Wednesday, February 14, 2007

God's short leash

Some of my 13 readers have expressed concern for me, either publicly or to my address. I really do appreciate it, more than I can say or show. But I am a very reserved person and not emotionally forthright. And even apart from that, I've never really understood why some people blog constantly about their own feelings or mood, as if tossing one's guts out for the world to see could be all that productive. I've written or started to write several such posts, only to trash them -- the writing having already given me whatever cathartic value "putting it all down and getting it all out" might have had.

Anyhoo ... this by way of leading into one such post in that unproductive genre.

I don't know if what I'm about to describe constitutes a "miracle" (actually I'm pretty confident it doesn't -- "the hand of Providence" is probably better lingo). But it was certainly uncanny. And a reminder that God always leaves signs around for us.

As some of you know, to quote a couple of text messages I sent a priest last week, "it's been shit for months ... Actually don't pray for me — it would just go to waste." I started (again) to feel as if I was at the end of the rope. A few facts suffice -- I hadn't gone to Mass since before Thanksgiving, I hadn't gone to my weekly hour at the Perpetual Adoration chapel since Christmas week, and I had been scheduled to go on a retreat in early December and couldn't bring myself to go.

But the old joke about women (as if I'd know .. haha) applies to God as well -- can't live with'm, can't live without'm. I was getting increasingly desperate and despairing the farther and more-determinedly I pushed God away. At one point, I actually pulled out a legal pad and drew up the pros and cons of whether I wanted to go on living. But then several things happened:
  • Over the weekend, I had five sexual encounters "set" -- i.e., specific time and place, agreed acts. Every last one of them fell through, for one reason or another, on one or another's part. I may describe some of the details at a more opportune time. Suffice for now to say that I was risking more things than impurity. And that one of the liaisons didn't happen for reasons beyond humiliating;
  • For unrelated reasons, Monday was time to clear out all the junk from my car and as I was sifting through a pile of old newspapers, junk mail, bills, etc., I came upon a solicit of a different kind, from the group Food for the Poor. It stood out among the envelopes, because it was actually a thin flat box, with a Miraculous Medal key chain and ring, one much sturdier than the one I was using but one tied to THE image of personal chastity in our culture (I'm holding the Medal in my hand as I type);
  • On Tuesday, about an hour before our Courage chapter's meeting, I was still of two minds about going or not going. I walked to my patio window to see what the snow was like. And right in the middle of the floor, in plain sight with lots of clear surrounding carpet (i.e., it was not shoved against a wall and thus easy to miss) was my Brown Scapular. Which I had neither worn nor seen since early January. So there was Our Lady again, suddenly in plain sight, forcing Her presence on me. Maybe it's a commentary on my housekeeping, but I honestly don't remember doing anything near that spot that day except move away from it a duffel bag that had no reason for the scapular to be inside it. I'm not going to claim disappearing-and-rematerializing or anysuch, but never have I been so floored by the uncanniness, the synchronicity, the (yes) Providence behind what I have to believe is, in natural terms, a "chance" event. The way God writes straight with crooked lines.
As I say, this last occurred about an hour before the chapter meeting and dissolved all doubts that God wasn't gonna do what I wanted -- i.e., leave me alone forever. Instead, He was telling me, "you know you cannot live without Me. In the words of the Brown Bomber: 'you can run, [John], but you can't hide'." I put the scapular on, put my keys on that new ring-and-chain, and headed for the first Sacrament in three months.

After hearing all this, my confessor said that God "has you on a short leash." A leash I often strain against, no question. But a leash whose tug I need and is finally undeniable. Father heard my confession (through my tears). When I got home, I split the money I would have paid for one of the liaisons from which I had been saved, between Food for the Poor and two priest-related Catholic charities that had appeals in my "In" stack -- North American College and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. In my replies, I asked for Courage-related intentions. I threw away the "Pros and Cons of Suicide" list. Hopefully, my ship is righted and things are back to what-can-pass-for normal.


Dad29 said...

In similar mode...

We have children. After having seen some of the narrow escapes they've had from what looked like CERTAIN significant physical damages, there's no longer a question in my mind about the reality and constant presence of guardian angels.

I can't explain that any better than you can explain finding all those mementoes in that pattern.

It is what it is.

Dale said...

Glad to hear it--and amen, amen and amen.

Terry said...

You've picked up a 14th; he'll be praying for you.

Courage Man indeed.

Dale said...

P.S. Want to add to the Providence file? I have
that "Food For the Poor" Miraculous Medal key-chain, too. It's sitting on my desk right in front of me as I type this. Bas-relief Mary, pseudo-stainless finish, a scrunched "O Mary" prayer ringing Our Lady on the edge of the oval. Looks like I'd better sling them a little cash, too.

Ego said...

I also enjoy the benefits of that short leash. I have found that over the years, as my relationship with God has matured, the leash is shorter and I get yanked back onto the path in a much quicker fashion.

I am grateful for that. And for finding your blog. Call me 15.

- Ego

4HisChurch said...

16th reader here. A former neighbor of mine has fairly recently "come out" and is apparently proud of how "holy" he feels being away from the Church. I have added him to my prayer list and I will add you as well. As an "oldy", this whole issue is fairly new to my radar screen. You are inspiring, Courageman.

Denise said...

I just found your blog as well after anguishing with two relatives who have embraced atheism with all its selfishness, vitriolic hatred and sneering posts about stupid believers in God. I also have a friend struggling with her sexuality. For me, she is my best friend, and her sexual orientation is not as important as the fact that she is compassionate, intelligent and makes the best chili in the world! I'm a happily married mother of three grown sons, work as a reporter (gasp, yep, one of those) and teach Catholic CCE classes to eighth graders, a blessing I've enjoyed for 13 years. I equate faith to standing on the seashore -- sometimes the waves crash over us, knocking us down with their power. Other times, our ankles don't even get wet. But I know the tide is coming back in. Put me down as #19 on the list...

Anonymous said...

The beauty is in the struggle, my friend. I believe that God delights in the fact that we do not give up.

Enjoyed your blog.

Angel A. Aloma
Executive Director
Food For The Poor

Bob said...

Leashes, Guardians, Inspiring, Struggle????
Why use all these terms? How about "chance", "coincedence"... You might as well say "fate", oh yeah but you don't believe in fate, everything is predetermined by your "god".

This man is obvoiously a hypocrite, as are most religious people, I did not say ALL so don't all of you start cursing me. Did anyone even notice that he said "...I split the money I would have paid for one of the liaisons from which I had been saved.." So where did the money that he was going to spend on the other FOUR prostitutes go? My guess would be he set up four more "encounters".

I hope he made sure to cleanse his soul at confession on Friday, just in time for service on Sunday. Then back out to have more sex. That is if any of his hookers will actually meet him. How sad when even a hooker won't meet with you.

I am sure " God delights in the fact that we do not give up." applies to this. God must be glad that he did not give up the rest of the money and he did not "give up" on trying to get more prostitutes to service him.

How about the possibility that this man is possibly abusive to these prostitutes, maybe they are underage, or how about the ever dreaded "homosexual prostitute" ..!!! OH MY GOODNESS!!!

You all should be ashamed of yourselves for condemning behaviour like this, and then when one of your own admits it, you all praise and justify it. HYPOCRITES!!!
And to condemn athiests!!! How two faced. At least we walk the walk, and talk the talk.

Maybe all of your "leashes" should be tightened a bit more, hopefull cutting off you ability to speak...

bob dobbs said...

just wanted to say that this was my first time visiting your blog...
I had neither read or heard about you, so I knew none of your history.
I just read a few of your other entries, I know a litlle more now, but I still find it hard to believe that you cling to this religion thing.
Even though 95% of all your "brothers and sisters" would say you are going to hell for your lifestyle.
I know that if you read Jesus teaching in their "actual" translations, the Catholic churches standings on many subjects are very opposite to his words.

I really can not get over the fact that you still cling to this...
Is it the secure feeling of handing over responibility to a all powerfull being?
That on the chance that there is something out there you will have your bases covered?

No need to look outside, or towards dieties or intermediaries to discover the subtle truth contained within yourself...

In no way was I trying to berate you. Or harrass you. Just giving my opinion... Bravo to you on your frankness and willingness to speak about these things. Please, if you are going to be religious... think about getting out of the catholic church.... no one needs all that guilt.. ;-)

Bob said...

forget it.... sometimes I know not what I say....
Live your life, don't hurt anyone intentionally, be as good a person as is possible...
I hope you come to learn peace with who you are...

take care

Anonymous said...

Dear Bob,

While I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into sharing your thoughts, I have to say your posting seems to express more than a little anger...and for that I’m sorry.

We’re all human. We all goof up. We’re all (believe it or not!) at some point, hypocrites.

But we try, and we fail, and we try again. In that sense, the “struggle” *really is* what’s important. Religious people are no different from atheists in this regard. We fall, we get up, and we try again.

So.... While it’s easy to pick through someone’s faults from afar, I really wonder if that’s helpful to anyone--yourself included.

Again, I appreciate that this topic must be important enough to you to write with such passion; but is engendering anger really what you were trying to accomplish?

I guess I’m just overly sensitive to situations where strong words are purposefully used for the apparent “shock value,” but the underlying motive for using them remains unclear. I hope you, at least, know the meaning behind your message.