian so he could go off and serve God in a dog-collar....

There was a moment today, re-reading all those cards, that I really just wanted to run off screaming into the corn and disappear. I haven't been involved in a church for a year, and haven't been in any kind of church-based ministry for more than 3 years. The people who I thought were the most unlikely to be ordained - the self-righteous, the control-freaks, the people who are only telling the truth when they are asleep - those are the people who The Church in Her wisdom ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. And here I am...

I almost wrote, "and here I am....vegetating, rotting away," but that would be a lie. I've worked hard at my work - a large part of which has been unofficial Morale Officer and Cheerful Charlie (along with Universal Fix-It Guy). I've continued to stay sober; I go to meetings, and I share my experience, strength and hope to anyone who will listen. I help out on Gay Christian Network, financially and online (when I can). And I've taken the time to get myself involved in a very vital and beautiful relationship, for which I have absolutely no regrets at all. I think I have been a good friend to some of my fellow advisors in DeMolay. So it has not all been a loss.

But the voices in the back of my head keep talking, anyway. After all, I came here to help, two years ago - and there are days when it surely looks like nothing I have done has borne any fruit whatsoever. My sister and brother-in-law still lost their house; my sister has never gotten any substantive kind of rehabilitation or therapy for her injury; my brother-in-law is still trapped in a dead-end job. I'm as broke as I ever was, and all of the money I've invested in any of these situations (as my British brothers would say) hasn't done a dickey-bird.

In the two years I've been active in the AA community here, I've only half-assed-sponsored two guys, neither of which really gave a rat's ass about staying sober. And I tried to help out my friends in DeMolay; the chapter has apparently ended up in worse shape than when I started supposedly helping them out, sixteen months ago. A month over five years ago, when I left town, there was a farewell party at work, a farewell party at the AA hall, and a farewell party at church. When I leave for Illinois at the end of October, I'm not sure that anyone outside of my family and those few very close friends will even notice....

Part of me knows that this is nothing more than seeking significance in the eyes of others, which is always doomed. But part of me is self-centered and human enough to want all this to have mattered for something. I don't think that's such a sin, but on days like today, I really wonder. About all of it.

So I go back into left-foot, right-food mode, and just keep on truckin'. Which is what I'm gonna do tonight.

So finding these greeting cards - and all the hope and promise and "God's got your back!" that went into them - has really put me into a phase of "what's it all about, Alfie?" How could I have been such an inspiration to so many people, and have my life seemingly have gone so far wrong?

...Update...the morning after....

Back story: so, about a month ago, I had gotten into the car a little too fast. My considerable bulk hit the back of the reclining bucket seat a little too hard, and something went crack. The seat seemed considerably wobbly in the back, and I resolved to get it fixed...

Then, getting carefully into the car on Friday, I leaned this way when I should have leaned that way, and whatever was cracked broke clean through - and the reclining portion of the seat flopped back like a visual-gag in a teen-aged make-out movie. I discerned (you learn things like discernment in seminary...) that this was a clear sign from God that the seat finally needed to be fixed.

So Chris lovingly got up early today (working nights, he almost NEVER sees two nine o'clocks in the same day) and drove me to the condo to work, and took the offending seat wreckage over to a welding shop in nearby Neapolis. On the way. we stopped at our favorite Blue Creek Coffee Shop for a Mud Turtle (chocolate, caramel and peanut butter in a blended iced coffee base - should be on an Index somewhere as way too sinful).

And somehow, life just looks better today.

Yeah, it could be the sugar-rush from the Turtle. It could be the caffeine kicking in. It could be hearing "Walking On Sunshine" on the radio. It could all be artificial, like the stock-market roaring back on the faintest hope of something bailing them all out. But I don't think so. I think life just looks better today.

I don't doubt that the doubts will be back; I tend to be a Pushme-Pullyou, looking backwards and forwards at the same time. Maybe this is the faint echos of whatever call I heard five years ago, telling me that whatever I heard is still not fulfilled. I know at least part of it is the recurring feeling of having failed the people who supported me from Atonement - and not being in a position to repay them yet. And maybe it's part of "letting go of the past, and not wishing to shut the door on it." Or at least getting there...

I would not have written the script this way - but I know that I am here for a reason. (I almost wrote "I have been put here for a reason," but that would be a lie. God did not teleport me here - I am here because of my choices, and my responses to the choices of others. For however it worked out, I am responsible for being here.) I am going through this sorting-out / downsizing / shedding of unnecessary stuff for a reason. The loss of this beautiful place is happening for a reason. I may not know it until well after the final trumpet sounds. But the direction of the movement has to be forward, that much I know is true.

At the top of this page, in the blog masthead that my friend Penni made for me, there is an image of a winding path - a picture I took at nearby Wildwood Metropark. It's there to remind me that I don't get to see around the corner very far to what's ahead - but that I have to keep moving forward. Someone Else is in charge of what's around the bend. I hear the truth of that quite frequently in meetings...
We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us... See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.
(the closing to the text Alcoholics Anonymous, page 164)


3 comments:

Steve F. said...

Those of you who read this on RSS feeds or Bloglines - there is an "update" after I published this. For what it's worth...

Michael said...

Steve,

A good friend once told me, "Even in the dark night of the soul, there is enough starlight for the next step."

Keep on stepping. Spiritually AND physically! It's good for you. Just watch for the light for the next right step.

(Hey there! to Chris.)

Peace,
Michael

Black Pete said...

Haven't read the update, but I can tell you that all those potentials people saw in you those years ago are still there: the only question is where you'll be able to use them again in a way that's lifegiving to you.

Bonus: you've got all that wonderful and terrible experience to bring those talents to, now. And this blog proves you can sure the words together, Steve man.