Sunday, March 22, 2009

Filling in that one blank

No matter what our chronological age is, we never really become an adult until we are asked to fill-in the blank that says, "Please list your next of kin." I think we never truly mature until the moment that we acknowledge our mortality.

I don't remember who said that quote first, but I remember hearing thoughts like this early on from my dear friend Ted, and then hearing it echoed later-on in meetings in recovery. For quite a while, I've believed the core of that thought - that childhood is connected to that "I'm gonna live forever" idea, while adulthood seems to bring with it an understanding of finite existence.

I had "the conversation" with Chris tonight. The one where I told him where the bank accounts are, where the title to the car is, what the passwords on the various email and phone accounts are. And I made out a list of who-to-call, "just in case." While there's a logical, rational part of me that says that this is just a cardiac catheterization, not "farewell," you moron, there's another part of me that knows all too well that while I trust God to catch my immortal soul, He makes no guarantee about this fragile earthly shell.

For that reason, there have been a thousand thoughts racing around my head tonight - and not all of them have been chock-full of gratitude, to be honest. For a number of years, I have had problems with "prayers for healing" - because I have known a number of good, wonderful, upright, humble and loving servants-of-God who sickened, were prayed for and anointed with oil and fasted-for and had every kind of spiritual sacrifice for them, and died anyway.

And there is a sick, untreated part of me that's stuck in justification-by-works thinking that says If those people, who were all-that-I-would-want-to-be, didn't get saved, what chance do you have? (This is not, as you might imagine, a positive or upbeat line of reasoning...)

The fractionally-sane part of me knows better. That part of me knows about faith which is the size of a mustard seed; knows about forgiving seventy-times-seven; knows about the woman at the well and the penitent thief and the disciple who denied and yet was welcomed. That part of me knows that it's not "me down here, and them up there" on some cosmic sliding-scale of righteousness.

I try very hard to listen to that part of my mind and heart. But I don't always succeed.

There is also a part of me that prays, begging for mercy. Not for me, mind you - but for Chris. He's been rejected so many times, Lord, I pray, please don't let this end for him when it's just truly beginning, OK? And for my sister Sue - it's a McDonalds' thing, Lord - she really deserves a break today, cuz she sho'nuf hasn't had one lately.

But it seems I am still a theological work-in-process, because I can still believe that God will take care of them more than he will take care of me. Deep down inside there's still part of me that thinks I've used up all my chances - even though the rest of me wants to shout that little part down and deny it.

I was reminded, in talking with my sponsor, Bob S., and several others tonight, that regardless how this procedure comes out, a couple things are still true. The first is that I'm God's kid; I've been on God's list, even when I was walking in darkness all those years. I never did buy the idea that I am somehow "predestined" to be this or that; I was reminded that God chose me, regardless of the times that I walked (or staggered) away. As Bob said, "You've been on God's side for a long, long time, Steve. You don't owe for the flesh, any more."

I was also reminded that my life is, and always has been, in God's hands. When I got up and was feeling wonderful, or when I woke up terrified of how things might be, or on those days when I woke up and didn't give a thought to God or God's plan - I was in God's hands all those times. What is any different about tonight? Nothing, of course.

I was also reminded that (despite the absence of a black shirt and a white collar or a pulpit) I've still been able to minister to a whole lot of people, in many ways and in many places. While many of the people I went to school with have been ordained recently, I've had a time or two (or nineteen) to consider how often I've had the chance to tend to God's critters, even without a formal degree, position, or designation. I tend to forget about that - especially as I have heard a number of my younger friends calling each other "Reverend" these days. But there's room at the table for everyone, it seems - fancy collar or no.

And lastly - just in case I don't get the chance to say it: though I am far from ready for this run to end, it's still been one hell of a run for a guy like me. I have honestly had eighteen years "in the bonus round," and the last eighteen very special months in the "Super Bonus Round."

As I was reminded tonight, heaven can be my home, but I don't have to be homesick, quite yet. Even so, I can honestly say that while I haven't gotten all that I wanted, I still have gotten way, way more than I could have ever deserved. To the love of my life, to my family, and my friends far and near, I can truly say this: Soli Deo gloria - to God alone be the glory, for this glorious mess.


wilsonian said...

That sounds too much like a farewell speech, Steve. But since you opened the floor, let me thank you for ministering long-distance too. I appreciate you!!

Praying for healing, yes. Praying for rest, yes. Praying that you'll see God's hand in and through this... yes :)


Steve F. said...

Yes, it did sound exactly like a farewell speech, Erin...

I learned a long time ago, from reading Gentle Closings: How To Say Goodbye To Someone You Love, to never get on a plane (let alone go in for heart surgery) without some degree of closure.

But it's good to know that it's NOT farewell, at least not yet!

Sunny said...

I did the same thing....Even wrote a short "My Darling ________" letters to my hubby, daughter and son and left them on my laptop ....just in case.

Better to be prepared than to leave them nothing.
I know from experience.

Bear Me Out said...

Healing and curing are not the same thing.

Healing is NOT about "The one with the most prayers, wins."

NOTHING will make God love you more, or less, than God loves you now, which is completely, and unconditionally.

YES! You minister to many. I'll send you a damn black shirt and collar, if you want. It just means you get a lot of funny stares in the grocery store.

Know you are loved.

Black Pete said...

Actually, Steve man, that's some good courage there for facing down the "conversation" and having it. Pat on the back time, my man, no mistake.

My wife has presided at many a funeral (I've done a few myself), and our experience tells us that the very last thing a survivor needs is to have to untangle an estate after a loved one dies.

Life being what it is, you did exactly the right thing at a better time than others. Good stuff!